Not Today

I worry if I am sometimes too negative on my blog.

I have been given so much in my short life. I am a very, very fortunate lady. Though I try to take time out to reflect and to live consciously of just how much I have…I fall short. Don’t we all? I try to live a life that isn’t ignorant of or dismissive of all that I have. But it is never enough. I don’t say that dejectedly, I say that honestly.

It will truly never, ever be enough recognition because I have way too much to be thankful for. I don’t live in a picture perfect world, I don’t see life through rose-colored glasses. Sometimes, things just stink. I believe in being honest about the fact that life sometimes sucks. I think that, in these times especially, things have become superfluous and artificial. What matters the most, or should matter the most, has lost its priority in our lives. And what we should be weary of, they seem to have lost their sting, and we have become desensitized. We become complacent in guarding and protecting what we should and then it becomes too late. What matters most can slip away so quickly.

Too many euphemisms, too much obscurity. We don’t know the difference from up or down, or right from left. And then people are crushed when things go awry, because we have been told that if we shoot for the moon, we will land amongst the stars, or something like that. We are taught that with enough self-confidence, we can accomplish and fix anything.But that isn’t true, because this world IS broken.

But, I have hope. I have hope in restoration, and in renewal.

I have hope in eternity.

I have hope in Jesus.

And because I am holding this hope and knowledge, this is why I should live gratefully. I should be living a life filled with joy, love and honor. This is why I, we, should be overjoyed and blissfully happy people. Not because all is hunky dory and easy-going, but because even when things are not, it’s OK, because this isn’t a new concept to us. We knew that it was all hogwash from the beginning. We have hope that things get better, that there has to be something better. We know that there is.

There will always be some problem or issue to pick out in our lives. Some reason to give in to the chaos, the depression, the disorganization, the clutter, the noise…Not today. Today, I will not yield to it. Because I have hope. I have love. Troubles are there, but they are not all that is there or that this fleeting life is composed of. They amount to nothing in the end. Amidst grief, amidst doubt, amidst uncertainty and fear – I have hope. And I have love. And today, that is what rocks my world. Today, that is what I see. From this past week, that is what I see. That is what I acknowledge.

This was my week…

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It was a good week.

Happy weekend, everyone.

The Real Things People Should Tell You About Having Children (BEFORE You Have Children.)

I’m tired.

The end.

…OK, no, not really.

Unsolicited advice.

We have all received doses of unsolicited advice at some point in our lives. Sick? Well, maybe it’s the flu and in that case you should drink 23 glasses of orange juice and rest. Suffering from a fever? Well, we all know that fevers are the body’s natural way of fighting an infection, so it’s a sign that things are progressing. Don’t swim within an hour of eating or you’ll surely get a cramp and while you’re at it, make sure that you check the toilet seat before that African brown spider bites your bottom while you use the loo. Oh…no one has warned you of that before? My bad. Persistent and unasked for suggestions can drive me insane. I have to constantly remind myself that people truly do mean the very best, usually anyway, when they’re inundating you with unasked for information but inside, I still hear fingernails being dragged down the face of a chalkboard. Shoot. Me. Now. My husband tells me that this is because I am a bit stubborn and just don’t like to be “told.” I say that it’s because I’m awesome. Normally, he stops listening to me at this part.

There is probably no other time in my life that I have been given more well-meaning but still sometimes nerve-wracking bits of advice then when I was pregnant and a new mother. If you are a parent then I am sure that this rings true for you as well. Heck, we know that even The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, is on the receiving end of pregnancy and parenting advice, from pretty much the entire planet and no one less than Snooki from the Jersey Shore. Huh??

I remember simultaneously (and futilely) trying to appease people with different schools of thought on baby rearing after becoming a mom. In one particular instance, Jerry wasn’t even a year old and was in his bed fussing while I had a host of women over at my house. One person thought that I should go and check on him. Another mom thought that I should just leave him be to cry it out. I was still very impressionable as a new mom, so I wasn’t really sure of what to do or who to listen to. I remember feeling so frustrated because I didn’t know how to satisfy everyone when in actuality I should have just trusted my gut. Jerry was fine – he just had a messy diaper. I wouldn’t want to sleep in that, either.

You will be barraged with thousands of pieces of advice throughout your lifetime. And only a fraction of these will be correct, or rather, useful. And sometimes, people will be miffed that you don’t take their advice, other times the person couldn’t care less. Navigating all of this can be tricky. I don’t have all of the answers as to how you can avoid unsolicited advice and I don’t know how to avoid not always taking it personally. The best I can pass on to you is that you to will learn the ropes and learn to trust your gut.

