What to Expect – When You Didn’t Expect to be Expecting

Half of all pregnancies are unplanned, according to CNN. But I’ll bet you fifty bucks that many respondents in the “planned” half are big fat liars. Actually, I’ll see my fifty and raise myself another fifty. (Hm. That’s not how betting works, is it? Whatever, just go with me here.) ONE HUNDRED BONES says that many poll respondents lied to the stranger who phoned them at 4:48pm on a weekday, asking if the precious darling coloring at the kitchen table was initially an “oops.” How many moms want to fess up to that!? “Yes, stranger whose name I don’t know. The child overhearing this polling call, the one who I am currently making dinner for, the one I would give my life for? Total accident at the time of conception. Have a great day.” Nah, man. Half of poll respondents were honest enough to admit that their pregnancies were not planned.

My kids are ages 7, 6, 4, 2. We spawned four kids in 5.8 years. Every pregnancy after the first inevitably brought the same awkward question from close friends, acquaintances and strangers alike: “Did you plan this?” One time I was in the bathroom at church where half a dozen women buzzed in and out. An acquaintance looked at my protruding middle and the line of little ducklings following me. Her curiosity betrayed her sense of etiquette when she loudly exclaimed, “Wow! Did you plan this?!” Oops. A few other women glanced at me. I smiled, and instead answered a question she did not ask, “I’ve always wanted four kids!” Having them in rapid succession, however, that is proving itself to be a special blessing disguised as a few blurry years of mess and mayhem.

I told my husband that the next time someone asked me if a pregnancy was planned, I would reply, “Yes! One day we looked around at all the chaos and tears and said, “You know what we really need here? Another baby.” Then I’d ask them, “How about you? Did you plan all of your children or were some of them surprises? Were you a surprise? How about your parents? Were they surprises?” I wondered if maybe you needed to be on the receiving end of the question for the awkwardness to fully land. Bless my sweet husband for encouraging me to hold my tongue in my pregnant rage, and instead to smile and respond with something kind.

Pregnancies that happen outside of our own “perfect” planning are tightly kept secrets shared only in the tear-filled whispers of sisters and close girlfriends – if we are fortunate enough to have them. If you’ve ever enjoyed the privilege of a friendship close enough to share these intimate life events and the swirls of complicated emotions around them, you know how sacred the ground. And you also know that human gestation has evidently been designed to be just long enough to move a mother’s emotions from shock, fear, and panic – to  joy, hope, and even elation for the precious baby inside her.

After two pink lines informed me I was pregnant with one of my precious blessings, shock and despair set in. I could not speak for one full hour as my brain grappled with what the next year would hold: gaining 40 pounds, repetitive untimely vomiting, needing a new wardrobe that I couldn’t afford, insecurity about my appearance, countless doctor’s appointments, shots, stretch marks, back pain, sleepless nights, culminating with my plump, puffy body being torn, ripped, cut. All this, followed by: sleepless nights with a crying newborn, painful recovery, insecurity about my appearance, losing 40 pounds, mom guilt for not having enough energy to parent my other children. Who knew that two barely decipherable pink lines wielded the power to open a flood gate of mourning the next two years of the life you planned for yourself? This is not the sweet stuff they show you on the EPT commercials.

And, yet…

Waiting on the other side of those fears – is joy immeasurable. We love each individual baby in exactly equal, all-consuming ways, planned or not. When they rejoice, we rejoice. When they hurt, we hurt. When they laugh, we laugh. When they rebel, we are grieved. We care desperately, intimately, wholly. We think about them all day. We cherish these loveable little messy humans beyond words; a shadow of the way our own Father cherishes us. It takes effort now to even remember which of our kids were planned.

We like to think we deserve the right to decide every baby “when” and “how” and “how many.” But ask any experienced parent how much control parents actually have over the timing and events surrounding how their children came to be. If they’re honest, many will give you an experienced smile and humble head-shake. Not much.

Human planning, in many contexts, can be important, helpful and good. But let’s not forget that if the poll is accurate, then chances are high that either your mom or your dad was an “oops;” either you or your husband was an “oops.” Look around you. Half of your coworkers; half of the moms at play group, half of all Hollywood celebrities were ‘accidental’ by their parents’ standards. Could it be that while our lives may not have been planned in the human realm, that each and every one of us was unequivocally created on purpose? Half of all births may be “unplanned,” but one hundred percent of them are on purpose.

The most epically unplanned pregnancy of all time happened to an unwed teenage virgin about 2000 years ago. It’s no wonder Gabriel told Mary she was “highly favored.” Upon learning of this impossible pregnancy, she initially responded, “How?!” but then, with a heart remarkably submissive to God’s plan above her own, she said, “I’m the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you say.”

Ok, Mary handedly wins Best Response To An Unplanned Pregnancy Award. Girlfriend was “highly favored” for a reason. And it’s not like she was living in a 2017 Western culture, where out-of-wedlock babies were standard. No way, man. An out-of-wedlock pregnancy in her day was sure to end in cultural suicide: a broken engagement, a permanent single mother with no financial or spousal support. Mary knew this. And she trusted God completely anyway. She did not wail and weep and protest at what may have felt like the imminent demise of her future. Instead, she verbally declared herself the Lord’s servant, trusting Him with whatever circumstances may arise.

Seriously? The faith of this teenager puts us all to shame. I’d like to nominate Mary of Nazareth for Prom Queen, PTA President and Mayor.

Where does this leave those surprised, terrified and shaken by the news of an unexpected looming birth? Certainly faith like Mary’s is something we can all hope, pray and strive for.

Maybe you just found out you’re pregnant. Maybe you’re terrified, shocked, anxious. Maybe you’re single, maybe you’re married. Maybe your husband doesn’t want another child. Maybe you can’t afford another mouth to feed. Here’s what I hope you hear, from one mama to another. If I could teleport my present self into my bathroom years ago, blankly staring at two pink lines, here is what I would say:

Self! I get it. I know that this wasn’t your timing. But you know what? I PROMISE you, as sure as the sun rises, in an amount of time that will feel like a BLINK, you are going to find yourself hooked by the tiniest heartbeat; besotted over an itty bitty pink newborn; enamored with the little voice calling you “mama.” Your life will never be the same. Yes it will be hard, of course! But every tear, struggle and pain will pale in comparison to the immeasurable gift in your tummy. The child inside you was planned in advance by a God who makes no mistakes. This tiny person’s appointed time begins now. Take heart! The God who said he is with you always; the God who raises people from the dead; He has the power and tender love to equip you to live out your calling in this. Strap on your boots and make some popcorn and watch how He will lovingly provide for every need along the way.

