“Motherhood is a process. Learn to love the process.”
- Debra Rosenberg
Parker turned six earlier this week, and he celebrated in style.
Piling the sprinkles on his school treat cupcakes…
…eating his “special-request” dinner…
Opening his “special-request” present…
…and trying out his surprise gift!
I love the look of pure joy that was plastered on his face all day. Everything was about him, and he gobbled it up like a giant bowl of Lucky Charms. And really…there is just something really cool about watching a six year old boy enjoy life. He loves flipping the thick swath of blonde hair out of his eyes, jamming on his new guitar, dancing along to whatever music he hears, and loving on his mom without an inch of embarrassment.
In fact, we were in Spoonlickers today, celebrating Madi’s birthday with some fro yo, and he couldn’t stay in his seat with the music playing over the loudspeakers. He jumped up and started to dance, right in front of the yogurt machines.
This kid loves life. And I love him…with every inch of my heart.
The past month or so has blown by in a blur of holiday gatherings, final exams, cookie making, and plenty of “nose to the grindstone” stuff”. As I barrel through my days, I find myself ticking things off my list and striding forward with barely a backward glance, which always gives me a distinct sense of satisfaction. Check…check…and double check.
It’s the journey, and frequently I find myself somewhere in the thick of it, traveling along and grinding it out. In theory, this sense of immediacy is a good thing, but it can also hinder my view of the past or future. Focus? Yes. Perspective? Not always.
But as I look at my rumpled to-do list, it gives me pause. Each one of those scribbled-out tasks left an distinct mark on me this last few months, and it is good to stop and pay attention. Tasks like…
Submit Final Grades. I stood in front of my class at the end of the semester, and could barely choke back the tears as I thanked them for the opportunity to spend time with them for 14 weeks. When I agreed to teach the class, I wasn’t at all sure about my decision. I honestly didn’t think I would ever find myself back at Cornerstone, and here I was, trying to shake off the lingering feelings of burnout that had followed me since I took a break from teaching a few years ago. But I decided that I was going to pay attention to the “reason”, and I did. My “break” had freed me from the stress of perfectionism and had given me a renewed focus to paying attention to what my students needed…right then. They learned a few things from me, but I think I learned much more from them. Complete survey for The New Testament Challenge. I finished reading the New Testament from start to finish for the very first time this fall, thanks to an eight week program through our church. It was definitely “challenging”, but the impact of being in the Word every day was more powerful than I could have imagined. I usually read or study the Bible in small chunks, so I loved being able to see in broad strokes what it looks like to be a Christ-follower. Loving extravagantly, speaking Truth, giving generously, and using my gifts to serve the community of believers…all things that popped off the pages in very real ways this fall. I can only pray that I continue to water and weed the transformational change that began to take root in my heart this fall and allow it to produce life-affirming fruit. I want to be like Christ, and being in the Word is a big part of that. Buy beef tenderloin. After a personal cooking lesson in early December (which deserves its very own post), I found myself buying groceries to host the firm Christmas party at our home last weekend. I was trying to be nonchalant about it, but I was honestly pretty terrified. One of the “mantras” my instructor kept telling me was “Don’t be afraid, Rachel”, and I needed that tattooed on the inside of my eyelids it as I picked out meat, prepped dishes that were way out of my wheelhouse, and cooked up a huge pot of risotto while our dinner guests lounged around the kitchen. Just a tad bit intimidating, don’t you think? The party was a success, even with my slightly undercooked risotto (yes, it’s true), and as Ben and I cleaned up the kitchen, I was so thankful for all of the entertaining we have been able to do since we moved in. I love having our home full of laughter and conversation, and it felt good to share with others. Pre-register for the winter Hello Mornings Challenge: Earlier this summer, I jumped into an online accountability group that checks in on Facebook in the mornings to share what they are learning in their devotions. Honestly, I did it on a whim, but 12 weeks later, I felt such a kinship with these girls that live all over the Eastern Time Zone…from Panama to Alabama to Canada. When it ended, and we had to decide whether to continue, it was hardly a question. We were all in. Recently, one of the girls went through an incredibly difficult situation, and I sat in front of my computer crying for her, this girl I felt such a kinship with, even though we had never met. You can say what you want