Archive for Home Life

Motherhood as Sanctification

Today I was going through old posts on our family blog, and I came across this post from five years ago.  I’ll copy it in its entirety:

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E suddenly entered the terrible twos this week.  Butter in Daddy’s coffeemaker.  Dumped out all her tiny choking hazard elastic bands on the floor right in front of the baby.  Emptied half a brand-new container of clorox wipes into the toilet.  Got into the fridge and ate the tips off of a bunch of strawberries.  Got into the hand lotion I’d bought for our stocking for a soldier and spread it all over herself, her clothes, and a bunch of toiletries for the stocking.  Dropped her sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwich on the kitchen floor and ground it in with her heel.  Tore open the granola bars for the soldier stocking, and when my back was turned, egged T on to cut the tags off the baseball cap I’d bought for our Operation Christmas Child shoebox.  Whereupon I announced tartly that it was quiet rest time and everyone had better wash their hands and get into bed.  At which point she pooped in her panties and sat down on the potty, smearing it everywhere, and wiping it up with the hand towel.  This was all in under five hours.

By the time everyone was down for naps and the poopy clothes were in the washer, my sinus headache had grown to a full-blown throbbing body ache.  I just had enough energy to cry out to God, “Please help me.  I can’t keep doing this!”  What a way to start a week that will have my hubby gone Tuesday evening for a candidate dinner and out of town Wed-Sat for a conference in DC.  One or two instances of severe naughtiness in a day don’t phase me anymore.  It’s the cumulative effect (plus fall colds) that knocks me off kilter.  (The afternoon included incidents with a pencil sharpener, the toilet bowl brush, the rest of the clorox wipes, more poop, an overripe banana, stickers, and two more wardrobe changes.)  Several times lately, I’ve been so tempted to just shout, “I’m done!  This is too much!”  Rachel Jankovic recently had a great post on this whole phenomenon.  She notes,

I think it is common to have this mental ideal of what your days as a mother are supposed to be like. We think that if we were doing it right, then it wouldn’t be this hard. Of course there are a lot of ways to improve what we do, that make things easier. But it is like improving the form of a runner. They still have to run in order to use it. It still won’t be easy. You can continue training to the point that you are no longer puking in the bushes and all red in the face by the end of the first block, but you aren’t ever going to take the running out of the running.

She’s great at reminding me that right now, motherhood is instrumental in my sanctification.  I keep thinking I’ve been at this for almost five years and shouldn’t be surprised by anything now, but I guess I have a lot more growing to do!

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I thought I’d share this blast from the past with all of you to say a few things.  First, toddler days are hard.  I think my life is crazier now with my kids being older and having to juggle activities and tween issues and whatnot, but it’s not harder.  Two year olds are hard.  The two year old in the scenario above was by far my easiest child.  She is generally a cheerful, helpful, sweet right hand woman.  But even she was difficult at two!  Moms of toddlers, you are in a hard phase.  I promise that you’re not stuck there forever.

Second, with five year’s distance from that crazy day, I can see the progress of sanctification in my children and myself.  I’m writing tonight with a horrible cold that has knocked me out of commission all week (while my husband has been busy at work), but I’m managing to hold it together better than the Emily of five years ago would have.  I see that as God stretching and training me to keep my temper, to have patience, to feel compassion for the child who is really just pushing all my buttons.  And while my kids did bicker and act up today, I see the progress in their lives, not just in basic maturity (which helps!), but in growing to want to please God (and please me).  I’m not saying that motherhood is no longer a challenge for me or that I don’t still lose my temper way too often, but that when I look back over the past decade, I can see progress in my own heart and mind.  When you’re in the trenches, it’s hard to see that growth, but I want to encourage you, dear readers, that it’s happening, slowly but surely.

Third, I was reminded by my 29-year old self that whatever crazy stuff my kids throw at me in a day, I can choose to be complain or look for the blessings.  It’s hard when we’re sick and tired and our kids are sick and tired and we probably let them watch too much PBS Kids and the house is a mess and there’s nothing for dinner.  I’ve been there–we all have been there!  We don’t need to pretend we love cleaning up kid poop while hacking our lungs up and breaking up fights over stupid toys.  It’s not fun.  But we can check our attitude when we respond to a super stinky day.  And after the fact, we can try to laugh at how crazy it was and how we all survived.  I have wise friends who encourage me to laugh about these things.  Do you have friends who will listen sympathetically and help you react to your rough days in a positive way?  Can you use your own experiences to empathize with and encourage others?

We’re all in process, my friends.  Press on!