And my old self, through her mascara-stained tears, might have said, “Whatever, man. You don’t know my life.” But I do.

And so mama, in the throes of surprise pregnancy news, I say this to you:

If you need someone who has been there to give you a little pep-talk of encouragement, please feel free to email me.  Because girl, in the words of the ever-loved Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song, “You’re gonna make it after all.”

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: thejbird, Creative Commons

What it’s like to have four kids

photo credit: Creative Commons: anyjazz65

I’ve grown in several areas over these past six and a half years: 1.) Physically: I’ve gained and lost a total of 140lbs. Thirty-five-ish per pregnancy, give or take, as some pregnancies required more chocolate/nachos than others. 2.) Vanity: I ditched any remaining shred of coolness when we bought a minivan, which I had vowed to never do because only nerds drive minivans. 3. Control: I largely stopped dressing my children in coordinated outfits. Ain’t nobody got time for that. 4.) McGuyver-ability quotient: I have grown entirely more adaptable in situations previously deemed too hard or totally despair-worthy, ie: broken legs (we’ve had three so far), newborn baby colds (stopped counting at a dozen), forgetting to bring a pack n play on an overnight trip. NBD, man. Life will go on.

Here is what to expect when you have FOUR KIDS, if you are considering doing such a thing. You crazy lunatic, you.

  1. When you take your whole tribe around town, people act kind of weird, like you have seven heads. I took the kids to the doctor’s for a checkup the other day, and within an hour, FOUR different people stopped me to ask if all four kids belonged to me. One lady even stopped her car and rolled down her window to ask. Yes, you sweet bystander. This freakshow is all mine. Here is a sampling of unsolicited comments I regularly hear (like multiple times a day) while running errands: “Whoa, that’s a lot of kids!””Are they all yours?” “You have your hands full!” “Did you plan this?” “Better you than me!”
  2. Your day-to-day becomes a real life version of the movie Memento. Do you remember that movie? It’s about a guy who can only remember fifteen minute increments before he forgets everything that happened leading up to it. Super suspenseful and stressful, but I don’t really remember much else about it because, like I said, wait – what was I just saying? No, but seriously. I’m the Steph Curry of forgetfulness. The reason is basically that  your brain is like an internet browser (this is a real science fact that I pulled from my vast knowledge of sciencey things). Moms of four children have approximately 462 browser tabs open at any given time. Did I pay the phone bill? Is today Wednesday? Wednesday is early pickup. When did the baby nurse last? On which side? We need solar panels. Why does child #2 have his outfit on entirely backwards? Why do I not care? Has child #3 consumed any vegetables today…yesterday…the last three days? Meanwhile, four of the tabs (the children) are talking to you like those video pop up ads that come out of NOWHERE, yelling about who the heck knows what. So, for reasons you can imagine, some things are just forgotten: jackets, backpacks, sending your mom the Mothers Day card that has been sitting on your desk for a MONTH, texting people back, dropping off the dry cleaning, ordering Nespresso pod refills.
  3. Getting out of the house every morning is basically like living in the movie Jumanji. I’ve been doing this four kids thang every day for the last nine months, so the chaos has become my “normal.” A few weeks ago I had a doctor’s appointment in the morning, so David had to get all of the kids ready, fed and out the door by 8:30. David is very hands-on when it comes to the dad-stuff. Diapers, feeding, dressing, you name it, he seriously does it all. But until this day, he hadn’t done a full morning with all four kids on his own. He met up with me to switch cars at 8:45. All the children were fed, dressed and even had shoes on. When I asked him how it went, he calmly responded, “Yeah, that was insane.” I guess it is. It’s the baby crying because the three year old is sitting on her while you try to brush the eldest’s tangled hair into a ponytail; it’s the five year old, unable to decipher the English words you are speaking when you tell him for the eleventieth time to PUT ON THE SHOES, ONTO THE FEET THAT ARE YOURS, THAT BELONG TO YOUR LEGS, AT THE BOTTOM OF THE LEGS, JUST BEYOND THE ANKLES, EACH FOOT GETS ONE SHOE AND PLEASE PUT THEM ON NOW BEFORE MY HEAD EXPLODES. NOW. NOW. NOW. NOW. And then you get a miffed response, “OK!” Like, “Sheesh!” Like, “Omigosh, mom you need to calm down.” Yes, because clearly I am the unreasonable one.
  4. After you take a shower and clip your nails, and then clip your kids’ nails, by the time you are done, you have just clipped one hundred nails. ONE HUNDRED NAILS. (Also I just realized that could be a great name for the band I will start with my children. We will figure out how to play instruments at some point after we have mastered the putting on of the shoes. First things first.)
  5. Speaking of showers, any tiny moment of privacy is now long gone. I took literally 3 minutes to shower off the stickiness from making breakfast the other morning. All the while, one little darling stood outside asking if I was done yet because they needed to show me a trick. “How about now? Are you done now?” “I will be done in two minutes, you precious angel from my womb!” (I said either that or something like that…-ish) “Ok…” (seven seconds later:) “How about now? Has it been two minutes?” So I just canceled the tiny remaining shower I thought I was entitled to. I was rushed through my drying-off process and over to the “trick,” which turned out to be a child who had spread a small blanket on the floor…and then jumped over it.
  6. One fun thing about having four kids is the opportunity to cook for multiple picky eaters at once. When cooking for four tiny food critics, you are pretty much guaranteed to never make a meal that every person will enjoy or even say positive things about. This is why I am working on training up my children in the way they should go. And here that means don’t critique mom’s meal choice and hard work, lest you skip dinner and have to wait for breakfast. I’m trying to implement a rule that when they ask what’s for dinner and I describe a lovely, nutritious meal, they may respond in one of two ways: a.) “Yay! Thanks, mom!” OR b.) “Ok!”  If I did not ask for your opinion on the meal, then you can just keep those words in your head, mmkay?
  7. You will probably bathe your four children less often than you bathed your kids when you had one or two. Not necessarily saying that I do this, but I’ve heard some totally reasonable moms of four kids say that they will go multiple days between kid baths. If I did know a mom who said that, I’d be like, “Hey, you seem like a pretty cool lady with great taste in music and Netflix shows. I trust your discretion when it comes to your kids’ bath frequency.”  A hypothetical mom might space baths a few days apart when it’s necessary for her sanity; like when she needs bedtime to happen NOW, and not like in 45 minutes after lathering, rinsing and repeating on FOUR separate bodies. But that’s just what I’ve heard. For some people. Sometimes. Or maybe a lot of times. (You don’t know my life.)
  8. Even though strangers regularly comment on your reproductive schedule and gawk at you like you’re straight-up cray; and even though the day is bursting at the seams with chaos and unreasonable behavior and dishes and crumbs and dirty cars; and even though walking through a buffet line with a nine month old in an Ergo is like wearing an octopus; and even though the laundry situation is so dire that you have considered starting a nudist colony; and even though, wait…what was I saying? Oh, yeah. Ok, even though all of these things make life hard and complicated and sometimes your head almost explodes, each time you bring home yet another baby, you are blown away that you can love something as individually and tenderly as all the other babies, who you thought took up every last morsel of your love capacity. And at the end of the day, when all the precious angels are asleep, and you are enjoying a glass of Sauv Blanc and a bag of Orville Redenbacher, Netflix binging alongside your husband, you marvel at your lives together and the babies entrusted to you. You wouldn’t have planned it any other way. (Except maybe if the other way meant you could have a free maid and chef, then yes, definitely I would have planned it that way.)

