My daughter is not beautiful!!

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Okay, so actually she is. In fact I have heard the word “stunning” numerous times to describe her. By society’s standards she is absolutely gorgeous.
So when a friend of a friend saw her at a family party the other day it wasn’t surprising that one of the first things out of her mouth was “You’re so beautiful”. It took every ounce of will power I had in me not to scream “Don’t say that to her!”
So why, you ask, do I hate hearing those words?
Oh let me count the ways:
1. You know absolutely nothing about her, so you have no idea if she’s truly beautiful. Some of the most hateful and hurtful people I have known in my life were “pretty”.

2. Her younger sister was standing right next to her. Although she has a different body type and different facial features, she doesn’t see herself as any different, so why is she not receiving the same “compliment”?

3. She had nothing to do with how she looks, so what is she supposed to say? That’s like you telling me “Great job on the sunset tonight”. I had no control over it so why would I get credit for it?

4. What happens when she hits the “awkward stage” in a few years (and she will hit it…everyone does), and the “compliments” stop coming?

5. I don’t want her believing she’s special just because she happens to have a small nose, high cheekbones and chocolate brown eyes.

Now if I can say something from my own perspective:

“My daughter is beautiful!”

Why you ask?
Let me count the ways:
1. When she sees someone is hurting she hurts with them. She cries at injustice and seeks answers as to why.

2. For her last birthday she realized that she needed nothing, so she asked her family to bring toys that she could donate to a local after-school center in a nearby impoverished city.
3. Last summer she decided on her own to bake a batch of cookies and sell them in the neighborhood. She donated ALL the money to a local homeless shelter.

4. Anytime she gets money from a job or as a gift she outs a huge percentage (sometimes all of it) into her bank account for college. Even though she’s only 10, she’s planning for her future.

5. She’ll spend hours outside working with me in the garden. Not because she enjoys gardening, but because, as she puts it, “I just want to spend time with you mom”.

I could go on and on, but I think you get my point.
I tell my daughter she’s beautiful and special all the time. But not when she comes down in a new outfit, or when she has combed her hair just so. I tell her after she helps a friend up who has fallen.
“You have such a beautiful heart sweetie and I’m so proud of you”.
I tell her after she finally finishes the math chapter that has plagued her all week.
“You are so smart honey. I know that wasn’t easy for you but I’m so proud that you stuck it out and worked hard to finish. You can do anything if you put your mind to it and work hard”
I tell her after she has helped me in nursery or watch her baby cousins.
“I love your maternal instincts and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for your future. Whether you become a mother, a teacher or a doctor, I love how you take care of people and how much you love on them”
I tell her after a hard days work volunteering.
“Thank you for helping. You have such a servant’s heart and I’m so thankful that you are willing to sacrifice your time to help those who need it.”

I still have to fight the urge that is ingrained in me to say things like that to both of my girls or even other little ones in my life. It is just so natural to say “Why, don’t you look pretty today!” or “Wow, I love your haircut, you look beautiful!”
I’m not saying that there is never a time for those kinds of compliments, but when those are the only ones they ever hear then how can we be surprised when as teenagers their entire self-worth is tied up in their looks and image?
So please don’t be offended if you ever meet us and I don’t agree with you when you tell my girls they’re beautiful. Even though I know it’s true, I will wait to tell them when their inner beauty is shining for all to see. That is the beauty I want them focused on. Nothing else. Period.

Every day is a new day

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Yesterday was Mother’s Day. I started a post, deleted it, started a new one and deleted that one. You see, Mother’s Day is weird. It’s loaded with emotion and expectation and assumption. And I’ve always been praised for being a ‘tell it like it is’ kind of woman. So, when everything is presented like the world is full of rainbows and butterflies, I get a little annoyed. There are lots of posts, videos and even rants on the internet right now that talk about how much mothers should earn, how much we do and how much we are underappreciated. But for me, the only people who can really get what it’s truly like, are other mothers. Getting (and giving) cards that say, in perfect poetic prose how much you’ve given of yourself since the last Mother’s Day acknowledgement, doesn’t really seem to cover it.

Motherhood is the only occupation that is both your job and your life. Inextricably interconnected.
Motherhood is also the only occupation for which you are expected to have innate instincts. There is no set training period, there is no set tutorial that gives you ‘If..then’ scenarios for all that you will face. Oh, there are books. Mountains of books. But, grab any two of those books and they give you complete opposite advice, along with solid scientific proof and statistics. Then, you’re back to square one. Or worse, you’re now questioning whatever instincts you may, or may not, have had.
Motherhood is the only occupation from which you never retire. Graduation, marriage, miles, time, not even death can sever the ties that bind you to your children and to your role as a mother.

