A Mother’s Wish

I want to make a memory of today, of something I just witnessed.  I want to make such a vivid memory that I can recount every detail to my girls when they’re adults.  My mind is always so foggy, my memory so disjointed and unclear (thyroid symptom?)  I fear I won’t remember.

Today’s been pretty rough day.  It began abruptly at a 5:45 bang on our bedroom door, followed by a 5:46 climb into bed over the top of me.  Yup.  Sophia.  She needs some boundaries. (By the way, I was up past midnight last night; so, I did not welcome this sweet face so early.)

As I groggily came downstairs at about 6:30, I was met with the unmet tasks of yesterday–horribly crusty kitchen with a sink full of dishes, 2 new shrubs to plant out in our front flowerbed, the next week’s grocery shopping, 2 loads of unfolded laundry, and a houseful of tornado-toddlerdom, i.e. every kind of toy everywhere.  (I’ve been taking some time off from housework.  Still recovering from a recent stomach illness.  More on that later.)

This might not be so bad if I had woken up a bit cheerier… or let’s say, if everyone else had, too…

So, Sophia went to bed after 9 last night, and she woke up before 6.  She is CRANKY today.  She is every bit of 3 years old today. The way she is talking to me sends my head spinning, my eyes rolling, and body shaken.  I tell her to do something, and she yells at me, “NO! I DON’T WANT TO! THIS IS MY KIND OF LIFE AND I CAN DO WHAT I WANT!!!!!”  You can be sure that this kind of behavior is met with time-outs and apology sessions…

How’s Abby today?  She’s getting new words every day.  Just a few days ago she finally started verbalizing “no” and doing it very well.  Now, she yells (in a very sweet 18-month old voice) “NO!” after I tell her to do something.  Then she rolls all over the floor laughing.

WHAT the WHAT?!

Where was I?  Was there a scene I wanted to savor?  It wasn’t them helping dig the holes for the shrubs… or them helping me get new soil mixed in… or even watering them…  though, it sure made me think a lot about how God is working on my patience…

About 20 time-outs later sometime after cleaning up lunch, I hear, “Abby’s hugging me, Mommy!  Abby’s hugging me!”  I look around the corner, and both my girls are on the ground.  Abby has tackled Sophia from the front, arm tight around her neck.  She sitting on her knees, hugging her heart out, laying her head on Sophia’s shoulder.  Sophia’s smiling ear to ear, trying to be patient enough to hug her back, her legs wrapped around behind her.  There is only sheer joy.  “Abby’s hugging me, Mommy!  Abby’s hugging me!”

They’re becoming best friends–following each other around everywhere, wanting to be just like each other.  They’re playing together better all the time and also doing their share of fighting and wrestling.  It’s the most beautiful thing a mother can see.  I want to savor it.  I want to pause and make this memory of this moment last forever.  I want to tell my girls when they’re in the late 20s about this day.  I have a feeling if I remember it, I will tell it through choked back tears.

The Ongoing Fun of Two

Oh!  My kids are SO hilarious right now.  And, by hilarious, I actually mean ornery-as-can-be!  The newest development in the sage of raising two is time-out behavior.  For a while now, when Sophia cries her heart out, yelling “Cooooooow-booooooy,” during a 3-minute time-out, Abby will go on the search for Cowboy and bring the stuffed animal to her.  This morning, after taking Cowboy from Sophia’s hands during a time-out, Abby goes after whatever toy she can find to take to Sophia–over and over and over.  I take it away from Sophia.  Tell Abby, “No.  Sister’s in time-out.”  And, she goes and finds something else to take to her sad big sister.  Here’s the tension: It’s sweet, right?  Abby’s compassionate.  She wants to give Sophia something to make her stop crying.  I want my girls to relate sweetly to each other as sisters.  I want to encourage compassion and empathy–sticking up for each other, etc.  But, it’s a time-out.  When will she be old enough to learn that when you’re in time-out for doing something wrong, you can’t have a toy?  I guess, at this point I need to just pick her up and take her away for 3 minutes.

