Thursday, February 27, 2014

It's Okay to be a Lazy Mom

I am a stay at home mom. I don't work from home. This blog makes me no money. I just raise babies and clean messes and write about those things on my blog. And while I know that being a mom is a full-time job, I am not with my babies at all times. One of my babies goes to school. My other baby is in a childcare program twice a week for a large chunk of the day. And in case you didn't already notice, my "babies" are not really babies. They don't wake up nine times a night needing to be fed. They wipe their own butts. They put on their own clothes. They can grab a Kleenex and blow their own snot. Sometimes, they even make themselves their own snacks.

I guess that makes me a lazy mom. That's cool. I've accepted that--and God knows I've worked really hard the first several years of their lives keeping them alive and molding them into competent, butt-wiping little creatures, so I figure I can cut myself a little slack every now and then. But I would be lying if I said that the guilt didn't seep in sometimes.

Back in the day when the babies were more like actual babies and didn't go to school, I started hearing all the moms in my circle talk about Pinterest. I had no idea what Pinterest was. I devised my children's activities completely oblivious to the fact that kids needed more than a pencil and paper to learn to write their alphabet. I made their lunches look like piles of food instead of works of art. And we were growing. And we were happy.

Then one dark, late night when my husband was deployed, I made the fatal error of asking someone to invite me to join Pinterest. All at once, I realized that I had been depriving my children of a real joy-filled childhood. How can I expect them to craft when all that we have on hand is paper and crayons?! How come I didn't know we were actually supposed to be using the crayons to make melted wax art and the paper to make runway dresses?? Who knew you could do that with a piece of cheese and celery sticks?! Your kids will actually EAT the celery sticks?!?! Man oh man! Was I ever slacking! Not wanting to be nominated as the worst mom of the year, I began actually trying some of the activities I pinned. Of course, our projects looked nothing like the ones I found. They looked more like this:

Soggy paper art, anyone?(The butterfly nets weren't for anything cool. They were used as weights to keep the paper from blowing around.)

This one was supposed to be put up so the rain could streak it like a watercolor. It never rained in El Paso, so we just did this instead...

The expression on my son's face says it all.

Lazy Mom Freedom #1: Now I just pin free color sheet downloads on my "kid's board."

Unfortunately, somewhere in all of my messy and failed crafting attempts, I really sparked a love of art for my eldest. One of the biggest complaints she has about her new school is that she doesn't have an art class. Not wanting my child to go without one of her favorite activities, and not wanting to be disappointed in yet another ho hum Pinterest project, I've tracked down sources for projects that I think are no-fail and legit.

Here's a fun fact for you. I've married into a family of smart people--geniuses, really. One of my new cousins has probably the sweetest kid-centered blog I've ever seen. (I didn't ask her if I could share it, but we're family so I think I'm allowed.) Anyone with preschoolers should check out happilyevermom.com. I even love the darling name. It's a gentle reminder to me that I should not yell at my daughter as she attempts some of these amazing projects. :)
One of my favorite things that Katie does as she details the projects is to reiterate that these activities are not about the finished products, but rather the process. It's as if she somehow could tell that our finished product would look like this:

So you know, this was supposed to be done with fall colors, glue, and sand. I did not want to enjoy the "process" of cleaning up sand afterward, so I used paint. And I was too lazy to go to the store to get fall colored paint, so we went for more of a swamp palette. I also definitely added extra leafs where I thought my kid's tree looked a little sparse. Whatevs.

Lazy Mom Freedom #2:When your child's project doesn't look like you intended, blame it on not having a fancy camera--or knowing how the heck to put those adorable fonts on the bottoms of your pictures.

I've really given up on the whole "artsy mom" thing. I've been scouring the Internet for deals for art classes for my kid. The bulletin board in the playroom is full of adorable crafts my kids did in MDO or Story Time and were in no way concocted or discovered by me. Instead, I just work on teaching my kids games like Uno, Dominoes, "Jackpot," and Tag. Sometimes, I just give them a plastic bucket and shovel and let them dig in the dirt in our garden bed and play with the doodle bugs. I know...so lazy.

On occasion, the creative bug will bite me, and I'll do something like this:


I developed this gem using the Dark Ages method of dog-earring a good idea in a magazine and making it work for me. It took literally two minutes to put together. We have been writing back and forth in it now for a month.

If I'm feeling really crazy, I will do something like this with it:

I think it kind of channels the Elf on the Shelf stuff. Not all acquired ideas are bad!

Lazy Mom Freedom #3:You do what works for you and your kids. You let go of what doesn't.

When I had my first child, I asked my mother-in-law for advice. She said the best thing you can do is to love your child, and everything else will fall into place. (See?? Geniuses.)

People call it the "Mommy Wars," but I think there is only one thing we are warring with. And that is our own realization that we have no idea what we're doing--None at all. And we love our children and think they deserve the very best. So we try out our theories and we test them to make sure we are on the right track. The problem that usually stems from this is that our success rates are measured by the wrong kinds of feedback. Validation comes through a series of likes or repins or blog traffic, when really, it should just come from the answer to two simple questions: Are we growing? Are we happy?

