Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Radio Silence Has Been Lifted- sort of...

My computer's start up disc is FULL, and while I wait to have our files transferred to an external hard drive, I'd planned on posting via my iPhone. But then this happened. Then it happened again every afternoon for almost a week now. 

(It's hard to hate this. Spoiler alert: I DON'T.) 

So sorry, y'all. Once my MacBook is restored to her former glory, be expecting a MASSIVE PHOTO DUMP of our back-to-back-to-Louisiana-weekend-trips. Pictures will include, but are not limited to: Nathan's first doo-rag, my annual Easter morning breakfast tradition, tons of mud bugs, an updated family picture, the cutest Easter outfits y'all have ever seen and the single most important traveling accessory when you're on the road with small children. Trust me, it's gonna be worth the wait. Those outfits are awesome. 

Until then: Thanks for stopping by! 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Day I Decided to Hide My Kid's Toys

I had had it. I was over it. DONE. 

A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with my Mother-in-Love thanking her for the kid's Easter outfits, (I'll show them to y'all in a soon-to-be-posted photo blog of our Easter trip to my Mom's. I promise it'll be worth the wait. They're adorable.) and the kids saw my distracted state. They took that opportunity to go BANANAS CRAZY. During this 5 minute window of insanity, they dragged out every single toy that we own. They emptied book shelves and overturned baskets. They turned my house into a four-walled pinata. And during this shift in the universe, they broke something of mine. It was a very, VERY dark day.

I got off the phone and surveyed the damage. It's amazing what two kids can tear up in less than 10 minutes. They stopped what they were doing and looked at me. Uh, oh... They knew the jig was up. I didn't yell. I didn't scream. (Although there was a large part of me that wanted to.) I very calmly- and systematically- picked up every single toy in my house. I collected every book, toy, gadget, train, broken crayon, puzzle, doll, rubber band, block, whistle, and Lego that could be found. I put everything into a laundry basket and perched that sucker on top of my dining room table. In the 20 minutes it took me to clean up I'd created a makeshift toy jail inside my dining room. It was a sight to behold. (I'm kinda sad now that I didn't take time to photograph it.) I told them that until they showed me that they could take care of their things without breaking them, I wasn't going to let them have them. 

Later that afternoon, looking for parenting advice, I asked my best friend if an episode like this had ever happened in her house. She has two girls: one who is a few years older than Luke and one who falls between Luke and Josie, so she's already been through a lot of what I'm experiencing. And she is a bomb-diggety wife and Mom, so her council is always rock solid. (I ask her for advice about 17 times a week.) And guess what: SHE HAS HAD TO TAKE HER GIRL'S TOYS AWAY, TOO. Huh. So I guess I'm not the only one who had her house destroyed by overly rambunctious children. How 'bout that? Mom guilt: Absolved.

So, for a few days, I made the kids play without all their toys. The next morning, I gave them each ONE TOY with which to entertain themselves. Luke got a toy car and Josie got a stuffed Minnie Mouse doll. They played in relative harmony and, as the days went by, I slowly started giving them some of their toys back. And here's the thing that's surprised me most: They've played with the three toys I allowed them to have back more in the last week than they ever did when their bookshelves were full. 

And now I have another problem: WHAT DO I DO WITH ALL THEIR TOYS NOW? I want them to have access to their toys, and to be able to play with the nice things that have been given to them- but I don't want to have a house that's so overridden with things that they don't really play with anything

 Before the great disaster happened, I had divided their toys in half: One half was left out for them to play with and the other half was in a big cardboard box behind a door in my dining room. I would collect and switch them out every few months. And that worked- to a point. But now I'm realizing that I need a better daily/weekly toy rotation system. 

And this is my question to you: What do y'all do with toys in your house? Do you rotate? How do you store the lagniappe ones? How do you ensure that your toys are actually played with instead of being dumped out, stepped on, and broken? 

(This is what is happening in my living room right now. The kids are napping and I'm trying to decide what to do with all this stuff before they wake up. Most of it is going into the steamer trunk until I can figure out a workable rotation option. So gimme your best suggestions. Please!) 

