anything that makes you crazy

I have very little in the way of parenting advice to give anyone. I’ve been parenting for less than five and a half years, and I don’t think there’s enough evidence at this point for anyone to consider me an expert.

That said, I’ve received some pretty stellar advice.

Some of it has changed. my. life.

For instance, Andrew and I were discussing which things I was saying yes to when the (then) 3- and 4-year old girls would ask to do various things. They, like probably most preschoolers, love messy things and are less than awesome at cleaning those things up.

But still, I said “yes” to most of their requests. I’ve read things from credible sources (like the internet) about saying “yes” as often as possible. And so I tried. Play-doh? I guess. Painting? Uh… sure. Baking? Heck no. We draw the line somewhere. (Much to my husband’s chagrin, I don’t love baking. Baking with toddlers pushes me fully over the edge into the territory of “homicidal.” And nobody needs a homicidal mama.) But, short of baking, if we had the time and supplies, I did my best to say yes to everything their sweet little creative hearts desired.

And I regretted it immensely.

Every. Dang. Time.

They’d lose interest before they were finished, much less had cleaned up. So, like a good mom, would try to enforce cleaning up. Freaking out would ensue. They would sometimes join me in the freak-outs. Everyone was miserable. The house was a mess. My nerves were shot.

So, after yet another day of this ridiculousness, Andrew and I were talking over our respective philosophies of “yesses and nos.” (If you don’t have a philosophy of yesses and nos, I suggest thinking it over. As humans, we spend SO MUCH TIME having to choose yes or no that it’s useful to have a starting point.)

I was explaining to him why I tried my best to tell the kids “yes.” (Learning through play! Sensory benefits! Exploring life! BEING A “FUN MOM”!!!)

He cocked his head at me, genuinely baffled.

“They aren’t entitled to anything that makes you crazy. You know that, right?”

And it was suddenly so obvious.

I don’t know if it was his use of the word “entitled” or what, but of course they aren’t entitled to that. We don’t want to raise entitled kids…

Fast forward a year or two. I’ve begun to filter their questions through this new (somewhat odd) criterion.

Will this make me crazy?

Also in this time, I’ve begun to understand and embrace my tendency toward high sensitivity. (Here is my very favorite post on highly sensitive parents. I’m certain this is at least the third time I’ve linked it. And here is another fairly useful post of hers. Heck, if these resonate with you, click on her “highly sensitive parent” tag and have a ball.) So the list of “makes me crazy” things is long and fluctuates some based on what kind of mental space I’m in. I can do finger paints, but only if I have a LOT of margin and some quiet time on the way.

Current mood? Can’t even. I know this about pregnancy. The later it gets, the less space I have for sensory input. Period. This is a useful thing to know, since I spend an inordinate amount of time this way, it seems. So right now, if the kids want to get anything out of the craft cabinet, my default is “no.”

Now, I know exploring and mess-making and all that stuff that fun moms do is important. I don’t want to shortchange my kids in the sensory experience department. Someone (maybe many of them) will call this selfish parenting. Maybe. But do you know what’s more important than unlimited access to finger paint? A mama who is not losing her ever-loving mind. Serious. I could be a “fun mom,” but it’d be at the expense of being a good one. A lot of moms can handle being this kind of fun mom. I’m not one of them. I am coming to accept this.

But also, childhood and stuff. So I outsource. The Children’s Museum is basically my favorite place ever. (The kids don’t seem to mind it, either.) They have all the crazy multi-piece toys and random goo for them to play or paint with and all kinds of craft supplies. I happily enrolled the girls in forest school, so someone else takes my kids out to play in the woods and answers all the questions. ALL the questions. I still have to do muddy laundry, but that’s a small price to pay for some dedicated time with Brian Boy and a HUGE reduction in mom guilt over never taking them out wandering nature.

So yes to outsourcing. No to paint, puzzles, unlimited craft supplies, play-doh, gak, and any toy that lights up or makes noise. I can handle all of those things in other spaces that are not my home. Will this make me crazy? Yes? Then NO.

