Parenting Posts

Eyes Up

Eyes Up

It’s no secret that I love to travel – especially flying. It doesn’t matter where I’m going, really. I just want to be going. I love love love the airport – there’s no people-watching like people-watching at the airport. I don’t mind a long layover…I could sit at the airport all day.

Right now, I am writing from gate B7 in the Phoenix International Airport while I wait to board a flight to Minneapolis. From my perch I can see:

On Being a Super Mom

On Being a Super Mom

This weekend was the women’s retreat at church.

You know, the time when nearly 500 women hand their husbands the reins and a few already-cooked meals, and for some – the number for the doctor and directions to the nearest emergency room, and all of the children – and then giddily flee to the mountains. They’re loaded down with coffee and junk food. They ignore the fact that they will be sleeping in bunk beds like convicts because they will be sleeping. alone. so just whatever.

One mom in our cabin lied to told her husband and kids that we weren’t allowed to have cell phones, so not to even bother calling her. PERFECTION.

The cabin hostesses made Pinterest-worthy crafty things like our initials to hang on our bunks. We were welcomed with open arms and genuine smiles. We all looked around at each other that first night with wide unbelieving eyes that we’d all made it.

At the Plate

At the Plate

Well, I have a confession to make.

I’ve been battling some anxiety lately. Feelings of not being good enough, impending sense of doom, you know that kind of stuff. No big deal.

It’s something I’ve always struggled with, and sometimes it hits me harder than others. I withdraw from the world, I shut down when I start to think too much, and I stop writing because then I might really have to face my feelings.

A few minutes ago, I figured out what I think is the root of this bout of anxiety – my boys.

Newly Legit

Newly Legit

When we were brand new parents, Ty told me that he always considered “seven” to be the number. THE number.

When you’ve been married seven years, you’re pretty experienced. You’re out of the honeymoon phase and you’re into real life. You’ve been through a lot together already. You can now dole out advice.

If you have kids who are seven, you have been parents for a while. You did the whole bottles and diapers stage, you’ve been through toddlerhood, and you’re even into elementary school. You’re legit. You also are allowed to advise.

Well, it happened.

Santa Confession Revisited

Santa Confession Revisited

It’s confession time again…

I originally posted this last December, but I wanted to post it again, because my feelings are still the same!

My kids are a year older, and we’ve had another Christmas season to reflect on our decision, and I have to tell you, we are still so happy with this decision. PLEASE don’t read this as judgment on you. This is our decision for our family. We absolutely love Christmas, and love to celebrate it in all kinds of ways, and are happy that you celebrate it however you do!

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We don’t do Santa in my house.

*gasp*

Not that he’s not allowed to be a topic of conversation, or that his image is not allowed in my house (obviously, see my post here!). I just mean that my kids know that Santa isn’t real, and there are no presents from Santa under the tree on Christmas morning.

Okay, put down the phone. I’m sure the authorities will be too busy to arrest me anyway.

Let me say this before I explain my reasons…

I don’t judge you for doing Santa in your house.

I’m not writing this post to tell you not to do Santa, or because I think you are a heathen for practicing this fun tradition in your house. I think Santa is a fun part of Christmas! I love a good Santa movie, it’s fun to see Santas at the mall, and I think an awesome rendition of “Santa Baby” is great background music for tree decorating.

I have quite a few reasons why we don’t do Santa in my house, and almost all of them have nothing to do with religion (though a few do). I don’t think that you are a bad Christian if you tell your kids Santa brought their new bike…so take a deep breath and keep reading, okay?

Reason #1 – “You better watch out….”

Can I just say this? I hate the feeling of anxiety that we give our kids when we tell them to “watch out” because Santa Clause is coming. It’s sort of like telling your kids that the policeman at the restaurant is going to arrest them if they don’t sit down and behave. Isn’t that counter-productive? Don’t we want our kids to like the police and Santa?

We should be good and nice because we are supposed to be. Not because we’re about to get blacklisted at the North Pole. Or to get our names on a list.

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Plus, no one ever gets coal in their stocking. Santa’s still bringing your kids that new Nano. So this is an empty threat….again undermining the whole process anyway.

