Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What Cupcakes Taught Me Today

Today is one of those days the Deceiver is working overtime.

Thoughts like, 

"someone else would do such a better job homeschooling my kids"

"my friends who are mothers probably never lose their cool like I do"

"I'm a lousy wife"

"wonder how many issues I'm planting in my kids' hearts that they will have to go to a therapist to work through someday..."

"no one is really buying this act I'm trying to sell.  Everybody sees right thru me and knows what a wonderful, homeschooling mom wanna be I really am"

"I will never be the wife I should be.  It's hopeless."  

have been after me all day.  

Guilt.  Big time.  Failure is all I can see today.  

 So I tried to do something to make myself feel better.  Something a good mother would do.  I pulled out their American Heritage Girls handbook and we began working on earning their cake decorating badge.  

We worked together to make cupcakes and discussed different types of food coloring and experimented with what colors we could make.  We made a cake that looked like a frog.  We put candles on it and sang, "Happy January to us" before we blew them out.  My kitchen was covered with icing in all colors of the rainbow and sprinkles and flour and general chaos.  

Afterwards, as I was cleaning up and the kids were outside riding their scooters, I wondered how my efforts had changed my status in their minds for the day.  Did they think better of me?  The same?  

It was then that the Spirit brought to mind all the teaching on grace I have been immersed in the last year and a half.  

I'm STILL trying to earn my status.

I'm STILL searching for approval in virtually every area of my life.  As a wife, as a mother, as a friend, in my fitness level, by my reputation, etc.  


Because I still haven't really grasped the great price that has been paid for my ransom.  Not really.  Not enough to let me rest in the knowledge that I am okay just the way I am.  Not enough to enable me to throw off my perfectionist tendencies and my continual striving to be the best at everything.  And surely not enough to be okay when my sad attempts to be the best are just trampled on by those who do it better, faster, more efficiently.  

Graciously, Jesus reminded me of the things I have done right.  This year of homeschooling has been, um, kinda disastrous at times.  I've lost my temper.  I've yelled.  I've disciplined in anger when my child threw pencils and slammed doors and defied my authority.  I've failed time and time again to show them the very qualities I am striving to model for them.

But on the other side of that, my girls have seen repentance, grief over sin, and reconciliation in action.  They have seen a mother who has very real shortcomings but thru Jesus and because of His great love for me, they've seen Him pick me up and dust me off and set me on the right path over and over.  They've seen my honesty in seeking their forgiveness and they've learned that no matter the failure and no matter the number of offenses, Jesus welcomes His children back.  Every time.  No questions asked and no clicking of the tongue in reproof when I ask forgiveness.  

And I'm still learning, too.  I'm learning, really trying to grasp, the idea that God's expression towards me does not change to a frown when I fail.  He's not really seeing ME at all, even when I am being "godly".  He only sees His Son's spotless blood covering me.  

No "parent of the year" award or June Cleaver type mothering makes Him love me more.  By the same token, my moments of failure do not make Him love me less.  I am just His, plain and simple.  There are no points to be earned, no status to be achieved, no accomplishments to grab onto.  

It's just me.  

And He's okay with that.  

I understand that His great love for me will cause me to WANT to please Him, to live as He desires of me, to become more like Him.  But on these days where I just feel the weight of failure bearing down on me til I can hardly breathe, I rest, no, I RELAX, in the knowledge that He is smiling upon Me regardless of how I feel about myself.  

And not just smiling.  He's DELIGHTING over me (Zephaniah 3:17).  

So relax with me, wives and mamas out there.  We are accepted, cherished, and are the apple of our Savior's eye.   No amount of cupcake decorating will ever earn us points.  No amount of trying to be the perfect wife (or even substandard!) will make us more worthy.

We are precious treasures, plain and simple.  If my girls walk away from their years in my home with nothing else, THIS is the truth I want them to take with them.  

Because knowing this makes all the difference.  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Big Mama Bites the Dust


(they look pretty angelic in this picture, don't they?)

