Parenting

Well, the title might be a little lofty, but follow me anyway.

I have been dealing with some stuff. And we all deal with some stuff. Yet lately my stuff seems so heavy and prevalent that it’s hard for me to even see the world around me. And I have become a hermit. Girls, sometimes just dealing with life is just way too flipping hard.

It’s easy to do (becoming a hermit, that is). I mean, I don’t really like being around people much at times. Sometimes, I don’t like people much at all. I hate small talk. I despise insincerity, I can be way too intense, and I usually feel like an alien in a room of people who look just like me.

Stuff with the kids, legal junk, business stress, work drama, bad days, weight gain, marriage conflict, financial strain, anxiety, depression, blah-blah-blah. Toss in limited time to relax or exercise, a nacho addiction, and the lurking worry that you might be drinking too often, and then you’re like,

“Hey world, here I am: a doughy, middle aged, stressed out mom, who cusses too much, maybe drinks too much,  who is socially awkward, overly critical, with alarmingly limited conflict resolution skills and a constant feeling of being stretched too thin. Who wants to hug the cactus?”

Why would I leave the house, if I am getting on my own nerves?

So I have bammed myself in, stopped writing, taken to living off of yogurt and a healthy/not-so-healthy fend for yourself mantra, and become a spectator of the world around me.

And now I am peeling back the layers of heartache, and months of good intentions, and trying to reintegrate into a world that sometimes feels like a revolving doors with giant cheese grater panels in place of the glass.

And it’s weird.

But I made myself do it. At least a little. And I lived.

Last week I invited a friend to get pedicures. Then I drove the next day to see a friend who I hadn’t seen in 10 or so years. I went to church two days after that, and then later that day, went to a book club with more than a dozen women, some of them strangers, but none of them my best friend, or my bourbon, or my cozy couch blanket. And today, I had a newer friend over, and made her lunch and held her baby and just talked. And it felt right for the first time in a long time. I was tired, and needed a nap after, but it was still good.

I could use the “peeling off the band-aid” analogy but that’s not accurate. I don’t have a wound. I am a wound. I am a downright mess some days, but I still have love and need love, so I have to leave the house, or open my doors and let others in, at least sometimes.

Have your ever been to the “petting” area of an aquarium and petted little sharks or sting-rays? Once when I was there, a worker said that the sting-rays like to rub up against people to keep their skin smooth. While I don’t have any proof that she knew what she was talking about, I can relate to this image: I have smoother edges when I rub elbows with other humans, and months of funk start to rub off when I finally emerge from the hidden sands in the safe and shallow end of the ocean.

People need people. Even grumpy, prickly, critical, anti-social, stressed out people. I also needed the months of hiding. Heck, it’s kind of been years. But for everything there is a season, and spring is finally coming. Did anyone automatically think of this though, lol?

Image result for winter is coming meme

Winter is over and it’s feeling kind of good to move around again and plan a little life, to hug old friends, to hear new opinions, make new friends and even hold babies. I won’t lie and say it was all easy or pretend that I never felt a little out of place, but coming out of hiding will do that. The light is bright, but it’s so good for the soul.

If you are in a season of rest, just relish in it. But if your rest is becoming an addiction, a spot too comfortable and dark, maybe stick a pinky toe out from under your Cheeto covered blanket, climb out of your show hole, pop on some chap-stick, throw on some clothes with buttons and go rub some elbows, accept some hugs, or bounce a baby on your knee.

The healing is good out here. I’ll leave the light on for ya’.

Dear Hubby,

Sorry this is a few days late. This has been a janky week. Now that we got the house in order and tackled that linen closet we have been talking about for two years, I can write you a little anniversary letter:

Every year of life, and of marriage, seems jam packed. But it also seems completely mundane and the same in a way. Not in a bad way, but the busyness of life can make it feel like a blur.

And if we aren’t careful to take note of what we have been through together, we might not realize how really strong we are. Not just because we work really hard at our marriage, but because we vowed to let God be the center of it. A cord of three strands cannot be broken.

So I figured I’d take a moment to reflect on the last year and what we have conquered together.

  1. Business-In it’s very own category for its obvious stress involved, we have closed a business, opened a business and grew a home-based business, while pretty gracefully handling people in and out of our home several times a day. Phew. That is no easy way to live! But we did it.
  2. We traveled quite a bit-In the middle of being slammed with our work, we took time to travel. We went on a romantic getaway to Cancun, took the boys to DC for a real educational experience, went an a cruise through the Caribbean with friends, went on a family trip with the Knudsons to Atlanta (where Kaden drank a silo of Coke products), and took the entire family (including Ricky Bobby) across country, climbing Pikes Peak (in a car, lol), visiting the Smokies, and going to our first White Sox game. And it was all because of how hard we (especially YOU) work and how we have been blessed.
  3. We worked out-We might not be on the cover of fitness mags, but we have carved out time to be healthy, even food prepping when we were really on top of things. Working out with you is fun, but it also gets me excited about growing old with you. The more years I have with you, the better.
  4. We briefly considered adoption-Infertility really stinks. And anniversaries are a chafing reminder of many, many losses. But briefly this year, we considered adoption, as we were approached to consider it for a mom with a last minute need. We talked with her, prayed about it, tried to imagine how to make space for a child in one short week, and then the mom decided to keep the baby. While this was a brief interlude of adoption struggles, we handled it, and allowed it to help us focus on what we really want in terms of growing our family.
  5. We parented-Every year, we hustlin’. Jackson got his license and we now spend 13% of our day tracking him on multiple phone apps. Kaden outgrew Jackson and entered the 5th dimension of puberty. We taught them new things, buckled down in new ways, and let go when it was right. We have prayed, argued and wrestled with many a decision, but we did our best to do it as a team.
  6. We prayed-We did like 21 days of a 30 day marriage prayer devotional. Well, like I said, we ain’t perfect. But we haven’t thrown the books away, and regardless of the devotional, we still turn to God for answers and nothing makes me feel more cherished than when you pray for me, for our marriage, for my work, for our children, and even for all of our friends. I love you so much for that, and I always will.
  7. We got help-We went to counseling, a lot, shopping around to find the right fit for us, never using time or money as excuses to skip when both of us would really prefer to sweep stuff under the rug and just grab a bourbon. When people say “marriage is hard” this is what is should mean: putting in the dang work to truly try to understand our spouse’s feelings and needs and tend to them, NOT just saying, “Well this is hard….next.” And thanks for letting me share a little of our struggles with the world so we can help make getting help normal and not a sign of weakness. Your commitment to God and our marriage is the strongest thing about you. Thank you!

