To My Daughter, Before You Go to Kindergarten: Love the Hard Ones

That kid who keeps making fart noises and laughing hysterically? Love him.

That kid who went to the principal’s office for cutting another kid’s hair? Love her.

That kid who doesn’t know how to count to ten? Love her too.

That kid who peed all over the bathroom wall? Yep, even him.

That kid who cussed out the teacher? Absolutely. She needs your love so desperately.

Because here’s the thing. You might be just what they need.

I know, because I’ve been loved by you. And you were what I needed. I know what it is to be changed by you, to have my insides reconfigure because of your kindness. You’ve got it in you, this ability to infuse those around you with goodness. You can do that.

That Time Jesus Got Buried Under Christmas: Just In Case You Need an Excuse Not to Decorate

This year, I pray that I may be content in the stable. That I may find beauty in the meekness of a humble manger and not try to manufacture it everywhere else. Jesus is easily found in spaces untouched by the desire to put our own greatness on display. I have to be careful not to hide him.

Preparing for Kindergarten, According to a Kindergarten Teacher

I’ve seen that when learning comes naturally to a student, they get accustomed to it being easy, so when they are faced with difficulty, the willingness to keep trying and push through frustration is more indicative of long-term success to me than if they can get stuff on their first try. Eventually they will be faced with hard stuff. How will they respond? Kids that keep trying and don’t give up surpass everybody!

To the Mom Whose Hands Are Full

We are so close to returning to civilization, our hands totally free. They will no longer be filled with a tiny hand as you cross the street or with that squishy little body in the rocking chair; we won’t have to use them to spoon-feed a mouth or turn the pages of a book; we won’t use them to haul around a bag full of 18,000 essentials or to clean up twice as many messes.

What If I'm Not "Soaking It Up"?

Last Sunday morning, I sat down in the middle of worship, head in my hands, overwhelmed. My husband sat down next to me and put his arm around me.

What’s wrong? Are you okay? 

I’m just tired. I’m so tired.

Are you sure that’s all? I feel like you’re not telling me something.

No. I’m just exhausted. I’m so ready for Hattie to grow out of this stage. I’m just so tired of her.

As soon as the last sentence escaped my lips, the guilt bubbled up inside me, then the shame, then the inadequacy. What kind of mom am I? I’m tired of my own child. And of all places, I knew God definitely heard me talking about his child, and now he probably thinks I’m ungrateful for this gift, the gift some achingly long for for years upon years. A new layer of guilt.

Lord, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I feel this way.

I have read all the hundreds of articles and heard the heartfelt sentiments and shallow platitudes over and over. This won’t last forever. You better soak it all up now because they’ll be grown before you know it.

I know what they mean, what they’re trying to say. I know they’re probably right. And maybe I will miss this stage.

But yesterday I cried when I heard Hattie at 5:30 AM ready for the day. I cried every time I tried to put her down for a nap because she would. not. stop. fighting it. I cried thirty minutes later when I heard her wails echoing from her room. THIRTY minutes? You wake up at 5:30 AGAIN and you can’t muster up a nap longer than THIRTY FREAKING MINUTES? I cried when Charlee collapsed on the floor for the eighteenth time that day, this one in particular because I wouldn’t give her a third bag of fruit snacks. Then, Hattie’s screams filled my ears as I set her down to go take care of her sister. I cried while I was cooking dinner and got a glimpse of the state of the house. And the state of my outfit. And the state of my hair. Then I cried myself to sleep because I felt so guilty for having cried so much.

Can I tell you how I feel right now about soaking up This Time? I feel like cussing This Time out and kicking it in the balls. I feel like locking This Time out of the house and laying down and taking a nap. I feel like telling This Time to go to grandma’s for a couple of months until it gets a little bit bigger.

This Time has me by the neck with all four of its tiny hands and is slowly suffocating me. It has brought me to my knees. I am gasping for air.

I know I can do it; it’s not a matter of knowing whether I am capable of being a semi-functioning parent day in and day out. I can suck it up and do it. But what if I am not enjoying every second of it? What if I wish for these months to pass quickly? What if I feel like a failure because my baby has cried for five months straight and I can’t figure out how to fix it? What if I am so damn ready to be out of the baby stage?

What if I’m not soaking it up? 

Does that make me a bad mom? 

Please stop telling me This Time goes by so quickly. Because these have been the longest five months of my life. I’m fine. I really am. Just allow me the space to catch my breath.

And in the meantime, maybe on my knees is where I was supposed to be this whole time. Maybe I should just stay here. 

Perfection Pending

This is the Story of How I Lost My Mind

At the end of some days, I think back on the day and reflect on how it went so smoothly. And then (because I never learn), I think to myself,  “I’ve really got this whole parenting thing down.”

Then there are days like Wednesday.

God gives you days like the former, to remind you of how much you love your kids on days like the latter.

God gives you days like the latter, to keep your ego in check.