I came across this blog post that I started a couple weeks ago. It was really just a thought, a blurb, a little bit of typed catharsis that I figured I’d come back to when I could make sense of it.

Tomorrow will be better.
Or maybe I should say, tomorrow I’ll be better.
I’ll try to be, anyway.
This has been my nighttime promise to myself and hushed hallway vow to my children, time and time again over the years. There are those days that spiral out of control and emotions and hormones and schedules and expectations spiral right out of our grip along with the day. Words fly; regret along with restraint, somehow show up a little too late.

To me, it ‘tells it like it is’. I’m imperfect in every sense of the word. Some days are better than others, and I’m always striving to do what is best for my kids and for my family. But, I fail daily. Daily. But, by the grace of God, every day is new. Lamentations 3:22-23 says it perfectly -

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for [his mercies] never fail.
23 They are new every morning…
great is [his] faithfulness.” NIV [NLT]

Mercy is defined as “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone when it is within another’s power to punish or harm”. Because of God’s great, merciful, forgiving love, I am not consumed by the every day. Every morning is new. His forgiveness, his unmerited grace, his mercy never fails. Praise God!

Motherhood is wonderful. Indescribably wonderful. It is hard. Unbearably hard. It has a way of filling you up and sucking the life out of you all at the same time. It brings out things in you that you never knew existed. I am so very thankful that although sometimes I try to, I don’t have to do it all on my own. God is there with me in the day-to-day. He sees all that I do. All that I do. And He loves me anyway.

Comparison is the thief of joy!

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Comparison is the thief of joy!

I heard a bible study this week with the emphasis on comparing ourselves. It was geared toward junior high girls, but as I was sitting there in the room with 20 6-8th graders I realized that even now I struggle with this. As a mother, it’s nearly impossible not to. As a homeschool mother it’s not only a daily battle, but sometimes hourly!

I have a large support system of friends that homeschool so I have ample opportunity to compare myself with them. And to compare my kids with theirs! Not only with them but I also find myself fighting the temptation to ask my nieces and nephews (who are in similar grades) what they are learning in (public) school just to see where my kids rank.

The whole absurdity of this is one of the reasons I decided to homeschool in the first place was so that my kids could learn in an environment free from comparison, labels and tests. And yet I find myself continually, silently comparing them to others.  Other families do more language arts then we do. Other families do better experiments in science then we do. Other families spend more time working on history lessons.  All of them keep better homes than me and keep up with daily chores and activities better than me. The list could go on but I’m trying not to get depressed.

These feelings swirl in my head non-stop most days. I usually feel inadequate and unprepared for what’s next.

So believe me when I say it is a STRUGGLE for me to break away from this temptation to compare. But I try more and more to remind myself that I am created exactly the way God intended me to be, and that I just need to make myself the best version of that possible. I was not made to do what my friends were made to do. I was not created to be someone else. He made me wonderful in his sight, and the only thing I should be comparing myself to is the best possible version of me. Instead of looking at the greener grass on my friends’ lawns, I’m going to concentrate on watering my own!

That’s not easy either, but at least it’s achievable!

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Celiac Rant

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I have Celiac Disease. And most of the time, I just take it in stride. I mean, I don’t really have a choice anyway, and I do realize it could be a lot worse. But every now and then, I have a good, old-fashioned melt down about it. Like a leave-my-husband-speechless kind of melt down. I’m not really a fit-throwing kind of person, so it tends to really throw him off his guard. And since he is a man, and men like to ‘fix things’, he is further stumped by the fact that he can’t ‘fix’ this. Every few months, I just need to vent about the fact that this sucks. It really does. And this past weekend was all the reasons why rolled into one inconvenient road trip.

My younger son had his very first out-of-state baseball tournament. So for moms, this means doing all the laundry that you haven’t been doing, sorting all the laundry, then packing all the laundry for everyone in the family, cleaning up the house so you don’t hate your house when you come home, flushing the toilets (is this just me?), taking out the garbage, making sure to clean out all the crap that has accumulated in your car so you can fit all this new crap in it, taking the dogs to camp, and making sure everyone has something to do in the car so they don’t drive you crazy. But for a mom with Celiac Disease (or a mom with a child with Celiac Disease), it also means that you have to plan, make and pack enough food for the entire weekend.  I can’t assume that there will be a safe place for me to eat. There is *literally* one for sure safe place for me to eat near our home. And when I say ‘near’, I mean a 25 minute drive from my home. Every other place that supposedly has a ‘gluten-free’ menu is like Russian Roulette for me. The risk of cross contamination in any non-gluten-free kitchen is huge. And when you know that you are going to spend the entire weekend on various baseball fields…you don’t take that risk. So, I pack up all my food and all my eating utensils. And when my family gets hungry and stops for fast food, I sit and eat my homemade hummus and veggies. Healthier? Yes. Convenient? Heck, no.