You already know I love you but it takes more than love to last. It takes commitment, work and one hell of a sense of humor. Thanks for laughing at the crappy stuff with me, however inappropriately, and thanks for occasionally throwing chocolate and Mexican food at the problems. It’s actually a solid practice endorsed by world renowned therapists (it’s not). But seriously you’re the best.

And in the deep and sentimental words of Tim McGraw (kind of), I like you, I love you, I wants some more of you.

See you at the hizzy later,

I’ll be the one with the goofy grin 🙂

 

 

I hate labeling my kid. I go out of my way NOT to do it. I want to just know KG, to be his mom, and help guide him through his childhood. And I go out of my way not use diagnosis as a crutch (for him or for me). I also try not to be defensive of him.

But for the sake of understanding, I will tell you that he has a different mindset, different behavior at times, and definitely different social norms.

My husband and I have been married for six years. We are a blended family, and that brings on challenges, especially in regards to discipline. But disciplining some kids can be a little more complex, so we need help, therefore we found a counselor who specializes in more complex situations.

Our counselor asked us how other people’s views of my kids impact us. I paused. In general, I don’t care too awfully much what people think. And I work really hard not to let what people think of my kids or my parenting to (negatively) impact how I parent. Sometimes I have to pretend like I am in a bubble and tune out the world, but I pride myself on parenting the same way whether I have witnesses or if I am at home (it’s not exactly the same but I try.)

But do I care what people think of my kid in general? Well short answer: kind of. At least enough write this overdo post.

KG did everything a little late, talked differently, bit other kids, got kicked out off daycare, and found trouble around many corners. I have spent a lot of time in meetings. I have cried and snotted in front of many a teacher. I have even made teachers cry because I was frustrated and angry and feeling awfully alone. And I regret that. I now go out of my way to stand beside each teacher and support them the very way I pray they will support me. And I have realized that it helps if people actually like me (my intentions more so than anything), and care about my son (especially since he needs their guidance too.)

My son is a unique person, and I wouldn’t change him. He is creative and non-linear. Ask him to describe something to you, and his response might dazzle you. He has an earnest interest in science and memorizes science facts and quizzes me (I almost never know the answers). Last week he broke up a girl fight at school. This week he asked me if angels poop. He was completely serious. (That was stumper. Message me if you know the answer. Or if you want to hear mine.)

The journey of my son’s life has been affected by his trials and his differences, but I really do love who he is, how he loves, and I can’t wait to see his life continue to unfold.

I don’t want to change him.

But not everyone gets him. He is easily frustrated and easily angered. He says odd stuff, curses at times, and makes jokes at the wrong times. He is way too open about private stuff. He is bad at eye contact and handshakes and sometimes, he looks upset with others when really he is disappointed in himself. He is socially awkward at times too.[ I think he gets it ALL from me, but that’s another post ;-)]

I have to really, really, really work at not running around going off on people sometimes. I want to tell them what a good kid he really is, that he is generous, not stingy with gifts, tender-hearted, interesting, good with little kids, sweet with dogs, a great dancer and better at sports than he seems (he gets nervous.)

I want to tell the world that that he will be something; that he already is something.

He is harder on himself than anyone on this planet can ever be on him. And I suspect that’s why he is the way he is sometimes. Because he just wants to be better, to act better, to achieve more. And he doesn’t always know how. And it frustrates him.

And I don’t have all the answers. And I never will.

And not everyone is going to “get” him, or like him, or understand him.

But that’s life.

And that’s why I don’t run around making excuses for him (at least I try not to), or pulling the special needs card every time he doesn’t make the team or earn a spot somewhere. I have NEVER gone ahead of him and said, “Please choose him because he needs this” even though it might have helped, or might have kept him from some rejection. I never want to send him where he is not wanted. That is not successful living to me.

But damn does my heart break sometimes.

If people knew what I knew, would they treat him better or worse? Would he be more accepted or more often rejected? Because at this point, he might just come across as a tall, pretty cute kid with kick ass hair who is a little shy or a little funny. Or he might seem like a kid full of rage, with low self-esteem and a bad attitude. Or he might seem smart, quirky, extroverted and surprisingly thoughtful. And all of those could be true depending on the day.

My son, is incredibly, beautifully, wonderfully human.