Coincidentally, Tuesday was one of those smooth sailing days. Love how Tuesdays seem to always happen before Wednesdays. Literally and figuratively speaking.

On Tuesday, Charlee took a three-hour nap AND Hattie was asleep for an hour-and-a-half of those three hours. That meant I had a whole entire hour-and-a-half TO.MY.SELF. Unheard of. Because of this three-hour nap (does anyone else keep singing three-hour nap to the tune of Gilligan’s Island?), Big Girl had a very difficult time falling asleep that night. She finally tuckered out around 11 pm. Hattie however, fell asleep around 7:30. 

Does anyone see where this is going?

So then we have … Wednesday. Hattie wakes up at 6:15. Ugh. She eventually falls back to sleep around 8. With what I am sure is to be a long while before Charlee wakes up, I decide to get dressed — as in put on makeup and a semi-cute mom-casual outfit. WHAT? I know. It is out of character. Some days you just need to feel good about yourself, right? I think God knew what the day ahead of me held, so he offered me this nibble of confidence, knowing the rest will be completely depleted in about 12 hours.

I hear Charlee’s good morning cry at approximately 8:32: “YA YA YA YA YA YA YA.”As soon as I hear her I think, “This is bad.” Not unlike her mother, she needs an ample amount of sleep to function emotionally the following day. As I make the long walk to her bedroom, I attempt to prepare myself for what is sure to be a toddlerific Wednesday.

The day begins with breakfast… as days usually do. I’m sure you know, deciding on what to eat for breakfast is torturous some mornings. And the obvious way to convey your disgust with what your mom chooses for you is to cry at a very high pitch, as to attract all the neighborhood dogs to eat the breakfast for you. How dare I give her raspberries and yogurt. The nerve.

If I were smart, I would have recognized the spiral for what it was and kept the child quarantined all day. But I gave her the benefit of the doubt, sure that once we got out the door she would be transformed by the light. So I sat her in front of the computer (Go ahead. Judge me. I would if I weren’t me.) and proceeded to play Elmo songs on YouTube while she ate her buttered pancakes (frozen and store-bought… don’t be impressed), so that I can feed Hattie and get our stuff together for a playdate.

About 12 meltdowns later (why won’t I let her wear her boots on the wrong feet?!), I am determined to get out the door before someone dies. Our 10 o’clock date was to the local church that holds a Mom ‘n Tot time on Wednesday mornings. I walk in with Charlee, fully aware that she is teetering precariously on this tightrope of sleep deprivation, knowing her tired alter-ego could rear its ugly head at any moment.

She has a couple mini-meltdowns (a boy was walking inside a train tent, which is clearly terrifying, and a little girl took the bike she wanted to ride. B*&%$), but nothing too dramatic. Then, the final straw comes in the form of a two-year-old girl who takes a hula hoop Charlee is standing by. STANDING BY. Was she playing with it? Nope. Does she know what a hula hoop is or how to use one? Not at all. Did that pink piece of plastic symbolize all that was holding her fragile world together? Apparently.

We left in a trail of tears, a baby in each arm with the eldest screaming in one ear, the youngest’s eyes wide, like, “Mom! Make her stop!”

We recover at home before nap time.

Did I say nap time? What I meant was… she doesn’t take a nap. 

C lies in her bed for an hour-and-a-half, chatting and singing … just about the only time that whole day she was pleasant. You guys. No nap. No freaking nap.

That evening, we take dinner to some of our friends. And OF COURSE she falls asleep in the car. After about 20 minutes, she wakes up. And she wakes up angry. Angry at Hattie for having to eat. Angry at her high chair for being too high. Angry at mom for not giving her TWO Gogurts.

At about 6:25, Hattie catches The Crazies from her sister and proceeds to scream, pull my hair, scratch my chest and punch me in the face for the next 3 1/2 hours. 8 gallons of gas drops later, she falls asleep. Only to wake up 22 more times before morning.

And that is the story of how I lost my mind.

Send Target. Like the whole store. Send it to me. And coffee. And a babysitter.

Dear Men, This is Pregnancy

Dear Men,

My husband might disagree with me, but I don’t consider myself a man basher/hater. I’m not one of those women that says in disgust, “Ugh, they just DON’T understand how hard it is to be a woman…” I have several men in my life for whom I have an enormous amount of respect and love. And seriously, I wouldn’t want to be a man. Not just because your bodies look uncomfortable to me (which they do), or because I would be missing out on some fabulous Girls’ Nights, or because being tackled looks painful and masochistic. But mainly because I think being a woman is awesome. All PMS and feminine hygiene products aside, this is a good club to be in.

Except for right now.

Other than about 12 blissful, quasi-normal weeks God squished right there in the middle for our sanity, being pregnant kinda blows. And my two fetuses haven’t even been all that mean to me (oh Princess Kate, bless your soul). I’m going to attempt to paint a picture for you, men, even though I know I don’t have the artistic skills to paint one well enough for you to ever be able to vicariously experience, empathize, or understand these life-creating, uterus-expanding, back-breaking 40 weeks that we call pregnancy.

