Worked Up

I love reading letters to younger selves. If I were to write a letter to my younger self I would choose this month to do it. It would short and to the point:

Dear Kara,

Don’t get so worked up. You are loved by the Creator of the universe.

Let that be enough.

Love,

Your 44 year old self

 

 

Back in my twenties, before we had children, my main goal was to make sure people liked me. I didn’t know that back then so it wasn’t like I woke up in the morning saying, “How can I make sure everyone I encounter likes me?”

But it was it pretty close to that.

 

My in laws were… demanding. They had a lot of traditions already in place. The expectation that we would participate in every. single. event. was something Lee and I never discussed before we were married. I think because of my people pleasing ways and Lee’s bend in the same direction we just assumed we could make it work.

We never asked each other what we thought was important about the holidays.

Even when we added children the assumption that we would be at every gathering, on time no less, didn’t change. There were gifts to be bought and food to be made. Meanwhile we were struggling to make ends meet in just our ordinary lives. The added stress to our minimal extra cash was a lot. Nobody forced us to participate. We were invited, not threatened. Still, the unspoken, yet obvious, theme of ‘If you come you are part of the family. If you do not…”

Inevitably, what ended up happening was this: I got very worked up.

Very.

I didn’t share with Lee, except through explosive and tearful outbursts, that the lead-up to the holidays weren’t fun. The time we spent with family was fine, minus the fact that I was exhausted from stress and too much preparation. 

One year something terrible/wonderful happened. Our oldest girls were around 8 and 6 and they got strep throat the day before Thanksgiving. When the nurse came back in with the positive test results the relief that flooded my heart was extremely telling.

The kids were bitterly disappointed but Lee and I were thrilled.

For years we’d been cramming three Thanksgiving meals in. We’d never had the big meal in our own home.

We called Cracker Barrell and ordered four meals. I made pumpkin pies. We lit candles at our own table. We sat around and watched movies. The antibiotics kicked in by Thanksgiving evening and the kids started to feel better.

It’s one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories, because it finally felt like ours and not theirs.

 

I want to be careful to say that I do not blame anyone but Lee and I for our feelings. Again, no one was forcing us. The issue was that both of us were first-born hard-core people pleasers, plain and simple. We could have talked this through before we were married, or at least before we had kids. We were not the victims of family functions.

There’s just so much you don’t know at the beginning of a new thing.

We don’t regret any of those years that we ran around like mad trying to get everywhere on time. I don’t regret our kids being overly tired at the end of all. I don’t even regret the money we spent. I do regret the zen desk garden we purchased for Lee’s dad.

The thing is this: Lee’s dad was killed in a car wreck almost ten years ago and he is estranged family is estranged now. We haven’t seen any of them in years.

We didn’t see any of that coming. Those years that I was crying and sick to my stomach because of all my uncomfortable feelings were the only ones our family would have with Lee’s family.

That definitely gives me perspective.

Now, I’m not saying that you should run yourself into the ground during the holidays because someone could die. Death is a reality in this world for all of us. I think it’s silly to let that truth guide decisions that we make.

I am saying that boundaries are essential and healthy. We had choices that we didn’t know about.

We could have:

  • participated but come at a time that was convenient for us
  • participated but not in the gift exchange
  • shown up after a meal
  • skipped some gatherings
  • said, ‘We’ll let you know what our plans are.”
  • Invited them to ours house, even though it was small
  • divided up the gift buying/wrapping/baking between the two of us

 

We didn’t have the tools to do that at the time, though. I don’t hold that against our younger selves. However, we have learned from our mistakes and simply refuse to get worked up over the holidays.  Because when you’re worked up and upset you miss the gift that is Advent.

You miss the chance to do things slowly.

You miss the message that Christ came to bring us home.

Frantic is not part of the nativity story. Feeling like a failure is not in the Great Rescue Plan. Silent night, holy night doesn’t have the same ring when you’ve ground your teeth every night for a month.

Worked up is more like the work of the enemy. 

I believe that’s what that nasty devil loves: strife at the holidays. People worked up and arguing does not leave much room for thinking on the beauty of Christ coming into the darkness to bring us light. 