And then there are the people who see him…really see him. And they go out of their way to connect with him, to lend him a helping hand or offer him a word of encouragement. Why do they get it when so many people don’t? I am guessing something or someone in their life has given them the gift of well-developed empathy. We don’t all have that gift, but I am thankful for those in my son’s life that do.

As a mom, there is nothing more rewarding than when others see the good in your kid, and can see when he is trying, can see past a lot of the junk, and offer some good old fashioned kindness.

I could offer you up some “awareness” day info to help you understand my kid better, but here’s the reality:

He’s not going to run through life wearing a shirt that tells everyone why he is mad at himself, or cussing for no apparent reason. He is not going to take me to work with him so I can put everyone in their place when they think the worst of him. He has to LIVE in this world, truly do life in it. And he will have to make some adjustments at times, and at other times, he will have to learn to embrace what makes him different and spectacular.

But he will have to blaze his own trails.

And in the end, we all could be a little more aware of why people act the way that they do, and ask the right questions if we really care to know. We can stop jumping to conclusions. We can even offer our help and actually come along someone who is struggling, and offer a pat on the back or a word of encouragement. We can make sure that no human being lives life unseen, or completely misunderstood.

We can be kind. We can be brave, untamed and trail-blazingly kind.

Awareness of ourselves, and our capacity to love, is what we need more of. And this is what I want my kids to learn too: LOVE is successful living, to me.

It’s that time of the year: award ceremony time. Kids across the country are being honored for their achievements in academics, athletics and character.

But not all kids.

And not mine. My kid doesn’t even get to go to field day. And I have NEVER stepped foot into an awards ceremony.

I guess that makes me a bad parent, right?

It’s not a competition though right? All kids are different right?

But you know as well as I do, that is empty and meaningless rhetoric because when kids are “bad” who do we blame? The parents. Every stinking time.

“It’s the parent’s fault!” said proudly by a parent who pats themselves on the back every time their kid does right, or by the non-parent who can comfortably say, “My (imaginary) kid would never do that.”

You have said it too I bet. A kid on the bus is mean to your kid, and you immediately blame the parents. You might have even said to yourself, “I’d like to give that parent a piece of my mind” (or worse) and you felt entitled to feel that way. After all, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right???

My goal is not to be defensive or self righteous, but if in explaining my perspective to you, I come across that way, I am sorry. But I have had enough.

Yes there are absentee parents. There are neglectful parents. There are abusive parents. And there are parents that teach their kids truly evil ways. But seeing a child who is struggling or misbehaving does not give us the right to diagnose the parenting of someone. It’s pompous, rude, and simply callous–because you have not walked a millimeter in that parent’s shoes. You have not seen their struggle. And you might not even care.

If you met my youngest child on a bad day, you might think he is raised in a barn, full of crazies. He can be rude, defiant, and even verbally abusive. He collects discipline points like baseball cards. Getting dressed in the mornings takes the patience of a saint, and doing homework at night takes 4 hours, a glass of wine, 5 Hail Marys (and I am not even Catholic), 6 moments of silence, and a cry for the filling of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I am ready for the second coming of the Lord (kidding, kind of.)

I go to so many meetings for my son as his school, monthly doctors appointments, counseling sessions (for him and for me, oh and for my marriage), we medicate, we meditate, we do yoga, we go to church, we pray for and over our children, we read the Bible, I daily communicate with his various teachers, consult with various specialists, lose a lot of sleep, and do my best to trust in God’s plan. But he still misbehaves way more than most children.

While your child might have to work to make the honor roll, my child has to work to get through the day without a write up. While you might have to gently remind your child to start his homework by a reasonable time, I have to have consequences and rewards in place for basic behavior that most parents would take for granted.

When he flips out at school and gets sent to in school suspension, rest assured, it is not because of his parenting. And when your kid gets a character award, it may or may not have anything to do with you. Kids can be great in spite of their troubled upbringing, and kids can be difficult and troubled in spite a blessed upbringing.

You see, some of these “bad” kids have real issues that you don’t know about: mental or emotional issues that are difficult to understand and even more difficult to navigate. And while my son has some “labels” that are supposed to help him, there seems to be an ocean of what we and his educators just do not understand about him. I have heard, “We have tried everything,” from dozens of teachers and specialists. I have heard, “You are doing all you can,” more times that I can count (and it is little consolation) and I have even heard, “When they find out what is wrong with him, they will name it after him,” from one of his counselors. And she might be right.

Years ago, I saw a daytime talk show discussing the heartbreak of losing a child. One couple, who I will never forget, discussed how they dealt with the enormous pain. They said that even though they only had their little baby for a few hours, they knew that was the life that God had planned for her. It was a life without prom, graduating high school, a wedding or children; but it was HER life. It was no less precious or valuable because of that.

You see, each child has a different life and a different future. I cannot expect from my child what another parent expects from their child. I would like to think we are all just doing our best. And while YOUR best parenting might lead your child into West Point or into the NFL, my best parenting might lead my child into gainful employment at a local business. But it doesn’t mean I have failed as a parent.

We would never dream of blaming a parent for their child’s serious illness or their serious health condition at birth. But there are illnesses and issues that aren’t so obvious that we are quick to blame on “crappy” parenting.

