Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Moment in which You Can Choose.

Moms aren't perfect creatures.

I am so far from it that I don't even have to state it. Because, yes obviously, not perfect. That would be like me saying I wasn't "quite" 6 ft tall. I'm 5'2". We all lose it sometimes. We blow up and we apologize. We swear this will help us remember, and we blow up again. Life gets in the way of our very best intentions sometimes.

So know that right now I am not talking about these moments. 

I'm talking about the moments that teeter on the edge. The moments that either decision is an entire step away. You have to choose which way you are going to expend your energy- the step back, or the step off the cliff. 

When you can, step back. 

When you know that you would have "every right" to lose your mind; you're tempted because you'd be "justified" and yet something is allowing you to freeze and think before acting, choose patience. 

This morning, I took the girls to the zoo for a play date. E had a meltdown because I would not let her sit on the rocks in some sort of non-violent demonstration all day. Maybe she didn't like the living conditions of the animals, or maybe she's just one and a half. Either way, I had to pick her up and carry her. I don't have to tell you how that went. Meanwhile, Jo fell and skinned her knees up like she hasn't in her entire life. We were just about as far back in the zoo from the entrance as we could have been in the park. I had two screaming, crying children. One flailing, half on my hip, half in a football hold, reaching for strangers to save her and let her sit on rocks, one a tad bloody and squeezing what had to be a third hand that I sprouted. There was much holding and injury and flailing and crying and I really don't even know how I had them both. And it was hot. And, as Jo lamented, people were staring at us (Hi. Hey. How are you? Good? Me too. Be sure you don't miss the lions, they're majestic creatures.).

My mind was telling me to just tune it all out and march, but my heart heard my little girl telling me how much she hurt. I wanted to get them out of there ASAP, but she needed reassurance. So over the protests of my tiny animal rights activist, I told Jo my multiple step plan I had for getting her patched up, distracting her a little and letting her know I would take care of her. I hear you, I'm so sorry you're hurt. I tried to walk briskly, but I made sure not to walk faster than those banged up little knees felt like going. I told her we'd wrap her up like a mummy if we needed to. She giggled through her tears, and in the middle of it all, I felt relieved. No cliff diving for us gals today....yet, anyway.

I wonder how many other times I could have chosen in the middle of the crazy. I can't change those times, but on my journey to be a more intentional mom, I can move forward continuing to look for that one moment on the ledge where I still have the chance to step back. Skinned knees heal faster than a heart that's been hurt by a sharp tone or short response where comfort was craved.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Let Them Make Cake: Why Your Kids Should Be in the Kitchen.

Y'all. I love to cook. I love it. You know what else I love? My bebes.

Know what I love THE MOST IN THE UNIVERSE? Putting those two loves together.

        This one. Baking is her fave. 

I KNOW. I know it sounds like chaos. I know it brings out everyone's inner control freak to watch their 5 year old crack an egg, or your 3 year old stir maniacally, spilling over the rim of the bowl, or your grade schooler using the range for the first time. But I'm begging you, pleeeeeease just do it. You will never regret it. Here are just a few reasons why it's worth the mess and the time.

1. You will make great memories. I have had some of the best conversations with my bigs while crimping ravioli, prepping veggies, or folding whipped cream into a frosting. It's been proven that when children's hands are occupied with a task, they are more likely to open up about things that are on their minds. I have found this to be true time and time again. Even when there isn't much talking, just remembering all the holiday meals and fun nights where we came together to create something yummy gives those occasions new significance.

2. Because this is a life skill disguised as fun. One day, they're going to have to feed themselves, and maybe even others. They don't need to be scared of the kitchen. The end.

3. You will be boosting their self-esteem. I mean, even as an adult, I'm pretty proud of myself when something, especially a new recipe, turns out nicely. They get to prove responsibility with kitchen tools, working their way up as they go. They take risks, make suggestions and come up with their own combinations. When you give them the chance to try them, they see that it went great, or that it didn't and that's okay, too. Back to the cutting board. It's the best thing ever to see the kids' faces when everyone is enjoying something they had a hand in making. Which brings me to number 4.

4. You will open your picky kid's mind...even if just a little. Because who doesn't want to enjoy the fruits of their labor? Kids are way more likely to be open to a food if they've been there helping with the entire process.

5. Because math and science. If you are one of those crazy people that actually go by recipes, this will especially be true for you. I'm a bit of a maverick and measure practically nothing, but that is a subject for a different day. Measuring, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, conversions, physics, and chemistry: every bit of that is going on when you bake. You don't have to point all this learn-y goodness out as you go, but if you feel called to do so, it's all there. And it's pretty cool.

6. They can't play video games or scroll their phone with dough on their hands. And neither can you. They are all yours in the kitchen, and you theirs. It's fantastic and contributes greatly to number one.