So, brave ones, let’s not get worked up. Let’s not get churned up. Let’s not Pinterest ourselves into forgetting about the gift of these holy days.

Let’s not give gatherings and events more power than Jesus has in our lives.

Instead let’s do simple and slow. Let’s look at the calendar and choose what we love, what we need. Leave the shoulds and the have-to’s off.

 

Be brave, misfits, and set up some picket fences on your calendars.

 

 

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Accidental Mentor

Sometimes I feel bad when I hear parents complaining about their teenagers, like I should join in. I have nothing to complain about, though.

I’m not saying it’s not difficult to parent kids in their teenage years. It is, and it isn’t. It’s complicated. The tension between keeping them close versus  pushing them forward is real. I want to protect them but I also want them to experience life. As a homeschoolerI have to be much more intentional in encouraging them to be in the world, always with the prayer that they not be of the world.

The public library could easily be the only place we go, but that’s not doing them any favors.

I want my kids to be in situations  that will push them, force them to know themselves, and maybe even make them uncomfortable. Lee and I have worked very hard at having the kind of relationship with the kids that allows them to share the hard stuff, and most of the time they do. I find it easy to talk with my teens. I share my heart, they share theirs. I have never believed that they have to think the way I think or believe what I believe. I hope they follow Jesus, but it is not a requirement. I encourage them to explore deep truths for themselves, praying for them to find friends who are godly, and mentors who have admirable character traits.

The fact is I love spending time with my teenagers.

Still haven't mastered the art of the selfie.
Still haven’t mastered the art of the selfie.

A few years ago, when my children were emerging teens, I realized that I was not so much parenting my kids as mentoring them. I have our years in youth ministry to thank for that.

Twelve or thirteen years ago, when we fell into youth ministry, I did not like the company of teenagers, especially when they were in a large group. It brought back junior high feelings of inadequacy. I felt I never had the right clothes or shoes, or fit in anywhere. I had flashbacks of walking into the school cafeteria for lunch and looking for a seat. Ugh. I can’t even go there.

Those youth group kids, though, they broke down those memories and dove straight into my heart. I fell in love with their over-honest ways, their answer-seeking questions, and the effort they put into growing up. Those youth group kids drove me completely crazy while winning my friendship. I figured out that they didn’t want me to be cool, or to impress them. They liked me just like I was; a young mom who was a little lonely, and really uncertain, but also eager to learn about the ways of Christ.

So we learned about him, and his ways, together.

Sometimes things were easy and I didn’t mind when youth stopped by wanting a peanut butter jelly sandwich, or just to hang out while I did the mom thing. They might even play with the kids or help me run errands. Other times kids from youth group would stop by and it would feel inconvenient to me, like one more irritation in my already irritating day. I wasn’t so great at saying no, though. Plus, life is always a little easier with company.

I’m so glad I allowed room for the interruptions. There is not one time I regret having a kid come into my home. In fact, I learned to find relief in the young people who became my friends. There were a handful of young women, in particular, who came to me the world to me. These young people became like family during a period of time when my life was not easy, and I’ll always been grateful to them.

That’s how I became an accidental mentor.

I didn’t know it at the time but these young people were teaching me how to mentor my own kids. Somewhere between 10 and 12 you transition from parenting to mentoring. You cannot force an adult-sized child to brush their teeth, shower, do their homework, get their chores done, or go to sleep – nor do I believe you should. I have high expectations for them, though, and the natural consequences of not doing the things they are required to do are the best teachers at this age. Real consequences are far more effective than any punishment I could come up with. (A huge shout out to Dr. Kevin Leman for all of his awesome books on parenting. (affiliate link) I love his Have a New Teenager by Friday, if you’re looking for some help.)

I love coaching my people in their teenage years.

It’s so exciting watching from the sidelines as they develop their own life skills, deepen their sense of self, and form relationships that will hopefully last a long time. This can be the hard part, though. It can be tempting to jump in and rescue them from themselves or bad choices or both. This is where prayer and faith come in for me – and hopefully for them, too. This is also where mentoring skills come in handy. Because I’ve helped other young people walk through decision-making I feel like it’s easier for me to act as observer in my own children’s lives as they get older. I’m learning how to ask questions rather than make demands, and how to wait on them to figure out what’s best rather than force them to do what I think is right.

