Parenting lesson #41: You have to clean up your messes.


Being essentially bedridden (on the couch) with my injury, I’m amazed at how many messes my children make that they don’t clean up, especially when all three are home all day.  Have I not taught them how to clean up after themselves?  No, that’s definitely not it.  I’m certain I’ve shown them millions of times.  They.  Simply.  Don’t.

While sitting here in wonderment about the clean socks strewn all over the couch, I have stumbled upon this two-year-old piece I wrote called “You have to clean up your messes.”  And I am marveling at how much repetition is required for teaching young ones … as well as old ones.  One of the most cyclical parenting lessons is how our kids show us daily how little we know and how much we still haven’t mastered.  Because we are constantly learning and evolving and becoming.  Enjoy!

***

January, 2017

Last week, I had to teach Zach a lesson, and it was really painful for both of us.

I asked him if he could take out the trash for me.  I warned him it was heavy and he might not be able to get it up and into the can.  He came back in and said he did it.  I said, “Wow, you didn’t have any trouble?”  He said he didn’t.

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Late that night I was ready to go to bed but the dog had not returned to the door to come in.  Greg was out-of-town and it was 20 degrees.  I was not about to go looking for her.  I turned on the lights in the back; no sign of life.  I checked through the windows to make sure all the gates were closed.  They were.  Since she’s 14 ½-years-old and deaf, I couldn’t call her name and get her to come.  So I waited.  And waited.  Finally, I caught her right out the window, got her attention, and had her come in.

The next morning after I got the kids off to school, I looked out the dining room window and realized why I couldn’t find her.  She had been tearing apart the trash bag that Zach left outside next to the trash can.  There were vegetable and fruit skins, used tissues, and of course, the plastic wrap that had encased a now-consumed bag of rotten fish I had never gotten around to cooking.  (RIP, Abbey.  If you had one, your tombstone would say “stomach of steel.”)

I was fuming, not only because the dog had gotten to the trash, but because Zach had lied.  I decided to leave the mess for him to clean up.

We didn’t get home until just before dark that afternoon, and I told him he had to hurry.  In my unending graciousness, I decided to help him.  As he looked at the trash, he fussed and moaned and groaned and whined.  We got our large dust pan and broom and I began to help him.  As tears streamed down his face, he agonized, “This is SO DISGUSTING! I’m going to BARF!!!” Perhaps the worst part was that I had cleaned out their art supply caddy the day before when they were at school.  What that meant is I threw out some “priceless gems” without telling them (as we have ALL done).  As he choked back tears and bile, he also wondered aloud how I could get rid of his Frankenstein notepad without telling him, and why I would do such a horrible thing in the first place.

***

It’s these moments when doing the right thing can feel so wrong.

***

It was probably the worst 10 minutes of my week.  It made me feel bad about cleaning out their stuff, and it made me feel like I was a bad mom to make him clean up the mess.  It’s these moments when doing the right thing can feel so wrong.  Our kids are so good at making us feel like we’re bad parents when the opposite is true.  There are consequences to lying, and when you make a mess (or are responsible for one), you have to clean it up.  These are life lessons we must teach.  If we do these things for them, we’re doing them a disservice.  College is not the place to learn that your trash goes in the can, you have to put it there, and if you leave it out and a dog noses through it, you have to clean that up, too.

I’ve been called the worst mom in the world.  That happened a few days later when I made two of my three stay home with me for bickering while the other got to go out with friends who were visiting.  And I told my child, “When you say that to me, I know it means that I’m actually a good mom.”  And later that night, I got some of the best cuddles from that very same child.

Everybody lies sometimes.  And we all make messes.  The mess I had to clean was owning up to throwing out Zach’s prized art materials.  I apologized and he forgave me.

I did not promise not to do it in the future because I know I probably will.  If we kept everything the kids brought into this house, we’d be featured on “Hoarders.”  And so, as an adult, I’m capable of making that judgment about some items.  But I have learned, after many tears, that I should check about some items first and give the kids the chance to store things in their rooms if they truly cherish them.