–I just looked over at Abby, and she has unzipped my wallet.  When did she get old enough to do that?—

We’ve started time-outs with Abby, too… and this is also difficult.  She’s throwing toys and hitting, unacceptable things that Sophia never really did.  She goes to time-out almost excitedly.  You know, it’s “big girl.”  Sophia does it.  Well, yesterday after Sophia and Abby had an altercation, Abby went to time-out at the bottom of the stairs.  I went to Sophia to console her sore head.  I asked her if she wanted me to kiss it.  Immediately Abby jumps up arms stretched out making kissy faces and noises.  It was all I could do not to fall all over the floor laughing.  Straight face.  Discipline.  Follow through.  This is important.  Poor Abby is not getting the same parenting that Sophia got.  I’m coming to grips with that fact.  They’re going to have different stories.  They’re going to be different people based on a lot of facts–internal and external… and birth order is one of the unarguable facts.  They will get parented differently.

–Alright, I just put Sophia in time-out again for getting water from the faucet unattended–AFTER I gave her a vase that I told her she could “pretend” with, “no water.”

She’s whispering to Abby, coaxing her, “Abby, go get Cowboy for me.  Abby, please….  Please Abby, go get my Cowboy.”

Abby takes her a shoe. “Shoe,” Abby says.

“I don’t want a shoe, Abby.  Go get my Cowboy.”

Abby doesn’t get her Cowboy.  She walks off and plays.  HAHAHAHAHA!  —

Okay, I should probably go parent these little monsters.  😉

Child proof

Does my coffee table look a little cluttered  Do you notice anything on the coffee table that’s a little out of place?  Maybe that big piece of pink chalk right in the middle?  I noticed that this morning…  Yah, it’s been there for probably 2 weeks.  It is a complete wonder that a pink chalk line isn’t circling the living room–pink scribbles on the brand new sofa or pink on the rug.  It has literally just sat there for 2 weeks.  Shew.  I guess, I do have pretty amazing kids… Or else, they haven’t noticed it.

My eldest really surprised me this week.  Our house is pretty well kid friendly but my no means “child proof.”  We don’t have any cabinet locks or foam pads taped to corners or gates on the stairs.  We’re “always” watching them; so, I think it’s important to teach what’s okay to get into and what’s not…  Most chemicals and things are out of reach.

Except for the dishwashing liquid.  I’ve got to watch out.  If I leave the dishwasher door open, Abby will get out the dishwashing liquid and pretend to pour it in!  So cute.

This week, though, while I was NOT watching Sophia, she got into something that gave me a BIG scare.  She was standing at the kitchen counter playing with a tea cup, a tea bag and a packet of sugar.

I left the room for just a minute to take Abby to Daddy.  I heard Sophia yell, “I think I just hurt myself with a knife!”

She had pulled out a huge utility knife from the knife block and sliced her palm with it.  It bled like crazy.  I freaked out.  Thankfully, it was nothing that a little Neosporin and a princess band-aid couldn’t fix.  It was really eye-opening, though.  I keep forgetting that she’s just a little girl, not even 3-years old.  We had a good talk about.  She definitely understands now that a knife is not a toy, not for little girls, and the shiny part will cut you.  Thank goodness a lesson was learned without a trip to the emergency room.

Back to the craziness that is life lately…

Mothers Day weekend

Shoot.  Am I tired.  We’ve been sick, sick, sick.  For days, days, days.  By the time the weekend came around, we were so stir crazy that, well… we probably overdid it.  Nearly 40 miles of bike riding, sunburn on top of sunburn, and fat bellies from yummy eating out, I’d say I’m tired today.  And, I’m having a bit of “the-weekend-was-awesome-but-now-it’s-Monday-blues.”  The laundry’s piled up.  The house looks like I’ve neglected it for a week.  The refrigerator is empty and stinky…

My kids are having a sort of black Monday, behavior-wise.  Abby is still teething. She’s had 99.5 temp for probably 2 weeks.  Diarrhea, irritability, her molars are popping through bloody and tender.  I’m telling you.  You look at her crosswise, and she will scream like you cut off her hand.  Whew.  She’s a fiesty one.  Testing me.  Testing me.  Looking right at me after I tell her ‘no.’ Puffing up her shoulders and doing it anyway.  Mmm, mmm.  And, well Sophia has decided to fully embody a 3-year old temperament a few weeks before her 3rd birthday.  What ever happening to sweet smiling compliance?!  It was replaced with a real live girl!  With real live opinions!  With a real live personality!  A “I DON’T WANT TO!” girl.  A “I DON’T FEEL LIKE IT!” girl.  Hmmmm.  I hope this phase passes with the cough…

Let me say something positive.  (I often use this blog as a place to rant.)  We did have a wonderful weekend.  My husband showered me with gifts and loveliness (he is lovely), and made it so I had to cook VERY little.  Though we were uber-busy, it was restorative for us all.  We enjoyed ourselves.  We enjoyed each other.  We enjoyed being physically active in our town, riding alongside the beautiful river in the gorgeous warm weather. We got to do my very favorite thing this weekend, twice:  We took a long scenic bike ride downtown. We ate out at a restaurant on the outdoor patio in the sunshine.  And then we went out for ice cream afterwards before taking that long scenic bike ride back home.

