Stop Looking at Pinterest!

I’m banning Pinterest for the rest of the year. It makes me look bad.

I keep seeing pins for creative stocking stuffers, beautifully organized gift wrap, placements for Elf on the Shelf, and cookies shaped like mugs of hot cocoa.

Seriously, these are sugar cookies perfectly formed into mugs, complete with chocolate chip ganache (for all us non-bakers out there, this is a combination of chocolate and cream melted together slowly), mini marshmallows, and pretzel cup handles. [Click here if you’re up to the challenge! Hot Chocolate Cookie Cups]

Do you think mine would look like that? Uh….no.

The handle would never stick, the marshmallows would melt into oblivion, and my cookies would fall flat as a pancake. The chocolate ganache would end up looking like poo on a platter.

So while someone somewhere is making treats that belong on Cake Wars, I have yet to put those tiny, store-bought chocolate squares into the individual compartments of our advent calendar train. When I finally get to this, the kids will need to eat 10 at one time to catch up.

37 - ban pinterest

It’s the same with the house.

I have a tree with no ornaments because I’m still trying to figure out why 3 branches won’t light up, despite the fact that I’ve diligently replaced every bulb.

I have a painted buffet table in my foyer with no doors or drawers affixed because I still need to finish the hardware.

I have to defrost my mini-van each morning because I have another “project” taking up space in my garage stall, which needs to be done before Christmas.

I’m starting to wonder if our 14-year old cat now has urinary incontinence because I keep thinking I smell pee in random places. I’m fairly confident it’s not from my toddler.

I don’t want to smell pee for Christmas. I don’t want guests to smell pee. I want our home filled with mulberry and cinnamon!

Do you ever feel less-than-all-together? Especially during the holidays?

There are such creative souls, talented artists, ambitious moms out there on Pinterest – doing clever gift wrapping, intricate hair braiding, dazzling table settings, paw print ornaments, and homemade advent calendars.

And I don’t need to do any of it.

Here’s a new post I’m ironically adding to Pinterest. Stop looking at Pinterest!

I’m reminding myself to lighten up. Focus on what I have accomplished. Just to name a few:

  • We had professional family photos taken, and my Christmas cards were in the mail December 8! Unheard of!
  • I’ve regularly interrupted my to-do list to join my toddler at his current favorite pastime – jigsaw puzzles.
  • We’ve made cookies together, and I didn’t judge those with a mound of sprinkles to those with so few you could count them. My son praised me with his mouth full, “You make really good cookies, Mama.” Thank Betty Crocker, sweetheart.

It’s okay if I don’t get to everything, or do things beautifully precise. We all do the best we can, and it’s just the right thing for each of us.

More importantly than what I’ve accomplished, I’m focusing on what I have.

  • My family. When others are spending the holidays for the first time after losing a loved one.
  • A warm house. A comfort I’m more aware of after my interaction with a homeless man recently.
  • My health. I may grumble at cracking hips and sore muscles, but I can get out of bed every day.

We have much to be thankful for. And we don’t need to strive for perfection to realize it.


     “Let everyone be sure to do his very best, for
then he will have the personal satisfaction of
work done well and won’t need to compare
himself with someone else.”
 
                                       Galatians 6:4


So please don’t compare yourself to me, with my sporadically decorated cookies, three-quartered lit tree, and questionable-smelling house. Unless it makes you feel pretty darn good. Then, by all means, go ahead! 🙂

I am adding one new undertaking, though. A tradition that always appealed to me. And I’ve seen it on Pinterest several times.

We open one present Christmas Eve, something I did growing up. This year, I’m giving each family member a special box (including me). Complete with a new pair of warm, fuzzy PJs, a packet of cocoa, and marshmallows. We’ll cozy up by the fire to watch Polar Express, sipping our hot chocolate.

Take that, Hot Chocolate Cookie Mugs. I’m having myself a real one!

 

In case you noticed…this is an extra post this week. Why, you ask? Well, I skipped a couple before. So I thought I would make up for it. Merry Christmas! 🙂

10 wrongs vs. 1,000 rights

I’m a loving mother.
I’m a patient mother.
I’m a kind mother.
I’m a forgiving mother.
I’m a hypocrite.

For all the valuable insight I’ve discovered through this blog – my anger triggers, best approaches for discipline, ways to see the positive, reminders of what’s truly important – despite all of it, I’m still screwing up.

Some days I feel like an absolute hypocrite.

Am I loving when I nag, bark, and clench my jaw over something trivial?
Am I patient while reminding my son 3 times that we’ll be late if he isn’t ready in 2 minutes?
Am I kind when I tell my 8-year old how sick I am of seeing clean shirts on his floor?
Am I forgiving after seeing my toddler drop a full toilet paper roll in the toilet by accident?

When these things happen, I wonder where that patient mom from yesterday went. The one who spoke calmly and softly and achieved success thwarting a tantrum. The one who ignored the spilled juice, cleaned it up, and went back to snuggling for a movie.

Where did the better me run off to?

30 - wrong vs right

Some days I think, How can I even be writing this blog? When I still keep screwing up?

