grace for stomach bugs

Warning: probably going to be rambly and incoherent. If you want a trip inside my weird head and day today, by all means, continue.

The last couple days have had plenty of challenges and failures. Yesterday, I broke my seven week streak of getting 10k steps per day, which doesn’t matter, unless you’re an obliger and live for perfect, unbroken streaks. I also didn’t blog, which was sad.

Instead, I got suddenly and violently ill.

And then about the time I felt better, everyone else but the baby started up. (She still hasn’t shown any signs of illness. Hoping that holds.)

Andrew was incredibly kind as I was down. He took up all the slack. At one point, I asked him, “Is it okay if I’m a giant wuss for just a little while longer and ask you to give me a back rub?” He responded, “You can be a giant wuss as long as you need to be.” That’s real love, friends. 

And then as the bug took him, I was just getting over the fever phase and able to take over the constant round of clean-up early this morning. Good times.

Stomach bugs are the worst.

We’re buried in laundry. (Mostly clean now, but certainly not folded.) The girls wound up supervised only by Miss Frizzle for the entire afternoon while the grownups tried to recover from a really rough night. We’re about to adventurously test pasta with butter in all the kids’ tummies.

But, for all the crazy, there have been a lot of gifts.

The baby didn’t get sick.

We’re together.

We live in the future and have a fridge that dispenses ice chips.

It was a really short bug. It’s over.

They’re all asleep now.

And, hey! I lost five pounds! (Winning!) (Just kidding. Not worth it.)

There’s grace enough, even for stomach bugs.


This post is part of a 31-day series called “Grace in Failure.” Other posts from the series can be found here.

31days of grace in failure 4-3

 

 

 

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spilling communion

This post was originally published in April of 2016, but it felt like a good fit for this month’s theme.

There have been some hard days around here lately.

Actually, there has been kind of a rash of them.

I can’t tell if it’s the standard third-trimester rage I’ve come to expect, but it’s kicking in several weeks early? (Oh good! Only sixteen or seventeen more weeks of this!) Or perhaps I’m just kind of worn down from a long run of a lot of hard work. I don’t know. In either case, I’m kind of mad at everything.

And guess who gets the bulk of it?

The little people who are with me and needing me all. the. time.

Those ones.

The ones I adore with my whole heart.

I’ve kind of turned into a stereotypical Walmart mom. (No judgment on the moms in Walmart yelling at their kids and everyone else. Just walking into the place makes me want to yell. Seriously.) I keep catching myself snapping or growling at them through my teeth. And I know it’s me. I know it is. The space I’m in right now is one where I don’t have a lot of ability to pay focused attention to discipline. Pregnancy makes me stupid, honestly. I forget the thing I just told my kid to do (or not to do) and then don’t think to follow up. But at the same time, I have greatly reduced patience to deal with badly-disciplined children. So…

Yeah.

Bad days.

Take, for example, this past Sunday.


It started out very much like the rest, in that I didn’t get up early enough to get through all the things I try to finish before I need to before the girls get up.

So I tried to plow through my list and my devotions while they were supposed to choose one of a few (quiet) options.

Instead, I spent a solid hour correcting them while trying to read the Bible. It was awesome. And then they finally decided to choose one of the things on the list of sanctioned activities (they chose putting away dishes over quiet reading time and some other option I don’t recall right now.) Within two minutes of finally choosing to obey, there was one Corelle dinner plate EXPLODED all over my entire kitchen. Seriously. I have no idea how that happens. But it was on every surface and covering the whole floor.

I had to get them out of the kitchen, clearly, and keep them out while I handled the mess. It killed me… the thing that effectively earned them a time out (despite all my qualifications- I wasn’t mad and they weren’t in trouble, I just needed them not to get hurt while I cleaned up the shards everywhere) was the choice to be obedient. It should never go down this way.

But whatever. You do what you gotta do.

So I cleaned it all up and Brian got up and everyone ate and got dressed and we made it to church (miraculously early?) and settled in.