Mentoring means accepting that the life your child lives will look different than the one you imagined. Mentoring means making room for your child to be their own person. Making mistakes is how I figured out some of the best stuff about myself and I want to leave room in their lives for them to do the same thing. Mentoring means not groaning when they say, “I think I might not go to college” or “I really want to major in music theater” or “I’m moving to England as soon as I turn 18”. No eye rolling, no laughing, or pointing out how out of the realm of possibility any of those things are.

Mentoring means supporting in success and failure.

I had to learn to face my fears of my kids failing. I remembered when some of the kids in youth group had huge blunders. While those moments were painful for them those experiences were also a huge catalyst for growth. That’s important to remember.

I’ve learned to get comfortable with phrases  like, “You know what’s best for your life” or “You have good judgement, I trust you”.  Young people know when you don’t feel they are capable of something. If I find myself wanting to step in for my kids, help them with a task, I have to remind myself of the message I’m sending when I do that. That’s not to say I don’t step in occasionally; I do. There are times it’s been necessary because I want them to feel supported not abandoned.

Mentoring means helping your kid find their dreams, no matter what those dreams are.

Part of the job as mentor is to help your child hone in on their skills and passions. Not many people know what they want to do with the rest of their life when they turn 18. I have to remind my kids of that all the time, and I think this is a major advantage in homeschooling. They don’t have to know their college plans by their freshman year of high school. We are able to explore their interests in a variety of ways, meet other adults who do things that are unlike anything my husband and I do, and experiment with jobs in a low key manner.  I don’t think college is essential, and I certainly don’t think it has to be completed in four years between the ages of 18 and 21.

It is not easy, choosing this way. It would be much easier if I forced them into my way, made them learn from my mistakes. Our relationship would suffer, though, and that is a thought that I cannot stand. Years ago I chose relationship with my children over success in school. I told them their grades would never be as important as our relationship, and I meant it. What’s cool is that neither suffered; they each succeed in their own way in school and we still have a great relationship. We have rocky times, too, encounter stuff that we have to work through, but our foundation is solid.

Never sacrifice your relationship with your child on the altar of success.

It is not worth it. Who cares if they’re ahead in three subjects if they don’t know where they stand with you?

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Next week I’ll talk about how to connect with your teenagers, as well as some of the unexpected joys that come with having teenage children.

Be brave, misfits and embrace the adolescents in your life. 

 

 

 

 

When Suddenly Comes Around

Life is really all about waiting.

 

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When you’re a little kid you wait to grow up. Upon growing up you wait to get married. After  waiting to get married you wait for the right moment to have a baby until you realize that there is no perfect juncture to adding a new life to two . It just happens and you go forth into the adventure dumber than you realize.

Once the baby comes along you’re waiting for rolling over, coos, and giggles. You can’t wait for baby to sit up or crawl, or whatever milestone you’re expecting.  It’s all so exciting to think about, and then suddenly it’s happening. The milestones have been met and baby is moving on and you’re waiting to see what’s next.

Exhaustion is a fiend that hunts you, each day bringing a round of waiting. Waiting to not be tired, waiting to take a shower, go to the bathroom, brush your teeth. Waiting for snacks, for meals, for lunch, in line at the bank and the grocery and the library. Waiting for your kid to sleep through the night (the cruelest lie the world ever told!), waiting for a schedule to kick in, and for someone to tell you that you’re doing things right. In all of that waiting the world keeps spinning and you find yourself in love with the craziness of it all, even while secretly wishing it all away.

You potty train, spending  countless minutes and hours waiting for the kid to do what they’re supposed to do on their little potty. Books are read, dances and songs invented, and modesty is lost during downtime in and outside of the powder room.

Even after potty training happens you’re still on watch outside of bathrooms everywhere you go. One kid is scared of falling in, another one doesn’t want their tushy to touch the seat and learns to go while you dangle them by the armpits over public toilets. All this time  spent in bathrooms triggers your need to pee so it becomes a family affair, with your kids all piled in the stall with you announcing to strangers about the color of your underwear or size of your bum.

You may even make friends in the restroom.

