Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Calm over Chaos

A few weeks ago, I felt like we were flailing.  Flailing as in...drowning.  Getting home, the house was a mess, I was stressed, and dinner was not only not on the stove, it was still in the freezer.  After a few days of the "go go go" it hit priorities were totally out of whack.

Let me is all about priorities.  How you spend your money--priorities.  How you spend your time--priorities.  How you raise your kids--priorities (lets be real--we can't be the perfect parent and teach them we prioritize and teach them what we feel is the most important.  Example: "Oh, he's jumping off the arm of the couch onto the couch?  No biggie."  but...."Oh, he's running into the street?  BIG DEAL).

My priority was my calendar.  I've never thrived with an empty calendar.  I love to be busy, and I love to invest in those around me.  Relationships are important to me.

I didn't think I was over-committed.  And technically, I wasn't.  I wasn't double booked, I wasn't skipping naptime for my child...yet, there was a sense of chaos that I felt like I couldn't control.  And that's when it hit me: I wanted calm in my home more than I wanted to fill my calendar.

I wanted my ducks in a row.  I wanted my laundry done.  I wanted my dishes clean.  I wanted the floors clean.  I wanted my car to NOT be a total disaster.  I wanted to have dinner on the stove and serve it in a reasonable fashion where we all sit down and eat together rather than throwing anything we can find together.  I wanted my bills to be filed away rather than sitting in a heap on my desk.  I wanted for my husband to walk through the door and for me to greet him with, "I've got things handled here!  How was your day, dahling??"  <---In this theory, I may or may not be a 1950s housewife wearing pearls...HA!  But, SERIOUSLY...I didn't want to be a hot mess when he got home.

Don't get me wrong...we have had that life in the past--you know, a calm one.  When Mason was a baby and didn't require as many activities and social things to entertain him, we were home a lot more.  He also wasn't as quick on his feet, so I had more time to devote to keeping a house. But now, with school for him three mornings a week, me volunteering, keeping up with friends, grocery shopping, and the general tasks that I do to keep the house was all just too much.

So, I started my own mantra ..really, it's to put myself first.  Each morning I ask myself: What can I do today to choose calm over chaos?

Some days, that means forgoing a social opportunity so that I can take care of my chores.  Or skipping a trip to target (who doesn't love going to target), so that I can have dinner on the table on time.  Or saying no to things so that I can say yes to myself and my family.  Or being diligent about meal planning and grocery shopping--my least favorite task of all.

While being out and about, volunteering my time, helping others, and staying busy fulfills me, none of it is worth my home being in a state of chaos and disarray.  I am not my best self when my house is a wreck.

So, I've noticed over the past few weeks that as I repeat to myself--What can I do today to choose calm over chaos, that I can avoid a lot of stress, anxiety, and frankly, I'm a happier person.

For some, they don't mind a messy home and would be MUCH more fed with social obligations and a busy calendar...and hey, that's cool.  Different strokes for different folks!

But for me, I'm choosing calm over chaos this holiday season.  Because, my sanity is worth it.  Because I'M worth it.  And because the members of my family are worth it.

So, if I've been out of pocket or off the radar lately, it's simply because I'm making an effort to order my home, my life, and my responsibilities rather than fill my calendar.  Doesn't mean friends aren't important, but life just gets busy with a toddler and two dogs (that require quite a bit of time and energy as well and make cleaning a DAILY thing).  In fact, asking myself the question of how I can choose calm over chaos is kind of empowering.  It is a guilt free way for me to not only prioritize myself, but also my family.  Because we all know, if momma ain't happy, nobody is!  And isn't that my number one priority in the end?  Cultivating a wonderful home that my husband looks forward to coming home to and my son feels loved and secure in??  After all, his sense of what normal is--well, that is being shaped every day.  I want his "normal" to be a well run, well organized home, full of love, fun, laughter, and plenty of TIME to enjoy each other.  Particularly around the holidays.  Not a stressed mom with a full calendar.

