Price of Admission

I wrote this because, well, dishes and bottles.

One night I was standing at the sink doing dishes and thinking about how life seems to revolve around cleaning dishes and cleaning bottles lately, and I was sort of over it.

I started lamenting the fact that I ALWAYS have to do dishes and I ALWAYS have to clean the bottles and I ALWAYS…you know the drill; the ALWAYS and NEVER sickness that crops up every once in a while usually late in the evening when your defenses are down and you are bone-tired and perhaps a little more cranky than usual but you’re not sure you’re willing to admit that to yourself yet.

I imagine I’m not the only one who’s been through the whole bitter vs. grateful aspect of what feels like never-ending dishes pile or baskets of unfolded laundry or the countless other chores that are more constant than anything else in this thing called life with a family.

So, after I lamented to myself a little bit, then felt sorry for myself a little bit (well, a lot bit, if we’re being totally honest here), like I indeed was Cinderella confined by my evil step sisters to the sink, I remembered suddenly: Hey self, I chose this. And hey, self also: it isn’t that bad. After about 30 minutes of reminders to myself, I told myself to more or less get over it.

And then I realized (too late, as I often do) that maybe I need a teaspoon of my own medicine that I so freely give my kids: that with everything in life, there is a rose and a thorn. And learning that perhaps bottles are my personal thorns in the great, big, bold, beautiful rose that is having a baby. And the price of admission for having a family is dishes, and the price of admission for having a chubby, chortling happy baby is constant bottle washing.

And so out of that—I thought a lot about life. And voila!  This sort of poem (or whatever you would call this) about the price of admission for living a full life.

Price of Admission

Skinned knees, hurt feelings, jelly side down, broken hearts and those darn clam shell packages.  Socks with holes in the most inconvenient places. Crying jags.

Bad moods, overcast skies, laundry piled high, dishes. Missing keys, too much mail, pants that are too tight. Burned toast.

Late running appointments, over boiling pots, stepped-on toes, bitterness, children that are bedtime-allergic, shoes that still haven’t stretched out. Unwanted pounds. Selfishness. Ego.

Exhaustion – by things, people, money, traffic, yourself, noise, computers, politics, that earworm song that you can’t get out of your head.

Indescribable joy, unbridled pain and suffering, boredom. Equal parts pain and joy, unequal parts pain and joy depending upon your constitution.

Pets.

Sunshine.

Bubbles and ice cream. Days where everything goes your way. Autumn.  Tea in the morning and sun that still shines brightly no matter what.

Butter. Love. Rainbows. Innocence, like a child arguing whole heartedly with you that a unicorn really does exist. Hamburgers. God. Children. The cool part of the pillow. Wonder. Fireflies.

Naps. Books. The simple act of blowing a dandelion.

Sleep and purring cats.  Warm socks and silent nights. The sound of stillness. Eating cake for breakfast. Long walks, the beach and road trips. Hot baths. Exhilarating freedom.

Babies crying, dog poop found inside the house, spilled milk, Lego embedded into sole of foot. The kind of sick that involves vomit or the other thing. Or, on lucky days, both things. Confusion. Heartache. Not sure whether you’re tired, angry, or hungry, or all of the above.

The gym. Which really, could go either way if we’re being completely honest about it.

Middle aged spread. Fleas. Mosquitos and other annoyances. The kid that won’t eat anything green. Potholes. The strange crust that forms around the toothpaste tube opening that only very OCD or organized people seem to be able to avoid completely. Whining. Sadness. Weeds.

Being able to feel the breeze on your face, smell the newly cut grass in the air, barbecue. The first corn of the summer. Fat, round chortling babies.

Tenderness, warmth. Comforting campfires and long stories. Brushing the tendrils of hair out of your child’s sleeping face. Patience. Learning to be a beginner. Plump peaches. Quiet.

Hope. Kindness and mercy, especially in the face of something traumatic. Lending a hand. Mercy. Happiness that radiates up from your toes. Concerts. Living out loud. Learning to let go of who you were.  Wide toothy smiles.

The solid notion that life indeed goes on, which most days presents itself as laundry to be folded and dishes to be done.

The End.

5 Gifts to Give Yourself for Mother’s Day

Yes, 5 gifts to give yourself this Mother’s Day.

Especially if you are a mother with a young family.

1. Grace.

Truth: We all need it, and especially those on the first line of defense (read: moms of toddlers) need lots of it, in huge serving sizes. Give it to others, your little ones, most importantly to yourself often.