You love 'em.  You hate 'em.  You adore their every move, you hit them with a hairbrush (not that I'd know anything from personal experience about this from my childhood with two sisters...ahem.  Sorry, Suzanne.).

Sometimes my girls just can't take it.  The pressure gets to them.  The little annoyances of living with each other occasionally just builds up to an aggression that no one but God could hold back.  I don't think my kids are violent, but I suppose if I kept records of the biting incidents, the pinching, hitting, and shoving that has gone on throughout the years, I guess I might change my mind.  

Sibling violence is not a pretty thing, but this is exactly what happened with my middle daughter a few weeks back.  My husband and I were very relieved that the incident did not involve actually hurting a sibling this time, but it was still pretty bad.

I understand.  I really do.  She and I share a bond as the middle daughters of our families.  Bossy big sister, provoking little sister who gets away with murder because she's "the baby" (by the way, how long can I use that?  My baby will be five this summer.).  

Sometimes it's just more than anyone can take being the middle child.

This was just such a day, and it resulted in a crime of passion in our home.  She really could probably claim temporary insanity as her plea.  I recognized that look of rage in her eyes as a middle child, and the crime happened and was over with before she even realized what she'd done.  It was like an out of body experience.

It reminded me a lot of that stupid pink hairbrush I hurled across the room at my 4-yr-old baby sister way back when...

I don't even really know what caused the skirmish, to be honest.  I would imagine little sister was doing something small, but just irritating enough to make her big sister nuts.  That's all it takes, really.  It's like Chinese water torture.  The steady drip, drip, drip of a pesky little sister can result in massive explosions.

All I know is that my middle child went storming out of her room and racing to the playroom.  About five seconds later, the deed was done and there was no going back.  The wailing began as the little sister became aware of the travesty that had just occurred.

Meet "Big Mama".

Leighanne has had the miniature version of this puppy dog ever since she was a baby.  She loves that puppy, so I was thrilled to find the bigger version last year for Christmas.  She was quickly dubbed "Big Mama" because of her massive size.

But on this day that will live in infamy around here, Big Mama met her match at the hands of my enraged child.  I'm still not even really sure how she managed it, to be honest.  I suppose anger works the same way as adrenaline and gives you super strength in the heat of the moment.

Poor Big Mama.  She never even knew what hit her.  

A tearful four-year-old brought Big Mama to me in her arms.  The poor stuffed animal had been literally ripped apart, stuffing falling out of her like entrails.  Her big, plastic brown eyes looked at me mournfully.  Her floppy ears drooped.  

It was not a pretty sight.  

The accused, immediately repentant at seeing the death of an innocent bystander at her hands, tried desperately to make it right.  She collected all the stuffing and shoved it back in, but it was just too late for Big Mama.  Recovery was a hopeless cause (especially when the mother of this home is completely, 100% ignorant when it comes to sewing repairs).  We tried to be sensitive in disposing of the mangled remains. It was all we could do. 

We mourned the loss of Big Mama, but none so much as little sister.  It was a good lesson for  both of them, though.  

Pesky little sister learned what the term "the straw that broke the camel's back" actually means.  

Melodramatic middle sister learned what "that's coming out of your piggy bank" actually means.  

We're still searching for a Big Mama look alike.  Somehow I think she would be pleased to know she served this family not just as a snuggly toy, but as the object in an object lesson.  It was a wonderful life she lived, but a noble death she died.  

Ah, yes, siblings. Wouldn't life be boring without 'em?  

What's your sibling story?  Please tell me I'm not the ONLY one who threw hairbrushes at my sister.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

Facing Our Fears

It's swim lesson season.

This is an activity that evokes quite dramatic responses in some.

Let's face it, parents.  Sometimes we just make our kids do some things they really, really hate.  

Vegetables, bedtime, hair brushing, and bed making are a few at the top of the list at our house, but for some mysterious reason I will neither question nor take for granted, swim lessons have never been one of the hated activities.  My girls kinda like them, in fact.  

This is not the case for many parents out there.  

Take my niece, Helen Kate, for instance.  She's the one on the right.  

