A Joyful Noise

It’s the little things in life that seem to give me the biggest joy. The miracle found in the everyday. Tonight, it was some beauty found in bathtime.
 
My girls (8 and 4) were in the shower and, as usual, being way too loud and taking way too long for me. I went back to give them the riot act and instead was stopped in my impatient tracks by what I heard.
 
These are my babies in the shower reminding me, once again, about joy.
 

I hope your week goes smoothly and you find little, unexpected moments of joy throughout.

Oh, Parenting

I talk a good parenting talk. It goes something like this …

I’ll not be a helicopter mom, bulldozer mom, snowplow mom, or tiger mom.  I’ll not look at my phone while my kids are talking to me or at least won’t talk to my kids while I’m messing around on my phone. I’ll walk that line of involved but not intrusive. I’ll be a fun-loving disciplinarian and practice structured flexibility. I’ll balance the roles of cheerleader, leader, stand-up comedian, mentor, counselor, tutor, confidant, and parental authority. I’ll teach my children about suffering and the need for compassion while sheltering them from some of the harsher realities of our world. I’ll live in the moment while planning for the future. I’ll nurture while challenging, protect while stepping back, and go to battle while letting them fight their own fights. I’ll keep my superhero cape pressed at all times and I will make homemade crackers, organic.

But, regardless of all these good intentions (or sometimes because of them), I’m instead the mom who sometimes forgets to sign the permission slip, who has to carefully select the picture for Facebook that doesn’t show the laundry basket of shame, and who sends the kid to school with clothes that didn’t have time to fully dry in the dryer. Fortunately, I do normally manage to compliment the wet clothes with mismatched socks.

I occasionally bulldoze and frequently text. I sometimes step forward when I need to stand back. I discipline out of anger and give in out of exhaustion. I am human – flawed, tired, and misguided.

But today, in this moment, I’m going to stop.

I’ll stop measuring myself and comparing everything to some elusive, imaginary standard. I’ll face the fear at the root of my expectations – the fear that I’ll leave my babies wanting, leave them less than whole, less than prepared. I’ll acknowledge my fear that I will fail them in ways so much more important than permission slips and laundry.

So, today I’m going to stop, take a deep breath and enjoy them. And tonight, when I fall asleep, I’m not going to evaluate and replay and second guess. I’m going to pray.

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity to love so powerfully in my life. Thank you for the moments to step outside of expectations and fears. Thank you for their growing minds and tender hearts. Thank you for making me, with all my flaws and fears and expectations, their mother. Thank you for making me enough. Thank you.”

Jesus in the Bathroom

My religious knowledge failed me.  I went to Baylor University, for goodness sakes … surely my stint in the land of the Baptists would give me the right words.  Nope.  Nada.  I had nothing.

It started with three-year-old Molly on the toilet yelling, “MOM!!! CLOSE THE DOOR SO JESUS DOESN’T SEE ME!”

I closed the door and walked away tickled by her precociousness and the hilarious Facebook status this would make.

But she wasn’t done.

“MOM!!!”

I walked back into the bathroom.  She was still sitting on the toilet (obviously physically uncomfortable at this point) and said with a tinge of panic, “But MOM … he’s INBISIBLE!!!” She then looked up to the sky with wide eyes that conveyed her discomfort at this situation. 

I went for the easy answer, “That just means you can’t see him right now but the door will still work.”

 “MOM. He is EVERYWHERE.”

I tried to go with creationism, “Sweetie, God made your bottom … he’s allowed to see it.”

She responded with an answer I’d been drilling in her head for the past three years, “The bathroom is a place for PRIVACY!!!”

I replied with a comment that I’m fairly sure has no Biblical backing, “Baby, Jesus respects your privacy.”

“Can you ask him?”

“Ask him what?

“TO RESPECT MY PRIVACY!!!”

So we said a prayer … in the bathroom … while Molly sat on the toilet. 

“God, we ask that you respect Molly’s privacy while she goes to the bathroom.  Amen.”

**********

The faith of a child, even when coupled with a bathroom emergency, is refreshing.

