To that bitchy lady in Home Depot…

About a year ago, I quit being affected by those disapproving looks at the grocery store… until, yesterday.

Yesterday, we were in Home Depot picking up some paint samples.  First of all, picking out paint colors stresses me out.  How many freaking shades of yellow can there be?  Bring along two cranky kids with you, and you’re asking for it, right?

It started out when I let Sophia down from the shopping cart while I was speaking with a group of men about picking out blinds.  After losing Sophia around the corner, I let her know the consequences of what would happen if that happened again.  The men who were consulting with me all either nodded or said, “I totally understand.  My kids do the same thing.”  

Moments later she disappeared around the corner again, testing me.  I grabbed her and put her in the cart–consequences for leaving my line of sight.  The screaming and falling apart began.  I finished my business in the blinds department, and we quickly moved on to pick up the paint and get out of the store.

I was un-phased by Sophia.  She acted bad; she got consequences.  This is my every day.  But, the horrible glances I got!  The woman getting our paint gave each of the kids a sticker.  It was nice, but it did nothing for Sophia’s meltdown.  She begged me to get out and “try again.”  (That’s her new thing.)  After I said, “No.  You ran away from me in the store.  Your consequence is that you will stay in the cart until we leave, ” she continued her yelling fit.  Just as we approached the cashier, an older woman with the most disdainful look of disapproval I have EVER seen scowled directly at me.  It cut me.  I wasn’t angry at her.  I didn’t yell, “Whachoo lookin’ at, B#%$^?” like I wanted to, I just stared back at her with wonder, watched her pass by, and then laughed out loud.  Her look was deeply passionate and so angry.

I am a GOOD mother!  My daughter ran away from me in the store.  I will not tolerate the possibility of her getting lost or kidnapped or otherwise hurt in a home improvement store.  So, I am giving her the consequences!  Yah, she’s screaming.  She’s 3.  She doesn’t like consequences any better than you do.  But, I am a GOOD mother!  I am doing what is best for her.  Control my daughter?  Is that what your disapproving look says to me?  Well, Scowl-face, thank you.  I’m doing just that.  I am teaching her how to behave.  I am sorry that it intruded on your day.  

Why is it that a kid’s tantrum can cause passerbys to go so bitchy on a stranger?  I haven’t been able to get her ugly mugg out of my mind.  Why is that?  Do I feel sorry for her?  Maybe, I wonder what’s going on with her that she would intentionally throw such a look at me.  Or, maybe it’s the fact that I say it doesn’t bother me, but it clearly does.

Well, then there was today.  Sunflower Market was our fourth stop this morning.  We picked up some groceries on double savings Wednesdays.  Crowded market, but worth the extra savings.  Sophia was upset with me for not letting her ride in the cart since Abby was in the baby seat, so I let her ride in the large part of the cart.  She was pretty tired from being dragged around 3 other stores…  About 5 minutes into her joyride amongst my groceries, I saw that she had pulled the top off of our gallon of milk and was holding it!  As I saw the milk about to slosh out, I snapped at her, “You can’t do that!”  I ripped the milk and cap from her hands and yanked her up out of the cart and onto the ground.  Sophia, of course, went into meltdown, i.e. Screamfest 2011.  This woman walking by only feet from me gave me the warmest knowing look–a kind smile and eyes that said, “I understand how the same kids you love so dearly can also infuriate you.”  I wanted to hug this woman!  How is it that two women can act so entirely different to similar situations?  I could blame it on the scowling woman’s age:  She looked to be in her 60s, where the woman in Sunflower looked to be in her early 30s.  I could blame it on the days they were personally having, their upbringing, their own parenting expectations (or lack of them).  But this is nothing new.  You know if you’re a mom of young children, you get these looks all. the. time.  Why is it that other people’s kids’ behavior create such a reaction in onlookers?

Unfortunately, I can’t deny that I am completely un-phased by a passerby’s scowl or smile.  After all, we live in a community.  And, we all must want each other to succeed… right?

To those women looking onto young mothers trying to parent in public:  Stop thinking about yourself and how much the crying bothers you.  Think about that mother.  Think about how much she wants to raise a respectable member of society.  Think about how she disciplines because she loves.  Avert your eyes if you must.  But, if you can muster up enough unselfishness, give her a look of compassion. Don’t you want someone to smile at you when your trying your hardest to be the best you can be?

I cried because I was so beautiful–a rant.

Here’s something I’ve been thinking about, nothing new to parents of a little girl: Do I tell my daughter that she’s beautiful?  Immediately, my gut response is “You betcha!  Absolutely!”

