The Mom Conundrum

It is one of the great mysteries of motherhood: How can we LOVE being with our children and LOVE being away from them?? I absolutely adore spending time with my kids! For crying out loud, I even homeschool! There are weeks that I am literally with them 24/7…most weeks. I LOVE teaching them! I LOVE taking them to the park! I LOVE doing family activities!! I really LOVE family togetherness!! However, the other day when we left to pick up our new van…I was giddy! I was excited to get the van, of course, but I was giddy to be alone with my husband!!

We drove 2 hours by ourselves. I read my husband a hilarious article on Facebook and we both laughed. We listened to the music we wanted to, we stopped and looked at campers that we have no intention of buying, we ate lunch together, and we talked about dreams we have for the future. It was wonderful!!!

A few years ago, we went on a weekend away. I think it may be the only weekend away since kids, now that I think about it. I was so excited! We had a great time!! Dinner on our own! Going places that kids can’t go! Staying in a hotel without having to put kids in bed. It was WONDERFUL!!! Yet when it was time to go home, I was pretty sure that I could run faster than my husband could drive! I was ready to be home and I missed my kids so much!!!

Why is this? How can we love being with them and love being away from them at the same time?!?! I honestly think the answer is, as mothers, we have two halves: motherhood and the woman we were before motherhood. The person we were before kids, enjoys revisiting those care free days where the only concern we had was our own wants and plans. The person we are after kids lives for their needs and they become the center of our world…our heart walking on the outside of our bodies. Sometimes I think I lose that girl, the one I was before kids. But when I have time away from them, I find I don’t want to stay there for long, because I miss them too much.

It is strange how two seemingly contradictory feelings can live in one person. And yet, they do! Talk to any mom. Most of us feel this way!

It is a grand thing to be a mom!

The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children.

-Jessica Lange

Living with a Child Like Q

My third son, let’s call him Q, is a different kind of child. We have known this since he was very young. He is super creative, he is always making up elaborate stories (sometimes called lies). He is extremely artistic and showed lots of talent at a very young age. He is hilarious and generally lives in his own world. Much of the time he plays on his own creating elaborate worlds with legos or art. He sounds like a great kid, right? And he is!! But with all that super creativity comes a slight downside: he isn’t always super present in the NOW. He also has a SLIGHT (think GREAT) tendency to get easily distracted. Now I LOVE Q with all my heart and enjoy him immensely, but he can frustrate the devil right out of me! Like make me want to lose my mind, have a high speed come apart, completely lose my sh….stuff.

This past Sunday is one particular example. We were all getting ready to leave for church. The kids are dressed. I am dressed. All I have to do is dry my hair. I pull out my hairdryer and see that my diffuser is missing. I have curly hair. I CANNOT dry it without my diffuser!! I look for it. My husband looks for it. I am now yelling at my kids trying to figure out who knows where it is. I KNOW that chances are GREAT that Q has taken it. I mean, it looks cool. It has little spikes on it and will roll….who knows what it could be in the world he lives in. Everyone is running around looking for it. Q says that he remembers seeing it….BUT….he can’t remember where…. I have now given up on going to church. I will just stay home because we are going to be super late at this point and I still have to find my diffuser and dry my hair. Frustrated beyond belief and a little hacked off, I go to take off my shoes and place them under my bed, when WHAT DO I FIND????? My diffuser! “Oh yeah…..I tossed it in your room when I was done playing with it. It’s really neat!!” Oh, Q, I am so glad that I love you! (We did make church even though we were very late.)

I do love him, but Q’s unique abilities and the way he looks at life, much of the time frustrate the rest of us “normal” people. I will never forget when Q was five and we were leaving on vacation. My husband and I had packed the car. I had given the four boys the final, “everyone use the potty and get your shoes on and get in the car instructions.” Not sure if you’ve traveled with kids, but we NEVER leave on time!! We all load in the car and start our journey!! Finally!! About a mile down the road, I turn around and notice that Q has no shoes on. “Q, where are your shoes?” “I don’t have any.” ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!?! Me, trying not to flip my lid, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T HAVE ANY?” Q: “Well, I couldn’t find them and you said to get in the car.” Me: “Don’t you THINK you will NEED them in GEORGIA?!?!?!?!” No. He didn’t. He didn’t see anything wrong with heading off on a vacation 7 hours from our home with no shoes! Needless to say, we turned around, headed back to the house, and found his shoes which were no where near where they were supposed to be. Life is NEVER boring with Q!!

