Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Cereal Aisle Theology

The morning I finally got it probably looked like any other day for any other suburban mom . I was paying homage to bulk items at the local Costco, while pushing a mammoth cart. In the mammoth cart were two children with similarly-sized energy levels. In the frozen meat section, they began tickling each other. By the coffee aisle, my girl and boy were in full-fledged wrestle-mode. Kiddie WWF was going down next to the selection of cereal when my son shrieked and grabbed his shoulder.

"Hadley bit me!"

"Hadley Ann! Did you bite your brother?"

With huge brown eyes made wider by fear, the tears came. She screamed apologies at her brother with such panic that her voice echoed throughout the store.

"Hadley, you know that we don't bite. When we get home, you are getting a consequence for this."

Louder screams. Terror was taking over and the tears came faster than before. Other shoppers hurried by with raised eyebrows. I wasn't phased by this circus. Let them stare. But when came next from Hadley's brother floored me.

"Mom. Mom! This isn't about Hadley. It's about me."

"Bear, how is this about you?"

"Remember that time I threw a fit at church and you told me I'd get a consequence at home? But then we got home and talked and you gave me grace."

I did remember. Very clearly. I knew his memory was excellent, but the story he referred to happened well over a year ago. And, obviously, he was not the one in the hot seat this time around.

"I do remember, buddy. I remember hearing God speak to my heart. He wanted me to show you grace that day when you deserved a big consequence. Are you telling me I should give Hadley grace?"

"Yes."

The kid did not hesitate. I pressed a bit more.

"So your sister bit YOU, but you want to give her grace?"

"Yes".

"Well, that's your call. If you'd like to show Hadley grace, I will definitely let you do that."

The biter had calmed herself and was listening intently to the conversation. Once it was decided she'd be shown grace, complete anarchy ensued. My daughter screamed louder than before.

"I don't want gwaaaaaaaace!"

My precocious three year old did not understand the concept of grace and assumed it was something to be feared. There in the cereal aisle of Costco, I watched my son explain grace to my daughter. I filled in the gaps and helped him as needed, which wasn't much. The kid remembered a day I'd had mercy on him when he deserved punishment. But more importantly, he was taking that experience and extending it to another person. I was stunned. And I got grace in a way I hadn't before.

Kids are funny like that. You spend your days sounding off the same old song and dance. The should's and should not's. The list of behaviors that are acceptable and those that aren't. It gets to where you wonder what is really sinking in and if you're doing even an OK job at this parenting gig. And then out of the blue, they knock your socks off with something like the idea of grace. God is certainly creative with the way He speaks to us!

Fast forward a few hours to bed-time. My husband had asked Hadley to brush her teeth one too many times. As he rounded the corner into her bedroom to serve up some justice, she jumped up defiantly.

"Bubba gave me GWACE!"

And from another bedroom, our son could be heard also shouting.

"No I'm not!"

We're all a work in progress, folks.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Dear Home School Mother...

Dear Home-School Mother,

Consider this my formal (and very public) apology. I am full of quite a lot of things...big ideas, lots of words, "it". You may be a close friend, a family member, or that poor unsuspecting woman at the park. You are all so different and, yet, you have one thing in common. At some point I accosted you with my ideas of grandeur. I was in your face. I was overly excited. I was delusional. I was practically shouting my agreement with your choice to home-school and so very sure this was the same choice I'd make for my firstborn. I'd now like to apologize for thinking I could be anything like you. I was an idiot with a dream until a few short weeks ago. The very first day my son started school...nay, the first hour, I knew I could not be one of you. I became hyper-aware of several components that go along with sending a kid off to school.


THE QUIET

Anyone who comes within a fifty-foot radius of my son knows the kid loves to talk. He has a preferred volume (LOUD), a set pace (FAST), and predetermined material (TRAINS). While I try to soak in as much of this magical age as possible, Mama's bound to need a little silence from time to time. Unless my eldest is sleeping, there is no silence to be found. There is only constant narration and "Mom. Mom. Mommommommommom." Thanks to the wonders of public school, this introvert mom gets time to get lost in her own thoughts from the hours of 7:50 to 2:50 five days a week! Glory!

