I Have No Mercy for Kids With Mono and Other Tales

I found out last Saturday that my five-year-old daughter has mononucleosis. Of course like any good parent, I felt sympathy for my poor little girl who didn’t feel well. Then I felt relief. And guilt.

For the month prior, my daughter’s behavior was beyond horrible. Even asking her to put on her clothes was a battle. She would throw uncharacteristic temper tantrums, screaming that she was so tired and couldn’t do it. Her room remained a condemned area, as she refused for two weeks to clean it. She was grounded from a birthday party, the playground, dinner with the family–anything else I could think of–and yet she still refused to put even one dirty shirt in the hamper.

Hannah Grace has always been stubborn; refusing to do chores or taking forever to get ready in the morning was not beyond her capabilities, but she had reached such an impressive level of defiance that my visions of her future all involved jail time.

I spent nights crying in bed. All of my prayers started with her. In fact, I spent many nights after the kids had gone to bed walking up and down the hallway, prayer walking, casting out the demons that surrounded her room in Jesus’ name.

In fact, one night the urge to pray was so intense that I went to her room and laid hands on her sleeping body, assuming God wanted me to perform a mini exorcism. That night, Hannah Grace climbed into bed between Matt and me, and we could feel the heat emanating off her limbs as she snuggled next to us. She clearly had a fever. I figured God was giving me a sign that He was burning up the demons.

A few hours later, the fever was gone, and Hannah Grace was back to her defiant self. She said she didn’t want to go to school with venom in her voice, and I knew it was just another of her evil ploys. After all, I had already picked her up from school previously when she said she didn’t feel well, and she bounced around the house all day. We had gone to the doctor another time when she said her throat and stomach hurt, but her strep test came back negative. Clearly, I lived with a manipulative little faker.

So when the nurse called on Saturday and said, “Hannah Grace has mono,” I felt immediate relief that my daughter was not possessed by Satan. And then I felt guilt that I had thought my daughter was possessed by Satan. And guilt that I didn’t renew her gymnastics classes due to her defiant behavior and refusal to do chores.

Yep, that’s motherhood–doing my best to raise my kids well, seeking the Lord, only to realize that I wasn’t reading the signs He was giving me correctly; having to kneel before my child humbly, asking her forgiveness for not understanding.

And, yet, motherhood, is experiencing the biggest smile in my soul, the kind that runs from my stretched cheeks to my toes, as I watch my son round home plate and jog towards his dad who scoops him up in celebration. An in-the-park home run caused this little boy to run to his dad, his coach with tears streaming down his face because, as he explained, “I was just so happy.” These days are what make motherhood, life, amazing; the constant swinging of the pendulum through guilt and relief and compassion to joy and feelings that I don’t even know how to describe.

But I want to try.

I’ve know for some time what I’ve wanted to do, but, honestly, I’ve been afraid. A few weeks ago, God stirred in me that desire again. I attended Hutchmoot with my best friend Wendy, and I fell in love with the story, God’s story. His amazing Creation. His love story told through the pages of the Bible, a story that doesn’t end with Revelation but is just beginning.

I want to tell part of His story; I don’t know what part or where I’m starting, but I want to tap into the creative spirit that He’s given me, that’s He’s shown all of us by every beat of our heart, each breath that we take.

In order to write, though, to capture these moments of life that point toward God’s bigger story of hope and redemption, I have to give myself permission to let go of my blog. I already haven’t written as much as I would like, and that fact hovers over me and actually causes me guilt and disappointment.

The fact is that I want to write without the need to hit publish. I want to write and continue to write and see where my story takes me, but I can’t unless I release this need to write in this space.

These words are hard for me to type because this place has been such a significant part of my life for the last three years. I have shared my joys, my struggles–most of my heart–right here. And while I don’t have a large following, I am very aware that I have a great following of some of the most loyal and faithful readers out in this strange and wonderful world of the blogosphere. I call many of you my friends even though I’ve never seen you face to face!

Thank you for sharing this journey with me, and, perhaps, one day I’ll have a more substantial work to share with you again. In the meantime, I’m sure I’ll visit this space from time to time as my kids always provide the best material–after all, if I don’t write about it, I”ll forget it. And since I don’t scrapbook, my writing really is the best record of my kids’ childhood that I can provide. And now that I’m freeing myself from this space, perhaps I’ll be better at visiting each of yours.