Still, when I sit down and consider all of the things that I have learned about parenting that wasn’t from the “What To Expect…” books, I can’t help but think of the things that I wish people had informed me of. The specific things they could have said other than, “gee, you’re in for it – everything sure is going to change!” No kidding! If you’re a parent, you can nod along in agreement with me. If you aren’t yet but plan on being…maybe some of these will be useful for you.

No one can prepare you for everything that motherhood and parenting entails. It just isn’t possible. Let me try to shed some light on the “it” that I wish people had told me I was in for.

1. That you are going to repeat yourself. Over. And over. And over. And over…

If you aren’t reiterating the same rule for the 6th time in 10 minutes, you’re cleaning up the same toys from the usual spots for, like, the 300th time that day. If you aren’t making the same meatloaf recipe that you always make, you’ll be washing the same clothes that you feel like you just finished washing {helpless cry.} Folks, you will repeat yourself. Over and over and over again. All of the time. Don’t let this drive you insane. Or at least try not to… ::eye twitch::

2. Get used to the fact that there is no such thing as sleeping in. Anymore. Like, until they move out (probably, maybe hopefully.)

I hate to say it, but I speak the truth. And for kicks, here are a few pitiful examples of me trying to deny this simple truth: In the past, I have convinced myself that because my children got into bed two or three hours late that they would surely sleep late the following morning. Not a full proof plan. I have tried convincing my 3-year-old that it’s still to early to get up and play and that he should go back to sleep…at 6:30 a.m….and 8 a.m. Didn’t work. The sooner that you accept the fact that when there are little children involved that it means that you will at times be stirring from slumber at some ungodly hours, that you will be awoken earlier then you had ever planned to be on a Saturday and that you should really think about trying to get in bed at 6 p.m. every night to make up for general sleep deprivation, the happier you will be. And look at it this way, if on the off-chance they actually DO sleep in, it will be an unexpected treat. Unless you’re like me and you sometimes still have to contend with your internal alarm. *shakes fist*

3. Routines are NOT overrated.

It doesn’t have to FEEL like a routine. But, having a routine is a great plan. A routine helps you be better prepared to help yourself and to help your kids. NOTE: it will take time to develop a routine. You will have to try out and possibly eliminate certain things depending on what works for you and what works for your children. But definitely consider, for your own sanity, getting a routine down for you and baby(s).

4. DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP.

Do you hear me?! For the love of all that is well and good in this world, listen to me: You will mess up. You won’t be able to get it all done. And there are days that you will feel like a failure but… DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP. If I had a dollar for everyday that I worried about whether laundry or dishes were done or wondered whether or not I was doing a good job or felt guilty for what I didn’t get to do with the kids during the day, I’d have enough dollars to buy everyone in my immediate family a Mercedes. It’s ridiculous, but it is in our nature to worry, to be anxious and to let guilt overwhelm us. A side note: don’t feel guilty about feeling guilty. It is normal. Being a parent is a big responsibility (you think??) and if you worry, it shows that you want to do a great job. But don’t let yourself rest there. I am better about not worrying on some days as opposed to others. We will all go through seasons in life. Remain steadfast, pray for God’s perfect patience and endurance. Leave the rest up to Him.

5. You will not have much time for yourself, but don’t let yourself go (or at least, try to.)

Now hear me out. I’m not saying that any mother should plan on never leaving the house again and should devote 24/7 to your children. That isn’t it at all. BUT, the truth is that you as a mom will be wanted. You will be wanted by someone all day long. There is probably never an instance where your child would turn down your company. You will be interrupted when you make a phone call. You will be woken during the middle of the night. You will be sought after when you leave the room. Your bathroom will be invaded when you are trying to take a shower or just do your business. You will want to crawl out of your skin some days. You will get to a point where you never, ever want to hear the word “mommy!!” again. It’s going to be hard. But, embrace this part. They LOVE you. This is well and good. Some days, I am better at meeting these demands than others. The days that I am are great days. The days that I’m not are slightly more chaotic. That is why I have a great husband who knows when to swoop in. This is why when all else fails, even if I have to put the same pair of pajama pants back on when I am done, I try to grab a shower. This is why even when I know that they won’t sleep, the kids are put in bed for some mandatory quiet time. Sometimes, you have to fight for that personal space, darn it. And it’s OK to do so.

6.) You’re going to feel OLD.