 

Image Credit: Creative Commons, anyjazz65

Ain’t love a kick in the head

I don’t know how single moms do it. I solo-parented for one day and found myself Yelping nearby “Nail Salons with childcare.” (Bad news: turns out this isn’t a thing.)

Raising three kids under four is like working at a spa. You spend all your energy helping other people get comfortable. You watch them relax, eat and do their favorite things all day long. They’re living the dream. But you? You’re hungry, exhausted and just when you’re about to take your lunch break, someone has soiled himself and you need to give him a bath…Okay, fine I’ve never been to a spa.

Back to last weekend. I desperately rallied my tiny troops so we could leave the house for a fun outing, “Go potty!” “Stop hitting your sister!” “Don’t eat the dog food!” My patience waned as the clock ticked. The kids were so slow to obey. They disobeyed me in the same ways we’d discussed dozens of times. Didn’t they know I only wanted what was best for them? When I tell them to use the restroom, it’s because I don’t want their teensy little bladders to uncomfortably fill up mid-car ride. Jack doesn’t like it when Selah hits him, so Jack shouldn’t hit Selah. (Golden rule = common sense, y’all.) And for crying out loud, don’t eat the dog food. It tastes like, well, dog food, and we are VEGETARIANS, you guys.

I was exhausted and annoyed for having to repeat myself. I wished they’d just obey me. That they’d turn back to a few of the very basic lessons my husband and I have been drilling in since infancy: Obey us. Love others. Be a vegetarian.

We were already five minutes late when I plopped my 3-year old son on my lap to put on his shoes. He had one hand in each shoe, and against my repeated instruction, he wildly swung his shoe-hands over his shoulder behind him, nailing me in the eye with the rubber toe of his tiny Chuck Taylor. “Ouch!” I cried. “Jack! I told you NOT to wave your shoes in the air. You disobeyed me, and now you’ve hurt me!” He shrunk and began to cry out of shame and remorse. “Sorry, Mom,” he said through tears. My eye throbbed in pain. I vacillated between wanting to discipline my boy and wanting to check the mirror for a shiner. Either way, I really wanted him to wallow in his mistake for a minute before I forgave him for this “grievous” offense of…hmm. accidentally bonking me in the eye.

After stewing for a minute I realized my own giant pride had rationalized my failure to exhibit even an ounce of grace towards my son. “But he disobeyed ME! His MOTHER!” I thought. “He said sorry, but why should I be so quick to forgive him when he brought this upon himself through his own disobedience?”

And then it hit me: God forgives me every day. Instantly. I disobey Him (in much more grievous ways than an accidental kick in the head,) and He forgives me. Immediately. Boom. Done. He calls me to obey His commandments because He loves me and wants what’s best for me. And when I disobey and cry out to him in remorse, he catches my tears with the very hands that were nailed to the cross to pay for the sin I just committed.

Tainted by original sin (thanks for that, Eve), I sometimes cave into my desires to disobey God. And then I reap the consequences. My children disobeyed me (sin), and I reacted gracelessly, in a fit of rage (sin). Jack and I don’t share the same exact struggles. I don’t, for example, desire to wildly flail my shoe-hands. (I prefer to use shoe-hands for handstands. Better traction.) But we are cut from the same original-sin cloth.

God’s Word tells me, “Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” (1 Peter 2:1) All of these things destroy relationships and hurt people. His rules make sense. When I obey them, my life is better. I’m living the way I was designed to live. His burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)

I recently heard someone describe parenting as “looking at yourself in a full-length mirror.” AMEN. Nothing in my life has so clearly demonstrated my failures and inadequacies like parenting. I used to think I was patient. Then I had kids. And now I understand that my own grace and patience is a joke. So what now?

Enter the One who invented patience, willing to fill me with His spirit if I seek Him. James 4:6-8 tells us that God gives grace to the humble. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” So what does that look like? It starts with making time to read His word. Sound hard? Pray about it. Pray for God to stir a desire so strong in your heart that you can’t wait to spend time with Him. And then take a tip from Nike and Just Do It. If you have time to Facebook or read this essay about fantasy nail salons and Jesus (hopefully your takeaway emphasizes the latter), then for Pete’s sake you have time to open your Bible. (I mean this lovingly and I’m talking to myself here, too.) Because it’s only through Jesus that I can channel the kind of grace to immediately forgive a shoe-handed kick in the face.

Lord, thank You for the beautiful, exhausting, hilarious and humbling job of parenthood. Thank You for showing me where I fall short and how much I need You. Help me to parent my children with the kind of unbridled grace and mercy You show me. I fall short every day. And You forgive me every day, Your steadfast love never ceases; Your mercies are new each morning. Thank You, Jesus.