As adults we complicate things by either over-thinking or, ironically, under-examining. 

For four-year-old Molly it was a no-brainer; the presence of God is as real to her as the laptop I’m typing on is to me. 

In fact, her belief is so solid that she instantly felt uncomfortable when her belief in privacy (can I get an “Amen!” on that one?) came head-to-head with her belief in an ever-present God.

There’s something awesome about that.

I want that.  I want to feel uncomfortable at times because my faith is so powerful that it comes in conflict with my day-to-day life.  There’s quite a bit going on in our complicated, adult world that should hit a discordant note when it comes head-to-head with a belief in divine love. 

We should cringe when we force truth to fit our own agenda.  We should feel embarrassed when we desperately attempt to strengthen our faith by weakening the faith of others.  We should experience shame when we ignore our duty to stand by our neighbor in the face of prejudice, poverty, or hardship. We should grieve when we let judgment replace love. 

The faith of a child is so simple but so difficult for an over-thinker like me.  I don’t have all the answers.  I don’t know all the whys.  I don’t even fully understand where this story is going to end.  And while there’s definitely a time for seeking and questioning, there’s also a time to just stop and take a moment to believe. 

May you all find moments to sit in the certainty of love and, of course, find privacy in your bathrooms. 

 

The Day The Music Died

Kids are obnoxious.  It’s not their fault, obnoxious is a developmental stage. 

But there is nothing (NOTHING!) that raises their obnoxiousness to new levels like when my kids have a song stuck in their heads.  Repetition does not faze kids.  Things do not stop being funny.  They are relentless. 

 I respond with my parental repertoire of encouragement, redirection, bribes, threat, and (finally) either hysterical laughter or tears. 

Then, once they finally stop, I come face to face with the horrible truth that these songs are now stuck in my head … for forever.

So, in order to share the misery serve as a warning to all parents, I present you with the top two songs my kids have been torturing me with lately.

Peanut butter and jelly anyone?

How about a little circus afro?

The only solution is to fight fire with fire. 

Oh yeah kid?  I see your Circus Afro and I raise you a Mahna Mahna.

What songs have your kids been torturing you with lately? Parents of older kids, does it ever stop?

Haven

On the outside the house looks like any other home.  Inside, kids sit in the living room watching cartoons and playing with toys while a toddler in a highchair eats a pre-dinner snack, a pretty normal scene.

Except that there are no moms and no dads. 

Instead, there are caregivers – employees obviously hired for their compassion, sincerity, and all-around coolness.  This is a children’s crisis shelter, a wonderful place that gives children in crisis, whatever that may be in their lives, moments of home and safety.

We arrive at Children’s Haven arms loaded with lasagna, veggies, and bread – enough to feed a small army, more than enough to feed this house filled with children.  Our monthly dinner with these children is our family’s way to give back, to even out the balances.

But I also come with ulterior motives. 

I come to give my children perspective.

I come to cultivate an awareness of how much even our smallest actions can change the lives of others, just like how much our lives were changed by the people around us after the tornado. 

I come to show my kids that little things are important – a dinner, a smile, a presence. 

I come armed with more ulterior motives than food. 

Then the little boy turns to my son and asks him, “Are you homeless too?”

And in an instant my ulterior motives disappear.  This child is not an object lesson.  He is a little boy without a home.  And his innocent question pierces my heart and the heart of my husband and the heart of my son. 

Are we homeless too?

No, sweet child, because of the kindness of strangers and grace beyond understanding, we are not homeless.   And you gave me so much more than what I came prepared to give you.  And, for tonight, you’re not homeless either because you’ve found a haven.  And there’s not one among us who won’t need a haven at some point in life.

If you’re interested in learning more about Children’s Haven please click this link.  If you’d like to help, there’s a Needs List posted on their website.  We live in the shade of each other.

Rules Are Rules, Keith

Keith – please don’t read this post.  Or at least skip past the beginning part.  Thank you.

I don’t wear socks to bounce houses.  (Can you feel it coming?  That’s right I’m about to hit you with some advanced parenting wisdom.)