ENERGY SPENT

While I tend to be a mom who likes to keep busy with library runs, park play-dates, and various other adventures, it is getting more difficult to wear out a boy of five. Gone are the days when one morning outing resulted in a three-hour nap. My little man wants constant action and a game-plan for said action. Who! What! When! Where! Why! Bro, please. It's too much! I cannot give you what you need to properly pass out at 8 every night. Oh who am I kidding? 6:15. Dropping him off at school comes with a guarantee that he will come home that afternoon thoroughly spent. It's beautiful. Now I do realize not all five year old children are ready to jump into the world of full-day schooling. It is, however, exactly what my on-the-go guy needs and I feel like I've won the lottery.

RESPONSIBILITY-FREE

Just those words are probably getting some people a little heated right now, but I'm nothing if not honest. I love the freedom that comes with knowing that my dude's teacher is the one lesson-planning, prepping, and testing. Why shouldn't she be? She's got the credentials and the job! And I'm grateful to her! I will pin the mother of all "DIY-GIFTS-FOR-TEACHER" pins and then grab her a gift card, too. Heck, I'll make her dinner or scrub a few toilets to show just how grateful I am for the thought and effort that goes into my son's schooling. Will I commit to the daily at-home reading requirements? Absolutely. Will I reinforce what he's learning at school? You betcha. There is learning in our home. But knowing that the precise planning and minute details are on someone else's plate is a massive relief to this slightly lazy mom.

To recap friend/family member/random woman in the bathroom stall next to me at Chili's,
I was on the home-school bandwagon. I poo-poo'ed the idea of shipping My Precious off to public school...until I didn't...because I did. I'm a flake. In the grand scheme of things, I'm still pretty darn new to this parenting gig and I'm probably going to flip-flop many more times on parenting issues. I love the freedom that we have to convince ourselves we're so sure of where we stand, only to wake up one morning and decide the complete opposite. That's part of the joy and pain in raising kids. It's on us. We have no one else to fall back on. So I'll continue to reserve the right to be a flake. Thank you for smiling kindly as you watched me try to be like you and then decide I'd better do me instead. That's the kind of support this mothering community needs more of. Cheers.

Sincerely,
Free For Lunch!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Feel'n Fly at Thirty Four

To the all-American woman, there is no season that holds greater inner turmoil than bathing suit season. You see the hopeful shoppers picking through the racks at department stores. They hold up this top or eye those bottoms. Some brave souls go for the skimpy strings while those desiring more coverage fight over the bathing dresses. You can't pay enough for complete and total coverage! No skin left behind! Every year summer makes its appearance and every year we panic over bathing suit shopping. The parade of long faces exiting the fitting room says it all...we are in a game we cannot win.

My disciplined friends begin cutting the carbs and adding more miles to the treadmill early in the winter. Come to think of it, my disciplined friends are the ones doing this year round. When the suits hit the front of the store at Target in February, my girls ain't scared. They can find the perfect fit on the first trip. Respect.

Then there are the rest of us. The ostriches. We stick our heads in the sand for as long as possible. Or until we realize that last year's suit is all kinds of stretched out and is sporting the saggy butt. We cannot enter a brand new summer season with saggy butt. We may have enjoyed infinity more Oreo's than our disciplined gal-pals, but we still have our pride! The clock is tick'n and the stores will have winter coats on the rack if we don't hop to it. So into the swim wear section we pour in droves. To the opposite sex, this rush can only look like a herd of antelope running from an impending predator. Wide eyes scream survival. This is what I've been doing for years since having kids...surviving the summer.

