You ever stare at yourself in the mirror and wonder, what the hell happened? I wish I could pin it to something specific. One moment you are cruising along and doing well and then KAHBLAMMY!
I get that this parenting journey isn't easy or perfect. I get that life throws curve balls. But to go from one extreme to another, for seemingly no reason at all, that is when the logical part of my brain throws a fit. LITERALLY! I like to know the why!
I readily admit there are certain times of the month that hormones mess with me. Lack of sleep or sickness can easily throw me off kilter, but all that is understandable. I didn't realize that I was looking for someone or something to blame for my lack of self-control. I am an adult and I should be able to act like one, but... there are some days I don't! There are some days that I just suck and feel like giving up.
Normally, I can feel it building, but not always. I've tried counting to ten, retreating, meditating, or phoning a friend! Cheerfully, I can say, this has worked some of the time. As a parent, it's hard to get the you-time when you need it. Methods for chilling out and restoring balance are wonderful. Exhaustion makes it hard to use them, however. Mental exhaustion is just as real as physical. It sneaks up on you!
You see, when you are a mom, there are a lot of variables to your day. A lot of people are depending on you for countless reasons. The nurturing mentality oozes out even when it's to our detriment. The amount of responsibilities, worries, details, tasks, and demands that are placed on us or that we willingly take on are incredible. We don't even realize all that we are balancing. Even our subconscious is overworked.
Every year I hear about women doing more and more incredible things! We throw around slogans about Super Mom and talk about how we want our daughters to be able to do anything and everything they want to. We have seminars about empowerment and vision. Don't get me wrong; I am all for equal rights! But just because we can do something doesn't mean we should, right? And definitely not all at once! I need to be okay with my workload and not try to mimic all the Pinterest moms I admire.
I am still learning that I have a lot to learn: about myself, about priorities, seasons, and saying no. Too much of a good thing, striving until exhausted, people-pleasing, volunteering for one more thing - these are things you learn to stop most often by failing. I've had pretty great examples, but they weren't perfect! So, I am here to admit it. Aloud and unproud - no excuses -I lost it! Ugh!
The day before was amazing. I made pancakes with my kids, remembered to kiss and appreciate my husband, cleaned the house, homeschooled the children, and it was all Instagram worthy! And then today happened...
I wish I could blame it on the kids, my spouse, or even hormones, but nothing was different from the day before. My kids were fairly well behaved. It wasn't rainy and miserable. My husband said he loved me and told me he didn't have that long of a work day, so he would make supper. Yes, I married a good one! Then KAHBLAMMY - I was short tempered with the kids! I could see the bewilderment in their eyes. Maybe I felt overwhelmed by the little mess that had accumulated in the one day since we had thoroughly cleaned it, but really there is not excusing my behavior even if I couldn't pin down why. I was angry! I slammed a door and dissolved into tears, feeling like a total failure.
Talk about a roller-coaster, a great day followed by a suckfest! I justify my actions a lot by my circumstances. Did I get enough sleep? Did my spouse show me any appreciation or love for that basket of laundry I folded and put away! Were my kids kind and obedient? Was the weather too hot, cold or rainy? I didn't get my needed ____ (sleep, caffeine, chocolate, wine, etc.)! The list of excuses goes on and on. The fact was - I blew it! So what now? Hand in my kids? Delete my social media accounts because I am a not a supermom with endless patience for baking, crafts, sewing, and board games? Waaaaahhh! (Can you hear my pity party?)
If you are feeling like a bad mom, you are not alone! I had myself a good cry, thanked God for yet another do-over and went to hug my kids. Maybe you've had a day or 50 like mine? I've had more than I want to number. From one wanna-be-supermom to another, God offers endless redos. We haven't scarred our kids in some way God didn't foresee. It's okay for our kids to see that we get overwhelmed. It's probably the biggest and best lesson we can teach. Moms need to apologize too! Our good days and bad ones will shape our kids, but the potter is still on his throne. He is able to turn our lumpy attempts into useful vessels. Listen hard and you will hear him whisper:
I've got this; I'm good at fixing things. Back off the ledge and we'll start afresh together.
It has been a while since I wrote. Can't say I really feel guilty about that.