Please pray for me that I would have the discipline to keep writing. And please continue to pray for my family–especially now that I have two kids with mono (Caleb was diagnosed yesterday…I’m hoping my tiredness and headache are just allergies)!

Three years ago when my husband bought me this laptop, I was angry that he spent this money. However, now I can only thank him. He gave me a gift that I never would have expected by renewing my passion (But please, please, Matt, do not buy me another one…even if parts of  this laptop are cracking).

May God bless each of you as you continue on in His story….


The Gospel According to Mom

As I sliced the red onion before me, I tried to surpress a smile. I was aggravated. My five-year-old refusing to do her homework, instead, distracted herself with a book, and I was tired of walking back and forth to the table trying to refocus her. Except, this time, she held a French cookbook and began instructing her imaginary audience. My aggravation momentarily subsided as I heard her lecture.

“This is the Word of God. The Word of God is very important.”

Okay, little theologian, I thought. What are you going to teach me today?

The spirit in us is God.”

Impressive, I thought. She’s tackling some very complicated issues.

But then her sermon took a strange turn.

“Restaurants are bad. Not all of the food there is healthy. We should eat healthy things. God wants us to eat the healthy food He has given us. You should eat protein. Cheese is protein, and milk is protein. Anything that comes from an animal is protein.”

At this moment, I didn’t know which feeling to embrace–the one that wanted me to laugh or the one that wanted me to close her ‘Bible’ as I listened in embarrassment.

“Fish is healthy. Now, I don’t like fish, but fish is healthy.”

And the lecture continued, a weird mix of our Bible lessons with the Food Network.

At that moment I had the fear that all parents have when they realize that their children really are listening to them, and I had the discomfort of knowing that they could take my words and morph them into some heresy that I’ve never uttered.

I pictured the scenario of Hannah Grace telling her classmate, “My mom thinks your mom is going to hell because you have red jello in your lunch,” or Caleb sitting in therapy crying, “I want to please God, but I just love Doritos too much.

And then there’d be Chloe who would just say, “Mom’s crazy. Pass the fries.”

I hadn’t recalled weaving any talks on the Holy Spirit with facts about hydrogenated oils, but apparently my daughter made the connection. And, frankly, that fact made my vegetables rest a little uneasy in my stomach last night.

I’m thinking this weekend we’ll order pizza….

picture via photobucket.com

School for the Escape Artists

The first social media outlet to go was Twitter. I never even tried Pinterest. Now, Facebook‘s days may be coming to an end.

It’s not them; it’s me, really. I still have my Twitter account, and I think I even have a Pinterest account (though, I’ve never logged on), but I can’t allow myself to use them. I know myself, and I know I’ll start the comparison game. I’ll find all the reasons I’m not doing life right or depriving my children of the perfect childhood, so I’ve decided to spare myself the torture.

I had never thought I’d treat Facebook the same way, but last night I started to reconsider my previous position. Post after post after post were from moms commenting on their children’s first day of school, and the moms were all crying. Those moms whose children won’t start until next week were squeezing their babies tighter, not wanting that dreadful day to come.

My first thought was, What the heck is wrong with them?! However, after reading how many moms were crying, I then thought, What the heck is wrong with me?!

My son starts first grade tomorrow, and the only emotion I feel is excitement. Yesterday, we visited his classroom, cute little desks filled with brand new workbooks and the hermit crab class pet to complete the perfection, and I wanted to start school with him. My daughter starts kindergarten in a week, and the very mention of school brings a smile to her face. When I visualize her wearing her plaid uniform and hair bow, I smile with her.

I know I’m not a bad mom for looking at school as an exciting time, but I can’t help wondering why I’m not more sentimental….

Last night, I lay in bed for a good while before I fell asleep. My mind was full of random thoughts, ranging from the sermon I heard two weeks ago to the bedtime routine of my kiddos when they were three. My mind stayed on the latter.

None of my children transitioned to the toddler bed well, and nap times were extremely difficult. At one point, we resorted to turning the doorknobs around so that we could lock the door from the outside and trap our kids on the inside in hopes of forcing them to sleep.

Caleb was the first child to defy nap time. I remember feeling like the victor after changing the knobs, knowing that I would finally have the ‘mommy time’ to clean or pay bills or just sit for a minute while he rested quietly in his room. That is until I saw him make his way down the stairs. How in the world did he get out? I wondered. After putting Caleb back in his room, re-locking his door, and finding this little boy down the stairs again, I repeated the routine but stayed camped out in front of his room. I would crack the code.

