Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Unmaking

The past 18 years of my life have been a struggle. It wasn't until recently that I came to understand that this struggle was of my own doing. There are times when I find myself getting frustrated with my daughter. Everyone told me potty training girls is easy. Let me just toss my head back and let out a loud "HA!" This girl will be 4 in November and she wants no part of potty training. She will look us dead in the eyes and say, "Why?" when we encourage her to use the potty. No reason is good enough for her. She wants no part of it. There are times I find myself thinking, "She is so stubborn." Well, it seems she comes by it naturally. I can't help but wonder if this feeling of frustration is something that God feels when witnessing and experiencing my own stubbornness.

As I look deeper into my past I realize that the struggle started well before then. The age of 19 seems like such a pivotal time in my memory, but so much of who I am (or better yet, believe I am) started with childhood. Things people say, things they do, stick with you as you grow. These things help shape who you see when you look in the mirror. In college I struggled with my faith and my relationship with God. I began pushing Him away. I am honestly surprised He has any patience left for me. For the past 18 years I have cried out to Him, only to push Him away again. I told myself I didn't need Him.

I tackled things on my own. I was stubborn and even when I hit rock bottom I refused to reach out to God. I'm not going to lie. It was miserable. I have been miserable for nearly 18 years. I have been clinging to things that hurt me. When people would accuse me of not giving things over to God I would get defensive. They didn't understand. They had no idea.

The truth is, it doesn't matter. They were right. I was using that hurt as a reason to keep distance between God and myself, all the while longing to be near Him, to grow spiritually and to feel that joy that I once had. I used people who had hurt me as reason to not need God in my life. They were "supposed" to be Christian but they weren't acting like it. (How dare they!)

And what was I acting like?

Most days I felt stressed, miserable, and defeated. There was no joy to be found. I learned to fake it pretty well, though. Even a week ago, I was faking it. We went to church because it was the right thing to do. I wanted my children to go to church.

I can honestly say that my closest friends probably knew. Yet, they never made me feel as if I was doing something wrong, making a mistake, or left me feeling like a bad person. They also never left me. They stuck close to me. They prayed for me. They encouraged me. When they'd say they would pray for me, I'd cringe. When they talked about God, I grew uncomfortable. I knew where I needed to be, but I refused to let go of all the pain. I would try, longing to feel that joy, but then I'd quickly take it all back like a bag lady. I had held on to it for so long that the thought of letting it go was overwhelming and just not going to happen.

There came a moment when I couldn't stand it anymore. I fell to my knees and I didn't just pray, I cried out to God. I realized I had been hoarding sin, refusing to let it go. At that moment, I let it go.

That joy that I remember has returned. That hunger and thirst to grow closer to God is back.

The smile on my face is now real.

Nichole Nordeman recently released a song entitled, "The Unmaking." It's upbeat, yet beautiful, and it illustrates a moment that every one of us must endure.

"What happens now? When all I've made is torn down? What happens next? When all of you is all that's left? This is the unmaking, the beauty in the breaking. I had to lose myself to find out who you are. Sitting in the rubble I can see the stars."

Rubble has never looked so beautiful.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

True Beauty

I watched my daughter stomp around in her princess dress, tiara placed on her head, and pink princess shoes. She screamed angrily, "I a beautiful princess!"


We are told from an early age that beauty is on the inside, and while this should be true, it's not. It's a nice thought. It's a nice thing to say when our 3-year-old is screaming that she's beautiful and we want her to ACT beautiful. However, in today's world, outward beauty is what counts. You wear nice clothes. You fix your hair. You put on makeup no matter where you go. It was probably torture for my mom to learn that I attended many college classes make-up free and wearing a baseball cap. (I wasn't alone!)

The truth is, too often we define our beauty based on other people's opinions. You lose weight, people notice. You gain weight, people notice. We look in the mirror and we don't like who we see regardless of our pant size!

I have short hair. I LIKE having short hair. It's easier to fix and it's fun. I have had people tell me that they like it. I've had people tell me I'm crazy and women should have long hair.

If you're a mother it goes even farther. You have people trying to tell you how to raise your children.

