Children's Books, Parenting

Parenting Lessons from Amelia Bedelia

In my last post about great silly books to share with kids, I intentionally left out one of the most famous silly books of all time. We’ve actually been reading it and its companion books quite a lot. It’s full of hilarity, but I don’t read it as a silly book Image result for thank you, amelia bedeliaanymore. I read it as a parenting manual. What silly book could I possibly be referring to? Amelia Bedelia, of course! Peggy Parish’s famous character and all the books about her crack my children up. They still make me smile, too, but recently I had a revelation while reading them that makes me stop and take some parenting inventory while I read those fabulous books.

You know Amelia Bedelia, right? That silly maid who takes everything absolutely literally and does all the wrong things, but somehow knows how to bake delicious and complicated desserts like cream puffs and lemon meringue pie? (My six-year-old son is on to you, Amelia Bedelia). Last week as we were reading, Thank You, Amelia Bedelia, he asked, “How does she know how to bake so well, but she doesn’t know how to do anything else?” He was seriously perplexed. Without giving it much though, I answered, “Maybe someone taught her how to bake, but didn’t teach her anything else.” And man, the moment those words left my mouth it was like a bright flashlight shone right into my eyes. And it did, because my two-year-old was playing with one. But figuratively speaking, I had an “Oh!” thunder clap parenting moment. Amelia Bedelia is like every child in the history of the world! 

Why is this such a revelation for me? Well, my oldest two kids are eight and six now. They’re pretty big, right? I mean, they can do a lot of things. Pick stuff up, put stuff away, clean stuff…or at least, that’s what I think they should be able to do. At the onset of this summer, though, I found myself harboring a sustained frustration at them. The ancient Mom Complaints went through my head a million times a day. “This place is always a mess! Why can’t they put anything away? Do I have to do Image result for thank you, amelia bedeliaeverything around here? Why are there shoes on the coffee table?” (It’s ironic that we are the cause of these complaints in our early days here on earth and then we are the thinkers of those complaints later…sorry, Mom!). But then, I was reading about Amelia Bedelia scattering roses around the living room and stripping sheets (tearing them into strips, that is), and I thought, “Ha, that’s something my kids would do.” Ding, ding! That’s something your kids would do if you didn’t TEACH them how to do it the right way or explain what you meant!

What it comes down to is my son was onto something. Amelia Bedelia could do one thing well, because someone probably taught her how. Amelia Bedelia didn’t know how to do anything else at all, because no one ever taught her how to do it. Yes, yes, I know, most kids are born with twice as much common sense as Amelia Bedelia. But even though these books are just meant to be fun and silly, they changed this family’s summer. All of a sudden, I understood that I needed to see this summer break from homeschooling as a time to school the kids on how to live in a home. It was time for me to explain to them what I mean when I say, “Sort the laundry” and “clean up the living room.” It was time to settle in and give gentle (…mostly gentle) reminders throughout the day about putting shoes away and clearing the table after dinner so that these things that matter to us as parents become habits for the children in my home.

Image result for thank you, amelia bedeliaIt’s been about a month since I made this discovery, and I certainly still get frustrated, but at least we have some foundation for what the kids know we expect from them now. At least when I get frustrated that there’s dirt all over the floor, they understand why, because they just vacuumed that room themselves yesterday and now they have to do it again. I guess you can say reading Amelia Bedelia taught me that it’s completely fruitless to be frustrated with my children if I wasn’t taking the time to explain and train. Now, every time I read those books to the kids, I am reminded of that lesson and I ask myself how I’m doing at it.

Thanks for the parenting lesson, Amelia Bedelia.

More lessons from books on Mia The Reader:

Wisdom in Literature for Everyday Life

The Unquestioned Burdens

 

Everyday Life, Parenting

Slow Summer

Summer is so wonderful. We love to go to the beach, the mountains, the library, the zoo, the park. Summer energizes this family and makes us want to go, go, go. But this summer, everything (including my reading pace), has been slow. Here’s why:

Lydia is sweetheart, we can’t resist her and her kissable cheeks, but we also can’t predict her. Her only pattern at 3-months-old is a good morning nap, and the rest is anyone’s guess. Sometimes she naps four times a day, sometimes we can’t get her to sleep from noon til midnight and we think we must be the worst parents in the world. Whoever says fourth babies just roll with it and are totally laid back…well, they haven’t met Lydia. Some days she’s completely blissful, some days she cries her head off. She’s not colicky but she’s not the classic happy baby. She’s just Lydia. And we love her.