As I sat, I watched the lock magically turn to the horizontal position, and there stood my three-year-old, having pushed open his door with his Lightning McQueen suitcase in hand. I was baffled–until I saw that he was holding the zipper. Yes, my little boy learned how to pick a lock with the zipper on a suitcase.

I promptly removed the suitcase and locked his door again, but Caleb knew that his jeans also had zippers. I couldn’t even lock my son in his room.

I knew Caleb was clever, but I was hoping for different results with his sister. Hannah Grace, however, proved that she, too, had the criminal gene and picked her lock with the prongs of her nightlight. Chloe’s room had a dutch door so that we could see in her room while she was locked out. She didn’t mess with picking locks. Instead, she dumped out the baskets that held her shoes and simply stood on them, reached over, and unlocked her door. Pillows, dolls, and laundry baskets could also give her the extra height if she needed it. When all such items were removed, Chloe flung her body, catching her forearms on the top of her door. She would use every bit of her strength to wiggle up and over the top.

I was no match for them.

locked in

I’m not sure what started the train of thought that led me to thinking about those dreadful days. However, I did figure out why I wasn’t crying about school starting–I was all cried out.

What emotions did you experience when your children started school? Were any of you out there a successful escape artist as a child, or do you have an escape artist of your own?

*photo courtesty of Trevin Shirey via Flickr ‘Creative Commons.’

I’ll Never Judge


As I was pushing around the heavy steam cleaner, God brought to mind a thought that entered my mind seven or so years ago. Yes, God has a sense of humor, and His timing is perfect. The day when I couldn’t stand to look at the dark spots on the den carpet any longer, the day when I decided that this was the day to try to remove the evidence of little girls sneaking Mommy’s make-up and magic markers, God reminded me of an ignorant thought that I will never again think:

I’ll never let my carpet get this bad.

Seven or so years ago, I was sitting in the den of a husband and wife who had volunteered to coach other small group leaders. They were as nice as nice could be, and their two blonde girls throwing cartwheels here and there completed the picture of the happy family. But their carpet…

…I was momentarily distracted by it. The fibers were worn–there was no ‘fluff’ or softness left–and the once pale, beige color was spotted with dark circles throughout. And in that moment, I remembered thinking that if I were them, I would get new carpet.

Of course, I had that thought when I was only married a few years. I had never had to re-carpet my house, so I had no idea of the expense. And the most important fact to explain my ignorance–I didn’t have any kids.

I had no idea the futility of getting new carpet when little kids were bouncing around, intent on destroying everything of value in one’s home. I had no idea the time wasted in cleaning anything because Murphy’s Law said less than 24 hours later that same area would be covered in filth.

Therefore, God reminded me of all that I had learned in the last six years while I worked the stains that penetrated my own worn carpet. I felt a twinge of guilt as I remembered my stupid thought. I only had a steam cleaner because my mom passed her old one on to me, and I didn’t whip it out every time a stain hit the rug because steam cleaning was a time-consuming, cumbersome chore.

As I finished the last row in the den, I started to feel what could be described as satisfaction. However, before my body would even let me acknowledge that fulfilling feeling, my mind woke me up: You know everything you just did was pointless, right?

And I did, but I drug the heavy machine up the stairs, anyway, determined to make less of the bright colors that dotted the landing, decorated my daughter’s room. Less than one hour later, after I had drug the machine back down the stairs and emptied the dirty water, my children drove home the lesson of which God had reminded me earlier that day.

Apparently, construction paper when wet will stain carpet. My son’s anger over his sister boiling the panda food in her little play pot that he had created earlier in the day ended in black splotches all over the other sister’s floor.

At this point in the story, I did what any mother would do and gave up.

Since becoming a mother, I’ve given up most expectations. No longer do I expect clean carpet, and if I go to your house, I won’t expect it there, either. In fact, if I come to your home, you can count on the fact that I won’t judge anything.

If there are dust bunnies in the corner or blatantly blowing like a tumbleweed through your family area, I won’t judge. If your clean laundry is tossed on a chair in a wrinkled mess, I won’t give it a second glance, unless I decide to help you out and fold a pair of pants or two. If your walls have the renderings of Picasso wanna-be’s or the letter ‘d’ 17 times because your child just figured out how to write, I won’t even notice. And if your counters are covered with enough papers to convince me that you are in charge of simplifying the tax code, I’ll nod with empathy. I’m that important, too.