A lesson in magnifying joy

My 3-year-old son broke his tibia two months ago. This daredevil child (who I pulled out of the zoo’s alligator pit by his feet a few months back), fractured his leg by – get this – jumping from the coffee table to the couch. Seriously? The kid has fallen from a 7-foot high play structure without a scratch, but landing on the soft couch was apparently awkward enough to score us three trips to the hospital and a bright orange cast from toe to mid-thigh.

Allow me to reassure you that my child’s broken leg is more reflective of his personality than my parenting. My non-daredevil daughter has made it to four-and-a-half years old with no injury worse than a “paper cut.” I use quotations because no one has actually seen one of these “horrifying afflictions” on her skin. But we do purchase Band-Aids in bulk because, well, she gets them “all the time.” If you mother a bouncy boy, I’m sure you can empathize with the wildness of little males. And if you do not, please pause for a moment to appreciate all the additional gray your head does not have.

So there we were, three weeks into the chaos that is parenting three preschool-aged children, two of whom did not walk. According to the orthopedist, even a drop of water on the cast required an immediate blow drying, and I felt like I’d busted out my Conair daily. I’d removed tomato sauce, ranch dressing, dirt and jelly from that neon, weaponized toddler leg. I’d even smelled it, certain that nearby dog droppings had made its way into the tiny crevices. (It wound up being the dirt-caked jelly. Never thought I’d be so happy to smell dirt-caked jelly.)

Don’t get me started on getting the children into or out of the car (which we do a dozen times a day). Remember that logic puzzle where the farmer is crossing a river with a fox, goose and a bag of beans? He has to bring them all to the other side of the river and can only carry one at a time, but can’t leave the fox alone with the goose, or the goose with the beans. It takes him seven trips to bring all of the parties across the river. This was my life bringing groceries inside the house. I was the farmer and I strategically struggled juggling bags and children into my house, only in my version, the goose’s leg had a neon orange cast and the farmer, goose, fox and bag of beans all whined excessively.

Three weeks in, I was tired and defeated. I cracked open my bible to James 1:2-3. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” Joy? Joy?! Shoot. I had complained more in three weeks of my son’s broken leg than I had in my three decades of life leading up to it. “My arms hurt!” “This cast stinks!” “Why do you people need to eat dinner every niiiiiiight?!!!”

James preaches on, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:19-20) Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…So basically if we used myself as an example, you could just take me and then do the exact the opposite of that, and there’s the way we’re supposed to act. “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” (James 1:26) Worthless? Yikes, James.

So where do I go from here after that kind of admonishing? James actually hand-holds me through this one: “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror, and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” Reading James 1 in the midst of this joyless parenting trial felt like a quick mirror-check at a dinner party, where I find gobs of mascara under my eyes. “Whoa, sister. Good thing you checked that mirror!” I reassure myself but then I leave the mascara under my eyes and head back to chat it up with my friends. How ridiculous, right? And yet, that messy mascara is my spiritual gunk when I read these words and don’t let them impact my attitude.

I’M READY TO JAMES 1:19-IFY MY PARENTING.

A few nights ago, my husband suggested we take a few minutes to pray together, thanking God for the blessings in our lives. Air conditioning, clean running water, healthy food, healthy babies, access to some of the best medical care on the planet, books, forgiveness, hot coffee, a washing machine, a car, a job, Nutella. We could have gone on forever. How quick I was to complain about ONE hardship amidst all this bounty. Reminding ourselves of God’s perfect and generous provision readjusted my perspective immediately. I was suddenly…joyful.

It took my 3-year-old’s broken leg to magnify the joylessness I allowed to hold me captive in my parenting. I’m hoping I shed that joylessness along with the nasty orange fiberglass cast we sawed off and left behind at the doctor’s office. I’m ready to James 1:19-ify my parenting. Let’s do it together!

Have you ever felt joyless? What things do you do that bring joy back into your joyless life? I’d love to hear from you.

When Your Life Becomes a Pinterest Fail

I recently had a day. Like, a DAY. You know the kind? When you wake up too late for coffee? (Fail.) You frantically rush the kids to dress, eat and sit still for a bumpy, mediocre ponytail that you’d have NEVER let your mom get away with. Ants invaded your kitchen while you slept – a pleasant reminder that you did a lousy job wiping down the counters after dinner last night. (Another fail.) You are a grump, and grumpiness is scientifically proven to be eleventy-gazillion times more contagious than Hand-Foot-Mouth-disease. So now your kids are all grumps, too. And you’re annoyed at them for being grumps. (Fail again.) You barely make it through carpool pickup at noon and by the time you’re flipping four burnt but passable grilled cheeses (fail) you remember that you never dropped off the husband’s dry cleaning which needs to be ready by tomorrow. (Fail.) The laundry is out of control, you don’t remember when you last mopped and your kids won’t touch their lunches. So you escape into the pantry and cry. Because how is it humanly possible for a person to spin their wheels this hard yet fail so miserably?

When I quit my paid job to stay home and raise babies, I expected a few things: 1.) My real house would now look like my Pinterest house. 2.) The stress in my life would disappear. 3.) After pouring into them daily, my children would obviously “arise and call me blessed,” à la Proverbs 31. Isn’t that supposed to be the legacy of a stay-at-home mom? That’s her entire job, what excuse does she have for failure?

Yet here I am, five years of full-time motherhood under my belt, basking in my shortcomings as I sob into the unorganized hodge-podge of processed foods I swore I’d never feed my kids.

After a teary afternoon of failure-basking, I finally snapped out of it to realize my problem wasn’t my litany of mom-fails; my problem was my misplaced identity. I’d been measuring my worth on a scale of everything but Jesus. Pinterest, Martha Stewart, the gluten-free Joneses. I measured my success by my ability to avoid feeding my kids refined sugar (hello, popsicles); by how clean my floors were (not); by how organized my pantry was (please see “hodge-podge”). Imagine the most eternally-insignificant way to gauge success, and that was my barometer.

I know better. And yet I was letting “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22) I was speeding on the expressway to fruitless living. As I put the words to paper, I now realize how out-of-whack my priorities can get. The desire for cleaner floors, my obsession with 7 extra grams of sugar and the absence of labeled snack baskets in my pantry were sending me to the brink. Who is this girl?