She just finished private swim lessons with a fantastic, experienced teacher by her side.  This is a woman who's seen it all, dealt with every personality type out there, and has a great track record of helping kids succeed at conquering their fear of water and having fun in the pool.  She's great at it.  The patience of Job and all.

It was torture for everyone involved.  Poor Helen Kate was terrified and less than cooperative.  Of course the teacher started out being kind and gently coaxing, but I think within a few moments she realized that tactic wasn't gonna cut it with this child.  She began using a more firm tone and insisting that Helen Kate at least try some things with her.  

It did not go well.  

After the lesson was over, the teacher approached my sister and asked with a smile, "Is Helen Kate tired this morning?"  Which of course was a nice way of saying, "What the heck is up with your child today?"  

As I sat this week and watched my younger two practicing their kicking and floating and all that stuff, I began thinking about how I would feel if I were forced to do things that terrified me.  

Would I calmly cooperate like this?

Would I swallow my fear and take the hand of a stranger into the deep end of the pool?

This, of course, led me to consider the time I WAS asked to do something that absolutely terrified me.  

I am kinda embarrassed to tell you I was more like my niece or the several kids I saw at lessons this week who kept an iron grip on their mom's legs and screamed and cried the entire time.  

You see, my brother-in-law invited us to come stay a few days at his dad's gorgeous house on the ski slopes in Utah.  This was a few years back before darling #3 arrived.  

I had never been on a ski slope in my life (unless you count Mentone, AL, where they generate fake snow but even that was one time twenty years ago).  I was somewhat concerned given my general lack of poise and grace, but okay, I would give it a shot.  

My husband and I rented all the ski equipment (YIKES!  For that much cash I'd BETTER love it and use it all day!), pulled on all our gear, and climbed onto the lift for the bunny slope.  Starting easy and all that.  

We got off at the top and my sister even exclaimed at how smoothly and easily I'd gotten off and just slid to where I was supposed to be.  I was feeling pretty good.  I could do this.  I played every sport available in high school and was still active.  No problem.

But then....

It was time to actually try it.  I was given a few basic instructions on how to shift my weight and get started.

I will spare you all the horrifying details, but the next hour and a half was pretty much the most wretched time of my life thus far.  

EVERYONE tried to help me.  My brother-in-law's dad (which was super uncomfortable because we don't know each other at all and here I was at my most vulnerable), my sisters, their husbands, my husband, even a ski coach who took pity on me and stepped away from his client for a moment to help me up.  Before I reached the bottom of that God-forsaken bunny slope, I was crying, I was cursing, I was screaming at my husband to leave me alone and just let me scoot on my bottom the rest of the way down.  I hated everybody and everything and was quite distressed.

Hmm...much like a few of the kids I just observed at swim lessons.  I decided they probably felt like I did when someone pointed out how well others around them were doing.  

"Look!  It's easy!  She's doing it and having fun!"

Now I know what that child is inwardly saying: "If it's so fun YOU get your butt in here and do it!  You can have my spot!"  It's the same thing I was mentally saying to the little children who flew past me on that despicable hill.  

I finally made it down and was convinced (after a very long break and a snack) to do the ski school for beginners.  

Oh, sure.  That'll make it less painful to my ego.  

I looked over at the ski school in progress and quite grudgingly shuffled on my skis to where they were.  

I kid you not, three-year-olds were standing there with me.  

The ski instructors who helped us all onto what they called the "magic carpet" were dressed like Peter Pan and Captain Hook.

I couldn't make this stuff up.  All true.

Again, and again I gave it a try.  Surely if these little people who hadn't even learned to tie their shoes or use the potty could do it, I could certainly pull it together and conquer this fear of mine.

After about 30 minutes of agonizingly humiliating instruction (and the instructors using pirate voices), I agreed to try the stupid bunny slope ONE MORE TIME for my husband.  Peter and Captain Hook gave me a cheer and a high five as I left their magic Neverland area.

Neverland.  Ironic to anyone else that the word "NEVER" is in it?  I just smiled and tried to visualize the beach.