The kids get older and the waiting is different, but still waiting. Tying shoes, riding bikes, reading books all happen with us parents lingering in the background, coaxing the kids along, encouraging them on their journey of learning to do stuff they need to know how to do.

You wait and you wait and you wait…and then suddenly comes around. The kids are big and doing life on their own.

Piano lessons, play days with friends, overnights (or almost overnights), classes; you bide your time during all of the activities that kids get to enjoy. You get your things done (or nap in the car) while they’re getting their other things done away from you.

You are less and less of the equation in their lives – still there, but different.

“Nothing,” becomes the standard response when you ask them what they did, because you are a little less welcome in their world as they discover who they are away from you. And because sometimes they literally don’t remember what they did.

Maybe some really hard things come your way, things you weren’t on the lookout for. These things might be hardest because you’re watching while life happens to your kid. It’s one thing for you to be in the belly of the whale but entirely new and dreadful thing to be a bystander while your kid struggles in the dark. It may even dawn on you that it’s not your hand they need and you turn your prayers in another direction.

Then suddenly comes around and that kid is just fine,and soaring and you’re onto the next one getting them through their own personal pit.

You find yourself able to think more and more about yourself during the time in between. You may even discover that  you’re on standby for your adult life, too, You may wake up at night with the feeling like you left the oven on, that there’s something you’ve forgotten. Perhaps your nerves are shot because do they know about present perfect tense and algebra and who the minor and major prophets are?  Do they? You may start to wonder just what the heck life is all about and if you can make it and how you’re going to get these half grown people of yours the rest of the way there AND JUST WHERE IS THERE?

Where will they end up?

Then God will remind you through whispers and sunshine-filled days, and rainy days, too, that he’s got this and that your job is in the waiting, and that he will do the work.

…but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:31

Where they end up is where you wait on the Lord – you trust in him to get them there because not everything is your job. Sure, you can worry about not doing everything right, about not filling them up with everything that they’ll need to get through life unscathed but that’s not the point, is it?

Life wouldn’t be life without skinned knees, broken hearts, and massive failures, and God wouldn’t be God if he couldn’t handle it.

He’s got this. Really.

Water to wine, fishes and loaves – something called the Universe… from nothing.

Remember?

So let him handle it, and while you wait, teach your heart to trust him. He is good, so good, and faithful.  So faithful.

His promises are true.

Whatever you find yourself waiting on, and I’m preaching to myself here, trust that its going to turn out. Jobs, kids, husbands, wives, presidents, school, peace…wait, and find your strength renewed. No need to be weary or faint, or to consider running away from home, because you were created for this life, the one that you’re living right now.

Be brave in the waiting, friends…

 

because when suddenly comes around it’s going to be AMAZING.

 

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Shame and Parenting

“I’m sorry I’m such a bad kid,” one of mine said to me a few years ago.

I was perplexed, didn’t know where that was coming from. This wasn’t the ‘I’m trying to make you feel bad for not letting me do something’ ploy my kids are good at (they do know how to push my guilt button), this was a real apology. I dug around a little to get a look at what might be going on in that tender heart.

“I just don’t do things right. I leave stuff on the floor, I cause trouble. Everyone’s always yelling at me – I’m just not a good kid.”

That would not not do. I wrapped my arms around my child and held on for a while. I breathed in the smell of their hair, and tried to let my love just permeate through all those bad feelings that were churning around. After a quick prayer I knew what to say.

“You’re right. You are messy. You do leave things on the floor. Sometimes you do things that do make more trouble for me, but THIS is what I signed up for. This is what I expect. Kids are supposed to mess up because they’re learning.”

“Really?” my child asked, surprised that any one would want someone to muck up their life.

“Yes, really. I love being a mom. I love the mess, and more importantly I love you all. I mess up all the time, too, you know. I don’t do everything right, either.” Then I pointed out all the things I can do wrong, and soon we got silly and laughed and moved on from that teary moment.

 I came back around to it later, though, because I am not okay with my kids feeling shame because of who they are or what they’ve done.

That was about the time in my life that I walked away from nagging (although I still battle that), blaming, yelling, and completely blowing my lid because my kids were acting like kids. I walked away from expecting things to go like my favorite family sitcoms and began looking forward to the chaos that kids bring into your life*.