Starting up school, celebrating our tenth anniversary and surviving a hurricane took precedence over writing for a while.
We have all these ideals. The ideal way to start school. The romantic getaway appropriate for a decade of matrimony. What trials we expose our children to. We see what others do and we dream of what we might do, but until you are there and juggle the variables you really have no clue.
I remember pre-children watching people discipline their children and I'll admit - I judged. Until I had my own toddler throw a tantrum in public I had no clue what other variables played into the decisions and reactions of parents. I just assumed I would have the infinite patience and wisdom to be a tough but loving mom. We all have our ideal way we would do something, but what we have to keep in perspective is whether we ourselves are in our ideal state when said situation comes into play. This school year started off with a new board game. It was a flop. I'd like to say the first week was easy with everyone wanting to learn, but homeschool involved typical, cantankerous children just like public school. It takes us a few weeks find our rhythm.
I had this idea of what romantic vacation I wanted to take for our tenth anniversary, but time constraints, sitters, energy, and finances did not cooperate. Face-time is key....no not on your phone, but shoulder-to-shoulder enjoyment and laughter go way further in marriage sustenance than any perfect trip to the Bahamas. Because we tried that trip to the Bahamas for our fifth. Ha! What those Instagram photos won't show you is the hurricane that changed the course of our ship, the food poisoning that ruins your night of passion, and the inconsiderate wall mates who make too much noise for your to get proper sleep. Smile - this is the trip of a lifetime - snap! This time we got two nights to ourselves in the city, saw a show, swam and held hands. It wasn't nearly as Instagram glamorous, but I'm so thankful that after a decade we still dream and laugh together.
The real storms blow in and you are watching the weatherman attempt to predict and you realize he is no better off that you were trying to judge a situation from the outside with no idea what the variables really are. All you can do is patiently weigh out the pros and cons of staying or evacuating. The last hurricane was predicated as a direct hit at cat 4 maybe cat 5, so we chose to go. It wasn't fun, but we were safe. This time was all over the place in its predictions, but we chose to stay. We had a night of high winds and nerves were a little jittery, but life resumed the next day.
The thirties have hit hard with three kids, one income, and a mortgage, but my perfectionism still runs strong despite life upping the game. As part of my hurricane prep, I borrowed a puzzle. I normally love puzzles; I find them calming. This 2000 monster was making me angry despite a few friends helping her and there. It was mocking me from our only table four days later! I got down to just the sky which was one solid night color....absolutely no shading left. Just endless blue-black. Ugh! My ideal was in its completion. It would bring satisfaction! I always complete the things I start! I called my mother...
Earlier in the week, we had been discussing photo albums. I had helped mom scan them all, but she was having a hard time parting with the physical albums. I told her to have a bonfire and set herself free. She could keep her favorites, but she wasn't required to keep every photo from 6 decades. She has dreams, goals, and ambitions! It is hard to do the things you need to when you are carrying around baggage. So essentially I absolved her guilt about needing to hang onto every heirloom. She has all the photos online and can take her time making keepsake books to give away as we have children, but in the meantime travel and live lighter.
This time, she asked me a few questions... "Is the puzzle bringing you joy? (Not anymore!) Will it really bring you a sense of accomplishment? (For a few seconds, maybe minutes.) Are there other things that you would rather be doing? (Yes!) Then break it apart and relish it!" So, I did. I broke apart the pieces and felt very satisfied in choosing NOT TO DO SOMETHING! I didn't finish! I didn't complete that checkbox!
And yes, as a thirty-four-year-old, I needed my mom to absolve me from completing a puzzle! I will admit it. I call her pretty regularly to absolve me of guilt for lots of things: not being the best wife, the most patient mother, having the cleanest house, or people-pleasing. I just need to hear another sane person tell me I am not crazy for giving up or being human. I know God absolves me of it all, but sometimes you just need an audible voice.
So, I am back to my mantra with some tweaks -
Walk humbly with God today and do the work at my hands.
But I am learning to ask more questions about the word work...
How important is this work?
Does it really need to be done? ... by me?
What will happen if I don't complete it?
Work sometimes means to create and invest, not just drudgery. So...
What do I feel God is calling me to do today? - Everyone/everything else can wait!