I also know better now that if I’m going to secretly trash a Happy Meal toy, I’d better be the one who takes out the garbage.

***

Learning, growing … becoming.  I can’t wait to do more of these things in 2019!!!

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Slowing down


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I’m so glad I got a pedicure

Me: “What are the odds that if I take my MRI and x-rays to another orthopedic surgeon that he’s going to tell me something different from what you’re telling me right now?”

Dr. Cooper: “Not a chance.”

Me: “Okay.  Can you do the surgery next week?  My parents are going to be here.”

Dr. Cooper: “I’ll call your bluff.”


Here I am, day seven of nearly 100.  On December 20th, I had major surgery on my right ankle.  I will be in casts for three months and unable to drive.  Let that sink in.  I can’t drive my kids to school, appointments, activities … nor myself to the grocery store, Costco or Home Goods.  I have crutches and a scooter so I can move from place to place.  For those who don’t know me, the appropriate response is a gasp, followed by a deer-in-the-headlights look of disbelief.  Thank you for your empathy.

As I try to wrap my brain around the “whats” and the “hows” of this winter – as it will truly be all winter – I also hear a still, small voice in the background that is excited.  This is going to be a teaching season for everyone in my family.  There is always a purpose for disappointment.  The kids are all going to have to do more around the house and less outside of it.  Greg, already blowing my mind with his servant’s heart, is going above and beyond and his patience and stamina are mind-blowing.  And me?  I’m going to have to learn to be still and let go.

As I face these months of slowing down and I allow my expectations to be molded into reality, I pray I will take the time to learn what God is teaching me, write about all that’s been on my heart, and heal an ankle that has ailed me since middle school.

I’m excited and reluctant, afraid and annoyed.  I’m sad that I won’t be able to ski or do any of the fun winter activities I love to do with the kids.  But I am determined to take advantage of this time.  And if anyone wants to hang out, you know where to find me.

I’m particularly interested in catching a ride to – well – anywhere, but especially Home Goods.

Gifts that give this holiday season


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Costco, August 21

As I entered Costco this summer and passed the beach towels and swim goggles at the door, I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw Christmas wrapping paper on sale.  I took a picture and sent it to my husband with the caption, “It’s August.”

It seems as though each year the stores we frequent are pressuring us earlier and earlier to remember that “consumption season” is coming.  Everywhere I turn, the message is clear:


BUY MORE THINGS YOU DON’T NEED TO SATISFY A PERCEIVED OBLIGATION THAT YOU SPEND MONEY YOU DON’T HAVE ON GIFTS THAT MUST BE EXCHANGED INSTEAD OF FREELY GIVEN.


No matter your beliefs or the holidays you celebrate, I imagine we can all admit that it’s easy to get wrapped up in unwrapping gifts.  I love a good gift as much as the next person, and if Greg were reading this, he would find out I would love a new espresso maker.  (Hint, hint, the one we have is broken.)  For me, it is so easy to forget that the reason I celebrate this season is the ultimate no-strings-attached-gift-ever – the gracious birth of the Savior of the World. If the meaning is different for you, I think we can agree our culture pressures us earlier and earlier each year to consume more.

I’ve wrestled with how to point my children to the giver of every good and perfect gift during this season, to make our faith the focus instead of an afterthought. We can all do better in this area.  Here are a few ideas:


  1. Do a gift exchange within your family so you buy a gift for one person instead of for many.

  2. Give small, homemade gifts to friends and neighbors such as baked treats, homemade body scrubs, or flavored simple syrups. Pinterest is a great place to go for ideas that are both from the heart and won’t break the bank.

  3. Focus on gifts of time instead of gifts of stuff. Buy your bestie concert tickets so you can go together, or museum passes.

