Come join me on Facebook!

Hi everyone! I now have a Facebook page that I will be doing the majority of my posting on. I would love to have you join me there! The address is:

https://www.facebook.com/Miracles-In-The-Mess-865525406939258/

 

The future is now…

With my oldest starting Kindergarten next week, I’m a mixture of emotions. There is a sense of sadness (I will miss my time with that little dude), there is a sense of relief (my house will be way less chaotic with only one kiddo at home), there is a sense of nervousness (I hope he likes school, I hope he makes friends easily, I hope he behaves!). As he moves on to this next stage, I have had so many thoughts swirling in my head about all that is in store for him over the next thirteen years. I decided to compile some of these thoughts—some to share with him now, some for down the road. I hope that they will serve him well.

Dear Son,

From the time you were born, I have been preparing you (and myself) for this day. When I walk away from that classroom on your first day of Kindergarten, I know it will be a bittersweet moment. I hope your dad and I have equipped you with what you need to succeed as you take this next big step. But I can’t help but feel like I should have taught you more…so here goes my attempt to impart some last minute words of wisdom…

  • Treat others as you would want to be treated. This is called the golden rule because it is so simple, yet sometimes so hard to actually follow! Empathy is something that grows with time and experience, and I hope that you will develop it in spades. You will encounter peers that won’t look like you, won’t dress like you, won’t like the same things you like, and might have polar opposite viewpoints. No matter your differences, you should always strive to treat others with dignity and respect. We are all learning from each other, every day. P.S. This rule applies to your whole life, not just until you are 18!
  • The friends you make in Kindergarten have the potential to be your friends for life. One day you will realize that you have been friends for decades and this will make you feel really old, but incredibly grateful. These friends that stood by you while you accidentally peed your pants in 1st Grade (true story), that stood up for you when someone was mean to you, that practiced for hours with you on the field or court, and spent countless nights staying up with you until the early morning hours during sleepovers.…these friends will become even more precious to you as the years go by. They will live in your earliest school memories and will probably know you better than you know yourself! When life gets shaky, these friends will provide you with a solid foundation to set your feet upon.
  • Even if other kids are up to no good, you don’t have to join them. I am certain that you will face peer pressure. You will find yourself in uncomfortable situations and have to make difficult decisions. Trust your gut. I hope that we have instilled in you the confidence to follow your own path and make wise choices, even if it’s not the most popular choice. On the other hand, know that we will love you no matter what, and you can tell us anything. For reals!
  • A practical tip: Don’t try to sneak food out of the cafeteria. Even if it is for your bestie who really likes steak nuggets, and you are trying to hook her up with some extra nuggets because that is what best friends do. Your teacher might smell it in your back pack during recess and then make you eat it in front of the class. (Yes, this happened to me.) Questionable meat products are even more questionable after simmering in your backpack for a few hours. If you do decide to sneak something out, be smart about it–only choose foods that you like!
  • Another practical tip: Don’t write mean notes about your teachers. Even if science is your least favorite subject, and you drag yourself to that class, and you CAN’T WAIT UNTIL THE SEMESTER IS OVER, you don’t need to write about it in a note to your friend. Who am I kidding, notes are so 1990s. Don’t text anything mean about your teachers! If they see it and call you out, you will feel like the biggest jerk ever. And you should. Because that’s just not cool. (Yes, this happened to me.)
  • You will probably have your heart broken. And it will hurt like hell. And for awhile it might feel like your world is crumbling. You might need to blast Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” for weeks on end. (Or whatever song helps you through the heartache). I will try to be sympathetic as I bang on your door to “turn that music down!” Just know that one day down the road, when you are with the one you are meant to be with, you can look back on this time with a completely new perspective and you might even be thankful for it.
  • Be the friend. I beg of you. If you see someone that is alone and hurting, offer to sit with them, or invite them to play with you. If you see someone getting picked on, be the one that stands up to the bully on their behalf. You never know how one simple and kind act can change someone’s life. If you are the one that is alone and hurting or being picked on, I pray that a classmate will notice and hold that space for you.
  • When you feel all alone, look to the heavens and find comfort in the fact that you are not alone. You will go through hard times. Life is full of them. You might get to a point where it feels impossible to talk to me, or your dad, or even your friends. But no matter what happens, my precious boy, you are never alone!
  • I imagine that technology will be both a blessing and a curse for you. I graduated long before texting and social media became the go-to way of communicating. I can’t even fathom how much technology will change the dynamic in your friendships and relationships. And the thought of you ever being cyber-bullied makes me want to cry. But I know it is here to stay, and I already know that you will leave me in the dust when it comes to knowing about and using technology. So I will just say…please be careful with it, please be wise about it, please be kind, and for the love of all things holy, no sexting!!
  • Lastly, don’t be afraid to fully embrace who you are. You are your own unique person, and you have gifts that are meant to be shared with the world. I can see those gifts, and I hope that as you grow, you will be able to recognize them in yourself.