My family is wonderful and gracious and appreciative of me.  It gives me joy to be Mother in this house. Let me end on a sweet note with a Mother’s Day weekend slide show.

Sick

Well, we’ve all got it.  Some nasty chest cold.  Complete with fever, body aches, coughing, and general malaise.  I had the worst night filled with fever dreams and tossing and turning. It’s like somebody snatched my plush, memory foam mattress and exchanged it for my Papa’s plywood board he used to sleep on.

It doesn’t help that it’s barely gotten above freezing around here.  It snowed a little, yesterday, and a little today, too.  I’ve never in my life longed for Spring like I have this year.  Thank you, Colorado.  Changing my life.  So, I’m cold and achey, breaking the house socks and pullovers back out.  Heaters are blasting.  Kleenex is rolling.  We’re a sight.

The girls sure are pitiful.  They’re getting better, but you can tell that they just don’t feel well.  And, the coughs! They’re enough to send a mama into nurture overdrive.  I tell ya, there’s nothing that’ll make you feel more like an adult than taking care of babies when you yourself feel like $#*!.

We’ve watched a few movies together as a family, though, and that’s been really nice.  Yesterday, we watched Ponyo–adorable movie.  Weird in a Japanese kind of way, but enjoyable, beautiful, and very cute story.  Today, we watched Toy Story (1).  None of us had ever seen it.  It was fun.  Abby was glued to the screen.   It’s been so fun to get to watch movies with Sophia.  She has so many questions.  She gets so excited (and scared).  She loves to cuddle in the scary moments.  I love to watch the wonder and excitement that she exudes. It’s so childlike, so innocent, so wonderful.  Though, we’ve all felt like poo-poo, getting to watch movies together has been really fun.  And, restful.

We’ve all got to get up at 5 a.m. and take Will to the Denver airport in the morning.  He leaves for Salt Lake City.  Jealous.  Sort of.  Business trip.  And, he doesn’t feel well either.  What am I going to do for the 2 1/2 days he’s going to be gone?  Cry.  Curl up in the fetal position? …  Buck up and Mommy the fire out them kids.  Nah.  Lean on the Lord.  I sure pray He makes us well.  I know He’ll keep me strong.

A nasty cough, a 31st birthday, and a royal wedding

I’ve cried a lot today–not exactly sure why…

Today, Will turns 31.

Today, my girls are both sick with chest colds, complete with a nasty cough and a fever.

Oh, and today is “The Royal Wedding.”

The day started off emotionally when I was quickened at 6 a.m. by my poor, pitiful Abby whining and sniffling.  It was good to go ahead and get up to get started on Daddy’s birthday breakfast (a tradition I am determined to uphold).  The menu: bacon, eggs, blueberry pancakes, fresh strawberries, and homemade yogurt.  Why did I think I should make pancakes this morning, when the kids are both sick?  (Tradition.)

Cooking breakfast, 7 a.m.

I start the bacon in the frying pan, and it’s as if the mere sizzle sends Abby into a holy fit.  She’s screaming “ma-ma. ma-ma” and listlessly throwing open cabinets throughout the kitchen, taking pauses only to push on my legs and get between me and the splattering grease.

Enter Sophia.  She’s standing on the stairs, confused aand sweaty from a fitful sleep.

“Good morning, honey.  Go potty,” I say.  Oh, good she’s gone.  Not one minute later.  “WAH!”  Sophia’s crying.  (Remember, Abby hasn’t stopped whining and crying and banging on cabinets.)

“Sophia, honey, what’s wrong?”  I run upstairs.

Sophia’s sitting on the potty.  “My back hurts.”

I’m confused.  “Are you done?  Wipe.  Let’s get down.”  I notice that her panties and pajamas are moist from an apparent nighttime accident.  (Future note: might be a good idea to give a pull-up to a sick toddler at nighttime during drug-enhanced sleep.)  My acknowledgement of her wet panties sends her into full-on shame crying.

