What Makes You Brave… (raising the anxious child)

fear is a liar
“You, my brothers, were called to be free.” Galatians 5:13

 

It’s Halloween here in the United State Of America.  Happy ‘Boo Day’ to you!  We don’t do much to celebrate it here in our house.  I’m just lamenting the take down of all of these fall decorations.  And dusting.  And reorganizing.  Maybe tomorrow when I come out of my sugar coma…

Begger’s Night was last night.  That’s how we do it in the Midwest.  It was SO MUCH more fun as my sisters Molly and Erin and Molly’s boyfriend, Tucker, got to join us (dressed as giant M&M’s).  They have never been home for this festive occasion.  It rocked our night.  Made it.  I’m from Minnesota where we did things a little differently, but here in Iowa they call it Begger’s Night and do this candy thing the night before Halloween.  So Begger’s Night is where we go and beg for candy, tell jokes, and dress up as cute things, scary things, and everything in between.  I have been eating G’s candy, doing laundry, and drinking coffee all day.  It’s quite disgusting.  I really need to stop.  I’m blaming Karey.  4Gotten Treasures wasn’t open today (smile). We never buy candy in this house.  My kids aren’t used to having it around or eating it.  So here I am.  Doing it for them.  I mean, we all have to make sacrifices for our children, right? (smile)

My youngest LOVES Halloween.  He always has.  The first few years of his life he would cry — literally cry — when I took down the Halloween decorations (more like fallish décor with a few cute spiders and ghosts from Hallmark) — so we would put pumpkins on our Christmas tree — just to make the transition easier for him.  We have kept this tradition to this day — G puts his “puntins” on our tree.  It’s his thing.  I hope it’s always his thing.  I adore it.  His favorite movies are all Tim Burton cartoons — his first being “Coraline” when he was all of two.  It scared the crap out of my oldest.  And he’s watched “The Nightmare Before Christmas” like “a fousand” times.  He has a Jack blanket — all black and skeletonny — with his name embroidered on it — from the Disney store — that he snuggles with.  He loves Jack.  And “The Book Of Life” that just came out not that long ago.  He found it fantastical.  The entire story is about death and All Saints Day.  He will tell everyone I cried at the end.  I thought it was fantastical too.  Maybe you think I should be worried about this little nugget of mine.  I’m not.  Here’s why…

G loves all of this stuff because it is straight up magical to him.  And he will tell you so.  It’s not scary.  It’s pure authentic uniqueness.  Halloween is a time to be other things.  To express sides of yourself that you may have been too scared to try on before.  And some of them might just be a little dark (this is the most loving and cuddliest and most empathetic kid you will ever meet in your lifetime — besides his older brother — smile). And we all have those sides to us too.  And Tim Burton’s films champion the creative underdog who isn’t just like everyone else.  He or she is the black sheep, the ridiculed misfit — who always comes to the conclusion that being themselves is the best way of doing things — despite what anyone else thinks or says.  And G loves all of this.  That, and his favorite color is orange.  The candy he’s not into so much.  I mean, his mom eats it all for goodness sakes.  I love my kid for this.  For all of it.  So yes, we have pumpkins on our Christmas tree.  And it’s pretty amazing.

My oldest is more of a Christmas kind of kid.  Both of my kids were scared to death of Santa Clause until they were too old for it to be cool to get pictures with the big guy.  I mean really, what is scarier — jack o lanterns or a giant guy with a long white beard in a red suite with ginormous black boots that says “HO HO HO” in a booming deep voice?!?!?!?!?  Smile.  Max loves that the world was saved on this day.  All of us.  A tiny, unassuming little baby — in the most unholy places — came to rescue us.  The Great I Am started as a small baby boy, in a manger, in a stable — and that the most awesome stories can have the most humble beginnings.  We talk about that so often in this house.  God’s great purpose for us all.  No matter how small we may feel or others may try to tell us we are, his divine purpose reigns.  And this great rescue, this freedom, this incredible and specific to us purpose all started with one baby boy — who was both man and God.  It’s rather mind and heart and soul blowing.  So yes, we crank up “A Baby Changes Everything” at least ten times a day during the Christmas season — not just for Max.  It’s one of my favorites too.

