A Little Breathing Room

Alarm clock screaming, bare feet hit the floor.

It’s off to the races, everybody out the door.

I’m feeling like I’m falling behind. It’s a crazy life.

Ninety miles an hour, going fast as I can.

Trying to push a little harder, trying to get the upper hand.

So much to do in so little time. It’s a crazy life.

It’s ready, set, go. It’s another wild day. When the stress is on the rise in my heart, I feel You say, Just…


You may recognize these lyrics if you’re familiar with Christian artist Jonny Diaz’s song, Breathe. Even if you aren’t, your heart may recognize them. Like mine did when I heard it the other day – for the first time actually.

I was in my car, mashing an original chicken sandwich from Burger King into my mouth. I had stayed home that morning with a sick child, and was hightailing it to work after my childcare giver came to help, but took 5 minutes to stop for lunch.

The song hit me hard. I stopped chewing. It made me sigh. Because it embodies everything I wanted to say in this post – a post that I’ve been struggling with whether to write. A decision I’ve been struggling with.

You see, it’s been a year since I started writing this blog. And I’ve made some amazing discoveries. About myself. About my kids. About my husband. About being a mom in this time-pressured world.

That time of self-exploration – looking in the mirror more intently, to better understand my natural traits, my strengths, and of course, my weaknesses – was so valuable.

A year ago, I realized the most powerful voice in my home had become mine, and not in the way I wished. I lost my temper, I yelled out of frustration, at stupid things, when I thought about it later. I love my kids with all my heart; yet, here I was treating them in a not so loving way when they interrupted my agenda, pushed my buttons, drove me nuts with normal, kid things.

Any of this sound familiar? If it does, please don’t be so hard on yourself. That was one of the things I fought…still fight. Beating myself up. Kicking myself for not kicking this habit. Judging myself…harshly sometimes. Because we do love our kids dearly and show them in a 1,000 ways. The sad part is we focus on the 10 ways we mess up.

Heartbeats Collage

Despite the wonderful things I discovered this past year, it’s been the last few weeks where I’ve begun to question my focus. Writing a new post each week started to feel like a chore rather than an uplifting release of stress or self-improvement. That was one thing. And I probably could have kept plugging along, thinking I was just having a temporary writing block.

But there was something else I was feeling. I always promised to be honest on this blog, so here goes. I had hoped to begin to build a community here. Where I, and other parents, could feel safe. Where we could share our guilt, find ways to combat the frustration, and give each other cyber hugs and encouragement. It just didn’t happen. Please know that I am SO very thankful to the bloggers who gave my posts a Like, for my dear friends who gave me encouragement along the way. It seriously means so much to me.

It’s okay that it didn’t go further. That a dialogue didn’t get going. Because like I said, it was an amazing time of self-discovery. But in being 100% truthful right now, the silence began to overwhelm me. It started to make me feel worse. Like maybe I was the only one struggling with this. It started to become discouraging instead of the encouragement I longed for.

I decided it was time to stop looking in the mirror. Because when you’re looking at yourself as closely as I was, those flaws end up seeming ginormous. And I felt it was doing more harm than good.

So I have a new focus. While I keep working on me in the background, I will set my eyes singly on the very reason I started this blog in the first place. My kids.

47 - breathe

It’s always been about them. About being the best mom I can possibly be. Because that’s what they deserve. That’s what I want for them. While I can’t expect to be perfect – as absolutely no one is – if they are my single line-of-sight, their needs will be first.

And that’s where my decision came into play. Is it time to stop writing this blog? Is it better to get the rest I need at night instead of jumping up to write at a brightly lit screen at 2:00 am because that’s unfortunately when my best thoughts came to mind? Is it better to actually focus on playing a little basketball in the driveway without mentally writing a blog post in my head and missing the actual fun of it?

Is it helping anyone? Is it still helping me? I do still believe in it. I truly do. But I feel it is simply time for a break. So that less of my time is spent on dissecting my flaws, and more time is spent on what’s important. Right. Now. 


I’m hanging on tight to another wild day

When it starts to fall apart, in my heart I hear You say, Just…

Breathe. Just breathe.

Come and rest at My feet.

And be. Just be.

Chaos calls, but all you really need

Is to just breathe.


I wish I could say how long a break this will be, but I just don’t know. As sad as it makes me, I feel like it’s the right thing to do at this point in time. I will keep this blog live so new visitors have a chance to see my posts. I may share something interesting on my Facebook page now and then. I’ll continue sharing my discoveries via Pinterest. Because they’ve become dear to my heart, and I believe, hope, and pray they can help someone else along the way. I’ve shared some of my favorites above.