Have you ever done this? What kind of yardsticks do you use to measure your worth? Job promotions? Raises? Losing baby weight? Being a “Good Mom”? Punctuality? Being noticed? Being liked? Having an organized house? The list never ends. It’s great to excel in these areas, and God can be glorified in all of these things – but they cannot be the measure by which we obtain our value. If they are, we are missing the gospel. And this week, I missed the gospel.

Sometimes we know cognitively that we need Jesus’s forgiveness, but our hearts are a little slower on the uptake. Understanding the gospel and being transformed by it must go hand-in-hand.

“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all…God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:7-8; 10-11)

I was going through an identity crisis and I didn’t even know it until I was disciplined for it. If my hope and identity is in the eternal, if I am properly fixated on loving God and loving people; of going into the world and preaching the good news to all creation (Mark 16:15), I shouldn’t be rattled by the inability to make my pantry look adorable.

The tears of self-defeat sure as heck sting. But how grateful I am for this discipline; for the reminder that if I seek unimportant, worldly things, my life will inevitably be shattered by those same unimportant, worldly things. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18) So let’s turn our eyes from the burnt grilled cheeses and ant conventions in our kitchens to a kind of mind-blowing love that anchors our hollow hearts with forgiveness and hope.

* Photo by Kai Lazarte via Flickr

Are minivans basically flannel pajamas?

I’ve always hated minivans and their radically sloping hoods. Why are they so close to the ground? They look like clown cars. Or like if Wayne Szalinski took a Smart Car and blew it up with the machine in from “Honey I Blew Up the Baby.” (Don’t pretend you’re too good for that movie. We both know you watched it and “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” dozens of times as a child.)

Remember those awful 1990s minivans with wood paneled exteriors? Some great things came out of the 90s: slap bracelets, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, pogs. But wood-paneled minivans? Not so much. They go in the same 90s-fail category as Crystal Pepsi and Olestra. But I digress.

Anyway, here’s my problem: our fourth child is expanding my uterus daily, and we are up against a hard deadline. Before August we will either need to purchase a larger vehicle, or strap one child to the roof. In the interest of not getting arrested or committed, I have decided to go with the first option. David and I test drove some cars a few weekends ago, and the results were unbelievable…I kind of fell in love with a minivan. The Suburban was great, too. But…the minivan maneuvered like a little coupe compared to the ‘burb. It had two dvd screens in the rear and SIX CUPHOLDERS in the front seat. This made me so happy there were almost tears. (Extra cup holders are my love language, along with nachos and Pad Thai noodles.) And the doors just swooshed open with the click of the key fob! Picture it, people: stroller, diaper bag, newborn in my Ergo, plus three kids ages five and under barreling towards the car. But then, “click!” doors open. Three older kids let themselves in. If the cup holders didn’t create tears, the button-slide-doors definitely warranted them.

Sitting in the car was so comfortable, I felt like I was wearing flannel pjs. But therein lies the problem. The car also looks like flannel pjs…So…am I the worst if I don’t want to drive around town in flannel pjs? I wouldn’t ever wear them to the grocery or to school pick up…but isn’t driving a minivan essentially wearing flannel pjs…and a retainer and a green face mask while your hair is in curlers?! flannel pjs

“Hey guys, I’m just going to make a quick Costco run.”

Perhaps my biggest takeaway from this dilemma should be the realization that I need to think less of outward appearances. Let’s be real, everyone I know who drives one is awesome and completely rocks the minivan. But do I have what it takes to get over myself? Is driving a minivan really like grocery shopping in flannel pajamas? Or am I just a self-absorbed whiner who can’t identify a first world problem if it ran her over in a wood-paneled minivan?

What do you think?! Can I pull of a minivan? Suburbans are awesome but they don’t have sliding doors! Help me, Obi-Momfriends. You’re my only hope. No, seriously. I’d love your thoughts.


 

WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME?!

We’re a week into transitional kindergarten. Now that my sweet family has endured my overcaffeinated-drill-sergeant-8:05AM-self, I feel the need to calmly ask every mother who has gone before me…WHY DID YOU NOT TELL ME ABOUT ALL THE THINGS?! Why are we not collectively freaking out about the madness of elementary? I just stepped into a whole new world of daily school drop-off and pick-up and it is NOTHING like I expected. I need to unpack this. Please help me.

Friends whose tiny ones have not yet begun the daily school routine, I want to warn you about a few things that come along with your oldest child beginning real school. It’s not like preschool, where attendance is optional and you can excuse your tardiness with, “Supes long line in Starbucks drive-thru!” …Ok, so after I typed that out I just realized that was actually never an acceptable reason for tardiness. Sorry about that, Ms. Kathy and Ms. Tammy. Thanks for not expelling Selah.

Ahem.

Thing #1: You will cry.

I used to stare blankly at the weepy-mom facebook posts about little Junior starting school. “Let me get this straight,” I thought. “You’ve been wiping Junior’s bottom every few hours for his entire life and now you get a break for three measly hours and you’re going to cry about it? Just…No.” I prematurely decided that upon Selah starting school, I would excitedly cheers my insulated coffee mug with the other moms’ to collectively celebrate a job well done: one kid is slightly more independent than they were last year. Hear, hear!

And then I dropped my precious baby girl off on her first day. I held the unexpected tears back like a hero, but only until I stepped out of the classroom. Then I ugly cried all the way to my car, and when I looked up to wipe away the mascara-laden waterworks, a speed-walking, sidewalk-staring 10-year old boy nearly ran over me with his rolly backpack. Today I had to jump on the grass to dodge a 5th grade Tony Hawk. It’s a jungle out there, you guys.

Thing #2: The parking situation is worse than Target on a Saturday.

Selah’s school is 1.5 miles from our house. It should take four minutes to get there. But I’d never driven past at 8:10am, when ALL OF THE PEOPLE from ALL OF THE HOUSES come out to look for one of 20 parking spaces. The four-way stop has 30 cars waiting to turn left! I finally turned left but I’m here and there are no parking spaces! I can see her classroom but I cannot GET to her classroom! If I didn’t have to face these people twice a day for the next 8 years I would bust out some of my interpretive driving moves. Once you do finally park (a block away, on the street), you scramble and sweat to unbuckle and wrangle the older two, a backpack and a preciously chunktastic one year old who is too slow and too shoe-less to walk on his own. You run like the dickens with your wild chickens to find a perfectly calm classroom, full of punctual children practicing their letters on individual whiteboards. How did everyone else get here so EARLY? Is there an underground parking lot? Do they teleport? How do all the other parents know all of life’s secrets?!