Screwing up at this parenting thing is one of my biggest fears. I fear that my aggravation will seep too deeply into my kids. That they’re absorbing more of the harshness than the kindness. That they’re witnessing more impatience than patience. And learning the wrong way to handle frustrations.

But this weekend I saw something beautiful. A reminder that I must be doing something right. That I’m not screwing up completely.

It’s right there in my boys. My proof. My reminder that…

          Even with the 10 things I do wrong, I do a 1,000 things right.

We were eating out when my older son saw a crack in his straw and wondered whether it would still work. Before any of us had time to give it any thought, my 3 year old got out of his chair and ran up to the teenager at the counter to ask for a new straw for his brother, because his was cracked. “Here you go!” he handed a new one to him.

I saw my cautious toddler acting without question, putting his brother’s need ahead of his own shyness, running to his rescue without a single hesitation. Such kindness and love wrapped up in one small act.

Later this weekend my oldest was playing with a friend in the yard. They were flying their drone, a small helicopter with sharp blades and a charged engine. His brother wanted to join them. I saw my oldest gently steer him away from the takeoff spot. “Stand back here. I’m not doing this to be mean,” I heard him say. “I just don’t want anything to happen to you. I don’t want you hurt.”

I heard the concern, not only for his brother’s safety, but also for potentially hurt feelings. Even more impressive to me was how intuitive he was at addressing those feelings even before it became a problem. Yet another act of kindness, patience, and love.

Proof that I must be doing something right.

Because I AM loving. I tell them every day. 10 times a day. With warm meals, clean sheets, and folded clothes. With hugs, kisses, and whispers in their ears. I look in their eyes and confess it aloud. I tell them at bedtime, before school, and for no reason at all.

I AM patient. Like with my toddler’s exuberance over his new Paw Patrol pajamas, which I’ve washed three nights in a row now. 🙂

I AM kind. I dry tears. I blow on scrapes and kiss bruises. I listen to their fears and hold them after a nightmare. I lift them up with encouragement. I praise their accomplishments.

I AM forgiving. The carpet stains prove that, right? It has no value whatsoever to me compared to my children. So I just keep cleaning it. Until I save enough money to finally throw it out!

I’m hoping that through my confession to continuously messing up…you won’t feel so alone.

We’re all human. We screw up. We don’t recognize the 1,000 rights because we’re so focused on the messes we make.

But no matter how many times I fail, I’m going to try again. Every day is a new day. Every hour is a chance to start over. Even every minute can be handled differently.


     Though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand.
 
                                       Psalm 37:24


In the middle of our continued efforts – and especially on the days we struggle – this reminder needs to be heard. By all of us.

Say it out loud. Write it on a post-it. Tell yourself this instead of focusing on the messes you make.

          You do a 1,000 things right. Every. Single. Day.

Now, watch those kids of yours and see the proof in them. It’s there. I guarantee it.

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.

28 - turtle

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?

IF YOU MISSED LAST WEEK’S POST…YOU REALLY DIDN’T!

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 Drive Them Nuts, Too

They drive me nuts.

My family. I love them to pieces, but still…

The noise alone.

Noise is something I never run out of. Motor sounds of all kinds: cars, trucks, motorcycles, trains, scooters, semis, bulldozers. Just to pull you into my world for a second…

Vvrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, shsshshshshshweew, ckck ckck ckckck ckckck crash, vvrrrrrrrrrrrrr, buh buh buh buh buh buh buh buh buh, jeeee jeeee jeee jeee jeee jeee jeee jeee jee, jeeeeeeeeeeeewwww, vvvvvvrrrrrrrrr.

All. Day. Long.

It’s okay if you just skipped that part. These sounds don’t really translate to the English language…or any language. The boys are actually quite talented at these noises. I can recognize that. I just miss the quiet.

I am an introvert. Constant noise and commotion drains us. I can handle it for a while, but eventually I need the quiet to return to sanity and recharge.

When the noise is combined with visual chaos and clutter, it makes it harder.

Since there’s no volume button on the kids, I tackle the clutter.

25 - crazy

Today, I was in cleaning mode again. But I had a good reason. We were celebrating our toddler’s birthday with family, and I was picking up the house for welcoming guests. Making sure they had places to sit.

After the festivities were over, my toddler grabbed his bag of wooden cars from the toy shelf, saying, “Could you stop putting stuff back where I play with them?”

I chuckled. I had to. His very serious comment was so ironic.

It drives ME nuts to constantly pick up his toys…and it drives HIM nuts when I constantly pick up his toys.

That’s when it dawned on me: I drive them nuts, too. 🙂

What may have felt like 15 minutes to my toddler was actually several hours ago. But simply put, he just wanted his stuff left where he last used them.

How many times have I thought the same thing? I buy a roll of invisible tape for when I need it. Like wrapping a birthday present, maybe.

But when I need it, it’s not in the utility drawer. Where I would look. When I need it. Because that’s where it belongs. And I bought it just for these occasions.

Instead, the tape roll is sitting by a car garage finagled out of a cut-up shoe box. The roll is empty.