So my sweet boy, as I hand you over to your teachers for the next 13 years, I can’t wait to see how your future unfolds. I hope these words will help you along the way!

Love, Mom

P.S. I plan to hug you for at least 10 minutes when I drop you off on your first day so be prepared. It will be the first of many times that I embarrass you.

The Reflection in the Rear View Mirror

Today I looked in the rear view mirror and caught a glimpse of you, staring out the window, your eyes taking in the sunshine and the scenery rushing by. In that moment, you no longer looked like my baby, but rather a little boy. How many times have I glanced back at you in the last two years and wished you would stay little forever…too many to count.

In the days and months ahead, I will look in that same rear view mirror and I imagine I will see a little boy ready for his first soccer practice, or with his t-ball cap perched on top of his head…and not too long after that a Kindergartner, all dressed up for his first day of school, a mixture of excitement and nervousness on his face. Perhaps he will look up and smile at me, and my breath will catch in my throat as I get swallowed up by that toothy grin and wonder how all the days at home with him have slipped by so fast.

In no time at all, I will look in that rear view mirror and see a teenager. Maybe that teen will be lost in thought, and my heart will ache for the days when there was non-stop chatter coming from the back seat, or the sweet sounds of off-key singing. If I am lucky, I will catch that teenager’s eye, and I will smile at him and he will smile back at me—a simple reassurance that despite the quiet car ride, everything is o.k. in his world.

Eventually, I will look in the rear view mirror and see a boy that has turned into a man, with a graduation cap positioned where his little league cap used to sit. This time, I hope there will be excitement about the future written all over his face. And if he looks closely at my reflection, he will see the tears forming in his mother’s eyes, as I process my own feelings of pride mixed with sadness that this stage of life is over. For in my mind, it was just yesterday that I was looking back at a Kindergartner on his first day of school.

And not too long after that, it will be his eyes gazing in the rear view mirror as he drives away to begin his next grand adventure. And I will wave goodbye and pray that he knows with EVERY ounce of his being what a blessing it has been to see his precious face reflected in my rear view mirror all of these years…

Only Love Today

This winter, I have been feeling like a not-so-nice mama. The many hours of being cooped up inside (along with the snowy and icy roads when I want to go anywhere) have left me anxious and crabby. I have longed to take up residence on a deserted island. (Preferably a tropical one!) I have yelled more than I ever wanted to, or imagined that I would. I have chosen harsh words over extending grace. Impatience over taking a deep breath. I have wept over the ways I have not been the mom that my boys deserve, or the wife my husband married. At times, feelings of failure have crushed my spirit. In the midst of these struggles, I was given a much needed gift…let me explain. As an avid reader, I was looking for the next good book to dive into, but I also desperately wanted some inspirational words. A couple of months ago, I divinely stumbled across some work by Rachel Macy Stafford. The way in which she shared her story really connected with me. Completely open, authentic, and raw. I quickly devoured both her books, and after doing a little more investigating, I saw there was an opportunity to be on the launch team for her newest book. I jumped at the chance, and was thrilled when I was chosen. You might already be familiar with some of Rachel’s work–either through her Hands Free Revolution Facebook page or her handsfreemama.com blog. Well, today is a special day, my friends! Today, Rachel launches her new book, Only Love Today. This mantra, only love today, can mean something different for everyone. For me, it is what I am striving for in my daily interactions with the three precious humans I live with. It reminds me to focus on the good stuff and let go of the bad. It reminds me to be thankful. It reminds me to tune into what matters and let all the background chatter fade away. And perhaps most importantly, it reminds me to give myself some grace. Am I a perfect mom? No. Am I perfect wife? No. Will I ever be? No. But I can let go of yesterday’s mistakes, and I can get up each day and try again.

