“in between”

Last weekend I was struck by how big my kids are.  Even though I call them my littles, they aren’t so little anymore.

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Looking at this shot, I realized that – there is no pause button on this crazy train of life.  No matter how hard I try I cannot slow it down.  These kids keep growing and we are basically holding our breath trying to hang on through each new stage.  The diapers and the diaper bags have left the house, the crib has been disassembled, and finally we have freedom from the sippy cups that loved to hide under the van seats.

Life has taken a new turn, around the corner from 3 and under, and headed down the street towards “mom all my friends have iPod touches”. We are in the “in between” stage, where my kids are not quite preteens – and the scariness that comes with middle school is a only couple short years away.

Babies and toddlers are so darn hard and so deeply exhausting at times.  Most of the time it feels like the mothering never stops.  Never.  Ever.  The nights are long with the rocking and soothing.  The days are sometimes longer with 5 page books on repeat, wiping of the runny-nose-faucet, changing of the diapers  and round the clock snack service.  Its amazing the strength we have as mothers to accomplish all of these things not only daily but on “freaky friday” repeat day in and day out.  Thank goodness they are so cute!!

Whether or not I want to embrace it, I am on the other side now.  The side where you wonder how many more times your “not so baby boy” will embrace you with a hug and a occasional kiss on the blacktop before school.  The side where you have to explain to your kids that you don’t know why people are mean and why some don’t include you.  The side where your mothering gets tested in such an intense emotional way that you would give anything to go back to the physically intense part of mothering where your 14 month old having a stuffy nose was the worst part of your week.

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When I hold my 3 month old niece, it is as if my uterus is contracting, trying to tell me– I need and want to go back.  But I am slowly realizing it’s ok to not go back.  We put the hours in and thank the Lord- he has filled my mind with a magic filter that allows me to look back and see that it was all worth it – and it was all good.

The long nights that taught me I was the mother they needed.  The longer days showed me how important my job was.  And the bouts of toddler tantrums reminded me I did have enough patience.

Life is funny how you can’t always see the goodness shine through until you take a couple steps back and wait for the fog to lift.  The welcome sign is lit for the next stage of life, and I will walk forward, contracting uterus and all.

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Beneficial Words

We want life to be fun, whether thats with out family our in our marriage.  We even came up with ten things to do to celebrate our our ten years of marriage!  Fun just doesn’t happen, you have to make it happen.  You have to be intentional about creating an environment thats relaxed where laughter and joy naturally overflows from our lives.

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Nine times out of ten, that starts with me.  Its very simple in our home, how my initial words come out to the kids or to my husband when I wake up—literally can set the tone for the rest of the day.  When I see that the kids forgot to pack up their backpacks, or put their shoes away in the right drawers, or if my husband forgot to start the dishwasher last night, or if the puppy has another accident on the kitchen floor.  I have to make a choice.  Will those small moments of imperfection, of bitterness, or of dissapointment snowball to an attitude that follows me through the day?

Sometimes its not about me having enough patience or peace to let things go—but if I am willing to let the imperfect go and embrace the let downs.  Most times I have enough patience to speak with a kind voice asking the kids to please remember to put their shoes in the right spot, its just I choose not too.

I choose what comes naturally to me– a feeling or resentment that if Mom is giving her all, everyone else should too.

The reality though is that I am not perfect.

I am not perfect.

I mess up.

I forget to do things.

I don’t always put things back perfectly.

And they all show me love, they show me patience– they show me grace.

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This is a verse I make our kids write over and over if they aren’t speaking kindly—needless to say it is now hanging over my sink, as a reminder that my words are equally as important as theirs!  Letting go of the tiny disapointments one choice at a time; embracing the beauty of all our imperfections–including my own.  Reminding me that my words hold weight, and to be intentional about how I use them.  We can choose joy and we can choose fun, but if we don’t watch how we choose our words—the environment we want so badly to be intentional about creating will never exist.  

Let’s have our words be ones that benefit today!

 

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The veggie fight

When my older two were a lot younger, back when I thought no one survived having kids 15 months apart unless highly medicated, I knew I would have picky eaters.  As a mom I know your kids are supposed to eat veggies, but how could I expect my littles to eat them when growing up I was the pickest eaters of them all.  I remember hiding my peas under the edge of my plate, in hopes that when I was excused no one noticed the perfectly shaped halo of veggies left on the table.  I was the absolute worst!!  I hardly had a taste for anything of variety, let alone vegetables.

