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SAHM Sabbatical

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::  As usual, this post was written months ago and I am just now posting it! These last couple of weekends have been slower paced for me and my son is a champion napper now – if you were wondering!  ::

After four jam-packed weekends in a row, my good friend Melissa encouraged me to take a day off for myself. I was in dire need of a sabbatical of my own. So what does the sabbatical of a SAHM look like anyway? Is it asking your husband to take charge of the house so you can go away to a hotel overnight? Well, maybe for some people it looks that way. But for me, it was just going back to the basics of being a SAHM. Back when it was just Adelynn and me each day, we would spend every minute together. She would nap and I would do some of my own things, but when she was awake, we were playing or she was “helping” me with household chores.

Somewhere along the last 5 years, and mainly in the last 5 weeks, I had lost sight of that joy. The joy that means including the kids in everything I do. My current thought was that sometimes just doing the dishes myself is easier. It would feel like a win-win situation for me because they would get to watch My Little Pony and I would get the dishes done.

But what was the motivation behind that? Truthfully, I was focused on my schedule. I have an agenda. I have things I want to accomplish. I have a reputation to maintain. I want people to believe that I can make it as a SAHM. I don’t want to fall under the stigma of people coming over, seeing a mess, and whispering “What does she DO all day anyway? Her kids must be so out of control.”

Having a baby boy who doesn’t nap very well has really been a gift. (Most days I don’t see it this way at all, but what I am writing is truth.) When I am in the mindset to see it this way, he teaches me to take everything one moment at a time. I don’t know the next time he will nap or when he will wake up and I need to enjoy each moment I have whether that is resting or playing.

After these crazy weekends, Melissa encouraged me to rest. Which is so crazy because my house has 5+ weeks of messy build up in it. 5+ weeks of unfinished projects and 5+ weeks of dirt. Obviously this day was my day to catch up. But begrudgingly, I took her advice.

And you know what happened? I laughed harder than I have in weeks. I truly listened to the things Adelynn said. She notices so many things. Ava’s incurable optimism almost made me burst with pride. And her imagination is one of a kind. Ollie’s new skills of mobility and grass eating were impressive. I noticed their dirty feet and tangled hair. But I also noticed their bright eyes and overflowing hearts.

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I saw a quote on my Sabbath day that said this:

“Jesus doesn’t participate in the rat race. He’s into the slower rhythms of life, like abiding, delighting, and dwelling – all words that require us to trust Him with our place and our pace. Words used to describe us being with Him.” – Lysa TerKeurst, Uninvited

Clearly, that was for me on that day and hopefully every day after!

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That same day I listened to the radio on the way to pick up Adelynn from school and they were talking about learning to say “no”. The Lysa TerKeurst quote and the radio content were no coincidence. The woman on the radio was was saying that we can say yes, but it needs to be a no if it’s not going to be a yes for our kids. And it might sting a little, but in this season of life, that is truth.

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This was a life-changing, attitude-changing day for me. I got so much more out of the day by choosing my kids and their presence over my own agenda.

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So do whatever you need to do to take your sabbatical. Ask your kids if they want to color, pick up a marker and go to town. Find the play doh and ask them what you should make. Take them out for cupcakes or morning coffee. Ask if they want to watch your favorite movie from when you were young and then lay on the floor with them and answer all of their movie questions. Blow some bubbles. Do it in the bathtub if it’s cold outside. Or do it on the kitchen floor so you can mop it together. Ask them a billion questions until they start getting annoyed with you. Invest. Being present is a gift. Choose to accept it.

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I Didn’t Accomplish Anything Today

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Several nights I have gone to sleep thinking “I didn’t accomplish anything today.”

I have felt very unproductive lately. I think there is a thick layer of dust or crumbs on every square inch of my house! I literally had to wipe down the stove before I could cook on it the other day… Smile with tongue out

Dave has been travelling quite a bit over the past several months. That leaves me with a messier house and messier kids. I think they are statistically taking fewer baths right now; but they are also emotionally messier because their lives aren’t the norm. Emotions have been running high and patience has been running thin.

I go to bed and I look around my room at the clean clothes that need to be hung up. I sit around after the kids are in bed and I just want to be on the couch with my book instead of doing the dishes. The dishes will still be there tomorrow. Well, so will my book, I suppose, but my sanity might not be if I chose the dishes over the book. Really when I think that I didn’t accomplish anything during the day… that’s not the truth.