This one question allows me to live my life in a more intentional way.  I share this because it's really such a fantastic question for those of us who feel like life might be spinning a bit faster than we would like!

Happy Holidays, my friends!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The hard stuff. The good stuff.

Once again, I have failed to update this blog for months.  *sigh*

But, I find myself sitting here, alone, watching cheesy chick flicks and listening to my lab snore.

Tomorrow is my dad's birthday.  Only, this year, he isn't with us to celebrate.  My dad died of cancer earlier this summer.  We started the year with him healthy (so we thought), and only found out two months prior to his passing that he had terminal cancer.  It was all a blur.

I remember rocking my son at night the few weeks after we found out.  It was so hard for me to rock him because all I could think about was how, for my dad, rocking us as kids (to him) felt like yesterday.  While rocking my munchkin, my thoughts would drift between the sadness of my dad aging, and dying, and how quickly the next thirty years will pass for me.

Then, I took the munchkin home to Texas so we could hang out with family.  We didn't know how bad it was.  Within weeks, dad was in the hospital dying.

About a week after the funeral, the munchkin and I returned to our home--Virginia.  And life went on.  There were errands, playdates, naps, grocery trips, and chores.  And as time went on, I noticed a change in my toddler.  He was more defiant.  More difficult.  Angry.  Insecure.

People kept telling me that perhaps he was somehow reacting to me grieving.  I was perplexed.  I mean, I know they say that kids sense things, but I wasn't crying in front of him, and I was absolutely trying my best.

But still...he was different.

So, I dug deep.  Smiles, grins, cheery dispositions, and lots of patience...and there wasn't much of a change from him at all.

Until it hit me--I hadn't been rocking him.

So, I did.

Rocking a baby gives you time to think.  Time to sing.  Time to pray.  Time to ponder.  Rocking him was hard.  Hard because I missed my dad.  Hard because it made me realize just how quickly life passes.  Hard because I knew that in the blink of an eye, I could be lying in the hospital.  But you know what?  I noticed a change in the toddler.  He seemed happier.  More secure.  I only rocked him for 5-10 minutes each night.  It was just "our time."

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized, blessings hide in hard stuff.
Whether it's marriage, raising kids, working, dealing with family, life--it's hard.

My dad wouldn't disagree.  When he told us stories about the times he remembered us as kids, the stories were either funny and carefree times, or they were full of "hard"...full of challenge.  Full of lessons.

Whether it was the time he made my brother burn every single pokemon card for telling a lie (which was really hard for my dad), or canceling my twelfth birthday party as a consequence, or sitting up with us through the  night when we were sick as babies, or, on faith alone, uprooting his family, moving 2000 miles, and starting his own business.  Hard.  Dealing with lay offs, siblings dying, bills, parenting decisions, coaching.  Life.  Hard.

But, the beauty is in the mess.  The mess of raising babies with the one you love.  The mess of figuring out how to be a grown up (sheesh!).  The mess of dealing with loss.  The loss of a pet.  The loss of a friend.  The loss of a dream. Hard.  The mess of learning to love and live with the same person--to accept them and see the sides of them that they don't want anyone to see.

And my blessing for choosing the "hard" and rocking my munchkin?  I got my kid back.

When people stop me in the grocery store, and say, "You'll miss these days" what they really mean is, "I remember how hard it was but the hard was SO worth it."

But, the truth is, my blessings outweigh my hard ten-fold.  Sure, I am dealing with grief.  But, I get to grieve a great man.  A man who was my daddy for thirty years.  A man who was always my number one fan on the field/court/stage.  A man who taught me how I should be treated.  A man who loved us unconditionally.  A man who sacrificed and put us first.  I'm sad because my dad was so great and I miss him so much.  I'm frustrated because I have a beautiful child who is healthy and rambunctious.  The frustration of raising this toddler is refining me and making me a better person--one tantrum at a time.  The feeling of loneliness is tempered by the fact that because I am far from family, my husband is my best friend.  My marriage is wonderful, beautiful, amazing, and it's the marriage of my dreams--because of the hard stuff.