They bike outside a lot these days. Burns energy, makes them happy and tired. Makes them happier and tireder than finger paint. The trampoline is coming out soon. Thank the Lord for springtime. We do parks where they can play and climb and fall on their heads in the pea gravel, then scoop it up and make mountains of it.


What makes you crazy? Are you saying “yes” to it? Could you try a “no” and see if it doesn’t make everybody’s day better? Just a thought.

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minigoals and unresolutions: March

I decided in January I’d start testing out small habits each month. Here’s how March went.

This picture has little to do with the post, except for the focus on minutia. But It was taken in one of my favorite places (Cannon Beach) on a long layover with a dear friend, and it seemed more fun (and less work) than trying to take an artistic photo of… dental floss.

Brief history:
January: Get up early. Good. Still working out the details. This is a daily struggle.
February: Leave food on my plate at meals. Total fail.

March: Floss every day in the shower…

(I still realize it’s dumb that I’m talking to the internet about flossing.) I was looking for an easy win this last month because February went so poorly… It worked! No missed days for (so far) 31 in a row. It helps that I have a trigger (shower) and a bubble to fill in on my little habit tracker. I will probably continue to make that a daily checklist item for the next couple months, just so I make sure I keep it, but I think we’re going to mark this as a solid YES.

And… done talking about dental hygiene. Yay!

So for April, I’ve been kind of waffling back and forth between two habits.

First, I have a solid chunk of Scripture that I’ve been trying to memorize for, um, AGES. Probably most of a year at this point. I have a little more than one chapter of Colossians memorized and it’s time to get crackin’. So I was thinking that a daily chunk of time for memorization or review would be a great habit for this month (and also for several to come.)

But also, I have this insane backlog of photo books that need to be done. Like… two years. So almost half my parenting career has yet to be printed out. Makes me crazy. And I was thinking if I just DO it, a little per day over the course of a month (or, honestly, two or three) I could be up to date by the time we have a fourth baby. Which would be awesome, since baby number three has yet to be born, as far as Mixbook knows.

I feel like it’s cheating and possibly shooting myself in the foot to do two at once, but they’re both kind of temporary goals and it’s my experiment, so I think I will try it. The year is all about wondering, so we’ll  see how it goes.

So, to make it specific and measurable, I’m hoping to…

  • Spend, at minimum, 5 minutes daily on memorizing or reviewing Colossians. It’s not much, but better than what I’ve been doing.
  • See how many days of April I can spend at least 15 minutes making photo albums on Mixbook.

 

the worst easter ever

Someday, I will have my Easter stuff in order. The kids will have fun Easter-related activities. I will remember to read the book of Lenten kid devotionals I bought three years ago and have yet to touch. I will actually figure out what I need for dinner before Easter afternoon and we will have something other than pasta shells and sauce, prepared my kind husband who has been working his tail off for Easter service stuff all week.

This year, it didn’t happen.

(Those are definitely last year’s eggs.)

I was driving home from our church’s Easter service with the kids, feeling pretty happy about everything. We’d made it on time, Brian did well in the nursery, the girls didn’t make a scene in the service.  (Not a big one, at any rate. We’re always kind of a spectacle… it happens when you have preschoolers who aren’t into Sunday School.) The kids were happy (thanks to Randy’s ENORMOUS flower sugar cookies that they look forward to every year.)

Jenna started chattering from the back.

“I LOVE Easter. You know why? Because we get COOKIES and we get to DYE eggs and LOOK for them. The plastic ones that have jobeans in them.” [Jobeans are jelly beans in our house. Because Katherine.]

I look nervously in the rear view mirror. “Um… Well, you got cookies! …I didn’t actually get as far as doing anything at all with eggs. Not the kind you dye or the kind with jobeans in them. But you got cookies! And we did resurrection rolls yesterday!”

And then everything falls apart. There are tears. Genuine five-year-old heartbreak over dashed hopes and dreams. Offers to pay her own money for eggs if Mama would please just make an extra stop. (Nope.)

“This is the WORST. EASTER. EVER.”

And now I’m frustrated. A touch defensive. The reasons I didn’t get as far as doing eggs are many. They include making meals for other people and, you know, growing a baby sister in my body while keeping the other three alive and holding things together at home while Andrew has a Very Hectic Week. Also? Eggs are not biblical requirements. They just aren’t.