This was one of the few times I can say I was totally selfless in my marriage.  If it had been up to me, I would've found the closest incinerator and dumped all my ski gear in there quite happily, but it just seemed to mean so much to him.  

I am very, very proud to say I made it down the bunny slope in a mere 15 minutes this time, but much to my husband's disappointment, I declared right there at the bottom of the hill that I would NEVER, EVER do that again.  

I spent the remaining couple of hours riding the gondola up and down the big hills.  It was quite beautiful and peaceful up there...until it was time to get off and I did a face plant right into the icy snow.  

So, facing our fears.

Not as easy as it looks.  

I will be more compassionate for the terrified, shrieking child who does not want to blow bubbles in the stupid pool water next time.    

So what's your swim lesson story?  Or better yet, I want to hear stories about times YOU were asked to do something really scary!  Surely I can't be the only one who dug in my heels and refused.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

Pot Pie Purgatory

Every once in a while, I get adventurous.  

I start relaxing and thinking I am just about out of the days of chaos with little ones around.  After all, my baby is four years old (gasp)!  Gone are the days where I have to constantly keep a watchful eye to make sure my children aren't going to hurt themselves somehow.  I don't have to worry that I forgot to close the baby gates on the stairs or put covers on the electric sockets.

Just this past weekend, the kids actually closed our bedroom door so we could sleep late on a Saturday morning!!!

Aww, my babies are growing up.

We're past all the craziness.

And so, with my newfound freedom from the constant vigilance required by young children, I decided to do something special.  A friend of mine had recently had baby girl #3.  I could remember that so clearly and I had no doubt she could use a little break from cooking.  My kids were older, so it was only fair that I try to help her out, right?

Mistake #1:
I couldn't just make a normal meal like lasagna or a casserole.  

Oh, no.  I wanted to make this a special meal.  Homemade chicken pot pie with NO shortcuts.  Fresh vegetables, homemade crusts, and even a homemade pie for dessert.  

Now, understand that I'm no cook.  

I hate to cook, actually.  I see it as a direct result of the Fall of mankind.  Sin entered the world and I had to start cooking.  

I cooked and shredded the chicken.  I peeled and diced the potatoes and onions.  I made the crusts and rolled them out so I could crimp the edges into a lovely pattern.

After about three hours, I had two beautiful chicken pot pies fresh out of the oven and sitting on the stovetop to cool.  One for my friend and her family, one for us.  

Pots and pans were washed and put away, the floor was swept, and the countertops were wiped down.  

Even though I was taking the meal to sweet friends, I did not feel I should show up looking like a crazy woman bearing food at their doorstep.  No need to frighten the new baby, after all.

Mistake #2
I went upstairs quickly to change clothes, brush my hair, and put on some makeup so the family wouldn't be afraid to eat what I brought them.

Roughly two minutes later, I heard 
my husband walking in the door from work and saying loudly, 
"What are you doing?!"

It was that feeling in the pit of my stomach that NEVER means something good has happened.

You mothers know that feeling.

I heard crying.  Somehow I just knew this involved my three hour endeavor.

I came downstairs upon the following scene:
My husband, looking dumbfounded, just staring at my tearful 4-year-old.
Poor guy didn't even know where to start.

My older daughters, standing nearby, wide-eyed and tearful as well.

And my sweet baby, standing on a stool so she could reach the countertop, her hands covered in my beautiful chicken pot pie and two fist sized holes in the gorgeous, golden crust.  

I was just too shocked to speak for a second.  Apparently I had misjudged, and gravely, my parenting independence from watching them constantly.  

After catching my breath, I asked her the obvious question, "Honey, WHY did you do this?"

She just looked up at me with her big brown eyes shimmering with tears and pitifully said the only thing she could think of: "Because my brain told me to."

Oh.  Of course.

She really thought she was helping, I suppose.  She had gotten out the plates and was serving each person in the family.  With fistfuls of pot pie.  I couldn't be too upset with her, really.  

Thank God I had made TWO of them.  I quickly packed up the surviving meal and reassured my daughter again that I was not mad and it was alright.  

As I walked out the door, my husband was trying to serve the now mangled pot pie.  The girls were fussing and whining about not wanting to eat it because Leighanne's hands had been in it.  

It occurred to me in that moment that the friend I was trying to take this meal to might arguably have it easier than me.  Sure, my kids sleep all night, but her baby isn't even aware yet that she has arms or legs she can use to create mayhem with in surprising and creative ways.   

Shoulda called Steak-Out.  

What was that sound?  Oh yes, the baby gate I just reinstalled and locked.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Jiggle It, Just a Little Bit

The search is over.

Finally, at long last, I have unlocked the secret!  A new beginning for a whole new life!!  

Never, never again will the impossible task of getting my mommy body into some kind of shape seem quite so impossible.  The answer was right under my nose all the time!  Here I've been turning down my favorite foods and trying to keep up while working out alongside skinny minnies at the gym, and now I come to find out I've made it much, much too hard to lose weight and be fit.

I'll bet you have, too.  I'm serious.  This is a new beginning for all of us this year.

Look no further, mommies of the world.  Throw out those diet plans, those lean cuisines, those food scales, maybe even your gym memberships (except for some of us the thought of giving up childcare and time to catch up with friends at the Y is just too painful...on second thought, keep the memberships).  

But what is this new beginning for our health programs this year?  One word:


That's right.  Goga, baby.  

I was with a couple friends recently and we were walking past the home of the famous Goga.  The front of the shop was solid glass all the way across, so we got a pretty good view of what was going on inside.  

What we saw was SO unusual the three of us literally could not stop gawking and craning our necks to see what in the world these ladies were doing.  Two women were in there at the time so we could get the full picture of how effective Goga really is.  

Imagine with me if you will...machines lined the walls. 

One woman was standing on the machine much like you'd stand on a treadmill that wasn't moving.  She had a thick, black belt strapped around her waist.  The belt was hooked onto the machine on both sides of her waist. 

And what was she doing?  

The very thing that makes Goga beautiful:  she was doing NOTHING.

Really!  She was just standing there while the machine jiggled and wiggled her for all it was worth.  It reminded me a little bit of when I used to bounce up and down to jiggle my infants so they would sleep.  This woman looked like she'd been jiggled long enough that she absolutely had to maintain a tight grip on the handles or she'd fall right off that Goga machine.  

But what REALLY caught our attention was the woman using a machine on the opposite wall.  You really have to try to picture this one with me.  

Convinced Goga was the holy grail she'd been searching for so long, this second woman had really, really bought into Goga's promises.  Instead of standing on the machine, she was on all fours in a crawling position.  Her hands were on top of the machine, her knees on the floor, and her mommy hiney was straight up in the air, jiggling for God and everyone to see.  

It was just too much for me.  I simply HAD to find out more.  I walked over to where a nearby poster touted all the many benefits of this breakthrough form of exercise.  Let's read it together, shall we?

*Assist in weight loss
*increase metabolism
*decrease cellulite
*increase muscle strength
*tone and firm muscles
*improve mobility
*improve coordination
*massage muscles
*low impact - kind to joints
*suitable for all ages

I mean, need I say more?  SOLD!

Honestly, you'd think doctors and scientists who study this stuff would've figured out LONG ago that all we moms have to do to get rid of baby weight is, well, shake!  It even gets rid of cellulite!  I was under the impression that jiggling and cellulite went hand in hand, but apparently, jiggling can actually decrease cellulite!  Who knew?!

So this year, 2013, really is a new beginning for my workout regime.

I will be jiggling my way to new fitness levels.  What will I do with the kids?  I'll strap them onto a machine, too!  My daughter ran into a wall the other day and later fell down one step.  Improved coordination is something we could all use in this family.

Or possibly I just want to feel like SOMEONE out there is as quirky as I am, and a woman with her rear end up in the air in a public place seems as good a place as any to search for a kindred spirit.

Here's to new beginnings.  Hope to see you there.

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