  4. Look for gifts that give and serve the purpose of life-sustaining work to those in need. Some of my favorite companies are ABLE (livefashionable.com), 31 Bits (31bits.com), Purpose Jewelry (isanctuary.org/purpose-jewelry), Raven and Lily (ravenandlily.com) and Noonday Collection (noondaycollection.com).


But perhaps my favorite focus shift for the season is not in the gifts we give, but in daily Advent service projects.

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Years ago, my mom gave me an Advent calendar in the form of a house.  It has little drawers for treats that can be discovered each day in December leading up to Christmas.  I decided to include notes with an act of service my children could do (with help). When I started this, I had a four-year-old and a nearly three-year-old, so our first one included pretty simple tasks such as “go through your toys and find some to donate” and “give a friend who is sad a hug.”  Today, of the 24 drawers we open, those two acts still make an appearance.  But as the kids have grown, we’ve added age appropriate service items.


TO START YOUR OWN, HERE ARE SOME ADVENT CALENDARS:

VARIOUS GROUPON ADVENT CALENDARS – https://gr.pn/2Qwlfsw

AMAZON ADVENT TREE – https://amzn.to/2AQZb6d

TARGET ADVENT HOUSE – https://bit.ly/2Qs1LIN

ETSY ADVENT BAGS – https://etsy.me/2D7Ajc2


Around Thanksgiving, I come up with the list by looking at our calendar.  I look for days when service projects are already scheduled and include those.  Then, I think about the various activities we do annually and where they might fit best based on everything else that’s going on.  For the busiest days on our calendar, I choose activities that won’t take up a lot of time. Here are some examples from years past:

  1. Send Eliza to school with underpants and white shirts for the orphans in Kenya.
  2. Stack our cord of firewood so we can enjoy fires.
  3. Help mommy weed the garden.
  4. Pack six homeless bags to keep in the car so we can pass them out at traffic lights.
  5. Pack a basket of snacks and water bottles and set outside for delivery people.
  6. Go through your toys and games and pick at least three to give to Toys for Tots.
  7. Go through your books and pick at least three to give to Milk and Bookies.
  8. Choose a pair of your old shoes to donate for children in Sierra Leone.
  9. Go to Build-a-Bear, make bears, and put them in the donation bin at the store along with our other Toys for Tots donations.
  10. Build our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes and deliver to Samaritan’s Purse.
  11. Write letters to your teachers to thank them for all they do for you.
  12. Write thank you letters for all your coaches and music teachers for all they do.
  13. Write a letter to our Compassion International child and mail it to her.
  14. Bake cookies and deliver them to our neighbors.
  15. Pack backpacks for the kids in need at our local elementary school.
  16. Volunteer at A Wider Circle’s North Pole Holiday Program.
  17. Collect hats, mittens, gloves or scarves to donate to a local coat drive.
  18. Take a meal to a family with a new baby.
  19. Clean up all your messes in the house today without being asked.
  20. Make a care package for a college student we know who’s taking finals and mail it.
  21. Send a care package to each of the deployed military members we know.
  22. Shop for our Angel Tree selection and take it to church.
  23. Take some canned goods to Starbucks and donate them in the collection bin.
  24. Deliver Christmas treats to daddy’s co-workers.
  25. Make a casserole and deliver it to a local homeless shelter.
  26. Forgive someone who hurts your feelings today, even if the person isn’t sorry.
  27. Make your siblings feel special today.
  28. Spend the day with friends and be kind to them, putting them first.
  29. Visit a nursing home and make crafts with the residents.
  30. Deliver breakfast to firefighters or nurses in a hospital.
  31. Throw out a piece of trash you find outside.
  32. Take the dog for a walk and play with him in the yard.
  33. Bake a birthday cake for Jesus.

Of course, the list will continue to change over time as the children become teenagers and perhaps come up with ideas of their own.  They – now 10-, eight- and five-year-olds – receive a lot of gifts.  I do love the wonder of Christmas morning and of unwrapping gifts that have been carefully made or bought with each other in mind.  But it warms my heart every year when I pull out the Advent house and the kids get more excited about it than any other Christmas decoration.