Start now and never stop.  Tell her through those awkward pre-teen years.  Tell her during the difficult teen years.  Tell her when she starts dating and gets stood up for the first time.  Tell her when she realizes her “first love” was a d-bag.  Tell her when she gets married and is walking down the aisle.  Tell her when she feels like a whale pregnant with her first child.  Tell her.  And, then tell her some more.

Does that make me a bad mother?

I want my girls to feel beautiful.  Are they going to feel beautiful just because I say so?  No.  I realize that there’s much more to it than that…

Comments on appearance is such an icky topic.  It always brings up weird stuff in people.  For me, it brings up the wicked teenage years when I lost over 30 pounds at the vulnerable age of 16.  I got comments on my physical appearance for the first time in my life.  It was off-putting.  It was always the same people over and over, too.  I just got tired of it.  Talk about something else!  And, some people, honestly, I didn’t believe.  Like, once I got the strangest compliment from a gorgeous and popular, thin girl in my high school.  (I think she was dating the quarter back at the time.)  She actually told me, in line at the cafeteria in front of God and everybody, that she thought I had a great butt.  Maybe, I’m just not “girly” enough, I don’t know how girls talk to each other, but this was weird… right?  I had such a horrible self-image, and all of these comments made me more obsessed with my appearance and more obsessed with keeping my body a certain size and shape.

What is the message that my daughter is getting when I tell her she is beautiful?  There’s a difference in my story.  No one told me I was “beautiful.”  Well, at least that’s the difference that I see.  People were commenting on my new thin body, on new muscle tone, downed pant sizes and tight buns, apparently…  But, none of my peers, or teachers or friends ever said, “You are beautiful.”  The only ones that ever did were boys…  and those I clung to like a starving tick behind your dog’s left ear.  I fully invested myself in these relationships because I didn’t have enough self-esteem to believe it myself.  When I put on make-up and voraciously fixed my hair, it was to do just that: “fix” myself.  When I dressed up, I never thought I looked good, I always hated the first 10 things I put on and settled with number 11.  (That’s all normal teenage stuff, right?)

There was a definite shift in my thinking when I was pregnant with my first daughter.  I felt the undeniable feminine beauty of housing and growing a child.  I was becoming a mother and knew that this was beauty that could neither be denied nor taken away.  Becoming a mother is a lot like being a child of the King, my relationship with God can’t be taken from me.  It is.  And He is mine.  And, it is beautiful.  So it is with being a mom.  The God-given gift of carrying a child in your womb is one of the most inherently beautiful miracles of the world….

Where was I?  Oh, yes.  When I stepped on the scales at the labor/delivery ward to be induced on that fateful day 3 years ago, the number jumped passed two bills…. And, I knew it would… Did it sting?  Sure, how couldn’t it?  Did I feel beautiful?  Yah, I did.  A mighty beautiful and swollen, pregnant mama carrying within her the mostly beautiful baby girl her eyes had yet to see.  This began a beauty revolution in which I wanted my girls to know that they’re beautiful–that they are God-made and He said “It is good.”

Let me tell you where my thoughts are coming from.  As you can imagine, my little 3-year old is a parrot.  A parrot and a mirror.  She repeats everything she hears.  She takes it on.  The most hilarious thing that she says is a quote from a book that I am not recommending… maybe, you’ve heard of it: Pinkalicious.  It’s a bit of a sensation, I think… Oh, what a book.  We’ve read it 18,000 times.  We’ve nearly worn the jacket right off that library book.  We’ve had it for well over a month and read it more than once a day sometimes… Shew.  I like to hide it sometimes.  Anyway, in case you haven’t read it, it’s about a girl who turns pink from eating too many pink cupcakes.  This is what she says about being her favorite color, “I cried because I was so beautiful!”

So, out of nowhere, I will hear Sophia say this.  She often hollers it out throughout the house.  It’s quite hilarious because she’s quoting a very funny moment in a book.  But, I also here her calling out things like, “I’m pret-ty!  I’m pret-ty!”  She also told me in the library a few days ago about “the most beautiful little girl in the purple sweater.”  It’s sinking in.  She’s commenting on other kids…

Here’s why I don’t think it’s so bad.  I’m a thoughtful person.  I know that beauty is not just what I see with my eyes when I look at my daughters.  I know that it’s also about what I know about them, about who they are.  It’s also about what I feel about them because I know them.  It’s about who they are and who they will become.