Life would be so much easier if we didn't care what others thought. If we did what we wanted to do and if people don't like it then, oh well, it's not their life. Right? You can't make everyone happy all the time and while you're using all of your time and energy trying to make everyone happy you find yourself far from happy. What about YOUR happiness?  We need to CHOOSE to be happy. You like short hair? Then cut it. It's YOUR hair! You want to go to the store without make-up and wear a baseball cap? Good for you!  There is no law that states you have to spend 45 minutes styling your hair and putting on make up! You don't want to travel for every holiday because you want to start your own traditions with your children? Well, it's your decision to make and if that makes you happy, then go for it! Wait, you're not a size zero and you're happy with yourself? That's awesome! You ate an entire cheese cake last night? Well, if it didn't make you sick, then I think you're totally cool and I hope you enjoyed it!

A lot of us spend too much time worried about what others think.We spend too much time trying to keep other people happy. I'm not suggesting we become narcissists, I'm just saying that maybe it's time we started liking ourselves for who we are and stop worrying about what others think. Why do we care so much? I'm a people-pleaser. I have this habit of going out of my way to try and make others happy. They can criticize me and manipulate me, use guilt, even come up with crazy schemes just so they can get their way and I just take it.

It needs to stop.

It needs to stop for ALL of us.

Deep down inside we're all like my 3-year-old. We're all dressed up and just waiting for some one to tell us we're beautiful. Well, guess what?  You ARE beautiful!

Now it's time to believe it!

Friday, April 24, 2015

World's Okayest Mother

I have seen a lot of coffee mugs on Pinterest lately that read, "World's Okayest Mom."  Every time I see it I can't help but smile. We, as mothers, are all pushing forward, being the best we can be for our children. We are overwhelmed and exhausted, but we're doing okay. Right?

In my house we are all about feeding our children healthy foods. We "encourage" them to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. We don't eat a lot of processed foods and eating out is a rare treat. That being said, I currently have the biggest bag of Totino's pizza rolls that you can buy in our freezer. We have Pop Tarts and sugary kids cereal because while I want them to eat healthy, I also want them to be kids. A big part of being a kid is fun food like Cap'n Crunch, a cold soda, or a candy bar they get to pick out in the grocery check out line from time to time.

I make my kids clean their rooms. Their cleaning consists of straightening up a bit, shoving things under the bed, and tossing things in the closet. They come to me with smiles and say, "I think it's clean!" Most of the time it's not clean. There are comic books on the floor, markers strewn about, and Legos (evil, evil Legos). They stand, smiling, awaiting my reaction. "Is it clean enough?" The truth is they could spend ten more minutes cleaning it up a little more (and they know this or they wouldn't have thrown in "enough" at the end of their question), but I can see the floor now, and childhood is calling them. Yes, it's clean enough.

I drive them to therapies and appointments. There are days when I grow tired of hearing, "Mom?" from behind me. I find myself longing for quiet or the selfish need to be left alone so I can listen to one song while I drive. There is also the thrill of going to the bathroom without a 3-year-old chasing you down the hall shouting, "I help you!" (I wonder if her eagerness will remain in about 45 or 50 years when I actually might need help.  HA!)  There are nights when the two youngest gremlins keep popping out of bed to ask for help with a blanket or to complain about something. There are mornings when they are up too early and I haven't finished my first cup of coffee.

I spend my days doing laundry and cleaning, yet it feels as if there is never anything to show for it. The house isn't spotlessly clean and the laundry is still piled up, even though I do two or three loads a day. Most days there just doesn't seem to be enough time to get everything done.

My eldest states that he is tired of therapies. He should be. He's had therapies since he was 2. Sadly, there isn't a time in his life that he remembers NOT having therapies. Truth is, I'm tired of therapies too. There are days that if feels like a mundane routine. Yet, we keep going. We keep trudging forward.

My children don't wear ties and speak eloquently. They're not fluent in three different languages. My house isn't spotless. I don't vacuum while wearing a dress, heels and pearls and I don't have dinner on the table (homemade chocolate cake for dessert included) the second my husband gets home from work. I wipe Kaitlyn's snotty nose 20 times a day. I deal with accidents and bathroom messes. I clean up vomit and spilled food.