2. Plastic, wipe-off placemats.

I know, I know, they are tacky and I can’t believe I’m saying this either. And usually they come in polarizing primary or fluorescent colors, and may or may not have Dora and Batman (or another crazy theme, like ants on a picnic table) scattered across them. I know, I get it–they are not cute.

But you are only in this stage once, this children-are-so-small-and-tender age, and with that, to some degree you have to let things go so you can enjoy them while they are still small. And to me, that means being able to clean up at least something quickly. There will be time for beautiful table settings later, I promise. And yes, preaching this to myself as I wipe down said (hideous!) placemats. Fist bump, sister.

3. Letting go of the need of perfectly snapping the freshly cleaned lovely little onesies at the bottom, all 3 snaps, snap-snap-snap, before you hang it up or fold it and put it away. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

4. Saturday morning hair forgiveness.

That crazy mess of hair that is either rolled up in a bun, pulled back in a cap or a ponytail, or somehow just out of your face so you can run after your kids, cheer from the sidelines at their early morning soccer game or run to the store before they wake up.

Whatever it looks like, it’s cool. You’re doing the best you can to be the best mom your can be, and sometimes that means that the fancy braids and whatnot that you’ve been pinning on your style board just won’t be used on Saturday morning. And that’s okay.

5. When all else fails, a hot bath and/or a massage.

Yes, you’re allowed.

Happy early Mother’s Day, mamas.

Heaven Help Us

Heaven help us when the little ones get sick.

All I want to do is cradle them, wrap them up tight, all swaddled up, like I did when they were so tiny and fragile. I want to hold them and rock them until it’s all better.

It’s hard to do that when they are bigger, have opinions, are the grumpy sort of sick people, and are all arms and legs that don’t fit so well into a receiving blanket.

And heaven help us when they get the sort of sick that includes the throwing up piece; it’s enough just to not gag myself and be valiantly calm and caring without holding my nose.

 

 

Five Minute Friday (on a Monday) Red

Five Minute Friday, yep, on a Monday. Monday. I clearly ain’t that proud.

But, wanted to do this, and so here it goes–writing, amongst the laundry piles, the to-do lists and the general clutter and eons-long list of things yet to be done. But writing, still. In the midst of all of that and the new bit of life with a baby, so feel like a champ that I can just sit down for 10 or so odd minutes and pound out some words and thoughts. Truly, this feels like superhero work that as a bonus, makes me feel good about life. And P.S.-it’s a special treat for you if the words and thoughts are actually spelled correctly!

So, here is this, a Five Minute Friday challenge, one I used to do with some regularity a while ago.

And here are the rules, should you want to join me, which I hope you do some day. This is fun stuff here, and challenging, and a great side effect is that your writing gets better, stronger. And you also get to encourage others too, which is icing on the cake.

For a reminder-this Five Minute Friday thing is a weekly writing “game” from my bloggy friend Lisa-Jo Baker, who blogs (and writes heart-breakingly, beautiful words and stories) at http://lisajobaker.com/

So, here’s the challenge, should you accept it: you write for 5 minutes with freedom like you have no fear or shame.  Or propensity for run-on sentences and inappropriate comma use, like I do.  And then you have to be brave (or at least pretend to be) and link up to her blog.

Encouraging the writer who links up before you is part of the deal, too. This last rule is crucial, as we all need to encourage others. Why encourage another writer? Because at one point or another in our lives, we all need encouraging, yes, oh yes we do.

Each week is a new word, a new thought starter, and you have 5 minutes to write….and are you ready?

go-

 RED

thanks to nuchylee for the image use.
thanks to nuchylee for the image use.

Can I tell you honestly? When I see the word red, all I think is seeing red, devil with the red dress on, and this little random factoid that I learned: that red is the most important color on a Pinterest pin because it is the color that attracts the most pinners.

Random, right?

But, since I can’t write about all of these, I’ll write about one, and that’s seeing red. Which, unfortunately I see more often these days, as I’m a mother of a new one and have sleep deprivation on a pretty regular basis. And I’m also a mother of a toddler, so therefore in the stage of being entrenched in their daily negotiations that so much so that it feels more like negotiating with a crazed terrorist (but the loveliest, cutest sort) than it feels like rearing children.

And so often, I lose my cool. I don’t yell, I don’t scream, which I’m real thankful for, but I so quickly lose my patience for the 30th “why” question on something I’ve already explained about 20 times before; I so quickly get tired of the “stay away from your brother’s face” phrase I have to repeat over and over again; I so quickly get tired, in spirit and in just maturity, of being the parent and being the bigger person instead of falling into the emotional exchange with a toddler who’s so deeply seated in the smack-dab middle of her toddlerhood that I think she may never come out of this stage, and all the while, me acting like a eye-rolling babysitter instead of her mother.