This book inspired me to start something with my 5-year-old called a double love hug. As I explained to T, this is where we hug with our hearts pressed together and we hold it for a few seconds so the love from my heart can pass into his, and the love from his heart can pass into me. We have been doing it about a week now, and I was delighted this morning when he asked his little brother “O, would you like a double love hug?” The truth is that there will come a day (probably sooner than I realize) where I will ask him if he wants a double love hug and he will say “No thanks, Mom.” So I’m going to soak it up right now. I’m going to ask for and give these hugs as often as I can.

So friends, if you are in need of some inspirational, bite-sized nuggets of wisdom, I encourage you to check out Only Love Today. All of Rachel’s writing has been a blessing to me, and I want to share it so it can be a blessing to others as well.

 

 

Dear Santa, Please stay real for a little while longer…

I was dropping my oldest off at Pre-K the other day when I passed a group of kids sitting around a table in the school foyer. As I passed by, I heard one of them say something about Santa and one of the older kids said in response “Well, you know Santa isn’t real.” I didn’t hear the rest of the conversation, as my boys were on a mission to get to T’s classroom, but I can only imagine the confusion and perhaps dismay that probably entered into some of the younger ones’ minds. At that moment, I was thankful that I was not going to be one of the parents fielding a million questions that night about Santa and his “realness.” I still live in my boys’ world of wonder, of make-believe—the world of Easter Bunnies and Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. I’m not sure when the conversation with T will arise about the “realness” of any of these magical creatures, but I am certainly not ready for it. And please, T, for the love of all things holy, do not ask me where babies come from, because I’m not ready for that either. Are storks still a legit answer? 🙂

A few weeks ago, we took my boys and my nephew to a Christmas breakfast at the local high school. Santa and his elves were there, and I told T ahead of time that he would be able to tell Santa what he would like for Christmas this year. In years past, he has been a bit weary of Santa, but this year he was all in. As we waited in line, my nephew (who is 6) pulled me aside and whispered into my ear…

L: I have to tell you something.

Me: What is it?

L: That Santa sitting up there is not real.

O.K…here is where I start to panic…what is he going to say? Shouldn’t this be a conversation for his parents? I’m not READY for this! I started to sweat a little bit.

Me: What do you mean?

L: Well, we saw the real Santa last year, and he doesn’t wear glasses. This guy has on glasses.

Me: Oh, well, um…I wonder if the real Santa is busy today. Maybe this is one of his relatives helping out?

L: Yeah, I think it is one of his relatives that also has a beard. But don’t tell O and T. Because then they would be like “Why did we come here?”

I promised that I would keep the secret, and he played along with this Santa imposter for his cousins’ sake. (On a side note, I had no idea that Santa now sports an earring and graduated from Washington State University!)