I don’t judge anything, anymore. Even you, well-dressed 20-something rushing through the aisles with a frown at the grocery store–I know you’ve just yet to be enlightened about the workings of a four-year-old and a mini shopping cart. Don’t worry; I don’t judge you, either. I just suggest that  you move to the other end of the store. Your thoughts might come back to bite you later.

What is a judgment that you used to make that you will no longer?

Saying ‘Yes’

The words of an older generation lamenting the children who will one day take their place ring with some truth. The problem with kids these days is that they need to learn the word ‘no.’ Of course, they are referring to an over-indulged generation that they feel gets everything it wants without working for anything.

My son has asked on more than one occasion for an iPod. He cites the fact that a boy in his kindergarten class has one. I cite the opinion that six year olds should not own electronics that cost more than a week’s worth of groceries. However, he now is on a quest to fill his savings jar thinking that if he earns $200, I will relent. I’m thinking that saving that much money will take a long time….

Nonetheless, I understand why he asks. More and more kids around him do seem to have fairly expensive gadgets, and, if I’m honest, he’s not faring too poorly, himself. Yet, lately, I’ve started contemplating that, perhaps, the problem isn’t that I tell him ‘yes’ but that too often he hears the word ‘no.’

I think of requests from him, requests from his sisters, simple requests really, and many times the answer is ‘no:’

Can we build a fort in Hannah Grace’s room and all sleep their tonight?

Can we have a makeover party?

I have my reasons. Sometimes, they’re valid–the kids misbehaved and, therefore, won’t get rewarded. Sometimes, my answers are a little more forced: They went to bed too late last night. Little girls shouldn’t wear make-up. Then I hear a little voice reminding me that it is summer–now’s the time to build forts. Little girls don’t have to leave the house with make-up on, but they can have a little fun with Mommy. I start to have a nagging feeling that I say ‘no’ a little too much because it’s just easier.

‘No’ doesn’t require planning. ‘No’ doesn’t keep me from the bills I want to pay or the myriad tasks I want to give my attention. ‘No’ doesn’t entail a massive clean-up.

But ‘no’ doesn’t reward discovery, create memories, or keep kids away from the T.V.

The other day, I read David Brooks’s article, “Honor Code,” in the The New York Times. Brooks argues that if Shakespeare’s character Henry V were in an American school, he would do poorly. He continues that today’s school punishes boys who are active and aggressive and adventurous compared to those who sit quietly in their desks, and these factors contribute to boys’ lagging performance compared to girls.

I would argue that there are many factors that would lead to a decline in educational performance and cannot simply be blamed on gender differences; likewise, not all girls fit the model of thoughtful, organized, attentive student. However, Brooks’s article did make me think about how I taught my former students and how I parent now.

I would argue that the thoughtful, organized, attentive student is easier to teach. Similarly, the orderly, obedient child is easier to raise. However, the adventurous student, curious child, the child who gets into trouble for dragging mud through the house or creating a culinary masterpiece all over the kitchen floor is the child whose mind is ready to absorb all the new information and discoveries that come his or her way.

I put a lot of pressure on myself as a parent, and I pray daily that I won’t fail my God or children. I try my best to teach good manners. I discipline my children when they break rules, and I monitor what they eat. All of these actions are important, but probably the easiest thing to do, getting down on the floor and playing, is the most essential.

God created children with curious little minds, and they learn through play. They create memories of the adventures they’ve had and journeys they’ve taken–assuming I haven’t thwarted all of this self-discovery by saying ‘no.’

Yesterday, I heard the hose running while I was in the kitchen. I stepped outside in the backyard where the kids were supposed to be playing, anticipating that I’d see them spraying each other in an attempt to cool off. However, I knew they didn’t have on their bathing suits and would be a mess, so I was already frustrated before I made my way through the back door.

They surprised me, though; instead of watering each other, they were watering a section of the garden that I never planted.

“We’re making a dam,” Caleb informed me.

“Yeah, we’re just like beavers!” Hannah Grace exclaimed.