Spending so much time trying to soothe a baby or catch up on all you haven’t been able to do while trying to soothe a baby (hello, dishes from yesterday) makes the summer surprisingly slow. The blessing in it is we don’t get tempted to dash off to a hundred parks and play dates. I pace and hold Lydia and listen to Ella, Isaac, and Violet play with cars, with Legos, and everything between. There are forts of sheets and chairs in the living room, there are paper crowns taped onto baby dolls’ heads, there are chores actually being done, there is an eight-year-old with a book on the couch on a rainy summer’s day….there are all sorts of beautiful, everyday things to soak in when you’re just holding a baby, and all kinds of opportunities for kids to just be and play and learn with no rush and hurry.

Would I like Lydia to have a more predictable schedule and to be happy all the time? Yes. Absolutely. But she is as unpredictable as she is cute (very). She’s a gift and she is unintentionally giving us the gift of a slow summer. I look forward to adventures with big kids, day trips to the beach and the mountains, a meal out without a meltdown, but for now…I’ll take the slow summer.

Whether your summer is full of slow days in the sun or jam packed with on-the-go fun, I hope you’re enjoying it fully and soaking it up.

Happy Summer!

Photos by Wenzel Photography (in a very casual, short photo shoot in the middle of a playdate! Aunts are awesome).

Children's Books, Parenting, Reading, Reviews

Awesome Chapter Books for Young Children

We are hitting the short chapter books hard around here lately! It’s sometimes tricky to find chapter books suitable for very young children, but these I’m sharing today are perfect. I quite enjoyed them, too. If you’re looking for some quality literature to draw young children into chapter books, this list is for you.

 

I read Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry  to both Ella (7) and Isaac (5) and they loved it. Violet (2.5) also listened and laughed with us. I don’t know why I’ve never heard of this book before now? It is perfect for 4-7-year-olds. Gooney Bird Greene is an accomplished story teller, and her whole second-grade class, including the teacher, is enamored by her true stories. This book would pair wonderfully with a story-telling unit study if you’re a homeschooler. Or just read it for fun! Because it is seriously fun. It’s the first in a series of five books, and I just discovered the whole series is on CD at my library. Score! I plan to check that out and give my kids lots of fun listening time during the long, hot afternoons this summer.

I tried to read Pippi Longstocking to Ella when she was five and it was a major flop. I pulled it out again last month, though, and this time it has been a big hit with her and Isaac. Maybe Ella wasn’t ready for the absurdity of Pippi when she was younger (Ella’s a very literal person), but now the zaniness of this story completely entertains us all (yes, even Violet announced, “I love Pippi!” yesterday). I love all things Astrid Lindgren, so I can’t wait to read the next Pippi book!

Princess Cora and the Crocodile is a purely fun and silly chapter book we all enjoyed at bedtime last week. Though it has chapters, it’s truly just a long picture book, with illustrations on every page. Princess Cora is a little girl whose princessly life is extremely dull, until her fairy godmother sends her a pet crocodile who hilariously sets everything right. I’m guessing even reluctant chapter book readers/listeners will enjoy this book.

These next two books on our list are a bit more serious, but still great for young children. Isaac particularly liked The King’s Equal, a short fairy tale by Katherine Paterson about a haughty prince who can’t be crowned until he finds a wife who is his equal in every way. In six short chapters, kids (and grown ups) consider themes such as wisdom, kindness, industriousness, true beauty, and friendship. I’m so glad a good friend lent me this book!

The Light at Tern Rock is another tiny book with big themes we recently finished. It’s about a young boy named Ronnie and his aunt who agree to fill in for the lighthouse keeper for a few weeks right before Christmas. The days keep stretching on and the main characters have to learn to make the best with what they have, and to be gracious to those who treat them unfairly. It was so good, a great read for kids six and up.