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The truth is that my kids are fed, warm, healthy, educated and cozy under their clean sheets. It’s a joke that sometimes you did accomplish something because you kept the kids alive. But it’s also completely true! Those kids who go to you when they have bad dreams, the ones who want those extra drinks and kisses and being tucked in again when you are beyond done. Those kids who are “hungry” or need another light on, another story, or suddenly have an owie. Those kids are choosing you at the end of the day. At the end of the day where you think you failed. Those kids can only be comforted and reassured by you. Even if the day is over and you still have piles of laundry and you didn’t read the book to the kid you promised you would read to. Or you didn’t dress the Barbie you promised you would dress after dinner.

They will ask again tomorrow. The laundry piles will be a little taller tomorrow because your kids went to bed feeling loved and they woke up again feeling loved and they spilled their breakfast on their jammies! They filled their tummies, they created more dishes and more laundry and the cycle started over again.

Except on this morning you can dress that Barbie. You can read that book. And you can look at that laundry pile or mountain of dirty dishes and think you didn’t accomplish anything. Or you can look at a face that is sticky with pancake syrup and smile because you fed her. You dressed that Barbie she is playing with. You made her day. You accomplished something. You accomplished a lot. I’d even venture to say that you accomplished everything.

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Oh, Adelynn. Oh, Ava.

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Ava is walking painfully slowly with her camel in hand and I’m behind her.
”Ava you don’t seem like you’re in any hurry.” I say.
Very seriously she responds “Camels walk slow.”
As I am stifling laughter I ask “And why is that?”
“Because that’s how God made them!” She answers. ___________________________

Ava notices my Ergo (baby carrier) and observes “Mom, that’s like a kangaroo!”
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There’s some coloring in a book.
“Oliver did it!” Ava blames.

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“Can someone take me to the bathroom?” Adelynn asks while we are out eating.
“Me can!” Exclaims Ava.

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We see some men doing tree removal and Adelynn asks about it. I tell her that a tree in our yard is dying and we probably need to have it removed also. She asks why we haven’t and I tell her that we haven’t because it is expensive. She says “Maybe you should ask dad if you can have some of his money to do that.” Thanks, babe.
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“Mom when are we going to Olivia’s house again?” Ava asks. 
“We don’t have any plans right now.” I answer.
“Me have plans!” Ava declares. 

A few minutes later  …

“Mom where are we going and who is coming over today?” Adelynn asks.
“We don’t have any plans today.” I respond.
”Me do! You can have some of my plans!” Ava exclaims.
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Ava is chewing gum. She comes to me and tells me she wants to suck her thumb – but doesn’t want to throw away her gum. She has a McDonald’s cup on the table.
“Go put it on the lid of your cup until you’re ready for it” I say.
She nods and runs off.
A little while later I see her bend down and then stick her gum in her mouth. A cup we use at the splash parks was on the floor and so she just stick her gum on there!! Oh Ava
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We are using GPS on my phone to drive to a new place. All of a sudden from the back seat Ava exclaims
“WHAT IN THE HECK?!”
Dave and I are floored and can’t do anything but stifle laughter.
I get an only mildly amused face and turn to look at her.
Her big eyes are wide and she says “I never heared your phone talk before!”
We were so impressed that she used the phrase correctly!
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Overheard while the girls are in bed:
Ava says “Go to sleep or the tooth fairy won’t come!”
Nobody lost a tooth…
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We are taking turns praying at bedtime and it’s Adelynn’s turn. She prays: “… and thank You for Mommy, Daddy, Ollie, and Steve and Bella…”
”And Me!” Ava shouts.
Adelynn continues on “… thank You for Grandma and Grandpa…”
”Me!” Ava shouts.
And on Adelynn goes “… and for Nana, and Pampa. For Grammy and Granddad…”
”Meeee!” yells Ava.
”….Olivia, Kinley…”
”MEEEE!!” Ava shouts.
“…and thank you for our friends. Amen.”
Adelynn was praying so intently that she didn’t hear Ava. I could not even hold it together though. I burst out laughing! Once she was done, we told Adelynn she forgot to say Ava’s name, so she prayed a prayer of thanksgiving just for Ava.

Oh, Adelynn. Oh, Ava.