about technology, but there are so many amazing ways that it can be used for good…and this has been a Spirit-led movement in my life. Make sheep costume. Madi was asked to be a sheep in her Christmas program, which meant that I had to construct some semblance of a costume. I don’t sew…I’m not an especially astute crafter…which meant that we ended up wandering around Hobby Lobby with an image of a costume pulled up on my cell phone trying to find felt, polyfill, and fluffy pipe cleaners. Did it turn out? We managed. She did leave a trail of polyfill in her wake, and her ears were a bit precarious. But if anything, it certainly humbled me. I really didn’t know if her costume was going to stay together, and that was hard. Lesson learned…next time, I need to outsource. Train for a 10k. Notice it doesn’t say “run a 10k”. I trained with my neighbor, because she was planning on running a 10k at Thanksgiving. I, on the other hand, didn’t have a race lined up. Still don’t, in fact. But strangely enough, I still had a tremendous sense of accomplishment when we hit our six mile run length, and didn’t pass out afterwards. It helps to have a good running partner, one that will always get out of bed to run at 5:45 and will say, “Let’s run the four mile route this morning”, even when it’s raining. That’s the kind of running partner you need. Better than that, though, is the friendship that that has been forged during the miles running up and down the streets of our neighborhood. Talking about everything and nothing…kids and family and jobs and history…it’s something that I don’t want to give up, even though the mornings are getting a bit colder. Finish writing today’s post. This seems to make it on my list almost every day, to be either starting or finishing a post for Mom Colored Glasses or here. I love doing it, but there never seems to be enough time to write…keep up with emails…get our name to the right PR people…build our audience…all squeezed in-between the rest of my life. Some days it feels overwhelming, but then there are other days, when we are able to send a $100 gift card to someone that really needs it or write about something that is close to my heart or have a conversation with a friend about something I wrote…those moments continue to make it worth it. Writing is the quiet that centers me…the perspective that so often eludes me…and the connection that I so desperately need.
The last couple of months have been good for me. Not simple and not easy, but definitely a time of growth, discipline, and rediscovery. And truthfully, it is only as I look back that I can see how my path wove and intersected in just the perfect way.
I can’t wait to see what the next few months have in store.
I remember when Parker stopped napping consistently. I was pregnant with Fiona…over three years ago. He never needed as much sleep as most kids his age, and he made that abundantly clear very early.
In one respect, it was a blessing, because the most common complaint for “middle” kids is that they get less one-on-one time with their parents. I feel like we sidestepped that trip to the psychologist’s office because we ended up having more than our share of “alone time”, Parker and I, with Madi in school and Fiona napping. Lots of time playing soccer in the yard, making interesting concoctions, reading, watching TV together, and sometimes just trying to stay out of each other’s way. It has not always been easy, as someone who really enjoys having a few minutes to myself…by myself (who doesn’t, I suppose), and there were some days where we both got on each other’s last nerve.
But I honestly loved my time with Parker, the kid who loves to snuggle and play with my hair, who has no concept of personal space, and who adores music so much that it spills out of every pore. He’s particular to a fault, would rather stay home than go…anywhere, and could watch movies all day long. He wants to be a producer someday…or a stay-at-home dad…or both.
And he left me this week.
I remember being so sad and anxious about Madi starting school full time for many different reasons, but Parker? It is pure selfishness on my part. He is so ready for school, he doesn’t even want me to come inside to pick him up. When I dropped him off on his first day, he dashed over to the Gathering Place for storytime faster than I could say “don’t forget to eat your lunch”. I know he will do great…
…it’s me I am worried about.
I know – we will all adjust sooner or later.
I know – I will have many more “good byes” in my future.
I know – it’s just part of being a parent.
I know all of these things, but it didn’t make this week any easier. You don’t get to “take back” that moment of sending your kids to school for the first time, and it felt a little like cutting off my right arm and shipping it to China. The wound is oozing loss, both physical and emotional, and it is going to take a little while for it to scab over.
He came home happy…talking about getting “sparkles” from his teacher and flying on the tire swing. I was happy for him, but I was even happier to have him home sitting in my lap, twirling my hair.