I hope you find some gems for your family in this list! I’m on the hunt for more as we approach summer reading time. Eee! I love summer reading…

Happy reading!

 

Everyday Life, Parenting

There’s Ovaltine in My Pantry

There’s Ovaltine in my kitchen cabinet. That can only mean one thing. It means I’m waking up like this:

Ovaltine: Wake up PERKY in the Morning! ~ My husband definitely wants me to switch to Ovaltine if I can look and feel this great in the mornings!:

And this!

Sexy Ovaltine Original 1946 Vintage Print Ad w/ by VintageAdarama:

(That image actually scares me a little bit).

Or! It could mean one other thing. I’m pregnant. Twenty-four weeks pregnant, in fact, with our fourth child. We are thrilled! But you know what I’m discovering? When you’re pregnant with your second and especially your third or fourth (or beyond, I’m guessing), all those tips in the pregnancy books about how to take care of yourself just sound like mean jokes.

“Get plenty of sleep.”

“Exercise daily.”

“Eat lots of leafy vegetables that you have to wash and chop and then somehow keep down through nausea in the beginning and heartburn for the rest of the pregnancy, all while refereeing toddlers and preschoolers.”

Thanks for those tips, thanks a lot.

Image result for vivien leighYou want a really useful tip for your fourth pregnancy? Ovaltine. Okay, so yes, these ads probably aren’t founded on very scientific data and could be at fault for false advertising. I’m guessing “false advertisement” wasn’t a thing in 1950. But even though I still wake up looking like a druggy instead of Vivien Leigh, when I am pregnant, Ovaltine becomes a staple in our pantry. I drink it about every other night because, believe it or not, it cures my restless leg syndrome that only flares up when I’m pregnant. It really does. Maybe I’m actually treating myself with the proverbial sugar water, but if tastes like chocolate and has calcium in it? I don’t really mind that I’m psyching myself out.

So, while Ovaltine isn’t giving me one red cent for saying this, Ovaltine is my only true pregnancy tip for the world in a fourth pregnancy. Oh, and maybe some water with lemon. But Ovaltine tastes way better.

Parenting

I’m Living A Fairy Tale (And It’s Not Sleeping Beauty)

IMG_6256No one told me The Frog Prince was actually about motherhood. It turns out, it pretty much sums up my life right now.

Dear mothers, this is what a true fairy tale life is like.

 

They will eat off your plate.

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They will sleep on your pillow.

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Then they even drive our cars.

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Luckily, these babes are much cuter than even the cutest frogs. And when you kiss them, they don’t transform into grown princes or princesses right away. It takes a little while, and thank goodness for that. We’ll get our pillows back someday, but not too soon, please not too soon.

Babeinarms

Everyday Life, Parenting

Babies And Technology – My Favorite Blogs and Podcasts

Every time I have added a baby to my life, I have also added a new technology to save my sanity. You may be thinking of baby monitors or food grinders, which are good for maintaining sanity in our work loads, but there’s another kind of sanity that needs maintaining underneath all the ins and outs of caring 24/7 for a baby. I’m talking about brains here, folks. There is nothing I hate more than the term “mommy brain” (okay, yes there is, things like terrorism I hate more, but let’s go with it as a figure of speech). Sure, moms have a lot to think about and keep track of, but the idea that we get dumber as we have children is so insulting and wrong and we actually embrace it is an idea. Why do we do that to ourselves? Granted, we do have to face the fact that lots of mothering, especially with newborns, is monotonous. I think that’s why I felt a need for something to change up my routine and add a way for my brain to be active while also nurturing the new life I was responsible for.  Maybe that’s why every time I added a baby, I found myself adding a new technology, as well.

Blogs

With my first child, I discovered the blog world. People were writing blogs about everything and I never knew it before 2009! My favorite blogs at the time were ones that made me laugh or that were sympathetic to the new mother plight. Here are the ones that are still my favorites:

Memories on Clover Lane – I respect this blogger’s opinions on raising children so much! And we have similar tastes in books…

Modern Mrs. Darcy – Anne is a way more sophisticated book blogger than I’ll ever be!