So, I will embrace the hard stuff.  Because I know, that the hard stuff is making me better.  Stronger.  Braver.  And the hard stuff is actually blessing me along the way.

My dad would have been 60 tomorrow.  I know that he's looking down, and rooting for me.  At every turn--when I am at a loss as to how to handle a challenging toddler, or dealing with the sadness, I know that he's there.  Supporting me.  And, as hard as it is that he's not available for me to call, what a blessing that I know he's always there.

So, tomorrow--I will not ignore the hard.  I will listen to great music.  I will drive with the sunroof back.  I'll enjoy being out at dusk--dad's favorite time of day.  And I will  not let sadness reign.

Happiest of Birthdays Dad.  You're the best, and life without you is hard.  But, still good.  Full of blessings.

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Last Day of School

The last day of school has always been a bit sad for me. 

When I was a student, it was sad to say goodbye to teachers and friends for the summers.  Sad to know another year was in the books and that the next year would be different.  Sad that I was one year closer to being "done" with my school years. 

When I was a teacher, it was sad to say goodbye to my kids.  Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed my summers, but when you teach, each year is different.  You learn to love those little personalities in your class.  You build relationships.  Bonds.  It's heartbreaking to let them go. 

Now that I'm a mom, it's really sad.  My little one is only in Preschool, but the last day of school marks the passing of time.  Growing up.  Knowing that I'll never get this year or this age back.  If you would have asked me a year ago how I felt about my baby growing up, there would be no sadness involved.  In fact, all of the moms that I was friends with seemed sad when their babies hit a milestone.  They were happy to celebrate the milestone, but there was an underlying sadness that their baby was growing up.  I never felt this way.  At all.  From birth until about the age of 2, I was NEVER sad when the munchkin hit a milestone.  Only relieved to have another under the belt as we marched towards childhood and out of baby and toddlerhood. 

Now, I feel different.  I think it's because I am not a "baby" person.  I LOVE holding babies...and playing with babies...but having one ALL THE TIME is different. It makes sense too, because when my husband and I decided that we wanted to grow our family, I didn't picture myself with a baby.  I pictured myself with a handful of KIDS.  Playing sports.  Activities.  Having conversations over dinner.  Spending quality time together. 

In the past few weeks, my child is quickly growing out of the toddler phase.  We can have conversations--not deep, meaningful life changing conversations, but he can communicate with me.  Which is so cool!  We can sit down and watch a short movie together--with popcorn or a treat.  We can share something with him--like bubbles, or building a sandcastle and he is in awe!  A few months ago, he wasn't interested in any of that...only movement and physical challenges--which was so hard and exhausting for us. 

Now that he is entering that "kid" phase...the sadness and nostalgia has hit.  This is his last day of school for this year.  I'll never get these days back.  My baby isn't a baby anymore, and as we move forward, time will only speed up.  How silly is it to be sad about being an empty-nester when your child is 2?!?!   

And older adults agree.  Their advice is full of, "enjoy it now, it passes all too quickly" and "it goes by so fast" which are two phrases that can send an exhausted mom in the trenches into a tirade!!  But it's true.  And deep down we all know it.  Older women stare longingly at me and the munchkin in the grocery store and I can tell by the look on their face that they are missing their baby.  The sweet days when they had their baby home with them.  When I see their faces, I know it's real.  This feeling that the days are long, but the years are short. 

This time we get with our children is short.  And then, all too soon, they are off--and living their own life.

So, my challenge for the summer is to live in the moment.  Be kind and patient.  Be fun and adventurous.  And soak it in.  Because before I know it, school will be starting up again. 

Happy Last day of School to all the mommas, teachers, and kids out there!  May you all have a beautiful summer! 

Monday, May 6, 2013

What is motherhood?