The problem is that my girls really are physically beautiful.  (Is that a problem?)  Well, they get comments all the time.  Abby’s red hair is a magnet for all gushy,over-talkative,pseudo-aunties.  Often during said gush session, Sophia will yell out, “My hair’s beautiful, too!”  Or, “I’m pretty, too!”  Just yesterday a man on the square told us that our girls looked like they came out of a Norman Rockwell painting.  Nice.  Lovely.  Yes.  I eat it up… But, what are these messages sending them?   Will they stop?  And, what happens when they do?  When they go through those awkward years of 11-14?  I’ll still be telling them how beautiful they are.  Will they believe it?  And, what about when they’re 16, 17.  Will they believe it or will they look for boys to tell them that?  And what about sibling rivalry?  I didn’t have a sister, but I’ve seen enough made-for-TV movies to fear what jealousy may exist between the two of them…

I’ve read all this stuff like “When you tell your daughter she’s beautiful, make sure you say ‘inner beauty.'”  Or, flat out, “Don’t tell your daughter she’s beautiful.  Tell her she’s smart, she works hard, she’s good at ________.”  Or, “If you do tell her she’s beautiful, be sure to greater emphasize her other characteristics.”  What the #@#!#%$!  Besides this being totally confusing, I want her to know she’s beautiful!  Is that so bad?  I want her to know that I think she’s beautiful!  I also want her to know that she’s smart…  and strong… and kind… and loving… and nurturing… and independent…and interesting… and worth knowing… . I also want her to know that she’s loved… and adored… and cherished… and enjoyed… and loved by the King…  I want her to know that the Father thinks she’s beautiful.

It’s like beauty is this thing that some people have and some people don’t.  That’s just not true in the eyes of the Father.  That’s because the Father truly sees.  He truly sees the whole person, the whole forgiven beauty that is His child.  I want to love like He does. I want to foster that in my girls.

But, how do I do that?  How do I navigate the ugly stigma that is attached to “beauty”?  I don’t want to tack on “inner beauty” to every compliment like some caveat or some over-used cliche that my girls will need therapy for. I can’t (won’t) keep my girls out of our culture.  At the same time, I don’t want my girls to be obsessed with their physical appearance, worried that they have to look just so or worried about when it will fade.

That’s what they say, right?  “Beauty fades.”  May I respectfully say, “Bull $#*@!”  My grandmother was the most beautiful woman I can remember in ALL OF THE WORLD!  Not a touch of work done.  White as a ghost and very overweight in her old age.  But, skin as soft as silk and a heart of pure gold.  An absolute gem of God’s pure light.  And, her husband loved her boundlessly, with a lifetime of faithfulness to prove it.

What can I do other than thoughtfully parent every age, hoping to nurture my girls into strong, beautiful women. Beautiful women who know who they are, know they are loved by me and loved by God.  What else can I hope for?  Does telling them they are beautiful sabotage that?

I don’t think so.  What do you think?

Ultimately, my daughters will have to navigate within themselves a feeling of beauty–of inner beauty, of outer beauty… everything.  They’ll have to navigate within themselves every kind of self-feeling.  I’ll nurture what I can.  But, I want my daughters to know that I think they’re beautiful.

UTAH.

Utah.  It’s hot.  It’s sunny.  It’s dry and desert-y.  It’s stinking gorgeous.  But, I may not want to go back for a while.

I had never been out West.  I had never been much farther west than where we live right now.  Until we took a nearly impromptu family vacation to Moab last weekend.  The conditions weren’t quite right, but we thought we better go soon if we were going to go this summer.  I was itching for a camping trip; it was really still too cool to go here.  And, we’d neer been to Moab and really wanted to visit the national parks there…

We looked at the forecast and planned the trip.  Just as soon as we got everything in order: asking for time off, booking a campsite, etc., Will got some kind of stomach virus (the Monday before we were to leave Friday morning.)  Will, the strong-man that he is, didn’t let on how debilitating this virus was to his body.  He powered through, as he always does.  (Maybe, he can give birth to our next two children?)  So, not knowing how yucking his illness was, we continued on with our planning.

After stress building because of his recent illness (and my unknown onset) and a regretful argument the night before, we were on the road by 7 a.m. on Friday.  Woohoo.  May I count the plentiful reasons to leave so early!  Wowee.  It was the most wonderful car trip we have ever had.  It was perfect, really.  The kids had breakfast in the car, “read” 20 books a piece, had more snacks and sang songs, and all of a sudden we were half-way.  We stopped at a park for a super-early picnic lunch (10:45).  After letting them run their energy off, they sacked out in the car right as we crossed the UT border.  We made it by 2:00!  It’s like 430 miles!  Anyway, great trip over.  We were able to set up tent, get some ice cream and head into the park for a little sight-seeing, all well before dark.