And then my thirty fourth birthday rolled around! What makes thirty four so special? Nothing! That's what I was so excited about! I hadn't hit a milestone year where I should have accomplished this goal or snagged that opportunity. I didn't need to lose a bunch of weight for some big birthday party where I'd prove to everyone that I'm rock'n my older age. Hush that mess. Thirty four, in my eyes, seemed like a great year to quietly look at who I was becoming and what I wanted. You see, you get into your thirties and, if you've done it right, you finally begin to settle into who you are. You get more comfortable in your own skin...even if that skin has been sagged and stretched from a couple of large-headed babies. It's yours and it just feels right. You're also far more aware of how you're wired and what drives you. It took me over thirty years to figure out that big crowds and packed parties aren't my scene. I can confidently say that I'm not missing out when I choose, instead, to stay home with a new book or spend some time writing. I'm in my happy place, man. I understand me far more now than I did ten years ago and this seemed as good a time as any to figure out what I'd like for my new year.

This year I decided that I wanted a tattoo...just a little something to honor my family. I found a design on Pinterest (I never claimed to be a creative thirty four year old) and found myself in a tattoo parlor not forty eight hours later. (I am, however, an impulsive thirty four year old.) It felt really freeing to think, "Yep, this is permanent. Will I feel differently about my tattoo in ten years? I don't know, but I'm at peace with that. Does it mean something to me? Absolutely." Case closed. I didn't need to spend a lot of time thinking on it. I was turning thirty four, remember? Then I pushed the envelope just a bit further. I found myself telling one of my best friends, "That's it. I'm getting a two piece bathing suit this year. I can't take any more summers in a mom suit." I'd recently been inspired by a Target commercial which showed girls of all shapes and sizes flouncing around in bathing suits of equal shapes and sizes. I was glued to the bustier, curvier girl who was getting down in an adorable little bikini. She looked so cute and happy! Tactical advertising, you did your job. I AM the busty, curvy girl and now I knew I could wear a bathing suit that didn't look like something straight out of the maternity section. (You like how I made it sound like I was going to think about deep stuff on this birthday? Gotcha! Tattoos and toss'n the tankini! Man, there's my title!)

Last week I did it. I grabbed a little black and white number, shamelessly texted a picture of myself to a few friends for solidarity's sake, and then walked myself out proudly onto the pool deck. It was the craziest thing, too. The heavens didn't shudder, no faces melted, not one scream of horror! It was a normal pool-side day. I was free of all that fabric I assumed I was supposed to wear because I'd had babies and am not anywhere close to a size six. I won't lie. Ten-years-ago-me might have caught sight of two-piece-me and raised an eyebrow. I know I'm wearing this body differently and my upper half looks like one big frown face when I'm naked. But here's the other thing... in these thirty-four years, I've lived, messed up, learned a whole heck of a lot and am able to celebrate this most recent birthday knowing I've become a much nicer person! That beats out all the tattoos and two-pieces money can buy! (Somewhere my mother is screaming.) But seriously ladies, take a breather and kick back, celebrate where you've been, who you are, and show yourself a little love. Don't wait for the milestones!


Friday, February 19, 2016

Ain't What You Used To Be...

I will be the first to stand up and thank the female body for all it can do. It gives and sustains life, which pretty much sums up one big feat of awesome. A woman's body can be pushed to the brink, will experience major wear and tear, and all the while, she's being asked what's for dinner. Women are some hard-core folk, for real.

With that being said, I'd like to make a formal complaint about the dysfunctions my body has suffered even two and a half years after having my last kid. (To those of you who are pregnant or considering it, I know this is painful now. No one wants to hear the ugly truth, but you'll thank me later when you can expertly explain to your husband why your nose seems to have grown in size. And to my homegirls out there who've been there, done that...I raise my fist in solidarity to you.)

