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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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. 🙂

 

Time Should Be Wasted

Time is a precious thing. There’s never enough of it.

I manage life like each passing minute needs to be tackled. Gotcha! I knock it to the ground, clutch it in my sweaty hands, ground it together with the other minutes I snatched, and hope I can get a full ½ hour to vacuum and mop the kitchen floor until it gleams like an ice sculpture.

Not buying the gleaming floor? Yeah, I just want to remove the crumbs I keep picking up with my bare feet. Ick!

I took some extra time from work while school was out. I dreamed up all the things I could get done.

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The house would be neat and tidy for full consecutive days because I would have time to keep up with it. Did I really think that?

I’d place wonderful new meals on the table. Everyone would come running, take a whiff of delicious aromas, and mumble ‘Thank you, Mama’ while stuffing their faces. But they like ham and cheese sandwiches.

The laundry would be completely caught up, folded, and put away. With just one or two things added to the basket each day, I could forgo the next load of wash for at least a week. Yeah, I’m still laughing at this one, too.

I realized I wouldn’t get these wishes for Christmas. But I did have extra time. What could I cross off the to-do list? What could I catch up on? What sense of accomplishment could I achieve? How best to use this extra time?

Waste it.

Yes, you heard that from me. Just like many of you, a woman who never has enough time to get things done. And when she finally has a little extra, she wants to waste it? Yep!

I wasted a couple hours watching APL’s River Monsters with my older son. We both found the episodes on eels and sawfish interesting. It was finally some down time from the decibel levels of play, and I got to witness his brain at work as we wondered about the things we saw.

I wasted more time looking through old home decor magazines. Even though I saw them before, I still enjoyed the eye candy. And now I get to treat a friend to them next.

I took my time on a new project: designing a desk for my son. I hand washed the plastic drawers I bought at a garage sale last summer, removing the old sticky labels with Goo Gone. I used the lazy action to visualize my design and work through how best to execute it.

There’s so much I should be doing. Catch up on the Shutterfly albums I’ve neglected. I’m over a year behind right now – ugh! Figure out why some of the basement lights aren’t working. Look for more recipes to try with the family. Find ways to promote my blog.

But I didn’t feel like it. In the words of a friend of mine that very week, “I have a huge case of the, I don’t wanna’s.” I felt the same, and I think I know why.

Rest is a basic need. It’s next to air, water, and food at the base of Maslow’s hierarchical triangle of fundamental needs.

Without doubt, our Father knows how important it is.


     “In vain you rise early and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat – for He grants sleep
to those He loves.”
 
                                       Psalm 127:2


I get two things from this verse. First, that when we live a life with God, He will give us rest when we need it. And second, that we should take it. He’s giving it to us for good reason.

It’s not just physical rest that we need. Possibly even more important in today’s technology-driven world is the mental rest we all need. Our brains need the down time.

Time to let our thoughts wander, work out problems, or dream of new things. Time to connect with Him to make sure we stay on track. Time to connect with our loved ones to make them feel what they are..the most important part of our lives.

Even time to do nothing.

Or what seems like nothing, but is actually something.

Like write out a pretend check to the wildlife store to buy two cute little bear cubs and take them home to raise myself. Their idea, not mine. Thank goodness they’re already potty trained. 🙂

And then build a nest of fur and grass with a fuzzy green blanket to put my little bear cubs down for a nap like they asked. Bummer! It was only a pretend nap.

What seems like wasting time to us is the time our kids treasure most.

It’s back to the grind now, where I’m snatching time to get things done in the midst of work, school, and everyday routine. So now’s my chance to waste some of it.

In fact, I think the bear cubs need some air. We’ll surface from the den and slide down the driveway a bit. Then I’ll waste some time frying up some salmon from the river. Good thing they like Goldfish crackers!

How will you waste time this year?

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.

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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! 🙂

Hands Free Mama

Letting Go...To Grasp What Really Matters

Butterfly Heart

life in progress

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