“Jenna, can you please find a thankful heart? Can you be glad that there were ginormous cookies? Can the fact that, I don’t know, JESUS ISN’T DEAD and he saved us from our sins make this a good day?”

(More tears.) “No. Because that’s exciting to grownups, but for kids, it just means we have to sit for a really long time.” (…said every five-year-old, ever.)

And now I’m a failure on both ends of the spectrum. On the one hand, I hate that I didn’t get myself together enough to do eggs. They’re five and almost four. Of course they want/anticipate/expect eggs. It just isn’t that hard. What is my problem? On the other, how did my normally very spiritually attuned daughter come to the conclusion that dying eggs she’ll refuse to eat is more exciting than the fact that Jesus is alive?!?


 

My own words convict me.

“…can the fact that… I don’t know… JESUS ISN’T DEAD… make today a good day?”

My car is in the shop and my garage door opener with it, so I’m driving a loaner. I get home from this frustrating eight-minute drive and go into the garage to let myself in. The kids are still buckled. Instead of immediately opening the garage, I throw a tantrum and phone a friend. Who laughs at me. (Deservedly so.) “This isn’t an epic mom fail. It’s an epic mom story. You know that, right?”

Here I am, having my own “worst Easter ever,” upset because Jenna’s being… five.

Meanwhile… Hello, JESUS ISN’T DEAD.

And that should mean something.

It should mean everything.

The sermon was about this being of “first importance.”

And so I choose to let the day reset itself. Jesus is alive. The eggs don’t matter. There’s grace for Jenna being a five-year-old. The fact that I don’t have what I need to make the ham in my fridge for dinner isn’t a problem. Ham on Resurrection Sunday is not any more biblically mandated than eggs. Shells and sauce will be fine. There’s grace for episodes of Curious George while I nap. I don’t need to frantically work to boil eggs to placate the preschoolers or fuss and fret about procuring plastic eggs and jelly beans at 3 on an Easter afternoon.

Jesus is alive.

Everything is fine.

There is no such thing as the worst Easter ever.

 

the littlest girl

We had the big, long 20 week ultrasound today. (Clarification for the uninitiated: it took like 90 minutes, NOT 20 weeks. It happens at twenty weeks. In case you were concerned.)

I had some suspicions based on my symptoms that it might be a girl, but then on the way out of the house, I asked the girls to pray for the baby’s health and that we might get to find out whether baby’s a boy or a girl.

Jenna said, “Why don’t you pray, and we’ll bow our heads and close our eyes.” Ok, then. So I did, and, despite not having any particular attachment to the idea that it might be a girl, I slipped and said “she” during the prayer. Hmm. OK.

Twenty seconds later, Katherine pipes up: “Jesus told me it’s a GIRL!” What? He did? “Yeah. And he knows EVERYTHING. Because HE never does ANYTHING wrong. YOU do things WRONG. But HE doesn’t. So HE KNOWS.” (For those of you who don’t have the pleasure of listening to Katherine speak on a regular basis, there are a lot of caps.)

Well… okay. Katherine also has an active imagination and the tendency to very authoritatively share stories. For instance, she has an unnamed husband and a house underground where Fedadoh (her favorite buddy) has a bunch of toys that I don’t know how to use. She’s shared this story on a half dozen occasions in the last week. She’s quite sure. So I was curious, but a touch skeptical. (After all… Shouldn’t this one be a boy? Symmetry!)

As it turns out, the ultrasound tech sided with Jesus. (Which is good, because I did not want to explain to Katherine why or how she may have misheard Him.)

I made a bunch of predictions yesterday about what would go down, based on what I’ve experienced before and how I’ve been feeling, and I was mostly right. Except on two points. First, obviously, the baby seems fine (or this would be a far different post.) Second, in every other pregnancy, I’ve spent the hours following the ultrasound in a weird funk because knowing the gender rules out a hypothetical child (of the other gender) that had existed in my mind as a possibility. So I spent several hours (often longer) in a strange kind of mourning.

Not this time. That’s especially strange, since I really have wanted a boy for a fair part of the pregnancy, largely for the balance of it.