I had to get intentional about the way that I talked to my kids. Phrases like, “What were you thinking?” and “Why would you do that?” were nixed and replaced with, “How could you do this differently?” and “Well, what did you learn from this?” Sometimes I search for a list like this and print it off so that I can pull from there when I’m stretched too thin.

Now listen, we’re all human here on this planet, so sometimes even the best intentions go to waste.

That’s why I’m thankful for grace.

As a parent it is guaranteed that you will lose it every now and then. Even the best laid plans can get blown to heck when jobs, bills, medical issues, or flat tires enter into the picture. What I think is more important is what you do from there, where you go after the losing-it occurs. 

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I have known some parents don’t think that they should ever apologize to their kids, maybe because by apologizing they feel that they’re showing weakness. Apologizing to your kids is not wrong – it’s essential. I think it’s the most profound thing my parents ever did for me, and I have seen it change my relationship with my kids. A sincere acknowledgment of regretful behavior is a great start to ensuring that your kid doesn’t walk under a cloud of shame.

The difference between shame and guilt is this: shame convinces a kid of their wrongness as a human and leaves them defeated. Shame makes a kid feel like they’re carrying around a dirty secret;  leaving laundry on the floor, eating all the cookies, not doing their chores, and fighting with siblings are not dirty secrets. It’s not a secret at all because it’s developmentally appropriate behavior. 

I actually don’t believe in dirty secrets, but we can talk about that later.

I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection over and over for the past few months. Brown is a shame researcher and what she has to say on the subject has seriously changed the course of my life. Her research uncovered the truth that sharing the thing that shames us is the only way to break the cycle.

“Shame needs three things to grow out of control in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgement. When shaming happens and we keep it locked up, it festers and grows. It consumes us. We need to share our experience. Shame happens between people, and it heals between people. If we can find someone who has earned the right to hear our story, we need to tell it. Shame loses power when spoken. In this way, we need to cultivate our story to let go of shame, and we need to develop shame resilience in order to cultivate our story.”  ~ Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

She doesn’t mean on the internet, but with close trusted people. Your tribe. Your person. Whoever will say, “Man, that is the worst feeling. I’m so sorry that’s happened.”

That’s who I want to be to my kids. I want my husband and I to be the people they can share their shame with and have us say, “I’m so sorry you’re feeling that. I totally get it.”

I want to be that person even when- especially when – I have accidentally caused that shame.

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It’s easy to start throwing perfectionism onto our children, especially if that’s something you do to yourself. Simply recognizing that tendency is a great first step in changing that. Maybe as you read this, you find yourself nodding, recognizing your own tendencies. Don’t get stuck there.

I know first hand how debilitating it can be to wake up to the fact that you’re doing something as a parent that you know is wrong, something contrary to what you believe is best for your kids. If that’s the case you need to find your person and break the shame-hold on you, because ain’t nobody got time for that.

Nobody.

Find someone to share your story with. I suggest you start with Jesus, who loves you more than anyone, and go from there. 

Now go be brave, misfits.

 

 

P.S.

Go get the book The Gifts of Imperfection. GAME CHANGER.

 

*Some of those issues have muscle memory and deep roots. I often have to work on not slipping back into that pattern because…human. If you can figure out the why of what you do you can change the how. If you have questions about that I’m happy to share a little more privately.

 

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The Parable of the Yard Sale

I woke up bright and early yesterday morning in anticipation of the annual neighborhood yard sale.  As a kid this was a day looked forward to second only to the last day of school. I would wake early and pedal around on my bike rummaging through glassware, lamps, and old toys. You know, all the good stuff.

I’ve groused on here about the scarcity of children in the neighborhood. As the kids and I wandered the streets, though, I wondered if was my dour mood that had made me feel that things had turned unfriendly.  Maybe I was just waiting for someone else to make the first move. We crossed the street and introduced ourselves to our newest neighbors and found our first treasures of the day.

A few blocks away we laughed with someone over the rain, rejoicing together that the sky had cleared so nicely. “It rained buckets!” I said to one lady, and she dumped water out of old phone she was gifting my son with in agreement. I ran into an old friend from the neighborhood. We met each others kids. When we parted ways I was flooded with memories of him from kindergarten – he was one of the funniest kids I knew.