May this Advent season be filled with the wonder of gifts well gifted and graciously received.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Treasure family dinners


Growing up, it was a rite of passage.  If someone could survive an “Elliott family dinner,” the person was okay in our book.

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What happened at these dinners?  We shared stories.  We made fun of each other, even berated each other, but in love: I don’t think any of us is in therapy because of them.  We all had the chance to laugh at my dad’s perfectionism and my mom’s quirks, as well as each others’.  My brothers and I played out movie scenes we memorized, all taking on different characters such as those in the “Coming to America” barber shop scenes. My older brother always had a quick-wit, and we laughed hard.  My younger brother was funny and a performer who kept us giggling.  I was simultaneously the most studious child in my family and the one with the least amount of common sense, asking stupid questions in an entirely unsafe environment where I paid dearly for it.  And the stories we share of these family dinners still get repeated over and over again when we are together.

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My own experience – along with scientific proof that family dinners are impactful – are reasons why having dinner together as a family is something I work hard to make happen.  To name a few benefits, family dinners help with health, brain growth, vocabulary and family relationships, as well as promote good behaviors and stave off bad ones.

If I haven’t lost you already, I’m hoping you’ll stick with me.  My husband travels a lot and my kids have activities some nights that make eating together impossible.  This means we currently eat together as a family about three nights a week.  On the nights we can eat together, I work to make these count.  Here are some things I’ve learned:

  1. I keep our meals simple.  It’s okay if family dinner is Chipotle.
  2. It makes me SO MUCH HAPPIER when everyone enjoys their food.  That means I make a lot of the same meals for the sake of peace.
  3. I make big pots of spaghetti, chili, soups and stews so I can freeze the leftovers for a night when Greg is traveling or to give to a family in need.
  4. When I had babies and toddlers, I gave them what we were serving as early as possible.  Once a child is about 1, there is very little he cannot eat if you cut it into small enough pieces.
  5. I used the Deceptively Delicious cookbook when the kids were younger to help get more fruits and vegetables in them.  I’ll write another blog about healthy eating strategies for toddlers – someday …
  6. Now that they’re older, I often serve raw vegetables or a salad as the side dish and let the kids pick the ones they like.  They eat vegetables and there’s no arguing, gagging or nose-holding.
  7. Everyone has to at least TRY all the food.
  8. If you don’t like it, we’re not making something else for you.  I have a friend who grew up in a family with six kids, and the alternative if you didn’t like dinner was a microwaved, scrambled egg.  (That sounds more disgusting to me as an adult than an asparagus and Brussels sprouts pie would have as a child.)  Come up with something that works for you if you are concerned your child might not eat.
  9. Though we don’t always remember to do it, we have a “thankfulness journal” where we write down something each of us is thankful for at dinner.  This is a favorite for everyone, but especially our most reserved child, who gets a chance to be thoughtful and heard over the louder two.
  10. Another conversation starter is the “roses and thorns” concept.  Everyone goes around and shares his or her rose (high) of the day and thorn (low) of the day.  I actually got that one from the Obamas!

IMG_4135When I prioritize an activity in our family life, I often ask myself, “Will I regret doing this or not doing this when I look back some day?”  And then I remember my childhood family dinners – which sometimes went very wrong – and how they make me smile.  My mom’s spaghetti, roasts, chicken and dumplings … these foods take me back.  And none of my family will allow me to forget the night the Domino’s commercial came on television announcing (in my defense, with buffalo flying through the sky, flapping wings) that it was now selling buffalo wings.  And I looked at everyone, and before I could process the question that came to my mind, I blurted out, “Wait – do buffalo wings come from real buffalo?”

I want my children to have their own “Elliott family dinner” memories.  And based on our meals so far, I’m sure they’ll have plenty to talk about when they’re older.

Parenting lesson #39: Put it in writing.