When my children are sick I take care of them. When Kaitlyn is struggling to breathe I hold her and we use her nebulizer. I read to them, watch TV with them, play with them. I help with homework and projects. I have awesome conversations with my boys. I try to teach them responsibility by giving them chores and saying, "I can't," just makes me want to push them more.

There is nothing special about me. I'm just an okay mom . . . and I'm okay with that.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Why I'm Hard On My Special Needs Child

There was a time when I had to constantly say, "Use your words," to my Apraxic child. He would sigh in annoyance, take his time, and then speak. I honestly can't remember the last time I had to tell him to use his words. He does it on his own now. No more signs, no more gestures, no more tantrums. He slowly says what he wants to say. I stop what I'm doing, focus on him, and listen. 

When he tries to eat with his hands because using silverware is difficult we still tell him to use his fork. When he walks around with his shoes untied, we make him stop and try to tie them (even if it takes 5 minutes and multiple tries). When he struggles to brush his teeth, read, write, even hold a pencil, we keep pushing him to try. There have been numerous days when I've made him go back and brush his teeth again. He sighs or rolls his eyes, but he doesn't argue. He knows that trying is important. Practice makes perfect, right? 

I've had people tell me to just let him eat with his hands. "He's a child, what will it hurt?" I've had people ask me why I don't buy him Velcro shoes since tying is difficult for him. The zipper and button on his pants are difficult? Well, just let him wear track pants every day and then he won't have to worry about it. 

Sure, all of these things would make it easier for him and no parent wants to watch their child struggle, however it would hurt him more than help him. There will come a day when I have to send my special needs child into the world. It's not a kind world filled with rainbows and butterflies. Birds won't follow him around singing and he won't suddenly emerge in cartoon form into a dream land with no worries. The world is cruel and it will not bend over backwards to make my child's life easier. By doing that for him now I would be doing him a disservice. 

Am I hard on my special needs child? You bet I am. My job is to prepare him to go out into the world one day and to be ready. I do not want a 30-year-old son walking around with his shoe laces flapping about his feet, eating with his hands, shrugging his shoulders and saying, "I have Apraxia," just because things are hard. My dream for this kid is to see him succeed. To see him EASILY do all the things his little brother can do and hear him smile and say, "I have Apraxia, but I still did it!" He has his own voice and it is my job to help him find it and one day, when the time comes, go out and use that voice! 

So far, it seems to be working. He works twice as hard to do half as much and he's okay with that. He's comfortable with who he is and he has accepted the challenges in his life. He is happy, ornery, and has such a positive outlook on life! So, the next time you see me pushing him or encouraging him to try just one more time and you say, "You're too hard on him," I will smile and say, "Thank you."  I AM hard on him, but he'll be all the better for it one day! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Much Better Place!

First, I read about people bashing Kelly Clarkson because of her weight. Then I read about people attacking Pink because of her weight.


Do people not have lives? Why are we so worried about how others look or how much they weigh?

There is always that person who fixates on weight. You see them and the first thing out of their mouth is, "You've lost weight," "Have you gained weight?" or "You're actually keeping the weight off." These are the same people who will tell you they ran into so-and-so and "she's gained a lot of weight."

Who cares! Get a hobby! Worry about your own weight and stop fixating on others.

I have learned that those who fixate on other people's weight aren't the most likable people. I am raising my daughter in a world where she will always be under a magnifying glass. It's sick! People preach about how we should love ourselves, but how can we when we live in a society who frowns upon anyone who isn't sickly thin?

I was shocked to read that people were attacking Pink because of her weight. She's healthy and she's NOT overweight! Once upon a time Marilyn Monroe was the pinnacle of beauty and she wasn't sickly thin! How easily we forget. How sad that things have reached this point. It has become ridiculous!

Wouldn't it be great if we all saw what a person was like on the inside instead of focusing on their outward appearance?