We quietly pilfered through the unwanted items laid out on tables. Candles never burned, artwork no longer cherished, and mismatched china tell the stories of our pieced together lives. It doesn’t matter what life looks like from the outside, we all get bogged down in the same trappings that eventually we have no room for. 

 

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Kiley’s $5 find.
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My $3 deal. It reminds me of the beach.
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Liam’s $2 was well spent.
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Spencer got this for free. It’s a bobble head.
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This was a must because my Mamaw had a black Kit Cat clock.

Yard sales are cool because people put all their stuff, the stuff they can’t keep anymore, out for everyone to see.  You know that’s a theme in my life. I’m pretty sure it’s a parable.

I love that we left the house yesterday morning with no expectation other than adventure, and even if we had come home empty handed we each would look back on the day fondly. How could we not? We weathered a storm (okay, just a nice spring downpour) with our neighbors then got to smile in the sunshine with them, WHILE we bought their stuff. What’s better than that?

I swear it was one of the best days I’ve had in a really long time. I just loved the whole day. It didn’t bug me that at some point everyone got hot and sweaty, full of complaints. I just smiled and reminded them we wouldn’t die before we got home. I enjoyed the day more because I wasn’t forcing expectations on myself, or my neighbors, about who I should be and what I should be doing.

It felt so good to connect with people I share a zip code with that I feel encouraged to do it again soon. I’m not expecting anything from my  neighbors, though, because I get that their lives are just as complicated as mine. Maybe more so.

If life isn’t meeting your expectations, maybe it’s time to lower your expectations.  I’m not saying don’t expect the best, but maybe redefine what you think of as the best. Feel free to cry or be pissed off or whatever feeling is getting crammed down inside where there isn’t room and then remember that everyone has stuff they don’t want. Then LET IT GO. You don’t even have to lay it out on a table and sell it.

Take a walk in your neighborhood.  
Be the first to smile.
Look up at the sky and revel in how little we know about what lies beyond the big blue dome.

I know you’ll find what you wake up looking for.

 

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Liam’s photo bomb. All photos by Kiley Shepherd. 🙂

 

Be brave, misfits, and be hopeful of adventure.

Know When to Fold ‘Em

You really don’t need iPhones and cameras when you’re  parent.

You’ve got your children to document everything for you. Sure, it’s through the lens of whatever age they’re at, but still it’s a lens.

I was talking to my boys last week about YouTube, the pros and the cons. I reminded them (they’re six and twelve) that they cannot be in  a room alone with the computer and that they cannot watch a channel I don’t approve first.

Photo Credit: Type Tasting via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Type Tasting via Compfight cc

“Why?” asked Liam, the six year old, because that’s what kids his age do.

“Because there might be bad language,” I said, “and I don’t want you hearing that.”

“Like the eight times that you said #$&*?” Liam said. His older brother started laughing but immediately closed his mouth when he got the stink eye from me.

“I don’t say that,” I said. There is nothing so comforting as denial, really. It’s better than a warm blanket, a tub of Ben and Jerry’s, or a nap alone.

“Yes, you do. You said it when we went to that hair place and we were driving home.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. You had a reason I just don’t know what.”

“When else?” I asked. I was out to prove this kid wrong.

“When the car almost hit us, when we were walking the dogs, when I accidentally shot you in the face with the microwave.”  I stopped him there.

“When you shot me in the face with the microwave?” I questioned. What the heck?

“You know that thing that we used to clean up the glass when the front door broke?”

The shop vac,” I reminded him.

“Yeah, the shop vac. I thought it was on suck but it was on blow and I shot you in the face with all the glass. Then you said it.”

Oh, I remembered. Who doesn’t remember a face full of glass?

“Well, I think it was called for then,” I said. “That really hurt. When else?”

“I don’t remember. Lots of times.” Liam was ready to move on from this conversation I could tell. His brother, on the other hand, was ready to keep it going. He looked downright gleeful.

“Oh, yeah. You say it all the time,” Spencer smugly said.

“Well, I had no idea that you found my language so offensive,” I told my boys.

My girls had wandered in by this point and added to the conversation and shared some of their favorite foul-language moments. I was starting to feel a little bad.