Enter: Abby, crying for lack of attention.

Enter: birthday boy, fresh out the shower.

I literally bite his head off and end his life on his first day of his 31st year in this world…

Tears, #1 .

Meanwhile, bacon is burning…. smoking… charring….

8:00 a.m.  We have a very nice breakfast.  Girls get it together.  Mommy apologizes for losing it.  Bacon is surprisingly edible.  Daddy reattaches his head and opens some fun presents and we get on with the morning.

9 a.m.  Cry #2.

I notice on Facebook all the people commenting on “The Wedding.”  I decide to look up CNN on my phone and watch the video.  I have no idea why the sweet, Catholic wedding sends me into the sappiest, throat aching cry, but it does.

I contemplate my situation.  I realize that I have missed every single bit of the hype.  I knew it was happening today, cool that it was on my husband’s birthday… cool that there’s going to be a wedding… But, we don’t have cable, so I missed the 5 days of wedding countdown on the Today Show.  I missed the commercials, the wedding party dress speculation, the… I don’t know what all cause I missed it.  I wasn’t sad that I missed it until I watched the wedding footage and felt… I don’t know… American–completely disconnected from all things “royal” and British.  And, without cable.  There’s nothing to apologize for.  It just made me sad that I didn’t get in on the hype, I didn’t get up at 4 a.m. to watch it, and I don’t get to claim them as my country’s royal family.  The wedding was nice, and the kiss was sweet.  The 2nd kiss even sweeter.  I’m glad I got to watch it, and read a funny NPR story on it… but it made me cry.  Weird.

Welling up, yet again.  Cry #3. 11:30 a.m.

I decided to take a bath–wash off my over sensitivity and soak in a hot, relaxing tub.  I put the girls in front of Sesame Street and expect to have 20 minutes to myself.  Apparently, the sound of running water to Abby is like rustling paper in a dog’s favorite biscuit box because she was up two flights of stairs before I even got my hair wet.  She kept handing me all the elements that I needed for my bath, showing me with her body what I needed to do with them.  Then, she’d miss the side of the tub, and they’d fall on her feet and send her screaming.

“Abby.  Go downstairs with Sophia and watch Sesame Street.  You know?  Elmo?”  I did my best to coax her back downstairs, but it all failed.  She continued picking up oversized Sam’s Club bottles of shampoo and body wash and dropping them on her feet.  More screaming and wailing.  I sink down in the tub, trying to drown out the cries.

Enter: Sophia.  She runs into her “princess bathroom.”  (Yes, that’s where I’m taking a bath.  It’s our only tub.)

Sophia has the most pained look on her face.  Her knees are pressed toward each other, and she’s calling out in broken syllables.  “Ah. I.  Ah. I.  Ca-.”  I remember the 4 glasses of juice and milk she’s had this morning.  I look over at her “princess potty.”  Her potty seat is in the floor between the toilet and the wall, her stool is two feet away.  She’ll never make it.  Not with that look on her face.

She fumbles with the seat.  I coax her nicely but firmly.  She gets the stool.

I raise my voice, “Hurry.  You can do it….”  

My voice gets louder as she stands on the stool and doesn’t sit down.  “Pull down your PANTIES!!!!  SIT DOWN!!!!”

Pee runs down her leg.  She screams out as the pain of holding it in is replaced by the shame of having wet herself. I sink back down into the tub, close my eyes and hold my breath as the girls are both sent into another fit of cries.

“Sweetie.  It’s okay.  It was an accident.  You tried to make it, and it’s o-kay.  Mommy is NOT mad.”

I pull her in the tub with me.  And, I try not to cry.

It’s 2:30 now.  They’re both asleep.  Probably.  I hear some coughing.

I might cry again today….  We’ll see.

We cancelled our babysitter tonight.  Will thought it might be best not to venture out on an evening bike ride date when the kids have temperatures of over 100…

Parents first.  I wouldn’t change a thing.  It gives me joy to parent them everyday.  Even days like this.

Happy Birthday, Honey.  I love you.

Easter Egg Hunt

I hope you all had a great Easter.  We had a super fun time playing with the girls and telling Sophia about why we celebrate Easter.  She listened intently as we looked through a picture Bible and Daddy explained how Jesus conquered the grave.  It was sure interesting figuring out how to explain it all to her.  Her mad knowledge of Sleeping Beauty helped quite a lot.  There are some similarities there that you might not think about…  We also had a little Easter Egg hunt for the girls.  They were both a great age for this.  It gave me such joy to watch them run around and fine the bright little surprises.

