Saturday thoughts

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Another summer week has come and gone.  When our kids were younger, I used to struggle through summer.  It was hard to know how to handle the kiddos’ need for structure but my own need to get things done.  I can gloriously report that things do, in fact, get better as kids get older.  I’m finding that summer vacation is my favorite because I really like my kids and they are at their best when the stress of school is gone.  Moms of littles, get as angry as you want with me, but they don’t stay little long, and all of the disciplining when they are little pays off in dividends when they are pleasant as they grow.

 

I had to make a trip to the doctor’s office with one girlie thanks to an awful case of poison ivy. It seems that the briar patch she fell into last week when wrestling with her boy cousins was actually filled with poison.  The doctor took one look at her this morning and said, “You know when you go swimming, you’re supposed to go in a swimming pool, not a poison ivy patch.”  So, steroids and the like are scattered across our counter.  She will PUMP.YOU.UP.

The younger girls and I put some elbow grease into the free Ikea Hgynjkly storage thingy we found along the road yesterday.  It fits into their room perfectly and I just love it.  Plus, it was already assembled which is Ikea at it’s best.

Having a “normal” Saturday is so rare for us.  My husband got the lawn mowed, his dad came over and fixed our garage door for us (because this week it looked like a child had tried to do a pull-up on it while it was opened and when I asked I was assured this did not actually happen).  We grilled for dinner and kids got bathed (which they had to do because they decided splatter painting with acrylics is a good idea?)… It was a nice day.

I’m looking forward to this next week because I will not have anything to put back from the garden.  I did 63 quarts of green beans in the pressure canner this past week.  I was working on my last batch and had my chair by the stove, feet up on the counter, reading on my Kindle when my husband just walked by and shook his head a laughed.  I just said, “Aren’t you glad you married me?”  He, of course, is.

On the bad moments of mothering, and grace

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We have a busy household around here.  My husband’s schedule is not set in stone.  We have three very active and very different daughters.  We have two grandparents (great-grandparents for our girls) who are delightful and sweet and need some help with the stuff of life.  We have a dog that barks at every.blessed.thing.  It’s summertime, and the schedules are, shall we say, fluid.

There are friends coming and going, vacations, camps, doctors appointments, and the unexpected-car trouble, kid trouble, hard stuff of life… Someone asked me how I do it all the other day and I simply said, “I don’t.”  My real, honest answer should have been, “Jesus all of the way, with some help from an anti-depressant, and also, I don’t.” There are many things I hold on to very loosely.  I let our girls dress themselves almost every day.  Mother’s Day, Christmas, and Easter are the days I pull my mom-card.  This means some Sundays we go to church with a kid wearing mismatching shoes or maybe a Christmas dress in July. I don’t braid hair, and I don’t paint nails.  If I have the time, I would gladly do it.  It’s just that I don’t.  I clean the floors when I can, I organize closets when I can, and I never iron.

Anyway.  We made it through a crazy day recently.  Lots of work for me, unexpected interruptions, and very loud children.  I took a lot of deep breaths.  I asked for the eyes of the Father, to filter every situation.  I thanked Him for everything I could think of being thankful for.  I let the kids watch movies because silence.  But at the end of the day, the kids were in our little inflatable pool yelling at each other.  I told them it was time to be done and I walked inside to finish my work.  5 minutes later they were still playing in the pool.  I told them one more time.  2 minutes later they were still playing in the pool.

And then I lost it.  I just yelled.  And I sounded EXACTLY like my father. “When I say it is time to get out, that doesn’t mean you keep playing!  It means GET OUT OF THE POOL!  When I tell you to do something, it is not a SUGGESTION! GET.OUT.OF.THE.POOL.” Stunned silence, then compliance.  I stormed into the house and slammed things around, muttering under my breath the whole time.  I bossed the kids around and just wanted them to get to bed.  It was about 20 minutes of the day, but in my mind, the whole day became a loss.

Eventually, things calmed down and I was able to see the good in the day as well as gain perspective over the hard parts of the day.  I apologized to the girls for my own part-losing my temper and speaking unkindly.  They apologized to me for their disobedience and we all moved on.

At bedtime, I finished reading to our youngest and she snuggled next to me and tossed her arm over me and said, “You are the best mom EVER.  I love you SUPER MUCH, mom. Thanks for this great day.”  What a gift of grace.