Dark.  That’s where things turned evil.  In the night, Abby kept waking up making these wretching sounds–like dry heaving.  She never cried for me to get her up, but the wretching was awfully disturbing.  She had had diarrhea that evening.  It got me to thinking about my own constitution.  Queezy.  I tried not to think about it.  Only imagining it, right?  By the time morning came, my belly was not in the mood for a 7 a.m., 5-mile desert hike.  In fact, my belly was only in the mood for diarrhea and vomiting for the next 12 hours.

After crapping my guts out in the camp bathroom about 30 different times,  my body ached and my fever got up to 101.4.  Since we were camping and the forecast now told us the highs were around 99 for the next two days, we thought we had better pack it up and head home before things got worse.  At 11 a.m. Will miraculously got the tent packed up, and we headed out.  He was such a trooper that day.  You can imagine that we had to stop a few times on the 430 mile drive back home… It was rough.  I’m not gonna lie.  We all napped, though.  A LOT!  I was basically asleep the whole time.  My girls were so wonderful.  They could tell I was miserable, and the minimal amount of whining and crying can only be attributed to a gracious God.  We made it home, and now have the stories, the memories, and the pictures…

YAY!  Pictures.  Here’s a few fun pictures of what we did get to see during our VERY short trip to Utah.

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…

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 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.”

Confessions of an emotional eater.

Emotional Eating.  So many of us do it, right?  In fact, who doesn’t?

4:00 in the afternoon.  I’m sitting with Abby.  She’s having a snack.  I’m sitting with her silently worrying about something I cannot control.  I’m carrying the burden for a loved one.  I can’t take away this loved one’s pain.  I can’t magically make things right.  I can’t give my loved one a do-over.  I can’t make everything right and happy.  I can’t do anything.

I decide to pour myself a bowl of cereal, I didn’t eat much lunch… I’m thinking about how nice it is to have a baby.  No judgement.  She isn’t judging my bowl of cereal at 4 in the afternoon.  She’s actually excited about it.  I share some with her.  I’m not really enjoying this bowl of cereal. I continue with my worrying.  Now, I pour myself a second bowl.

Waaaait a minute.  I’m not even hungry.

Abby’s still not judging me.  I reach into the cabinet and get Sophia’s leftover Cheetos.  I share some with Abby. If Sophia woke up from nap right now, she wouldn’t judge me either.  She would just join me, thinking we were having a party.  Isn’t it nice being alone with the kids?  I can do whatever I want… and, no one will judge me.

Except for there’s this tiny fact that I’m teaching my children with my actions.  I’m teaching them to reach for food to comfort them when they’re worried.  I’m teaching them that eating is a good way to try to make yourself feel better.

Dammit.

I roll the Cheetos back up and put them in the cabinet before Sophia wakes up. I know I don’t need to go hide away in a closet to “emotionally eat” in order that they won’t see me…  That’s hardly satisfying… and I’m not THAT kind of emotional eater.  I’m just a normal emotional eater.  I eat when I’m worried.  I eat when I’m bored.  I eat when I’m lonely.

My babies are always eating. ALWAYS.  It’s so hard to tell when they’re actually hungry or just bored or just wanting comfort.  Sometimes Abby rolls all over the floor crying with one hand in her mouth because she’s SO hungry.  Sophia will eat 3 breakfasts for an average person and turn around and ask for a snack not 2 hours later.  I’ve been constantly saying “yes” lately.  Ya know, “choose my battles.”  Keep them happy so that when I really have a point to make it will be heard.  Help Abby sleep all night. (Overfeeding her at dinner really helps with that.)  I keep limitless snacks in my diaper bag for outings.  But now, outings are turning into a 24/7 snackfest.  Right when we get in the car, the kids are jonesing for the next carb load.  Abby’s hollering, pointing to the floorboard at the empty containers, and Sophia’s hollering about wanting candy.   I’m rewarding with food.  I’m pacifying with food.  I’m stuffing, stuffing, stuffing.

My girls don’t have a weight problem.  They’re babies.  They’re perfect sizes.  Sophia eats pretty well.  She eats some vegetables.  She eats fruit like candy.  But, when I tell her it’s time for lunch, sometimes she’ll yell at me: “I DON’T WAAAAANT LUNCH! I want a SNACK!!!!”  Hmmm.  She seems to know the difference.  And, Abby… well…  she’s had a hard life.  And, I’m coming to terms with the fact that re-training her spoiled little brain is going to be difficult.  And as soon as I feel a little less pity for her, I’ll give in less and stop giving her animal crackers for dinner…

Shew.  I’m being hard on myself.  I realize this.