I am not sure anything hurts quite as much as someone not wanting to be around your kid and not appreciating their uniqueness.

We LOVE Q and we have adjusted our expectations to know that he is sometimes going to be in left field. It is the artist in him. The wonderfully, talented, creative artist soul in him. However, some people do NOT appreciate this about him. I have found that with Q you either adore him or you don’t want to be around him. I am not sure anything hurts quite as much as someone not wanting to be around your kid and not appreciating their uniqueness. But it happens! And it hurts! We know that God has created Q the way he is. God doesn’t make mistakes! He, in His ultimate wisdom has created Q for a special purpose.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

I just have to remind myself that those who can’t see this are really missing out because his amazing qualities FAR outweigh his frustrating qualities.

Someday, I may write a book of all the funny things that have happened with Q. Lord knows that I have enough for more than one volume!! I am grateful that God gave Q to us!! He helps to increase my patience and makes life truly interesting!!

We are all, each and every one, unique in the Universe. And that uniqueness is what makes us valuable.

–James A. Owen

The Deconstruction of Ten Minutes

The dirty truth is that you can prepare as much as you want. You can make sure that everyone has what they need. You can make sure that everyone has something to do. You can make sure that everyone is peaceable….but the minute you step into the shower, EVERYONE will need you!!! I do not understand this phenomenon!!! I JUST DON’T!! Truly, I am only in the shower for a max of 10 minutes. HOW can the world completely implode in TEN minutes?!?!

Today, I hadn’t even stepped into the shower when there was pounding on the door. Of course, if you have ever had to decipher the screams from a child while the shower is running, you know that it is IMPOSSIBLE!! Finally, I understood that the two littles wanted to put up a tent in the family room….a TENT. I hadn’t been out of the room for two minutes!!!! They were playing nicely with the magnet tiles and now, suddenly they want to camp with a TENT in the family room. You probably don’t even have to guess that the answer was no!

Before getting in the shower, I had given both big boys their lessons and gone over the instructions. I have told them numerous (think thousands) of times that if they need help and I am unavailable they need to go on to the next problem or subject. During the first half of my shower BOTH of them knocked on the door to ask for help. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!

HOW can the world completely implode in TEN minutes?!?!

How exactly can I help you with your math when I can’t see the problem, not because there is shampoo in my eyes, mind you, but because there is a DOOR between us!!! Finally, I can see the light at the end of the shower tunnel and I am rinsing off, when my middle child (God love him!) comes to knock on the door to tell me that one of the littles called him a butt head and that the dog wants in the bathroom with me. Seriously, all FIVE kids and the DOG interrupted my 10 minute shower!

This same phenomenon occurs when I try to go to the bathroom and when I have to go to the laundry room in the basement. Everyone can be completely calm, but the minute I get downstairs, it sounds like we have been invaded by a storming army. Why is this?? Why can children not give us just a few minutes to ourselves? I don’t have the answers, but I know that moms across the land struggle with the same issue.

Kids are needy and they seem to really like us. I guess that’s why they want to share all of our time! I suppose when they are teenagers they won’t do this anymore and then we will miss it….or so I am told. For now, I am going to continue to deal with interruptions and dream of a long, relaxing shower where no one bothers me!

The quickest way for a parent to get a child’s attention is to sit down and look comfortable. –Lane Olinghouse

(or get in the shower!)

I LOVE watching you play!!

Recently, our two oldest boys started a bowling league. Of the two, one of them is incredibly athletic. He can do almost any sport and it comes naturally to him. The other isn’t very athletic, but he loves to play. They’ve played soccer, done running, and now they are trying bowling.