It’s pretty clear I love these two boys.  And that they have pretty big hearts.  It may appear they are very much alike, yet these two children of mine could not be any more different in their natures — which makes for some fun times in our house — some go to separate corners of the house times in our house — to Mommy has no more patience time in our house.  I have often joked that they are my yin and my yang.  They literally couldn’t be any more different.  Perhaps they are mirrors of their Mom and Dad.  Perhaps they are just who God made them to be…

However different they may be, they share a few similarities…  Along with big, beautiful hearts, they share anxiety.  I openly struggle with this myself.  I don’t think there is any reason for us to hide who we are.  I am who I am.  And I’m not ashamed of it.  Hiding and denying and covering things ups is what is ailing this world and making it even sicker.  I want my boys to understand that who I am, who everyone is, is exactly who they are meant to be.  There is good to be had, there are struggles to work through, and there is a mighty, mighty purpose for all of us.  We don’t have to stay stuck or sick — we are empowered in faith to be courageous and always move forward.  But broken is really okay.  As Leanard Cohen writes in his song, Anthem, “There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in”.  And we are all a work in process.  The key is doing the work and admitting to the broken and owning who you are.  That all takes brave.  That all takes honesty.  That all takes giant, deep breaths and so much encouragement that we gain from each other and the Holy Sprit.  We are all meant for great things.  We are all amazing master pieces.  And this includes ALL of our pieces laid in the hands of the master.

own who you are

Of course, I lamented that their anxiety issues were all.my.fault and manifested all.because.of.me.  I hadn’t done a good enough job of letting them see that life goes on, being chill and relaxed, I had hovered too much, I had made them feel like they had to be perfect, I hadn’t prayed with them enough, read the Bible enough, let them know Jesus loved them enough, I hadn’t done ‘all the things enough’ to make them feel whole enough.  Because if I had, then they wouldn’t feel this monster.  It was all because of me.  That was my anxiety talking .  That was my fear, and fear is the biggest liar.

And I didn’t understand it.  My anxiety, OCD, PTSD and all of the other labels that I had ever had, stemmed from horrific things.  My boys did not have these occurrences in their little lives.  I had made damn sure that they were not ever exposed to any of that ugliness.  Maybe I had made sure too much? Maybe I loved them to smothering-ly? And my brain got back on the anxiety wheel again — obsessing over every thing I may have done wrong as a mother.  How in God’s name do hamsters find those freaking wheels fun?

But this wasn’t about me, it was about them.  It was about now.  And what do we do?  Because this world is going to be FULL of crap that isn’t right or good or just — that is going to freak your brain out and put you on that obsessive seizure wheel time and time again.  And my boys are sensitive enough to pick up on all of it.  ALL.OF.IT.  And while behavior disorders like oppositional defiance and other very real and hard things are easier for some people to understand and maybe even deal with rationally — anxiety is often met with a glib “just get over it” and “toughen up and just deal with it” attitude — without ever realizing the very real physical conditions and emotional roller coasters it is putting your child through.  Things like abdominal migraines and panic attacks are super fun.  Breathing issues, not wanting to go to school, being painfully shy, being afraid of germs, obsessing about certain things (that change from one thing to the next at any given moment), etc.  It’s exhausting for everyone.  But please, just.get.over.it.  If only.  Yet we can tolerate and give ginormous breath and width to so many other things — so much room.  But anxiety and sensitivity in boys?  Not so much.  Being loud and aggressive is more easily understood.  I’m so very thankful to the amazing teachers who have given my boys the time and heart it takes to get to know and understand them.  You are absolutely incredible and we truly love you.  They grow and learn so much because of you.  You are all PHENOMENAL!  I am also so very thankful to my boys for teaching me so much as I see this in so many of my four year olds.  It takes time to deal with anxiety.  It takes such a great deal of time.  It takes all of two seconds to be dismissive and label someone as weird or ‘a baby’.  We don’t all work the same way.  And it’s absolutely outrageous to me that this is still having to be explained to grown ups.

you are enough

We talk a great deal in this house — about everything — because communication is power.  The more we know, the more we understand — about each other and the world around us.  And we NEVER, EVER stop learning.  It’s important for my boys to know that their dad and I don’t know everything (I’m pretty sure they get this by now — smile).  And, more over, adults don’t know everything and aren’t always right.  That they can trust themselves and their feelings and what they know too.  They are capable.  They are smart.  They can trust themselves and God — they are mighty.  They are not insignificant just because they are children.  And I firmly believe when YOU feel significant, you treat others in the same manner.  It’s all about respect.  We can discuss ANYTHING they feel may be wrong or they have strange or unsure feelings about.  We don’t hide things.  We are honest and truthful about all of it.  I don’t know that I would be like this if it weren’t for my anxiety or things I’ve been through.  Sufficed to say, my kids are quite verbal.  So I often call this anxiety of ours our super power.  Because for all of it’s frustrations, it gives us many positive attributes too.  There is always something we can be thankful for in everything — even anxiety (smile)…

For one thing, we are more empathetic towards others.  The boys are the best at making cards, sticking up for people, putting themselves bravely in the way of bullies, loving and being kind — and may I just say one of my boys is thirteen (smile).  We don’t ever want anyone else to feel the way we do inside when that anxiety monster is attacking.  We want others to feel comfortable, loved, cared for, and just plain good.  It grows your heart.  You want to give.  In my boy’s case, all the time.  They are the.most.thoughtful.  They are so concerned for all of those around them.  Our prayers at night are so lengthy because they pray for everyone.  When we say “I’ll pray for you,” — sister, brother — we are praying for you! That anxiety, which may manifest itself in worry at times — then translates over to a closeness with God in prayer.  And THAT is all good.  We take it to the Lord.  Lay it at his feet.  And we try our very best to leave it there.