Friday, April 18, 2014

How Motherhood Changed Easter For Me

"But standing by the cross of Jesus was His mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene." John 19:25

Easter has been irreversibly changed for me. 

Every morning this week, I've spent time studying and re-reading the Gospel accounts of the Easter story focusing on the actual timeline of Jesus' trial, crucifixion, burial and resurrection. Whoa, y'all. Seriously, though: WHOA.

Studying the disciples' accounts during the sequence of days these events unfolded over 2000 years ago has connected me to The Cross in ways that scripture has never connected with me before. Reading their words, hearing their accounts on the ACTUAL DAYS THAT THEY WERE HAPPENING has changed me. Forever. Scripture transported me there: I've been in the Upper Room. I've seen Jesus wash His disciples' feet. And I watched Judas trade his soul for 30 pieces of silver. I've fallen asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane. And I've been by the fire with Peter. In the Praetorium with Pilate. On the road with Simon of Cyrene. At the cross with Mary. 

John's account is the one that really gets me. The way he tells it pierces me deeply. It hits that tender part of my heart motherhood created. Logically, I always knew Mary was at the cross. I'd heard that passage my entire life. But, until I became a mother, I never emotionally understood what John 19:25 indicated: That she was THERE. 

She smelled it. She smelled the metallic mingling of blood and sweat and vinegar as Jesus' body hung on His wooden cross that day. She heard it. She heard the pounding iron of the hammer driving the nails through His hands and feet. The jeers from the crowds as they mocked her son. The groans as He cried out to His Father. She felt it. She felt the darkness that came, enveloping their world for three hours as He bled and suffered and struggled. The unspeakable despair she must have withstood. To see the child she gave birth to, hanging there, beaten and bruised and bloodied for crimes He didn't commit. What a tragic day for a mother to witness.

To have to stand by and watch as people mocked your firstborn child. The boy you taught to talk. To walk. To run. To hear groans of anguish come from the same person you once heard squeal with boyish delight. To watch men shove a crown of thorns onto the same forehead you used to kiss goodnight. To drive nails into the same hands that used to fit perfectly into yours. To pound nails into the same feet you'd once heard scampering through your house all those years ago. To see the same eyes that were once filled with childhood delight now filled with unspeakable anguish. To see pain in his eyes that no kiss could soothe. To remember a lifetime's worth of His skinned elbows and bruised knees and busted lips pale in comparison to what you were forced to watch Him endure that fateful day.

Oh, Mary. What a job you were chosen to do. To be the one to raise my Messiah. To be the one to see both His first and His last breath. To willingly give over a delicate part of your heart to a sweet, precious baby, and then one day have that fragile part shattered by watching this gruesome moment in His life. That you would have to witness the suffering agony of not only your son, but of your Savior also. To remember the warmth of those pudgy toddler arms encircling your neck and then on this day to see those same arms stretched out onto a cross. For you. For me. A most worthless sinner: A gossip. A liar. Selfish. Self-seeking. Self-involved. To be called to love and raise a lamb for the slaughter. The Lamb. The One who would be slain for all humanity. 

What kind of offering that must have been. Mary, I can't imagine what you went through at Golgotha on that day. What you had to do to let Him go. But I know, that as a mother, as I have read and written and wept this week- you changed Easter for me. You took me to the foot of the cross in ways that only a fellow mother could. You've given me a view and a glimpse of His sacrifice that, before I was a mother, I would have never been able to see. So thank you. 
A thousand times- THANK YOU. 

And that is how motherhood changed Easter for me. 
(And I don't know what you're currently doing, but I've got to go hug my kids right now.)

Monday, April 14, 2014

NEVER Say Never.

I always vowed that my kids would NEVER eat junk food before a meal, but one day last week, I gave Luke an ice cream cone at 10:17am. 
And here's why: 
Never say never, y'all. Poor Luke.
(If anyone knows of any awesome splinter removal techniques that do NOT involve needles or tweezers, please let me know. I think I've traumatized Luke beyond repair and there's still like half that thing in there. So thanks in advance, y'all.)