I am not sure when it became so common to be so dang judgemental and full of pride. One day an honor student can turn into a criminal. And one day, a troubled teen can turn into a hero. We do not get to write our kid’s story or take credit for all they are or who they become. It is part parenting, part personal responsible and personality of the child, and part will of God. Let’s not get carried away with assigning blame or credit where is may not deserve to land.

And unless you have been through a parenting struggle with a truly difficult child, you have NO idea how hurtful that is or how isolated in makes parents like me feel to hear these prideful statements. I am already down (but not out!). Please take off your kicking boots. And if you are feeling generous, throw a prayer or an act of kindness our way.

“Bad parents” need love too.IMG_2647

Moms come up with the best gift ideas…for everyone else. They make holidays special, even ones you didn’t know existed. She has been celebrating you and your kids like it is her job. Now is your chance to make her feel special.

But what to get/do for her? You know your wife better than anyone, but let’s face it; you’re not a chick. And you just might feel fresh out of ideas.

Here is a list of things you might not have thought of. They range from FREE to $9 to about $250 and none of them are jewelry, chocolate, or involve glitter that she will end up cleaning anyway.

Stuff:

A Water Softening Shower Head – These are only about $35 and will make her skin and hair feel like a million bucks. Does she ever make you touch her hair after the salon? Yeah, now you can help her feel all soft and silky all the time.

Sports Bras – If you know her size and if she exercises ever, I bet she would like several more bras. We never have enough and since people can see them a bit, we like variety of color and style.

Cooler Purse – I love my cooler that looks like a purse. I take it to wrestling events for my son (they say they have “healthy” concessions but it’s just sausage biscuits and Doritos) and I take it with me when I know I am going to be too busy to eat healthy.

Infuser Water Bottle – I don’t have one, but I have friends who love them. My hubby bought me a water bottle once though and I loved it because I knew he had heard me saying that I needed to drink more water.

Essential Oil Diffuser – I don’t have one of these either, and there are many to choose from (varying in quality) but these are great for making the house smell amazing while also providing health benefits. I want.

Services:

Mini Photo Session – For around $250 (in my area) you can get a short photo session with about 10 photos that you can later print if you would like. I bet you she never thinks there are enough “good” pics of the whole family. Now is your chance to blow her mind.

Spa Service – So many options here: massage, facial, nails, hair, or med spa treatments. Easy option is to get her a gift certificate from her favorite spa and let her choose. I would suggest $125 for a few more options but even $75 can help her get some relaxation.

Personal training – If she has mentioned this to you, then go for it! If not, proceed with caution. You don’t want to push your wife into working out by implying you think she needs to. But many of my friends would love this as a gift!

Housekeeping Services – This is another caution zone, but if my hubby either cleaned the house or hired someone to, I would make immediate love to him. Do what you want with that info.

Landscaping – I love a nice flowerbed, but I suck at it. My hubs has scored major points by building, filling and planting flower beds. It’s terribly romantic in an oddly manure way.

Free:

A letter from you – This is the crème de la crème of “words of affirmation” deeds. Just tell her why you love her and what she means to you and your family. Watch her heart melt and the love flow. It’s magic. Sing it to her, and well, ya know.

A video from the kid(s) – Tear and laughter combined are the ultimate display of emotions. Involve the kids and you are sure to swell her heart and make memories worth more than diamonds.

Breakfast in bed – Never a complaint with the breakfast in bed. Just be mindful of what she actually likes to eat. And if you involve the kids, and the food turns out gross, that’s okay. But usher the kids out before she has to choke down soy sauce covered carrots on saltines. I might be speaking from experience.

A no-sweat dinner – No shopping, no planning, no cooking, no cleaning, and no thinking. Ahhhhhhhh. Sounds like a dream to me.

Quality time:

Plan an activity for the whole family – Even a walk followed by ice cream is great. Has she mentioned a bunch of times that she wanted to go on a picnic? Then now is the time to make it happen.

Alone time – She might like needs a little time alone. Give her a couple of hours to just do NOTHING. Maybe she wants to sit in the tub until her skin prunes, or she wants to read a salacious novel. Either way, she will enjoy having a little down time without the expectation of folding, wiping or cooking anything for anybody.

 

Whatever you decide to do to recognize your wife, just make it’s personal and don’t wait until the last minute if you can help it. Women are quite reasonable (even if stereotypes disagree), just realize that loving her is usually quite simple, just do it.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

Everything is up for debate now. Processed versus organic. Breast versus bottle. Cloth versus disposable. Even swearing versus “child friendly talk” around our kids. There is someone who favors it. Someone who criticizes it. Tis the way of the world.

 

I remember the first time I cursed around my oldest. I was pregnant with his little brother and I was nesting so hard. I had all of the baby clothes sprawled out around the living room getting them organized for the baby to come. Son was toddling around, unfolding the baby clothes, throwing toys around, and asking me for cookies. I must’ve told him 40 times that we didn’t have any cookies, all the while attempting to smile my Shirley Temple smile through increasingly gritted teeth.

 

Then it happened. I bent down to pick up a toy that I couldn’t bear to see out of its place and when I stood back up, I whacked my head on the fireplace mantle. While I was still seeing stars, son creeps up behind me, touches my angry arm skin and begs me yet again for a cookie. I spin around like a monster in need of an exorcism and tell him we don’t have any ___________ cookies (insert your favorite cuss word.) He looks truly startled and then starts crying.

 

I have never recovered from that moment.

 

Oh, I forgive myself, and I understand that hormones and pain and other factors were at hand, but I never felt the same after that. And I never stopped cussing.