I set a bill on the kitchen table to remind myself to take care of it when I find two spare minutes. Later, I’m looking everywhere on the table, on the floor, even in the trash. You never know.

Eventually, I discover my husband put it back with the pile of bills in our paper organizer. That wasn’t helpful. Out of sight, out of mind. At least for me. But he has a thing with clutter, too.

While we’re here…let’s be honest. The kids aren’t the only ones who drive us nuts. Some days I wonder if two adults were meant to live together for more than 18 years? 🙂

I’ll just share a little thing that usually tops the list: laundry basket. You’d think this was a simple concept to grasp. Lift the lid, drop dirty clothes in, and the magic laundry fairy does the rest. Pretty simple. So what I can’t understand is why clothes are piled ON TOP of the basket.

Not inside it. On top of it.

On the lid that can no longer be lifted.

It’s often even an empty basket.

Seriously.

Okay, I’m done.

I have no doubt hubby has countless “laundry basket” issues with ME. And apparently my kids get just as frustrated when their stuff is constantly messed with. Even if I am putting it back where it belongs.

Such is life. We are not infallible. We all drive each other nuts sometimes. I have to remember it’s not just me. I do the same to them.


     As it is written: ‘None is righteous [blameless]’,
no, not one. 
                                       Romans 3:10


So my conclusions are:

  • My kids always know where to find tape, and I will never have any as long as they live here.
  • My husband knows where the bills belong, but he has trouble with the laundry basket.
  • If I expect my imperfections to be forgiven, I must learn to forgive theirs.

What’s that recurring thing that sends you to cuckooville? Venting allowed below – I won’t tell!

Spills Schmills!

Do you know that sound of running water…coming from a room that should not have such a sound?

Like my living room.

My little one spilled his drink. As soon as I heard that sound, I knew what happened. And was instantly irritated at the mess waiting for me. I grunted and clenched my teeth as I sopped up the liquid from my wood shelf and the carpet, letting slip out a frustrated “Gosh, darnit!”

Now I know those words could have been worse, but the anger was still recognized by my son.

He sweetly said, “I’m sorry, Mama. I didn’t mean to spill.”

I was silent, trying not to say anything regretful. So he repeated himself. “I’m sorry, Mama. I didn’t mean to spill.”

And it hit me. Of course he didn’t mean to spill. They never mean to spill.

22 - spills

Spill is synonymous with accident. In fact, Mirriam-Webster defines spill as “to cause or allow (something) to fall, flow, or run over the edge of a container usually in an accidental way.” If it wasn’t accidental, it would be pouring. Luckily, that doesn’t happen in our house. 🙂

Why can’t I just react with, “That’s okay. We can clean it up.” Mistakes deserve instant forgiveness. After looking at his sweet face, I did answer him with, “It’s okay. I’m glad it was water.”

Now, get this. Later, I heard tears from the kitchen. Our older son had spilled his drink – a sticky juice all over the kitchen table.

Dad was upset, grumbling about slowing down, that he just told him to watch his glass, and I’m pretty sure I heard a “Gosh darnit, why did you spill?” in there. Maybe that’s where I get it… 🙂

And my sensitive, probably overtired, big boy got upset.

You know what I did? I got upset with my husband. “You can’t yell at him for spilling his drink!” I said. “He doesn’t do it on purpose – it’s an accident!”

I’m not proud. Here I was taking it out on my husband. My own guilt from just an hour earlier.

Now here’s the clincher. Things always come in threes.

I’ve been redoing a desk. I set out to stain the drawers. That very night, when I opened my can of gel stain (think of the consistency of pudding), I discovered the top layer turned to a hard thin shell (it will do that if it dries out too much). So I poked through and attempted to carefully dig it out.

Instead of breaking into pieces, it spurted out of the can. One glob on my white kitchen countertop, another on the cream-colored tile floor. Yes, that’s right. Dark mahogany-colored wood stain. Can you gasp with me?

I’m not sure I could have caused a worse spill. Well, maybe breaking a gallon-sized glass container into a zillion pieces – which I did about 3 weeks ago. See, everyone spills, drops, breaks things. God has a way of reminding us.

I was able to remove the stain. Thank goodness for one of my favorite products, Goo Gone. Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser still tops my list, though.

Spills can be cleaned up and forgotten. But anger and frustration have a way of leaving behind residue.

As I was silently and quickly cleaning up, I realized I didn’t want someone pointing out my mistake. Nor did I need anyone else’s words of frustration. I did not treat my children the way I would want to be treated. Normally, that golden rule is strong with me. But I needed the reminder. A reminder to forgive instantly.

My husband came to help without saying a word either. I think we both learned our lesson.


     Be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other,
just as in Christ, God forgave you.
 
                                       Ephesians 4:32


My prayer that night went something like this.

“Dear God, please help me care less about spills, broken things, and accidents. Remind me to look into my children’s eyes before reacting or opening my mouth. Help me to see the guilt and remorse in their sweet faces. Invite forgiveness and love from my lips so that guilt can be lifted from their shoulders. And leave no room in my heart for anger. Amen.”

Hands Free Mama

Letting Go...To Grasp What Really Matters

Butterfly Heart

life in progress

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