And I know it has nothing, this toddlerhood, on raising a teenager, so I hear. But I have to say, that all the cards I’ve been getting lately for our new one’s birth have said, more or less, “good luck on going from 3 to 4!” and every time, I jump to the conclusion that they are talking about my toddler, and how going from age 3 to 4, age 4 which happens later this year.  I only recently figured out that these cards were talking about our family going from 3 people to 4 people, not about my toddler’s age at all.

Can you tell I’ve been a little exasperated with my 3 year old?

But truth be told, I love her, dearly. Always have. Always will, despite anything and everything, even my own attitude. And that’s true for the new one too, no matter what sorts of trouble or little annoyances crop up.

And another truth-I am so thankful, especially, for the one who hears my prayers, my desperate, keep-me-calm and help-my-keep-my-tone-and-attitude-respectful, sometimes red-laced prayers.

On motherhood and bravery

I want to tell her.

I want to tell her to keep that grace, that bravery, that ROAR-ing she does, at the entrance of a dark room, the one she does at this small, tender age, in order to scare out all of the supposed monsters in her room.

I want to tell her to keep it, the independence, this solving-your-own-problems, while not forgetting about the beauty in growing in God, in leaning in Him and on others.

That’s no small indignity, to ask for help when you need it.

That you can’t always depend on just yourself, I want to whisper in her ear.

But then again I want to tell here that there are some days that life is all about pulling up your own bootstraps, corralling your own painted pony instead of waiting on a prince on a white horse to come rescue you, that some days, it’s all up to you to get something done or taken care of.

But most days, it’s about the leaning in, the community.

There are so many things I want to warn her about with this as well.

That community and people are a double-edged sword; that the one who loves you the most can also be the one that hurts you the most, cuts the deepest.

That the one you don’t like or haven’t too high an opinion of is the one that you actually ending up trying to impress, for no real reason at all, except for your own ego.

I want to tell her that sometimes, people are mean, hurtful, unkind and uncaring.

I want to warn her of this, to humble her easy-going nature, lest someone takes advantage of her and her kindness.

But I don’t, not yet.

I give parent-y warnings, motherly advice because although I know all of these things to be true about humankind, I also know humankind to be kind, caring, accepting, peaceful, and full of grace and mercy when you least expect it.

That some days, it seems as if the kindness of humanity even surprises the most cynical of all of us.

So, then, how do you explain this tug of war with humanity, this handling of a knife that cuts on both ends? How on earth to try to explain to someone how exactly to hold that, I wonder.

Sometimes, you don’t have to. Some days the knife falls unaware, from some side kitchen cabinet you never saw there, razor-sharp and maims everything in its fall.

And some days that knife cuts into the darkness, pierces into the tenderness of you, the light, so much so that you feel it’s saved your own soul from becoming too dark and crowded. And you wonder how on earth you could be so defensive and full of self-safety when you’ve just witness an action so deep, so transforming, so kind? Just how?

How do you explain that to your child?

So I sit here and wonder and ponder in the quiet, hands running far too many times over the roundness of the coffee mug to count, way too many times to justify this confusing piece of writing, of advice I’m trying to give.

So, I try to explain, to teach the way I know how, the way I handle most things in life:  Stumble through.  Be truthful, don’t try and protect too much, because in the end, that’s more of a disservice to her and her generation than believing in fairy tales.

She needs tools, not tales.  Sound advice and authentic stories, not outlandish fantasy or cold, bitter, hard truths that give no hope for the future.

So I fervently, quietly and consciously tell her real truths and authentic stories and all the while, pray.

I pray fervently, passionately that she continues to be the one, the strong one, the one that maybe, leads the other afraid ones to yell at the monsters in the dark, hold hands, clasped tightly and woven close to each other and to God.

I pray for her eyes to see and her ears to hear, eyes that are not clouded by hurt or pain or ego, but eyes that can see straight to the heart of things, with compassion and grace and what takes a little bit of bravery to see people as they are.

I pray she hears clearly, the ills of the world, and tries to help, instead of turning up the comfort, the activities and the iTunes louder so as to drown out the suffering of the world.

Mostly, I pray, I pray, I pray.

And some days, I pray for my bravery too, in leading her.

The Submission

Sorry by bigjom

In the past month or so, lots has changed around here, which is not a bad thing, it’s a good thing. Good things, more accurately, more good things are on the horizon for us I think.  Which is real hopeful, since lately life has been a bit more stressful and stretched taut than my husband or I would like to admit.