Here’s some video for the grandparents.  My camera battery ran out so we only got the first couple minutes.  Not terribly riveting, but sweet.

We didn’t take any sweet dress-em-up pictures… sorry, I know, so sad…  Check out this sticker collage that Sophia made with the stickers she found in her Easter Eggs.  I’m afraid that she may take after me more than I thought. 😉

I, of course, helped her with her name, but the stickers and the placement was all hers.  She kept removing and resetting stickers, and she had to have so many of each one.  I’ve seen her categorizing colors around the house, but never quite like this.  Anyway, it’s really cool to have the privilege of watching her grow up.

Better throw in a picture of Abby.  She’s starting to try on other people’s shoes.

It’s a privilege watching her grow up, too.

Precious time alone, a cherished treat

I’m sitting outside under our back porch, reclining.  I’m thinking about how I have this rare time to myself today. No agenda. No plans. Nothing pressing to get done… (expect for some cooking and cleaning and all that business that can definitely wait.)  I’m thinking about how my body needs some “me” time.  I need to spend an hour or so doing nothing but what is restorative.

My life is good.  I think I have no stress.  I was laying awake a few mornings ago about 4 a.m. listening to Abby fussing and chewing on her blanket.  She’s getting 3 molars at once, and it’s taking a toll on her in the middle of the night.  Our “noise maker” oscillating fan is out of commission, so I had to listen to her.  😦  In the moment, I’m sure I felt some stress.  8 hours of sleep is a rare commodity that I am learning to live without.  Here’s the thing, though.  I was laying awake listening to her fussing thinking about this: what yummy conglomeration of leftovers and pantry items I would put together for lunch.  I hardly ever lay awake at night thinking about anything.  If my stress is “what-I’m-gonna-make-for lunch-without-going-to-the-grocery-store” stress, then I think my life must be pretty darn good.  (By the way, we had grilled chicken and black bean quesadillas with yummy peppers and jalapenos and sour cream and cilantro for lunch.  I’m thankful for that middle of the night epiphany.)

So, today I have this nice opportunity to relax.  The girls are both sacked out, and it’s beautiful outside.

I’ve been doing a lot of recuperative things lately. I’ve been doing yard work, riding my bike on the beautiful trails throughout town, doing kundalini yoga, reading from the word… I also like to read novels and watch T.V., though I’m unintentionally taking a break from those things lately…

I’ve found that one of the most truly recuperative things that I can do is to reflect.  Often that is stemmed from a short reading from the message, but sometimes it is stemmed from simply being quiet.  During this nap time today, I wanted to do something fun.  I thought read or catch up on my Brothers and Sisters.  Both of those options gave me stress.  “Brothers and Sisters” is high-drama.  It’s a soap opera, really.  Sometimes I love to veg out into a made-up high-drama scenario, but today I thought it didn’t feel right.  I think I love to veg out in someone else’s drama when my own drama is too stressful to sit in.  And, that’s okay sometimes. I’m just not there right now.

What I’m thinking about today is what it was like to be out by myself, yesterday.  I took a few solitary shopping trips, yesterday.  Luxury, I know, right?!  More than ONE trip!  I went out to buy birthday presents for Will and Sophia, and I went to shop a little for myself, too.  It was weird.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE shopping for other people.  I LOVE buying presents for my husband, and I LOVE buying things for my girls, too.  I love to think about them, and the joy that these surprises will bring them.

Well, so last night I planned a trip to T.J. Maxx.  I’ve lost a LOT of weight since last summer, and the spring/summer wardrobe is  hurting.  No one wants to see Mama 60 pounds down still wearing her maternity t-shirts… (I really should toss those…)  I walked into T.J. Maxx, and I caught myself heading toward the pretty pink girls’ section.  WOAH, MAMA!  HAULT.  I literally said out loud, “This shopping trip is for YOU.”  I turned a 180, and stared at the women’s department.  I kept getting pulled toward the girly child stuff, but I kept away.  

Why was it so hard to keep the focus on myself?