Chloe mimicked her sister, and the three of them continued to flood the soil with water. My first instinct was to say ‘no;’ I could visualize the mud covering their ankles and shins. I saw the sloppy mess all over the kitchen floor and the work I’d have to do. Instead, I went inside and got a dirty towel. At least the area I carved out for a garden that I never planted would see some action.

We talked over some rules. They needed to ask before they turned on the hose so I could make sure I’d still have enough money to feed them next week; when they were finished, they needed to wipe off with the towel; and they needed to know the proper placement of the pine straw to stop the stream of water.

I was amazed that these little minds even somewhat knew the concept of a dam since, at their age, I would’ve thought they were just cursing (but then again, I never liked getting dirty). I was amazed that the three of them worked together without fighting. And I was amazed that I almost told them ‘no’ because I felt lazy.

Parenting is a tough job. From the time a baby is born, one can be bombarded with theories on eating, sleeping, and pooping. However, I’m starting to think that we made parenting harder than it needs to be. Perhaps God just wants us to let kids be kids.

Perhaps He just wants us to say ‘yes’ and let the kids play.

This morning I walked outside to see how the dam held up in the storm. It didn’t fare well–the neat wall of pine straw piled high to form a pool of water was strewn all over the muddy ground. Luckily, I know of some little beavers who can handle this mess….

 

Do you have trouble saying ‘yes’? If so, why do you say ‘no’ more than you should?

Rest

Sunday night, Matt and I drove back up our driveway to reality. For the past four days, we had lived as newlyweds, except on this ‘honeymoon’ we were content to sit next to each other with a book in hand.

I read two books this week. I have to admit, I was relieved to know that I could still read considering I had taken six months to read my last book. I guess all I needed was a beach chair and umbrella and a couple of hours to myself.

And for four days, that was our existence. We woke up late and went to bed late after spending hours at the beach doing nothing. It was glorious. I’ve never been one for doing nothing, but now I see what I’ve been missing.

We started our vacation by getting our rings polished. Those first few years of marriage, we kept our rings sparkly and clean, but neglect from the last few years had taken its mark. They had become dull, merely a symbol that encircled our fingers but didn’t catch our eye. However, when the attendant walked out with our rings, I actually giggled. I found myself staring at my ring the way I had when it newly graced my finger.

Matt and I took long walks on the beach talking, not ‘how was work?’ talking, but really talking. We talked about our future and remembered our past. We didn’t talk about our kids much, either. I felt a little guilty that I didn’t really miss them.

Sure, I enjoyed talking to them every day, but I didn’t want to go home. I entertained the thought of hiring a nurse like the one in Romeo and Juliet. I would play with my kids and then hand them over to her when they started fighting or peed their pants. I decided that that plan wouldn’t work, though, because I actually do want to raise my children–just not during those days on the beach.

On the second full day, I surprised myself. I didn’t feel tired, anymore; sure, I felt lazy, and some of my plans for the day included a nap under the umbrella, but I didn’t feel like I couldn’t go on. And that feeling was one of the best of the trip.

We drove up our driveway last Sunday, and as the garage door rolled up, three little munchkins in pajamas ran out. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time we received applause from our children. I wanted to scoop them all up–there is just something about newly bathed children in clean pajamas.

And then the reality of what we’d been missing hit us quickly. Matt went right back to work, and I spent a morning at the chiropractor’s yelling at children who were fighting over toys. But I noticed, even while having pain in my back that wouldn’t let me turn to see what was actually happening in the rear of the van, I had patience. I disciplined better. And I loved greater.

I spent more time playing with my kids’ hair, and Matt and my kisses ‘goodbye’ lasted a little longer. I longed for him, and I desperately wanted, want, to keep up our walks at the beach where we talked about everything and nothing, together without distraction. I don’t want to fall into the rut of TV and Twitter; I want to keep our rings polished.

Rest was exactly what we needed to see each other with fresh eyes, and I don’t want to wait another ten years to rest again. I love Matt and my kids too much to run on empty. So the next time Mommy says” I need a vacation!” everyone better start packing their bags.

Have you taken the time to get the rest you need? Realistically, we can’t take vacation all the time–and in this economy, sometimes we can’t take a vacation at all. What are your suggestions for getting the rest we all need?

I’m linking up with Michelle for her ‘Graceful Summer.’

A Bag of Peaches

When the kids are out of control, and the house is a mess, I like to look ahead 30 years. I imagine my 60-something-year-old self with my children and their spouses gathered around the kitchen table, laughing while we reminisce.