All I know is that God chose us, exclusively, to carry, labor, and deliver your children that you implant within us. There is no “your turn.” You’re welcome.

Here are some things you might consider, though, the next time you stop feeling sorry for me or any other knocked up gal-pal:

— Bladder control? Let’s talk about that. It’s like, every 15 minutes, this tiny mite atop my bladder gains 28 pounds and starts using it as a trampoline. Well, apparently, bladder trampolines have a weight limit. And running to the toilet is not a solution. In fact, running will only expedite the inevitable. You will wet your pants when you’re pregnant. You might even think your water broke, start crying, call your doctor, your mom, and your husband thinking you’re going into preterm labor, get a sub, and go to the hospital only to be told you wet your pants. And then, you might have to go back to school forced to tell everyone that has been praying for you (EVERYONE) that “No, I, in fact, was not in labor. The doc said I peed my pants.” Yep.

— I realize that you think you are often hungry. No. You don’t know hunger. We are hungry. All the time. This hunger is the type of hunger that makes you feel like you are going to throw up if you don’t eat something RIGHT THIS SECOND. Wait… come again? Isn’t that a paradox? Yes. It’s the worst paradox in the history of the universe. Why would I want to eat a million cows when I simultaneously feel like puking? It’s inexplicable. But we do.

— Have you ever had a Charlie horse? You know, when your toes start curling and your calf starts cramping like you just ran a marathon? We could eat 13 bananas a day and still wake up at 2 am writhing in pain. It eventually passes. For about 24 hours.

— Every time we sit down, lie down, bend down, look down… our entire back becomes one giant nerve bundle of anger. Standing up is impossible without assistance. But I have halfway mastered the roll to the side, prop up on one arm, push up to the knees, and find something sturdy pull up on. I am a 78-year-old arthritic woman.

— There are no words to describe the exhaustion. Your wife is not joking when she says she literally can’t keep her eyes open. This is the tired that extends beyond drowsy, way past fatigued, right into dead-man-walking territory. Oh, did you say I’m raising another child that fully relies on my constant wit and wisdom? Welp. Maybe this next one will have better luck.

— Here’s the kicker. We can’t sleep. I know, I know. We’re so tired. That doesn’t make sense. Nothing about creating a human inside your body from a minnow and an egg makes sense. This, least of all. I will be dog tired all stinking day and go to sleep at 9, only to wake up at 3am. I will lie there, eyes closed, wide awake, for hours, willing myself to fall asleep, reminding myself that in 2 hours… 1 hour… 45 min… 10 min Charlee is going to throw her paci at me from her crib. Knowing that as soon as she wakes up, I will be ALMOST asleep, because that’s just how life works.

— I’m sorry we cry all the time. We are embarrassed by our instability. Don’t ask us why we’re crying. We don’t know. Don’t say, “Well, there must be SOME reason.” Because then we will have to think REALLY hard and we might come up with a reason that is, in fact, not the reason at all (because, seriously, there’s not one). This fake reason will sound ridiculous (because it is), turn into a huge fight and then we will just cry harder.

— Don’t get me started on what this thing does to our bodies. And don’t suggest to your baby mama that she workout. Do you remember how tired we are?

— We not only lose our bodies. We lose our minds. God grants us the ability to forget what pregnancy was like (and thus forgetting most everything else), so that we will continue to get pregnant. For example, I will walk into a room fully intending to grab something before we leave, stand there, look around, walk out of the room and walk back in trying to jog my memory, and then just leave. Then, I’ll realize once we get wherever we’re going, I have no diapers or wet-wipes. THAT’S what I went back inside for. Dang it.

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While this is a rather abbreviated list of the hundreds of other (unmentionable) side-effects of pregnancy, it’s also a bit of a satire.

Don’t get me wrong, I am dead serious about all I just wrote. It’s not a walk in the park. It’s more like a walk into therapy. Physical and mental. But what an incredible experience to actually get to grow a person inside of me. I am a walking miracle. Go ahead, guys, be jealous. I am already so extraordinarily bonded to this being inside of me, and I don’t even know its name, gender, personality. I just know that I am this baby’s mom. I’m a mom. And since I get to be a mom, I think I win.

And if I’m being completely, totally, 100% truthful… there’s a part of me that actually LIKES being pregnant. I know. Mind-blowing. Nonsensical. Insane. But true.

So, dads, we’re not asking that you carry the next one. We’re not asking that you rub our feet every night or bring us breakfast in bed (but we won’t turn it down). We’re not even asking that you feel sorry for us. We just ask that you add a dollop of patience to your personality for a few months. We ask that you give us hugs when we’re being crazy, tell us we look beautiful when our faces are as round as our bums, and let us take a few naps on occasion. Because it’s not just our bellies that are changing, it’s our entire world. And we all know that we don’t have the emotional stability to handle that kind of thing right now on our own.