So here I am, back when that book by Jerry Seinfields wife came out, convincing everyone they could hide veggies in their kids food.  I remember thinking I just don’t have time for this, I want my kids to see vegetables and realize that they taste good.  When they were little and even now, around 4:30 pm my kids go a little crazy.  They are starving, even though we just had a snack after school or after nap.  To combat this hunger, we welcome the 5 o clock veggie platter in our house.  Most days I load up cut up a variety of raw peppers, carrots, celery, broccoli, or cucumbers.  I throw a small bowl of ranch dressing in the middle, or hummus or a spinach dip, and they are hooked.  This past weekend at costco I found baby cucumbers and mini peppers, they were a hit last night!!

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Not only does it kill their hunger as we wait for daddy to come home and have dinner, it also (bonus points here) elminates the dinner fight to finish their veggies.  I don’t really care if they like the vegetable I serve that night, because I know they already had a serving or two of vegetables that day.  Its double bonus points if I serve a vegetable that someone loves at dinner.

Our house rule with meals is you can choose to have a little or a lot of something.  This helps because they feel like they have a choice, and then they have to give everything a chance.  They can decide how much they want, and it really eliminates most arguments or complaints about food at the table.  Now to be honest,  certain things I know they hate like mushrooms and squash I don’t even ask if they want any.  Why waste something I love?

I try not to worry about what they eat now and don’t eat.   Life is full of situations to worry about and outcomes to be anxious over, its not worth ruining valuable family dinner time.  I think my two and a half year old survived on crackers and cheese sticks for like 5 months when we moved to NJ, and right now I find go-gurts to be a straight gift from God!!  She by far is the worst eater, but little by little she’s getting better.  She loves my veggie trays, so I’m a happy mama!!

Find what works for your family, start small, even if they see you enjoying something healthy.  They are always watching!!!

Finding Him

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There are just days I can’t have silence.  I can’t have those moments where I can physically sit still.  My to do list is thirty tasks long just before 10am.  There are dishes to be put away, breakfast to be made, clothes to be washed, toys to be picked up, food to be prepped, and rooms to be cleaned.  A list that I diligently work at everyday, trying to check them all off one by one.  Yet somehow they appear again every morning, all waiting to be done again.

One recurring task on my mental list is for me to sit down, have a cup of tea, and just be.  Be still enough so I can hear God, and be reminded of His promises.  When my families needs come up, and kids push their way to the front of the list.  I have to learn to seek out God in the everyday moments.  I have to learn to remind myself that He is there, in the mess, in the clean clothes waiting to be folded, in the meal being prepped for dinner, in the baths that have to be given.  Why is it that I think that unless I sit and carve out a huge chunk of time, I feel as if I have failed and He will not be with me and meet me where I am.

I am working harder at seeing Him in the little things.  The little glimpse of obedience in a child whose heart is hardened to change.  The little embrace from my husband as he walks out the door.  The little hugs and kisses goodbye as they run off to school.  The little spark of laughter between siblings as they play outside, squealing about their day.  He can meet me where I am, I just have to open my ears enough to hear Him.  I don’t need to create a perfect setting of hot tea, with my Bible opened to my favorite passage, in perfect silence.  I just need to open my heart to His presence.

He loves to meet me in all the messy places of my life.

He loves to see my imperfect tendencies and hear my mumbled prayers as I set my eyes on my to do list every morning.  There is something so fulfilling about tea and silence and the Word, but in my reality that all comes together perfectly maybe once or twice a week.  The rest of the week I am reminding myself that I can still be with God and hear Him in the cluttered, chaotic parts of my life.

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If you haven’t seen me in Shoprite and experienced my precious 2 year olds screaming fits, you’re in for a treat. She holds nothing back, she can literally produce a long piercing yelp without even stopping to breathe– she just lets that baby out with all her might.

The other day she was super angry I had her in the front of the shopping cart and really wanted to sit in the back. So trying not to be dealt a melt down, I stick her in the back sacrificing any room for the food which is why we are there in the first place! Long behold the adorable little child wants to not just sit in the back but stand up like she is on an amusement ride.

I used my nice inside mommy voice and told her (begged her) to sit down or she would have to come back to the front.

Of course she would not listen and the ever dreaded move back to the front happened and by the time I got her feet through the holes, her scream was already louder than the man on the loud-speaker and her hands were pulling towards anything around her, my shirt being the easiest grabbing point.

It had happened, she was erupting with fury and there was no turning back.