As soon as Fourth of July passes, my thoughts start to shift into preparation mode. I know the shift happens for mothers and teachers way sooner than the students. Summer is still hot and fierce, but the wind of change begins to blow as soon as the last holiday firework smoke fades away. Kids are soaking up the last of the days by the beach or pool while we start preparing.
I am excited! I want to be ready for August and the first day of school. It is probably the cute holiday pictures with sparklers that starts my mind on dreaming up what we should do for back-to-school pictures. We have done signboards and black and white, so what should we try next? That thought then spirals into more checklists. What supplies are needed? Did I mention that I love paper? Yes, that is me in the back of Staples smelling that paper. Come on! You got to love that new paper smell. New pens, folders, and highlighters....oh yes I love office supplies! Don't get me started on sticky notes and new markers before the children get ahold of them...
We homeschool so I also get to ponder which curriculum tweaks need to be finalized. I have portfolio reviews from last year to send into the superintendent. This year we have new students, so a letter of intent needs to be brought in for one and fresh preschool supplies bought for the other. Preschool is the best - everything is so colorful and fun! Dropping off forms in person means I don't have to worry that they got lost in the mail! Thank goodness I don't have to worry about uniforms, or drop-off and pickups, but there is still plenty of other things to prep for when you are with your students all day. Ink? Check. Paper? Check. Grocery shopping and meal planning for easy lunches and snacks. They need to be quick, so as to not take too much time away from teaching, yet still be nutritious!
The structure of learning hours before free hours is definitely tantalizing to me by this point (maybe not to the kids quite yet). Summer and the freedom it brings to our family schedule is starting to wear off after two months of blissful vacation. The reality is lazy summer days mean I often have to fight off countless screen-time requests and arrange playdates! I am missing priorities, order, and goals. Seasons of rest and freedom are needed! But, by August, I am eager to get back into the cadence of learning and discipline. I love seeing my kids flourish into responsible people who understand play comes as soon as responsibilities have been accomplished. I enjoy seeing true appreciation for the fun times, won through self-discipline rather than an entitlement that Summer can breed. They become responsible masters of their time and future. Summer is nice, but life needs balance and mommy needs help.
I hate to shop, but I love Amazon! I can check reviews and order from the comfort of my home. Win! I have my go-to things for each school year but am always looking for new things to help us along this learning journey. Below I will link of a few of my favorites buys that have enhanced our schooling.
Please share with me some things that have made your schooling better!
The wise thing is to get counsel. Preferably godly counsel. The problem with that is in discerning who is giving godly wisdom versus worldly wisdom. The journey of faith is a deeply personal one since God states very clearly that only He can judge correctly the heart of man. It is easy for people we love and trust to speak in love and worldly wisdom. It is up to the Spirit to help us discern which advice is for us and which was well-intentioned but not for us.
AKA - Chew up the meat and spit out the bones...
We are embarking on a risky adventure of trusting God in a deeper way. I laugh even writing that because I know He is Sovereign and promises to walk with us.
So really, where is the risk?
My husband has handed in his resignation to a job which has provided for over a decade for the needs and wants of our family. We will be letting go of good health insurance and a weekly salary paycheck. Gulp!*
To many, this will appear foolhardy and unwise. At times, even to us, this seems like a crazy idea. Being able to offer Christian Counseling and run the Lifeline Celebrate Recovery program without working a 40+ hour job has been something my husband and I have been working toward for years!
It has been the dream placed into heart and soul. We want to walk a life of faith and this is our next step. It has come to a pinnacle... make a choice! We are strapped in and ready for the ride. We have felt the peace fill our spirits, that this is the right move. Our minds are still a war zone of what-ifs when we are not in prayer. Every time we lift up our choice to God He rewards us with excitement, reconfirmation, joy, hope and most importantly peace. We will not let the giant of doubt shake our inner peace. Doubts can rattle our minds, but we know we don't walk alone. God will bring his people who are hurting and we will journey with them to healing in Jesus name and we will watch in awe as God shows up and shows off!
We will gratefully accept all the prayers we can get.