 

On life, or also how I avoid work

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I have about 15 loads of laundry to do, floors that haven’t seen a mop in about two months, bathrooms that need to be scrubbed, and the bedroom of a daughter who is at summer camp that needs to be, as my mother would say, “manured out.” (That is a fancy farming term for cleaning.) What better time to write, you know?

Let’s talk about life right now.  Sunday after church, I had approximately 2 hours to make lunch for seven and pack our eldest for her week at summer camp.  So, of course that was when a child burnt her hand on the stove and then another child actually set fire to a baked potato in the microwave.  Because also, when you’re married to a pastor, Sundays are not the Sabbath. So, we realized this child needed a quick trip to the dollar store for a few supplies before I dropped her off.  The potato was extinguished, the hand was tended to, and off I went.  We got what we needed and went out to the van, ready to sip our sodas on the way and sing along to the radio, and the van would.not.start. Hubs came and jumped it and we traded vehicles and off we went.

Monday was a needed doctor’s appointment for my husband’s grandfather (we live with his grandparents as caregivers) and getting the van towed to our garage since the battery was dead.dead.dead.  I felt like a queen as I watched my tow-guy load the van onto his flatbed and haul it off.  He even text messaged me to let me know he did my bidding, which was nice.

Last night, two children and a dog decided that our bed was the place to be. “The dog’s nose is in my butt!” was heard at 2am, and actual fighting happened between children around 4am, until actual yelling came from my mouth and actual tears from one of the kiddos. Winning all around.

Today was tutoring for a child, and a dentist appointment for Grandma.  So we loaded up grandparents and their walkers, and the two youngest and their distraction backpacks and headed for tutoring and the dentist.  I feel like we make a statement when we walk into a room.  I am not sure what that statement is, but I do feel like one is made.

We have tons of beetles flying around right now and our youngest thinks every bug she sees is a potato bug, thanks to some gardening time with my parents.  So about 60 times a day I hear, “Boy, mom. Sure are a lot of potato bugs out there.”  It makes me laugh, which is good right now.

It is during this stressful time that my husband decided to purchase salted caramel chocolate ice cream and place it in our freezer.  This is exactly the kind of food I am trying not to eat.  He looked alarmed when I told him I found something terrible in our freezer, but then had the nerve to laugh at me when he realized what I was talking about.

So, that’s life right now.  I guess I can’t really put the laundry off too much more.

On preserving memories and food

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My parents put out a rather large garden every year…have for as long as I can recall.  Since I’ve been married, I’ve helped in various ways and been able to keep some of the bounty.  Since we’ve added kiddos to the mix, I’ve gotten more involved.  Last year I canned 55 quarts of homemade spaghetti sauce.  I froze about 45 quarts of green beans and also canned 35 quarts of peaches.  These foods have nourished our family as the fall turned into winter, and winter turned to spring.  Our shelves are emptying and summer harvest is upon us again.

There’s something about sitting at our kitchen table snipping beans that grounds me.  Maybe it’s the monotony of it, the mindless work…maybe it’s that it was a chore I had as a teenager and it takes me back. It’s the feel of the beans between my fingers, the scent of them.  And then it’s the practice of canning them.  I use a pressure cooker, purchased for me by my parents because my mom got tired of me using hers all of the time.  The preparing of the jars and the lids, then filling the jars and wiping the rims and tightening the lids and dropping them into the pressure cooker.  It’s watching the pressure rise, and the loooong wait for it to release before taking the jars out… and then it’s the sweet, sweet sound of the lids sealing.  Pop. Pop. Pop. Until all 7 are sealed.

There is a deep satisfaction for me, looking at the rows of beans, peaches, spaghetti sauce…knowing that’s work that I’ve done, a way that I am providing nutrition for our family.  I want to add pears to the mix this year, and salsa, and red beets.  I don’t know for sure if that will happen, but I hope it does.

I love this legacy my mother has passed onto me.  We joke that it will soon be my turn to learn the bread making process and the pie making process…both of which FREAK. ME. OUT.  We’re baby-stepping it but we’ll make it, I believe.  My oldest daughter has been asking when she can help.  She’s almost 12 now, and just spent an entire afternoon snipping beans at our kitchen table.  I wonder if, when she’s 36, she’ll still relish the feel of the beans and the satisfaction of a job well done.