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We have been telling the interrupting cow knock knock joke around our house.
But in real life, I was talking to Dave when Adelynn started in.
“Adelynn. I’m talking to dad right now and you interrupted me.”
Ava shouts to Adelynn: “You’re a cow!”
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I ask for light ice in the drive thru.
Adelynn asks ”Mom do they have light ice and dark ice?”
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I told the girls we were going to get coffee. They start telling me they want blueberry muffins when we get there. I remind them that they already had breakfast and that Mama just needs a giant coffee. Adelynn tells me she wants hot chocolate. Ava looks directly at me, completely seriously.
“Mom.”
“Yes, Ava.”
“I need a white mocha.”
I have never heard the word “mocha” come out of her mouth! Especially with the word “need” in front of it!
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Ava wants to wear a very impractical dress for playing outside. I tell her she will get hot in it. She looks me in the eyes very confidently and says “Jesus made us so we can wear whatever we want.” I had no way to even argue with that…
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Adelynn is being noisy when she walks into the room where Ollie is sleeping. I ask her not to play Granddad’s mini guitar so loudly.
“But Oliver is awake now.” She says.
”And why do you think that is?” I ask. (After she was noisy and woke him).
”… Because his eyes are open and he is looking around…”
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Adelynn’s cape comes off her else dress. “Who is Elsa if she doesn’t have a cape?!”
I know, right?!
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Ava is talking about her birthday.
”First me was 2, then me turned 3!”
“And how old will you be on your next birthday?” I ask.
”4 and then 5 and then 6 and then 40 and 50 like Dad!”
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The girls are playing Peek a Boo with Ollie in the car and they are being loud and intense.
“Ava what are you doing?”
”Playing Peek-a-Boo with Ollie.”
”Well you’re being aggressive.”
”No, you’re being a grasshopper!” She teases
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I’m hot and Ava is goofing off in the car while I’m waiting to buckle her.
“Ava please sit down. I’m hot out here waiting on you.”
“Oh you are? Sorry mom.” And she waves her flag at me.
“Does that cool you down mom?”
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Ava is playing freeze tag and gets frozen. She stands there for a minute, decides she’s done and declares “My ice melted!” and runs off!

The First Step

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The day is here.

The day that I have been putting off for as long as I can. She is already 6 and she can’t wait another year to go to Kindergarten.

I see her try on her school uniform and she is ecstatic. I am barely holding it together.

She picks out her outfit and lays it on the couch because she knows her sister will still be asleep when she needs to get ready in the morning and doesn’t want to wake her. That’s our Adelynn. Always thinking about other people.

She chose a fun outfit. Even though she wears a uniform, she chose the hot pink polo dress with some chevron leggings. She chose fun shoes and she picked out the Frozen necklace she wears daily. She even laid out panties! That’s also our Adelynn, paying attention to the details.

Part of me looks at this girl and sees an independent and fun kid who is getting bored with summer. A girl who is ready for some structure. A girl who loves with her whole heart and can’t wait to make new friends and learn to read and write. A girl who knows she will look like her friends in her school uniform – but still has fun choosing her own leggings. A girl who chose the purple pencil case, because, of course.

Part of me looks at this girl and sees a petite little thing with Disney princess sized eyes and hands. I see that she needs my help with things still and she can’t possibly be independent enough to go to school. She just went to bed in footie pajamas and fell asleep by 7:50 PM! She can’t possibly be ready for this.

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To me this feels like the beginning of the end. This is her first day of going 5 days a week to school for the next 13+ years of her life. It’s not that she gets to go tomorrow and then we get a break for a while. This is it.

This. is. it.

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I want to hold on to her tiny hand forever and not let go. Her million questions per day sometimes exhaust me, but I don’t want her to only ask me half a million because she got the first half out at school. I will miss that. I will miss her.

She has so much to offer the world. She is so good at loving people and she is such a bright girl. I want to keep the rest of the world at bay so it doesn’t pollute her precious mind. But the world needs her. They need her light and her joy. I don’t know how they will see it if we don’t allow her into it. And so, we cast our feelings aside for a bit.

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We have been doing our best to prepare her. We have told her about the new friends she will make and fun things she will do. She has met her teacher and put her supplies in her desk. We have prayed for her teacher and her teacher told us she has been praying for us too.

I am excited to see her bring home her papers and beam with pride. I am excited to hear her tell us what she is learning and the Bible verses she knows. I am excited to pick her up every day and watch her skip to the car. I am excited to listen to her read and to help her with fundraisers. I am excited to watch the toes of her shoes scuff up more and more each week as she plays harder and harder.