There are a few things that help turn my day around. Music is a big one. I am a shower singer. I love to sing and thankfully my kids are a kind audience. They don't tell me to be quiet or intimidate me into silence. In fact they joyously join in with singing and dancing when we turn on our favorite pandora channel. Thankful for our little portable speaker that allows us to take our dance party all over the house and backyard. Music soothes me and often it is songs or hymns from my childhood that are my favorite. I have noticed my oldest child enjoy singing in the shower as well. The tradition passes on. ;) Sing when you are happy, sing when you are sad... or just let the music wash your soul!
Another, new favorite atmosphere enhancer is my aromatherapy diffuser. The smells are nice, but I think it is more the colorful lighting than even the fragrances that make me happy. I can lock it on my favorite soothing teal color or let it flip through the rainbow slowly. I am still learning what fragrances we like (and not to put too many drops in!), but I am loving the addition to our living room. The quality of air is so important. My husband installed a pallet screen door and we love this in Spring and Fall, allowing fresh air to pass through! But this time of year when it is too hot and muggy to open the screen door, the diffuser helps us feel like we are breathing healthy fragrances in at least even if the fresh breeze is absent.
My husband and I love to surround ourselves with beautiful textures. He has a favorite fleece blanket he prefers to sleep under rather than sheets. Our children love texture as well. Our youngest can tell the difference between his special fleece blanket and the one we have as a backup! We love nature. We have made many pieces of furniture out of recycled pallets this past year. Nature is beautiful so why not bring it indoors as much as possible? Functional and self-made are the kind of projects we enjoy - If you can make it pretty, so much the better! Carpentry runs in the family and my husband has quickly turned into quite the Mr. Fix-it. Nothing sexier than a man wielding tools!
The other atmosphere enhancer is flavor! The fresh smell of brewing coffee in the morning (you know you hear the Folgers jingle in your head...go ahead and hum it, I will wait), freshly baked cookies - yum! or the dissolving of a dark chocolate kiss - yes these are all a few favorite pick-me-ups in our household. If you slap uplifting slogans on all your favorite mugs and verses on your walls then - Amen! We are trying to add healthier recipes to our arsenal and fresh herbs and spices smell amazing. Sometimes a little flavor is all you need to hit those health goals. This would explain our flavored sparkling water addiction. Those little bubbles fill you up and black cherry flavored water is always a win!
These are a few of the way we have been shaping our atmosphere.
What are some of your favorite pick-me-ups? What do you like to diffuse?
Coming up on our ten year anniversary and I can't believe how the time has flown by. I am not the same woman who said I do ten years ago. My husband is not the same man. I know we have sharpened each other into better human beings. Our differences and perspectives have challenged and forced us into improved spouses. We have also added three children as passengers to our life. That has defintely changed our journey in beautiful, but exhausting ways. The more and more I think about it, the more I compare marriage to a car. Marriage is the vehicle that embodies our journey.
As most people know, driving with children in the car, is completely different from the days where it was just the two of you going for a weekend road trip. In the beginning you share navigation and driving responsibilities more equally, but then patterns develop and needs change. Mom has to crawl in the back to nurse a baby, Dad has to drive and navigate simultaneously, and the children have to learn to get along or the driver will pull the whole vehicle off the side of the road. Like any good vehicle though, there are times for required maintenance and preferably this happens before tires are bald and the engine seizes. We don't want to put everyone at risk! Safety is key to a fun road trip!
Hopefully we are always on the alert for the low oil or check engine light to come on in our relationship. Being aware of the state of our vehicle is important, but even more so in our marriage. There are some people that never learned to check their oil, but when you pay tens of thousands of dollar for a car trust me when I say - better learn quick. The same goes for our relationships; we can learn! We made the vow and maybe added passengers to this vehicle; we better learn the value in regular tune-ups, before the flat tire happens. Got premarital counseling? That is great! Should be good for the first few thousand miles. Those date nights are like checking the oil, or putting air in the tires. Those late night heart to hearts are like a tire rotation and alignment. Don't know what that is? That is okay, but let's not stay ignorant to the fact that a healthy marriage takes continual, intentional education. I can show my spouse that I value them, by learning how to keep them running - running well!
I can't tell you how many people that have helped put a little air in our tires. I know we wouldn't still be cruising along if we hadn't had a lot of road side assistance. Even with regular maintenance there will be a nail or two that you can avoid and that is when it is time to phone in help. Parents, friends, pastors and counselors are there for a reason. It is a sign of intelligence not weakness to do regular maintenance.