I’m actually overwhelmingly excited.

And basically the only words left in my head or heart are for her. (If you think she has a name yet, you’re not familiar with our naming practice. Our babies historically get names during active labor. At the soonest.) 


Hey, little girl.

I’m really, really happy that you’re coming. I am overwhelmed with gratitude that you’re coming, that you’re healthy so far, that you’re mine.

I’m excited to meet you. To feel your soft little head and hear all the crazy noises that you make and smell your warm little baby smell. I can’t wait to see who you turn into. (Well, I mean, I can. I have to. Please keep baking for another… 17 weeks or so. Wait 19 or 20 if you must. But only if you must.) I know that all our kids come out SO COOL and I can’t wait to see what kind of awesome you are.

I want to tell you something, too. We lost one just shortly before you came to be. We think she is a girl, too, and I’ll miss her always.

But here’s the thing that I want you to hear loud and clear right now: the loss does not make you less wanted or less valuable. It makes you more wanted and more valuable. I want you and pray for you with an intensity I haven’t known before because I cannot fathom losing you, too.

Our family is waiting for you. We’re all so excited to meet you. Your Daddy is such a good daddy to little girls already. (To our boy, too! But he’s got a lot of practice already with girls.)  Brian doesn’t understand yet, but I’m especially excited to see him be a big brother to his baby sister. Did you know I always wanted a big brother? And my baby brother (your Uncle Rylee) always wanted a baby sister, so we decided when he was little that we’d just swap places and he could be my big brother and I could be his little sister. It was silly, but just the same, I am really excited that you get a big brother and Brian gets a baby sister. And your big sisters… Jenna’s a little mama. She’s already so taken with you. Katherine will be at the perfect age to really understand who this little person is, and I’m so excited to see her get it. (She was a little too young when Brian came to understand how he was fitting into her world. But she’s not too little anymore!)

I’m sorry in advance for all the little people in our house that are much, much bigger than you. You’re going to get hurt. Hopefully not badly. But they’ll make you cry. They’ll love you within an inch of your life. (Their love looks an awful lot like assault.) 

But I’m not really sorry. Because you are already so loved. And that’s only going to get bigger.

I’ll see you in a few months. Feel free to get comfy on my bladder. I don’t mind. Well, I do. But you’re worth it.

Love you!
Mama.

 

THE ultrasound

Tomorrow’s the ultrasound. THE ultrasound. Theoretically the one where we see the baby’s kidneys and various major arteries and all fingers and toes and, if we’re lucky, maybe gender.

(My sweet friend got me these little sleepers the week I tested positive with this baby. I’ve had them hanging where I can see them from my bed ever since, as a reminder that this is real.)

Here’s what I expect based on all the other kids:

  • Our chances of finding out gender are POOR. Both girls evaded on the first try at 20 weeks. (We got second chances and figured it out eventually both times.)
  • If we do find out whether we’re having a boy or a girl, I’ll spend much of the rest of the day mourning the baby that isn’t. One of those sweet sleepers will not be worn, likely ever by any baby of mine. (Is this normal? I have no idea. But so far, it’s happened every time and I’ll be darned if it’s going to surprise me again. I’ll just plan for it… it’ll pass.)
  • I’ll go in with an uncomfortably full bladder (like they ask me to) and the tech will immediately send me to the bathroom. I have no idea why reception always wants me to have a full bladder and the tech never does (a full bladder makes sense earlier, of course), but it’s happened every time.

Here’s what I’m expecting because this is the most neurotic pregnancy ever:

  • An anterior placenta. I haven’t felt this baby hardly at all, and I’m pretty sure (and the midwives agree) that it’s due to where my placenta is. Perfect, right? When I’m convinced like 80% of the time that baby is NOT okay, that’s definitely the pregnancy where I should have the hardest time feeling the reassuring squiggles, yes? Sigh.
  • A dead, dying, or severely disabled baby. There. I said it. I have a few friends that have gotten really bad news at this ultrasound and I’m just sure I’ll join them tomorrow. I’m really good at math. I understand that statistics are on my side. But it’s hard to math away the paranoia.