Let me tell you something: Before I had kids, I was going to be the BEST PARENT EVER. Before the kids were born, I KNEW IT ALL. I would look at those poor, pitiful, red-faced parents with children who were screaming in public and think, "Well, bless their hearts. They just don't have a caa-lue about raising kids, do they? I'll tell you one thing: MY kids'll NEVER pitch a fit like that with ME. Harumph..." I tell you, I knew that when my turn came around, I was going to rock at this whole "Motherhood" thing. 

I was going to raise my children perfectly. They would always come when I called them. And they would never run in church. They would always say "Yes, please." and "No, thank you.". They would never ignore my commands and would always sit nicely at the table durning supper. My kids would never stand on sofas, or jump off coffee tables, or crawl under my legs while I talked in the church foyer. They'd never draw on my vacuum cleaner with a marker or bang on my icebox door with toy hammers. They'd always smile sweetly when scolded and never pout when they're told "No." They'd never watch too much TV or eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for supper. I was gonna nail Motherhood.

Then I actually had a baby. {My Luke.} And to top it off, I got pregnant again 9 months later. {My Josie.} And, TO TOP THAT OFF, I got pregnant for a third time 9 months after that. {My Nathan.} And so, three-kids-in-three-years and countless tantrums/bouts of public humiliation later, I have finally realized: YOU NEVER SAY NEVER.
(Y'all can go ahead and insert your peals and peals of laughter here. It's fine. I totally deserve it. I know.) 

God taught (and is still teaching) me a resounding lesson in humility when He gave me my three stair-stepped children. Because before I had kids, I was full of myself. My-cup-runneth-over, FULL OF IT. I was full of the empowerment that having two degrees in early childhood education had given me. I was full of the experience classroom teaching had given me. I was full of the pride that managing my students had given me. I was full... of ME. Of my abilities. My organization skills. My discipline strategies. My strength. 

When I had Luke, and then again after Nathan, I went through an impossibly dark time. Maybe I'll write one day about what navagating my version of the 'Baby Blues' was like, but for now, just know- it was dreadful. I was the weakest, most fragile, bleakest version of myself I'd ever been. Everything was gray. And I was broken: Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. I was shattered. I was a broken vessel- cracked and hollow and seemingly irreparable. And there was no amount of my own strength that could have fixed me. But God used me in that broken state to began to show me then how much that as a Mom, and as a child of His- I needed Him. It was the beginning of the death of my prideful heart. Once I got through those tough first months, I recovered and felt better than ever before. But I'll never forget the feeling I had when I was forced to, for the first time ever, lean on him completely. To completely surrender myself to him. To be that lamb that went astray and have Jesus carry me back to his fold. And what a feeling that was- to be carried by the Savior. To feel the steady rock and sway of His loving arms as he navigated through the difficult terrain for me while I stayed safely secure and protected in his arms. Wrapped in his LOVE. 

Well, God musta known that having just one baby wasn't going to be enough squash my haughty spirit. I must've been really, REALLY full of myself because it took three babies for God to give me enough humility to realize how much less of myself and more of Him I need to be a Godly parent. And I'm so grateful that He's helped me put aside that prideful past. To slay that superior spirit and replace it with one of love, and empathy, and understanding. I can hear a squalling child in public now and instead of getting on my high horse to look down on their parenting, I can fall on my knees and pray for that family. I can lift them up while they are in the deep of it because I HAVE BEEN THERE, too. I can keep myself from proclaiming condemnation on their parenting abilities because I now know that I need grace, too. I've realized that it's easier to bend down and help someone up if you've gotten down off your polished pedestal. 

And that's what God did for me. He took me down off my lofty perch and stuck me in the thick of it to help me kill my self-filled spirit. He put me knee deep in dirty diapers and sticky floors and spilled milk and sour towels and sleepless nights and runny noses and temper tantrums and high fevers and low patience and loud volumes and short naps and long days to teach me this lesson. To break me of my self-reliance. To win my selfish heart over to His. He is even still teaching me that in my weaknesses, His strength is even more apparent through Christ. 