Anyone reading this who attends the second service at my church knows this (because we are conspicuous), but the girls attend the “big service” with me (rather than Sunday School- some backstory there, but basically they don’t want to go and I’m philosophically in favor of having them learn to sit through the service with me) and we sit in the very front. (That’s where Grandma and Miss Amanda and Miss Kat sit- since Andrew’s in the back, it’s handy to sit near grownups who like them and are happy to lend hands if needed.) Sometimes it works out well. Sometimes, well, they’re preschoolers and kind of squirmy. And occasionally they’re naughty. There is usually a spectacle of some sort. (If nothing else, Katherine worships by twirling, which is adorable and also highly conspicuous and sometimes dangerous.)

This was a naughty Sunday.

The littler one was removed for disobedience of the disruptive variety. Twice. (The first time, on our way out, she grabbed the back of the empty first row of chairs across the aisle and dragged the whole row back a couple inches. Yay!)

We handled it (twice) and made it back into the service (again) just in time for communion.

Both girls have “asked Jesus to be their leader”and both really look forward to “juice and cracker days.” (I kind of cringe writing that. Yes, we talk at length about the meaning of it, why we do it, why they get to do it, what they’re supposed to be remembering, and still, it’s “juice and crackers!” they look forward to.) Our church’s practice is to hand out each element, then wait and take it all together. Katherine is still kind of figuring this out. She’s not quite yet four, so if you give her a cracker, she wants to eat it. We’re working on it.

And then the teeny tiny cups of grape juice come by. And, since we sit in the front, Katherine has a LONG time to hold that tablespoon of Welch’s in her squirmy little hands. And I’m whispering to her about Jesus making the sacrifice for the things we’ve done wrong and how that makes us right with God. Reminding, reminding, always teaching. They’re so small. And I’m grateful beyond words that the girls each truly love Jesus and are trying to learn to follow him, and I pray that Brian and the new little girl also love Jesus at an early age. But also there’s some abstract symbolism that’s kind of hard to convey to the under four set. Jenna gets it a little better. I’m hoping Katherine catches on soon. But at any rate, during my attempt at bringing the truth of it to her in a way that made any sense at all, she was fiddling with this bitty cup and…

Of course it spilled. Of course it did. And naturally, she was wearing the only fully white shirt either of them own right now.

I was aggravated a little (because, seriously, how many times do you think I’ve told her to hold it carefully?) but honestly, what struck me was the poetry of it.

Spilling communion. 

Making a total mess of the thing supposed to be pointing us back toward Jesus right this very second.


 

Monday morning, I finally, finally got up in time to read the Bible (and most of the other stuff on my morning checklist) before my kids needed any attention from me. And this is what greeted me.

Ephesians 5:1-2

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

Dear children. Imitating. If there is one thing in all the world that I know, it’s how “dear children” imitate. Adoringly. Relentlessly. Often impeccably. And, more often, completely imperfectly.

Imperfectly is certainly how I’m imitating Christ’s example of love and sacrifice right now. I do love my kids. And I do try to serve them. In fact, I sacrifice most of my time and (limited) energy doing the things they need me to do these days.

Right now, they are the ones, in this passage, pointing me back toward Jesus.

And I’m making a total mess of it all.

Snapping. Growling through my teeth. Sometimes just out-and-out yelling.


 

Except when I don’t.

Make a mess of it all, that is.

Because, while none of this “imitating like dear children” had been fleshed out on Sunday, here’s how it went down.

“It’s okay. Let’s try to be more careful.”

“Spills happen. I know it was an accident.”

“I’ll take care of your shirt when we get home.”

And that’s what happened. OxiClean spray does a remarkable job with grape juice, among other things.

It’s fine.

And, while my own words and thoughts convict me frequently, as they did on this Sunday and on the one before, now and then the Spirit whispers grace back to me in the echoes of my own words as well.

“It’s okay. Let’s try to be more careful.” 

“Bad days happen. I know you love your kids, and My grace covers you now as well.”

“I took care of this on the cross.”

It’s gonna be fine.


 

Still no idea what to do about the rage issues besides take it one day at a time and ride the crazy hormones out. Any ideas? I’d take them.