 

I didn’t cuss just to cuss, and I was cautious around my children but from time to time, when the moment was right, a very righteous “damn” (or worse) came off a fiery sharp tongue. At first the kids were affected, but eventually the shock and awe became a stretch and yawn, and even morbid laughter from my kids. My oldest couldn’t take me seriously, and neither could I. The cuss word felt as sweet as honey on my tongue, yet I always felt like a fool 14 seconds later.

 

I prayed about stopping cussing dozens of time. But it was futile. I was princess pudding pop dripping with sugar until the whole parenting thing unraveled my good senses and then it was on. Eyes bulging, lip twitching, neck spazzing cuss-a-thon. Good, good times. I felt so guilty and awful, but the guilt never inspired lasting change.

 

Until…

 

My youngest son began cussing. Wait, no, my mildly autistic already struggling to fit in with the world son began cussing hard. He could “eff” it up with the best of them.

 

Here’s how I learned it was a problem: He thought I had left the house to get his brother from the school down the road. He thought he was alone, but he wasn’t. Poor fella was losing his “stuff” in the kitchen. He was just cussing up a storm. When I popped around the corner, his heart nearly stopped. His expression was priceless. I asked him what he was doing. He said (because honesty is not an issue for him), “Cussing and eating sugar.” Well, there it is. My shiny example at it’s fullest potential. I created an F-bombing sugar monster.

 

Then it got worse. He started cussing a lot. Whatever made him mad was a justifiable reason for cussing, and he was good at it. It was always in context. I picked him up from school one day, and his teacher told me it was a rough day for him. His response was simple, “That’s bullsh*t.”

 

Houston we have a problem.

 

Even his brother was embarrassed. He left his baby brother at the basketball court down the road and called me to come get him. He said the little cusser was losing it at the court, scaring off walkers and dogs with his angry language. I slipped on my house shoes, collected my minions and came to a realization: Something has to change.

 

I told his doctor and his counselor that he was cussing a lot. I told the counselor that I was an angry cusser too, but couldn’t bring myself to admit it to the doctor. She asked the man cub where he learned the bad words. “Was it at school? From your friends? From TV? Or video games?” “No, my son kept repeating.” I shot him a sheepish thankful look. The doctor caught on and thankfully moved on.

 

So I prayed again. And this time I was ready to commit to quitting. I was thinking about how hard it was going to be. I grew up around cursing, then I worked in the restaurant and bar industry, then I incorporated “colorful” language into my story telling. Everyone laughed. It became part of me, and I didn’t know how to let it go.

 

Then while I was praying, and pitying myself for having to do such a hard thing, God reminded me: People quit heroin. You can quit polluting the world with your words.

 

It finally soaked in. I wanted to do this. I needed to do this. And I would do this.

 

So I came back to my child and told him I was sorry, and that I was wrong. That I had set a very poor example, and that I was going to change. I asked if he would join me on a journey towards better language. I gave him permission to call me out for bad language. And we joined forces to become better versions of ourselves.

 

Here’s the deal. We can say that kids and adults have different rules, but we are wrong to think that will hold water. Rules are a reflection of values. And it should be obvious to our kids where our values are from, and what implications they create. We can’t live in the gray, and expect the light. We have to choose, and we have to be clear. We have to stand out in a very foggy world, leading our kids where we would like them to go. We have to forgo ambiguity for clarity and comfort for honor. We have to parent.

 

I wanted to have the right to say to my son, “Our family doesn’t do that. This is what we believe in.” And to mean it. And to not break his trust by becoming a liar. That is the hardest thing I have committed to. Not quitting cussing, but being a person of my word that chooses to change a little of who I am to be a better example for my child. To literally give my child a greater chance at success in life.

 

You might not think cussing is a big deal, but if it leaves you feeling like a pile of poo like it does me, or if your kids have learned some bad habits from you, it’s time for a change. And there is no greater time than the present.

 

I am still struggling with it a bit. I fouled up pretty bad today, and quickly apologized, but the smog is lifting in our home, and the vernacular is changing, and my son is choosing fewer and fewer curse words, because “our family doesn’t do that” and we are trying to live up to our own standards. We aren’t doing a cuss jar or any other gimmick. We just picture the people we want to be, and the future we want for our children and we give it value and strength every time we honor it with a series of small decisions.

 

Some might say we already give up so much for our children…our bodies, our careers, even a piece of our marriage. But I say is it all worth it if it doesn’t make us better humans, if it doesn’t create in us a sense of urgency to do this “job” with greatness and commitment? What is the purpose of it all if we are just going to say to ourselves, “Eff it. They will learn it one day anyway.” If parenting doesn’t make you want to be a better person, what will?

 

They will learn a lot – in time. They will learn about drugs and addictions, about murder and war, about hunger and famine, and prejudice and hate. They will experience heartbreak and loss. They will lose friends and watch loved ones fade. They will experience great joy and crushing lows. They will love and they will live.

 

But who they will be in the process, what light will shine from them along their journey has a great deal to do with us: Our words, our values, our example, not just the ones we told them we had, but the ones we lived so hard that it bent us at times, and changed us, and made us better people; those are the values what will be their compass and their guide and will affect their journey, even their destination.

 

And what greater gift as a parent can we give our children than the gift of sacrifice? The knowledge that mom or dad gave up something once thought precious or integral for something better and lasting because our children deserved it. Because we saw a snake in their path, and we cut off the head, because removing hurdles to success is part of what we as parents do.