Back when we signed the boys up to play soccer, I was amazed to find that parents were incredibly invested in their kid’s performance. Some of them were even talking about scholarships. These kids are in the SECOND GRADE!!! They should be learning fundamentals and having fun!! I know that winning is fun, but it isn’t the most important aspect of sports. I have seen parents scream and berate their kid for missing a goal, not being aggressive enough, and not blocking a shot. I have seen the joy and fun leave a kid as fast as his or her shoulders can sag.

As I sat in the bowling alley, I listened to the parents sitting next to me “instruct” their daughter on how to bowl better after each frame. They told her over and over to get her head in the game. I could tell she was frustrated. I wanted to pull her aside and just say, “Hey, just have fun! No worries!” But that’s hard to say when the parents are obviously NOT concerned with fun. Some of the kids in the league have been bowling competitively for years. My kids have bowled like five times. Of course, they threw some gutter balls and they didn’t break 100. The first thing I said to them when they were finished was, “Did you have fun?” Not what was your score, how did you do, or what could you improve on. The next thing I said was: “I really enjoyed watching you bowl!”

A few years ago, I read an article written by a coach. I don’t remember the article or the author, but I do remember what struck me as so important. The author said that the first words you should say to your child when they walk off from the field, court, or lane is: I LOVE to watch you play! Those words have nothing to do with a kids performance. They could have the best or worst game, those words don’t indicate that. That phrase expresses the joy that your child brings to you by doing something that they enjoy. Time for correction, tips, and teaching can come later. These words put no additional pressure on a kid to succeed.

The world is a hard enough place and kids will be there on their own all too soon! Right now, they should be doing activities for the joy it brings. They are learning valuable lessons while having fun: cooperation, teamwork, encouragement, winning with grace, losing with grace, practice, endurance, perseverance, and many others. If activities become miserable and high pressure for kids, they won’t learn these lessons.

Let’s start a revolution! When your kids finish their activity, commit to saying, “I LOVE watching you _____________!” being the first phrase that you say to them!!

I love the winning, I can take the losing, but most of all I LOVE to play.” –Boris Becker

The Angel of Vomit

Two nights ago, it happened. We have avoided it all winter. I have diffused thieve’s essential oil (which has natural germ killing power), washed hands, avoided places that were boasting of it, forced hand sanitizer on everyone, but it happened anyway! Two nights ago, my middle child came running into our room shouting those four words that every parent hears in their darkest nightmares: I’M GONNA THROW UP!!! I know. Just the mere mention of these words makes me break out in a cold sweat! The funny thing is that these words haven’t always struck fear into my heart.

I can remember when I only had one child or even just two. The idea of a stomach bug didn’t instill the same terror that it does now. Now we are a family of 7! That means that if everyone gets sick and the vomiting takes place every other day, we could be sick for 14 days!!! If, as it does sometimes, it happens every three days, we could be sick for 21 days….which is basically a MONTH!!! THAT. IS. A. NIGHTMARE.

Luckily, my children are past the throw up in their own bed or our bed and puke on the floor stage. At least I thought they were! My middle child who is 7, ran into our room shouting he was going to throw up. His daddy yelled, “Go to the toilet!’ Now I am going to assume that he wasn’t really awake, but with him you never really know. He, indeed, went to the toilet, sat down, and proceeded to puke in his lap. My husband helped him change and get new clothes, only for him to puke in his lap AGAIN!!! My husband is a saint and my hero because he allowed me to sleep through this whole mess. I love him dearly and married up….have I mentioned that?

Of course, a puker in the house changes EVERYTHING. For example, we were going to have chili last night for dinner, but I changed it to hamburgers because no one wants to clean chili barf off of the carpet. Now some people try to isolate the puker, but my kids share rooms and wrestle, so I figure that they’ve all been properly exposed. The biggest effect that it has is the cloud of dread hanging over our home. Go ahead make those plans…someone will puke. Go ahead let the kid drink milk because it is over….he’ll barf again. Go ahead let your guard down in anyway because you think the plague has passed…someone new will begin tossing their cookies.