For those who always point out other's weight and/or flaws, go take a long look in the mirror. None of us are perfect, physically or otherwise. It's time to start looking past outward appearances and start appreciating people's inner beauty.

The world would be a much better place for sure!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Positive 10

I was challenged (more like dared) by a sweet friend to post 10 positive things about myself.

10 seems like a lot.

The funny thing is, it only seems like a lot in reference to myself.  I could easily list far more than 10 positive things about my friends.

This seems like it might actually be a good thing, so in the spirit of positiveness (and fun), I'm going to just toss it out there!

After a lot of thought, here are the 10 positive things I see in/about myself:

1.  I'm strong.  (I feel far from it most days, but I wouldn't be where I am today if I were weak.)

2.  I have a heart for encouraging others and building them up.

3.  I find it difficult to mistreat or hurt others, even if it means hurting myself.  (Maybe I should say I tend to put other's feelings before my own!)

4. I'm a good mother!  (I have proof!  My gremlins tell me this daily, so it must be true . . . right?)

5. I can write a story that will keep your attention.  (Hey, not everyone can say that.)

6. I have naturally curly hair.  Be jealous!  Ha.  Most days I HATE it, but people pay money for curls, so I'll take it!

7.  I listen to what people tell me (especially if it's about me) and I actually think about it, it doesn't just go in one ear and out the other.  

8.  I'm small enough to ride on things with Kaitlyn and play with my kids at bouncy houses instead of sitting on a bench and watching.  That's a pretty cool thing.  (Sometimes it pays to be little! LOL)

9.  I have learned to find the bright spots in any situation.

10.  Life isn't always easy, but I'm still standing.

That wasn't the easiest task to master, but I did it.  Take a minute to think about what is positive about yourself.  We all have a little bit of awesomeness in us (that's why those who love us CHOOSE to love us!)

Some days it's just nice to see ourselves the way others do.  Trust me -- it's a cool thing!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Super Hero Chucks

Today, one of my very best friends told me to put on my Wonder Woman chucks because I am a super hero.

These shoes in which she speaks are a metaphor. The path I have walked through life has made me the person I am today.  It has made me stronger. I look at who I was at 19 or 20 years old.  Even at 24-years-old.  I have come a long way.

That young woman no longer exists, but memories of her are etched into my being.  They serve as reminders of not only how far I've come, but how strong I am.

No one understands your struggle as well as you do.  No one has walked in your shoes.  Maybe their paths have been similar, but they haven't walked it in your shoes.

Hold your head high and remind yourself that you ARE strong.

And never forget those who reach out and take your hand along the way, refusing to let go. Those who only make you feel loved and strong.  (Should they make you feel weak or bad about yourself, then let go of their hand. You only have two hands.  Reserve them for those who love you the most.  Hold tight to them!)

Never take them for granted.

Odds are, they're wearing their super hero chucks as well!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

You're Super!

The laundry basket outside the boys' room is overflowing.  I typically do (on average) three loads a day and yet I still can't seem to manage to get caught up. 

I clean the kitchen and living room daily, most days two or three times. By bedtime it's a mess again.  Some days it feels like a losing battle. 

I get up early to have a little time to myself to read, work out, etc. before my children wake up.  Once they wake up it's like a gang of baby birds wanting, needing, or asking questions nonstop.  Lately, they have been getting up earlier than usual and the time to myself that I so look forward to seems to be MIA. 

I think the pile of dirty laundry has multiplied as I've typed!  

You get it.  As a mother I know that we wear similar shoes! 

You invest all of your time and energy into your children and spouse. You listen to your spouse every day after work as he talks about his day.  You offer words of encouragement or tell him he's being too hard on himself.  You remind him that you appreciate his hard work and all he does to support you and your children.  
You try to make dinner while helping two children with their homework at the same time.  You spend extra time raising a special needs child.  Helping him with everything he needs help with, getting him to appointments and therapies, meeting with others who are involved with his health, education, life. 

You fill out applications, you pay the bills, you call and handle things when something goes wrong or something needs to be dealt with. You clean the house, cook the meals, and iron the clothes.You get up in the middle of the night with a sick child. 