 

I picture little toddlers, zig zagging around me. And bigger kids too, all looking up to me. I can hear one shushing another, “You can’t use those words around grandma. She doesn’t say bad words.” And I can smile and think to myself, “You were so worth giving it up for.” Because that’s what our family does.

Alert! Alert!

This parent has made a breakthrough.

And it’s too good not to share!

First of all, praise God for answered prayers that come in the form of small victories throughout our lives. Secondly, thank God for counseling which helps us set a healthy(ier) tone in our home.

Ok, so back to the breakthrough.

Your kids might never be difficult or argumentative. If they aren’t then praise you noble one. You need not read on. But if they are, this article is for you!

My loins created an offspring that can argue and complain about ANYTHING. It might be genetic, but if so, I am claiming it skipped a generation. My parents would probably beg to differ.

This A&C (arguing and complaining) has become so rampant that I am constantly ready for it. I brace myself for battle every time I tell this child to do something, anything. My chest tightens, my shoulder spasms, and I already have a list of consequences locked and loaded to fire at him. A battle of the ages always occurs. The family members become irritated and tense, yelling occurs, the boys get at each other, and everyone gets in trouble.

It straight up sucks.

So today I had a calm and bright moment. I was in the shower, where all good ideas occur, and I realized something: He ALWAYS does the chores eventually (or almost always) and he usually even apologizes for acting like a mad man. But this middle step wrought with drama is unraveling our peace of mind and causing him to be on an endless roller coaster ride of losing his privileges. A classic lose-lose.

So here’s the short version of what I said:

  • Let’s talk. This is not a lecture. Your thoughts are as valuable as mine. I am here to help you.
  • I’ve noticed a pattern: I tell you that you have chores, you get angry (add in a bunch of angry steps-throwing, slamming, bad words), then you later calm down and do the chores, but you don’t get the same reward for the chores as you would have (such as an allowance, iPad time, or the freedom to choose how you spend your free time.)
  • So now we have to figure out how to skip the A&C and move towards compliance and the rewards that come with it.

He agreed. Ok, now we’re cooking.

So here’s what we decided on:

  • This is kind of like driving a golf cart and seeing a tree coming up quickly in your path but driving into the tree anyway. The tree represents the A&C and the consequences that occur.
  • We agree there are two things you (child) can do:
    • Pump the breaks
    • Steer away from the tree
  • Pump the breaks means
    • Stop-don’t respond
    • Think-Is arguing going to help?
    • Listen-Listen to mom before reacting.
  • Steer away from the tree means
    • Look for the positive in the situation verses the negative
    • Remember the reward: money and free time (being the main ones for him)

I could see it click for him. He saw the tree and the clear path and he got it. He said emphatically that he’d rather stay on the clear path because he could see something he wanted. FREEDOM.

Well, well, well. I think we are making progress.

So we started over. We pretended like he didn’t already lose his cool this morning over a few simple chores. I told him he had a few things to do. I laid out the freedom that would follow. He complied. And now I am typing.

I know, I know. This is basic parenting stuff. But I do stuff like this a lot and it doesn’t always pan out. The difference was two-fold. We decided to fix this TOGETHER and we could mutually see a solution and looked like JOY for both of us.

Our opposing values were no longer like magnets with one turned in the wrong direction, bouncing off of each other. He turned his magnet around, not because he had to (clearly HAD to wasn’t working so far) but because he WANTED to. He sees something he wants, and he is driving toward it, avoiding trees that will wreck HIS journey.

And so I finished with this:

Me-Hey bud, so you’re on your path to freedom, you have a clear path in front of you, and there are flowers along your path. What do you think those flowers represent?

Him-You?

Me-Yes, me and your family smiling at you and supporting your journey.

Guess who hugged me? Yeah. That kid 🙂

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Today I shoveled up the body of a dead bird into the tines of a pitchfork and warily carried his body to the woods. And by warily I mean I looked the other direction while walking with his little body until I realized he had fallen off and I had to go back for him. Dead animals are cringe worthy.

 

I never planned to do that.

 

Well of course you didn’t plan that. How could you? –You might say.

 

Oh my dear, my plans were very, very different.

 

We moved into a country home on 17 acres over four years ago. I was entranced by the long tree lined driveway. I was welcomed by a porch the length of the house anchored by a porch swing. I was swayed by tomato plants, real hardwood floors that seemed to tell a story, and a sewing room with a future.

 

No, I don’t sew, or quilt or even needlepoint. This sunlit narrow room was supposed to house a crib, a glider, and a baby named something quaint, feminine and turn of the century.

 

But it doesn’t.

 

And I am a girl who is used to getting her way. I am not saying that I was born with a silver spoon – far from it. I am not saying I deserve more than anyone else – I don’t. I am not even saying that I am lucky – I am not.

 

I am just a girl that always seemed to know what was going to happen next. I could predict the future, or so it seemed. I didn’t have a crystal ball, but I had hellagood hunches, and they were almost always right.

 

Yet here I stand, on that novella hardwood, looking around at my home, my life, and I can see that my hunches can no longer be trusted. My fortune telling days are over.

 

So back to the bird.

 

I found him today. Deep black feathers with a purple hue. An iridescent crown the color of the ocean at night. Curved black beak. And completely lifeless.

 

And normally I would have left him to rest in peace undisturbed.