The struggle to pack school lunches is real.

Today is my oldest’s first day of school, and my other two will follow suit next week.  Planning, shopping for and packing healthy, appealing lunches for the kids are not my favorite hobbies.  In my dreams, I would pack them kale salads with tuna, quinoa crackers and homemade fruit roll ups.  But real life limitations such as time constraints and needing my kids to actually eat their lunches means that the basic sandwich, pre-packaged chips I buy in bulk from Costco, a fruit or veggie and a few Pepperidge Farm cookies are what they generally get (because fewer preservatives = healthy junk, right?).

And while the food I pack is the opposite of Pin-worthy, I must say that I love including lunchbox notes for my kids.  (As an aside, does anyone actually make shapes or animals out of their kids’ food?)

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Since I began packing lunches six years ago, I’ve been including little notes, and I’ve enjoyed writing to my kids ever since.  It’s like sending a little part of me to school with them.  For pre-K, the notes were pretty simple, as the teachers had to read them.  But as the kids have learned to read, I’ve made them more interesting.  When they need encouragement on a particular day, I can provide it.

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My process:

On Etsy, there are some really talented moms who make inexpensive templates you can download.  (Just search “lunchbox notes.”)  Then, print them out on card stock.  Last, cut them with a paper-cutter (or scissors) and voila! – you’re ready for lunch packing.  This morning I printed out my Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter-themed cards as well as a stockpile of everyday ones so I’m not scrambling to have cards ready to go (which is the bottleneck in this process).

One of my favorite shops no longer exists (boo!), but here is a link for @LemonSqueezeDesigns, where I have bought a few.

To make packing lunches easier this year, I also printed out a food chart that is specific to our family.  It took me about an hour of thinking and using other lists on Pinterest for help.  I posted it in my kitchen today.

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The bottom line: What I want my kids to remember about school lunches when they’re grown is not that we had fights about them not eating what I packed.  (If I’m being honest, the owl one above is for tomorrow, because Eliza came home today with a full lunchbox.  “Mom, everyone was talking!!!”)  What I want them to remember is that I shared a little piece of my love, my humor and myself with them when I took 30 seconds to write a note.

Parenting lesson #38: Little kids, little problems; bigger kids, bigger problems


As I was texting about my frustration and embarrassment to a friend this morning whose children are younger than mine, I confessed that it seems the adage “little kids, little problems; bigger kids, bigger problems” rings true.  She stuck her fingers in her proverbial ears as I read her reply: “La la la I’m going to pretend you said it gets easier. ;)”

Clearly she spends time with toddlers.

I was easily annoyed at moms with older kids when I was in the thick of the infant and toddler days.  When I had a two-year-old and a baby, I would relay stories of not being able to shower, of kissing makeup goodbye, of being covered in spit-up and food, in not being able to get out of pajamas, in ____________________ (fill in the blank).  I distinctly remember these moms of older kids would get these grins on their faces like they were remembering these times fondly and say, “I remember those days, and they are fleeting.  Enjoy them.”  And part of me wanted to punch them in the face.

Because every phase of parenting has its challenges, the one you’re in feels like plenty to navigate.  Imagining that parenting gets harder is not a happy thought.

But it does.  I already see it.

Currently, we’re struggling with how to help one of our kids who has hit others a few times when angered.  Our children are 10, eight and five, so while our expectations of them are different based on what makes sense developmentally, ALL OF THEM are old enough to know better. When one of them hit (or bit) another child as a two-year-old, I laughed with the other mom uncomfortably while apologizing as she said, “hashtag toddler problems” with a smile on her face.  One of our kids even left a bruise on another child’s face after biting him.  That mom and I still laugh about it.  But if one of my kids did that now, I’m not sure I’d still be friends with the victim’s mom.

I scratch my head and wonder if I’m doing something wrong.  I’ve been taking a kickboxing class where I punch a bag and the kids have all sat and watched it, making me wonder if somehow them seeing me punch a bag – which is cathartic for me – is bad for them.