Sometimes I get a little film on the headlights; makes it hard to see. Happens slowly over time, sometimes I don't even know its there! Friends have helped me shine a light on things, restore perspective, so I can see the others properly. Sometimes I just need to drive and let Dad deal with the kids. Sometimes I get vehicle envy. Someone else has a spouse that does such and such or I berate myself for taking the long way around. Sometimes we just need to pull over and take a vacation!
I am extremely thankful to the many couples who come to my husband for counseling. They keep him having to practice what you preach. That has been a huge help in our own marriage. (And here is my shameless plug for my husband's counseling practice - Clarity Counseling.)
Without GPS (God's Positioning System) aka the Holy Spirit we would be totally lost! May He get us through another decade without too many bumps and bruises. I will continue to take all the road side assistance I can get!
Tips for Regular Maintenance
Our Relationships affects more than just us, so maintain better than a car!
So, we debated long and hard over getting a pet. We made a lot of Pro and Cons lists, did some research and at last decided to rescue a pet from the local shelter. I will admit I am NOT a big animal person, mostly because my three children make enough messes for me to clean up. Plus, I am realistic with the fact that the responsibility often falls to me. Thankfully as the kids get older it is mostly me reminding them to take care of their pet. ;)
I had several pets as a child, but never had one for more than a few years at a time due to moving or short lifespan; Hamsters don't live long. Our dog we ended up giving to a farmer when we moved who had big open fields and truck she could ride around in. Our cat was an outdoor cat that wandered the 14 acres. One day it just didn't come around for food. No doubt a sweet old woman fed him better food than we did. At least that is what I like to think rather than any negative alternative.
Now that I have a family of my own and we live in the south where it is too hot for animals to live primarily outdoors, I knew we would be more impacted by having a pet sharing our square footage. We contemplated a bird, but I thought the bird's squawking on top of the children's squawking might push me over the edge. Snakes and lizards give me the creeps, so I put my foot down on those. Fish and cleaning aquariums seemed too much work for too little return. We all agreed we primarily wanted a fur ball to cuddle. My kids are sensitive, so a hamster with a short lifespan seemed impractical. We visited with several types of dogs, but due to our middle child having some kind of phobia of even the tiniest dog, we decided to just let the idea go for a while. A cat never really crossed my mind since I thought my dad was allergic and didn't want to choose an animal over time with grandparents. Then we found out he had somehow outgrown that allergy and the search recommenced.
The cat chose us by putting up his paw on the glass and being so chill when we handled him. We looked at another that wouldn't retract the claws for even a moment and knew she wouldn't survive our three young children. The cat we chose, or who chose us like I said, ended up being the perfect fit for our family. He puts up with a lot, but is very clever in finding spots to escape the toddler when needed.
We named him Clue because he was so curious about everything. He has turned into a big cat (not fat just long) that loves to roll on his back like a dog to get his belly rubbed. The hair started to be an issue this summer when the weather turned hot, but we have found a few things that have really helped him fit seamlessly into our family with little fuss.
Why is it so much easier to help others find their boundary line than it is to find your own? When I talk on the phone with a friend, it is often clear as day where they should draw a line in the sand. Things sneak up on you and creep in without always asking for permission or consent. In my own life I can feel the line, but not necessarily always see it. I string along countless excuses why I allow my boundaries to be crossed, stretched or moved altogether. More often than not, it is guilt or people-pleasing that account for my loss of decisiveness and muddled thinking. The older I get the less it is people-pleasing. See, I am getting wiser. ;) I might even throw worry in there too as a factor for crossing boundaries, but that isn't as high up on the list as the others.
I am a lot bolder on behalf of other people than I ever am on my own behalf. I love being able to encourage others to rest and feel peaceful. I abhor watching family or friends pushed into exhaustion by other demanding people or life's crazy pressures. I am quick to remind others to take time for themselves and set healthy boundaries in place to allow for recharge. It seems the moment I make space in my own life to breath that something comes out of the woodwork to steal back that room or time. It is such a battle! I know this life is a journey, but I don't think it is meant to be an all-out sprint to the finish. To make it the end, I know the tortoise approach is wiser and healthier. Stop and smell the roses; take time to enjoy the life you have been given. Intellectually, spiritually and emotionally I know what is best, but I allow the roar of life to drown out common sense and what I know to be right for me.