And I hope to be back. I will be back. With a new sense of purpose for this blog. One that I hope He will point me to, as I focus on…

Listening.

Loving.

Breathing.

Being.

Just being.

If you follow my blog, or follow me on Facebook, you’ll be first to know when I’m back. 🙂 And hear the new stories I have to share…of success and encouragement, I’m hoping. Until then, bless you and all your precious little ones! Give them “butterfly hearts” as often as you can. And if you’d like, you can listen to Jonny’s song here: Breathe on YouTube. I hope it speaks to your heart.

My Trash Can Has Superpowers

So it seems my trash can has supernatural powers. Namely, the ability to turn invisible.

A Now You See Me, Now You Don’t kind of thing.

For example, when a family member needs to throw something away, it appears. Even if it’s full, it’s there to accept just one more Jello cup.

But if said family member walks by that overflowing lid on the way out the garage, POOF!

It’s gone.

As if there is no full trash can to be emptied at all.

Much to my disappointment, I am apparently immune.

The full trash can sits there in all its slovenly glory, completely visible to me at all times.

46 - superpowers

What I was not immune to this past week was a nasty sinus infection.

The kind that completely incapacitates you. During the day, it fills your head with a haze of confusion like you’re the walking dead and feels like a vice is pushing on your brain. At night, it shuts off one side of your nose so you can only breathe in half the air you need and then sends coughing fits that suck out that bit of air from your lungs.

Oh, yes, it was fun.

I wasn’t completely out of it, though. I still noticed the shifty things in the house.

Like the trash can’s ability to disappear.

The dishwasher seems to have some cloak and dagger skills as well.

It sat full of clean dishes for two full days, while the dirty ones kept filling the sink.

I’m thinking it has a motion sensor on its ‘clean’ light. When someone walks by, it shuts off, undetected that there is something to be done there.

Then, when someone might entertain the thought of adding a dirty fork, it glows green again, indicating an untouchable clean space.

Just like the trash can, I am immune to this. I guess it knows it can’t fool me. After all, I’m the one who fills it and starts the cycle.

Household chores can be a touchy subject in marriage, can’t they? Who should do what? Who does more?

I thought being down for the count would make a difference. That hubby would automatically take care of the trash and the dishes. After all, he’s the other adult in the house.

But it didn’t happen.

Now to be fair, hubby stayed home from work a day and a half to help. He kept the boys busy so I could die rest on the couch. He ran to get us food three times because I hadn’t been to the grocery store before I was attacked by nasty germs. He reminded the boys to be quieter so my head wouldn’t explode.

I just wished the other things would have been done.

But that was the problem. I was wishing when I should have been asking.

I think after doing certain things non-stop for several years, you sometimes forget it doesn’t have to be done by you. You also don’t see what someone else always takes care of. Habits are hard to break.

Like I don’t really notice how long the grass is because I don’t cut it. It doesn’t bother me when it snows until I have to get out of the driveway, but it’s cleared before I’m even up.

Hubby wasn’t purposely ignoring the trash. It just wasn’t on his radar.

And Moms don’t get sick, right? Well, we typically keep going like the Energizer bunny even when we do get sick. Part of our problem sometimes. We’re bad at shutting ourselves down, even when we have no choice.

But here’s what I was reminded of.

With all of the duties we assume day-in and day-out, we forget to ask for help when we need it.

I needed help. I wished I didn’t need to ask for it. But sometimes you just need to ask.

And when I did, the trash was removed and the dishes put away.

It’s the same with our Father in heaven. When we need help, He wants us to ask. One difference is…He knows perfectly well what we need help with. But He still wants us to ask.


     “Ask, and it will be given to you;
seek, and you will find; knock, and it
will be opened to you.” 
                                       Matthew 7:7


So…we need to ask Him for help even though he already knows what we need. And we definitely need to ask the hubby, because he can’t read our minds.

Mind reading would be convenient, though, wouldn’t it?

Like I could tell him dinner is ready without shouting down to the basement.

Or silently ask that he come close the bathroom door – because pee wee left it open – before all my shower steam leaves the room.

Superpowers could come in handy.

Too bad I can’t make myself invisible once in a while.

Mom, I can’t find my shoes.

Mom, where’s my sweatshirt?

Mom, can you get me some milk?

Mom!

Where’s Mom? 🙂

Which items in your house have superpowers? I’d love to hear your cloak and dagger story!