Posted in For New Moms, Friendship, Home Life | 1 Comment

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Summer Vacation

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We’ve been out of school for about three weeks in my neck of the woods, and man, has it been hard.  I imagine most every mom–working outside the home or full-time at home, sending her kids to school or homeschooling them–has dreams of the fun, relaxing summer vacation that the family is going to enjoy together.  Pinterest is full of bucket lists, most towns have lots of free and cheap family-friendly activities, and if you’re lucky enough to be married to an academic, Dad even has more flexibility with his work schedule.  Except that along with all the freedom of summer comes the testing of boundaries and all that fun stuff.  Last week, as I was being kicked, bitten, and head butted for half an hour by a little girl who was having an out of control temper tantrum over a single disputed duplo girl, I thought, I totally get moms who have their kids come home from school and send them right back out to camp for the summer.  This is not how I thought summer break was going to go!

I’ve opted not to send my kids to summer camp, nor even to VBS, this summer.  We worked hard up through the last day of school, and we’re driving over 5000 miles on a month-long road trip this summer, so I wanted our six weeks of summer vacation at home to be a real vacation.  I’m glad I did this.  We’ve gotten to do some fun field trips with friends to local zoos and museums, we’ve had some leisurely days at home and an impromptu afternoon at the beach, and I’ve gotten to do a lot of parenting work.  During the school year, I’m parenting all the time, but our routine and general busy-ness (we were out of the house at least three times a week this spring) often prevent my girls from having enough time to play together long enough to start fighting over Veronica, everyone’s favorite duplo zookeeper.  It’s not that my kids are innately holier during the school year, but rather that their little sin natures are hidden under the generally compliant behavior of a child who is getting to play with her best friends several times a week.  When we’re not on the go, it’s much easier to see the state of all of our hearts.  And it’s not too pretty.  Everyone wants the same duplo.  I am beyond exasperated that they are fighting over something so stupid and just want to get rid of all our duplos.  Tempers flare.  Teaching opportunities abound.

So what is the solution?  Send them off to camp, distract them with tv when they get home, and then bribe everybody with popsicles in the evening, collapsing in bed too tired to fight anymore?  For some moms, that might be the right call for a season, and of course this doesn’t preclude heavy duty parenting in the spaces between activities.  But this summer, I’m trying to embrace this chance to train and shape their character.  I’m rolling up my sleeves and getting down to eye level and working on cheerful obedience.  I am embarrassed to admit this, but this month, I’m finally getting around to teaching the little ones to fold and put away their laundry–there’s no reason just the big two and I should be doing all the work!  I’ve mentioned before that extended free time at home over school breaks goes better when I’m purposeful.  In addition to that fun summer bucket list, I have some heart goals for each child, and I’m plugging away at them.  I also used our school marker board to write up 1 Corinthians 13, replacing “love” with “our family.”  It’s sortof an overarching goal for the summer.

Has your summer vacation been good, bad, or ugly so far?  Do you find yourself having to work harder at parenting once school is out?

Posted in Home Life, Parenting | Leave a comment

Don’t Despise the Small Things

Photo Credit: Mindy Rainey Creative

Photo Credit: Mindy Rainey Creative

Last month, in studying Zechariah, I was struck by 4:10, “whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice,” referring to the less-ostentatious temple that the returned exiles were building to replace Solomon’s temple.  We’re told that the old men cried at how underwhelming it seemed compared to the first one, but God reminded His people that He was the source of glory in a temple of any size.  I think 21st century mothers are just as likely as the ancient Jews to forget that God doesn’t care about the size or prestige of the task he sets us to do–and that He gives joy in little tasks as well as big ones.

What “small things” are we tempted despise today?  Children, first of all, in their maddening, needy, life-changing array.  Having four children in a short time has forced me to die to myself, daily.  Since breaking my foot this summer, I’ve developed an aversion to having small children crawling all over me.  Naturally, my two youngest girl’s cuddle needs have gone through the roof this fall.  I’d gotten used to accepting the broken plates, the perpetually messy living room, the early morning wake-ups, and wiping vomit out of carseats.  They went with the territory of parenthood.  Now I’m having to make the conscious decision, dozens of times a day, not to shove away wiggly little girls whose fight for the best spot on my lap may indeed end up with someone crashing into my still-tender foot.  I didn’t realize I had an anger problem until I had children, and I didn’t realize how often I yelled until I’ve had contractors working in my house for hours every day, overhearing everything I say to my children and the tone of voice I use to say it.  While I am a “kid person” who nannied and taught grade school before having my own, I can understand how even ones’ own precious children can irritate you.  This fall and winter, two friends have spent long, tough times in the hospital with children–one for major, years-long health reasons, and the other as the result of a vicious dog attack that may leave her paralyzed.  There’s nothing like praying constantly for these little girls to remind me to be grateful for the health and safety and existence of mine!  If you find yourself despising your children, spend some time talking to or praying for a parent with sick or hurting kiddos.  It will put everything into perspective.