Wenzel Photography – I love her photos. Especially since sometimes my kids show up in them, and almost always my nieces and nephews. #familyperks

Shauna Niequist – Her writing is so vivid and convincing, she makes me imagine I could actually be a “foodie” or “a creative” or all kinds of other crazy things that I’m not. =) No, I’ll never be a foodie, but one of her books really changed my perspective on life.

The Big Mama Blog – I find I have less and less in common with her, but she still makes me laugh.

E-Books

When my second-born was a few weeks old, we moved what felt like a long way away from any library. It was a temporary move, but I still thought it was pretty thoughtful that my husband decided it would be a good time for me to get an e-reader. He presented me with a Nook, and I honestly thought “He doesn’t even know me. I am a BOOK lover! How can he think I’d like one of these things?” But oh, how well he really does know me. Because suddenly, with a few clicks, I had a new book at my finger tips.. I didn’t have to drive 45 minutes to the library and I didn’t have to take my little children anywhere! What’s more, I could hold that book in one hand while holding a baby in the other, and I could read it in the dark, all night long if need be! Yes, yes, I still prefer paper books, but I am a fan of the e-reader. I now use a Kindle because the books are usually a bit more affordable and it’s easier to borrow books through my library’s website.

Podcasts

The birth of my third child found me in way over my head. I had a five-year-old who was a wonderful big sister, very thoughtful and good at taking care of others. She was also precocious, and her highest love language has always been quality time, so it’s easy for me to feel like I can’t give her the attention her intellect and heart need from me. Then there was my then three-year-old, a delightful boy and brimming over with raw, unending energy. I had no idea to harness it into anything good in his life. And then there was this baby who was so different than my other two. She cried. A lot. I needed help. I needed constant wisdom drumming into my head. By chance one day, I saw a friend post on Facebook that she loved to listen to podcasts while she went on walks. I checked out a few she recommended, and I kid you not when I say they have been a game changer in my mothering. The perspective they offer on all kinds of issues is invaluable. I realize that the podcast genre is wide and there are all kinds of topics – I’ve even listened to some of them – but what I come back to in this stage of my life are these blogs that speak to the struggles and joys of life in the trenches as a mom:

God Centered Mom – Heather is raising four boys and the questions she asks her guests are exactly the kind of questions I have in my mothering journey.

Inspired to Action – Kat is full of practical wisdom and so are her guests

Read Aloud Revival – This podcast centers on the topic of reading aloud to your kids – what to read, when to read, how it looks in different families…it’s just a fun book gab, really.

Sally Clarkson – Sally Clarkson is the mentor I don’t personally know. I love her book Mission of Motherhood and her podcast reminds me of the big picture and the ultimate goals I have for my children.

I don’t know where I’m going to turn for brain food if we add another child. Video games? Netflix? Just kidding. Still, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I was looking for brain food each time I was in the very demanding but very basic phase of newborn mothering. Mothers need brain food! We are not dummies! [Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now]. I’d love to know if any moms out there felt similar needs when they’re babies were little. And I’d love to know if you have any favorite podcasts or blogs I should check out!

Children's Books, Friday Favorites - Children's Books, Parenting, Three Book Thursday

Cookies and Books: Nurturing Yourself and Your Children At The Same Time

girlreadingjwsmithAfternoons are hard. Everyone is tired, and trying their best to transition from morning to evening, from resting to ramping up their energy again, or in my case, from folding clothes quietly to cooking dinner with three kids underfoot. I’ll be honest: some (many) days when the kids get up from their afternoon quiet time, they get to watch TV. I try to keep it to every other day, but it’s kind of a seasonal thing. In the summer it’s less, in the winter, it’s more. But some days, the attitudes are especially shoddy, making me more aware of my children’s need for time with me. And I feel that tug: how do I give these children anything when at this point in the day, I’m running on empty?

The answer? Cookies and books.