 

But now it is my job to escort him elsewhere. I am a dog sitter and I can’t have my clients eating yardkill and sending them home with a belly full of feathers or some weird disease. And as I did my “job” I thought, “How did I get here?”

 

Do you ever wonder that? How in the world did I end up here?

 

I was on a road that was broad and clear. And then I took a fork in the road, followed by a detour, complicated by a foggy sense of navigation. And somewhere in the nooks and crannies of the yonder, I took a path that led me here. And there is no way in a million guesses I would have ever guessed this life.

 

But it is mine.

 

I planned for a submissive and easy first child, but instead have a headstrong leader in the making.

 

I planned for a super easy laid back second child and have learned to navigate autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression, and even angry outbursts in my youngest son.

 

I said till death do us part, and then walked away.

 

I am full of caution, yet married an adventurer, a risk taker the second time around.

 

I planned to have 2 boys and a girl, yet instead I have a dog sitting business with dog poop, a vacuuming obsession, and dead birds.

 

I don’t recognize my life.

 

 

Hello God, are you there? It’s me, Kris. Quick question: Are you being serious?

 

I am certainly not one to put words in God’s mouth, but I can picture him saying simply, “Yep.”

 

So here I am. And as I try to process it all, my mind wanders to that sewing room, that baby room, sans baby. And I refuse to oversimplify infertility. My struggle has been fairly long and arduous. My husband and I have experienced repeated loss. The heartache is real. The scars are physical and emotional.

 

But I move forward. I still kind of want a baby. I still think it is possible. And if it happens, God will get ALL of the glory.

 

But I move forward. And I make plans for my future that don’t often include a baby, and I picture the future of my boys and I plan to love my husband with all my heart.

 

And I move forward. I show up to help my husband at his business. I help my boys with projects. I scout out clumps of dog fur in crevices forgotten. I exercise, cook, pay bills, apply make up, take my son to counseling, and plan vacations.

 

And I move forward. I relish in the time I have to devote to my children. I soak up the sun and enjoy the breeze, and notice all the little new flowers and host a herd of four legged friends.

 

And I never look back.

 

My oldest son occupies that sewing room now. It sports new flooring, and a fresh new roman shade, and it almost always covered in skinny jeans, Vans, and food crumbs.

 

I write, and walk dogs, and hire and schedule the staff, drink protein shakes and text my friends, all while moving forward.

 

I am living the life.

 

This is the life God wants for me. And I want it too. Because I want Him. And in all things, and all situations, we can honor Him with obedience, even joy.

 

And if I can be obedient in these small, inconsequential, even gritty tasks, how gloriously can I represent Him in the great and honorable, even noble tasks?

 

I am a firm believer that we are always in training for something. Maybe something bigger, maybe something more important. Or maybe we are to just follow God with a lamp to our feet to light the path in front of us, unaware of where that path might lead us (Psalm 119:105). We fall down, we shake off the dust, we march one foot in front of the other. And we keep moving forward.

 

I don’t know how you got where you are. You might not know either. But I am not sure how much it will matter in the long run. Because nothing is achieved in straining to see the view behind us.

 

So ask yourself, “Am I moving forward?” You don’t have to shy away from your story, but let’s walk and talk at the same time. Embrace your story, forgive your plans that God did not set forth, and move forward.

 

I had a dream, and a plan and even a Pinterest board for my baby room ideas. But God had a plan that I never saw coming. But I can still love that plan, my life and even the inglorious minutia of my days. It is a choice, and I choose it, and I choose it in every tiny forward step I take.

 

Are you with me? I don’t know where I am going, but it is ahead of me. The road will wind and will take me to low and scary places at times, but He is with me, and He is waiting, my eyes are on Him, and I am moving forward.

 

 

 

 

 

Selfies really irk people. They seem vain, self-serving, pathetic, and well…selfish.

 

I used to hate selfies. I hated their captions. I hated their angles. I might have even hated their owners.

 

Young people love selfies. They have selfies sticks and they aren’t ashamed to use them. Their image is their number one subject matter. When I was 20 you had to ask a stranger to take a picture of you with your crappy 110 cameras. It was guaranteed to suck. Every time. Then you would throw the photo in a drawer with 600 other pictures of you with your eyes blinking or rolling back into your head like your demons were being exercised. No self-respecting human enjoyed this experience.

 

When we did get lucky and have our good hair day memorialized by a random photo (probably of the dolphin floating behind our head), we didn’t know what to do with the picture. Put it on the fridge? Send copies to all the grandparents? Frame it for our own desk so we can look certifiable? There was nowhere to broadcast it and no one cared.

 

Perhaps no one cares now when we post pictures of ourselves, except to get offended.

 

But I care. And I am getting over being grumpy about it.

 

I might not truly care that you had a spinach and goat cheese omelet that was to die for, or that you finished your 11th 5k, or that your clothes fit better this month than last, but I care about you, and so should you.

 

Famous people have their pics taken all the time, but they know to expect that so their hair looks fantastic and their clothes are so put together and they love it. Their lives are being recorded because they are beautiful and important and everyone wants to see how they live.

 

But what about regular people? Who is telling their story? I mean, we have “Humans of New York” but no one cares about humans in Clarksville, TN or Springfield ____________ (insert random fly-over state). There are no paparazzi grabbing pics of me in my hideous green bathrobe right now while I type this in my dirty kitchen. I am just boring in the eye of a public. I am a wife and a middle-aged Tennessee mom of two.