How about you? In what way does God use your words to either convict or bring grace to you?


This post is part of a 31-day series called “Grace in Failure.” Other posts from the series can be found here.

31days of grace in failure 4-3

giving up coffee…maybe

So… I’ve been talking a lot about Lilly’s sleep the last couple days. I love her and stuff, but she’s been the most challenging sleeper of my four. I do all the things I know to do to help her sleep just like I did with the others, but it’s still been hard.

I was so excited yesterday  because I recognized early that my lack of sleep was supercharging my hypersensitivity, but that wasn’t the only brilliant discovery I made yesterday.

Somebody mentioned, sort of peripherally, caffeine sensitivity in nursing babies.

Oh, yeah.

I think my first was sensitive to it, so I quit coffee for a while (which is brutal.) Then the second came two months after the first was weaned, so I decided I’d just keep… not drinking coffee. I reintroduced it occasionally, once she was big and not nursing as much or often. Number 3 was such an easy sleeper that I hardly needed coffee and, when I had it, he slept just as well as always.

For number four? I don’t know. I just didn’t even consider it. Ever. Also? She slept pretty rough, so BRING ON THE COFFEE. And fourteen months later, here we are. Considering for the first time that this could explain a lot.

I have no real idea if caffeine is Miss Lilly’s problem. Maybe skipping morning (and after-breakfast, and elevensies, and lunch) coffee will help. Maybe it won’t, and I’ll spend a week not sleeping AND not having coffee. Either way, it’s a brilliant reminder that four kids’ worth of parenting experience doesn’t always make me the pro I think I am.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s my first kid or my fourth, I feel like a willingness to learn and to not have the answers is one of the really important parts of parenting. (Oddly, for the most part, I think I’m more willing to be wrong now than when I was mothering just the one—I was much more convinced then than I am now that there’s a Right Way and I have to find it or I’m a bad mom.)

Still figuring it out. And that’s fine.


This post is part of a 31-day series called “Grace in Failure.” Other posts from the series can be found here.

31days of grace in failure 4-3

like a nameless servant

Last night, I went to kiss my oldest before I headed to bed. I expected her to be asleep, but she wasn’t. She groggily asked me to reheat her rice sock.* “Of course! I’d love to do that for you.” I went to the kitchen, nuked it for a couple of minutes, and returned it to her.

Me: “Goodnight, sweetie. I love you.”

Her: “Can you put some ice in my water?”

200w_d

Suddenly I cannot even.

I didn’t go all Hulk on her at that moment, but the anger and resentment were overwhelming. I was JUST in the opposite corner of the house to kindly get her something to improve her comfort. WHY COULD SHE NOT HAVE ASKED FOR ICE THEN?!?

So I sighed. (Huffed.) “Babe, next time mention that when I go to the kitchen the first time.” Off I grouched to the kitchen to get her some freaking ice.

When I headed to my bedroom, I was trying to be curious about my crazy response, but I was still a little too pissed to think very clearly. Over ice cubes.

I talked to my husband, told him I felt resentful. Taken for granted.  “I feel like a servant. And not like a beloved servant, but like a nameless one.”

I was lost in all the overwhelming mad emotions because my six-year-old asked me for a pair of favors and didn’t think to consolidate them.

Friends, the inside of my heart is ugly sometimes.

I had two options to show Jenna the love of Jesus in that moment. One would have been to get the ice water with a glad heart. The other would have been to tell her no with a compassionate heart.

Instead, I chose to do the serving thing with the demeanor of a martyr. I showed her poor personal boundaries and a bad attitude.

And it’s not like this is an isolated occurrence.

How many times a week (or day? hour?) do I do what is asked because it’s the path of least resistance (rather than because it’s best), and do it with a heart that resents the request?

It occurs to me that I’m a 2 on the enneagram, which means I’m a helper, which is great. But it also means that many of the things I think I’m doing for others, I am actually doing for social currency and self-respect. Or something. So when my people act like they’re entitled to any of my services they want, when they want them, I kind of freak out. Awesome.