You encourage your children and you scold them.  You feel like a nag because they aren't listening even though you've asked them to pick up their dirty underwear three times already.  It's still there. A wad of red and black heaped over beside the desk chair.

You don't get a vacation from this job.  You don't get nights and weekends off.  That's okay, though, because you know it's all worth it.  However, there are days when you're up at 5:00 to have time to yourself and your children awaken early and want breakfast.  You tell them to go back to sleep, but they're already dressed and wide awake.  You're not sure why, but it seems they just want to sit and stare at you until you get up and help them with breakfast.  There are days when so much time and energy goes into cleaning, laundry, and your family that you're exhausted, but you feel there is nothing to show for it.  You wonder if you're wasting your time because even though you've done 5 loads of laundry today, it is still overflowing.  Your child does something to make you wonder if you're a bad parent. The list goes on and on.  

I want to take this opportunity to say that you ARE doing a fantastic job.  We all need to be reminded of this, especially on days when we feel under appreciated and last in line. It is a difficult job, but you're a pro at it. Imagine what would happen to your family if you weren't there doing all that you do?  You ARE needed and you're doing an awesome job! 

We all need to be reminded of this from time to time.  Hold your heads high, moms!  Know that you truly are a Super Mom!  

I'm off to conquer the dreaded villain in my hallway who is disguised as a stinky pile of laundry!  Tighten your capes, moms, and go be super! 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friendship Is A Gift

Friendships are a gift.

These are people who CHOOSE to love you.  You weren't forced on them by blood or marriage.  They chose you.  (How cool is that!)  We so often forget this and treat them as far less than gifts.

The struggle is real.  (I couldn't resist using that line!)  Female relationships can be so difficult.  We just tend to be so emotional.  One thing I have learned is that some are more emotional than others.

We all have friends who are know-it-alls.  We all have friends who make everything about themselves, get offended about things that have nothing to do with them, or give us the silent treatment.  We have friends who never have anything positive to say or have expectations that are just too high.

Ladies, we are adults.  Why is it that so many grown women still act so immature?  Who has the time or the energy to behave this way?

I have two friends, both older than me, who have experienced EVERY mood I could possibly have.  They have never gotten upset with me, never made me feel bad, and never made things that I shared with them about themselves. They never tell me what to do, never criticize me, and never take my moods personally. They are always there no matter what is going on in their lives and they make me feel as if I am some one special.

Female relationships can be complicated, but they don't have to be.  Is it really so hard to just be there for each other, to love each other, and to not get bent out of shape over things (especially things that have nothing to do with you?)  Life is really too short for that.

I am no one special, but these two friends make me feel as if I AM someone special.  I have also been blessed with many other great friends who have proven themselves to be just that--great friends.  I am blessed in the friend department, that is for sure!

My prayer is that I am as great of a friend to them as they are to me (and that I make them feel just as special)!

Who do you have in your life who lifts you up or makes you feel as if you're someone special (every single day)?

Cherish and nurture the positive friendships, ladies! Tell them thank you and never forget that these great friendships are gifts (and should be treated as such)!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Seeing Yourself

Have you ever stopped to think about how others might see you?

I'll be the first to admit that most of the time I am my biggest critic as well as my own worst enemy. Surely when people see me they just see the huge nerd that I am.  A woman who loves (and has a great deal of respect for) books. A woman who enjoys writing and actually writes as often as she can in hopes of one day getting some more stories or articles published; especially a novel. A woman who loves Wonder Woman and believes that Audrey Hepburn was not only a fabulous actress and a beautiful woman, but also an amazing person.  A woman who lives in a house that does not look like an adult lives here. A woman who absolutely loves all things vintage, retro . . . OLD! A woman who loves art and color! A woman who jokes around with her children and acts goofy with them.  A woman with a plain face, stupid hair, and an imperfect body.

Wait, what?

The truth is, we can be hard on ourselves.  I have learned (and am learning more every day) that those closest to me see me in a very different way than I see myself.

I was talking to a friend this morning and she surprised me.  She said, "It must be nice to be brave enough to have such a cool place."  What?  Her comment threw me.

