Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Exits & Entrances

Last winter our 3-year old got into the habit of yelling “Don’t’ Slip!” each morning as my husband braved the snow and ice.  Even in the hot summer months, she’d still race down the stairs to make sure to blurt out “Don’t Slip!” and throw her little arms tightly around his neck and touch thumbs while saying “BFF!” Once at the end of church one Sunday, our little daughter even yelled out “Don’t Slip!” to this 90-year old sweet woman with a walker and oxygen tank.  It was an awesome moment.

And three little people with noses and eyes smashed up against the window are happily clamoring for Daddy as soon as the door swings open, even our little baby starts kicking and smiling!  It’s like Christmas morning!  And other days there are kicking and screaming all around as the door swings open.  But… my kids inspire me to RE-DEDICATE MORE EFFORT AND ATTENTION AND EXCITEMENT TO OUR COMINGS AND GOINGS.  

Our good friend is getting his PhD in Marriage & Family therapy and he explained one of his professor's advice.  This marriage professor said whenever he'd step through the door, their family dog would go crazy - running around in circles, barking loudly, jumping up and down - that dog was so eager and excited for him to come home!  In this professor's marriage they now have a joke about trying to "Beat the Dog," meaning they try to show even more excitement than the dog about each other's arrivals :).

Some days I am watching the clock and so ready for my husband to come home and rescue me!  I often want to shove our cute kids into his arms and then fall down right there and sleep!  Or maybe all the worries from work or the stresses of life bog you down during these critical, important moments when your paths cross.

Just think.. how can I make it special when my spouse and I meet up for the first time each day or say goodbye in the morning?

Friday, March 9, 2012

The REAL Mother I've Become...

Oh the days while pregnant with my first.  I just had graduated with my college degree in Child Development & Family Life!  I scoured through books on sleep training to breastfeeding to learning how to become an official baby whisperer and "baby wise".  My husband kindly sat through 20 painful hours of Hypnobirthing classes and practiced all the positions during our "Labor Relaxation course."  I had him come to my lactation class, even though he was the only male in the whole room.  I even had us become "Red Cross CPR/First Aid Certified" just to be prepared :).  I can't even remember a thing we learned of course but just how we were the only ones there voluntarily!  With tours of the hospital and the changing table all set out, I thought I was so ready to become a mother.

Vivid in my mind were the expectations of what kind of mother I wanted to be.  A mother who...

actually got ready each day and looked super cute 
had patience and strived to live in the moment 
had a beautifully decorated home and cooked healthy, delicious meals 
took her kids to the library each week and continually taught them in fun ways 
wouldn't let my kids watch TV the first two years
breastfed my babies at least 12 months :) 
kept a consistent schedule and found time for personal fulfillment 
had well-kept kids with clean clothes and combed hair.... the list goes on and on

So here's a glimpse of what life has really been like this week...
As I look around the room I see milk spills on the table from days ago, oozing laundry piles, a gross casserole dish that took every second of my "personal time" during naps, old diapers that oh-so-need-to-be-taken-out, dishes so high in our tiny sink that you can't even begin to wash them, never being able to find a pair of the same socks, and rice remnants scattered across the floor because Brayden played with a bucket of rice while I was desperately trying to "get something done" and our vacuum broke right in the middle of cleaning it up.  We've watched Tangled for the upteenth time and Baby Einstein music is often ringing through my head.  If I manage to take a shower, I don't always have time to do much makeup and I am lucky to find something to wear that's both cute and clean.  Sometimes I worry that my toddler is going to turn into a giant cracker or a bag of fruit snacks since we are often on the go.  The print out of our assignment to talk in church this Sunday (which I haven't begun yet) somehow got permanently laminated to our kitchen table.  Which in a way is nice because I know I won't lose it!  We're back in diapers after a day of attempting potty training, and we were late to "library toddler time" but at least we made it!  About to run into the library, I quickly changed both kids diapers since thankfully our car is currently full of "treasures" and luckily extra diapers and wipes were included.  I gagged, being a pregnant mommy, and hurriedly stashed Brayden's mother-of-all diapers under the car wheel to throw away later.  As soon as I got home, I realized I forgot about that full diaper and drove right across it....

You're either totally disgusted and horrified at reading this (and therefore feeling better about how great you're doing)...  or you're thinking - "I'm not alone!"
As soon as Brayden started to walk and play well on his own, I had a stage of time when the house was actually pretty clean and I felt somewhat in control!  But then, we had another, and the seemingly eternal baby stage - incredibly cute yet greatly demanding - presses forward.