I mustered up all the peace, gentleness, and self-control I had and rounded the aisle to the cold section and noticed that there was literally an explosion of elderly women choosing their dairy goods for the week. Now my experience with the elderly is they either are super sympathetic or are overly annoyed with how the culture is failing and current mothers are no longer doing their job correctly.

As I catch a glare from one woman I force a half smile and say, “She’s a screamer!”  Hoping she would respond with some nice words of encouragement.

Nope!

She looks at my daughter and then at me and says, “Obviously”.

–Insert completely mortified face–

Knowing I have at least 4 different aisles I have to go down still , I look up and my eyes suddenly see the “mommy get out of jail” end cap display coming up, stacked with goldfish and other snacks. I am suddenly in a major moral dilemma. I stand there for a minute, wondering what it will look like and how I know better, but somehow my arms reaches up, grabs a bag of goldfish and opens it in one quick motion. Handing it to her, the screamer suddenly goes silent…she has won.

Goldfish

Yes you should never reward a screaming child

Yes I am creating a very bad habit

Yes I know I am feeding a negative behavior

I know the rules, I read the books, I have two other kids

But I didn’t do it perfect then and I won’t do it perfect now

Sometimes the rules need to be broken. Sometimes our own mental health needs to take precedent to all the maybe outcomes that could happen if we break away from the perfect mommy rules for one second. That two dollar bag of goldfish helped me get the rest of my shopping done and kept her quiet for the car ride home.

I love all my kids and of course I want them to be well behaved children, but sometimes I wonder if my expectations are just so unrealistic. That they will never be able to achieve who I think they should be. I don’t want them to feel like I am constantly disappointed in them but more that I am always amazed at how they are blossoming into their own person.

Parenting is hard. No question.

One of the hardest parts might be that no two children are the same, even within your family. Sometimes parenting is like being a GPS, where it’s constantly changing its path trying to get to the destination of a well rounded child.

I know my littlest won’t still be in diapers by kindergarten and she’ll learn to sit nicely in the shopping cart, but more importantly I want her to grow up with a mom who laughed at the days where she pulled her shirt down in front of 20 elderly women in the dairy aisle.

I am constantly reminding myself to not let the small things become big things and rid myself of the insanely high expectations I have on myself as a mother.

In the end its God who will ultimately direct their path, I need to just love and guide them as they walk it.

For the mothers out there, there is no judgement from this fellow mom as you grab that bag that goldfish, do it, its liberating!!!

-Tiffany

lessons from my oldest

My oldest is turning 8 today.

He is the most genuine little guy, with a hidden spit fire waiting to shoot out at any second.  He made me a mom, and I am forever grateful.  Here are a few things that I have learned over the past 8 years.

Nobody is going to be perfect all the time.

Lets really let that one sink in.  No matter how hard I may want my kids to act perfect and behave perfectly-they won’t.  It won’t ever be perfect…and it doesn’t have to be.  My boy is not the quiet one, he constantly talks over people, and he literally cannot understand why a child has to do what their parent says, ever… about anything.  We attempted for many years to make him into the cookie cutter kid.  By trial and error and more error, we realized he just cannot fit in that mold.  When I stopped expecting him to be perfect, and stopped desiring that, I realized how silly it is that I would even want him to be anyone besides who God created him to be.  He is the fun loving, full of energy,super passionate, super intense, determined little boy.

God cares more about our hearts than our actions.

The grade you get from parenting comes less from how they act and more from where there heart lies.  That one sentence took me years to really understand and believe.  Those moments where you are told your little boy is the biter in the church nursery, or that he corrected the teacher because she wrote the wrong thing on the board, or even that in preschool he refused to apologize to another child so he sat missing play time for a whole hour. <—-mortifying!!!  In each of those moments, I was so overwhelmed with grief and worry about why he did those things, and what would that mean, and how would that play out the rest of his life.  Would he still be a biter when he was 8, luckily NO!  Looking back I wish I spent more time talking with him about his heart and how he felt and less about what punishment he deserved for his actions.

Love and grace are the best gifts I can show anyone.

Just remembering what the bigger picture is, helps me be a better mom.  Remembering that all I really need to do is show him love and grace everyday.  Covering each argument in love and grace, confronting every wrong choice in love and grace, and practicing love and grace.  I am reminded that I am the biggest teacher in his life, and he is learning (and copying!!) the most from me.  I need to remember that daily and continually ask myself if I making sure he knows that I will love him and cover him with grace more than anyone in this world?

Stop worrying about what people think.