Reason #2 – “He sees you when you’re sleeping…”

Um…excuse me? I remember being so creeped out by this weird aspect of Santa. He watches me all year long? This is not comforting, this is some twisted gift-giving Big Brother concept that I’m not excited about. Also, he can get into my house with all the doors locked AND no chimney? Could he do this any time of the year, should he choose? Yeah…no thanks.

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I want my kids to know the only person who is watching them all the time is Jesus, and He isn’t looking for reasons to note when they’ve screwed up. I want my kids to know that Jesus shows them grace when they screw up instead of adding a tally to the “naughty” side. Every time.

Reason #3 – Gratitude

Ty works hard. Like really hard. He gets up early and goes to work before the rest of us are awake. He provides the money for their sports, their school, their food, their clothes, and their Christmas presents.

We put a lot of time, effort, and thought into what we will get our kids for Christmas. We pick out the perfect clothes that they will like, the toy we know they want, the book that we think they will enjoy. I spend Christmas Eve frantically lovingly wrapping each present.

Gratitude is so important to me (see here and here). I think it’s important that our kids know exactly how they get their presents, and to be grateful.  They should look Ty in the eye and say “Thank you, Dad. This is awesome!”

Has anyone ever sent Santa a thank you note? No.

But you can…

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Reason #4 – I don’t celebrate Ragnar

Wait, what?

Okay, this is Ragnar.

Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings

He’s the mascot for the Vikings — our family’s favorite football team (don’t judge…we know).

We don’t watch the Vikings play on Sundays for Ragnar. We watch them for the football that they play. While Ragnar is a fun part of the whole experience, he certainly isn’t the reason the Vikings play football. He doesn’t get all the screen-time, analysis from commentators, and he’s not why people buy tickets.

Santa is to Christmas as Ragnar is to the Vikings. Feel me? He’s a fun addition. Just not what Christmas is all about.

In my house, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. We celebrate His birth by blessing and loving each other and others — just as Jesus asked us to do. It’s not about what we can get from Christmas, it’s about what we can give. Santa is a good symbol of the spirit of giving, and that is all.

Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love the decorations, the family, the food, the parties, the music (oh! the music!). I love taking my kids to see Christmas lights, Christmas carols, watching Miracle on 34th Street (the original) and It’s a Wonderful Life. I love giving gifts to all of my loved ones, and I love that everyone around me is in the same wonderful mood. There’s electricity in the air when the first snow of December falls (except in Arizona…maybe when the temp drops to 60 degrees?).

I love a well-played Santa.

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We’ve just chosen to skip the part about him being real.

And for the record, my kids know that they are not to be telling other kids that Santa is not real. They know that other kids think he is real, and they know not to spoil that for them, so you don’t need to declare a quarantine of my children until Christmas is over.

Do you do Santa? Do you skip it? I’d love to hear from you about it!

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Saying “I’m Sorry”

Saying “I’m Sorry”

This week has been a strange week.

After last week’s terrible strep throat and being totally down for the count, I spent this week picking up the pieces and pulling my life back together.

It’s also been a time of strange wandering. I’ve been feeling a little bit like I have no direction. I was just hitting my stride when strep hit, and I felt like it threw me back big time.

I’ve been feeling a little lost lately. Without purpose or plan.

So much so that I’ve been grumpy, impatient, and lazy.

Then on Thursday, everything changed.

We had woken up late for school, like we’ve been doing lately, since I’ve been lazy and unmotivated. I started out with just a mild sense of urgency with the kids.

That quickly became frantic rushing, which grew to nagging and exasperation. I was rolling my eyes, reminding the kids not so nicely to hurry, showing very little grace to the tired little humans I was tripping all over trying to get out the door.

I rudely buckled my kids into the car and we were off. We were cutting it close at Noah’s school, so I knew that I’d have to drop him off in front of the school instead of at the playground to have a few minutes to catch his breath before school.

As I lurched to a stop at the curb, I told him rather gruffly that he needed to shove that last piece of toast in his mouth, grab his backpack, hop out of the van, and run inside.

He’s never gone in this way before.

I watched in the rearview mirror as the face of my sweet, tiny little kindergartener dropped. He said very timidly, “Mom, I’m nervous. I don’t know what to do.”

So, being the mother of the year that I am, I snapped at him, “You just walk right in, Noah. You know right where to go. Now hop out!”

He started getting worked up and overwhelmed by the prospect of walking into the school alone.