 Then there is the joy of meeting the other parents on the team. After the games, of course, everyone gets together for pizza. And although I ate before I came down, several people kindly offer me food. Polite refusal only goes so far. Eventually you have to explain yourself. Then the questions/comments inevitably come:

So what is it exactly that you can’t eat?

What CAN you eat?

Oh wow, I couldn’t do that! 

I realize that some people just don’t know any better. I really try to give people grace. But, seriously, you would not believe the restraint it takes for me to control my face, as well as my response when someone tells me that they “couldn’t do it” – meaning that they couldn’t live without gluten.

 I never got a choice.

When I have my semi-annual melt-down that causes my husband to question my sanity, it’s usually triggered by some random thing that I used to take for granted.  The last one was when we were driving down the highway and I was looking at all the signs for restaurants and realized that none of those advertisements applied to me. None of them. And that this would be true for the rest of my life. I don’t get to go on vacation to get away from it or take medicine to make it go away. Aren’t I a little ray of sunshine today?!

 

But let me tell you why I only throw a fit every now and then. And why, on the whole, I feel immeasurably blessed. First of all, my family has never complained that we had to go completely gluten free in our home. The first year after my diagnosis, I tried to just eat GF myself and let my husband and my boys continue to eat gluten at home, but I continued to get sick from cross-contamination. When we made the switch, they never complained. Secondly, I am surrounded by friends who realize how difficult this can be and make efforts to make it easier for me. Sometimes, just knowing that people are thinking of you makes all the difference in the world. Another blessing I have experienced is that I have been able to help several people as they have discovered the need to go gluten free. By using my experiences to help others, it feels like it hasn’t all been in vain. Finally and probably most importantly, because of this change in the way our family eats, we are eating healthier. I can’t rely on processed, convenience foods because they aren’t safe for me, but in reality, they aren’t safe for anyone. Yes, it is far less convenient and takes more planning on my part to eat meals that are made predominantly from whole foods, but they are healthier and much better tasting.  And truthfully, once you get used to it, it can be quick and easy, too.

Having Celiac Disease is hard. It’s inconvenient and misunderstood. But I’m hoping that as the years go by, that I’ll have fewer melt-downs and find more ways to help others ease into the GF life.

Mommy’s Cans and Can’ts During Toddlerhood

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Things I can’t do with a toddler and why

  • Load/unload the dishwasher – hops in it
  • Anything on the computer – presses buttons
  • Cook dinner – turns the knobs on the stove
  • Fold laundry – unfolds
  • Vacuum – sucks on the hose
  • Sweep the floor – plays in my dirt piles
  • Wash windows – who has time for this?
  • General pick-up – un-picks up
  • Yard work – eats rocks and mulch

Things I CAN do with my toddler

  • Clean the bathroom while he enjoys a bubble bath
  • Share my food (including guacamole, hummus, tabouli, and goat cheese)
  • Lay on the floor and become a human jungle gym
  • Match socks (at twice the amount of time it would take sans toddler)
  • Dance and sing (he’s the only one who appreciates my vocal abilities)
  • Play ball, blocks, stacking games, peek-a-boo
  • Lay him gently down when he throws a temper tantrum (and laugh about it)

So on any given day if you stop over, there will be coffee brewing, a messy house (except for the bathroom) and one (mostly) happy, toddler who is not the least bit hungry.

My day off.

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As I’m typing this my house is silent (except for the sounds of the dogs eating their food). It’s 8:00 am, and on a normal day I would not be happy to be up and ready to go at this time. You see, one of my favorite aspects to homeschooling is that very rarely do I ever have to be up a certain time. School starts when momma is ready to start.

But today is different. Today, while it was still dark outside, my husband woke the kids and took them all with him to work. “Take your child to work day” in  my household is otherwise known as “Mommy’s only day off”.