On girls growing up

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This is a post I’m pulling from the vault of my writing…

Our girls are growing so fast.  It’s a bittersweet thing, because one part of me is looking forward to their being more independent and another part of me knows that each stage of life will bring it’s own challenges.  Right now, it’s wiping the bottom of the youngest when she needs help on the potty and wiping the tears of the oldest as she begins this stage called adolescence.  Right now it’s packing lunches for school but soon it will be packing bags for places unknown.  Time is flying and I want to make it count.  I hate when I get in these moods that keep me from enjoying my kids.  But I need to be honest and say that right now is one of those times… I feel like if I see another load of laundry or hear my name one more time I am going to assume the fetal position and just start rocking.  There are ups and downs to this motherhood thing.  Even at the most challenging times, though, I want the best for the girls.  I’ve been thinking lately, as I watch them grow and interact more with the world they live in…what is it that I want to stick?

I want them to be kind. They learn early that words can cut, and that they can cut deep.  I want them to grasp the power of their words and wield it well.  I want them to use their words to bring hope and encouragement.
I want them to accept others as they are.  When they see someone who is different than they are, I don’t want them to try to make them “the same.” I want them to see others as individuals and allow them to be who they are created to be.
I want them to embrace themselves.  I want them to be aware of their flaws and their giftings and I want them to love who they are.
I want them to be critical thinkers who engage in the world around them with wisdom.  I don’t want them to hide from this world in fear, but step into it with the power they have been given.
I want them to know that whether they marry or remain single, they are whole.
I want them to love Jesus.  Not because of tradition or because of rules, but because He is at the root of everything that is good.   He is unwavering in a shifting world, and He is the roots they need to soar.
But most of all… when they aren’t kind, when they aren’t accepting, when they don’t like themselves, when they make poor choices, feel discontent, and no matter where they are with Jesus, I want them to know their mom and dad love them.  I want them to know that we are on their side-and maybe that looks like letting them deal with the consequences of poor choices as much as cheering them on for their positive ones.   But I want them to know that we are in their corner.  No matter what, they have parents who are FOR THEM.
So maybe this list is as much for me as for them.  Because when I remember what MY goals are, it helps me with the laundry and the butt wiping and the constant noise.  Raising humans is not easy, but I am learning that sacrifice accompanies the richest experiences.  And coffee.  Coffee, too.

Saturday thoughts

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Well, our oldest is in middle school.  She’s off on a weekend with the youth group at Creation, a Christian music festival.  Josh (my husband) happens to be the middle school pastor at our church so I am very comfortable with this whole scene.  Perhaps a tad too comfortable?  Another parent I am friends with was having a very hard time allowing her 11 year old to go while I was all like, “One kid down!”  Part of me thinks I would still be ok with it, even if Josh wasn’t going to be there…

We had a few curveballs thrown our way this week with our other two kiddos.  I felt like things were all settled and good but it looks like we have a few ongoing things that require some extra attention, and now we’re journeying down a long road with those things.  Nothing the would make anyone weep, just things that require some lifestyle changes and more appointments.  I’m really thankful for our new-to-us van right now, which will make all of these appointments easier for me.  Now that we have an operable CD player, we can borrow all of the Adventures in Odyssey episodes from the library.  All the praises for that and for Whit and the crew. (This may sound terrible, but consider the alternative, which is a child who now likes to “channel surf” when we drive.  NO THANK YOU MA’AM.)

I listened to Shauna Niequest’s podcast for the second time this week and I have to say, I am such a fan.  This was not shocking to me, of course, because I love her books.  But hearing her talk with Tsh Oxenreider and Jen Hatmaker has basically been a dream come true.  I felt like I was sitting outside my much cooler big sister’s room and hearing her talk with her friends.

Also, I REALLY love Saturday mornings.  This is the only day of the week that the kids are allowed to watch TV before 4pm, and the slower morning is such a gift for all of us.  One of the kiddos had strep this week and was coughing all of the nights.  Her antibiotics finally kicked in and I slept so well last night, and so did she, and now I have two cups of coffee in me and the promise of a trip to HomeGoods so I really feel like things will be alright!

I hope wherever you are, your Saturday has something in it that will fill you up.  Happy weekending!