So basically, I like serving. Jesus was a servant and had things to say about servants and greatness in the Kingdom. I like seeing myself as “like Jesus” and “great in the kingdom.” But, in my pride (incidentally, the sin associated with enneagram 2s), I want people to know how great and like Jesus I am. It’s a mess. And it makes me grumpy in my everyday life as a stay-at-home mom of littles, because nobody sees.

So I told you I was going to show you grace in my failures this month. But I’m still in it, so I don’t know exactly how His grace is going to unfold in my sinful heart.

Here’s what I know: It’s grace that I noticed it. Most of the time, I just huff off and continue with whatever I was going to do, but with slightly elevated stress levels. It’s extravagant grace that I feel safe to talk about the in-process and ugly parts of me with my husband. This hasn’t always been the case, so it’s beautiful to see it now. It’s grace that it was Jenna, who is the most like me. This means she triggers my crazy faster than the others, but it also means that she has and understands all the words, so when I talk to her about it this afternoon, she and I will likely be able to understand each other well.

That’s what I have, you guys. An unfinished story of failure that reveals my sin nature and the shadow side of my personality and a bunch of little crumbs of grace to help me find my way back.


*The rice sock is a sock who has lost its mate, gets filled with a few cups of rice (or other whole grain- Jenna’s is currently whole oats because we had them and they’re old), and tied closed. We heat it in the microwave for a few minutes—it depends on the rice volume. It’s great for sore muscles or chilly nights and is good until the sock develops a hole. You’re welcome.

 


This post is part of a 31-day series called “Grace in Failure.” Other posts from the series can be found here.

31days of grace in failure 4-3

kids are weird

This little bundle of delight woke from her nap yesterday right as I was done on the treadmill and ready to shower, so I decided to let her play in the bath while I rinsed off. On the way, she happened to grab her toothbrush and began chomping on it. That’s cool. I floss in the shower, so she can brush her teeth. We get in and I do my thing while she plays. I pay enough attention to see that she’s not drowning, but mostly, I’m just showering.

Until I happen to see her jam the toothbrush end down the drain, then back in her mouth.

Eew.

Now, I can’t outright call this failure. I mean, sure, I could have been supervising her more closely. (Though, if we’re worried about supervision, the bigger failure would be the 5- and 6-year-olds out in the living room watching Magic School Bus with zero grownups, but whatever.)

I just bring it up because kids are weird and gross and I used to think there was something wrong with mine when they did stuff like this. I had about a year where every single time we went to a public bathroom, I had to repeat The Rule: “We don’t stick our faces in toilets in public restrooms, girls.” Do you know why we had this rule? Because a particular one of mine broke it every time. Face. Checking out the underside of the rim. EEW.

At the time, I was sure there was something I was doing wrong. I mean, whose kids are this fascinated by the inside of public toilets??? Turns out, mine are. And they’re okay. And their immune systems are awesome. And none of them inspect toilets right now. It was a phase.

So it’s not failure. I mean, I deal with the things that totally gross me out (apparently by making rules that are only marginally effective), but it’s just… kids. Tuesday, I heard myself say, “If you can’t stay out of mischief with a trashcan on your head, you might have to spend some time without it on your head.” They’re just weird.

The grace here has been, over the last several years, learning to roll with it rather than internalize it as some deficiency in my mothering skills. I’ve learned to chuckle at it (sometimes with a shudder) instead of internally shaming myself for it.

Friends, are there things that your kids do that you feel shame about? Is it possible they’re just… being kids? How would it feel to handle the behavior that needs to be unlearned, but without taking it in as personal failure?


This post is part of a 31-day series called “Grace in Failure.” Other posts from the series can be found here.

31days of grace in failure 4-3

 

Parenting in Public

I remember the first time I caught myself doing it.

My firstborn was a toddler, barely a year. I was at the post office with her near Christmas, waiting in the holiday lines to send a package. I don’t remember what she did exactly, but it required correction. I squatted down on her level, acutely aware of anyone in my peripheral vision who might be discreetly watching me parent, and explained what I needed her to do and why, just a *little* too loudly, in terms far above a 13-month-old’s grasp.