As the youngest of four, I’m certain that I was the last in my family to believe in Santa. I guess I never had any reason to doubt his realness. We didn’t have a fireplace growing up, but he STILL managed to deliver our presents. I was very impressed by that, but didn’t quite understand how he did it. One year, my brother and I were determined to catch him in the act, so we convinced my parents to let us sleep on the fold-out couch in the living room. Much to my surprise, the next morning there was a Rainbow Brite toy on the back of the couch. Santa had done it again!! All of this belief came to an abrupt halt one Christmas…I had gone shopping with my mom and she had bought my brother a chemistry set. And then Santa gave it to him. It didn’t take long for me to put two and two together. I’m sure in her busy state of trying to prepare Christmas for four kids, my mom had forgotten that I was with her on that particular shopping trip. I remember feeling confused and then really sad once the realization sunk in. I’m sure it wasn’t too long after that when I came to terms with the truth about the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy. And that is why part of me wanted to run back to that table of kids talking Santa in the school foyer, to “undo” what that big kid had done. Because kids grow up way too fast these days. The magic of childhood and make-believe is lost too fast. I treasure these days when T is so excited about Santa, and I’m glad that I have at least a few more years (here’s hoping!) before the inevitable conversation occurs. I’m pretty sure it will go something like this…

T: Mom, is Santa real?

Me: Um…what? So hey, do you have any questions about babies? Remember that opening scene in Dumbo…you know…the one with the storks?

Which one are you?

Introvert or extrovert? I’m sure at one point or another we have all taken one of those personality tests that label us a certain way. Or maybe you have drawn your own conclusions about your personality type. This has always been more of a gray area for me…I haven’t ever easily identified myself as one or the other. Rather, I have often wondered if I am an extroverted introvert or maybe an introverted extrovert. 🙂 I certainly have done a lot of things that I would consider to be extrovert-like. In junior high and high school, I was involved in various sports and clubs and loved every minute of being on a team and making friends from other schools. In college, I was a Resident Advisor, I joined a sorority, and studied abroad. I loved being around other people. When I lived on my own for the first time post college, it was truly one of the loneliest times in my life. Now I have this blog, and while it is a solo endeavor, I don’t mind sharing my thoughts and feelings with anyone who is willing to listen. 😉  So I would say that I am people person—I generally like being around people and learning about other people. But there is definitely an introverted side to me as well. I don’t like being the center of attention and in a big groups, I tend to be on the quieter side. I like having alone time (this has become even more treasured after having kids) and there are times when I want to just hide in a corner, last night being a perfect example. I went to a training event for my business, and I knew going in that I wasn’t going to know a single soul in the room. When I got there and saw people chatting in groups and I knew no one, my introverted self immediately wanted to head for the nearest exit sign. In the end, my extroverted self—the side of my personality that continually strives to push my introverted self out of her comfort zone—won out and I didn’t bolt for the nearest door. There was another consultant who shared my same fate of not knowing another soul, so we connected and spared each other some awkwardness. 🙂  I guess it is human nature (or at least my nature) to want to make a connection and not be “alone”. My husband would probably say he is an introverted introvert. While traveling last spring, we took 3 Uber rides. Our first driver was fairly friendly and chatty. The other two were not. At all. I tried to make a very odd situation (hopping into a car with some random person who you just met) less awkward by trying to keep a conversation going, but I finally took the hint. They really weren’t very interested in making conversation. Afterwords, I told my husband how weird it felt to just sit in silence while someone I didn’t know drove me around town. He had the exact opposite reaction. He was thankful that he didn’t have to make small talk. 🙂 I would say we have passed some pretty mixed genetic material to our children, and I wonder how that will impact their personalities and life experiences.

T has always been my more reserved, shy kid, pretty cautious when it comes to new situations. When he was a toddler, he would cling to me like saran wrap, eventually maybe loosening his grip as he became more familiar with a situation. But many a dollar was spent going to places that in theory I thought he would enjoy, only to have him attached to my leg the whole time. I signed him up for soccer this fall honestly not knowing how it would go, but wanting to provide him with an opportunity to interact with other kids his age outside of school while also getting some good exercise. He has surprised me with his willingness to jump right in, and it has been a great joy for me to see him racing around the soccer fields, having fun with his teammates. His pre-school teacher has noticed a difference at school too. He is being more social overall than he was last year and made fast friends with another little guy in his class. So I would say that socially he is feeling more comfortable. Then yesterday we had this conversation…

Me: So who did you play with at school today? Did you play with K?