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My Dad wrote a song that I want to borrow some lyrics from (So, copyright Bill Eldridge!) “Child you know I love you so though the journey seems so far. I will not leave you alone, I’ll be there when you fall. So come my child, please don’t wait. But the first step’s yours not mine. If the journey is a hundred steps, I’ll take 99.”

That’s an encouragement to me as I parent and to me as a child of the King. Tomorrow morning I will probably be the mom who holds her tears until I reach the car and then the flood gates will open. I’ll be the mom who orders a huge coffee to drink away my sorrows. I’ll pick her up at the end of the day and cry all over again with relief that she’s back in my arms and pride that she did it. But tomorrow I hope I can also be thankful for her opportunities. I hope I can be proud of her for starting her journey. I hope that after letting her take her first step, we are still there to help her take her last 99. I hope she can see that we can’t contain our joy for her. Welcome to Kindergarten, Adelynn. You’re going to be awesome.

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Motherhood: The Village

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It’s one thing to read about encouragement, it’s another to experience it. If you are a mom, (I identify closest to stay at home moms, so that is where my stories are from, but I am speaking to all moms) I hope you can find some other mom friends who observe the same lifestyle. It’s not common to find other moms who parent exactly like you do. You might educate differently, discipline differently and have differing views on baby food. You might have radically different opinions on mom vehicles, or be in vastly different tax brackets. You might live in very different styles of home, have differing opinions on vaccines, or be called to ministry in different areas. You might be early birds or night owls.

Those are all such small differences in the grand scheme of things. Overall, just make sure they are women you trust to love your kids. Make sure they are sisters of the heart that you feel like you have known forever.

I want to tell you about one day a few weeks ago.

This one day in particular was so important.

Some villagers and I often congregate in one home. We take turns helping out in any way we can with each other’s kids, and we let the kids play hard. We power through nap time/ quiet time and literally spend the whole day together. We make messes in one place and we all pitch in to clean them up.

The big kids go off to play, and the tiny ones stay close. We have several interruptions, but we mostly have excellent conversation and big laughs.

We have spent these days together before when we have had kids we were babysitting who were along for the ride. Those kids benefitted too – because they had several moms loving on them all day long.

One day, Ava stepped in a bunch of stickers. She came in crying and I pulled several out with my fingers. Unfortunately, one needed a tweezers. Those lovely ladies helped distract, hold down, bribe and console my child while we took turns trying to get it out – all while doing only what I was comfortable with as her mom. They seemed like they had nothing else in the world to do.

The hostess loves hosting. Her cup is being filled. This is a place to gather my sanity. Where our girls can encourage each other in potty training, where I get to have adult conversation, and when there is potty success, there are lots of hugs and high fives given – not just from the biological mom.

We all have different giftings. Some cook, some pick up food on their way over. Some wash by hand, and some load the dishwasher. Some will change a diaper or help a child – any child! – and we are all pulling our weight by doing things that need to be done.

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Find some women who do share the important beliefs. The things that are important to you. Find someone who respects your beliefs. Car seat safety is super important to you? Find a mom you know would go to the ends of the earth to make sure your kid was buckled perfectly in her car. You love cloth diapers? Find a mom who would watch a youtube video of how to put it on your kid instead of donating a disposable from her stash. You despise excessive screen time? Find a mom who will respect that by digging out the dress up box when boredom strikes.

Find the women who share your beliefs about Jesus and what they are teaching your kids. We had Oliver dedicated on Sunday. I am beyond thankful that we have this village; both near and far.

There’s no skill set needed to be in the village. It’s not some exclusive club. It’s an open table that is filled with grace.

Some of are obnoxiously organized, and some of us can’t shut our cabinets. Some of us are super thrifty, and some of us can’t remember to use a coupon to save our lives. Some of us are overflowing with compassion and some of us can fill a room with boisterous laughter. Some of us are so tender that we hurt for others like the trials are ours. Some of us have had major hardships and some of us have had a pretty smooth sailing.

We are nurses, we are teachers, we are administrative assistants, we are in social work and we are graphic designers. Some of us have the patience of Job, some of us are sickeningly sweet, some of us are incredibly intelligent, and some of us are just plain fun!

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Recently, I needed a sitter. One of my sweet friends took off work early to help me out. She watched my kids while hers was still at the sitter’s. She walked them to the park, she chose a great snack and she gave them her best. While telling 2 other villagers about my sitter dilemma, they both made sure I knew I could have called them and would have even driven the distance to my house. All because I had a tiny need.