What else do we despise?  The simple acts of childcare–diaper changing, reading aloud with a couple children on my lap and a couple more leaning over to see the pictures, fixing sandwiches to order (I do not cater to my kids’ every whim, but I do let them pick their lunch from the available options), being there to praise the artist’s new picture, to redress the dolly, to brush out the doll’s or toddler’s hair for the dozenth time in a day, listening to a little girl’s glee over the game she was playing with her big sister, finding the right station on Pandora so my aspiring ballerina can put on an unrehearsed and monotonous show, kissing the preschooler’s hand after the neighbor boy accidentally hit it with his light saber and assuring her that she’s not really a bad guy, wiping up runny noses, pulling the two year old out of the living room melee to make her sit and try to use the potty, helping the big kids learn the next verse to the song they liked so much at church, deciphering what they’re trying to tell me as I brush their teeth, finding the ever-important blankies in their upstairs hiding place so that everyone downstairs can go to sleep comfortably–they filled my day, and yet I told my husband when he came in from work that “I had gotten nothing done today.”  Sure, lots is still unpacked, and I haven’t hung any pictures on the walls, but to say that I accomplished nothing today is to despise the extremely worthwhile work of mothering I did all day.  My pastor preached yesterday on how joy is something we have to resolve to fight for.  I resolve to take joy in caring for my children this year.

Of course, we can often feel oppressed from outside sources, too.  I’m the only SAHM in our new neighborhood, and it feels that my vocation of motherhood is more insignificant and despised than ever.  Two new moms with whom I’m very close have decided to leave their babies behind while they continue on with not-financially-necessary careers.  When friends I thought were like-minded reject my positions on childhood and motherhood, it’s demoralizing.  If you, too, are feeling worn down and discouraged, you are not the only one.  I found great encouragement last week in a phone date with an old friend.  If you don’t have anyone to talk to, email me your info, and I’ll call you!  I hope that you, dear readers, who share our commitment to being everything to the little someones God put in our lives, will know that Anna and Bethany and I are rooting for you.  You are not alone, and while the rest of us may not see your work, remember that God does, and whatever you are doing to the least of these you are doing to Him.

May your 2016 be filled with joy in the precious “small things” of your life.

Posted in Biblical Defense, Home Life, Importance of Mothers | 1 Comment

Making Time for Wonder

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making time for a sense of wonderPhoto Credit: Mindy Rainey Creative

In my neck of the woods, sign-ups for summer classes, activities, and swimming lessons started this week.  I’ve started planning and plotting with other moms so that our kids can be in the same activities.  It would be so easy to fill our summer to the brim with good things–swimming lessons, baseball camp, tennis, soccer, ballet, VBS, art classes, field trips, and the list can go on and on!  Fortunately for me, Anthony Esolen’s words from our group read last year (Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child) are keeping me in check.  In over-committing our children, he reminds us, we risk damaging their capacity to feel wonder: “A child that has been blared at and distracted all his life will never be able to do the brave nothing of beholding the sky.”  (Ch. 2)

I think stay-at-home moms are often susceptible to over-committing because activities provide something we can measure (“I ran the girls to swimming and my son to baseball and then returned books to the library before picking them all up” sounds more productive than “we laid on our backs in the backyard and looked at clouds”) and define (“I’m a good mom because I take my kids to all these activities that give them X and Y life skills!”).  We’re perhaps unconsciously fighting back against the Mommy Wars arguments about how WOHMs do everything SAHMs do, plus work full-time, but of course that presumes that “everything we do” is active: driving them to practices, washing uniforms, coaching teams, grocery shopping.  Don’t get me wrong–all of those things can be great and important, but they’re not the essence of motherhood.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: so much of our job is in the intangibles like creating wonder, feeding their souls, creating heart strings, shaping character.  These things don’t fit neatly into an agenda, but if our agendas are too packed full of going and doing, the intangibles get lost in the shuffle.  Sometimes it’s more important for my kids to squat down and look at a fuzzy caterpillar on the ground than to pose and smile for the photographer I hired for a family portrait.  Sometimes a weary little girl needs to stay home from a play date and just snuggle on the couch with me and tell me about her day.  Sometimes it’s better for my son to stare at the clouds and tell me the shapes he sees than to finish his math worksheet right at that minute.  Sometimes I need to plan for us to do nothing for a week rather than sign the kids up for swimming lessons so that they can pass into the next level so they can get on the swim team next summer.  Sometimes I need to let the bathroom go uncleaned and my email go unchecked so I can read books to a toddler who is feeling left out of all the big kid activities.  I have their attention when I need it because they have my attention when they need it.

As you start to plan for the summer, dear readers, please remember that less is more.  Do plan fun activities, do sign up for the library’s reading program, do try to keep up with cooking and cleaning, but do also leave plenty of time for wonder, relaxation, and the brave nothing of beholding the sky.

Posted in Home Life | Leave a comment
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