I’m only 27. I am young (have you seen Joan Rivers…?) compared to a lot of folks. But darned if there aren’t days where my back aches, my feet are killing me and I eat pudding and fall asleep watching the news. You’re going to log into Facebook and see friends on your news feed who are “living it up” at the local hotspot while you’re trotting around the house in your pajamas. You are going to hear about gal pals heading out to the mall spontaneously when you can’t even leave the room without someone noticing your absence and melting down. Your momentary worries will be little mouths to feed and bills, while others are worried about what they’re going to get into on a Saturday night. You’re going to feel old. You’re going to feel out of touch. And you’re going to feel out-of-place. Press through this. For one, you aren’t old. You just aren’t. Two, don’t let it get the better of any of your relationships. Some of your friendships will change. But this is OK. Having babies changes you. But don’t let those relationships go. And third, let’s be honest, if you’re like me, you can still hang with the best of them. And DON’T you all forget it.

7.) On that note…Your friendships will change.

You may have moments where you feel out of touch with those around you who haven’t become parents yet. You may begin to feel like you’re misunderstood because you’re in a totally new and different place in life. You may simply feel like you don’t fit in. These are all perfectly normal and natural feelings. But, for as much as you are feeling misunderstood, disconnected and out of sorts with those around you, consider that the friends in your life who haven’t had children yet might feel just the same way. You may have to be more intentional in your relationships. Hopefully, this will never be an issue. But if it is, pause, pray and remember that you are friends with that person for a reason. Be intentional about asking how THEY are doing. Be intentional about taking the time to talk about things other than your children. I’m not saying handle them with kid gloves, no. But I can totally understand why someone who hasn’t had babies yet would be terrified or shocked at birthing and breast-feeding stories. So ease them into it. Hopefully, they’ll be putting in the same amount of sincere effort into the relationship, too.

8. Quiet will become golden. As in, as precious, rare and valuable as gold.

This is self-explanatory.

9. You’re probably never going to completely finish a conversation while your children are awake.

Many of your conversations with those nearest and dearest to you, when your children are in tow anyway, are going to be had in ten minute increments. Between requests for more cartoons, more juice and to go outside you will may just lose your mind trying to convey even the simplest things to someone in the outside world, “Please (interruption) call (interruption) me, honey.” You’ll get better at navigating this as the children get older. And remember that it is never to early to begin gently correcting and training your children not to interrupt. Until that happens, vow to call your friend later or continue your conversation with your husband at bed time. Or…you’ll just lock yourself in the bathroom like a pro.

10. You truly may never have a moment’s peace.

This is also self-explanatory.

11. You will mourn time for naps, sleeping in, lying around and just being lazy gone by.

I have had plenty of times where I have sat down and thought….”what DID I do with all of my spare time and spare money???” It’s true. Those Saturdays that you didn’t have work or school…those Wednesday evenings when you got off of work and had nothing pressing to accomplish, yea they’re kind of over with for a while. I miss those days. I never, ever appreciated them. This is all part of the learning curve. You learn how to become more proficient and appreciative of what little bit of personal time you will get away from the children now.

12. Hurt and pain in this world will connect with you in a much deeper way than ever before.

It isn’t that I, or you, never cared before about starving or hurt children in the world. But when you have your own children, that pain, those tragedies and misfortunes begin to connect in a deeper way. You think, “what if that were my child?” There was a time that I was so rung up hearing about the chaos of those world that I didn’t want to watch the news. I didn’t want to hear about abandoned or neglected children. And I still don’t. But for a long time, those things sunk in much deeper than they had before I had my children. This may happen to you as well. All that we can do is give it to God. We can pray to God for protection over our children, that we would have the strength, fortitude and endurance to raise them well and be there for them. And, especially during this holiday season, I try to use every opportunity that I can to remind my children that not all are as blessed as they are. It is never to early to start instructing your children to live out gratitude.

13. Cherish those little moments that you have with them.

People are not kidding when they tell you that it will fly by. You may want to sneer or hurt someone when they tell you that the chaos will melt away one day and that it will all get better. You may even want to bang your head against the wall when you’re told for the millionth time to cherish those moments with your children. After all, who cherishes dirty, leaky diapers, toys in the oven and screaming tantrums at 2 a.m. But it is the truth. I feel like yesterday Jerry came home. Now Clara is turning 18 months old around Christmas. Time is endless, but it is fleeting. Enjoy these days. Embrace the mess. Love those babies.