These are the women who you call when you do need a sitter. They are the ones who offer to bring you coffee and don’t expect you to pay them back. They are the ones you share kid clothes with. They are the ones who recognize stress or pain and offer to give you a kid-free afternoon, make you a meal or come help you in any way they can.

We discuss parenting strategies, our next hairstyle, our futures and our dreams. We are transparent. When we have hard days, we receive encouragement. We encourage our friends when they are the ones struggling. We text each other, we call each other, we pray for each other.

We do a lot of things differently and we make a lot of different decisions. We have kids who are night and day from each other but they learn to get along. Their moms love Jesus and their friends love Jesus and it’s the common denominator. Not only do we have Jesus, but we are all in this mom thing together. We are all trying to do our best every single day and we are all making mistakes along the way. We love Jesus, we love people and we love each other. We love each other’s kids as if they were our own.

This is our village.

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Motherhood: Beauty through Chaos

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Well. Our house has been overflowing with chaos since part of our basement flooded 3 weeks ago.

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We ripped up the carpet and padding, hauled it outside and sealed up the window well where the problem began. IMG_8141

We started painting and putting down new flooring. IMG_8237IMG_8244IMG_8538

We are stuck right in the middle of it. We have stuff all over the house that doesn’t belong. We have little details to finish in the office. We have a to-do list a mile long but haven’t had the time to make a dent in it.

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Our house just feels like a collection of unfinished projects. It’s been sickness and then one thing after another. All while being in the middle of finishing our kitchen table, going through stuff in our basement, trying to catch up on laundry and trying to do Summertime things.

I have a spirited child. Yesterday she was going non-stop. (I will use another whole post sometime just to tell you about that one day). Today she only had a couple of offenses that would have fit in with yesterday. First thing this morning, I had Ollie in his crib while I was getting ready in the bathroom and the next time I looked in his room he was on the floor with his sisters! I about had a panic attack! It’s not unusual for them to move him from the floor to the swing or something like that, but it terrified me to think that they managed to get him to the floor from the crib! To their credit, Adelynn is pretty responsible and her motherly instincts are strong. (She is having 13 kids after all… 11 girls and 2 boys, she says.) She is very gentle with him, and explained how they did it, but I told them the next time they should just ask me to move him.

The rest of the day was fairly calm. It was just some sisterly bickering because they were stuck inside since it was too hot to play outside. After getting their snack, I walked into the kitchen and saw purple juice all over the counter. I saw Adelynn’s cup on the table, so I asked Ava what happened. She said she was trying to feed it to Baby Alive… I haven’t even checked out Baby Alive to assess the damage. All I know is that my white counter is purple and Baby Alive may have had her last meal.

Overall, today was minimal by comparison – but I was still worn out from yesterday!

These things had happened and Ollie got woken up from his usually-solid afternoon nap. So the girls were dancing to a Shannon Wexelberg CD in the living room (their CD player is broken – just to add to the disarray). The living room is a disaster. The weather is weird and muggy/rainy outside. I am holding an overly tired baby that I wish wouldn’t have been woken up by a sister fight. I normally watch them dance and clap at the right times and hold Ollie so he can watch too.

It seems awful, but today I couldn’t see past the madness and I just wanted to put him down in his bed and let him sleep and go find a quiet place of my own. I didn’t want to watch or clap or cheer. I wanted some space to myself so I wouldn’t have to look at all of the things reminding me what I haven’t accomplished in the last 3 weeks.

That’s when the song came on and I had to sing along as I swayed my baby.

Come worship the Lord

Feast at His table

Taste of His goodness

Come worship the Lord

For He is able

To lift your heaviness

He’ll clothe your heart

With a garment of praise

So let your love song be raised

Worship the Lord

And it seemed so simple.
That was all I needed to do.

I opened my eyes and tears were streaming down my face as I stood in the trashed living room. My boy had fallen asleep on my shoulder and was as peaceful as could be. My girls were dancing away without a care in the world. They were graceful and loving to each other with no hint that they had been fighting only minutes before. I could barely see the mess as they lit up the room with love. They made it all seem so simple. They didn’t see the mess. They were just dancing to the music.

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I want to encourage you to dance with your kids. Slow dances of love or fast dances of joy.

Don’t forget to rest in Him, and dance while you’re at it.