"And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." MOST GLADLY, therefore, I will boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."  Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:9  
{emphasis mine.} 

So, for all the Moms out there who are feeling like they've just gotten the wind knocked out of them- hang in there. Reach out to Jesus and He will catch you. He will light your way like He lights mine as I navigate these tumultuous days of parenting my little brood. 

And for all you ladies who aren't Moms yet- take a page from my book: For heaven's sake, DO NOT rush to judgement. Parenting is easy on paper. It's tough in reality. It's not hard to be a perfect parent when your children aren't here yet. Parenting is much, MUCH more difficult when you haven't showered in two days and you're functioning on 3+ hours of consecutive sleep. So cut those Mom's some slack, would you? You'll save yourself an awfully large piece of humble pie in the future. And trust me, humble pie tastes a lot like crow. Bleaaaack. 

My continued prayer is that, as a person and as a parent, I will continue to remain humble. That I will continue to reach for His guiding hand as I raise my three little souls for Him. And that, most certainly, I will never say never again. :)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Modest is Hottest, Ladies.

My Pinterest feed has been clogged lately with pins titled "DIY bra" or "Cute bra for backless tanks" or "Ribbon bra straps for summer".  

For example: 
(A screen shot from my current Pinterest feed.)

Here's a quick PSA: If your bra is being designed to be seen THROUGH YOUR CLOTHES, lemme give you a hint- your clothes aren't covering enough. Dressing immodestly is kinda like rolling in manure: Yes, you'll get attention, but mostly from pigs.  

So, if you are ever unsure about an ensemble decision, allow me to assist you: If your underwear is being used as outerwear, STOP. That's not an outfit. You're still in your skivvies. Keep going.

Keep getting dressed because you're *obviously* not covering enough. You could catch cold wearing skimpy outfits like that. And putrescent sinus cavities are SO last season. We all know that a runny nose would absolutely take away from that homemade rhinestone studded bra you just spend 4 hours creating. Nobody looks cute holding a used Kleenex, honey. I'm saving you from certain, public humiliation. You can thank me later.

So remember, ladies: Modest is hottest. Modest IS hottest. (Make that your mantra.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Week I Thought Josie Had Diabetes

Something was wrong with her. I just KNEW it. Josie'd just had her 2nd birthday and she swung back into life after her Minnie Mouse birthday party extravaganza with as much vim an vigor as she ever had. She received brand new Princess bed sheets and fancy little satin nightgowns with swishy skirts and an awesome easel to paint on and piles and piles and PILES of amazing new toys that we're still learning to share. The decorations came down, the balloons deflated, and the lagniappe cake was *finally* consumed. (In large part by me, while the kids napped every afternoon. Because waste not, want not, y'all.) We finally began to settle back into our nice, comfortable, daily routine after the birthday party madness subsided. There was only one problem: the potty. 

The party messes got cleaned up, but the potty messes were just beginning. Gone were the days of clean pants and rugs and car seats and blankets. After almost three months of successful training, Josie started having accident after accident after ACCIDENT. I would look up from feeding the baby, or reading a story, or rescuing the dog from participating in a dramatic reenaction of 'David and Goliath', or turning a load of laundry over, and BAM! there she'd be: Standing, staring at me in that unmistakable post-potty-accident-position. "Swaaa-wee, Momma." she'd say, as I'd hitch her up onto my hip while trying not to transfer any of her mess onto myself as we'd lumber back into the bathroom for ANOTHER outfit change/half bath/hand washing session. 

But not only was Josie having all these accidents, she was BEGGING for juice. She was straight up Oliver Twist-ing me in the kitchen with her empty cup 24/7. She was drinking All. Day. Long. Cup after cup after cup, she'd guzzle it down and then immediately ask for another. I'd oblige her, she'd drink it like she'd been wandering the Sahara for weeks, and then she'd approach me again 3 minutes later, begging for more. I was beginning to think she was becoming a camel. 

I was starting to panic. This just wasn't like her. I started to think of medical conditions that would combine the symptoms of recurring potty accidents and unquenchable thirst and I came up with: DIABETES. That was it; the obvious answer to my current problem. Josie was diabetic. For sure. I just knew it. 