Rough Around the Edges

Spring is here! It’s definitely knocking on the door anyway. I even had my windows wide open last week!

What are you most looking forward to with Spring?

Is it seeing the color green again? Baseball season starting? Driving without a parka on? (this only makes sense if you live in the Midwest)

For me, it’s garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores. Oh my.

I have a love for redesigning vintage furniture. I started this hobby 2 years ago, and it’s thoroughly exhilarating. There’s the thrill of the hunt for unseen treasure, imagining something differently, and the tremendous satisfaction of a before and after makeover.

45 - makeover

I’ve missed it. You see, my hobby has to take a backseat in the winter – for two reasons.

  1. I need to park in the garage. The garage tends to become my storage area of unfinished pieces waiting for love. Parking outside in the winter would require me to think far enough in advance on busy mornings to defrost the windows in order to see out of them. So to get to school and work on time, it’s best if I avoid this extra step.
  2. I need outdoor space. I sand down all of my pieces. I love to expose the original material and see what I’m working with. Sanding is the first thing I do, and it’s absolutely an outside task. I don’t need any more reasons to clean the inside of the house.

Now with the warmer temps, I’ve been able to get my fix of the smell of sawdust. I’m excited to see the positive features of the pieces I chose, despite the flaws. I see the potential where others might see an old, outdated, dumpster item. Like my hubby, for instance. He’s happy for Spring, too. It may mean the mini-workshop in our living room can move. Or maybe not. 🙂

Take the little sewing table I picked up this weekend for example. Even though its original design now has a flaw – a missing sewing machine – I could see another use for it. As a sweet little accent table. The spindly carved legs and small pop-out drawer compartment are features I can highlight. It’s about bringing out its beauty in a new way, but that beauty was still part of its original design. The outdated wood stain and dust were just covering it up.

Isn’t it the same with us?

We feel a little rough around the edges some days. My rough days are when frustration gets the best of me and my voice builds along with my temper.

Do you ever find yourself asking God what he’s trying to teach you on those days?

I had a particularly troubling episode with my son, where I kept saying the wrong thing. I ended up having this little conversation in my head, trying to figure out if things are really supposed to go this way, and what helpful lesson I should be getting from the situation.


God, is it because I’m doing a bad job? Of course not.

Is it because I haven’t listened to those parenting videos yet? Nope.

Is it because I need to listen to you more? Well, yes. But that’s not it either.

Then why am I going through this, and more importantly, why is my child having this struggle?

It’s simple. It’s because you’re you. And he’s who he is.

I don’t understand. How can I help him? What should I be learning from this? Just be you. And remember he’s him.


That’s when it hit me.

God hand designed me to be his Mom, and hand selected him to be my child.

He doesn’t make mistakes.


     “For we are his workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that
we should walk in them.”
 
                                       Ephesians 2:10


All this time, I’ve felt like I needed a total makeover. Some way to hit a Delete button, where my tired old habits simply disappear.

While working on my furniture pieces, I’m seeing this in a new light.

I need to stop waiting for a total makeover, and simply refresh my original design, highlight my positives, and discover what’s already there.

Just like I might sand down some rough edges to smooth a table corner, I can rid myself of dangerous faults like always being in control and striving for perfection.

For the same reason I highlight detailed curves and impressions in the wood, I should highlight my own unique features that make me who I am like my creativity and can-do attitude.

And like I swap out an outdated orange and brown 70’s flower fabric on a vintage chair, I can replace an outdated way of thinking – that being louder will help my voice be heard over the kids’ commotion – with a quiet voice of love toward their beautiful faces.

Our Father didn’t provide our precious children with a flawed parent. It’s just that our flaws (sins) cover the original masterpiece he created. We simply need to sand ourselves down a bit and rediscover our beauty.

So when I feel lousy about the poor job I did at disciplining, and wonder why, I remember that it’s not God who makes mistakes. We do.

And he knows that. So it’s probably figured into the equation somehow, don’t you think?

Here’s to rediscovering our beauty – one day at a time.

NOT Smarter Than a Preschooler

I got called out.

By my 3-year old.

Twice.

First, it was at his older brother’s birthday party.

When one of the party goers needed to visit the restroom, my youngest tagged along and watched me wait outside the door to escort them back. Apparently, he decided to give himself the duty, because the next time someone asked, he ran forward saying, “I’ll take you to the bathroom. Follow me!”

I trailed after them and saw him point out the bathroom, then wait in his assigned spot. When I approached to join him, he put out his hand like a stop sign.