And one of those good things for me personally has been the hope of having one of my pieces of writing published.

If any of you follow my Facebook posts, you know that I one of my pieces had recently been accepted for publication.  Hooray! I thought.  Finally! I thought.

Turns out that the publication was not able to get enough backers and advertisers to support the magazine, so the December issue (the one in which my piece would appear) and all issues after it will not be published.

Rats! I thought when I heard that news this morning.

But I’ve now come to the conclusion that this is not a bad thing.  Which is crazy to say for someone who loves to write. For someone who longs to be published.  Yes, crazy, I would have said oh, about six months ago.

But now, eh, just an inconvenience and a let down, but really: no biggie.  Not a big deal.  At all.

Sure I’d like to be published and people to read my words and be moved and touched by them, but maybe it isn’t my time yet.  Maybe it’s time to (finally) trust God and time to (finally) let go of my need to control every aspect of my life.  The control thing: it’s all an illusion anyway.  The moment I think I have something or someone figured out, poof! it all changes and everything is entirely turned on its head.  Or my toddler decides overnight literally overnight that a certain pair of shoes are now deemed unacceptable.  How in the world can you control that?

But I digress.  The point (yes, there is one!) is that this is a good thing, this not being published.  This makes me slow down.  This makes me less ego-driven.  This makes me again, trust God instead of doing the work myself and the boldly asking him to bless it.  How far I’ve come, but how far, far, I still need to go in terms of this whole trusting, not-being-in-control thing.  The good news is I have the rest of my whole life to try and figure out how to let the bird of control out of my hand and be free, instead of almost crushing it’s wings before it tries to fly.  And that learning can’t come soon enough.

So, without further adieu, here is the piece! A cleaned up (mostly) edited version any way.  Feel free to share, and I’d love to hear if you like it/don’t like it.  Truly.

Sister

My younger sister has taught me a thing or two about life.  In between the fights over which boy band was better, what celebrity is doing what crazy thing with their hair, and my constant nagging (I call it educating), somewhere along there she grew up.

And got married.

And most recently, had a baby.

And this thing, this my-sister-is-having-a-baby, this my-sister-has-had-a-baby thing has thrown me for a loop.  As in, thrown me for a giant loop so large I’m not even sure I’m on the same racetrack anymore.

She’s more or less figured out the motherhood dance.

In under six months.

Like her, I know how hard it is to carry, worry, and then give birth to something so small and yet feel as if you are carrying the weight of the world, of all of humanity in your hands.  Down to my bones I understand that; we now have that in common.

But she, the younger (some days wiser but you didn’t hear me say that) sister, has managed the new parenting role different, better than me.

Everyone can hold the baby and love the baby unlike my new mother experience.

And also, she’s not holed up inside her house the first six weeks as if she were living with a contagious virus that means she’s housebound, on constant lock-down armed with burp rags and Lysol.

In short, she’s learned from my mistakes, and has also managed to learn what she needs in order to care for herself and her needs.

She needs community.

And I am in awe of this realization.  Of course, is what I thought, after her son was born.  She understood this need already.  Aha, is what I thought, while trying to not mourn the sometimes inept choices I made earlier in my parenting journey.  So you can do it another way, my husband has remarked openly, while I thought I really want to kick him in the shins right now.

Community.  People.  Loved ones.  The piece of the new baby puzzle I hadn’t yet figured out.

The need for (and fear of) community was exactly what I was missing postpartum, and it could of helped a great deal with my early parenting misadventures.

But thankfully, now I see.  Now I see, after awkward invitations sent out and returned, after a few weekends of more than just chores and family time, after a couple of times just hanging out with friends, now I see that.  I see what the big deal is now, and how important community is.  Community saves us.  Some of us, it saves daily.

I won’t say I have it figured out because I don’t.  Just last weekend we tried hanging out with friends more, and it was a success.  But the next day I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself; it was like a bad hangover and in the end I figured out that I felt like a seesaw that veered to far into the people world and didn’t have proper balance with the alone time.  One thing’s for sure though: there will be a lot more mistakes and learning to find the balance but that’s ok.  I have faith that eventually I will find the balance of it all.

And I have my sister, my younger sister to thank for this.

Lest you think too highly of her, she still talks too much and has absolutely zero control over her maniac dog, but the parenting thing, she has figured out.  For now, at least.  I’m just going to end there, smiling smugly at the thought of the toddler years to come, as I hold all of the overly helpful advise in getting through those years.