Hannah Grace, do you remember the time Chloe and you made a ‘cake’ with dirt and eggs all over the kitchen floor?” Caleb would ask.

Yes, Mom made us scrub that whole floor on our hands and knees. We never made that mistake again!

Except they did make that mistake again two days later. Clearly, my punishment didn’t carry the desired effect.

My dad’s dad, however, taught my father a lesson with one simple action, and my dad has never forgotten it.

When my father was a child, fruit didn’t sit out on the counter or in a forgotten refrigerator bin waiting to spoil. Fruit was a luxury, and my father remembers fighting over who would get the last banana.

His mother didn’t walk to the local grocery store but instead to the street corner where the vendor set up his cart. One side displayed fresh vegetables, the other the fruit that was in season.

My dad remembers one summer afternoon when he was spending his time with a neighbor boy who Dad since describes as ‘no good.’ I guess, much like nowadays, adolescents get bored easily and find ways to get into trouble. This boy found trouble in the fruit stand. He told my father that when the vendor walked to the other side to help the customer pick out her vegetables, they would each grab a peach.

Dad wasn’t excited about the plan, but he didn’t protest. As the vendor walked around the other side, each boy snagged a piece of forbidden fruit–unbeknownst to them, right under the watchful eye of my grandfather.

Get inside.

I’ve never met my grandfather, but I’m told he was calm and even-tempered. I can almost feel the dread my father must have felt enter his stomach when he heard his own father utter those stern words.

Dad ran inside, peach in hand, and waited in his room.

A few minutes later, my grandfather entered with a bag of peaches and set them down by my father.

The next time you need something so badly that you have to steal, you tell me, and I’ll get it for you.

There was no screaming, no beating that followed, just those words. Sixty years later, those words cause my dad’s eyes to water as he remembers his father and this story.

That story always stuck with my father and shaped him in ways that a beating probably couldn’t. My dad describes how he could never steal after that moment, how that moment even affected the way he carried out business as an adult.

And that moment affected me, as well. I wish I had gotten the chance to meet my grandfather–all I know of him are the stories that my father shares–but they have helped me form a picture. In my mind’s eye, I see a wise man. I see a man who didn’t have the money to spend on a whole bag of peaches, but he knew that honesty and integrity are worth far more than all the riches in the world.

My grandfather didn’t know at the time the effect of his actions. He didn’t know that that one action would reach out to later generations as I try to raise my own children in a way pleasing to God.

I wish I could’ve met him, and I pray for his wisdom. While no parent wants their children to do wrong, we know they will. And on that day, I hope for my own bag of peaches to pass on to my children, to teach them and remind them as they carry the weight in their hands.

What is a punishment that you will never forget?

 

I Make People Cry

I guess it goes with the territory of motherhood that we mothers can and will get the blame for anything that goes wrong. I’ve seen my 30-year-old sister blame my mom for her own lateness, and I’ve linked my kids’s disobedience to a prior stay at Grammy’s house. I don’t know why we do it, but I’ve heard my mom say more than once, “I get the blame for everything.”

We’ve had an emotional last couple of weeks at my house. Nothing in particular happened–my son just recalled every way that I have failed him as his mother.

Oh, the tears flowed because Caleb decided that I was never going to give him a little brother. He is so lonely. The girls don’t play with him. Why can’t I just give him a little brother?! Well, buddy, perhaps talk to your sisters about that one. After they flooded the bathroom is not the time to mention to me that you need another sibling.

And while I know that I cannot control the gender of any child that I have or will have (if I go completely crazy), I at least see the logic in Caleb’s plea. However, he really threw me for a loop when he blamed his misery on my giving a dog away that he doesn’t even remember because he was maybe two when the incident happened.

I should’ve known that stupid dog would haunt me for the rest of my life. I see his rebellious spirit residing in my kids when they poop outside, remembering how he would only pee inside. When I sleep at night, I dream about his pathetic face; although, that fact may be due to my mother who loves to taunt me by giving me Boston Terrier pajamas for Christmas.

Yes, Baxter continued to haunt me as my son cried in the middle of the neighborhood. An innocent bike ride turned to sudden tears when the appearance of an old, 75 pound, long-haired retriever brought back memories that Caleb didn’t have of our young and lean Boston Terrier.

“Why did you have to give away Baxter? I miss him so much.”