Life shows us pretty quickly that there are seasons for everything. There are seasons when we need to keep our obligations low and our boundaries high for our sanity and/or health. We also need to take into account the health and care of those we share life with. There are rhythms that we need to adhere to if we are to make it without hurting ourselves or others. Doing for others at the expense of yourself and your loved ones is not called servanthood, but codependency. Getting the details is an important step before agreeing to take on anything new. Indefinite service will cause harm if not balance with rest. Don't give an answer! You don't have to make excuses or give an answer right in the moment. I heard someone say that they wanted to "fall exhausted into the arms of Jesus" and every part of my being cringed! God, the maker of heaven and earth, rested on the 7th Day, so I am a firm believer in following His example. I think we have forgotten what true rest looks like, however. If you have kids and a spouse it is harder to find true rest. Someone is always pulling at you. Keep in mind what season you are in!
We can't just wish our boundaries into place any more than a general can get his troops from point A to B without sending out the order. We can't reduce our obligations without saying the word - No. We can not rest without allowing space and time for it. Staying balanced is a constant ebb and flow of decisions and planning. It isn't a one-time deal and opportunities come and go, so it will never be flawless, but having some steps in place helps me retain my sanity.
My go to's:
1. Call a WISE friend - In this season of my life, I am blessed to have many friends who are also balancing the wife and mother roles. I am grateful for the telegram app that allows me to share a photo or a laugh, seek advice, empathy or sanity at the push of a button with my group of mom friends. It is good to have people who remind me of my limits and priorities. I am also blessed with a wise mother who walks a few seasons of life ahead of me and is gentle in her wisdom and nearly always available to encourage and/or listen when I call.
2. Just say NO - don't add excuses - So many times I have people approach with requests or opportunities that seem to need immediate answers. I love to help others and disappointing people is hard for me. I am still learning the art of saying NO! If it is at all feasible, I want to say yes, but that has bitten me one too many times! I tried to put things off by saying I would pray about it. Better, but not best! When I know in the moment that my answer should be no, but I feel like I need a "good excuse" I need to remember - no - is good enough.
3. WAIT & Pray & WAIT - When in doubt - Wait! Then pray specifically and give yourself time to wait for His answer. Not the answer that you feel guilted into or pressured into! A thing can be really good, but if it is not in it's proper time then it can turn bad and quick. I will make mistakes, but slowing down and waiting gives me the chance to make well thought out decisions about my boundaries and obligations. Time also allows me to ask wise people to weigh in on the examination process.
Tell me what are your some safeguards for balancing boundaries and obligations? I can use all the help I can get. ;)
We had such a fun year studying Zoology. Below you can get a glimpse of the Live Butterfly Project we did to celebrate the end of our official school year and welcome summer. (Thanks, Insect Lore!) We are now ready for some sunny beach days and lazy afternoons reading books in our hammocks.
Our school year consisted of making great use of our Family Zoo Pass (Thanks, Nini!) to the Sanford Zoo in Central Florida. We all enjoyed being able to meet up with family and friends countless times throughout the year to enjoy the splash pad, train, and carousel in addition to the animals. It was so nice to not rush and be able to take the time to observe so many different animals, knowing we didn't have to see it all in a day! The petting zoo was a favorite spot. Feeding the Giraffes was a special treat, but hearing the macaws screech my daughter's name was pretty neat too. One of my girls wants to be a vet, so this year of zoology has allowed her to really explore her interest.
I chose to be homeschooled, and really thrived under independent study. Facilitating my kids' curiosity, allows me to learn so much more by viewing it all through their eyes. They each learn differently and their unique observations make life and learning more interesting. Next year, we will be adding the little brother in on our studies, so our homeschool/family will be going through a slight metamorphosis of our own by adding a third student. We look forward to relaxed Summer learning.
Share with us your favorite hands-on learning activities!
Our education is never done!
My Current Mantra
Walk humbly with God and do the work at your hands....