Thing #3: Three hours is not that long.

So you drop off your oldest on her very first day. You blubber to your husband about how you are certain you brought your sweet baby girl home from the hospital exactly three months ago and now she is in school. You momentarily get a hold of yourself to make a quick trip to the grocery store with your other two wild things. You put your groceries away, do some laundry, the standard morning pick-up of the living room toy massacre, reclothe your boys who are now inexplicably stripped down to their chonies. And boom, it’s 11:15 and you need to go pick up your girl. The time just evaporates into the air.

Thing #4: Grab someone in front of you on this wild parenting ride and beg them to tell you the ins and outs.

In that vein, Mamas and Papas of elementary people: TALK TO ME. I am one week in and I just can’t even. Selah’s teacher is so incredible I cried again at back to school night as she explained every tiny detail of what she does for her students. I am overcome. With joy. With mourning. With pride. With excitement and fear and exhaustion. And we’ve only been in school FOUR DAYS! Help me. Tell me all of the things. What do I need to know!?

 

3604332214_905b4aafdd_zIs this a 10k? Or is it parents at morning drop off? WHO KNOWS?

Photo credit: Paul-W, Creative Commons

Present over perfect

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It beckoned me from in between the utility bill and Papa Murphy’s mailer. A shiny, perfect Pottery Barn Kids catalog. I ditched the other envelopes that rudely reminded me of adulthood to indulge in the teeny backpacks and preciously-preppy baby models. My own real-life ragamuffins could wait. It was time to accessorize my kids’ rooms and monogram their lunchboxes. In my head.

Selah starts transitional kindergarten in the fall and I can’t wait to vicariously do the whole back-to-school thing. To walk her into the classroom on her first day; backpack stuffed with fresh crayolas, sharpened pencils and shiny Lisa Frank folders covered in hot pink puppy rainbow bubble sunshine ponies. I’ll fill her little lunchbox with pb&j, sliced apples (skin removed if I’m feeling extra fancy), goldfishies and carrots. A happy face on a post-it if I have time. Look how perfectly-doting and precious I am in my head, packing this sweet child up for her first day of real school! And right when I was about to congratulate my future-self for imaginary “fancy” parenting, I spotted the lunch boxes on page 13 of that PBK catalog:

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Wow…cool lunchbox, Hailey. I love that your mom made you a BUTTERFLY BRIOCHE SANDWICH with herbed ricotta, mandolined radishes, parsley and chives that she probably picked from her organic garden this morning while you slept, after she did Cross Fit in her Lululemon pants and before she made your dad eggs benedict. I have Lululemon pants too! But I save them for special occasions…like big holiday meals requiring elastic waistbanded pants. Anyway, I’m sure Selah would be happy to share some of her Shark Bite fruit snacks with you. What’s that? Oh, I don’t know if they’re gluten-free, and yes they probably do have high fructose corn syrup…Probably extra HFCS, actually. And red dye 40…and probably red dyes 1-39, too. Look, you guys both have love notes from your moms though, so you have that in common! Yours is in French? That’s cool…Selah’s note is just a picture I drew of stick figures high-fiving. But stick figures are the same in every language, so she’s essentially multi-lingual as well. I think you’ll both get along swimmingly.

Another lunchbox in the PBK catalog had a sweet little note affixed with washi tape and the sandwich was cut into a circle with julienned red bell peppers affixed to the top, making it look like a baseball.

Is this real life?

How is Selah supposed to face her fine-dining peers on the inevitable day I forget her lunch and drop off Taco Bell? Pottery Barn Kids, can we please style the next round of lunch boxes with PBJ, baby carrots and Pirate’s Booty? I feel like Pinterest is forcing us to prove how much we love our children through an unspoken new calculation of school lunch complexity. OP (organic produce) + GF (gluten free items) + BB (bento box) + FSLTOTWTA (foods shaped like things other than what they are: bread as baseballs, bananas as mummies, sandwiches that look like storm troopers, bread rolled like sushi, anything cut with a cookie cutter – except cookies, of course, please see “GF.”) = parenting love quotient. I hope you don’t buy those Smuckers Uncrustables because, well, OP/GF/FSLOT/PWA fail, and clearly you do not love your child. (If you did buy these on accident, you can bring them to me and I will eat them all. They are DELICIOUS.)

To be clear, I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with school lunches fancier than the French Laundry. If you have the capacity to do this for your kids and also not lose your mind, you go, Glen Coco. But in this age of social media where we trap ourselves into measuring self-worth by Instagram likes and comments with clapping emojicons, we should ask ourselves: are we making these lunches for our kids? Or is it for the iPhone photo, promptly blasted to our friends while we shoo away the precious babies at our feet who we are allegedly assembling these masterpieces for?

Maybe this isn’t a problem for you. But let me tell you a story about a horrible pet owner. Two years ago, a blubbering lady whisked her dying 5 lb. dog to the vet. The dog had contracted a stomach virus and became dehydrated so quickly that she started seizing and nearly died. After that little pup’s first night of IV fluids in a cold cage, the pet owner came to visit. She walked into the exam room and was so struck by the pathetic shivering preciousness before her, complete with a tiny hot pink bandage from toes to shoulder, that she immediately… TOOK A PICTURE WITH HER PHONE. Not picked up the dog to snuggle it. Not spoke sweet encouraging words to a scared 5 lb. ball of fur. She exploited the tiny pup to share a pic with her Facebook peeps. (Whoever she may be…Ok, fine it was me. Pet owner fail.)

I know what you’re thinking: weren’t we just talking about school lunches? Yes. But it’s the same thing. There’s a right way to take a picture of your 5 lb. furball and post it on Facebook; and then there’s what I did. Both look exactly the same to the onlooker. There’s a right way to knock it out of the park with school lunches more intricate than the Sistine Chapel. And then there’s missing the point. Maybe trilingual Hailey loves radishes and herbed ricotta. But if it were my kid, she’d be way more stoked on a bagel and cream cheese, no matter how much Facebook liked the brioche butterfly.