When your kid is the one asking people if they are pregnant (and they are men) or pointing to the man in burger king with the bandana on, asking if he is a pirate, you have to laugh and just enjoy the moment and not worry about what Blackbeard thinks.  No matter what our kids say or do, we have to remember they are just kids.  They are just learning and experiencing life, just as we did.  I never want them to feel like other people’s opinions of them mattered more than what I know to be true about their hearts.

What we think are our weaknesses God can use for something bigger.

I have learned that the biggest thing my oldest and I struggle with is his strong will and relentless power struggle.  People who have witnessed his intense battles over the most trivial things may be quick to think that we give in more than we should, or he isn’t disciplined enough to have that submissive spirit.  But I am realizing now that these qualities he has that I see as a hardship will definitely be the thing that God uses the most.  My job is so much easier when I identify his weakness as also his gift.  He is gifted, just as we all are, for something bigger than he or I know yet.

Although I am his teacher…

he teaches me as well,

even as an 8 year old.

more to pour

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I have acquired a new love with being awake before anyone else is in the house.  It sort of feels like I am stealing away moments for myself before I start giving them up all day.  Even if its only thirty or twenty minutes, they are so fulfilling.  They help me remember to slow down, they inspire me to look for the blessings to come, and they teach me that sacrifice is rewarding.

I do not in any way desire to leave the warmth of my bed, my body fights me relentlessy every morning.   But knowing how refreshed I will feel starting the day before the chaos, is what pulls me out.  Its enticing enough that I am able to pull myself out of the warmth and into the warmth of something greater.  The stillness is something I crave, especially in this stage of life.

I am learning that filling my cup helps me have more to pour.

  • Sometimes it’s more patience that I need to be filled with when the day before presented exhausting endless strong-willed fights.
  • Sometimes it’s more self-control, when I reflect on words that were thrown towards others instead of gently given.
  • Sometimes its more strength, when the word tired doesn’t really begin to explain the level of fatigue.
  • Sometimes it’s more grace, when mistakes are made and expectations are not met.
  • Sometimes it’s simply just more love.

More love to the man who strives to lead our family, to the children I prayed for, to the family and friends that lift me up when I can’t move.  Even though I know I love the people around me – bitterness, judgment, and jealousy somehow rise to the surface before love.

Its in quiet moments of the mornings that I pray that God will fill me with all I need to pour out that day.  The beauty of it is that He always does.

He always gives me what I need, prepares me for what’s ahead, and stays by my side through the course that hasn’t yet been marked.

I am reminded daily that I just need to ask.

I need to make time to come before Him and simply ask.

summer moments

It’s funny how every June, we moms are just waiting for school to be done, counting down the days until the schedule ends and the freedom of summer begins.  But then come mid August we (ok maybe just me) are on our knees praying school would begin so we won’t have to be camp counselor for another day.  I was a little nervous about how summer would be with all the kids home, one of which requires a three-hour nap each day.  Yes, yes I know it’s a blessing she sleeps so long, but it can be a curse too when the very thought of not being able to physically leave your house feels suffocating sometimes.

Truth be told we had a great summer overall, partially due to the discovery of perler beads and the endless five dollar jar from ikea that required my ironing board to have a permanent space in our living room.  I slowly started to enjoy ironing each one and picking up the remnants all summer long, thinking about how this would be the summer of those plastic beads everywhere.  Any toy or craft that occupies my children for a solid hour is worth any sacrifice on my end.

I thought it would be fun to highlight some of our summer fun, hoping to somehow visually cover up the constant chatter, questions, and bickering that NEVER happened this summer at our house!

  • We visited NYC and saw the natural history museum.
  • Did our annual Cape Hatteras vacation with the infamous 10 cent shrimp.
  • Taught our kids the best game on earth, cornhole!
  • Swam in the pool, had fires in the backyard, made endless cubes of pesto from the garden.
  • Conquered going to the beach with friends with no dads to carry all of our stuff!
  • Ate tons of fish and mussels from Peter’s spear fishing expeditions, and froze a thousand blueberries from our CSA boxes for future muffins.
  • Peter graduated seminary and we are so all so proud of him!!!  Yay for regaining our Tuesday nights!
  • Said goodbye to great friends as they followed their calling to North Point Church in Georgia, excited for them but selfishly sad they left!
  • Noah went to Camp Rock for the first time at our church and if you couldn’t already tell from the picture, he loved it.
  • Gracie learned to boogie board and could NOT stop talking about it to anyone who would listen.
  • Leah’s favorite activity was eating snacks all day long on the beach!  I am pretty sure she associates beach with I can eat junk food all day long because my mom will do anything to rid her guilt of not giving me my 3 hour nap.