“I think it’s funny, Mom.” Kiley said. Of course the oldest child would side with me.

“Well, I think it’s crude and people who use language like that lack imagination,” Laurel said. Of course my second born would not side with me.

We sat in silence for a few moments, marinating in memories of my best expletive moments.

Finally I spoke.

“Well, if that’s the worst of it, that’s not too bad,” I said.

They spoke at the same time.

“Oh, no. That’s not the worst.”

“There’ve been LOTS of others.”

“That time you called that guy in the other car…”

“You said #$%^ too. I remember that.”

I looked at my brood, my own personal mistake keepers, little recorders disguised as humans. I realized I was never going to win the battle I had begun.

“Well, what the #@*#?  Who wants to go out for lunch?”

 

My Crew

Can I tell you all a secret?

Sometimes I just want to get away from my children.

Not permanently, mind you. I think 72 hours would do it.

I’m their go-to-girl for lost shoes, unsolved math problems, existential crises, loose teeth, insect-hunting, tummy troubles, spiritual concerns, interpersonal relationship advice, and anything else that zips through their brains.

If I wasn’t an expert to start with I am now.

I don’t know if it’s a want to get away so much as it’s a need to get away, you know?

Life is a lot to process right now. Even the good stuff takes it out of me. The little things, though, they nickel and dime my mind ’til all I come up with is empty. I like to wake up early, around 5 a.m., but lately I’ve just needed more sleep. Apparently women do need more sleep than men!  Researchers found that women often utilize a lot more brain power and consequently need more sleep. That is science, and I keep pointing this out to my husband as I sleep while he gets ready for work.

These people of mine, though, they follow me everywhere.

During these times of being followed around like a rock star I am reminded of Jesus. He often needed to get away from the crowds, and that did happen. But just as often he ended up teaching from a boat or something because sometimes the needs of the many are greater than the needs of the one – even the Son of God.

Last week I had one thought that got me through a couple of really hard days: an ice cream cone from McDonald’s. The idea of driving in a the car by myself, getting a cone at the drive-through, and listening to NPR alone was enough to make me giddy and get me to the end of the day. I told my husband about my secret plan.

Photo Credit: Enokson via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Enokson via Compfight cc

I guess I forgot to tell him in was secret.

As I was walking out the door one of my daughters came down the stairs, “Mom, are you ready to go? I told Kiley, too.”

My face must have said it all.

Just then Spencer rounded the corner. “Is it time? Are we going now?”

I couldn’t help it. It was a reflex. I rolled my eyes. I pointed the kids to the van then asked my mom and dad if they wanted us to bring a cone back for them, too.

Adios secret trip for soft serve.

Goodbye NPR, solitude, and brain break.

“You didn’t want us to go?” my oldest child asked.

“We’ll get out,” the boy said.

I looked at my crew of kids, saw the sincerity (and maybe a little hurt) in their eyes. I dug a little deeper and suddenly my well was not so dry. This chaos is all for such a short time in the grand scheme of things. I let them pick the radio station, as it’s the one thing the 16 and 12 year old don’t fight over, and listened as they sang alone to some song I would have deemed inappropriate a few years ago.

These kids are my people, my crew. They know the song of my heart. They are my spirit animals. They make me laugh and cry and remember how finite our time really is. They know all the words to Bohemian Rhapsody, for Pete’s sake.  More importantly, they choose me. They like me, they really, really like me. At least for now I am the person that they want to spend time with. I know that can’t last, it won’t last.

How can I not choose to share my soft serve moments with them? 

This time in my life IS crazy, there is no denying that. I can amplify the irritation and exhaustion by focusing on it, or I can allow it to be the background noise to the awesome amount of life that is taking place before my eyes. I can hold on to ‘it will be better when’ or I can say, “These are the best days of my life!”

I can eye-roll and glare and allow resentment to build up or I can teach from the boat. 

It’s a no brainer.

I’m gonna teach from the boat.

Because these are the best days, every one of them. They are crazy and chaotic and sometimes never-ending but they are the best days, too.

Photo Credit: Daran Kandasamy via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Daran Kandasamy via Compfight cc

 

So, here’s to digging deeper, brave misfits. Here’s to not enough me-time and plenty of us-time because time is not going to slow down.