Throughout my life, whenever I'm about to move into a new phase of life--whether it be college, marriage, military life, or motherhood--I always like to ask questions to the people who are currently IN the phase, or have gone through it.  "You've been married for 40 years?  What's your most important piece of advice?"  "You have four kids?  What do you miss the most about the age that my child is now?  I want to make sure and soak it up now while he is young."  "You're a military wife?  What the best piece of advice for moving you've ever received?"  And so on.

Often, people are taken aback when I ask.  They aren't prepared to share their MOST valuable advice.  They turn their head to the side, sigh, and ponder the question.  And sometimes, I get a great answer...and sometimes, I get a shoulder shrug followed by, "Work hard."  "Forgive."  "Hug them more." 

While these answers are good, they don't really satisfy my insatiable need for insight into the human life.  While thinking about this the other day (while cleaning up the 8th spill of the day), it occurred to me that I wanted to answer this question about motherhood--for myself, and for others if they are interested.  Not merely advice.  But what is it about? 

What is motherhood? 

Motherhood is feeling desperate for a break or to get away from your young, dependent child, yet knowing that if you do "get away" even for a few hours, you'll miss something.  Or, you'll just miss them.

Motherhood is being exhausted, but never sleeping the same again! 

Motherhood is gladly enforcing punishments and consequences.  Motherhood is dreading having to be the "enforcer."

Motherhood is letting your toddler drink from a cup because he or she insists, and angrily calmly cleaning up the mess each time they spill it.

Motherhood is wanting the independence you once had before you had your kids, but feeling like a superhero when you are the only person who can kiss a boo boo and make it better.

Motherhood is falling in love with your spouse all over again when you see them with your children, but often being too tired to show it. 

Motherhood is a different body, where imperfections are no longer imperfections.  They are memories and represent life.  (Don't believe me?  Wait until your child learns that they came from your belly.  Look at the wonder in their eyes.)  Your body is beautiful.

Motherhood is the constant battle between fixing the problem right away, or teaching a lesson.  Giving in to what your toddler wants versus giving them what they need.

Motherhood is knowing that you are spending all of your time and energy on teaching, growing, shaping this little person that will eventually leave you and build a life apart from you. 

Motherhood is laughing and crying in the same sentence from exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed, or just feeling like you have no idea what you are doing.

Motherhood is still getting out of bed to take care of kids, run carpool, and make lunches when you have the flu. 

Motherhood is crying about things that haven't happened yet.  Graduations, first days of school, the day they are too old to be rocked....silly emotions. 

Motherhood is doing whatever it takes to get them to sleep.  Seriously....sleep. 

Motherhood is relentless.  At EVERY stage.  Whether you're nursing for every two hours.  Or you're telling your toddler no use better choices five hundred times a day.  Or you're answering the question, "Why?" all day every day.  Or you're holding firm on standards--homework, appropriate attire, appropriate behavior, please and thank you.  Motherhood is constant. 

Motherhood is the bliss found in the first moments, the long awaited moments, and the still moments.  When you look at your child's face and you have time to study it.  Or, when your child does something and you are reminded that you are not failing.  That this person you're raising is taking the form of the person you hope them to be someday.

Motherhood is a whole new set of hours, and a whole new set of priorities.

Motherhood is never realizing how much your mom loved you until you have kids of your own.

Motherhood kissing the back of their neck and soaking that smell in.  Knowing that their giggles won't last forever.  Drinking in the moments and slowing down to enjoy the little people that they are becoming. 

Motherhood is beautiful. 
And rewarding.
And hard. 
And consuming. 

What is motherhood to you?

Make sure to hug a mom this Mother's Day--especially if her husband is deployed!     

For all the moms out there, Happy *almost* Mother's Day.  May you have a day of no diapers, relaxation, appreciation, and sleeping in! (Or whatever suits your fancy!)


Saturday, February 23, 2013

My favorite spot in our home...

Why hello (six+ months later)!
I don't post very often--because life is busy with a toddler, and frankly, because I feel like if I don't have something funny or important to share...well, I don't see a need to write. :) But today, I felt a need to share for cathartic reasons.