I frequently feel like the captive Israelites in Egypt as the Angel of vomit begins to bear down upon us. I paint the door frames in the blood of thieve’s and pray that it passes over our home. Unfortunately, this time it didn’t. Sigh. Here’s hoping tonight is vomit free!!

Having children is like living in a frat house–nobody sleeps, everything’s broken, and there’s a lot of throwing up. –Ray Romano

The Birds, the Bees, and the la la la la la!

For a brief second, I was at a loss as to what I was going to write, but then we went to our homeschool co-op today and life provided humor! As I have stated before, I have five kids and I homeschool all of them. Whatever your thoughts on homeschooling, I LOVE it! It allows me to be with my kids and teach them what we value and feel is important. A side benefit of homeschooling is that I have been able to preserve the innocence of my kids for longer than if they were in public school. When I was in public school, I learned about sex from friends in the third grade. Not that most of what I learned was correct, but I knew more than my kids do. My oldest is 12 and he still has no idea about the birds and the bees. I know, I know, we are going to talk to him about it soon, so calm down.

We moms were sitting around after lunch sharing stories, and the topic of talking to our kids about sex came up in conversation. I have all boys, I have a friend who has all girls, and I have several who have a mixture. From the time my kids were little, they have known that they have penises. I felt very strongly that they should know the anatomically correct word for body parts. Since I didn’t have any girls, I didn’t have to deal with the “other” word, because they were never questions about that. They simply knew that mommy didn’t have a penis. It never came up, I didn’t think it was necessary, and the idea of the word vagina coming out of my boys’ mouths kind of made me cringe! Anyway, we were sharing stories about how much our kids knew and one of my friends told us about a book that she was reading on this very topic. The book supported using the correct terms for body parts. Then she told us the story about when she first told her daughter:

She talked to her about God’s purpose for sex, how our bodies are made to work together, and the actual process of intercourse. She told her that a man puts his penis inside a woman’s vagina in order to have sex. This is where an understanding of the relationship between the parent and child of a homeschooling family has to be understood. Because our kids are with us 24/7, there is a comfortableness that our kids have with us. I am not saying that they see themselves as equals, but they definitely don’t hesitate to talk about any topic that comes up. I am also not saying that other families don’t have this same closeness, it is just pretty common with homeschoolers because of the amount of time we spend together. However, sex is a difficult topic to discuss no matter what. My friend was super proud of herself for having “the” discussion and was excited that she had successfully tackled the topic without making it embarrassing or extremely awkward. I told her that I was excited that it had gone well and that her story had really inspired me to go ahead and talk to my son.

THIS IS WHAT NIGHTMARES ARE MADE OF!!!

She then looked at me with an expression that can only be described as terrified amusement and said, “Oh no, wait. There’s more!” She told that later that night she went to put her daughter in bed, like usual; they read, they prayed, she told her she loved her, then it happened. She was just about to shut off the light when her daughter looked at her and asked, “Hey, Mom? Is Daddy going to put his penis in your vagina now?” THIS!!! THIS IS WHAT NIGHTMARES ARE MADE OF!!!! I can’t even IMAGINE!! What on earth do you say to that???? Seriously, think for a moment, can ANY of YOU imagine saying THOSE words to your OWN parents???? Just the idea makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little. I mean, yes we all know that our parents do that….or at least they did as many times as they have kids, but THOSE words. NO! NO! NO! I am honestly not sure if at that moment I would have laughed hysterically (like you do when your having a mental breakdown) or if I would have maturely shoved my fingers in my ears and yelled, “LA LA LA LA LA” at the top of my lungs! My friend handled it much better! She must have had a moment when the heavens opened and God poured wisdom onto her like a ray of sunshine out of a pure cloudy sky, or maybe it was like the dove of wisdom landed on her shoulder because however much she wanted to run, scream, or laugh, she simply said, “Probably not right now,” and left. Later, she explained that that isn’t really a question that is okay to ask adults.