I’m going to teach from the boat.

But first I’m going to take a nap.

 

 

 

 

 

The Science of Motherhood

I have two kids that are driving. Like, driving a vehicle.

Two.

Two of them are driving.

I still have a 12 year old (who is great at driving me to the edge of a cliff) and a 6 year old so I’m not in empty nest territory any time soon, but I’m definitely moving into new parental territory.

Anyway, I keep thinking about the beginning of my motherhood journey. Motherhood was something I wanted but did not plan for. Lee and I had been married for about a year when I got mono, thanks to working at an after-school program for elementary school kids. I was almost three months pregnant before I realized I didn’t have mono anymore, just morning sickness.

My poor husband. He had married this wild and crazy girl who was fun loving and thought everything he did was hilarious. Lee had no clue that one pregnancy test could change a person so completely.

In typical Kara fashion I began researching all aspects of pregnancy and child rearing, which was easy because I was in college majoring in Family Studies*. I became obsessed with interested in  natural childbirth and breastfeeding. Instead of hanging out with friends we spent our time going to Bradley method classes and watching movies while I toughened my nipples with a washcloth.

Good times.

I think that washcloth was a symbol of the pain I was willing to go through. I was determined to be the best at mothering that I could possibly be, whatever the cost. When our first child came into the world I think I was as shocked as she was. Who knew an episiotomy would hurt so badly? Who knew that the washcloth I had abused myself with would be nothing in comparison to my daughter’s bad latch? Who knew that my  husband would try to sleep through the next two years of our daughter’s life pretending not to hear her cry in the night?

WHO KNEW?

I look back and I think two things: Poor Lee, and thank goodness Kiley doesn’t remember her first year because I was nuts. 

If Kiley was awake I only wanted classical music playing. I didn’t want to have a television on and if it was on I definitely didn’t want anything violent to be showing. No pacifiers, no bottles, no formula**. NO NO NO NO. Just everything NO.

Poor Lee.

Photo Credit: kygp via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: kygp via Compfight cc

The minute my urine changed the blank space on the dip stick to a positive sign my molecular structure shifted. Some dormant maternal gene rose up from deep within and insisted that I take action immediately (thus, the washcloth). Lee was on more of a delayed timer. On our way home from the hospital with our new baby girl Lee said, “Why did they just let us leave?” and he actually looked kind of scared as he continually checked the rear-view mirror.

His molecular structure didn’t shift in quite the drastic way that mine did, now that I think about it. I don’t think Lee ever had to pull the car over for fear the seat belt wasn’t tight enough on a kid, and I know he’s never worried that one of them could get sucked out the window. I don’t think he even knows what they eat when I’m not home.

Lee’s shift was a little less intense, I guess.

It’s probably a good thing our second daughter was born when our first one was just two. It forced me to chill the heck out. When you’re nursing a baby and your two year old is demolishing your apartment the t.v. seems like an angel sent from above. When you’re nursing a baby and your two year old brings you a jar of peanut butter and two spoons for lunch it counts as a picnic. Also, yes gets a lot easier when it means you could get a nap or a shower, or both if you play your cards right.

Motherhood is like riding a roller coaster: at first you’re sick to your stomach and thinking it’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done. Once you make it down that first hill, though,  you start to let up and have some fun. Suddenly the awesome ride is  over and you can’t remember what scared you so much an you jump in line to do it all over again.

At least that’s how it was for me.

Some of the new things that my molecules made happen when I first became a mom  didn’t stick. I said goodbye to the nipple-toughening washcloth,and I quit thinking that one of the kids would get sucked through the window. But I’m still pretty weird about seatbelts being buckled properly and I’ll never stop wishing that they wouldn’t watch violent television.***

I am okay with them drinking formula, though. It’s their life.

 

 

*Actually, it may not have been Family Studies just then. I changed majors 7 times before graduating with a degree in Family Studies.

**My fourth child had nothing but formula from 6 weeks on. Made me sad, but we both lived and he’s just fine.

** *Although, I do watch The Walking Dead with the hubs and two older kids. For bonding purposes only. It is violent, but also educational.