Without thinking, I let out an uncomfortable laugh.  She said, "No, I'm serious.  I feel like my house has to be boring and look as if adults live there."  I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Everyone has their own taste.  Some might even say that my taste is weird."  To my surprise she smiled and said, "Your place is happy."

What a great compliment!  Who cares if my house is new, big, nice, fancy, stylish . . . but happy?  That is a great word!  I love it! What better compliment for your home.  I love that she sees my home as happy!  My aunt once told me that she loved how my husband and I made our home fun for our kids.  That is partially true.  The fact is, when our kids are grown and it's just Jacob and me, we will still have the bright colors.  We will still have tons of books, art, and cool old things.  It's what we love, it's who we are, and our home reflects that.

Another person told me she loved my hair; that I look like a french artist.  Okay, well, that's cool, I guess. Now, Logan keeps telling me he "really likes my curls" and if I straighten my hair he will say, "I like it better the other way.  I like it that you look like a french artist."  Now, odds are he has no idea what a french artist is, but he thinks it sounds cool and that's good enough for me!

Yesterday, while wishing me a happy birthday, a friend actually said, "You're just an awesome person."  I laughed and said, "Thank you."  I have a bad habit of caring about how others feel.  Logan is A LOT like me in that respect.  We want to encourage people, build them up, and see them smile.  While I don't see myself as an awesome person, it has been really neat to see myself through my friends' eyes over the past couple of days.

The fun fact for today is that we are who we are.  Odds are, that person you see staring back at you from the mirror isn't the same person seen by those who love you.  I think that is pretty cool.  They see me as this great person, a person worthy of their love, worthy of their friendship, their support, encouragement, honesty, and a million other awesome things.

Be yourself, but more importantly, be happy with yourself. I have some truly amazing friends who are constantly reminding me of this.

I'm so thankful for them and thankful they see me differently than I see myself!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

I Have Learned

I left the living room to put folded clothes away.  I could hear the laughter filling the house as I headed down the hallway.  It was obvious my gremlins were running around the room like crazy people.  I returned a few minutes later to find the sofa pillows on the floor.  Several of Kaitlyn's toys were strewn about, as well as two of her blankets.  The couch itself had even been shifted.  All three gremlins sat perfectly still as if they had been that way all along.  I laughed and said, "What did you guys do?"  Alex looked around and said, "What? I don't see anything."

I have learned a lot since Alex was born over a decade ago. I have learned that I can spend all day doing laundry and cleaning and at the end of the day there is no evidence of it. I have learned that Goldfish, when stepped on, crumble into such a fine powder that it sinks deep into the carpet.  It is nearly impossible to vacuum up every last crumb.  It can be done, but not without sighs and annoyed groaning! I have learned that Legos end up all over the house and hurt when you step on them.  It never fails; you WILL step on them! I have learned that when my 10-year-old is quiet it doesn't mean he feels sick or something is bothering him.  It just means he's growing up, he's not as rowdy as he once was, and he just wants me to leave him alone and stop asking him questions. I've learned that children can set a new record for how quickly they can destroy a room, but when it's time to clean it up they can drag it out all day.  I have learned that 3-year-old girls prefer to be in nothing but a pull-up when they're at home and really (honestly and truly) ARE just like little teenagers, except teenagers are potty trained!  I have learned that siblings will fight over anything.  I'm waiting for the big fight over oxygen.  It has yet to happen, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Over the past decade I have learned that household chores can wait when your little girl looks at you with big blue eyes and says, "Mommy, you want to play with me?"  I have learned that hearing my eldest son read to me is one of my favorite things.  I have learned that 8-year-old boys really do think about things more than I ever imagined they could and might actually be more noble than most people five times their age! I have learned that time moves fast and you are forced to keep up with it! I have learned that I am raising my children in a world that is much different than the one I grew up in, yet frighteningly similar.

Every day our children wake up a day older.  Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Today is the oldest you've ever been, and the youngest you'll ever be again."  I have learned that having a clean house is ideal, but having happy children and enjoying them while they're the youngest they'll ever be again is more important.