I guess my main point is this: if you love making your kid fancy lunches, AWESOME. If you’d rather throw a Smuckers Uncrustable in a paper bag with an apple but you’re great at doing crafts with your kids, ROCK ON. If you can’t craft but love hosting dance parties in the living room with your littles, SWEET. If dance parties are out because at weddings you have been mistaken for both Steve Urkel and Elaine from Seinfeld, but you’re present and engaged when you’re running errands with your babies, YOU ARE A STAR.

In this era of Pinterest-everything and first-graders’ school lunches more elaborate than the dinner served at my wedding, let’s not miss the point. Love your babies however you were built to love them best. And don’t succumb to the pressure to gourmetize school lunch if that ain’t your jam. Heaven knows we mamas have enough on our plates already. Hailey’s mom isn’t real. She is an employee of Pottery Barn Kids whose full-time job is to beautifully style high-end lunchboxes with sandwiches that took an hour to assemble. She nailed it, but you don’t have to. We all have this imaginary ideal modern woman in our heads who is perfectly fit, rested, cooks like Giada, never nags her husband and does not get frazzled. This woman is not a thing. If you meet someone who says she is, she is lying. Your sweet kids adore you because you’re their mom. Not because their lunches look like they had a personal stylist.

“Present over perfect. Relationship over rushing. People over pressure. Meaning over mania.”

-Shauna Niequist

Let’s choose present over perfect every time.

photo credit: s.h.u.t.t.e.r.b.u.g Creative Commons

 

When Parenting Gets Easier

Jack’s cast came off a few weeks ago.

How deceptively simple that sentence sounds. Allow me to reword it for accuracy purposes. Ahem: A hospital tech wielded a loud, motorized saw to hack off my 3 year old’s stinky orange cast. Jack screamed and writhed while I held him down and simultaneously parented my two other children who were 3 feet away. They took one look at the tech, her fierce saw and Jack’s screaming face, and were terrified into angelic obedience. (Maybe I should always carry around a loud machine to ensure perfectly-behaved children…If you see me with a vacuum cleaner in my purse, you’ll know why.)

I’d been waiting four weeks for this child’s leg to heal, to get that stinking cast off. Four weeks of carrying around a 33 lb. 3 year-old and a 22 lb. non-walking 16 month-old. Convinced my life would be easier as soon as all three of my children were walking, I had long-ago circled this date on my calendar. I talked about it to anybody who asked about Jack’s leg, mentioned the word cast or even looked in my general direction. I told whoever would listen of the light at the end of my tunnel. May 2nd…May second…May my second child walk again!

May 2nd came, and in we went to the pediatric orthopedist. There was screaming, whining and Daniel Tiger. There was a dropped lollipop embedded in hospital waiting room carpet, which I immediately scooped up and threw into the trash. There were subsequent tears and copious amounts of hand sanitizer. There were wipes to remove the sticky from the fingers. There was a motorized saw to remove the cast from the leg (and hopefully not to accidentally remove the leg from the body). And then it was done. Suddenly, the cast was gone and we were free to go home. I picked up the sticky crayons, paper, wipes and remaining evidence of three miniature people waiting in an exam room for an hour.  I was ready for the simplicity and ease I so vividly foresaw for us after this glorious day. I was ready for a manicure.

We walked fifteen minutes to the car in 95 degree heat. (A mild spring day in Fresno.) My ogre-like double stroller was especially cumbersome at 3:15pm, smack-dab in the middle of nap time. The kids were sleepy and deliriously requested unreasonable things like going to John’s Incredible Pizza immediately or that I buy them actual jet packs for flying. (“Can’t we just go to Target and see if they have jet packs?”) And then I noticed the weirdest thing. The cast was off, but there was still whining. There was still screaming. Jack still couldn’t walk.

I loaded the big kids in their car seats, reached down for Carter to find that after our fifteen minute walk, only one of his feet still had a shoe on it. The other was likely hurled from the stroller while I was busy daydreaming of manicures. At this point I was spent and wouldn’t have gone back for the shoe even if had magically transformed into gold and I could sell it to send all three kids to college.

We were all sweaty and exhausted. I sighed, reveling in the fact that as long as these babes were buckled into their seats, the 20-minute drive home wouldn’t involve much parenting. I could sit in my driver’s seat, blasting the A/C and Tay Swift while we enjoyed the ride home. Then Jack declared a potty emergency. And as I unbuckled his seatbelt I realized: There is no light at the end of this tunnel. This is parenting. It will never, ever be easy or simple or perfect. So why do I keep setting little parenting finish lines? “It’ll be easier when they are potty-trained…When everyone is in school…When they can make their own food and I’m not preparing 12 meals a day…”

Funny how I keep setting my hopes on all these arbitrary finish lines and milestones, as if that’s when parenting will suddenly become easy. The finish lines come and go, but the “easy” never comes. Time after time I realize that I’m setting my hopes on the wrong finish lines. There’s only one thing in the world that doesn’t change or disappoint, and it actually isn’t “in the world.” It’s weird to know something so fundamentally in my head and watch my heart repeatedly stake its hope in other things.

After Jack’s cast came off, and to celebrate my 30th birthday, David rented us a beach house. OH, how I anticipated this trip. In the midst of scream-filled grocery trips, unending laundry piles and a newly potty-trained young man who aims about as well as 50 Cent, looking forward to this trip pulled me through some gnarly parenting days. And then the day finally came. We left our kids with their saintly grandparents and joined our friends for a whole weekend of board games, wine tasting, shared meals, dancing and great company. But do you know what I did? I looked so forward to this trip that I put all my hope in it. I fixed my eyes on it. While the trip itself did not disappoint, (seriously, it was the best vacation ever,)  it did end. The week after we came home I was in a funk because I staked my hope in something as fleeting as a vacation.

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on JesusConsider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Has there ever been a more relevant Bible verse for the all-consuming, failure-ridden job of parenting? We need not lose heart in parenting if we only have one finish line, unchanging and perfect. If my finish line is the checkout line at Target and I get projectile-puked on while perusing the sunglasses, well, I’ve failed and now I also smell like puke. But if my finish line is at the end of my race, with eyes fixed on Jesus, then NBD to that projectiled popcorn and slurpee. Jesus works anxiety-miracles in my heart and Tide works laundry miracles in my washing machine, and my race will go on. Eyes on Jesus, y’all.