I don’t wear socks because you have to wear socks to go on the various bouncy things.  And if a child gets stuck on one of the aforementioned bouncy things then the parent with the socks ends up going to save the child.  On more than one occasion my sock-less self has sadly said:

“Sorry, Keith, I don’t have socks on.  It’s against the rules for me to climb up the 20-foot tall inflatable rock wall, low crawl through the inflatable tunnel filled with children, and plunge down the inflatable slide with our crying child.  Sorry.  Rules are rules.  **sigh** If only I’d worn socks.” 

Yep, it’s not my first rodeo. 

Despite my use of the sock-less technique, I was relieved when my normally fearless three-year-old decided not to climb up the giant tower.  (Sometimes Keith counters my “I have no socks!” technique with his “I’m 6’3!” technique.) Emily, however, plunged her 7-year-old self right into the daunting structure. 

This, my friends, is why you don't wear socks to a bounce house.

She soon realized that it wasn’t just the height of the tower that made it challenging.  There weren’t solid floors at each level – just interwoven belts that you push aside to climb through.  When other kids pushed the belt aside the whole “floor” would wiggle and you could fall through to the level below.  This realization paralyzed her around level two or three. 

As I prepared to show Keith my sock-less feet and he started to stand up as straight as possible to highlight his awkward-for-bounce-house height, a kind child helped Emily down.  (For shame, Keith.  For shame.)

Emily was a bit thrown off her game.  She’s not used to being the child who needs rescuing.  She went off to one of the other bouncy things and bounced reflectively for a couple of minutes.  Then her smile came back, she walked up to me and said:

“Mom, I know what I did wrong.  I looked down and I worried about the wigglers (wigglers = interwoven belts).  This time I’m looking up and I’m going to think about me going down the big slide at the end!”

She marched up to that tower and did exactly that, wiggly floors and all.

That’s my girl.

May the metaphorical wiggly floors of your week end in amazing, metaphorical slides.  May your feet be sock-less and your partner short.  May you find wisdom in unexpected places!

Beautiful Ordinary

The wall calendar hanging on the inside of my pantry door is open to May 2011. Today is March 4, 2012 but I’m not taking the calendar down – not yet.

The weekend of May 21-22, 2011 was a busy weekend – slightly stressful. I was throwing a Parisian pool party (yes, you read that correctly) for Emily on Saturday and taking David and his two best buddies to a movie and pizza for his birthday on Sunday.

I was worried about things like decorations, cakes, balloons, party favors, and the timing of the movie. I remember actually thinking:

“If I can just survive this weekend …”

Most of you reading this know that in the middle of David’s birthday party the tornado hit Joplin.

Before the tornado
David and his friends less than an hour before the tornado

I keep that calendar to remind me that I never know when my world is about to change.

I go about my day-to-day and so often feel stuck on the treadmill of work, kids’ activities, bath time, bedtime, cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, and on and on and on. I forget. I forget that in a split second something can happen and the very things that cause me stress and distraction and frustration can become the things that I grieve over.

I keep that calendar to remind me of the beauty to be found in the ordinary.

“If I can just survive this weekend,” pops into my head each time I look at that calendar. I can remember wanting to be done with the parties and the birthdays. I wasn’t just going through the motions, I was steamrolling through them. I didn’t completely miss the moments of fun, joy, and delight from that weekend. But, more than anything, I wanted those two days to be behind me.

Then a storm rolled in.

“If I can just survive this weekend,” took on a completely different meaning.

All of a sudden, everything else fell away and I just wanted to hold my babies. I just wanted to get to them and see them alive and breathing. I wanted to kiss their tears and not let go of them. I just wanted to get them to a safe place. And, as the days went on, I just wanted us back together again. I wanted to recapture our feeling of home. I wanted my neighbors and friends to be okay. I just wanted our ordinary back.

There is something so beautiful about the ordinary when it’s viewed after the storm.

So, for now, I’m going to keep that calendar hanging up. It’s a reminder that I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know when my world is going to change. It’s my reason to live boldly and fully. It’s my reason to embrace the beautiful ordinary of my life.

My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the tornadoes that rolled through the Midwest recently.