So naturally, being the nurturing, kind, loving mom that I always want to be (sense my sarcasm here), I let out a huge sigh, threw the car in drive, flew into a parking spot with a huff, and rolled not just my eyes, but my whole head.

Noah quickly grabbed his backpack and bolted out of the car, as I threw my little temper tantrum while grabbing Aidan out of his seat.

We rushed inside, I pushed him toward the door, and as an afterthought muttered, “Have a good day, bud. Love you.”

To which he quietly responded, “K. Love you, too.”

I picked up Aidan so I wouldn’t have to remind him 469 times to hurry on the way back to the car, and dropped him in his seat and buckled him in, barely even registering the conversation he was trying to start with me in my hurry.

I drove out of the parking lot and got about 45 seconds down the road when the memory of Noah’s brokenhearted little face came flying at me, bringing with it all the guilt and shame it could find.

I felt sick.

I was awful.

How could I have been so mean?

I immediately flipped a U-turn and rushed back to the school.

Aidan was baffled. Also, he was probably a little bit scared that I was officially losing it, rushing back to the place I was just so eager to leave.

I pulled him out of his car seat much more kindly and under control this time. I held his hand as we walked calmly back to the school.

I stopped to sign in at the visitor’s log, acutely aware that I was wearing mismatched workout clothes and had not brushed my hair, and very likely, not my teeth, either.

I walked to Noah’s classroom and quietly asked if I could take Noah into the hall for a few minutes.

I sat down on the floor and pulled the boys down in front of me.

I looked them both in the eye and said, “I am so sorry that I was mean today. I was so unkind and I was in too big of a hurry. I didn’t use nice words or kind hands. I am so sorry that I wasn’t understanding when you were nervous about coming inside by yourself. I hope you guys will forgive me and that you have wonderful days today at school.”

Noah, in his baffling maturity, looked me over, and then confidently said, “It’s okay, Mom. I forgive you,” while Aidan solemnly nodded.

Bless them.

That was exactly what I needed to snap me out of my funk.

I’m not fighting AGAINST my kids in their lives.

I’m supposed to be fighting FOR my kids.

We’re on the same side, and I’m the one who’s been left in charge of this side. Of protecting those entrusted to my care.

How can I protect them, when I’m the one they need to be protected from here?

I was reminded that day that I was created to be an ezer kenegdo.

A defender, deliverer.

A warrior.

I was meant to be fighting for my sons. An example of a warrior for my Spartans. So much of that means leading by example. I needed to show them how to behave properly, with a kind heart and a good attitude. But I also needed to show them how to humble themselves enough to recognize their shortcomings and ask for forgiveness.

I’ve been reminded that I have a huge job as a wife and mom, but even bigger as a woman. It’s my responsibility to defend the Gospel and bring glory to God by my actions as a warrior.

I got up and gave both the boys big hugs and told them how much I loved them and how grateful I was that they had forgiven me.

I walked back to the front office to check out, and as I reached for the pen to sign out, I noticed the column next to my name that said “Reason for visit.” At the same time, the lady behind the desk said, “Oh what were you doing here? Weren’t you just here?”

To which I responded, “I came back to apologize for being a mean mom this morning.”

Bless her heart — she looked like I had slapped her.

She quickly recovered and cheerfully said, “Oh, well we all have those days. Don’t beat yourself up!”

While I agree that I shouldn’t let the guilt and shame eat me up anymore, I couldn’t just let it go. I needed to let my children see me apologize. We were all acutely aware of my bad attitude, so if I had just used my position of authority and power to excuse my behavior, I would’ve lost so much.

I would have lost a little piece of my boys that I never would have gotten back.

A good leader leads by example. I have been reminded of that this week.

I’ve spent the last few days begging God to wake me up and remind me of my calling as an ezer kenegdo.

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To pull me out of my grumpiness and lack of direction and give me a renewed sense of purpose. A plan and a better attitude.

You are an ezer kenegdo, too. I pray that God pulls us all out of our busyness to remind us of that.

Our Spartans are depending on us.

Have you ever apologized to your kids for your behavior? Have you ever had to write it in the visitors log like me?

Enough for Kindergarten

Enough for Kindergarten

Well…

I’m a mess.

So this week, huge milestones were reached in my house.

Noah started kindergarten and Aidan turned 4.

And then I died.

Not really. But almost.