14. Remember that they are God’s first, your’s second.

You have to trust your children to God with all your heart, body and soul. I used to, and still sometimes do, think that I alone am all that my children need. I will always be there to protect them, I will always give them what they need. They will never go without. I’d take the bullet for them. I would die for them. And I mean those words with every fiber of my being. But I have to remember something. I have to remember that they belong to God. And while He has entrusted them to me, I have to remember that HE and He alone knows what is best for them. I need to remember no matter how much I love them, that He loves them infinitely more than I ever could in a lifetime. And while that is hard to fathom, it gives me the greatest sense of peace. Much like I wouldn’t want to trust my children to be looked after by anyone who I thought was less than stellar, I can most certainly trust in the most high God. No references needed. He is faithful. He is all-knowing and He is good. You may sometimes have to recommit yourself to this line of thinking. That’s OK. I get ahead of myself sometimes, when the first and simplest thing that I can do is to start with trusting them to God. For their health. For their lives. To be their joy, their protector and their comforter. He is so good, and He would do a much better job than I ever could.

15. Never, ever turn down…

Babysitting. Coffee. Chocolate. Sleep. Babysitting. Cleaning. Extra help. Babysitting. Sleep. Babysitting, babysitting, babysitting. A night out. Someone saying, “would you like me to clean the _______ for you?” Babysitting. Sushi. Coffee. Chocolate.

There you have it. Happy Sunday, folks!!

22 Days for Gratitude – Day 2: Noise

I used to work as a bank teller for a community bank in a nearby town. Every month, all of the employees would get together for our regular associates meeting. At the end of each meeting once business was concluded, someone would ask our “question of the day.” Each associate would take a moment to answer this question.The questions ranged from where you planned on spending your summer vacation, to what you listened to on the radio while you worked. Asking these questions at the time may have seemed insignificant, I’ll be honest I was sometimes watching the clock so that I could head home, but seeing as how there were employees who only saw and interacted with each other at these meetings, it did afford all of us a chance to hear from each other and in some small way get to know one another. Even if the questions and answers seemed trivial to someone else, they served a purpose. Sometimes the questions were light-hearted. Other times they were deeper and more serious, especially after the recession hit.

My favorite question asked out of all of them, mostly because of the answers, was: what is your favorite holiday to celebrate.

I don’t remember which holiday the most people picked but I do remember this answer given by a fellow employee:

“Thanksgiving. Because no matter who you are or what religion you practice you can ALWAYS find things in your life to be thankful for.”

This is so true.

There are always reason to be thankful.

And not just on Thanksgiving.

Every minute of every day. 

I speak for myself when I say that even though I know that I should be living a grateful life that this is not normally the case. Sure, I can rattle off a quick list of things that I am thankful for. But to cultivate and always have an attitude of gratitude and to seek out and be intentional about looking for those things that I don’t always consider, now that is work. I am thankful for and can acknowledge my home, family and even the practical things in my life…but there is so much more in between. And what’s more, it is easy to be thankful for a beautiful family. It is easy to be thankful my wonderful children. But is it easy to be thankful for them even when they’re in my face screaming and crying?

Thanksgiving should be a permanent frame of mind, even amidst the pain, chaos and irritation. It should be a constant state of our heart.

This is the hard part.

So, hopefully, some of you will join me over the next 21 days. Even for yourself or by sharing it with others on whatever your medium of choice is, seek out those things that you sometimes gloss over being thankful for. Those things you maybe hadn’t given a second thought too before now. And seek those things that it isn’t always easy to be grateful for.

For today:

Noise.

It’s hard to embrace noise sometimes as a stay at home mother. There are days when all that I want to do is be left alone, to lay on the sofa and stare at the ceiling fan while enjoying sweet silence. This couldn’t be further from how my day normally is.

I love silence and enjoy it very much…when I can get it. I love being able to finish conversations with my husband or my girlfriends, uninterrupted by requests for juice or to be picked up. Sometimes, I imagine all of the conversations that I could have in an hour’s time without being interrupted and just how amazing they would be. It is sometimes very hard to embrace the noise. To welcome it at 7:30 in the morning before coffee. To welcome it at 3:00 a.m. in the form of a whining child. To welcome noise in the form of a three-year old’s temper tantrum.

Much like everything else in our lives, this noise is temporary. These little children who seek me out will not be little forever. Every stage in raising children has had both its own perks and its own drawbacks. The perks? Laughter. Joyful chatter. Squeals of delight. Of course I love that noise. But today, I will strive to be thankful even when there is unpleasant noise. When it is a touch more difficult to enjoy my children. The noise that makes the silence, when I find it, that much more peaceful.

 Today…with a headache and a 1-year-old who is supposed to be  sleeping as I type this…I am thankful for that noise. Even when sometimes I don’t want to be.

Question: What chaos are you thankful for? What peace can you find amidst the noise of today’s world?