One of my favorite book mom mentors, Sally Clarkson, often says it’s important to bring your children into the activities that you enjoy and that feed your soul. I love that concept – we as moms can be nurtured and nurturing at the same time.  Sometimes I remember that, and sometimes I have the wisdom and energy to do things a little differently in the transition hours, more commonly (and accurately) called “the witching hours.” I lay out some real plates and glasses on the table, get some cookies from the freezer and stick them in the microwave (or graham crackers if the baking hasn’t happened in a while!), and pour milk in fancy glasses. Then I go to the kids’ room a few minutes before their quiet time timer dings, and whisper, “Come to the kitchen!” Sometimes we have a IMG_4547little bit of hot herbal tea with honey instead of milk and cookies. Sometimes we’re finishing up some lemonade or cake from a family birthday party. Whatever the food is, along with it is always a book. This time is for a book I choose that I know will feed their minds. Their small hands are busy with their cookies, but their minds are taking it all in. When we come together at the table, all of the bickering, busyness, and mess of the day is suspended for a few minutes. I love these times at the table. They bring the things I like doing – reading books, eating cookies, and spending happy time with my children – all together. We all get what we need, and it’s always worth the few extra dishes or the lost productivity because the children feel loved and cared for and able to cope with the rest of the day, and so do I. I wish I did this cookies and books time every day! That’s not a reality right now. But I cherish the times when we’re able to set everything else aside and pick up a book, a cup, a story, an idea, a love of learning, and a love for each other.

Not everyone likes books and cookies (okay, everyone probably likes cookies). Maybe you love to run. Maybe you like scrapbooking, cooking, walking, or maybe what you love above all else is window shopping. My kids and I sometimes make up silly stories together. Whatever it is you like to do, maybe try doing it with your children? It gets really hard to do the things you love as your children take more of your time, but it helps you all to speak the same language later in life if you share what you love now. Your favorite activity won’t be the same when you bring your children into it with you, but it will be better than nothing! Choose your Cookies and Books – whatever you like to do together- and make it happen once in a while! You’ll be glad you did.

Here are the books I’ve chosen for our Cookies and Books Time this week:

Rachel and Obadiah – We loved Obadiah the Bold, so we had to track down other books by Brinton Turkle about Obadiah. However, this one was more about Rachel. Where Obadiah was great for a little brother, Rachel and Obadiah is great for a little sister who feels the need for some appreciation. The illustrations are so lovely, and it’s fun to read the Quaker wording. Isaac was not as big a fan of it because the girl is the winner in the end, but Ella liked it a lot.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald PartridgeWilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge – Mem Fox is an famous children’s author with whom I am sadly unfamiliar. I enjoyed my first experience of her books this week! This book made me want to cry a little, because my kids have a great, great aunt who is exactly the age of the woman in the book. Wilfrid, the little boy, thoughtfully gathers all the things he thinks will help her find her memories again, and the result is very touching. That was my take on it, anyway! When I got done reading it to Isaac and Ella, Ella’s response was, “Well. That was a weird book.” So maybe don’t expect your kids to love it. But it’s a sweet book that could aid in discussion about elderly family members whose memories aren’t what they used to be. The illustrations by Julie Vivas keep things lighthearted and fun.

What books are you reading with kiddos this week?

Everyday Life, Parenting

Loving The Littles Who Persecute Us

I wrote this as a devotional for the leaders meeting of my MOPS group last week. It’s a topic that’s been on my mind a lot in the last month. I’m sharing it on the blog today in hopes that we can all find some encouragement to keep on loving when we don’t know how. 

A few weeks ago, I was reading in Romans, trying for the 40-billionth time to get into my head how to extend love and grace to others, specifically….my own children. Maybe you’re thinking love and grace shouldn’t that difficult to give our kids, but sometimes, it is. I’d been through a trying week and I was feeling particularly resentful about my day-to-day life. There were some moments of joy and pure love for my children, yes, but there were more moments clouded with dark thoughts about how I’m wasting any talents I have, or feeling used and unappreciated, or just desperately wanting five minutes without being yelled for. I didn’t like feeling so oppressed by my everyday reality. So I was in Romans on that rare early morning that I actually made it out of bed before the kids got up, seeking some hope and some help, when I came upon these verses:

Romans 12: 13-14 “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice Hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”

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My official Boiled Egg Peeler

It hit me, hard: I was feeling persecuted by my children. Their constant neediness wasn’t their fault, they’re still so little after all, but I was feeling persecuted by it, and the resentment was like my own form of cursing them – rolled eyes at their whining, pursed lips at their calling me for one more drink of water at bed time, or straight out anger at misbehavior when I had “just had enough.”