 I've learned that I'm far from that mother that I envisioned long ago, yet I've also discovered that family life holds life's most supreme joys.  I'm just completely tickled that my little lady just started walking and just beaming that Brayden can now say his entire ABCs!!  Even though I'm often wiping noses and putting on the continual procession of meals, there's precious moments that make. everything. so. worth. it.  Strengthening our marriages and cherishing these beautiful children God has given us really is life's most astounding experience!  I will never "have-it-all-together" but here are a few things I have found helpful:

1.   Focus on your STRENGTHS.   Anna Quindlen said, "The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself."  Each of us have unique gifts, I believe God-given gifts, that we can use to bless our families and the world around us.  Your abilities will be different from the mothers on your street or in your churches, but deep down - you have special nobility and greatness within.  Use those beautiful gifts right now and say "whatever" to the slew of abilities you currently covet.  

2.  Trying to find ways to THRIVE, not just survive.  Don't you often feel like you are in "survival mode" especially while rearing lots of little ones?!  Motherhood is a tremendously important and selfless work, but we need to remember who that self is.  What are some basic needs you have... emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically, and socially?  See where you are struggling right now, and maybe pick one or two things this week to help take care of YOU.  This can give you added energy and strength!

3.  Daily vow "I'll TRY AGAIN tomorrow."  The beauty of life is we can keep trying again... we all lose our patience, we all have moments when we're not quick to forgive or be kind, we all face challenges.  Gratefully, children are pretty resilient and we are continually growing and learning which is all part of the refining process of parenting!  Good thing we get to go to sleep each night - even if we close our eyes with sorrow and regrets, we can wake up refreshed to try again.

4.  PRACTICE CHERISHING the moment.  Some moments are just exhausting and some moments frankly are boring at times.  But, I believe in the POWER of REMINDING ourselves to get down on all fours, to look our precious children in the eyes, to drop what we are doing and completely give our whole selves to them, to find those teaching moments, to laugh so hard our bellies hurt, and to soak up all the love and complete joy we have for our precious children.  We're definitely not going to "cherish" each day, BUT we can practice having more and more of those joyful moments.                

*I'd love to keep writing to put off this mess that needs cleaning and to pour out my soul encouraging you in this most paramount work, but I'll just end with one more thought:  Most likely you're not always the "mother" you once had envisioned, but YOU DO have GREATNESS within you.  You're not alone in all the motherly mayhem - it is a pretty crazy life that we live :).  But, it is also the greatest, most influential, most irreplaceable role on the entire planet.  You can't ever do it all, but you can KEEP ON doing the things that matter most.

Much Love,

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

7 Motherhood Ideas that I LOVE!

I know I've told you already... but I adore this woman - Shawni - and the whole inspiring Eyre clan.  CLICK HERE to see her post  "7 motherhood ideas that I love."  Here are some fun ideas, most of wish I don't do now but dream to do in the future!

1. Movie Night: Each Friday night they pop popcorn, make chocolate-chip cookies, and watch a movie!

2. Interviews: Shawni's dad started a tradition of having a little one-on-one "interview" with each child once a week.  She explains, "He'd ask all kinds of questions. He'd help us figure out our goals. When we were really little he'd write the initial of our best talents on each of our ten fingertips.  He'd make us feel so great about ourselves. He'd ask what he could help with.... [she goes on to share] This is a tough thing to carry on with my kids because I'm not anywhere near as organized or as amazing as my dad. But I do enjoy writing occasional letters on my kids' fingertips and I have cornered them for an 'interview' on occasion. This year I've decided to try to do interviews on our monthly lunch dates, which is the next idea..."

3. Lunch Dates.  I LOVE, LOVE this idea for taking each child out of school lunch hour every now and then!  Shawni tries to do once a month.  Sure you may still have toddlers/babies tagging along, but it's still that child's "special day."  They get to choose the fast food place and you get some essential one-on-one time!  

  4. Mother's Day Letters.  I too feel so passionately about record keeping, and I'm sure it will get even crazier and harder to keep up on it as we have more kids.  I love writing them "notes" in their journals (of course not nearly as much as I would like!) of the strengths I see in them, of funny stories, and of how much I love the little things they do.  Shawni started a tradition of asking for a few hours each Mother's Day to sit down and write each of her kids a "love note" where she writes "how much I love them at every stage and what I've noticed about them each year." These are precious letters to compile and keep forever!

5. Clean Ten.  She says, "Whenever things get really cluttery...(ok, pretty much a few times a day) we just say "clean ten" and the kids have to each pick up and put away ten things."

6. Late Nights.  Shawni explains that "'Late Nights' are when the kids get to rotate each getting a turn once a week to stay up ten or fifteen minutes later than the others. They eat this up. It's such a short amount of time, but they think it's the luckiest thing ever when it's their turn and we love to give them some undivided one-on-one attention."

7. "Happies" & "Sads"  At dinner time you each take turns saying your "happies" (best part of your day) and "sads" (worst moment of the day)!  I've tried doing this at bedtime which can be fun too.  She says it's a great way to get some details and more of a discussion than just describing their day as "fine" or "bad." LOVE ALL THESE IDEAS! THANKS TO SHAWNI!