T: I played with him a little bit. But not very much.

Me: Who else did you play with?

T: I didn’t really play with anyone. I mostly played by myself.

Me: Oh, well that’s o.k. Sometimes Mommy likes to be by herself too.

Inside, this mama’s heart got a little sad, and my mind filled with questions. “Does K not like playing with T anymore? Was T feeling lonely at school? Will it be hard for him to maintain friendships?” And then I realized that I was putting my own personality filter on this situation, and that T might have been perfectly content playing on his own. After all, he hadn’t expressed any sadness about playing by himself and maybe he was longing for a little alone time.

As for this introvert/extrovert, I try to continue to find ways for the extroverted side of my personality to strut her stuff,  but man, I’m going to enjoy the heck out of some alone time tonight when the kids are asleep! 🙂

Does it take a village? Pretty sure.

It takes a village to raise a child. I am guessing we are all familiar with this sentiment. Before having kids, that phrase would evoke images of the community where I grew up–Where everyone knew everyone else. Where my best friend’s parents were like my second set of parents because they had literally known me since birth. Where I went trick-or-treating without my parents hovering because I knew the owners of every house I went to. Where if I got in trouble, everyone would know about it, so I didn’t dare! Where in junior high, my neighbor drove me to basketball practice every morning because it was on the way. And in high school, her daughter let me catch a ride home almost every day. There are so many other examples, but you get the picture. It was a community of parents helping each other out in big ways and small ways. While there is no doubt that my parents provided the main influence on my upbringing, the “village” helped raise me.

So fast forward to today. My view of “It takes a village to raise a child” has changed a bit. I don’t live in a small tight-knit community anymore. I don’t rely on other parents in the same ways in which my parents did. My village looks a lot different and is spread over many geographical miles. Some of my fellow villagers are dear friends. Others I don’t know well at all. Some may never interact directly with my boys, but they still provide support in very meaningful ways. It is the ways in which the other mothers in my village have supported ME that has made such a powerful impact. Let’s face it, parenting is hard and when you are struggling with an issue, it is SO easy to feel like you are alone with your problem. You don’t want to admit to certain thoughts or feelings. You feel like you should be better at this whole parenting thing, especially when you are at a total loss for what to do next. And that is exactly when you should reach out to your village. Let me share a little story with you…

Lately, my 4-year-old has been testing my patience. Although I routinely clean the wax out of his ears, it appears they are plugged on most days because it seems like he doesn’t listen to half of what comes out of my mouth. (I can only imagine what the teenager years will bring..yikes!) The last couple of months have been a real struggle, and when my frustration reaches its peak, the volume on my voice tends to exceed where I would like it to be. There was one afternoon a couple weeks ago where I was at the end of my rope. The listening wasn’t happening, and this mama was losing her cool. I yelled at T to go to his room. He wouldn’t go. So I picked him up and carried him as he wailed and flailed against my shoulder. I put him on the floor and shut the door, holding tight to the door handle as he tried to open the door from the other side. I felt totally defeated. Where was I going wrong? Why wouldn’t he listen to me? Why was I letting myself get so frustrated so easily? As he continued to cry on the other side of the door, I also began to weep. I thought to myself “There has got to be a better way, but I have no idea what that is. Right now I’m sucking at this whole motherhood thing.” I opened the door and sunk down to my knees. He crawled into my lap and we cried together. Not my finest moment. I had the chance last weekend to share this latest struggle with a group of girlfriends. We all have kids that are different ages, and I truly treasure the time spent with these women. As I was relating this story and the tears began to form in my eyes, my villagers did exactly what I needed them to do. They offered words of empathy and encouragement and they shared their own “been there, done that” moments. My heart felt so much lighter afterwords. Did I come away with the perfect solution to my problem? No. But just knowing that other mothers who I greatly respect have been in my shoes and have felt the same feelings makes a huge difference.

I hope all mothers have a village where they can get the kind of love and support that my village continues to pour out on me. My village continues to bless my sons by being a blessing to me.