Finding My Turtle

Dear neighbors, please forgive me.

I drove 35 mph on our street.

Reason? Real underwear and the need to pee.

Not me! My 3-year old. Yes, I visit the bathroom each night after having two kids, but not quite to the Depends yet, people! 🙂

That morning my toddler gave real underwear his first try. I stressed the need to tell me when he felt he had to “go.” Otherwise, we would have a mess. He smiled at how warm and comfy the underwear were compared to Pull-ups.

He was quick to tell me in the car, so we could rush home. And yes, we made it.

But it reminded me that we are constantly rushing.

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Rush to get ready for work/school, rush to make that conference call, rush to pick up my child, rush through a drive-thru for food before swimming, rush to relieve the childcare provider, rush to swim lessons, rush to a convenience store for milk, rush home to shower, do homework, read, and get decent sleep, rush to knock at least one thing of my To-Do list before bed.

Then WISH myself to sleep because I now have insomnia from being on constant overdrive. Ugh!

Time is not my friend. And this is only one day.

I hear other parents commiserate that they have only one free night a week – some not even that. I can’t even imagine. Kids are doing homework in the car going from place to place. McDonalds is making too much money off our busy schedules. Kids are falling asleep on the way home.

I don’t want this to be our life.

Wasn’t it the tortoise that won the race in The Tortoise and the Hare? The point of the story was to be slow and steady, keeping your eyes on the goal, right? I think it’s time to revisit this age-old fable.

Slow and steady – To me, this means we make time for the important things, and we don’t miss the journey along the way. The hare’s speed prevented him from seeing what was around him. How can we appreciate things that matter most if we’re constantly moving? What kind of quality attention can we give our family if we are “on the go” non-stop?

Eyes on the goal – The hare’s arrogance at thinking he could nap prevented him from winning the race. We are not superbeings who can keep up life at this speed forever. How often have we thought our juggling act is going well, only to have life throw us a flame-lit missile to add to it? Might slowing things down help us handle those missiles a bit better? Rather than have my eyes on the objects I’m juggling, I want my eyes on my family.

I’m not saying that busy people are unable to achieve these things. Some people are energized with constant activity. It’s what makes them tick. Nothing wrong with that.

But I don’t see it working for us, and we don’t need to be like the rest of the world.

Sometimes for short durations, we need to be the hare, sprinting to accomplish something important. I get that. But in the long run, I’d like to focus on the slow and steady progress of the turtle. In fact, when life throws rocks my way (and there have been some lately), I need to remember to simply take one step forward each day.

So for us, there will be swim lessons to ensure a life-long, survival knowledge. There will be soccer because it’s the sport my son loves best. There will be church for obvious reasons.

The rest of the nights with the precious little time between school and bedtime will be busy enough with dinner, school functions, social occasions, errands, chores, homework, reading – with as many smiles, laughter, and play as we can fit.

And here are my replacements for other scheduled activities.

  • I want those homemade meals at the table – on a regular basis, to emphasize the need for our family to reconnect after a busy day (not to mention eat healthier) and remember what matters most – each other.
  • I want time to look each child in the eyes – to devote my full attention to what’s on his mind and in his heart, so that he remembers I am always here for him and always listening, and we will make the time for it because each of them is so incredibly valuable to me. The same for hubby.
  • I want my entire family to know what to do with quiet – to have the opportunity to recharge, to discover new things they’re passionate about, to think of others, to pray.
  • I want my kids to cherish the gift of slowing down – and to, hopefully, remember this gift when life throws too much business at them, especially later when they enter the complicated life of adulthood. Why put so much into their schedules now when we have the chance to control it?

And though I don’t know how yet, I will be praying for ways to slow down even further.

     The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps. 
                                       Proverbs 16:9

I want to be that turtle – not missing life as it passes me by like it does the hare who’s racing through. I want my kids to value the journey and not just the finish line. I want to receive a gold medal from my kids for the parent I am. This race of life is the one I want to win at, not the sprints along the way.

Slow and steady it is!

How does your family slow things down? And what are your important things that never slip from the schedule?


For those who regularly read my posts…first, thank you! Second, you may have noticed I skipped a post last week – for the very reason of this week’s post – TIME. When I run into significant time constraints, it may well happen again. I’m sharing my sincerest apologies now for any disappointment if you look forward to the weekly connection and I fail to deliver. But if the blog were to take needed time away from my family, it works against the very reason I started it. I hope you understand. 🙂

I Don’t HAVE To, I GET To

I had to attend a conference last week.

(Part of the reason this post is late – sorry.)