Perhaps nothing in life is as powerful as parenting is in its capability to push you to question everything about yourself, to overanalyze and believe nearly anything you do could come back to bite you.

I imagine the two-year-old who doesn’t like to “play” clean up and who you laugh with as you put the toys away for the 16,000th time while you shake your head turns into the teenager you have a screaming match with as you (unreasonably) threaten she will never leave the house again because her room looks like a bomb went off in a mall where a Sephora shares a wall with Charlotte Russe.  And she hates YOU for it, because somehow it’s your fault you didn’t teach her to be tidy.  And you wonder, “Where did I mess up?”

You probably didn’t.  It’s important to remember that our children have their own God-given personalities, they will have their own struggles, and a lot of the time, it’s really not about you.  We are here to guide, model, teach, comfort, love and instruct; but at the end of the day, they are their own people with unique minds.  What they do reflects on us to an extent, but as they grow, they become more and more independent.  And I can see how growing up causes boundary lines between them and us to be redrawn a lot.  That’s going to cause strife, conflict and struggle.  As they become free to make more decisions, good and bad, we can help guide them, but we simply can’t learn the tough lessons for them.

As I process how to help my child, it’s so important for me to talk to other moms who’ve already been through these ages and stages and similar difficulties.  I gain so much perspective and wisdom.  And I remind myself that’s what good parents do: seek wisdom, learn from my own mistakes, ask forgiveness and move forward.

My friend helped me this morning, because after exchanging funny texts, she wrote, “You’re one of the best moms I know and I’m so thankful that I get to glean knowledge from you.”  We need encouragement from those around us as we struggle through the times we all want to plug our ears and say, “La la la I can’t hear you.”  Facing parenting challenges with others, being vulnerable about our shortcomings and struggles and lifting each other up is how we get through the increasingly difficult problems of parenting.

And to think: I don’t even have a teenager yet.

Parenting lesson #25: Mommy brain never goes away.


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I will not forget my children.

I wish I had better news for new moms.  But the truth is that the mommy brain fog, while it lifts after the newborn weeks, does not ever fully clear.  I have never been more certain of it.  When I first wrote about mommy brain, I was hopeful it would be gone by now.  It’s not.

On Monday, I took dinner to my boss because his wife just had their third child, and somehow we got on the topic of mommy brain.  He said, “My wife just says she feels like she’s gotten so dumb.”  I said, “I know exactly how she feels, and I wish I could say it gets better, but it never goes away.”  Case in point: later that night when I was getting things out of my trunk I found the baby gift I had bought for them still in my trunk.  The irony is I put it there a week earlier so I wouldn’t forget it on the morning I was driving into the office to take them food.

Let me be clear: mommy brain makes you feel stupid in the early weeks after giving birth.  But what remains after that is a forgetfulness.  It’s looking for your keys while you’re holding them.  It’s driving off with your cup of coffee on your roof.  It’s going to the grocery store for peanut butter and arriving home with two full bags and no peanut butter.  (These are all things I’ve done.)  And the forgetfulness is directly proportional to how many things you are tracking in your brain.  The busier you are and the less sleep you get, the more forgetful.  So since the past two weeks have been pretty full, I did something yesterday that I would have never thought possible.

I decided to call my dad while in the carpool line waiting for Zach.  I was relaying all the details about the stains on our basement carpet when I pulled out of the school parking lot and, while waiting at the light, heard Ethan interrupt my conversation with, “Mom, did we get Zach?”  I started responding, “Ye … ” as I turned my head and realized Zach was not in the car.  I said, “Dad, I gotta go, I have to focus, I just drove through the carpool line without getting Zach.”  I wondered how I managed to forget my kid when I didn’t really forget my kid.  I was there, just not “all there.”  The car in front of me was the last to get a kid in the group ahead of me, so as it drove off with its child, I just followed it out of the lot without stopping as the first car in my group.  This could happen to anyone, right?