This past Christmas, I unwrapped a pair of the most gorgeous cowboy boots. I suppose I wasn't totally surprised to receive them, considering all my shameless hinting and sighing when I'd pull on my old ones. But I digress...the point is that the hubby did good. Real good. I inhaled the new-leather smell and admired the color and design. Never mind the fact that these boots were one full size larger than my last pair. I was well-aware that after Body Wrecker #1 was born, my feet had grown longer and wider. Sexy. But I'd had time to come to terms with this unfortunate turn of events. These boots were going to kill with dresses, jeans, shorts, skirts...anything! That's the mark of a good pair of boots. They become your wardrobe's new bestie. 

A few days after the whirlwind of Christmas subsided, I found myself sorting through my loot. There in the box, being such patient girls, were my new boots. It was time for them to make their debut! I braced myself for the tears that might very well come from the sight of myself looking so fine...it wasn't quite fair to the rest of humanity. These boots and I were going places! I slid on the right one and it was pure magic. It fit exactly the way a girl wants a boot to fit...all the right curves in all the right places. As I began to pull the left one on, something felt...different. Tighter. I pulled harder and then stood up. My foot, however, was not actually resting inside the boot...it was preforming more of a hovering maneuver. It seemed my calf had caused a sort of traffic jam. It looked like the boot was giving my calf a muffin-top. And it hurt! The leather was squeezing my leg, as if trying to purge itself of my grotesque elephantine limb.

I gasped as I ripped the boot off my throbbing leg and threw it across the room. What witchcraft was this? I inspected my left calf which, by all appearances, was a normal calf. Sure, I had cankles. This wasn't new information. I'd always been on the cankle spectrum, but with Body Wrecker #2, they had definitely progressed to a more advanced case. Why, though, was one calf more...pronounced than the other? Was I doomed to walk the earth in a pair of Birkenstocks the rest of my life?

It took weeks for me to say anything to the hubby. I was mortified. He has the slender, shapely calves of a sixteen year old girl. He'd never understand. But no matter how badly I wanted to hide Monster Calf, I knew I needed to return the boots. They weren't cheap and he'd be pretty ticked to find them collecting dust in the back of my closet. Finally one afternoon, I confessed the whole sordid affair. Ever the problem-solver, he asked to see my...situation, firsthand. "I think what happened is that I got you the skinny-legged version of the boots. I'm sorry." Well you had to admire his creativity. Not that I bought it one bit. He's a sweetheart, I'll give him that. But I knew my body had become a walking freak show and the circus would surely be calling.

We returned the boots with the explanation that they "just weren't the right fit". Hello, Understatement of the Year. For the next hour, I pouted as I tried on boots, many of which posed the same problem as the original pair. Several times, I quickly pulled my jeans down over Monster Calf as the salesman came to check on me. No more eyes need be subjected to such horror. Finally I decided on a pair that was tolerable. They fit and were pretty enough, but clearly no boot would ever look the same on me again.

Most days, I look at myself and think, "Ok, you ain't what you used to be, but it still works". I've made peace with the stretchmarks and wide feet. I can handle the dirty dish-water hair color that used to be a lovely shade of blonde. Even Monster Calf and her Cankle Crew just seem like part of the deal. It's fine, I can live with it. There are plenty of motherly chores just waiting to take my mind off the whole ugly thing. Some days, though, I feel quite resentful. I signed up for this gig, thinking I was handing over my body for nine months. How has nine months turned in to several years? When do I get my body back as my own? On the scale of fairness, this whole thing ranks really stink'n low.

But then there are these brilliant days where I really take the time to look into my kids' eyes and am just absolutely blown away. I see a boy with the most delicious brown eyes and a laugh so joyous you kind of want to cry from the beauty of it. I see a girl with strawberry-blonde pigtails and a pout that makes you want to kiss all over her chubby little cheeks. In these creatures who I grew and carried and nursed and held, I see my very best self. This version of myself loves more fiercely, works harder, and cheers more loudly. The chips on the paint? They are physical evidence of the journey I've been on...still am on...as a mom.

(A mom who now has a healthier respect for the almighty flipflop, I might add.)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Life...check!