I’m not, though. I realize what’s going on.  I’m aware of my personal struggles with food.  I understand the potential problems that my daughters will face.  I realize that my children are little imitators.  I realize that (almost) every drop of food that goes into their bodies is food that I’ve paid for and chosen for them to consume.  I AM responsible.

There’s a bigger issue here.  Food.  This is no new issue to our culture.  As a society we struggle with emotional eating, with feeding our emptiness and our anxieties and our multiphrenia with something sweet, salty, oily and quick.  The bigger issue isn’t food, though, it’s the hunger that we’re feeding.  And, the food that we’re feeding that hunger isn’t going to make us ULTIMATELY satisfied.  We may be satisfied for a few moments, an hour if we’re lucky.  But, ultimately that snack, those Cheetos, wasn’t what my body craved.  It craved a meal. Not an actual meal, but a metaphorical one.  In this case I needed to lean on the Father.  I needed to trust Him that my friend would be okay.  That, though I couldn’t take care of my friend, I could trust that He will.  And, I can trust that He will take care of my friend in just the way that He sees best.

I want to teach my daughters to lean on the Father.  I want to teach them to lean on Him for comfort.  To trust Him through difficult times.  I’m not sure I know how to do that.  But, I do know that thoughtlessly stuffing my worries with food is no shining example.

Following through

…sucks.

I had this great afternoon planned.  After Sophia took a nap (She didn’t have one, yesterday), I planned for us to do painting projects together.  I had some wooden letters to paint for Abby’s room and a canvas to get started on, and I had a wooden birdhouse for Sophia.  She was so excited. She had her “princess pink” picked out and everything.  I told her, “After you wake up from your nap, we can paint your birdhouse.” She’d been talking about it all day.

Five minutes into her nap, “I can’t sleep.  I don’t need to paint my birdhouse.”

We’ve gone through this before: television as a reward for naptime.  She figured out that if she tells me that she doesn’t want to watch T.V., then she can get up.  Miss Princess has figured out how to exert control and get what she wants… sort of… I always follow through, no big deal, just no T.V.

Well, today I had plans.  Fun, exciting, painting plans.  I didn’t mean for the birdhouse to become a reward for her to nap, it just sort of happened that way, and now we’re both punished.  It didn’t keep me from painting, but it kept me from getting to share the experience with her.  I wanted us to be able to do this activity together. While I painted, I facilitated her potty trips and taking her back to bed… and back to bed.  I was essentially watching her make a choice that would hurt both her and me, and it was so painful.

I just wanna take it all back and say, “Screw naptime.  Let’s paint!”

But, I know that I must follow through.  An hour later with a second poop trip, she’s in the bathtub, and my head hurts.  I’ve got to step back and think again.  The rewards aren’t working.  We removed all the books from her room a few days ago because we thought that the stimulation of the books was keeping her up… apparently not. The removal of toys and stimulation isn’t working.  I can’t lock her in her room because she always has to poop at naptime if she’s not asleep–sometimes multiple times.  I’ve thought about instilling “quiet time.”  So far, that’s really what it has been most every day with an occasional nap when she’s freaking exhausted.  She does a good job of being quiet, she knows that waking up Abby would send Mommy into a HOLY TERROR! She sleeps fine at night…

Oh, the battles of the will have begun.

This overtiredness is, no doubt, contributing to a new phase that we’ve entered: Tantrums on a whole new level–a more sophisticated and verbal level.  A verbal tantrum at an embarrassingly loud volume.  I can see the manipulation in her eyes.  They’re no tears in her cries.  She screams “No, I don’t want to!” and the like.  We’ve started having time-outs in the corner with no Cowboy.  I give her opportunities to leave time-out.  I tell her, “When you are done crying, we will talk.”  Yesterday, this lasted nearly a half-hour.  I kept asking her, “Are you ready to talk? When you stop crying, I’d love to talk to you.”  She’d scream at me, “NO! I’M NOT READY!”  This whole time-out in the corner sends Abby into HOLY CONFUSION!  OH, it’s not pretty.  Finally yesterday, during said time-out event, after 30 minutes of an exhausting tantrum in the corner she stops crying, falls into my arms, hugs me so tight and says, “I can’t believe myself.”  That’s either some strange self-awareness… or she heard that somewhere.

I’m so freaking exhausted at the end of the day.  It’s no wonder.

So, all of this is to say: Let’s hold our glasses up to the moms who follow through.  Cause it SUCKS.