Then I started thinking about how I needed to take this as a real warning that I simply have too much going on and I need to focus on each moment and the task at-hand without trying to multitask.  But it didn’t take long for me to forget the lesson I had just learned, because about an hour later I was driving to an appointment while making another one on the phone and I missed my exit on the highway, making me late.

As I pulled up at home last night, I was laughing at my day as I got out of the car.  Greg pulled up and I told him, “I’m laughing about how I left Zach at school.”  He pointed at my van and said, “You left your lights on.”  I realized then that my brain was trying to tell my body something.  So I went to bed early, and though I slept longer than usual, I know there are forgetful things I did today as well, I just can’t remember what they are right now.  And I have come full circle … so if you’re a new mom, don’t let the mommy brain bother you.  Embrace it, because you’re going to have it forever.

 

 

 

 

 

What I Really Want for Mother’s Day.


IMG_1305Along the lines of my previous Top Ten list for Mother’s Day:

I love being a mother.  Each of my children is such a blessing, and I really do – for the most part – enjoy serving them.  Yes, there are moments every day that try my patience and make me wonder how old I’ll be when I get to count on not getting woken up or interrupted in the middle of every. single. thing I am doing (yes, even peeing).  But Mother’s Day makes me reflect on both the joys of motherhood and also the service of it.

Along those lines, here are the things on my mind:

 

  1.  I would like to sleep until I wake up.  I know this will naturally be between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. anyway, but I would like to go to bed tonight, not have anyone wake me up in the middle of the night, and not hear any noise until I naturally wake up.
  2. I don’t want to have to think about feeding myself or anyone else.  I just want meals to magically appear at the right times.
  3. I also don’t want to answer any questions about food, especially not about eating candy or junk so I don’t have to say “No” and feel like a food Nazi on Mother’s Day.
  4. Honestly, while on the subject of questions, I would really love to have every question from every child begin with the word “Daddy” tomorrow.
  5. I would love some homemade gifts from my kids.  Honestly.
  6. It would be great to have a chunk of time when I get to do whatever I want.  I think I would use it to load the car with about half of the kids’ toys and drop them off at charity.
  7. I don’t want to clean up any messes, deal with pee or poop (not even from the dog) or wipe any tushies.
  8. I don’t want to use any appliances such as the dishwasher, washing machine, or dryer.
  9. I would love a good back scratching.
  10. Most importantly, I would love some family snuggles, definitely at night, or after I wake up ON MY OWN from that solid night’s sleep.

What would YOU like?

Parenting lesson #37: The mouths of babes don’t always tell the full truth.


IMG_3209At Eliza’s Kindergarten back-to-school night, her teacher said, “We promise to believe only half of what we hear at school about you if you promise to only believe half of what you hear at home about us.”  I hope she was speaking on behalf of all the teachers.

In first grade, one of the things the children do is keep a scrapbook.  Eliza brought hers home yesterday.  There was one page about things that “crack up” the kids.  My daughter said she laughs when her classmate Braxton falls on the floor on purpose.  He’s hilarious!  She wrote that she laughs when her brother tells a joke.  How adorable!  She said her daddy makes her laugh when he tickles her.  That is so sweet.  And how do I make her laugh?  Apparently by burping at her.

IMG_3210Burping at her.

I barely ever burp.  I’m not only embarrassed now, but I’m embarrassed whenever I burp.  I never burp on purpose (I don’t know how to), so when it happens in front of the kids, I’ve burped, and giggled with them as I’ve said, “Excuse me!”  Sure, we’ve laughed about it, but my goodness, is that the first thing that comes to her mind when asked to describe how I make her laugh?

Am I that serious the rest of the time???

I decided I wanted an explanation today.  I wasn’t accusatory, but I was really hoping for some validation that I actually make my daughter laugh in other ways.

Me: “Eliza, so you wrote that I make you laugh when I burp at you.  When do I do that?”