Lazy Mom Freedom #4: Validation comes from inner fuzzies, not outward projects. Added bonus: Less cleanup that way.

I am not in any way, shape, or form saying that creative moms are not good moms. To the contrary, they make lazy moms like me aspire to step outside of their comfort zones--if only for split millisecond. All I am saying is that if you are a lazy mom, at least you are in good company ;)

Lazy Mom Freedom #5:You make no excuse for how awesome you are. (It requires too much effort. As detailed by this astronomically long post.)





Much love to all the mommas!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Murphy

I've never really figured myself an unfortunate person. Sure, I'm a klutz. I've set a house fire or two in the kitchen. I wrecked my first car when I was two. My dad jokes that my five broken bones and knee surgery paid for my doctor's Porsche. And try though I may, I can never seem to win that darn HGTV dream home. But in spite of those things, I have had my fair share of really random, lucky victories. I have no idea where athletic coordination comes from when you can barely walk without bumping into something. I am one of the only people I know who have ever won an all-expense paid trip in a random raffle drawing...in a textbook store nonetheless. And more than anything, the world keeps placing me around some truly awesome people.

I remember planning for my husband's first deployment to be absolutely miserable. And man, did it deliver. Washing machines catching fire, exploding toilets and sprinkler systems, locking myself out of the house--twice, victim of credit fraud, victim of mail theft, victim of a hit and run...I'm sure there's more, but I'm getting a little sad reliving it, so I'll just stop there. But even with a run-on fragment of misfortunes--and let me just interject here that it takes an awfully talented writer to master the run-on fragment--I never felt like I couldn't handle what was being dished out at me, because I had an amazing support system at that time. They were strong, and funny, and magical...and I will always love those friends.
After my husband had returned from his deployment, he left only two months later for three weeks of training with zero contact. In my stubborness, I decided that I could handle a measly three weeks after the long 10 months I had just survived. That was the first time I learned it is not the amount of time that makes the separation hard. It's that blasted Murphy. And it's a lesson that resurges with every single flippin' field assignment.

Everything can be humming along fine, and then they leave. That's when all heck breaks loose. First, your coffee pot will break, shortly followed by your backup coffee pot. (Which is all at once not a big deal and a total catastrophe!) You will notice one of your dogs has a red eye that's gone all wonky. Not to be outdone, brother dog will jump over the barricade you set up at bedtime, break into your bedroom, and poop on your carpet in the middle of the night. Your son, (not wanting to let dog #1 feel left out,) will poke his eye in the backyard, cry for two hours straight, refuse to open it, send you to the ER on President's Day because every other stupid clinic is closed, and then say, "Mommy, I fixed it! It's all better!" the very second that you get to the counter to check him in. And in order to keep on par with dog #2, he will pee his pants for the first time in months...all over the computer chair...right after you mop the floors and finish the laundry...
You will also have a real life ER visit that doesn't end at the check in desk. You will have people ask you if you've been under an unusual amount of stress lately. You will answer that your husband has only left one week ago and your coffee pot is broken. Then they will send you to a neurologist who says he will poke your legs with needles and actually send electric shocks into your legs for an hour.

But then my luck finds me again...or rather, my people. Family that is finally close enough to drive a total of 1200 miles in a single weekend to let me rest and relax. Family that is not close enough to drive, but that flies down for the week to hold my sweaty hands while the doctor shocks me instead of pokes me. Friends that wait on call to see if they need to pick up my children from school if my appointments run long. Friends that watch my children at their house on their sweet son's birthday because I couldn't get my appointment rescheduled. And people that I've never met before in my entire life, reaching out to me--offering kind words, encouragement, and prayers.

Every separation is different, I know. But time and time again, I relearn these truths: Separation will always suck. Murphy will always find me. And Murphy ain't got a chance against my people.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

28

I remember being a little girl and fantasizing about all of the "big" birthdays I would have growing up. You know the ones I'm talking about: 16, 18, 21, 30...I would usually stop there because I was young and dumb and figured that by age 30, I would have about lived all of the life I wanted to live.

For my sweet sixteen, I dreamed that I would cruise around town with my license in a brand new car. I actually did not get my license until I was 18. And I drove a 1994 Oldsmobile Bravada.
I imagined that by 18, I would be a mature adult who was ready to take on the world and leave the nest. Nearly a decade beyond that day, I still love to return to the refuge of home.
21 was supposed to be one big giant party. On my 21st birthday I was actually pregnant with my first child. And I must say, the cup of chocolate milk I had to celebrate was totally cray-cray.
I realized that I would turn 30 the year my little brother turned 16. That's probably why I stopped counting. And though I haven't actually gotten there yet, experience tells me that anything I would have dreamed up for 30 would have been so, so wrong.

28 is not one of those well-marked, milestone birthdays. I didn't really have any visions of what my life would look like now.
I definitely hoped I would be married and have children. I figured I would be working. And deep down, I probably really hoped I'd be fabulously rich and famous. You know, like all normal, not-at-all-unrealistic people...