So here it is, the sun just rising and I’m dressed and ready to head out the door. I’m not excatly sure where I’m going or what I’ll do. I know it’s not really a true “day off” in the sense of the word. I still have to run to the library 30 minutes away to pick up a book on hold for my son that I couldn’t get yesterday because I had left my wallet at home. I have prescriptions to pick up for my other child and have to plan for a weekend camping trip for my scout. But I get to do it alone. No one talking to to me during my favorite song. No one fighting in the back seat. No one begging me for another pair of new flip flops. A 5 minute errand will actually only take me 5 minutes!

I have a gift certificate that I received 17 months ago for an hour long massage that I haven’t had the time to use, and really if I had planned this out better I should have made that appointment. But nevertheless, I’m still looking forward to a little “Me time”

I hope everyone enjoys their day today. I know I will!

 

Silence…..

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I just went up to my girls’ room to bless them and say goodnight. My girls share a room and we hung wire across the ceiling so they can have curtains that run the length of their bed for privacy. After blessing my older girl I moved across the room to my younger daughter. Now just a bit of insight on her is to know that my youngest child is to know what a cross between a hummingbird and a wolverine would be like. She is one that can rub some people the wrong way, but if you get to know her, and her heart, then she kind of becomes your favorite kid. I always say that her strong-willed personality will get her through her teenage years and will serve her well in adulthood, but for now, just getting her there without me crushing her spirit is my greatest task.

With all that being said, there are many days when I breathe a sigh of relief when nighttime comes, then melatonin kicks in, and she falls asleep.

So tonight as I’m making my way over to her side of the room to bless her I get the unmistakable smell of nail polish drifting out from behind her curtain-covered bed. On many other nights I would say something like “Are you crazy?!?!?” or “You are not seriously painting your nails in bed are you?” 

But today was one of those days where I simply put my hand in between the curtains, placed my hand on her head, blessed her and walked out of the room.

You see, before becoming a parent I had all these expectations and grand ideas of what kind of mother I would be. I knew exactly what lines would never be crossed, what behaviors would never be tolerated. I could point to someone at the park or at the grocery store and say “That won’t be me!”. I knew what would cause a grounding, and what would earn praise. I had read all the books and watched all the videos.

Then I had kids.

Yes, as I type this she is still probably up there painting her nails. Yes, it will probably be all over her sheets and clothes by morning. Yes, I will be mad at myself for not stopping it. But for this one brief moment I am enjoying a conversation with my husband and a few minutes of silence. 

 

The saying “Silence is Golden” has never rung so true!

Proud crazy mama moment…

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We all have those moments, days, maybe even entire seasons in our life as mothers where we look back and think, “Wow. That was not me at my best.” Or other moments where we look back at the end of a day and think, “Who was that woman?!” There have definitely been times in this house where I have wished I could take back words that I said, punishments I handed out, fits I’ve thrown.

Over this past week, I have come to a beautiful realization. Although I have had many of those aforementioned moments, there must have also been some good stuff thrown in there too. It was as if my eyes had been opened to an incredible character trait that my kids have, that I have always taken for granted. I don’t even remember what the situation was now, but for some reason, I lost my cool. And when I say, ‘lost my cool’, I’d like you to read that as ‘looked to make sure the windows were closed because I didn’t want the neighbors to hear me before I screamed my crazy head off’. I can proudly say, that I don’t typically react this way. Unfortunately, I can also say that my kids have seen this version of crazy-mommy before. My boys just stood there and took the yelling and the punishment that was handed out without *much* argument and then went about their business. What I realized a very short while later, was that both my boys were over it.  They didn’t hold a grudge. They didn’t sulk. They didn’t argue about the punishment they had been given even after I apologized for my outburst. They showed me grace. And the most amazing part was that they did it separately, without seeing the other one do it. It was grace given without fanfare, without expectations. Just grace. Then I thought back and realized that they always do that! They shame me, really. I am not always so quick to let things go.

My first reaction when I saw it was, “Where did they get that from?” And that was when it hit me. Yes, there have been those moments where my crazy-mommy alter ego takes over and freaks out. But by the Grace of God, those moments are few and far between. And in the in-between are moments where my boys see grace. They see grace in action between my husband and me. They see it in what we teach them about God. And they see it as we teach them to deal with family and friends. You see, I love the verse in Deuteronomy 6 that talks about how you should raise your kids. It reminds me that teaching my kids Godly character traits needs to happen daily, as a part of our every day existence. It says, 

“These commandments I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up…”

God can use this perfectly imperfect mom to raise up perfectly imperfect young men. What’s even more amazing, God chooses to use this perfectly imperfect mom. I believe, wholeheartedly, that the reason my kids give me grace, is because they have been taught grace by their crazy mom. That is a beautiful thing to me.