Eliza: “Sometimes you burp at me, mom.”

Me: “Um, I never burp at you.  I’ve burped in front of you.”

Eliza: “Well it’s funny.”

Me: “Okay, but out of all the things I do with you, burping is the first thing that comes to mind when you think, ‘What does my mommy do that’s funny?’  Can you think of something else I do that’s funny?”

Eliza: “Farts?”

I don’t even know why I try.  Apparently I must be a super-serious mom who makes my child laugh only when I make bodily noises I cannot control.  Right?  Of course, I know this isn’t true.  It’s really easy to get sidetracked in parenting by something your child says or does that could easily hurt your feelings.  The truth is probably that the day she made that scrapbook page, I had burped on the way to school and it was fresh in her mind.  The truth is if she really thought about it, she could most likely think of some ways I make her laugh that are cute, and endearing, and not embarrassing.

We as parents have to remember to take these situations with a grain of salt and write them down so we can laugh at them for what they are – half-truths.  I can choose to allow myself to question my very core if I believe this is what she really thinks of me.  Or I can choose to take what she wrote and run it through the sieve of reality.

I think Ms. Kolker, the Kindergarten teacher, was onto something.  And I’m pretty sure Mrs. Woodside, her first grade teacher, knows the same.  At least I’m banking on my 50/50 odds here.

A new year to be “all here”


She is timeless.
She is timeless.

Once again, it wouldn’t be a new year without a new season of Downton Abbey.  I’m pondering the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley’s thoughts on the introduction of the telephone into the house (from season 2). After having trouble while trying to make a call, she asks, “Is this an instrument of communication or torture?”  Despite a 100-year gap between her frustration then and mine now, I’m wondering the same thing about my own phone.

We live in an increasingly overstimulated society, in which we ingest more information that people ever have before.  It seems like no matter where I am or what I’m doing, there’s a constant nagging to check e-mail, social media and texts.  I say nagging because if it were entirely up to me, I wouldn’t have a Smart phone.  I probably wouldn’t have a basic cell phone except for emergency purposes.  But there is this sense that someone else might feel ignored, or put off, if I don’t keep up.  And there’s also the fear that I might miss something important.  The problem is that while I’m afraid I’m missing something important, I’m missing something important that’s right in front of me.

It really dawned on me how much I’ve bought into this need to stay connected when I was at a New Year’s party over the weekend.  My best friend had gone on a date and I really wanted to find out how it went.  Instead of politely excusing myself and checking in with her for a quick call, I brought the phone back to the table and proceeded to text back-and-forth with her in the middle of the other conversations I was having.  It wasn’t until the next day that I realized one woman disappeared from the table without me noticing and I thought perhaps she thought I was so rude that she walked away.

The thing is, I get really annoyed when people do this to me.  I am shocked to realize that I caught myself doing it.  And on a day-to-day basis, I do this often to Greg and the kids.  I will be in the middle of texting when one of my children will ask to play a game.  I will respond, “I can’t right now, I’m busy.”  Now, sometimes I am; but sometimes I’m looking at random pictures of people I was friends with 20 years ago, getting updates about snow conditions, cubicle annoyances or new hair-dos.  And I have to seriously consider what is actually important.  Because there don’t seem to be enough hours in the day, and yet one could shoot a reel of my life, play it back to me, and point out at least an hour every day  that’s arguably wasted.  And I can’t get it back.  And my family can’t either.

So I’ve had enough so-called “multi-tasking” while at soccer practice.  I want to recapture the art of just being in the moment.  I want to appreciate the blessing of now and what’s happening right before my very eyes.  If you are my friend and you haven’t heard from me in a while, just pick up your phone and use it for its intended purpose.  After all, there might be some aspects of society 100 years ago that make me cringe.  But the Dowager Countess having my manners?  Imagine her completely ignoring everyone at dinner with her head stuck in a newspaper.  Now that would be ghastly, and possibly akin to torture.