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It’s silly, really. I know that these things in and of themselves don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. Noah’s only going one more morning a week than he was last year at preschool, and Aidan’s not off to college yet. But the weight of emotion generated by both of these events is really just dragging me down!

Kindergarten really is a big deal.

He’s got a desk, guys. It’s for real.

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He’s so ready for kindergarten, and he’s so nervous.

I think we’re both feeling the tension that goes with him growing. He’s a little bit anxious and wound up lately. He’s more emotional, more skittish. He’s processing things differently.

It’s such a hard transition for me, too. To know that we’re in school until he leaves me chokes me up every time I think about it.

We’ve been talking about what kindergarten and school in general will be like. We’ve discussed that the most important thing that we as parents care about, and that is that he is kind.

Not the best, not the strongest, fastest, or most intelligent.

Kind.

Always kind.

We started talking about that last year in this post, but this year, it’s becoming much more important.

Jesus asks us to first and foremost love.

Love people who don’t love you back.

Love people who are different than you.

Love people who are hard to love.

Love people just because they are people.

Love is kind.

Kindergarten isn’t so daunting to me because it means that Noah’s growing up. I mean, that’s part of it. But the most scary part of starting school is the idea that he’s going out into the world without me there to protect him and guide him. Without me to pick him up after he falls, or, God help me, someone knocks him down.

I won’t be there to remind him to love, and to make sure he feels loved if someone else isn’t.

It’s trusting that I’ve done a good job so far teaching him to be kind and compassionate.

Sending him to kindergarten is the first real test of my parenting, and I’m plagued with questions. All the words and lessons, reminders and teaching moments – did they take? Were they right enough? Strong enough?

All of his skills…did I teach him enough? Is he prepared enough?

Were the last five years productive enough to give him a good enough start?

Noah started school two days ago.

He didn’t cry, and he sat down at his desk with a mix of trepidation and anticipation.

This morning was the third morning of dropping him off to start a brand new chapter in his life – somewhat alone.

As I watched him hop out of the car, grab his backpack, and run to line up with his new classmates, I was struck by how confident he had become. In three days, he’d figured out how to muster courage.

He’d become brave.

On his first day, my mom gave him a card that had a little blue stone in it to keep in his pocket every day to remind him that he is brave.

This morning I had to remind him to grab his stone. Pretty soon it will probably be lost, the lesson having been learned, rendering it unnecessary.

I’m starting to think that it just doesn’t matter if I’ve done enough.

We’re in it anyway.

And the truth is that I probably need that brave stone when he’s done with it.

I need to learn to be brave and trust that Jesus is enough for Noah, and that it’s never really been me in the first place.

Jesus will be more than enough for kindergarten and beyond.

Noah’s absolutely perfect for kindergarten.

He’s already kind and generous. He’s a smart and curious kid that loves to learn. He loves with his whole heart. He’s social and enjoys chatting with new people and being a part of a group.

He’s ready, so I guess I’d better be, too.

Anyone have a brave stone I could borrow?

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Please tell me that first days make you cry, too.

On Being a New Mom

On Being a New Mom

This weekend, we went to Colorado for a wedding for Ty’s college roommate/teammate.

It was a big long trip, which I’ll write about later this week hopefully.

But one of the greatest things about this weekend was seeing Ty’s old teammates and their girlfriends/fiancées/wives/families. These were the people that we went to college with and knew at the very beginning of our relationship (and whom Ty knew long before that).

The team has been present for each other’s weddings, births, breakups, graduations, and even deaths. They’re a team, but they’re also a family of sorts.

Ty was one of the members of the team to move the farthest away, and it’s meant that we see them less than we’d like.

But this weekend was so fun to see everyone and see how each of them has grown and started their own stories — all with the thread of volleyball woven throughout.

One of the newest members of the team’s family was a sweet little baby girl.

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Aidan was calming her down with some music from Ty’s phone…so sweet!

It was so heartwarming to see a new family blossoming.

But you know what? It was also really rough to see the look in her sweet mama’s eyes that seemed to say, “I wish you people would stop telling me how wonderful this is and let me take a nap. Yes. Yes, she’s so amazing. Yes, she’s so adorable. But this is really hard — why isn’t anyone acknowledging that this is hard?!”

Oh, I remember that feeling!!