 

But if I’m being honest, that kind of fires me up! I go to IEP meetings every month and advocate for my son. I take my boys to the doctor, maneuver the DMV, clean baseboards, walk dogs, help manage my husband’s business, encourage women and sometimes even brush my hair. And no one is getting all this sweet action on film. Who is telling my story?

 

I have taken pics of every aspect of my kids’ lives. I have pics of them in their tiny hospital hats, UT Vols onesies, preschool graduation robes and pee wee football uniforms. I have pics of their first day of every school year, every Halloween costume, every milestone and thousands of pics of them sleeping (because let’s be honest, we love them the most then.) We have every birthday cake, every vacation, and every animal they have looked upon at every zoo cataloged somewhere. But we are rarely in the picture.

 

We try to capture dad too, grilling, building, painting, napping, coaching and accepting honors for his job. But unless we wore sequins and were his arm-candy for the banquet, we can float around unseen. We hold it all together, we capture it all on film, and then we proceed to be invisible. Then we feel kinda sassy one day and post a pic and then feel like a douchey loser because non-vain sophisticated moms who put themselves last aren’t supposed to do lame stuff like this.

 

But no more. No more selfie-shaming of the lady folk. We deserve to have our lives seen and if no one else is going to ask us to say cheese, we will just cheese it up in our own way.

 

Good hair day? Click it. Good work out? Click click. Feeling smart in your new glasses? Click click click people. If you can photograph a plate of food, you can photograph your face.

 

And you don’t have to feel sexy to take a pic of yourself. Feeling accomplished, sad, introspective silly or inventive? Capture it. This is your life ladies, and one day you will be crazy old, and you will wonder where all the time went, then you can pull up some 40 year old photos of yourself in a swimsuit, a graduation gown or a pair of over-bedazzled jeans that fit just right and you can remember that you lived and that on some days, you even crushed it.

 

Ladies you are living, and balancing and struggling and accomplishing. And there’s no paparazzi creeping around your windows showing the world how kick-ass you are. Oh, your friends and toddlers take pics of you that make you look crazy, and that’s okay, but what in the world is wrong with wanting to remember a moment, a look, or a feeling that you earned, you felt and you lived?

 

Take that selfie dang it. And if anyone tries to make you feel bad, 86 them or tell them to go photograph a rock or something so they can feel intellectually superior.

 

Sometimes I feel small, or old or frumpy or weak. But when I am feeling strong and lovely and confidant, I might decided to make a 16-piece collage of myself and hash tag it to the moon and back. It’s my life and my business and my aging face and I will selfie as I please.

 

And if anyone thinks that is vain or pathetic or self-serving, they can get over it. Because they are my memories and my feelings and I have the right to enjoy them, now and when I am old and when I have grandchildren to tell my story to.

 

Wealthy ladies used to commission artists to paint a portrait of them. They wanted to leave a legacy and capture a fleeting moment or fading youth. My face won’t end up in oil and hanging in a museum, but my little photos of my little life make me feel significant and memorable for a few minutes here and there. And in a life full of minutia and beige and ordinary tasks, it’s not too much to ask.

 

I want to know what I look like when I am doing my best. And I shouldn’t have to pose with a friend or my kid or my dog to validate that desire. I am accomplishing things and I want the world to see it. I want to see it.

 

Want this moment to last? STOP. And post a selfie. Now. #iearnedthisselfie

 

For pics of my dogs, kids, omelets, my biceps and even my face, feel free to follow me (or just stalk me) on IG @mrskriswolfe

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Moments before I realized I had gotten carried away writing and forgot to get my kid from school. Ah. Life. #iearnedthisselfie

 

 

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Am I the only mother who…

 

Thinks of dropping off her kids 6 miles from the house––in a blizzard because they are fighting.

 

Always knows the cost of a flight to Mexico. Just in case I need a little “me” time.

 

Has all the good chocolate in the bathroom closet. Or the safe.

 

Sees a call from the school during a workout and finishes the work out. They’ll always call back.

 

Tells my child to stop touching me before I go bananas.

 

Wishes that the school didn’t send 15 notifications about snow days so they kids will just go to bed so I can go to bed and read about fictional lives.

 

Resents PowerSchool for constantly telling me “what’s up.”

 

Prays we don’t get in a wreck in the car circle because I am wearing a bathrobe and snow boots. And no actual clothes.

 

Tells my kid we are out of syrup so he will stop having Elf moments and leaving syrupy paw prints all over the kitchen.

 

Drinks an Angry Orchard in the bathroom for a mini vacay (that was just once so and it’s practically apple juice, so you know, stop judging me, lol.)

 

Does the Jacob’s ladder at the gym AFTER the workout because it’s more fun and relaxing than cleaning the house.

 

Counts my Easter Peeps before leaving the house and when I return (to keep an eye on my kids sugar intake of course.)

 

Has a thing called “snack dinner” (insert glitter cannon), which is propped up to sound like a carnival of epic proportions but it’s really just a smorgasbord of crap from the fridge with questionable remaining minutes of quality.

 

Being a good mom is really subjective you know. Some days are Mary Poppins days. Some days are Bloody Mary Days. Some are like a scene from The Shining. But some dang reason, our kids love us anyway. So bask in that for a minute. You are loved unconditionally. Weird isn’t it?

 

Like little mini Frankensteins, they were created to love us. Well not really. But it’s fun to imagine.

 

Keep crushing it mom. One day their counselor will enjoy the stories.