I swallowed my fear and reached out to my cousin who's daughter is a Type I diabetic, desperate for some guidance. And she was awesome. She told me that I wasn't the first person to reach out to her with a list of ambiguous symptoms and concerns and she knew precisely what I needed to do. She gave me some excellent advice and left me with a master plan to be able to deduce if Josie really was suffering from blood sugar problems. (FYI: Apparently they have test strips you can buy OTC at pharmacies nowadays to test for glucose/ketones at home. So, there's some free information for y'all.) 

So I now have this newly acquired access to an easy answer- I should be relieved, right? WRONG. I am paralyzed. Frozen in fear. I can not physically force myself to get into the van and drive to the store. There's a Walgreens literally two blocks from my driveway but I Just. Couldn't. Do. It. I was petrified. Somehow, knowing that there was the availability of an easy answer made me less inclined to want to actually answer it. 

And I wasn't in denial. I understood that there was a problem. If I had any doubts about that, there was an overflowing wet bucket of Princess panties sitting on top of my washing machine to prove it's existence. I knew that something, somewhere, somehow had changed- but I was terrified to find out what it could be. So, before I diagnosed my daughter with a lifetime's supply of blood sugar battles, I decided to take a deep breath, take several HUGE steps back, and start over. 

The next morning, before Jo woke up, I went all "Teacher-turned-Mom" on her. I cranked out a blank sticker chart, complete with a DumDum taped to the bottom. I put a jar of jelly beans on the bathroom counter next to a sticker page, rolled up my sleeves, and I prepared to do battle. She woke up that morning, stumbled bleary-eyed into the bathroom and beheld the glorious sight that was before her: 

(This is success in sticker form.)

A chorus of angels sang to us that morning. She went to the bathroom right away, stuck a sticker on her chart and happily chewed on a pink jellybean as I washed her hands. And to my surprise...she never had an accident again. ::face palm:: Turns out, she never had a blood sugar problem. She had a motivation problem. She had a post-birthday-party problem. An I'm-too-busy-to-tell-Mom problem. An I-can-but-I-don't-want-to problem. 

And looking back, I've never been so happy to be wrong about something. I feel equal parts of relief, frustration, embarrassment, and anxiety. I'm relieved because there was a simple answer to what could have been a much, much bigger problem. There are thousands and thousands of parents who would love to be able to solve their children's problems with a simple sticker chart and a jar of jelly beans. How truly blessed this makes me. 

I'm frustrated because I didn't pick up on her lack of motivation sooner. I should have realized that she was coming down from the "It's-my-party-and-I'll-cry-if-I-want-to" high.  This potty accident nonsense went on for over a week, y'all. A WEEK! 

I'm embarrassed because I feel like I should have known Josie better. I actually thought that there was something seriously wrong with her. What ever happened to good ol' Mother's Intuition? Why did THAT not work? "Umm, Tara, about that glucose test- yeah, I'm actually NOT going to need to pick that up. Turns out, Josie was just playing me like a fiddle. There's not a thing wrong with her." How many other Moms out there have convinced themselves that their children were suffering from some infirmity when in fact they were perfectly healthy? (Because apparently- I did.)

I'm anxious because I think about what this could mean about her future. She's certainly a feisty one, and I worry about what could happen if I don't raise her correctly. If I don't do my job properly now, what will I face when she's 5? or 9? or 13? or 18? God has given me the gift of a strong-minded girl. And I'm thankful for her determined spirit. (But what Josie needs to realize, though, is that her stubborn streak comes to her honestly. Hard headedness is genetic and those roots run DEEP. If there's going to be a battle of wills between us- I'm going to win. Decidedly.) 

I'm glad she's tenacious because tenacity like her's means that by pointing her in the right direction, she will be unwavering in her faith. And with a drive like this, there won't be much that Josie can't accomplish for Jesus. What an inspiring thought! 

My prayer is that God will continue to give me the strength and wisdom to lead my kids to Christ. To successfully shape their souls and mold their wills for Him. To aim them to Jesus because that's how I'm pointing, too. I want to learn lessons from situations like this one with Josie, and use those lessons to strengthen my resolve to be a Godly parent. Because parenting is a job that has eternal consequences. And there is no higher responsibility than that.