 

I’ve been struggling a lot this week (and by “week” I mean “pregnancy”) with the verses that command people not to fear. I’ve not been terribly successful (ever) feeling differently because I think I should. I see why “FEAR NOT!” worked well when God sent an angel or preincarnate Christ to someone… They were scary, but the assurance that no harm was coming goes a long way toward assuaging fear.

That doesn’t seem to translate very well this week.

So I’m looking (after some discussion with my husband) at some of the teaching passages in the New Testament that deal with fear and anxiety.

Philippians 4:6- Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Okay, so pray, ask, give thanks. Check.

Then there’s Matthew 6:27 that reminds me that worrying doesn’t gain anything.

True enough.


 

Now I’m working on choosing trust. While I’ve never had any luck thinking myself into a different emotion, I have at least a little success with acting my way into a different feeling.

When the worry creeps up and attacks (like my stinky baby brother would love to do), I at least have my to-do list. (I’m good at those!)

  • pray
  • ask
  • give thanks
  • remember the worry is helping nothing

We’ll see how it goes. If you have any thoughts or guesses on gender, I’d love to hear them! (In addition to changing emotions by changing actions, I can absorb the excitement of other people, so feel free to share some.) Navy stripes with monkey or lavender dots with polar bear? Or yet another stubborn modest baby?


(And here’s the post from the after the ultrasound!)

on “enough” …and other things.

I’m going to tell you a story today. Another one. Or maybe a few. I don’t tell you my stories because I think my life is earth-shattering and fascinating to you. I tell you my stories because… there all I have. I learn from them. And I hope they bring you hope or encouragement, too.

Andrew told me a couple weeks ago that he was “very satisfied” with me. It was kind of in a general context, not specifically related to anything I can remember. This speaks directly to the “enough” button in my heart. I struggle constantly with the fear that I am not, have never been, will never be enough. So hearing those words from his mouth was soothing to my heart.

Sort of.

Except…

Except… the last few weeks, I’ve been frickin’ on fire. ON. FIRE. All my daily, weekly, and monthly checklist items are done, as well as every single other thing I can think of to put on my to-do list. Its bizarre. I’ve run out of normal stuff to write on my list and started making crap up. I’m cleaning and decluttering spaces I haven’t touched (except to add junk to) since we moved in. I’m cleaning scuff marks off walls. Today I vacuumed the ceiling. True story.

It’s an illness or something. I don’t have time or energy to devote to this nonsense.

But still, I’m doing it. And, miraculously, my mothering is still on point, if I do say so myself. My kids are doing all the things they ordinarily do, and I’m handling all the crazy and any defiance with creativity and consistency. I’m finding stuff that’s working to discipline, which isn’t a small miracle, given my kids’ genetic propensity toward obstinance.

(I swear I’m not saying this to brag. I’m coming to a point here. Promise. Also, please note, NONE OF THIS IS NORMAL FOR ME.)

So randomly, inexplicably, I’m at my absolute, very best. Record best. And I feel kind of good, since I feel like, at least for now, I have my stuff together. But it also feels manic. Some of the busyness is about distracting myself from worrying about the baby. Some of it is simply trying not to fall asleep. I’m so tired lately, I’ve basically become narcoleptic. If I stop moving, I zonk out. And if I zonk out, the kids are almost certainly going to burn the house down.

So when I hear that I’m actually, truly, finally enough, I start to panic.

See, I know this isn’t sustainable. It can’t be. My energy will only go down and entropy will rule again for a good long while. This isn’t my first rodeo—I know how messy it all gets the last few months before baby and the first few months after. Third and fourth trimesters are killer.

So if I’m only enough at my all-time peak, what than? What if I drop all of the balls? Well, then I go back to regular. Regular, ordinary, never-gonna-be-enough me.

Is there grace enough for that?

Sunday school answer says “of course!” …but deep down in my gut? I don’t know. I just don’t. I mean, I’ll keep slogging through, of course. But somehow it seems demoralizing.

Was it easier when “enough” was strictly unattainable?


And why is Andrew’s assessment of my enoughness so key, anyway? [For the record: If I were to ask him right now, he’d tell me the concept of “enough” doesn’t even register as meaningful and when he said he was “very satisfied,” it wasn’t about me killing myself over the scuff marks on the walls.] Why is he the one I have to please? I mean, there are other people whose opinion should matter more. Like, I don’t know… God. And mine should possibly count, too, at least a little. But it’s my husband’s that I strive for.