The past few months have been hard for me. For lots of reasons that I won't go into. But hard.

And I understand that "hard" is just a part of life. And that is OK. I believe that things are hard for a reason. To teach me. To grow me. These are the years where we earn our "wisdom", right? ;)

I have a favorite spot in my house (besides my bed--climbing into the bed after a long day is such an amazing feeling!). Our house was built in 1932, I think. It's since been renovated and a larger kitchen, garage, and room above the garage were all added on. So, the old "kitchen" is now a little hallway/room that connects the dining room and the kitchen.

Here is a picture of the wall that runs along this little room. Across from it are cabinets and more counters--basically an extension of the kitchen. Underneath this table, there is an air vent. When central air was added to our home, it was added in the crawl space beneath the house. The result is that all of our downstairs vents are on our floors. I LOVE this spot in front of the window. I love the wall with pictures of my family. I love the table and decor. But, mostly, I love how this spot reminds me to count my blessings each time I pass. Each time I walk by, I feel a warm current of air coming from the vent underneath the table. When I feel that warm air, whether it's for a brief second between running to the kitchen for a rag to clean up a spill, or if I have a moment to pause, look out the window, and reflect, I feel thankful. Thankful for this roof over my head. Thankful for a husband that works HARD to provide it for our family. Thankful that he supports me in staying home with our munchkin. Thankful that he's such a good friend and partner. Thankful that with so many people around the world living in uncomfortable situations, that I am blessed enough to have a beautiful home with warm air coming into it. To make it comfortable for my growing boy. Each time I walk by this spot, I feel that this house is our HOME.

In the summer, it's cool air rather than warm. And the effect is the same. But, it's much more intense in the winter. The warm air is mood changer. A spirit lifter. Perspective.

Perspective. And for that, I am thankful. Even if I don't feel that air on my feet, even if I don't have the time to stand and soak it in, it's still there. Protecting my home from the cold. Keeping us comfortable. It's always there whether I'm thankful or not. And even though I can set my thermostat to whatever temperature I choose, the most joy is in this "warm" spot.

I kinda think this is like life. It's easy to be joyful in the warm spots. When life is "easy"--I use the quotes because the word "easy" is relative...! It's easy to be joyful when we are seeing the fruits of our labor. But, being joyful when things are less than ideal--that's hard. I've often heard the phrase, "Bloom where you are planted." Man! What a hard thing to do! But, as a military wife--how relevant! Bloom where I am planted. Be a positive experience to those around me Leave people feeling better than when I met them. Find the joy in each duty station and make the best of it. This has definitely been a personal challenge for myself recently, and I'm absolutely a work in progress!!

I know that these "hard" times will pass. I know that my challenging toddler will grow and change and I will miss these days. And I know that, as all military families do, we will move on from this place and phase in our life and my husband's career. But, I'm thankful for that air vent. For what it means physically--a roof over my head and food in our bellies, when so many people of this world cannot be thankful for the same. And I'm thankful for the reminder that it gives me. Even though times are hard, I am not alone. Even though I can only feel that warm spot in front of that table, that warm air permeates the entire house. Even though life is hard at times, my blessings are there--I just have to find those warm spots. Just because they are hard to find, doesn't mean the heat isn't on!

What about you? What is your air vent? What is it that helps you remember to be joyful, or thankful. Frankly, I think one of the most challenging parts of being a military wife is the challenge to bloom where you are planted.

Today, I'm thankful for that vent. And I hope that I leave each place we live better than when we arrived.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The little stitch that could...

The whole gang is there--all four stitches.
My little one got into a fight with a counter top and lost.  Four stitches later, a catscan to make sure his noggin was ok, and LOTS of tears later, we left the ER. 