Anyway, I tried to let myself go nuts.  I pulled every shirt that I sort of liked, and I tried them all on. It felt so good to be able to do that without constantly pacifying and entertaining and reassuring that I’m almost done, never getting to really think: “Do I feel good in this?”  Ah, the luxury of a precious moment alone!  Thankfully, only a few of them (with low price tags) did I love… I felt so old and out of touch looking through these clothes.  I didn’t recognize many of the styles–baggy, oversized shirts, weird 80s looking prints, military style jackets, lots of awkward embellishments… I felt like I was definitely suffering from mommy-stays-at-home-with-the-kids disorder.

I have so much to be thankful for in my life.  I love to remember what they are and to gush about them.  What I’m thankful for right now, is how precious my time is.  Now, as a mother, time is more precious than ever.  Time with my children is a gift! My girls are gems that I love to cherish.  Time alone is also precious–it’s not lonely, it’s not boring; it’s not even rushed.  It’s a gift.  A gift that there will be more of–if not this afternoon, then tonight or tomorrow.  When my time alone is interrupted, it’s interrupted by a loved one who wants to be seen, loved, and enjoyed.  And when God gives me a moment to be alone, to be silent, to maybe reflect and see Him, I am restored and ready to be back with my family.

What a beautiful day to pause, listen to the chirping birds and noisy squirrels, bask in the gorgeous, warm sun, cherish the cool, gentle breeze,  and listen to the dazed frisbee golfers across the fence of our backyard… no seriously… 😉

A call to play.

Playing.  What does that word stir up in you?  Delight.  Smiles.  Warm fuzzies.  Or, what does it make you think of?  Games, running around, joking.  What about pretend play?  Childish. Frivolous. Any anxiety there?

My eldest daughter’s pretend play has recently been turned up a notch.  She now likes to act out stories.  I’m so-and-so, and she’s somebody-else.  She calls out scenes and lines…  Tells us where to go and what to do.  Yesterday morning, I was feeling a little more gracious, and I thought I ought to “play” with the girls:

8:00 a.m. The morning began with a dance party, as it usually does.  I had intended to “start” the dance party, i.e. turn on the music, get them dressed up in princess outfits, and then proceed to do the necessary morning housework while they danced.  Only, this day was different.  Since the girls were both in their princess outfits and Sophia’s getting into story-telling, out of nowhere she tells me, “I’m the fairy godmother.  You are Cinderella.  You must go to the ball!  Where is your carriage?  The prince is waiting for you!  You have to find the prince.  He wants to dance with you!”

This was some invitation to play princesses with her!  It was on!

I was in a particularly well-rested and pleasant mood, so I went with it.  I abandoned my dish-washing plan and dove into pretend play with her.

Only, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  I had trouble adding to the story with her.  I had trouble “diving” in and becoming Cinderella.  (If you know me, you know that I probably didn’t play “princesses” when I was a kid…)

Anyway, I did my best, and the three of us played our little princess hearts out.

Why was it so hard, though?  When did I lose the ability to lose myself in the story?  When did I lose the ability to pretend play with abandon?  

I think one thing that feels so hard is that I am always in the role of “facilitating” play–setting it up for them and/or demonstrating how to play, like you do with a infant or a toddler.  The reason that I’m doing that is usually because it’s my plan to set them up doing something so that I can then do something else.  Basically, get the teaching of “how” to play this particular thing out of the way and then moving on to my to-do list.

You know, I’ll “play” with them outside by giving them gardening tools while I rake and do yard-work.  I’ll “play” with them at the kitchen table by doing bills while they color.  Or, set them up doing play-dough while I make pizza dough… I’ll read to them, I’ll show them how to properly use scissors, or make an “o” or draw a person…

But, when was the last time that I painted with Sophia when she was painting, rather than just watch or glance back at her occasionally?  When was the last time that I actually had a tea-party with Sophia?  When was the last time I got down in the sand with them and got d.i.r.t.y.?

I first noticed my “play” deficit when I was being paid to play at various times in my life, whether babysitting or as a paraeducator in a preschool classroom.  I found that “facilitating” came natural to me; I was good at it.  The kids loved me.  It wasn’t necessary (or even proper) to lose myself in the play, though, because I was getting paid $6/hour for this…

Now, though, it’s different.  I’m a parent and it’s my job to teach my kids. But since it’s the primary way that they learn it’s also my job to “play” with them, right?  Why is it so hard?  Is it just because I can’t get the to-do list out of my mind–can’t stop thinking about what else I could (should) be doing?