But here I am. Married to a soldier. A stay-at-home mother of two kids. With a body that simultaneously amazes me and fails me. With hair that wants to be 80. And with skin that still thinks it's 13.

Age 27 was the first year that I actually felt old. Even as I write that, I know that 27 is not old, but man-did I feel old. I celebrated that birthday at the neighborhood Cracker Barrel, I made my birthday cheesecake, and I got a rocking chair for a present. And you know what? People can snark all they want, because I love that rocking chair...In fact, I think it was finally feeling old that gave me the "acceptance that comes with age."
This year, 28 still feels old. But I celebrated with my children by taking them to see The Lego Movie, I played a game of basketball on a Little Tikes hoop set, I blew bubbles in the backyard, and I ate some of my birthday cheesecake.

I realize these might not sound like the most noteworthy things to talk about, but they are the things that make my life. Mine. And I'm proud of it. All 28 years of it. All of the victories and failures that have come from it. Rocking chairs, bubbles, and all.

I don't know if I'm who I'm supposed to be today. And I'm not really sure what "self-identifiers" will mark me next year. But this much I know: I will love Jesus. I will love my family and friends. I will drink wine. I will crack a lot of silly jokes and laugh at a lot of inappropriate ones. I will overdress for almost every occasion. I will be hard on myself. I will be reflective. And I will eat a cheesecake when I turn 29...and probably write a blog about how old I feel the year before my life ends ;)

And so my challenge to you, my friends, (and to myself) for the next year is this:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Hurdles

Well, it's Thursday. I bet you weren't expecting to see my blog today. Not that I can blame you...I do have a pretty horrendous track record for saying I'm going to do something and then not doing it.
Even so, I'm not above doing one of these for the doubters:

Neener neener boo boo

And now that I've gotten that out of the way......

I am very excited to report that I was able to use my fancy journal jar today. I'm so sad that I still can't show it to you. Seriously, I think Blogger hates uploading my images. I thought I was going to be able to pull a sneaky one on it and upload the images from my Facebook account, but they wanted to me to make the pictures public first. And I am just not comfortable sharing my images with a bunch of random crazies.
(As she writes a blog that everyone and their dog can see. Oh the irony.)

But going back to jar--just know that it is made from a mason jar with burlap, denim, and a crystal knob. I know...southern crafting at its finest. I even found pieces of burlap scrapbook paper to write my topics on.
Go on, y'all. Feel free to swoon a little.



Okay, now that I have gotten us totally off track, here's my first attempt at providing insight into a randomly selected topic. (We just won't harp on the fact that I put the first one I drew back into the jar because I didn't like it. Ha!)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hurdles

I have always been a sucker for a good running analogy. What can I say? They hit home for me. This past Sunday, my pastor was talking about answering your call to service, and he compared it to a hurdles race. His lesson went a little like this:
Imagine you are a runner in the hurdle event. The starting gun is fired. You take off full speed ahead. You charge past the other racers. And then you come to your first hurdle and you stop dead in your tracks.
What happens then? Are you disqualified? No---You're still in the race. You are probably just not going to win.

I am a much better runner now than I was growing up. I did compete in track and field, but I was too afraid to do events with hurdles because I can hardly step over a crack in the sidewalk without tripping over it. (So instead I competed in the high jump. Again with the irony.) Even so, I remember trying my round at the things a time or two when I was practicing--either when I was by myself or with my closer friends that already knew what a goober I was.

Hurdles are the devil. I remember running toward them, and about halfway there I would start to worry that my jump was not going to time with my stride, and the height, and the distance...and I was oh-so-crappy at math and this was starting to seem a lot like Geometry. (Or maybe it was Physics. I was horrible at that too.) So I would slow down and kind of do this ridiculous-looking pony skip over the bar and then keep running until I would get to the next one. Slow down. Pony skip. Repeat.

On the next to last hurdle, I was midway through my pony skip when I smacked the ever-lovin' caca out of my shin. Oh help me, Lord Jesus. With tears in my eyes, I limped to the next hurdle and I stopped. I breathed. I pony skipped over the next one...and I smacked the ever-lovin' caca out my shin again! SAME SPOT! But thank you, Lord Jesus, I was finished. And I left those hurdles wiser, and only slightly more bruised.

Real life hurdles are not quite so hilarious. And I feel like I've been coming up on them left and right, especially in my job search. The problem with these hurdles is that they smack the ever-lovin' caca out of my confidence instead of my shins. Every time I feel like I'm making a break on a straight and picking up speed, another one of those suckers comes out of the ground to slow me down. And I promise you, if you get the ever-lovin' caca smacked out of you enough times, eventually you don't even bother to take it slow anymore. You just stop.

You have to wonder if God puts these hurdles in our way to test our strength and resolve, because we can do all things. Or to say, "Trust Me enough to let Me carry you over them," because His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses. Or maybe, what I think is a hurdle is actually a big fat roadblock, because He has made my paths straight.

I guess the only way to know for sure is to just keep running. And to trust that even if I wind up a little bruised, at least I will finish a little wiser.