All joking aside, this summer I tried with all my might to be in the moment.  I wanted to not just send them in the backyard to play, but sit out there with them hearing their endless stories of cicadas and fairy houses.  I wanted to push myself  to stop what I was doing to read whatever book Leah brought me, even if I could already recite “Goodnight Moon” with my eyes closed.

Oh dear Lord, don’t even get me started on Noah’s new fixation with Monopoly, the game that literally never ends!  Who created that game anyway?!?!  Granted there were days this summer where I might have let the “30 minutes of electronics” turn into 60 or even 80, just so I could read my own book (even though I do love that lady with the bowl full of mush)–goodnight moon reference for those of you without a toddler!

I was talking with a friend tonight about how there are going to be days where we hit it out of the park in the mom department, and there will be days that were too ashamed to even talk about what happened.  But it doesn’t mean we aren’t great moms or that we don’t love our kids as much as that other mom, who walks around gushing about how fabulous their summer was.

One of the most beautiful verses I have come across is in Lamentations where it says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; THEY ARE NEW EVERY MORNING, great is your faithfulness.”  Just as the sun rises it brings with it a gentle reminder that this is a new day and we are given the opportunity to begin again.  It doesn’t matter how awful the day before was, or how you failed at getting every task checked off your list or if you let some moments pass you by.  Each new day brings an amazing gift to try again to be the mom, the wife, the friend, and the person you want to be.

-Tiffany

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what truly matters

For me the struggle with writing a blog is does anything I have to say matter or even have value?  This is something that I have been wanting to do for years but yet the fear of not wanting to be rejected has paralyzed me.  It got me thinking into how much fear really paralyzes me from doing things that I love.  How many times I am more concerned about how others will view me than pursuing my dreams.  Its something I have struggled with all through growing up, and although even though I have told myself that I’ve grown out of it, here it is still staring me in the face.

what will others think…

Ahhh I just get so frustrated at myself that I still care about it.  I have read books, prayed and talked with people about letting it go, but yet this may be the first physical thing I have down in awhile despite my inward fear of rejection.

letting go of fear

Noah and I on his first day of first grade last year

As my son began school last year he had a lot of anxiety about starting at a new place and meeting new friends.  I prayed over and over for him, Joshua 1:9; “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” How ironic it seems now that a verse I prayed for my 7 year old son would speak so loudly to me.  Here God is telling Joshua to listen to his heart and follow God’s prompting to lead the people to the promised land.  How many times I sit and overanalyze decisions and promptings from the Lord because I am so filled with fear to step out.  Clear as day God urges us to not be afraid because thank you Jesus, He is with us wherever we go.

Turning thirty this year, has forced me to analyze what I am doing with my time and how my own anxious thoughts still have a steady hold on me.  Yes I am a mom and and a wife and I run this crazy house, but who am I beyond that? Is that all that I am?  I mean I love my kids more than they’ll ever know and I adore my husband and love watching him grow and pursue his dreams.  But my secret fear is that I will get swallowed up by all of it and ten years from now I will be turning forty and be wondering what I have done over the past ten years.

I want to do more than just plop in front of the tv each night, folding laundry and looking at pinterest, thinking I wish I could be that creative or envying people’s pantry organization skills.

Although —- truth be told that will still be my life majority of the nights.

I am committing to begin to carve out one or two nights a week where I give myself the freedom to reconnect with my creative side and the way that God wired me. Whether that’s by writing here or sewing up a storm or learning to cross stitch or even tackling my long list of DIY projects.  Life with kids is so much shorter than I even realize and I desperately want my kids to grow up in a house where creativity is pursued by everyone, even their mom.  How can I expect them to pursue their creative outlets if they aren’t seeing that example even in small ways by me.  So I am giving my self freedom to walk away from the mess and the dirty clothes and the cluttered dining room table.    I am pretty sure that I will be the only one who knows the sink was the only thing that got wiped in the bathroom this week and that the wet clothes stayed in the washer overnight.  I mean lets be honest folks it was only this one time!!  I never do those sort of things on a regular basis!

I am pretty sure that 98% of the time my kids, my husband, and my house responsibilities will come first, but I am going to fight hard to not let that 2% slip through my fingers just because I can’t have any more than that.

Step one in pursing an authentic life for myself is first admitting that I am in no way perfect, and removing the pressures I feel to have all things looking like they are perfect!  Thank goodness that we are loved by a God, that despite our fears and failures His mercies are new each morning.

-Tiffany