On marriage

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We were sitting next to a table of twenty-something women, a bridal party (at the inn we were staying at) for a weekend wedding.  They talked the details of the dresses, when the guests were arriving…they talked about life stuff, job interviews and parents.  And I remembered our own visit here 11 years ago, driving straight from our own wedding reception.  I wanted to go and sit and talk with these girls, hear their stories. Oh, how fun it is to be on the verge of something new and exciting!

Marriage, when done right, is full of bravery. On our first trip to this particular inn all those years ago, I really had no idea.

Marriage holds a mirror up to our faces, magnifies the flaws but also the beauty.  I was putting my makeup on the other night before we went for dinner and was thankful for the lighted mirror attached to the wall.  I could pull it out, flip a switch, and be able to really see what I was doing.   The commitment my husband and I have made to each other flips on that switch, illuminating the best and the worst.

We have three daughters, and are aware of the marriage example we are setting before them.  I often say that my husband was meant to be the father to all girls, because he is a wonderful example of what a godly man is.  He isn’t perfect, doesn’t claim to be, seeks forgiveness, and speaks honestly.  He also speaks words of life over me and our girls.  He draws out the best and handles the worst deftly, with the finesse and skill of a lion tamer. Oh, he has his days, believe you me.  We have had some great big downs in marriage and parenting, but he is nothing if not committed to growing.

I am aware that I am setting an example of what a wife is to our girls.  My husband asks from time to time, “I wonder, if our girls get married,  what type of man they will end up with?”  My standard answer is always, “Someone like you!” Maybe he won’t be a pastor or a musician…maybe he’ll be more of an outdoor adventurer or an accountant, but most importantly I hope he’ll love Jesus.  That’s what really matters.  It takes a secure man to love a strong woman.

I want our girls to know that marriage won’t be what fulfills them, and their journey to marriage-if they have one at all-will look different than ours.  But this marriage thing really is such a gift.  I heard a pastor say once that if folks are to ever write their own vows, the best thing to be able to say would be, “I cannot be the person God created me to be without you.”  I know that’s true for my husband and I.  On our own, we can do good things for the kingdom of God, but together…together, we can do more.

Depression and Victories

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I took our youngest daughter out on a little adventure the other night, to an out-of-the-way dairy where they had their own ice cream, alpacas, sheep, and even a peacock.  We fed the animals, enjoyed our ice cream, and took silly selfies.  She had already had a full day at day camp, with swimming and crafts and lots of playtime.  On the way home, she just conked out.  And I looked at her face in my rearview mirror, asleep and contented, and was so grateful.

There was a season in life where that kind of outing would not have happened.  There was a season where just getting the day to day stuff done was enough for me.  I was feeling so overwhelmed, so exhausted, and so irritable that it limited me.  Any social situations were stressful.  Any extra needs our girls had felt impossible.  I could not get my head above water and I needed help.

My husband and I talked about it and agreed that I needed to seek our doctor’s advice.  I started on an anti-depressant and had my thyroid medication adjusted, and after a few months…well, the water only feels about ankle deep anymore, and I can walk through it with God’s help.

For some, hearing a pastor’s wife say that she struggles with anxiety and depression is shocking.  For others, maybe not so much.  My reason for sharing this is simple.  I want you to understand that no one is immune, and everyone should be able to speak freely and seek the help they need without being ashamed.

I am able to see the blessings in each day, and able to work through my anxiety much more easily.  I feel like a whole person again, and am grateful that this is the momma my girls get.  I’m grateful my husband has a present, healthy wife.  I am grateful.  For silly selfies and ice cream and water balloon fights and silly songs in the car with our girls.  For all of the extras that used to be draining but now are life-giving, I am grateful.

The Dinner Table

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I grew up with a mom who made family dinners a THING.  It was not uncommon to have meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans during the week… or roast beef, or roast chicken, or pork and sauerkraut or any other lovely meat-based meal that you can imagine.  For years, the beef was from the cattle we raised on our family farm.  Through today, her table (and mine) hold the summer’s bounty long through the winter and spring thanks to canning and freezing… peaches, homemade applesauce, green beans… I can remember my mom filling an old glass pie plate (that belonged to her mother) with leftovers for my brothers so they had something to eat after sports practices or away games.  I take delight in doing the same thing now, as our oldest dives into the world of sports.