Because he was crazy, and no you don’t.

Nonetheless, he cried and cried and cried–in the middle of the cul-de-sac as he dismounted his bike; at the top of the stairs as he got ready for bed; and when his misery entered his sister’s body, causing her to cry for the dog that I gave away when she was six months old.

At that moment, I sighed and accepted my fate. I was the mother who deprived my children of a life with a neurotic dog. I was the mother who denied my three children of a fourth to drive me crazy. I was to blame for the thunder as we made our way to the pool, and I was at fault for the taste of broccoli. I stunk.

And one day, I would make some therapist a lot of money.

What’s the craziest thing for which you got blamed? (And does anyone else out there have a pet that continues to haunt you?)

The Significance of Cleaning Bathrooms

God gave me children to clean the house so that I wouldn’t have to. At least, that’s my theory–I hate cleaning bathrooms and putting away clean laundry, so I popped out three babies to take care of that problem. If the baby could walk to me when I said, “Walk to Mama; C’mon walk to Mama,” then that baby could walk to the toy box and put away her toys. If the toddler could deprive me of many hours of sleep by refusing to stay in his bed at night, then he could climb back over to that bed in the morning to make it. And if that little girl was adept enough to take off her clothes and run naked through the yard, then she could surely pick out an outfit in the morning and put it on–matching clothes is not a requirement for me.

With all the chores my children know how to do, bedrooms should always look neat, playrooms picked-up, and my house presentable. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I’m lucky if I have one day out of every week where my house looks clean. In reality, I might have one day where one section of the house is clean, but two days later, that area is a wreck while we’re working on another section.

I find nothing more discouraging. I look at my days as a stay-at-home mom, days full of cooking and cleaning and driving and playing, and many nights I have nothing to show for all my work except for a pile of laundry on the chair and an exhausted mind that wants nothing more but a pillow and a book to pretend to read.

Yesterday morning, our pastor spoke to the life of a mother given that it was Mother’s Day, and he pointed out ‘Three Monsters of Motherhood.’ Discouragement, that emotion I experience frequently, was on the list. However, he read Galatians 6:9-10: “9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

I tried to take those verses to heart, and they did give a little hope, but I also had to admit that most days I do feel weary. Never before in my life did I question myself as much as I do as a mother. Am I really making a difference? Would they be better off if I went back to work? Have I scarred them forever? Am I too strict? Am I too easy? Did we brush teeth today?

The questions are endless, and sometimes I wonder if I didn’t just waste a day, not making a dent in my kids’ lives at all. This feeling of insignificance was another monster my pastor mentioned. He told us, though, to take hope in the fact that we can have spiritual moments when we’re driving in the car with our kids as much as when we’re sitting around the kitchen table for dinner. We are to remember Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and talk to our children about God during all the moments of our day, from the hours spent in the minivan to moments before we kiss goodnight and turn out the lights. Our days are significant when we teach our children about the Lord.

In his goodness, the Lord showed me that these words were true.

Given my theory on the purpose of children, I figured there was no better day than Mother’s Day to add to my children’s repertoire of household chores. My husband told me to relax on the couch while he made dinner, but he invited our parents over, too. Someone had to vacuum and clean the bathroom, and since it wasn’t going to be me, that left the jobs to the kiddos.

The six-year-old called vacuuming, so I decided my four-year-old would have to clean the bathroom. This job was new for her, so I supervised the activity.

I instructed Hannah Grace in how to clean the toilet.

“Okay, now you have to lift the lid and clean this part, too.”

“Disgusting,” she commented, but she cleaned the whole bowl and lid the same.

“Now, Hannah, when you clean the floor make sure you get back here, too. And clean this white wood here.” I tapped on the baseboard to get the attention of the little girl who was already busy wiping behind the toilet.

She finished, and it wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough considering I had just employed child labor. Hannah Grace then surprised me by wanting to clean her bathroom, too. We made our way upstairs, and she immediately began taking everything out of the bathroom–the little white stool, the bath mats, and the trash can.

“I’m taking all of this out because this is what you do, right, Mommy?”

It was, in fact, what I do so that I can clean the whole floor.

“Can you get me a bag?”

I went downstairs to grab a plastic bag. After I handed it to her, she draped it over the top of the blue trashcan and then flipped the can over.

“That’s how you do it,” she said. I watched and pondered as this little girl who had never cleaned the bathroom with me imitated everything I typically do.