Conferences suck my energy. Remember, I’m an introvert. You have to be ON all day long, and the day doesn’t end after sessions. There are afternoon receptions, dinners, and evening receptions. When I drop into bed at 10:30 – and I’m one to leave as early as I can – I’m toast.

Not to mention the prep work for a conference. The logistics of school drop-offs and pick-ups with hubby and grandparents when I’m not there. I leave the schedule in writing for all to see. I finish loads of laundry so everyone has the shirt and pants they want. I stock the fridge. Oops! Well, sometimes I remember to stock the fridge. 🙂

If all I focused on was the extra work, time, and effort – I would detest these conferences. But I don’t. It’s all about perspective. I try to turn it around.

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Conferences mean I get out of the office. I reconnect with my clients face-to-face, meet some for the first time, and get to hear their needs first-hand.

I get to chat with colleagues whom I don’t see often and only briefly talk with on the phone.

I do no cooking whatsoever – bliss!

I get to pee in privacy and take a hot shower as long as I’d like. Hey, it’s the little things.

Rather than just a pain in my butt and a nuisance to my schedule, I try to look at the good side of these conferences.

The same is true for at home. How often do the words – I HAVE TO – enter your head and even leave your lips?

     I have to run to the grocery store. I have to pay bills. I have to get the trash out.

Every day things that…yes…HAVE to get done. But we tend to attribute these words to everything on the To-Do list.

     I have to pick up my kid. I have to take the kids to soccer. I have to help with homework.

When it comes to our family, our kids – I challenge you to turn this around. Instead of it being – I HAVE TO – make it – I GET TO.

Note: I cannot take credit for this suggestion, because I know I read it somewhere. I just can’t remember who wrote about it. Old age is the pits sometimes. So wherever credit is due, it’s yours, motivational writer!

This insight was so powerful that it kept invading my brain whenever the words – I HAVE TO – popped up. Now turning those words right-side up (positive thinking, people) has become a regular habit. If you can do this, it is a great new habit to make. With some life examples below, I think you’ll see why.

  • (Upside Down) I HAVE to play kickball with the boys. If I don’t, they’ll keep nagging me. This perspective makes me sluggish. I even ask my son to not kick it too hard so I don’t have to run so far to get it. Really? That’s the point of kickball!(Right-side Up) I GET to play kickball with the boys. It will be so much fun to hear them giggle as I chase them around the yard. I’ll get a little exercise, and they’ll get fun Mom for a change.
  • (Upside Down) I HAVE to pick my son up from the Y after work. Not that I look at this as a chore really. It just automatically ends up on the internal task list in my brain.

    (Right-side Up) I GET to pick my son up from the Y. I’m the first to see his sweet face and get his hug. I’m first to hear about his day. I get more out of my son when I engage with him one-on-one, and this is one of those times. If I’m busy thinking about the next “have to” on my list instead of “getting to” hear about his day, I may miss my chance.

  • (Upside Down) I HAVE to put my youngest to bed. This can be a tough one, not knowing what kind of night it will be. But if I go into it with this negative mindset, how patient do you think I am if he has trouble falling asleep? Not so much, I assure you.(Right-side Up) I GET to put my youngest to bed. I’ve been at work all day, and I’ve missed him. I get to snuggle with him and remind him of how much he is loved. I remember he won’t be this little forever. This perspective gives me a little extra boost when his cute little body can’t seem to settle down – not even in 30-45 minutes some nights.

Do yourself a favor. Try this out for a week. Track how often you say the words HAVE TO, and then change them to say GET TO as often as you can. See how it shifts the way you see things. Now, granted, some things can stay the way they are. Like, I have to clean the litter box. Or, I have to unplug the toilet. I’m not so sure those can be turned around. 🙂

But when it comes to your family and kids, focus on the time with them, re-connecting, and showing them love. Flip your perspective, starting with the words, I GET TO….

After all, our kids are so much more than a check mark on our To-Do list. Am I right?

Share one of your HAVE TO’s that you turned right-side up. It may help with someone else’s perspective, too.

BTW – I’m still working on, “I HAVE to make dinner.” If you have any tips for that one, let me know!

Hugs Open Doors

Last week I worried my heart would break.

Or my toddler would hate me.

Or both.

My 3-year-old was starting a preschool class. There are 3 reasons I dreaded it.

  1. He JUST turned 3. Four days earlier. He’s so innocent. And I don’t want him to lose any of it.
  2. I knew he would cry. We are still not able to leave him at Sunday school. The separation causes unstoppable tears, and we are always called back. We simply help out in class.
  3. It’s never easy. This one means I have to admit he’s not my baby anymore. Sigh.