Ugh!!! Why is this topic so difficult to talk about with our kids??? My husband asked me the other day, “Do you think our kids will ever figure out why we lock the door to our room sometimes?” My response was yes and now I am almost sure that when they do they will knock and then in their sing-songy little voices say, “What are you doing? Are you having sex??” And, of course at that point, we’ll be like, “Nope! Absolutely not! You just ruined it!” Then I don’t know if I should be happy that our kids will be okay with knowing that their parents have sex (how progressive) or seriously creeped out that my kids are OKAY knowing their parents have sex. I am pretty sure that it’s all a crap shoot!!

I blame my mother for my poor sex life. All she told me was ‘The man goes on top and the woman goes underneath.’ For three years my husband and I slept in bunk beds. –Joan Rivers

Lowering the Bar

Recently, I was at the dentist with my five children. Yes, you read that right, I have five children. Currently, they are 12, 9, 7, and two 5 year old boys. Anyway, we were at the dentist. My oldest was getting his teeth cleaned and the younger 4 were playing in the waiting area. A mom with two children came in and sat down next to me. As we were watching the herd of children play in the small area, she turned to me and said, “Do you have FOUR children??” The shock people experience at finding out that your family is larger than normal still amazes me….but that is a post for another time. “Actually,” I corrected her, “I have five…all boys.” It is at this point that the shock really takes over. The face is amazed, you hear the audible gasp, “Oh my! You have your hands full!” Well, of course, but don’t we all have our hands full, really?? She is quiet for a moment and then she looks at me and asks, “Do you mind if I ask you how you manage?” Now, I am not sure if she is thinking, “This chic has to have some awesome organizational tips” or if she is just wondering how I am not mad at this point, but I am sure she was hoping for a mind blowing response.

“You just have to learn to lower the bar.”

Unfortunately for her, I gave her my life’s best advice on the matter: “You just have to learn to lower the bar.” I realize that in today’s world of Pinterest parties and perfect Facebook vacation pictures that this is neither a common nor a popular philosophy, but it should be! With each child that comes along the ability to keep up the perfect standards we place on ourselves erodes. My house is NOT clean….ever. It is what I affectionately call clean-ish. I do my best! I have my kids pick up after themselves, but there are FIVE of them….FIVE. They outnumber me by 4! I leave the room clean and if each one gets out one toy, it is a mess again. Thus, I lower the standard of what I consider clean. Gone are the days of cleaning, leaving, and coming home to a clean house.

Laundry is another nightmare! When I think of laundry, 1. I want to throw up, 2. I am grateful that I don’t have girls who ( I have heard) change their clothes multiple times a day. CAN YOU IMAGINE??? I have at least two loads a day simply because everyone wasn’t naked. If they were changing clothes during the day, I would have four. I would NEVER catch up!! Who am I kidding? I am never caught up anyway! If I am being honest with you right now, I have 9 baskets of clean laundry in the basement that I have to fold. Hey! Don’t judge me! The holidays are a super busy time. Again, lower the bar! The expectation is CLEAN clothes. They are clean! The expectation is not FOLDED clean clothes. I used to feel horrible, but I do enough laundry for it to qualify as a full time job, so now I don’t.

My kids behavior is another good place where the bar must be lowered. Now this isn’t to say that I allow my kids to run around acting like little jerks, but they are also not going to be quiet in a restaurant or still at church. They will be quiet-ish and still-ish. There are five of them. That is a decent amount of sound even when they are talking quietly….and they don’t really come from quiet people, if you know what I mean. I guess I could harp on them and break their spirits and demand that level of behavior, but for me I would rather they be kind, compassionate, and full of grace than quiet and still.

My point is that we have ridiculous expectations for ourselves. Life is not perfect. It is messy, chaotic, and complicated. We must learn to prioritize the things in our lives that are most important. For me, folded laundry and matched socks are NOT IT. (SHHHHHH! A made bed isn’t either). There is only so much time that we are given; 525,600 minutes per year to be exact! For me, I want to choose to focus those minutes on building memories and relationships with those I love, instead of trying to have the perfect life. Having said all this, my challenge to you is: Embrace the movement! Lower the bar!

Action expresses priorities. –Mahatma Gandhi