“Eck. Why don’t you ever clean the trashcan?” she questioned.

I was a little taken aback, but as she cleaned the inside of the trashcan, I praised God. Yes! A child who cleans even better than I do!

“There,” she exclaimed, sticking her nose in the can. “Mmm, now this smells good!”

I thought we were finished, but, apparently, we weren’t. I was told that she was going to clean my sinks because, “Mom, your counter is a mess.” Of course, the reason everything was a mess is that Hannah Grace and her sister flooded the bathroom when they turned on the water and left a sink plugged, thereby causing the need for a contractor to rip out the floor and old vanity. However, I simply agreed and let her go to work.

And as I watched this munchkin clean the third bathroom for the day with remarkable thoroughness, I realized that what my pastor spoke was true. She did watch me, and she did listen. And if she had memorized the cleaning techniques that I had never explicitly taught her, how much more had she absorbed those points that I taught her day after day?

My job is significant, and I can’t grow weary of doing it. It’s too important.

As Hannah Grace finished the floor, I pointed out a few spots that she had missed.

“I’m done, Mom,” she replied. “I’m not doing it; I’m done.” And with that she walked away.

It is okay, however, to grow weary of cleaning the bathrooms.

Linking up with Michelle today. Do you battle with feelings of discouragement or insignificance? How do you fight against them? Have a wonderful week!



 

 

She Was There

Looking at my life, I am often surprised. While I always dreamed of being a mother, I never imagined that one of my crowing achievements would include successfully taking apart a Dyson vacuum to clean the trail of sugar, cocoa powder, oil, and pair of underwear that coated the inside. I imagined story time and hugs and baking cakes with my children–not the frustration and weariness that consumed me after seeing the ‘cake’ that my daughters mixed on the dining room carpet.

There are days when I look around and think this life is ridiculous. Feeling overwhelmed by the chores that I never finish, the worry that I’m not discipling my children well, the constant fatigue–there have been times when I’ve whispered “why do I bother?”

With all the frustration that comes, I’ve questioned why I chose this path. Why didn’t I go back to work sooner? I could say it’s the hugs that keep me here or the sweet smiles, but, in reality, I know those joys are not unique to stay-at-home moms. Many moms work and come home to giant kisses; they spend the hours when they want to rest playing tea party or wrestling on the floor.

If I’m honest, the reason is that I want to be here. I don’t want to miss anything. I’m selfish with my children. I want to break up their fights and feed them lunch and laugh at their dancing and send them to time-out. I want to see all the parts of their day that add up to the over-tired meltdowns at 6:00 p.m.

And I want them to remember that I was there.

My mom was there. She was there as a stay-at-home mom when I was little, and she was there when ‘Jennifer the babysitter’ watched us while she worked part-time. She was there when I was in middle school and she worked, and she is there now that I’m 30-something with my own kids to raise.

I think about my life with my mother, and I can’t remember all the details. I can’t remember baking cakes or making crafts. I can’t remember the stories that we read or all the times that she pushed me on a swing. My horrible memory is partly to blame–but those details aren’t important. I remember what is important–she was there.

She is there.

A trust is between us that wouldn’t be otherwise. For 32 years, she has been by my side. For 32 years she has poured into my life, through the explicit advice she has given and the implicit lessons she has taught. I see a woman who worked hard for her children, and a woman who has compassion for others. I see a woman who displayed integrity always and sought accolades never.

I see a woman who does justly and loves mercy and walks humbly with her God.

Without explicitly saying these words, my mom taught me a lesson–what I love best about my job is that I am here; I see most of my children’s days and have opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise–but I can be here even when I’m not.

My kids might not remember the times we baked banana bread or planted vegetables in the garden. They might not remember the time they had to scrub the crayon off the wall or apologize to their sister.

They will remember if I was here, truly here. They won’t pin down a moment, but they will feel the lifetime of moments, the hours of undivided attention, whether those hours were given over the course of a full day or after the workday was done until bedtime.

They will remember how I made them feel, just like I remember my how my mom makes me feel. And when I think of my own mother, well, I can’t help but smile.

 

This week I tried combining Mama Kat’s previous prompt of what I like best about my job with this week’s prompt–what is one lesson from your mom that has never left you? I’m not sure if it worked, but, alas, here it is! What is a lesson you learned from your mother?

Mama’s Losin’ It