When I think back to elementary school, third grade stands out as the first year where I have distinct memories instead of blurry images. I remember making globes out of gluey strips of newspaper and balloons. I remember roller skating parties in the gym after school. I remember (traumatically) watching the Challenger launch in the neighboring third grade classroom. I remember trying to beat this red-haired kid Patrick in a foot race on the playground. I remember reading and reading…digging deeper into the musty library stacks to find new books to read.
And as I send Madi off to third grade this year, I am struck by how fast we have gotten to this point. Wasn’t it just yesterday that she was learning to write her name and how she is writing everything in cursive? Overnight she has turned into this flutter shirt wearing, constantly chattering, lover of Cupcake Wars, and convinced that she is going to be the world’s greatest chef someday. She’s self sufficient and brave (most of the time) and can read as fast as me.
I wonder what third grade has in store for my Madi-girl. I want…I pray that her year is as memorable (in good ways) as my third grade year was. May her friends not be catty and her teachers understanding. May she find ways to shine in a world where everyone is graded on a curve. May she realize her potential instead of just doing what needs to be done. May she walk boldly through the school door without having to look back and see her mama with tears sliding down her face as I watch her slip through my fingers.
Make some moments this year, my girl. Make it a good year, a year to remember.
Hug your mama.
This week’s middle of the night “Blue Couch Confession” isn’t about decorating, even though I definitely need more help with that. Instead, I am thinking about trying to help my kids adjust…any ideas?
Well, what do you think?
The first few days after we officially “moved in” to our house were admittedly tough. There were piles of boxes to unpack, we had to put the kids to bed later than normal because there were no blinds on their windows, and everyone was overtired and overstimulated. Parker was bugging his sisters like crazy, Fiona found an extra-loud decibel to scream back at him, and Madi…well, Madi was a bit harder to figure out.
She told us repeatedly that she didn’t like the new house, because it was too new, too fancy, and she didn’t like sleeping in a room by herself. She whined about everything, woke up crying because she was sweaty from hiding under her covers, and had an attitude that registered off the normal chart in every way possible. I didn’t know what to do, because she typically doesn’t act out this much, and I wasn’t sure if she was hitting a new cranky phase or whether I could blame it solely on the move.
How do you help your kids work through big changes while still parenting them appropriately? It’s tough, because you know that there are external forces at work and you want to be sensitive to those, but at the same time, you don’t want to send the message that every time things are tough, it’s carte blanche for behaving badly. Not the best lesson, in my mind.
So, we worked through some major temper tantrums, survived lengthy crying sessions, and refused to tolerate the attitude. It was only a week, but it felt like ten. I can’t imagine being a family that has to work through a really serious upheaval. To that point, it gives me a greater appreciation for what my parents had to deal with when we moved after my sixth grade year, and I acted just like, if not worse, than Madi…for almost two years. Yikes.
But then, today rolled around, and I came home from work to find two little cards that Madi had made for Ben and I…
So sweet, in a perfect seven-year-old way. It did my heart good, and made me relax just a little bit more. Now…if I could just figure out how to get Fiona to sleep through the night?
This week’s 5 Minute Friday is all about “enough”…just writing, no thinking…
I sit on the couch, every muscle in my body aching from moving countless boxes and bins into rooms and hallways, storage closets and playrooms. Projects pop out of every corner as I walk through the empty rooms – shelves there, shower bar here, collage there – and I wish that my body could move twice as fast.
I sit at the table, scribbling my to-do list on slips of paper, trying to capture the responsibilities of a busy family. Tasks that never seem to get done, overdue thank you notes, and a pile of magazines to flip through gets simply dumped in the trash. No time, unless I stay up all night.
I look at my kids and feel defeated. We don’t spend enough time working on writing Parker’s numbers the right way, we are behind on Madi’s piano lessons, and Fiona follows me around with a stack of stories to be read. We dash to activities and play dates, shopping and gas stations, trying to visit family and friends, and fall into bed exhausted and overtired.
Enough? Today it doesn’t feel like it.
The kids splashed and giggled in the warm lake water, awkwardly swimming in their bright orange life jackets while I stood on the edge of the boat. I hesitated for just a moment, but then leaped awkwardly off the edge, plunging under the surface before popping up and wiping the water out of my eyes.