That was the beginning of justifying my parenting in public.

Raising kids brings up ALL my insecurities and magnifies them, so when I’m out around other people, I’m naturally very conscious of what my kids are doing, how I’m responding, and how I might be coming across to people within earshot.

Misbehavior is the worst, obviously. Online parent-shaming is sort of a national hobby. I’ve read posts with titles like “How to Discipline Positively,” “How NOT to Discipline your Child,” and (my favorite) “Seven Reasons It’s Your Fault Your Kid is a Brat.” Everyone has an opinion and has read dozens of blog posts to support it as the best and only way to go. When my child misbehaves, the consensus seems to be it’s my fault: if I were more effective, she wouldn’t be acting out. Maybe she needs more discipline. Maybe she needs more love. Maybe I should cut out dairy and gluten. Whatever it is, her naughtiness is a problem rooted in my lousy mothering. So I’m already in the hole, at least a little. But NOW I have to respond to it, and that’s where my specific mothering style feels especially scrutinized.

So I do things as I should. Calm. Kind. Compassionate. All explained about 20% louder than necessary with about three times as many words as my kids need, just in case someone nearby doesn’t understand I’M MAKING THE RIGHT DECISION HERE, AND THIS IS WHY… [more]


Read more at Kindred Mom!

notes from the overwhelm

Y’all, I’m over it.

OVER. IT.

Not my little people- they’re fabulous, if maddening. I’m over everything else, though. July has been a hell of a month for me, and I’m whooped. My husband left for a ministry thing for a week and a half, which is more than I’m accustomed to handling with four littles. (Side note: single moms? Military wives? You’re amazing.) My dear friend showed up to be extra hands (hooray!) then the smallest turned one, then I had to put down the dear, sweet doggie who’s welcomed all four of my babies home, then my husband got home (hooray!) and my friend left after a week instead of a month because Jesus redirected her, and by the way, the husband is home but has a bunch of evening commitments, so, though I spent a week and a half being awesome and being the mom through all the crappy and family-dog-putting-down, I (impossibly) had to slog through another couple days of pseudo-solo-parenting.

Then today.

At one point, I had dishes from the last 36 hours on the counter, laundry from the last… several days on the futon to fold, cheerios on the floor (because my dog is dead as of last week), my one-year-old eating a piece of leftover dog food to console herself because she rolled down a flight of stairs because the toddler boy left the gate open when he dragged his bike up that flight of stairs, and two big girls with two huge pots apiece with two sunflowers per pot, shoving a collection of eight sunflowers in my face, demanding that I must LOOK AT THEM RIGHT NOW, but for the love of all things green, DON’T TOUCH THEM, MAMA, BECAUSE YOU KILL THINGS.

My oldest, the wisest of them at age six, tells me I need coffee and some food.

I tell her I need a week of silence.

I’ve been counting down for more than two weeks now: until my friend came, until my husband came back, until the weekend, until my process night. I kept imagining that if I could make it to the next thing (whatever that thing was), I could finally relax and find some margin.

It’s slowly dawning on me that the “next thing” never fixes it. It’s taken weeks (well, perhaps years, depending on how you’re counting) for me to get to this overloaded place, and no three-hour chunk of quiet (nice as it may be) can fix that kind of weary. It’s a little like the realization that I will never “catch up” on sleep. There’s not enough time ever to make up all the hours of sleep I’ve lost over the years of babies and college and miscellaneous late nights.

So now what?

Well, when I’m especially behind on sleep, I try to adjust my habits to get more sleep, but I stop worrying about “catching up.” I let “more” be enough.

I wonder if, in this current state of weariness and this current deficit of quiet, I need to just let more be enough. I can’t get a week of silence to compensate for the two weeks without.

I hope I’m right, because a week of solitude is not an option right now. (Darn it all.) My game plan now is to find quiet wherever it can be found (bathroom, anyone?) and hope that eventually it’s enough again.

Until then, I’m just praying (again and still) for enough grace to make it through today. It’s always there.

If you have any tricks for finding margin again after a season of relentless overwhelm, I want to hear them.