I need to be honest here. It's a new year, right? Time for a better self and all that jazz? (I may have just vomited a little in my mouth as I said that.) I have had several people ask when I'd be writing again. More specifically, I've been asked when I'd be adding on to my "Sisterhood of Dirty Yoga Pants" series. Ha...series. There were TWO. So here's the thing...I collected many funny parenting stories that were of the pee-your-dirty-yoga-pants caliber . I was fired up and ready to share those stories with the world. (...Or the five of you out there who read this blog. Hi, Mom!) It was going to be epic. All five of you would totally be able to relate and I would bring peace to the mommy wars with the help of just a few funny stories. That's where my mind was going with all of this anyway. 

Fast forward a few days after my last blog post and Tiny Redhead gets a stomach bug. Never to do anything small, Tiny goes all out for this one. We're talking vomit down my shirt (more than once), sleeping on the floor to avoid any more massacred bed-sheets, the actual throwing away of pants, and some particular pups who were very well-fed that week. (If you don't know where I'm going with that, it's probably for the best.) As a mom, you know how it is. The stomach bug waits for no man. Anything I had planned went straight out the window as our house hunkered down in sheer survival mode. 

Fast forward a few weeks and we hit our annual fall trip out to DC to visit the grandparents. Then Halloween. Then ThanksgivingthenChristmasthenNewYears. What...the...heck. And here I sit. In my pajamas at noon, feeling a little like I've been hit by a truck. I didn't ever forget to write. It was on my mind almost every day. I did have a staggering amount of plans and activities on my schedule. That's what I blamed for my writing hiatus. But in reality, my big hang-up was that the longer I went without adding on to to this fabulous series that I was concocting, the more embarrassed I became that I could not finish the project. And as soon as I openly admitted this to myself, I realized this to be a big-picture kind of issue in my mothering world. 

If you know me at all, you know that I love a good planner. I get REAL excited about "New Planner Day". This sad little holiday I've made up is all about purchasing a fresh new planner for the year and sifting through the unmarked pages. (Fist-bump to the SIL for my adorable Kate Spade planner this Christmas. It was love at first sight, I tell ya.) I begin by jotting down everyone's birthday and then begin to fill in other important dates and to-do's. I get such a sense of purpose and calm over this ritual. (I can almost feel my readers unfollowing me and friends lined up on Facebook to unfriend me. I get it.) As the year gets going, I've got this beautiful new sidekick who tells me everything I need to know, where I need to be, and what I should be doing. I live and die by the planner. But here's the rub. My obsession over my planner and the delicious feeling of a to-do being checked off the list DOES NOT COMPUTE WITH CHILDREN. I repeat, THIS DOES NOT COMPUTE. As much as I love to make lists of things that need to be completed, over half of them don't actually get finished. And at this very minute, the light bulb above my head has been flipped on as I realize those projects, like my precious little series, often don't get finished because LIFE is happening. LIFE! 

So...while my check marks become fewer, I'm giving extra hugs and cuddles to a sick little girl who won't be little forever. While my to-do list grows, so does the number of road-trips I've taken with my kids where we actually enjoy ourselves. While the stack of baby books I have made is pitifully low, the memories of climbing trees and dance-parties is at an all-time high. I am a big fan of finished projects, but I'm a far bigger fan of living this one life with my kids.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Sisterhood of Dirty Yoga Pants...Where It All Began

So, let's recap. In the first post of the series, you discovered that your entire way of life is a tower of lies and that we can see right through to the girl who eats peanut butter-covered marshmallows in her closet to avoid crying. (No one then? Just me?) But in all seriousness, I had this idea. I wanted to create a safe place where moms could share their embarrassing realities in an effort to encourage each other. Enough with the mom-shaming, enough with the sideways looks. More of the "I've totally done that!" and less of, "Can you believe her?" I'm over it. The enmity we've created among each other has got to stop. Perhaps we can find common ground in humor, because let's face it, we all have some hysterical material.