Yesterday, I decided to abandon the list.  I just played.  I played and I played and I played.  By noon-time, we all went out for lunch, after 4 playful hours had passed.  At the end of the day, I had forgotten the list, dinner seemed to have gotten fixed and the kitchen seemed to have gotten clean.  No one was any worse off… It was a good day.  The girls were happy.  I think they were seen.  It was pretty dang lovely.  Why then, is it so hard?

Let me leave this post with an homage to play via a cazillion pictures of us playing.  Hope you enjoy.  And, I hope you decide to play a little extra with your kiddos this weekend.  (Imagine some awesome dancing music in the background while you look at these pics.)

Responding in grace

Something happened today.  Something that got me thinking.  I was sitting in the floor of my bedroom, trying to put my socks on.  We were getting ready to head out to story time.  Sophia and Abby are playing, of course, while I’m trying to get us all ready.  Sophia put a beaded necklace around my neck, and then started pulling on it and saying that I was her pet frog.  She pulled harder and harder.  I told her not to pull on the necklace.  She pulled harder and harder.  I braced myself so that she wouldn’t pull me over.  The necklace popped. Beads flooded the floor.  She was shocked.

Before I could say anything.  She said, “I’m sorry, Mommy…” She smiled, “I’m so sorry.”

It stopped me dead in my tracks.  I was ready on my heels to bark, “See!  I said stop.  YOU broke it.  Why do you not listen to me?  I told you it would break…”

Instead, I paused.  I looked at her.  I said, “Thank you for saying you’re sorry.  That was an accident, huh?”

Did I let her off easy?  That’s the first time she has ever said, “I’m sorry” without being asked.  It was growth for her.  It was big girl.  It was growth for me, too…. because I wanted to yell at her.  I wanted to be mad that she, not only interrupted my efforts to get dressed, but also broke something in the process because she wasn’t listening. I wanted to be mad at her and show her what happens when she doesn’t listen to me.

But, she will learn that necklaces will break when you pull on them too hard… and she will learn that when they’re broken you can’t play with them anymore.   She will learn that without me yelling at her.  She will learn it for herself.  She will learn it, rather than me forcing her to learn it.  What is she really learning when I yell at her and lecture her?  Careful around Mommy.  One mistake and she’ll snap.

I hate when I get so angry around my kids.  I hate that nothing can set off my temper worse than they can.  I see that it’s my thorn.  It is my every day struggle.  Many days have gone by lately that I haven’t really gotten angry.  I’ve responded with grace to the most outright disobedience with a calm punishment of time-out.  I’ve even calmly given 2, 3 minute time-outs in 7 minutes.  Some days I’m just on.  And, some days I want to lock my kids in their rooms and yell a 5 minute lecture.  I’ve personally decided that I will not spank anymore because I am not able to spank with a clear conscience.  I am angry, and I spank out of anger.

The thing is that my girls are wonderful. They’re loving and sweet, and they want to be sweet so badly.  I have seen my eldest growing up more and more everyday.  She’s starting to take her big sister role more seriously.  She helps me keep Abby away from the oven, and grabs her around the waist when she’s trying to go out the door at a store.  She is listening better, even pointing out when Abby doesn’t listen.  She wants to hold my hand in the parking lots and stores.  She’s learning to control her impulses, too, like the one that says, “Abby has my toy and I want it now.”  I see her look with desire, start to grab, and control herself.

I also see her testing the limits with the most incredible sophistication.  Just this morning, for example: I told her that I would take away what she was playing with if she didn’t play with it the  way she was supposed to.  She backed away from me with the toy, heading downstairs, and said, “Don’t worry about me, Mommy.  Just don’t worry about me.” She’s beginning to understand that I can’t see everything. She’s experimenting with all forms of deception, even lying.  She’s not even 3, yet.  You can imagine that this could spark a short-tempered mommy to react undesirably…

Responding with grace is SO difficult.  It’s a practice.  It’s a choice that has to be practiced, again and again.  I can respond in grace, though.  I can apply consequences with a gracious heart.  I can teach obedience without demanding it. It’s more effective.  My daughter responds better.  We can move on without the guilt and shame of a yelling match.

I’m so glad that my God loves me better than I love my kids.  I’m so glad that he continually responds to me with grace.  This morning when Sophia said, “I’m sorry,” it was if God spoke to me.  It was as if he whispered, “Listen to the little child.  Respond to her as I respond to you.”