I have no idea what it’s like to parent teens or adults, but I already lose sleep over what my fearless, fun-seeking 3 year old boy will be like at 16. Kris Jenner once said, “Little kids, little problems; Big kids, big problems.” (I hope we can still be friends after I’ve quoted Keeping Up with the Kardashians…but if that’s a deal-breaker, you can just pretend I heard it on NPR while some snappy jazz music faded in and out.) The woman has a point. Parenting starts out hard and just gets harder. There is not an “easy” part of parenting. Ever.

Infant sleep-training failures, toddler-puke at Target failures, your adult kid marrying the guy who interrupted Taylor Swift at the VMAs; whatever parenting stage we’re in, it will NEVER be easy. It will always be hard, we will always fail; but how much more so if we fix our eyes on the here and now? Fellow parents: let’s do ourselves a favor and stop erecting miniature finish lines. Let’s not grow weary and lose heart. Let’s parent our kids with eternity at the forefront of our minds, lest we allow the puke that covers us at Target to define our races.

And now for the vanishing cast shot:
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Ta-da! Here’s to hoping we never, ever have to see an orthopedist again.

 

Made for each other

I was making dinner last week while Jack (3) played in the backyard. I realize how idyllic and normal that sentence sounds, but let me assure you, it is loaded. Jack is a wildling. An explorer to the core; an adventurous limit-pusher who generally does not adhere to reason. I’m struggling with the words to adequately convey this child’s personality, but I trust this story will help: a few months ago at the zoo, I pulled Jack out of the alligator exhibit by his feet.

The kid gives me frequent heart palpitations, and maybe there’s no causation here, but I’m just saying that my scalp had not sprouted a single gray until he began crawling, and now I have at least 17.

Anyway, I’m chopping onions, looking up every 15 seconds to make sure that Jack is not choking on a grasshopper, scaling the pool fence or, you know, spontaneously combusting. Glancing up from my cutting board again, expecting to find my dirt-covered boy playing with sticks in the grass, what do I see? Sticks, grass…no Jack. He’s just absent from where he was standing 15 seconds ago. Gone. I search the left side of the yard and then the right before ditching the onions and running after my precious, heart attack inducing Houdini.

I’m standing in the backyard, exactly where Jack was in the middle of the lawn, and he is nowhere. Three new gray hairs sprout. The gate to the front yard is latched but now I’m transforming into a super-hardcore Liam Neeson a la Taken, convinced Jack has been abducted by creepy Euro gangsters. (Rational idea, myself.) Before hastily purchasing a plane ticket to Albania, I see flickers of a small figure moving between the fence posts just behind our yard. You guys, Jack had found a loose fence post, moved it to the side and just walked through it. This fence backs up to a small vacant field and then a super busy street, with cars whooshing by at lightning speeds. I moved the loose post to the side and stared at my small blonde boy, who stared back at me. My eyes must have looked like they were going to pop out of my head, because he immediately said, “Sorry, Mom!” before running back through the opening and into our yard.

I mean…How do I stop the gray with a kid like this????????????? Does Clairol have a frequent buyer punch card? Because I need one.

I heard a Focus on the Family podcast a few years ago right around the time Jack was born (I’m convinced the timing here is no coincidence). On the podcast, some parents with grown children were talking about how specifically God designed people. Take, for example, our hands. They are crafted carefully. We can test the temperature of food, or check baby’s head for a fever. We use the same hands to dry tears and spank defiant bottoms (just keeping it real). And they are shaped perfectly for cradling a nursing baby’s head. So specifically did He design our hands for the tasks they would meet. How much more specifically did God design my personality to pair with my child’s? He knows my strengths and weaknesses, He knows where I need sharpening and refining. He knows that my son requires a specific type of patience and steadfastness to parent him daily. And He chose me – in spite of me lacking this very patience and steadfastness – to be his mama. To love him, train him up and walk along side this sticky, bouncy wildling. He chose me for Jack, and Jack for me.

In the last three years, Jack has knocked down a few parenting rules I made for myself pre-kids. (Hypothetical parenting is always adorable after you actually have kids, isn’t it?) Before I had children, I remember watching kids run amok or scream their faces off in public and I’d think, “Wow, you should really control your child.” Then I had kids, and now I get it. You can’t “control your child.” You just do your best. You love your kids, parent consistently and even then you fail. Sometimes you’re exhausted, defeated and just hope your mistakes didn’t cause any permanent damage.

Parenting Jack is like going to a personal trainer. But I have weak, puny muscles. So it’s going to hurt. God uses this feisty, wild little person to expose my atrophied or non-existent character muscles. And just when I think I’ve nailed it on my patience issues, we launch into the parenting equivalent of high-intensity intervals. Jack hits a new milestone, develops new quirks, FRACTURES HIS FIBULA*, and I’m left to stretch a little more, acutely aware that I’m already stretched to capacity.

Sometimes I think it’s hilarious that God planned for our three kids to be born within three years of each other. Because I find myself humbled and at my wit’s end all. the. time. And yet He did it on purpose. Every day I encounter dozens of areas of my life where I just can’t keep up: A dirt-rock launched in the kitchen, scattered into a million tiny dirt clumps on my newly-steamed floors; seven loads of laundry finally done – and then they all decide to go puddle-jumping; three tantrum-ing toddlers at Costco, disapproving looks abounding. How will I survive this?

These are the workouts, my friends. These are the intervals. The stretching, the molding, the pain and pressing on when I want to just sit it out. Can you relate? We are in the thick of this motherhood thing, and you know what? We can do it. Because He put us here on purpose. He matched us with our precious babes, their ages, their strong wills, adventurous little hearts and all. He is refining us through them. Let’s run this race. Let’s go with the pain and maybe by the time they move out we will all look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Or something.)

Do you ever find your littles stretching your capacity for patience, self-control, joy, kindness, forgiveness? This is our race. Let’s just focus on today, putting one foot in front of the other and I truly believe that one day we will look down at our character-abs and be all like, “Dang! When did I get that six-pack o’patience?” Let’s do this.

* It should be noted that I started drafting this blog post just days before Jack FRACTURED HIS FIBULA jumping off of the coffee table. God is hilarious.