Do you ever feel persecuted by your children? Whether they mean to or not, they can put us parents through the wringer some days! We can walk around feeling persecuted by these human beings only three feet tall, or less, sometimes only 22 inches tall (when will she stop crying all day and all night so I can get some sleep!?!)  I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling persecuted by my children, I don’t usually respond with a heart of blessing. After reading these verses and realizing where my spirit was, I sure wanted to respond better! The word “curse” is the opposite of “bless,” and if I’m not blessing my children in my heart and in my attitude, what exactly am I doing? I think we all want to bless our children every minute of every day.

But how?

This is how we can bless people, even our children:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” v.

Well. I could start with being empathetic with my children. They need me to pay attention to their feelings, instead of brushing them aside as childish or inconvenient. I could continue by pursuing peace in my household – what a blessing it is when a mom is a force for peace in her home, in her marriage, in all of her relationships! And I could IMG_4446embrace the fact that these “people of low position” in my house, these powerless, small people I am entrusted with, who are not beneath me in any way besides physical stature. I need to stop being conceited about how I might be “wasting my intellect” or spending all my time in the mundane actions of life, but realize that this is a work of blessing and of loving the way God wants me to love.

Could these verses in Romans be a new mothering template? Be welcoming and serving to our needy children. Bless them when we feel persecuted by them. Empathize with them. Be at peace with them. Realize that they are equals with us in the family of God, and it is our honor to communicate to them how precious they are in His sight, and in ours.

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May The Sum Equal Love

If a six-year-younger version of me walked into my house right now, with her firstborn so new and rosy in her arms and her eyes bright with ideas about the future, there are so many ways she wouldn’t recognize herself in the Here-and-Now-Me. The younger me wouldn’t understand the mess. She wouldn’t believe my voice could elevate that quickly to angry tones over seemingly silly offenses (“I told you not to growl at your baby sister!”). She wouldn’t understand the exhaustion pouring from my posture as my very frame slumps over the dishes in the sink. She wouldn’t get why I have to remind my kids every single morning to brush their teeth. (Really?)

Whether we mean to or not, we all enter into parenthood with ideals of who we will be. Some of them aren’t even fully formed in our brains before our hands are clenched tight around them. They can range from “I’ll be the fun mom who plans great birthday parties” to “I’ll be the intentional dad who plans one-on-one time for each child once a week.” Sometimes our ideals are so abstract like, “My kids are just going to love talking to me one day!” Then we get into the thick of raising human beings, and it’s at that point we step back and think, “this is not the person I was planning to be!” That’s when we realize how much we had our hearts set on a specific version of ourselves, and how far we are from hitting that mark.

But maybe we are better than the person we planned to be?

Yes, my six-year-younger-self would probably walk into my house today and see too much stress, too much mess, a mom with un-washed hair and an overflowing laundry closet. After that, though. After that, she might see a mom spreading peanut butter on apples for her older kids with a perfectly happy, mostly clean toddler on her hip and think, “huh, that should be hard but she makes it look easy.” Maybe that younger me IMG_20150916_190051413would see a mom who knows what kind of music to put on to get her kids out of a slump and into a dance party on the living room floor. Maybe she’d see a woman who keeps on going on four-hundred-and-one nights of severely interrupted sleep. She might see this girl trying to be a wise, adult mother who will still lie flat down on the floor next to a mopey six-year-old in a desperate attempt to show her, “I am with you in this day. Let’s make it better.” Maybe she’d see a mom who makes sloppy cakes with her kids? Maybe she’d see a mom who tears up when her 4-year-old son puts his arms around his older sister and says with wonder and kindness, “You looks so pretty today.” Maybe she’d forgive me for yelling sometimes. Maybe.