“Mama! I got this.”

Huh. I guess he told me. Someone wants to be a big boy.

44 - hand

My second “schooling” by my toddler was this weekend.

I was in the cleaning frenzy mode. My home dirty disaster meter was going off. It was time to reset it for another week with a good Pick n’ Scrub. You know…where before you can even think of scrubbing the house clean, you have to pick up like a 1,000 things. 🙂

I was mopping the tile floor and warned my youngest to stay off until it was dry. He argued that it was safe because he had bare feet, not socks. I explained it was still slippery with bare feet, but he wouldn’t take my word for it.

Sure enough, he slipped and landed on his bottom. Now I didn’t come right out and say ‘I told you so,’ but I may as well have.

Are you okay? That’s why I wanted you to stay off, honey. Did you hurt anything?

Yes, my bottom, he said.

Okay, it may sting a little now, but it’ll go away quickly.

I went back to finish mopping. That’s when the water works started.

Mama…mama…mama…he kept saying.

What? I answered.

I fell.

Yes, I know, honey, but there’s nothing I can do to make it better.

And the very second the words were out, I thought, Well, how stupid am I.

And that’s when my 3-year old pointed out the obvious.

Mama…just…just give me a hug or something.

Duh.

I propped my mop against the wall and immediately hauled him up in my arms. I nuzzled his neck with kisses and hugged him close. The water works immediately stopped and he went off to play.

Jeez, just last week I vowed to fill this house with more hugs, and here I almost missed just such an opportunity.

In these two instances, my son reminded me that he struggles between being a big boy and still being my baby. One minute he wants to be twice his age and the next he’s needing reassurance. Sometimes they can’t make up their minds.

But that’s okay, because neither can we.

I wish they’d grow up. I don’t want them to grow up. I wish they’d grow up. I don’t want them to grow up.

When my youngest crawls in my lap and begins to play with the ends of my hair, I can’t help but wish he would stay this small, cuddly being that makes me feel cherished with a simple hair twirl.

Yet, when he throws a toddler fit about putting on his own shoes, I roll my eyes.

When my oldest lays his head on my shoulder while reading stories at night, I know one day he’ll no longer ask me to read with him, and I’ll miss it terribly.

Yet, he drives me crazy when he thinks he knows more than I do about…everything.

When they want to grow up too quickly, we want it to slow down. Other times we forget that they’re still so young.

Here’s all we really need to remember.

Even as you let go with one hand, always keep the other one within reach.

What my 3-year old reminded me was to keep my eyes and ears open. Not only for when he still needs me, but also when he thinks he doesn’t. At those times, I will be there anyway.

And there will probably be times he should be given more freedom, but I’ll still want to feel needed. It’s a give and take.

One where I’ll always be ready to give.

“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”

— Denis Waitley, writer


Dear God, grant me the wisdom to know when to let go and when to hold on. When to keep my tongue and when to share my stories. When to lift them from a fall and when to wait as they pick themselves up. Help them grow to be confident, loving, compassionate, independent, and faithful. And as I grow older…even as their manly hands engulf my small, wrinkled ones…please never, ever let my failing mind rob me of the precious memory of their little hands in mine. It’s a feeling I want to hold on to forever.

Role #226: Stress Ball

I was lying in bed, debating whether to get up or give myself 5 more minutes, as my toddler headed to the bathroom.

That’s when I heard the sound.

Not so much a tinkling in a small pool of water like I was expecting.

More like a hose spraying the side of the house.

Oh yeah.

A groan escaped me. I went to investigate. With a click of the light switch, there it was. A lovely pool of yellow on my tile floor with a thorough spray spanning the wall.

Someone had missed the toilet…completely.

43 - stress

Mind you, this is highly unusual. I have just about the best 3-year old pee-er in the universe. How do you spell pee-er? That’s probably not a word, but I want to use it. 🙂

My toddler never fails to lift both lids, meaning he even lifts the seat. Bless him. He always flushes. And get this…he even uses a small tab of toilet paper to wipe the rim. See, he should get a reward or something!

But this morning went a little awry. Maybe he was tired, maybe he had to go too quickly. I don’t know. But there was a mess to clean up before I even got out of bed. Ugh.

After clean-up, I noticed the toilet was now backed up with too much toilet paper. Oh, did I do that? In fact, it was near the rim, ready to overflow. So I grabbed the plunger. It’s one of those rubber kinds. Have you ever had the rubber part flip the wrong side out? Yep. That happened. And when I tried to flip it back, can you guess what came next?