The story that inspired this epiphany happened just a few weeks ago. I was talking to a friend as we were walking out of a moms group get-together. For once, I was actually sporting an outfit that didn't require a sports bra. My friend was keeping it real, however, wearing the usual mom ensemble of spandex and running shoes. I asked if my friend, we'll call her "K", had already been to the gym that morning. (I find applauding those who make it to the gym gives me a kind of good workout karma. I may not darken the gym door myself, but cheering on others somehow makes my thighs feel thinner.) K informed me that she hadn't, in fact, been to the gym that morning. Then, lowering her voice, she confided in me her dark secret. "I was actually wearing this entire outfit last night while talking to my neighbor. I even slept in these clothes. Then this morning, my neighbor shows up here! She saw me in the exact same clothes as the last time I talked to her."

Oh friends, you cannot even imagine my glee upon hearing this story. First of all, I so loved K for owning up to the nitty gritty. Her evening had clearly entailed a race against time. Don't chance taking off your pants...it's less time you'll have to sleep before the baby wakes up to eat. There's no time! Go! Go! And I adored the fact that K didn't take herself too seriously. She could see the humor in the situation. (And this is why God made Bath & Body deliciousness. Covers up the mom scent.) This should be a goal for each of us as moms. Find the funny stuff in our day, laugh, and share. Can you imagine how much less judging and snark there'd be if we were all laughing together? What a fun place...that's the world I want to live in. Care to join?

Up next...I begin to share your stories. And they are so wonderfully bad!

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Sisterhood of Dirty Yoga Pants...Part 1

Funny stuff, this thing called "motherhood". We can all remember the days when each morning started with a shower...even a workout beforehand, if that was your thing. Coffee was leisurely (if you even needed it) and your day went just about according to plan. We remember those days, but it's like looking through the wrong end of a telescope. They seem very, very far away. We all had this beautifully laid out plan of how we'd mother. Quiet mornings of cuddling, preparing fresh breakfasts, and walks to the park. Educational games and thoughtful conversations sprinkled with "I love you, Mommy" were, honestly, the visions that floated through my head as I gently patted my pregnant belly...before I knew better.

Most mornings now, I microwave old coffee (I know you ain't about to judge, friend) and throw on workout clothes that, most likely, won't see the inside of a gym. My go-to hairstyle is a pony-tail and I think eating cold leftover eggs off my son's plate is a successful morning. I've always considered myself a pretty low-maitenance gal, but these days are looking particularly dark. Mornings are far from quiet and if a walk to the park is in order, we drive. Frantically. I can be heard shrieking, "Leave your shoes on! You'll step in duck poop!" Sweet mother, these are the days of our lives.

And yet, what I love about motherhood (besides the gorgeous faces of my two super spawn) is that it is, without a doubt, the great equalizer. We are all in this wonderful cracker crumb-filled pit together. Every single one of us. Now I will admit, some of you put on a pretty darn good show. You might have the hair just right or that bang'n bod that happened to bounce back after babies (I hate you...what?). Maybe you're able to keep a clean house (send me your Merry Maid info, please) or you cook meals of a farmers market-caliber every night. Maybe you actually sit down and create the educational games on Pinterest that we all pin. Good for you, my fellow soldier, but you cannot fool me. We are in this war together and we all have multiple chinks in our armor. At some point, those weaknesses show and I say this humbly, I freaking love it. I feel like I've won the lottery when I see another mom's facade fall. Welcome to my tribe, girlfriend. You are welcome here. This is reality and I love you most when I get to see YOU...not what you're best at or what you pretend to be. I love seeing real moms slugging through the everyday up's and down's of motherhood. The reality of it is what's most beautiful...in a sort of disgusting, I've-clearly-lowered-my-standards sort of way. This authenticity should be celebrated way more often because it stems from the most delicious love any of us have ever encountered, am I right?

To honor you, dear friends, I've asked for your real stories. I want to share the moments that make us both cringe and say, "Me too" because we could all stand a little more "Me too" from each other. Stay tuned!