7. Fine motor skills. Pouring, cutting, scooping, leveling, stirring, spreading: these things are practice in hand-eye coordination and fine tuning control, just as much as zipping a zipper or buttoning a shirt, and at least as much fun.

8. One day they will be self-sufficient enough to give you an occasional break. And that....that is the greatest gift of all.

So my challenge to you is to set some time aside this weekend and make something amazing with your littles. It doesn't have to be complex. I promise you that the end product is wonderful beyond words. Especially if the end product is cake.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Looking Up

Hey, kiddos.

I dropped the ball this week, didn't I? I won't make excuses, because I can always find those and throw away the point. I won't do that this time. I'm sorry. You needed me, you were standing there, and I had my head down, pushing through. I caved to the distractions; some real and significant, some not so much.

But you were standing there.

And I had my head down. 

I am so, so sorry, loves. I don't know what came over me. But I promise you, it ends now. 

I'm looking up. 

I see your Lego landscape you built. It really is fantastic, and you are so creative. I see you, sweet girl. You are precious beyond words.  

I hear your crazy scheme, kid. You are a mess and you make me laugh daily. I see you, Bug. I am in awe of the young man you are becoming. 

I see your arms stretched out, waiting for me to scoop you up so we can squeeze one another. You are such a wild little thing, but you love so hard. I see you, my baby. Mama is here, and I'm not letting go until you do.

I love you all like crazy. You and your daddy make up the four chambers of my heart. I will never understand how I lose sight of what truly matters sometimes, but I pray that I am stopping faster, turning on my heels sooner. 

And running back to you, as fast as I can. 

His mercies are new each morning, and for that I am so thankful. Tomorrow is a new day, and when you wake to it, I will be there. And my eyes will meet yours. And my ears will listen. And my heart will rest right where it belongs. 

With you. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

To Those About to School

Where in the world did the summer go? Wasn't it just May? How is it August, a week away from the beginning of the school year for so many?

My bunch is gearing up another year here at home. There was a moment, as there seems to be every summer, where I wasn't sure that this would be the case, but here I am: here I am negotiating a shirt/no shirt during school hours policy with Bay, restocking journals, making sure Jo has one eraser for every month she's been alive (perfectionism is a struggle, y'all), accumulating activities for E that make it unlikely less likely that she destroys the house while I teach, making book lists, and other general flying by the seat of my pants homeschooling things.

However you go about it, school is upon us all. Valar knowledgus: All men must learn. Or something.

Just so you know, I'm praying for you.

To the mama who has been down this road before and is gearing up for yet another year: You rock. You have this down pat by now, you vet, you. I'm praying for you and your little ones that the days are as long or as short as you need them to be, that you help a rookie mom out when you see her trying to figure it out in the middle of the cafeteria or at co-op. I pray that the school year goes smoothly for you, and the workload doesn't result in anyone cutting stress bangs.

To the mama who is sending her first baby off to kindergarten: Oh goodness, my heart is with you. I cried and cried on Bay's first day of school. And then, someone would make me laugh, and I would cry because I remembered how sad I actually was. He was totally fine and I was a blubbering fool who barely held it together long enough to get through that parking lot and back into the car. I don't care how tough you think you are, sending off your five year old who suddenly looks so tiny in that sea of older kids (2nd graders= NFL linebackers) is HARD AND EMOTIONAL WORK. If I were there, I would hand you a coffee and something chocolatey and some tissues because this day is not for the faint of heart. I pray that your sadness wears off quickly and is replaced with excitement as you see all the new things your sweet kiddo is conquering. I pray that pick-up, be that from school or after-school care is one of the sweetest times of day for you both as you are happily reunited, and I pray that this is an amazing start to the next thirteen years.

To the mama who is beginning her first day of homeschool: First off, deeeep breaths. It is a little scary to be in charge of your child's education, isn't it? I promise you, it will not always be as overwhelming as it may feel right this moment. One day at a time. If I could give you one gift, it would be the gift of reassurance- you've got this! Have FUN, and as I told a friend earlier today, measure how your days are going by your child's progress, not Pinterest. Sooner than later, you will fall into your family's unique rhythm of what works for you all, and that is a beautiful thing. I pray for you to remember to heap grace on yourself and your children as you navigate these new waters, I pray that you remember that learning can happen ANYWHERE, and I pray that you take moments for yourself, because you cannot give to them what you have not managed to get for yourself.

To the mama who is a year, or years, away from this day: Cherish it. Even when they're driving you crazy, even when you wonder if they will ever learn their ABCs or potty train or stop eating dirt- savor as best as you can. I know that isn't a popular sentiment, but coming from someone who blinked and suddenly had a pre-teen standing before her, please take my word for it. Love on those babies, because your turn is coming faster than you know. They are growing up on us, mamas. I pray that you have a wonderful support system, I pray that you remember that some days, playing is more important than your to do list. I pray these are sweet years for you before the backpack days.

Oh, and also: mornings. I'm praying for us ALL concerning mornings. Mostly that one.