Toilet water sprayed all over the same wall. I had to clean it twice.

Stress.

It can take on many forms.

Now this potty accident didn’t really stress me out. It just wasn’t a great way to start the morning.

But countless things throughout our day can create stress.

Some days it’s a true battle. It can feel like the world is on our shoulders. Not the whole world, but our own little worlds – the worlds of our families. And we “moms” typically have a hand in most of it.

For example, we’re often the planners, schedulers, and timekeepers. Do you ever feel like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, constantly checking his pocket watch?

When I pick you up after school today, we need to move quickly to get to your haircut appointment and then make it home in time to finish dinner before 6:00.

Honey, I’ve ordered the cake from the grocery store, the balloons from Party City, and sandwiches from Subway. We need to pick them all up on Saturday before the birthday party. Can you help with that?

Those are just 3 roles we take on – there are countless others.

CEO. Nurturer. Teacher. Personal Shopper. Nurse. Maid. Seamstress. Mrs. Fixit. Referee. Personal Chef. Accountant. Judge. Head Cheerleader. Taxi Driver. Mediator. Speech Specialist. Vacation Coordinator/Tour Guide. Secret Keeper. Errand Runner. Family Therapist. Laundry Operator. Search & Rescue (for lost things). Event Coordinator. Safety Patrol. Bodyguard. Wardrobe Stylist. Personal Assistant for the whole family…

I’m not sure the list ends, really. The good thing is most days we don’t realize all the roles we play. They just all get wrapped up into our awesome Mom-ness.

But I recently added a new one to the list, one I’d never considered before. Not until I looked at the world from someone else’s perspective.

Stress Reliever.

We tend to focus on the stress we have. But recently I stopped to think about the stress in my child’s world.

As soon as my oldest wakes, he’s on the clock to get ready to go out the door. Did you brush your teeth? Don’t forget your snack. Please double check that I initialed your assignment book.

Each day at school he’s learning brand new things. At the same time, he must navigate expectations…from the teachers, his friends, and me.  Remember to take the sign-up sheet home with you tonight. Make sure you find me on the playground. Don’t forget to look for your lost boot.

After school, the learning and reminders don’t end. At home, we take our role of teacher pretty seriously, wanting to prepare these young ones to become the well-mannered and conscientious adults we wish them to be. Treat your brother the way you would want him to treat you. After dinner, you need to do your homework. Do you have gym shoes for tomorrow?

So often I feel like such a nag. Do you?

After a full day of being instructed, guided, scheduled, and reminded – don’t we all need a break?

When you think about it, our kids are doing battle every day, too. It’s just a different kind.

Part of our job is to offer a place to relax, refresh, and recharge after a stress-filled day – it’s called home. And here’s how I’m going to help de-stress my kids.

Hugs. Home starts within our arms. It’s a place of comfort and safety. In fact, I read that children need a minimum of 8 touches a day to feel connected. So I’m going to dish out the hugs as often as possible.

Off time. There needs to be time to slow down. I’m going to omit things from the schedule when we can; after all, some of it is by choice. And while there’s value in order and routine, we can benefit from breaking up the schedule, too. Like when I spontaneously went strawberry picking last year. BTW, Best. Afternoon. Ever.

Music. Stress releases cortisol in our bodies, but too much can tax other parts of our body, like our immune system. Music has been studied to bring our cortisol levels back to normal. While it hasn’t been confirmed, I think many of us would agree that listening to soft music or nature sounds can offer relaxation. So when I think our brains are on overload, it’s time to change the channel to some tunes. And don’t discount the stress relief of an impromptu dance party!

Empathy. When I’m stressed out, I rely on my friends. They listen with true interest, offer advice, or just let me vent. Our kids haven’t quite developed these types of relationships yet…where they can let their true emotions show. But we can be that ear and shoulder. Empathy for what they are experiencing will let them open up rather than bottle it up.

As much stress that falls on our shoulders, we have the power to lift it from our kids.

With more “grown-up” demands than ever, kids today need us not just to teach, guide, and mold. But also to learn how to shut things off. Use silliness to release tension. Find stillness in this world of constant stimulation. Slow down enough to open up about fears, worries, and sorrow. To just be ourselves. Without demands. Without judgement. Just be.

By creating a haven at home, we can help lift their stress as we lift their hearts.

So come on, boys, give me a hug! Didn’t you hear? I’m your personal stress ball. 🙂

 

Hands Free Mama

Letting Go...To Grasp What Really Matters

Butterfly Heart

life in progress

%d bloggers like this: