Wednesday, December 28, 2011

This is My House

The house is quiet.

This is a phenomenon that occurs only when the four little noise & mess-makers that live inside these walls have traded in their cowboys hats and ballerina skirts for little halos sleeping like angels in their beds.

This is my house.

This is the place where a coaster can never be found for a wandering drink as they are being continually hidden under couches and flung like Frisbees.

This is the place where at the end of the day, little tea-pots and a procession of army-men are more likely to decorate my end tables and shelves than picture frames and candles (which are also always M.I.A.!).

This is the place where throw pillows are literally thrown and are rarely setting on their couches.

This is the place where you could put down money on the presence of a Cheerio or jelly-bean hiding under the dining room table and always win the bet.

This is the place that is rarely quiet and usually loud.

It’s where laughter and tears converge.

It’s where food is devoured and messes multiply.

It’s where memories linger and time fades away.

It’s where little people learn and big people too.

It’s where a family learns to grow and to love.

It’s where I live and there’s no other place in the world I’d rather be.

Although I day-dream of fluffy pillows on clean couches (without crooked cushions!!) and roll my eyes when I can’t find a coaster for my drink, I wouldn’t trade the messes and the mayhem if it meant living without the privilege and joy of raising four people we are blessed to call our children.

I suppose one day I will have picture frames on my shelves instead of tea-pots and marching army-men; beautiful carpets and crumb-less floors.  I may even reclaim all the M.I.A coasters and be able to finally offer our company a resting place for their drinks.

And when that day comes, I think I’ll throw a throw pillow on the floor...just for the heck of it.  I’ll  try my hardest as I sit in that quiet room to remember the noises of those little cowboys and dancing ballerinas who have grown and now have little mess-makers of their own!

And I may wish I could trade a clean and quiet house for the messy, loud one that sometimes drove me crazy.

This is my house...and I’m realizing, I really do love it; messes, noises and all.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bad Egg Turned GOOD!

What do you do with a bad egg?

Turning bad eggs into good memories was exactly what we did yesterday.  The night before, I had made a late night run to the grocery store (my nights on the town are super thrilling post-babies!).  I deliriously unloaded the bags onto the counter and tossed the perishables into the fridge before collapsing into bed only to discover the next morning I had overlooked a carton of eggs.  I was just about to throw them into the trash when I froze: what would a three and five-year-old kid do?  Maybe I was a weird kid (if my childhood BFFs are reading this, I hope they don’t agree too quickly!), but I remember thinking it would be fun to just throw an egg sometime.   You always have to be so careful with eggs, it would be exciting to be a little crazy with them for a change.

Of course, my boys whole-heartily agreed!

“MOM!”  Judah, my three-year-old was speechless (but yet still found something to say), “This is the BEST DAY EVER!!  Thank woo a lot!!  We can just throw them anywhere?!”

“Well, let me clarify: anywhere in the backyard is fine.  Don’t throw them at the car or house...or eachother, okay?” I’ve learned with kids to always state the obvious.

I watched them from the back door as they took off with their beloved eggs.  They laughed and shouted excitedly as the eggs shattered on tree trunks and bombed the frozen tundra around them with exploding white shells.  Of course, the good times only lasted a few moments, but the fun memory is STILL being talked about at the dinner table and tales of smashing eggs have been greatly egg-xaggerated (I had to do it!!) to their daddy!

I can’t believe how an activity that cost me absolutely nothing (I was going to throw them out anyways) could surpass many more costly events in my boy’s memory banks.  Fun is sometimes free and bad eggs really can be good!

I often underestimate the power of “nothing”.  When I think about doing something special with or for my children, more often than not, the activity or gift requires some "do-re-mi". Although there is definitely nothing wrong with treating our kids to a day at the theater, a long anticipated toy, or a overnight at a hotel (with a POOL!), I believe something sad happens when we start to believe that is the ONLY way our children can be blessed...and start to teach them this faulty belief as well.

Some of my best memories from my own childhood involved the most simple of things; a pad of paper and pencil while sitting at the kitchen table with my artistic mother who taught me how to draw, a Monopoly game set up on a card-table in the living room that daily awaited my sister and I when we raced home from the bus to continue the intense battle for "Boardwalk" and "Park Place", and my favorite book being read to me while snuggled under my dad’s arm.

I’m wondering if we send our children a subtle message when we constantly direct them towards fun outside the home that contentment must be sought outside ourselves rather than from within.  Could we also be saying money is the solution to every problem instead of treasuring the priceless gifts of life, such as family togetherness?

I know what I’m going to do the next time I want to make it a special day for my son or daughter, I’m going to open the game closet and grab “Go Spidey”  instead of opening the car door to run to Target and let them pick out yet another toy.  And instead of forking out the big bucks to take them to a show I’m going to grab a spoon and share some cookie dough with them while we wait for the oven to get warm to bake their favorite cookies.  And maybe once in awhile I will splurge...a whole $1.14 to buy my boys a dozen eggs and let them be a little crazy again in the backyard!

But whether I spend a little dinero or whether we stay at home, snuggled under a blanket with a flashlight reading scary stories (like “The Bernstein Bears and the Spooky Old Tree”!), I hope my children will discover along with me that true contentment and joy can’t be bought, it’s found within...and sometimes found in bad eggs turned good.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mom-nesia Strikes AGAIN!!!

Baby Warning Label:
“If you hear a grunt coming from a tiny person in a bathtub that has more fat rolls then years, do NOT hesitate and do not hope for the best--this isn’t the time to be optimistic!  Perform an emergency evacuation of all persons in the tub, armouring the offending party in a diaper ASAP in the hopes of preventing mass chaos and cries of “YUK!!” from all affected siblings in the tub.”

This would be a great warning label to slap on the bum of a newborn in order to give new parents a heads up.  Of course, if I were a new parent instead of a mom to four, almost five, I wouldn’t feel so foolish at the admission that I was the overly optimistic parent this morning when my baby girl filled the tub with...well, “a surprise” (I’ll keep this PG).

Amidst tears and cries of horror (from the two-year-old sister), I had to finish off their bath with a good ol’ hosing down from the shower to reverse the damage from my sweet lil’ baby’s tub “explosion”.  As they were crying, I had to laugh at myself and my recurring spells of mom-nesia.  Even though I had heard the grunt, I temporarily forgot the many times I’ve had to end a bath with the shower and a bottle of Lysol (for the tub, not the children that is!).  

Just as I often forget when I pull into a store parking lot with all my kids in tow just how “exciting” my shopping trip will no doubt become.  It usually includes (though is NOT limited to!) at least  ten frantic announcements of, “I HAVE TO GO PEE-PEE!!” which always occur when we are across the store, approximately 100 light-years away from the needed destination (who says shopping carts can’t go 60 mph!?).  

It also means me breaking out my Martha-Stewart-skills (FEW though they may be!) and making yet another pink crown out of paint-sample-cards to keep my little princesses from chewing through all the boxes of snacks before we check out.   An hour into our time at the store,  I usually check my mile-long list to realize that except for four deliriously bored children and a bunch of bananas (oh wait, how come there is only ONE left now?!  Ahhh!!), my cart is completely empty!

Although you may have a better Mom-memory than me and have learned to leave your kids at home when you shop (babysitters are worth their weight in gold some days!!), maybe it’s something else (another forward on their allowance?  Saying yes to an overnight at their friends even though their room is still trashed?  Attempting to eat at a fine dining restaurant with a toddler?) that triggers your own spell of Mom-nesia!  

Moms should come with a label too,

Mom Warning Label:
“May undergo spells of Mom-nesia that cause them to always love in spite of every trial (and attitude!) their children may cause and may only remember the best in spite of the previous worst case scenarios.”  

Although I’m the last one to like a label stuck on me, when it comes down to it, that might not be a bad one after all.  Maybe a spell of Mom-nesia now and then actually does a brain...and a heart...good!

Now, what is that little grunt I just heard...?!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Twiggy & Tall

Twiggy and tall.

Those are the words that typically describe great runners.  These are not adjectives that describe me.  On a good day (and if I’m standing on my tip-toes) I make 5 feet, 2 inches on a measuring stick, but although I’m short in stature, when it comes to running, I’m tall on determination.

I figured that would be enough when I walked onto the field the first day of practice at the division one University I attended after graduating from high-school.  The crew of tall and twiggy runners decked out in University gear gave me the “up/down” look and I could just imagine what they saw.  A naive little freckle-faced girl wearing her old Alma Matter sweats (as if that were cool when you’re with the BIG dogs!!) bouncing up and down, ready to roll.  Suddenly I felt even SHORTER than 5’2’’ and wondered if it would be awkward if I quit before I started.  I loved to run and was able to keep up (most days!) with my varsity squad at the old stompin’ grounds so I figured it couldn’t be much harder, right? OH, SO WRONG.

Hacking up a lung, wheezing like an old foggie (do people even use that term anymore!?) and DYING were just a few of the ways to describe how I both looked and felt as my new teammates and I hit mile five in our first day of practice (yes, I said FIVE!).  The stunning view of Lake Michigan that we had raced past at mile three was just a distant memory (whatever happened to a nice JOG pace, people?!).  

The blur of trees, highways and people were making my stomach churn and now a steep incline of a bridge loomed ahead and I was ready to collapse and cry as my chins screamed for mercy and the slope got steeper.  I couldn’t go on!  I was just about to quit right there, in the heart of downtown Milwaukee while my new (soon to be EX?) teammates sped on by!  They could call me a coward, I didn’t care.  I was comfortable in my high-school legacy (granted, a legacy no one ever heard of...but STILL!).  I could not be pushed to these new limits of pain and suffering one minute or one mile more.

Well, I thought all these things but didn’t actually stop...or even slow down much.  Yes, I was the slowest and THE LAST that day by the time we finished our ten mile run (which I discovered could be expected almost daily....still not sure why when our races were only a little over TWO miles!!).  But I finished.  And I realized something afterwards I lay sprawled in the grass, panting like a little pathetic puppy.  My new teammates had set a new standard for me.  I didn’t think I could run ten miles that fast (and didn’t really want to think about doing it again anytime soon), but I did.  I had been content in my old high-school victories but now realized they were nothing compared to what could be accomplished in the future, IF I didn’t give up.

Although I don’t still race across the countryside with my fellow UW-M runners, I still am running a race. [Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1-3]  Just like on that first day of practice in college (a.k.a. day of HELL), I’m pretty lucky to still be surrounded by people that continually raise the bar for me.  They show me that I shouldn’t be content with the past or even the way I am today because God has the best of ways.

I have incredible family, friends, mentors and even a spouse (I’m talking to you, dear--you can stop hyperventilating in shock now!) that encourage me to pick up the pace and stop being satisfied with the victories of yesterday when God has change and new plans on the horizon for us.  A perfect example of this is the way my husband has quietly modeled contentment in all things while I have been modeling complaining in most things!! [I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Phil. 4:10-13]  

I had assumed he was just as frustrated with me that we are “stuck” in a two-bedroom home with our fifth child coming soon; after all, that’s what a reasonable person SHOULD feel, right?  Don't get me wrong, I didn’t complain OUT LOUD most of the time (how spiritual of me, right?) but in my heart, I had the outlook of Eeyore the donkey (yes, I had to Google the spelling of that!). 

Well, my husband came along in the midst of my (secret) grumbling and showed me I could pick up the pace and run the race a little bit better.  He didn’t preach or lecture, he just kept being thankful for our home.  He complimented how clean it was (that was a RARE day...I’m thinking the children were all gone if that miracle happened!), he praised the layout of the house and how it’s perfect for a family with little kids (feel free to contact our Realtor if interested, ha!!) and all of this from a sincere heart of peace and contentment.

At first I felt like quitting.  I can’t live up to that kind of standard!  I wanted to be a coward and stay in my comfortableness of a complaining heart.  But I didn’t.  I don’t think I’m the best at being grateful yet, but I haven’t quit either!  I’m still running the race and now, thanks to a fellow teammate, I’m reaching some new personal highs!

In fact, the rest of the story from my season running on my college team turned out pretty cool too.  One day our coach called a short, freckle-faced girl out from a cluster of her twiggy and tall teammates.  I followed him down the hall of the sport building to his office, curious as to why he’d want to meet with me.  Afterall, although I wasn’t finishing dead last anymore, I still was by NO means the best or even among the top five on the team.

“I like your spirit.”  He plopped down behind a metal desk and I stood there, still confused.  “You bring something like...I don’t or something to this team.  We need that.  I’d like to make you a captain.”  

I looked around the room, wondering if anyone with captain potential had followed us in.  Hmm...that’s odd, it seemed he was talking to...ME!?  I smiled as I considered this: so the girl that started out as on the team as a coward had become a captain.  What didn’t kill me made me stronger and that was a lesson I would never forget.

I’m still learning that lesson today as my fellow Christ-follower teammates run beside me and pick up the pace, sometimes making me very uncomfortable, but ultimately showing me I can do more and be more with God’s strength than I had ever known.

Twiggy and tall aren’t the only adjectives that describe great runners.  Short and determined are some good words too!

Friday, November 11, 2011

I'm just a...HOUSEWIFE?!?

It was the climax of the show as I leaned in to see what the main star was about to say. The high-profile lawyer had just discovered that his co-worker (his secret crush) was about to get married.  He was devastated.  The love of his life would be gone forever and the lawyer had to say something powerful before the elevator doors closed and it would be too late.

“Why shouldn’t I marry him?”,  the lawyer’s crush challenged him.  As the doors began to close he replied with what seemed to be the most shocking and terrible thing imaginable, “Because, he wants you to be just a...HOUSEWIFE!”  Doomsday music rolled into the scene as the elevator doors shut and the screen went blank.  

Really?!  Being a housewife was the most horrible future imaginable for this woman?  This woman’s fiance wasn’t trying to get her to rob a bank or murder, yet the notion that he may want her to one day cut back her work at the firm to raise a family was just... UNTHINKABLE?!

Or is it?

The definition of housewife is: A married woman whose main occupation is caring for her family, managing household affairs, and doing housework.

Of course, if I were writing the definition, I would add a few things to that list...give or take a thousand! (see "Your Momma Is A..." blog for more of that list!)

I admit that most days more play-do sticks to the bottom of my socks than news about current world affairs ever sticks to my brain.  I’m more likely on the average day to be wearing spit-up on my shoulder and flour on my nose than a sexy pair of Valentino heels (not that I would complain if someone gave me some!). I help put together many Superman and dinosaur puzzles, but never help in putting together a savvy business deal.  

I’m sure applying a princess band-aid to a scraped knee couldn’t ever compare to administering medical care to the masses; but I’m also sure I’ll end up kissing more ouwies than assisting in any other kind of medical care.  Although I negotiate deals between feuding parties all day, the parties involved are usually wearing footsie pajamas instead of million dollar suits.  I don’t travel to third world countries to care for their orphans, but I do teach my own children how to pray for a lonely child they’ve never met.  

At the end of most days, the work I have accomplished (or DIDN’T accomplish!) may not compete with the “success” of a business merger, scoring a coveted contract or winning a court case.  There probably won’t be a “Mom Recognition Banquet” at the end of the year where I am awarded a trophy or give a speech(but not a bad idea, honey!  Hint, hint!).  In fact, most people will never recognize or care about the little acts of love I do for my family.  I do know, that at the end of the day, what I have accomplished mattered to someone.  It mattered to my children, and their opinion matters to me.

Not everyone is destined to be a housewife and that’s okay.  We need hard-working lawyers, smart business people, caring teachers and dedicated factory workers.  They are the back-bone of this amazing country!  But we also need hard-working, smart, caring and dedicated housewives...heck, our CHILDREN need women like that.

Contrary to what the high-profile lawyer from TV thought, being a housewife is a profession I carefully chose, not a trap I fell into.  It’s a job I studied for, anticipated and sacrifice greatly to maintain.  Best of all, I get to work for people who I love so much.  I would die for them without hesitation.

If you are a fellow housewife who at the end of the day, has play-do on your socks and band-aids in your pocket but didn’t get recognized by anyone for any great “success” or add money to the bank, don’t be discouraged!  Our job is challenging and rewarding in its own unique ways.  It is with both great pride and great humility that I declare, I AM A HOUSEWIFE!  I AM A MOTHER! I have a lot of pride in the job that I do and the high calling of being a parent to such precious gifts from God.  Yet I also have much humility to think that God would consider me qualified to shape and raise the next generation that will one day change our world.

Had I been on the other side of those elevator doors when that lawyer warned, “Your fiance wants you to be just a...HOUSEWIFE!”, I would have smiled and replied, “I would be honored.”

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Our EMT Rescue!

It was the worst of times...that became the best of times.

The only one to be blamed for this harrowing adventure is me and another one of my amnesia mommy-brain moments!   All it takes is the smell of freshly baking bread from Subway and I forget that four children under age six and a busy hospital cafeteria (with no highchairs!) would more than likely NOT be a winning combination!

Me and my little darlings had just rode down from the sixth floor at the hospital, where we were visiting a family friend, to the ground floor: home of the cafeteria and of course, delicious Subway bread baking in the oven.  I was just about to punch the button that would take us back to the parking lot and then on to get lunch at home, but my hunger caused me to temporarily forget that this situation spelled nothing but T-R-O-U-B-L-E and exclaimed on a whim, “Hey kids--let’s eat here today!”

It only took about two seconds after I sat down with all the kids in the hospital cafeteria (that was so packed we could scarcely even find a table for my crew!) that my sanity returned and I thought to myself, “WHAT was I thinking?”

Miraculously, some food was actually consumed amidst the tornado of flying lettuce, while my one-year-old(who I gave up trying to hold in my lap while stuffing my own face) did laps around our table and a Subway worker returned a little pink glittery shoe she found in their restaurant (how did they know it belonged to Miss EvaLee?!).

I was just wondering where I had stashed my Tums as I could feel the heartburn coming on from the marvelous combination of me inhaling my food and my blood pressure rising while I tried to keep all my children lassoed within a reasonable distance of our table.

Alas, it was my precious three-year-old son that made the worst of times take a turn for the...worster.

“Mommy!  I have to go poo-poo!  If I don’t go right now, I might REALLY go in my pants!  Can we HURRY!!!???”

Oh, sure, don’t worry about me actually EATING!  I was attempting to get my second bite of a sandwich since I’d been popping out of my chair like toast out of a toaster on steroids the entire meal!

“Can you wait?”  I knew it was really a rhetorical question as he was already in the final phase of The Potty Dance.

“Okay, let’s load up, everyone!”  I practically tossed my girls into the stroller as I frantically pulled my oldest son’s coat on, when I realised I was putting his coat on my baby girl!  It was as I tried to ready the gang for our emergency evacuation to the nearest toilet that I noticed with a sinking heart the mess we still needed to clean at the table.

Suddenly, a group of EMT workers that had been eating nearby, decked out in blue uniforms with crackling walkie-talkies clipped onto their belts, approached me.

“Can we help?  We’ll clean this up for you!”  The lady smiled warmly as she said this and looked to me just like Mother Teresa at that moment, “By the way, we were watching you guys and your kids are really sweet.  They are so well behaved.”

I furrowed my brow in confusion and looked around.  Yes, it was me she was talking to and it did (by some strange miracle!) seem she was saying “well behaved” and “my children” in the same sentence.  

I felt faint with shock and could hardly find my voice, “You don’t have to do this...and thank you.”

A few of the men that had come over with her smiled and nodded their agreement as thy got to work gathering up our wrappers, leftover food and even getting on their hands and knees to pick up the aftermath of the lettuce tornado off the floor.

Had those EMT workers regaled me for hours with stories of their amazing rescues, I would not have admired them any more than I did at that moment to see them cleaning up our trash, complimenting my kids and overwhelmingly blessing a very frazzled mother.  I felt humbled by their simple act of kindness towards a stranger.  Their rescue to our family that day made them true heroes to me.

I doubt I’ll ever be able to recount this memory of these heroic rescue EMTs without wiping away a tear.  So rare is the heart of humility and rarer still to see one serve a total stranger who could not repay them.

As we raced towards a bathroom (making it in the nick of time!), I thought about what a hero really is.  Could it be as simple as a person who goes beyond what their call of duty is?  A person who does more than their job ever requires of them, and does it willingly with a servant’s heart?  

Those rescue workers inspired me to think about my own job as a mother and how I could be a hero to my children.  There is so much my “job” requires (cooking meals, cleaning messes, giving baths, etc.) that I don’t always take the time to go beyond that call of duty and truly serve the little ones that keep me so busy “on the job”!

When my oldest goes on and on (and on...!) about his latest passion (usually involving a superhero!), do I really take time to listen or do I hurry about the kitchen, busy with my “job”?  When my three-year-old spills his milk (again!), do I just toss him a towel to clean it up or get down on my knees so we can clean it up together?  

It took a heroic “rescue” by a team of EMT workers to remind me that there is a hero inside us all; and if we are willing to go beyond our calling or duty and truly serve those around us, we can all be someone’s hero.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Supernatural Sucker-Punch!

Had someone punched me in the gut at church today, I would not been as shocked as I was at the scene I witnessed three rows in front of us.

The oldest daughter to a beautiful mother who has been battling for her very life against an aggressive cancer was worshiping God with such joy and enthusiasm that I couldn’t help but stare.  I was moved to tears to watch this young lady lifting her hands and singing with her entire being as the music filled the sanctuary.  The last few years she has watched her mother lose weight, her appetite and her pretty hair but never her steadfast faith in God as she walked through many valleys in the fight for her life.  

If there was one person in that church service on that chilly Sunday morning who had a reason NOT to rejoice, it was this sweet girl.  She had every right to be angry, confused, hurt and discouraged.  No one would have thought twice if she would have collapsed into a chair and cried when the upbeat worship music began.  She has watched the person most dear to her endure more pain and suffering than most of us could begin to imagine.  But she didn’t, she stood.  She swayed.  She raised her hands.  Her face filled with love and adoration for her Savior and she smiled as she sang...yes, SMILED!

This girl was going to praise God not because of something wonderful happening in her life but because of who God is and because He is worthy of our praise! I don’t think I was the only parishioner in that service that was both convicted and inspired by her pure heart.

The scene truly humbled me and I hung my head for a moment in shame.  Do I praise God DESPITE my circumstances, or BECAUSE of my circumstances?  If that were my own dear mom in a fight for her life, would a bleak Sunday morning find me standing in church and praising God with my whole heart...or moping around at home, asking, “Why me?!”

These questions haunt me still.  The simple adoration of a young person took my breath away and convicted my selfish heart.  

I made a choice  right then to join with my sister in the Lord in praising God with great enthusiasm!  The music continued to fill the room and I stood up, smiling through my tears.  That girl three rows up had a secret and I think I know what it is, she was not living in her own strength, but in His. (I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Phil. 4:13)

Today I had a supernatural sucker-punch...and I’m VERY thankful I did!

Learning to rejoice and SMILE in the good times...and the CRAZY times too!!