My children are still so young, just 6, 4, and 1, but already I can see the harsh difference between the mom I thought I’d be and the mom I am now. Sometimes I don’t like what I see. And sometimes, I really do. Here’s what I know now: mothering is not a minute to minute equation, balancing the bad ones and the good ones and striving to make sure all the bad moments are cancelled out. Parenting is the sum of all the moments. There is no erasing the bad moments. And there are some pretty bad ones! I know now, I make big mistakes regularly and I can neither deny them nor hide them from my kids. But praise God, there are so many good moments as well. The hope I have replaced my ideals with is this: that the sum of my moments will add up to love in my children’s hearts. I hope and pray that I will play enough games with them, make them do the hard stuff to build their character consistently enough, hug them enough, stretch out beside them in their beds at bedtime and hold them close so many nights, look into their eyes and really hear them so many times….that I will do all these things enough so that when they are grown, all the time we had together in their childhoods will scream and ooze warmth and safety, acceptance and care, affection and security that lasts and leads them ever onward to the Parent whose love is all they need.

May the sum of my moments equal love.

Everyday Life, Parenting

The Debris Of The Day

It’s 4:00 o’clock. The time when monsters come out.

Not really. But 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon is not the happiest time in my day. Rest time is over, the littlest one is done with her nap, and the dinner prep and clean up looms ahead. 4:00 o’clock should be the time when you sigh and tell yourself “Almost done.” But that’s just not true. Ever heard of “the witching hours?” Whether you like the term or not (and I try not to think too hard about it), there’s just no denying that when I  stand at the end of my time on earth and add up all my hours, late afternoons will undoubtedly be the doldrums of life.

Take today for instance. It was our second day of homeschooling in 1st grade, and it went ten times better than the first. Both the first grader and the preschooler were fascinated by the diagram of the inner ear we studied (is there anything more fulfilling than fascinated students? I think not). The complaining over writing vocab words went from 15 minutes to 5 minutes. And math (math!) was a cinch. Not to mention we read all kinds of books. It was nearly a per2015-06-23 08.21.16fect homeschool day. On top of that, I washed three loads of laundry, cleaned two bathrooms, vacuumed a room, kept up with a one-year-old, and stayed on top of the dishes. So maybe I’m crazy, but I really did think that when I surveyed the house and the children around me at 4:00 p.m. on such a smooth, wonderful day, my eyes would not be met with the molten lava of meltdowns and toys explosions. Yet there it sure was. A few words popped into my head when I looked around me at 4:00 o’clock today, and I found them strangely comforting. I took it all in and took a deep breath. “This is not my fault,” I whispered to myself in a soothing voice. “This is just The Debris of the Day.”

The Debris of the Day is one of my formerly unnamed triggers in the late afternoon that leads to irritability and a sense of exhaustion. The Debris of the Day makes me feel like all my work is for naught. Today, however, when I named it, I realized none of that is true. We live here. It’s a fact of the homeschooling or stay-at-home-mom life (and probably many other lifestyles I haven’t experienced!) that junk will surround you when you feel like the day should be winding down. The kids will be whining because they’re tired and maybe a little bored because you told them “no TV” (good for you!) and they want attention but you’ve got other things on your mind at this point. The glass doors will be smeared. The bathroom will have toothpaste stuck to the sink (and mirror? how the heck…). There will still be dishes (a few or a few meals worth!) in the sink because we have eaten here today. Books will be scattered hither and yon. All this is true for me, in one way or another every single day, but today I came to realize that The Debris of the Day is not a failure. It is just what a day brings right now in my house.

And it’s okay.

Deep breath. Say it with me. It is okay. Maybe we can call the kids, put on some music 2015-06-07 08.51.07(and a smile even?), and clean some stuff up. Maybe we can just send the kids outside and leave it be for a while during the dinner hours. However we handle this, we can decide that it’s perfectly normal and it’s okay for now.

And maybe tomorrow I’ll try not to think of it as debris. Debris makes it sound like a storm blew through, which is accurate enough some days, but not the most pleasant image in the world. Tomorrow, I might get all sappy and think of this crazy mess of emotions and stuff as The Proof of Life, or even The Proof of Life Abundant…or maybe not. One mental step at a time. Right now, I may not be too thrilled with the debris, but I can tell myself it’s not a failure in my motherhood, and it’s all going to be okay.