“I can’t believe you jumped in!”, Ben said to me as he swam over with Fiona tucked in his arm.
“Really?”, I replied, a little confused to why he would think it was so strange, but then Fiona wanted to come over to my arms, and our conversation ended abruptly, as usual.
As I sorted through what he said, I kept circling back to the time I have spent as a mom. Eight years. Over half of that time, I spent either pregnant or nursing (with a few blissful months in-between), and spent the last two years with a very clingy toddler. That means that doing anything “adventurous” was severely limited, both physically and emotionally. No hot tubs when I was pregnant…nothing that lasted longer than a half an hour when I had an infant or a toddler for that matter…
And honestly, after a while, it just was easier to tell Ben to take the kids on the water slides or on a boat ride or canoeing or swimming or whatever. As soon as I would get my suit on or try to head out to do something “fun”, I would have to take a kid to the bathroom or find a snack or nurse a baby. What was the point?
But this summer, things are different. All three of the kids are relatively independent, I am not on call 24/7 as a feeding machine, and get this…they can sometimes even get their own snacks. And I am finding myself re-learning how to live a little bit, and I do mean “learning”. Saying “no” quickly becomes a habit, and I still turn down things that could be “fun” because the kids might need me, even though they don’t, and they shouldn’t…at least not every second. (They are learning that too.)
So I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that Ben expects me to just say “no” too, because I have done it for so long. And I suppose that it would be a little surprising if I suddenly started doing things that seem out of character. I would have never jumped off a pontoon boat into a lake to go swimming, even last summer. But I did, just this last weekend, and got the frizzy, lake tangled hair to prove it.
“Motherhood” often is synonymous with the word “sacrifice”, and I wholeheartedly agree. I would give up whatever I needed to for my kids. But what it doesn’t mean is “unnecessary sacrifice”, and I am beginning to understand what the difference means. Giving up my time to listen, play, and cuddle? Absolutely. Denying myself a bit of evening swimming just in case they need me to be dry on the boat? Probably not.
I swam around for a while, chasing Parker and searching for “warm spots” while Ben got out with Madi and Fiona. A little while later, Fiona had to go to the bathroom…in the middle of the lake…and wouldn’t just go in the water.
But that’s another story for another day…one that required a bit more sacrifice, and a bruised knee to boot…
See that wiggly tooth? The one that is sticking out all perjankety and sideways? It was about two weeks overdue to come out when Ben left to go camping for the weekend. I told Madi that we could work on pulling it out while he was gone, but I was only kidding myself. I am not the tooth puller in our family….Ben is.
His approach is ultra direct…he dives in, cracks the tooth to one side, and yanks it right out.
My approach is a bit more subtle…I gently tug and twist, with very little success (obviously). You might even call it wishy washy or a failure to commit.
When it comes to parenting, Ben takes the same no-nonsense approach as well. Act up? Go to your room. Need a new bike? Let’s go buy one. Extra energy? It’s “go time”.
Me, on the other hand? I give way too many “opportunities to obey”, hem and haw about larger purchases, and sometimes will say “we’ll do that later”, even if I know later will never come.
We probably make a good team, the yin and yang of parenting styles, but I have found myself trying to learn a few of his tricks. How to take action instead of being frozen by indecisiveness. How to take a stand and stick to it. And maybe…just maybe…I’ll learn to pull out a few teeth.
Ben came home, waterlogged and tired from camping, and he and Madi ducked into the bathroom to check out her tooth. Ten minutes later, she emerged…tooth in hand.
Just like that.
I am linking up with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop this week to “Share something you’ve learned from your husband about parenting. What makes him good at what he does?” To which I replied…”Just one thing?”
“It’s not perfect.”
“I’m not beautiful.”
These statements have surfaced around our house lately, weighing down my heart. Where did they come from? What can I do differently? How do I replace these lies with truth?
I may not know all the answers, but for me, sometimes talking it out helps. So, here are my thoughts…while I was waiting to pick up Parker from his drama camp this week.
I would love to hear any other ideas and perspectives on this issue…we need to stick together!