A Dare With a Hidden Agenda

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I challenged my kids with a dare this spring. We had a rough winter, as did much of the nation - in fact the snow JUST melted completely after yet another storm last week. We literally had snow on the ground from right after Christmas until just before Easter. Did I mention it has been a rough winter? The kids enjoyed much of it, as I did too, but enough was enough. Cabin fever set in big time along with bad attitudes and too much TV watching (maybe one lent itself to the other?) There was a lot of complaining and bickering. So riding out the tail end of our Vitamin D deficiency winter/spring – I dared our kids. I wanted them to feel gratitude for what they have and change their paradigm (mine too!) for whatever was missing (a warm beach vacation perhaps?) So when I came across Ann VosKamp’s blog post “When You’re Tired of Kids Complaining” I knew I had to take the advice she was so graciously extending to her readers.

I bought sticky notes; I even bought flower-shaped sticky notes at a premium price just so I could have a little spring in the house. I bought each child their own color pen and dared them. I dared them to come up with three different things they were thankful for each day. They love new things so the first day was easy and they put down things like “my family” and “my pet.” A few days were filled with some selfish posts “me,” “money,” “my stuff” –boy child even put down, “my awesomeness” (really? This isn’t what I had in mind!) But after a few days, they got a bit more creative. They came home from school and wrote something down immediately rather than waiting for dinner time as we had been doing. “A good education,” “my teecher” (yes said teacher has her work cut out for her!) “Sports at recess.” We were on our way! They were finding things at school to be thankful for! New postings came through that made me smile “my baby brother’s laugh,” “family dance parties,” “warm hugs” – they were getting it!

Complaining and arguing continues, but there is less. They have a greater appreciation for things and each other. I am starting to receive more thank yous for the simple things I do for them. They are starting to do more things for each other graciously. Ann VosKamp shares research on her blog that children who practice gratitude have:

1) Better attitudes (check!)

2) Better achieve personal goals (my kids were doing more for themselves – check!)

3) Experience closer relationships (less bickering between siblings – check!)

4) Better grades (more responsible for school work – check!)

5) Greater energy, enthusiasm (check!)

6) Greater sensitivity (check!)

We will continue on this journey of gratitude and come up with other ways to make it fresh. I’ve already purchased a “Happiness Journal” so we can literally count our blessing. Let us know if you have done a gratitude dare and the difference it has made in your family.

A Glorious Day!

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Happy Easter to all!  I hope your day was beautiful!

 We had a good day at church and with family…and for that I am so very thankful.  We will have pictures and happy memories from this day.  A glorious picture from the outside. And truly it was happy.  But, it took a few major efforts to get there, so let me take you behind the scenes…

#1. When i found out, a week ago, that my Mom had bought my son a button up shirt for Easter, I began to prep him.  “There are only two times this month you have to wear a button up shirt. Once for family pictures, and another for Easter.” My son looks at me as if deciding his response.  “Only two times?”, he replies. “Just two”, I hold my breath… “OK, Mom.” Breathing resumes, i say a silent prayer of thanksgiving that a battle did not ensue. He does better when he knows what’s coming. I do better when meltdowns do not occur.

#2.  I host Easter for both sides of my family.  I have a clean house, they bring the food.  It is a system that has worked out very well for me.  My mother and mother-in-law are great cooks.  And they enjoy it.  I am not the former and do not do the latter.  Yesterday was a beautiful day…for cleaning.  For some reason I am more inspired to clean when it is sunny outside. This winter was a bear for my house cleaning habits. So, I literally cleaned all day.  Which proved to me two things: 1. It has been a long time since I have cleaned my house that deeply. 2. I must be out of shape, because today I am more sore today than i have been in a long time. Pathetic on both accounts.

#3.  My daughter likes to be dressed up, but only in her version of “dressed up”.  So, for the past few months she has been wearing a dress she believes makes her look like Elsa, to church.  I’ll spare you the details, but getting ready for church today involved a lot of negotiations.  In the end, she was wearing the dress my mom bought her (Mom win), bringing her “80′s looking splatter paint” socks to wear at church (her win) and she was 25 cents richer (her win).  Me:1 Daughter:2.  Money was brought to the table so that I could do her hair the way I wanted.  Not a win on my part and I will regret that precedence later…i know…  

Other minor details were involved, but it all came together well.  It was a glorious day.  Even if my kids wore pajamas to church and my house looked like it had never been touched…it would still be a glorious day, for Jesus has risen, He has risen indeed! And that is what matters most. (Well dressed kids and a clean house are simply a bonus.)

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