I so vividly remember sitting on the floor in my bedroom, not wanting to leave my house, because if one more person told me how great my life was and to enjoy every minute of it, I was certain that I would collapse in shame. Because I wasn’t really in a place to enjoy my (admittedly) wonderful life — I was a zombie!

I was running on fumes, and I was ready to implode. I couldn’t remember what day it was, when the last time was that I ate hot food, or if I had brushed my teeth that morning. It was an effort to make sure that I was wearing something different (even if it was different sweats) when Ty got home so I felt like I at least did something that day.

I was dreading outings into public because I was getting less and less good at wearing my cheerful smile.

Can we just all remember how HARD it was to be a new mom?

We were terrified of everything, weren’t we? Confused, unsure, and insecure people in charge of the life and health of a tiny, helpless little human being that spent the first few weeks simply taking and giving nothing but cute pictures in return. One day, we were just women and then suddenly, in one long and painful fell swoop, we became moms. It rocked our world in ways that we were only beginning to understand.

Every single person we encountered had advice, judgements, and opinions that they were all too happy to share.

No one told us that if we weren’t really enjoying this motherhood thing yet, we weren’t doing it wrong. It wasn’t common knowledge to us at the time that every other mother around us was also probably crying every day — no matter the age of their children.

And certainly, no one could have prepared us for the strange, all-consuming love that just grew from the pit of your stomach and spread deep into your soul the more you stared at your baby sleeping. You didn’t know how to handle the desire to do everything perfectly for this little life you’d been given.

We weren’t ready to balance that love and desire for perfection with feelings of despair and insecurity and unpreparedness. We were desperately clinging to the people that we were before we had become mothers, and it wasn’t matching up with the reality that we were mothers. Gone were the days of going to the bathroom in peace, walking out the door in five minutes, looking at strangers without fear of how their actions will affect your child, and carrying only a small purse.

This weekend, my heart was aching for my dear friend, remembering how hard it was to be a new mom. I wished so much that I could be closer and be more help to her.

I did my best to communicate that THIS IS ALL NORMAL — no matter what it is. If you’re overjoyed and adjusting well, it’s normal. If you’re struggling and feeling like you’re in way over your head, it’s normal. If you’re feeling torn between both worlds, it’s normal.

 And that it’s okay if you sometimes just want this time to be over. As my mom used to tell me, “This too shall pass.” I’d be calling her crying, and she’d tell me, “I know, honey, it’s so hard. It’s okay. It’ll be over at some point. You’ll be on to something else before you know it.”

Now, I can look back and see that it was a special time, and I can appreciate it now, but in the moment, I wasn’t equipped to enjoy it to its fullest extent. And that was okay.

I absolutely, without a doubt, was made to be a mom. I dreamed about it my whole life.

I have most certainly found joy in every stage of motherhood. My kids bring so much light and love into my life. I am overwhelmed by how much I adore my children. It literally takes my breath away sometimes.

But it’s important that we acknowledge that the biggest blessings we’ve ever experienced were almost always some of the hardest things we’ve ever experienced. It’s important that we don’t forget that it was hard, and that we don’t forget it when we are encountering others who are in the thick of the hard.

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When people saw how obsessed Aidan was and how sweet Ty was with her, the questions and advice started flying.

“Are you gonna have more?”

“You have to try for a girl!”

“Look how much Ty wants a girl!”

“The boys look like they want another baby!”

“You make such beautiful, well-behaved kids…why wouldn’t you want more?”

But those people have forgotten what it’s like to have a new baby. Just like when people say things to new moms.

“Aren’t you just loving motherhood?” 

“She’s not sleeping through the night yet? That’s okay — more cuddle time!”

“Wasn’t being pregnant just magical? It’s such a miracle!”

“Enjoy this time. It goes by so quickly!”

You know what? They’re right. About all of those things. But in the moment, it’s not what all of us needed to hear. Be sensitive to the reality. Being a new mom isn’t all magic. It’s also painful nursing, lots of poop, and very little sleep.

And for the love of all that is restful, please help a new mom out when you can. Come sit with the baby so she can take a nap. Or take the baby for a walk so she can take a shower, or even get some things done. Babysit so she can go out with her husband on a date (she might not remember what that is…remind her).

 To you new moms: what you do is special and important. You shape people. You are shaping a generation.

It is joy.

It is love.

It. Is. Hard.

And that’s okay.