I guess I should be glad he's lasted this long without having to be stitched up.  He's such a wild, rowdy boy.  He's not at all agreeable (see my last post).  ;)

However, on top of running into the counter and getting stitches, my precious little one has managed to pull out three of the four stitches within 36 hours of getting them. *Facepalm*

The Little Stitch That Could

So, this last stitch, has quickly become, "The little stitch that could"...hold my child's forehead together.  If he escapes with even a minor scar, I will owe it to this stitch.  If this scar is never the topic of conversation at dinner, I will owe it to this stitch.  If future conversations don't turn out like this:
Hi, Mason.  Nice to meet you.  How did you get that scar?

I will owe it to this stitch. 

So, dear little stitch, please do hang on.  His face is so precious.  He's far too young to be romancing the ladies with tales of how he climbed mountains or conquered dragons and came away with only the scar on his forehead.

Until then, at least for the next few months, I'll just assume that this little scar will be the topic of many a conversation.  Add this to the list of agreeable qualities....If your child does NOT take it upon himself to remove his own might have an agreeable child. 

Then again, perhaps Mason has found his higher calling in life.  Maybe he'll be a doctor one day!!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

You might have an agreeable child if...

He's very upset...about something.
Sorry for the long break in posting.  I find it hard, at times, to find meaningful things to write about.  While, I think my child learning how to open doors, and babble new phrases is amazing, I realize that it might not be worthy of blogging.  :)

This, however, I felt really needed to be said. 

Let me start by telling you a smidge about the little personality that I've been raising.  He is WONDERFUL, don't get me wrong.  But, he  And by spirited, I mean: Challenging.  Determined. Stubborn. 

And he's 18 months.  I am le tired.  Ok...back to the topic....

I feel like I am constantly seeing all of these posts on facebook/intstagram of moms with toddlers that are snuggly, sweet, and gentle.  I see these parents make comments like, "I had to wake him/her to eat" when talking about their newborns.  Or, "We just snuggled all morning."  OY!!  Enough!!  I'm happy that your child is just so relaxed and laid back....but, no need to rub it in!!! 

So, I decided I would write a post.  Now, moms with agreeable kids--do not be offended!!  Instead, rejoice if you fall into this category.  And if you don't have an agreeable child....well, I am in the trenches with you!!!

Here goes....

If you have ever said, "I had to wake him to eat.  He just sleeps too much!" might have an agreeable child.

If you have ever looked with horror at the mom in the grocery store with the screaming child (once you already have kids) might have an agreeable child.

If you have ever said to a friend that is frustrated with their toddler, "I just told him to and he did it, it's that simple" might have an agreeable child. 

In fact, if you find yourself telling your mom friends, "It's that simple" might have an agreeable child. 

If you can sit and enjoy a meal in public with a small child under the age of might have an agreeable child.

If your child can nap anywhere and fall asleep easily when they are might have an agreeable child.

If you were able to sleep through the night consistently before your child's first might have an agreeable child.

While traveling, if you look with judgement upon the parents a few rows up with the ONLY AWAKE CHILD on the entire might have an agreeable child.

If you look upon a parent, with a child that is more challenging, and blame the parent by claiming that if they parented correctly, their child would willingly follow might have an agreeable child.

If your child sits still and reads, draws, or plays with one activity for more than a few might have an agreeable child.

If the concept of your child intentionally defying you is something you wouldn't dream might have an agreeable child.

If your child stays in bed when you put them might have an agreeable child.

If (in your head or out loud), you thought while reading the last statement, "They will stay in bed,  you just have to tell them what you expect and make it happen and be consistent" might have an agreeable child.

If your child stays in time out the FIRST time you put them might have an agreeable child.

Let me finish this by saying, that all children are blessings. And I'm not complaining about my blessing. He's wonderful. I cannot imagine getting a different personality. I love him more than life itself. But, fellow moms, do not judge my parenting skills based on my toddler's behavior. Despite consistency, patience, and healthy rearing, my little one isn't calm, gentle, or cuddly. So, when you see me at the commissary with no makeup, my hair disheveled, and a screaming child who REFUSES to sit in the cart, please do not judge. Just move along with your well behaved child and your cute hair-do.  

If you sympathize, please share your, "You might have an agreeable child" moments.  ;)