If I’m being honest, God’s almost doesn’t count. I can’t possibly meet holiness as a standard. And the acceptance granted through Christ is freely available, so it says nothing at all about me. (Please don’t tell anyone I said that.)


..and then I actually talked to Andrew about it. After like a week of stewing.

He laughed at me.

“Of course. Because anything bad I say is about you and who you are inside. And anything good I say is about you’re circumstances and what you do. ‘Oh, the house! I’m so satisfied by the house. So… satisfying. The house.'”

Um.

Mind=blown.

And then he says, “Me? I’m the other way around. ‘Oh, Andrew, you’re so helpful and good looking.’ Yep. I know. ‘Oh, Andrew! I’m so pissed at you!’ I know. Because that thing happened. Are you over it yet? Because I was over it before you finished talking.”

The man kills me.

I mean, he’s not wrong. I expect him to be right in general… on rational topics. But when he whips out a dead-on insight about my emotional life? It freaks me out a little. He’s right. I internalize the bad and externalize the good. And since he goes the other way, I need to take his compliments and criticism the way he means it.

I have no idea how I’m going to shift this, but I think knowing about it is a good step one.


Immediately following that discussion, this hit me:

I’m hopelessly in love with each of my kids. Their each abundantly more than enough, as far as I’m concerned. Because their mine and their awesome. What if one of them wrote off my adoration? “She’s my mom. She has to think I’m awesome. It doesn’t count.”

It would break my heart if they discounted my opinion of them because I’m “obligated.” If they didn’t see that because I’m the mom, I see them at their worst and am still hopelessly in love. My opinion is more reflective of reality because of my position, not fewer.

…God is the ultimate Parent. I can’t write off His acceptance because it’s freely available and not based on what I do.

It’s based on Whose I am.

His opinion is more reflective of reality because of His position. Not fewer.


 

A’ight. So… reverse the things I internalize and externalize. Stop discounting God’s opinion of me.

Easy-peasy.

Sigh.

Paying attention is hard sometimes. If y’all have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

 

 

 

dear mama: you’re fighting the important battles

Dear mama of strong-willed littles,

This can be exhausting, right? You’re trying so hard to teach these small humans how to behave, how to be people, what is right and what is wrong, and how to choose right over wrong. And they seem determined that you’re not the boss of them. However they say it… fits, screams, sly disobedience, or (like one of mine) outright shouting “YOU DON’T HAVE AUTHORITY OVER ME!”… Well, it makes for long days and furtively consumed chocolate, no?

And sometimes the standoffs can last FOREVER. It’s stressful. It’s exhausting.

But you know what?

These are important battles you’re fighting.

These days feel like the WORST. But really? They’re also some of the best opportunities.

Seriously.

Any time you can handle defiance with calmness, consistency, and compassion, that’s the biggest possible win. You’re actively guiding your people towards right behavior. (And when “calmness, consistency, compassion” ends up being more than you can scrape up? It’s okay. Actually, it’s always more than I can scrape up- that’s where His grace is sufficient for me and His power is perfected in my weakness.)

Good days are nice, right? When everyone behaves reasonably well and keeps a happy heart?

But I’m convinced that the only way to get those with any regularity is by doing the hard work on the rough days.

So I just want to encourage you today. If this is what your life looks like right now, more often than you’d like… soldier on, sister. Don’t grow weary in doing good. Well, I don’t know. I’m weary of it… The rest of Galations 6:9 says, “for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we don’t give  up.” So it seems like the important thing is more about continuing, not allowing weariness to beat us. And doesn’t reaping a harvest sound great?

These hard days sometimes can make you feel like you’re doing it wrong. They may even cause people to tell you you’re doing it wrong. But actually? They may just be your golden opportunity to do it right.

There’s grace enough for this.


In case it’s not obvious, this is to me as much as to you. I don’t actually claim any authority to tell you how to do anything. But this is something I need to preach to myself an awful lot, so I thought maybe I’d share.