But sitting around the table together, every night, was the goal.  It was a staple of my childhood-seeing who could keep their hand on the mashed potato spoon during prayer without getting yelled at (spoiler:not me. I was the youngest, and a girl, which meant that my brothers promised a “pounding” later for trying to win.) We sat next to each other and across from each other and did not always get along, but we always gathered.  And every meal, my dad would tell my mom what a wonderful meal it was and he would look at each of us (my sister and my two brothers) and wait for us to tell her the same.

I was reminded of the importance of the family table again tonight… It’s where, after some hard words earlier in the day, my husband gently put his hand on my shoulder and started rubbing my back.  The food was all eaten, the plates were pushed back, but the whole family still lingered.  Our 11 year old, our 8 year old, our 4 year old… they giggled in their chairs, fought with each other, and finally dispersed to clear the table and put the leftovers in the fridge.  It’s not uncommon for my husband to tell my kids, “Girls, your mom makes food most people have to pay for at a restaurant.  And we get to eat it every night.  She is pretty amazing.”  I think it’s because he thinks I’m cute, mostly.  But I appreciate the compliment.  And my girls kind of roll their eyes and say, “We know, Dad. Thank you, Mom.”

Because we live with and care for my husband’s grandparents, they often sit around our table as well.  Age 87 to age 4… everyone needs a place to gather.  Everyone needs a place they come back to over and over again, where there is a routine and tradition and it just doesn’t change.  I love our little family, and I love our family dinners.

Vacation and ADHD

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We are a vacationing family.  My husband and I have parents that treat us to vacations each summer.  We try to do at least one “our family only” trip a year, and also try to do a few weekend getaways here and there.  One of our kiddos has a tough time with these trips-nothing we couldn’t get over, just things we had to approach differently.  I want to talk about re-entry today, mostly because we’ve recently crashed and burned, and needed to be reminded how to do this well.  Transition is hard for the ADHD brain.  I’m not a psychiatrist, so I can’t explain the why of it, but I am a mom and so I know the truth of it.

What I have found to be true is that a little bit of prep goes a long way.  The exact wording will vary according to age, but the night before you head home (or earlier, depending on your kiddo), it’s helpful to have a chat about the re-entry and what expectations are.  “Hey, honey.  We’re heading home tomorrow…how do you think we can help that time to go well?”  We brainstorm a few ideas and make a plan, which usually just entails laying out what that child will be doing once the vehicle pulls into the driveway and the trip ends.  We used to make our kids unload the van with us, but we’ve found that the disorder of all of the things being puked out into our driveway and kitchen only upset our girl.  Now, once we’re settled and I start the laundry, she helps with that, but that first hour or so needs to be spent in her room, just getting used to the space again.

The drive home is a little different, too.  We don’t do screens.  At all.  I recognize that this is not for everyone, but we have found that screen time and confined spaces do not go well together.  The brain gets overstimulated and there is no way to burn it off.  We didn’t always have this rule, and there were some longer trips that we had allowed screen usage, but there were always meltdowns and anger when transition time came.  This means different things need to be used.  Books on CD, travel games, art supplies, a cozy blanket and pillow…those are our car diversions.  We try to keep high-protein, low sugar snacks at the ready to stave off hunger, because hangry is a THING.

The goal in all of this is to set realistic expectations for both our girl and for us.  We would find ourselves getting so frustrated over behaviors that, quite frankly, our kiddo just couldn’t help.  We don’t want to frustrate our child or ourselves, and there are other kids that absorb our stress.  As parents, we really do need to be students of our children.  We need to keep our eyes peeled for what helps them and what hinders them.  We had years of failure after failure because we just didn’t understand.  Once we knew things had to look different for this child, we set about figuring out the how of it.  Our relationship with our girl has continued to improve and her self-confidence has soared.

As I said earlier, we still have our crash and burn moments.  Sometimes, when our kiddo is doing so well, we forget the extra accommodations we need to make and things go south.  We are so grateful for the grace of God and wise friends who have reoriented us.  We know that He makes each of us with our own unique sets of strengths and as a parent, we strive to pull those out of our kids.  Be encouraged, no matter where you are at in your journey, that there is so much hope and healing that can happen.  Happy vacationing!