We had hyped up school all week. Visited his room, met his teacher, packed his backpack, got him an Olaf water bottle, and went over the schedule. First, you wash your hands. Then, you sit at the table for breakfast. Then, you get to play…

He seemed excited. He smiled for his first day picture. He even picked a dandelion for his teacher. Which made her melt, by the way. 🙂

The fateful morning was going so well. Too well. I should have known.

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After he chose the orange plate for breakfast, I gave him a hug and asked, “When do I pick you up?”

“After lunch,” he remembered.

I rushed to the door.

And that’s when things crumbled.

The doorknob had one of those child-proof rubber things on it. Good for safety – keeping the kids in – but I needed out. Child-proof? I beg to differ. Human-proof, maybe. I bet a dog or cat could figure it out. But I couldn’t.

I gotta get out of here, I thought. I don’t want him to see me at the door.

I kept trying to grasp the knob with my sweating fingers just enough to turn it. What’s the trick to those things? I never used one with my kids. I was clueless. Let me out, already!

My eyes pleaded with the teacher as she was occupying my son. I mouthed, I can’t open the door, to her.

She jumped up to help me, and he looked toward me, and… darnit, there went the tears!

After figuring out the doorknob thingy two seconds too late, I left. I could hear his cries getting louder. Don’t think about it, I thought. He’ll be okay. He’ll settle down.

I did not burst into tears like I had expected. My heart was heavy, knowing he was sad, scared, and wanting his Mama. But it didn’t break. I survived. After calling within 20 minutes to find out he was okay. He survived, too.

I know countless mothers and fathers experienced school crises the last several days. But my doorknob episode is not actually the focus of this post.

It’s about what happened the day before.

My toddler was having a crying fit after misbehaving. To calm him (distract him, really), we went to his room to select his shirt for school the next morning. He chose a blue one to match his eyes, and gray shorts. Then, he started to cry again.

At first, I thought he was just continuing his prior outburst. I would normally have given him time to calm down in his room. But I saw that blue shirt out of the corner of my eye. And it nagged at me.

I sat at the end of his bed and motioned for him to join me. I hugged him close and asked what was wrong. It could have been anything. Remembering that his brother took his toy truck. Knowing nap time was coming and not wanting to sleep.

But he answered, “I’m scared.”

Shoot! My heart tightened. You know what we feel for our kids. We never want them sad or scared or hurt. Ever.

  • [Me: What are you scared of?]
  • [Him: I’m scared of my school.]
  • [Me: Oh, I understand. It is a little scary. Because it’s new. It’s normal to feel nervous about something that’s new. But you don’t have to be scared of your school. New things can be fun, too.] I prayed I was saying the right things.
  • [Him: Do you think the other kids will like me?] Oh my goodness.
  • [Me: Of course they will! You’re a sweet boy. As long as you are nice to them, they will see what a good friend you can be.]
  • [Him: I will be nice.]
  • [Me: You ARE a nice boy! Maybe you could teach them some of the songs you know.]
  • [Him: Like Yankee Doodle Dandy?]
  • [Me: Yes, that’s a good one.]

He then told his older brother he was “nervous about his school.” Luckily, his brother caught on and admitted he was nervous his first time. But then he found out how much fun it was. He told his brother he would really like it, too. Bless him.

Here’s the thing. If I had not paused at the difference with his crying, I could have missed the opportunity to discover the reason behind it.

If I had not hugged him close instead of responding normally with time and space, he may not have opened up about his fear.

It might have continued in his mind, growing larger and larger, until it blew up the day of school.

It was not realistic to think he would be dry-eyed on this day, happily waving goodbye to his Mama. But that first drop-off did go better than I expected. He could have been yanking himself away from the teacher, screaming and trying to chase after me out the door. Which I witnessed another mom agonizing over as I left the building. Pray for her, please. 🙂

When I picked him up, he said, “I had a good day, Mama. I cried 3 times, and then I stopped.” My little boy…so BIG.

Bless those teachers who dried his tears when I’d prefer it be me. Actually, when I’d prefer to not have caused those tears.

They consoled, they read him books, they let him cling to them while he was adjusting to a new world – sitting on their laps for coloring – bringing out the playdough – and sitting nearby while he ate lunch.

Bless them for the hugs, too. I know they shared many with him.

Not only can hugs unlock our children’s fears, but they can chase them away, too.

So the next time your child is upset, ask what’s bothering them with a loving hug. It does wonders.

My little one certainly got extra hugs and kisses from me that night.

I hope with every hug, he stores up enough love to get him through Day #2…and #3…and #4…until he is my dry-eyed boy, happy to see his teachers and friends again. That will happen, right?

How did your first day of school experiences turn out? Please share – my heart is with yours!

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