It makes us brave.  This sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?  But anxiety helps us to be brave every single day — because, quite frankly, everything scares you.  So, we have to push through discomfort and muster brave and courage every waking morning to do the next right thing (thanks, Glennon– love you).  This may require more energy than the next person who doesn’t even have to think about being brave when they get out of bed every day and just thinks about how tired they are — but it puts us right in the moment, it connects us to the present, and it makes us focus.  Be brave.  Be courageous.  Because that’s what it takes.  Every.single.day.  Just to be.  And some people may look on that as a negative.  But wow, that can be one positive brain punch too.

love defines you

Because it’s all on how you look at it.  And we chose to look at it as God made us pretty amazingly.  He made us to shine like stars in the universe.  And we’ll just go ahead and praise him for it.  And it really doesn’t matter if no one else understands us or gets us.  Because he does.  And we’ll keep talking about it at home.  And this momma bear will keep fighting for her kids and your kids.  Because I believe we are all pretty awesome.  And it’s different perceptions and ways of seeing (and yes, even feeling) things that make this world the freaking amazing wonderland that it is.  And it’s when we lose those eyes of wonder that the magic is lost — the essence of who we are becomes convoluted.  We are all beautiful.  Because we are made in his image.  That’s not lost on this girl.  Ever.  I see him in my boys.  I see him every single day in their hearts.  Even in the anxious times.  Even in the times people roll their eyes, whisper, say rude things, are mean, bitter, and nasty because they don’t understand.  Oh, I see him.  And I smile and I know that what he created is so divine and good and we will continue to shine and love each other and everyone else around us.  And how very, very blessed we are.  And that makes this girl so crazy brave.

Love and peace and light.

And so much courage. ❤

Go rock your brave.

 

shine shine shine

 

 

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To courage to be like little children…

“And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’” Matthew 18:3 

home

I was just recently sharing with a mommy friend how dear this verse is to me and how precious is this image in the Bible of Jesus with the little children—so incredibly dear to my heart.  There the  disciples were, just trying their best to take care of their Jesus—attempting to shoo the little ones away (those pesky little rugrats) who were clammering to get closer to this God man—who was so very tired after a long day of loving on all of his people–and Jesus says, no, let them stay, let them come to me—

and then he takes it there—he takes it all the way there—he takes it to eternity.  He says not only are they important, they are the MOST important—for it is hearts like this that we must emulate to enter that forever place.  This brings me to tears every time.  Every.single.time.  And I venture to think for those of us who have survived our childhoods, because we very well may not have–this image, this great love, this incredible gentleness and captured reverence is all the more precious.

What’s also so amazing about this verse is that the disciples were asking Jesus ‘who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’  I mean, we need to know the pecking order for the after life, right? And guess what Jesus says? “…whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whomever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.  But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.”  Matthew 18: 4-5 Children are big stuff to Jesus–clearly.  He goes on to say, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones.  For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:10.  Big stuff, little ones.  So while the disciples are, as it tells us in Luke, rebuking — Jesus is calling his children to him “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:16.  AMAZING respect given to ones so small.

I love kids.  It’s why I do what I do.  After situations, some quite awful, have arisen throughout the decade and some plus years I’ve taught and been a paraeducator with preschool kids–I’ve often had friends ask me–why do you do it–and why do you go back?  (it’s clearly not for the paycheck — smile)  It’s really quite simple.  For the kids.  They are why I love my job.  And the bs that comes with it is never from them–it’s always the grown up set that creates that drama (we mess everything up, don’t we?  smile).  I couldn’t do anything else.  My passion is here.  They are they most important.  Period.  I can pretty much put up with any holy hell for them.  And this is where I belong.  Here.  With these all important beings.  Cause we’re teaching each other lots of stuff — every day — and they help me remember what my walk in this life is all about — everyday — and that being a grown up isn’t really where it’s at — nope, this kid thing — that’s where it’s at.  And along with the good Lord above, they keep my heart on track.

So the rest of you, go ahead and grow up.  I’m staying here.  Forever growing hearts and minds, forever wanting to know the “how” and “why” of something, forever having best friends, forever loving then getting mad then loving cause we love so unconditionally here, throwing the occasional tantrum then getting over it because it’s okay to feel our feelings and sometimes we forget to use our words but we’ll remember better next time–cause we’re learning–and we’re imperfect, but we’re also humble, so it’s okay if you forget every once in awhile too.  We forgive really easy.  And we are accepting of everyone.  Everyone.  Because we don’t know any different.  Our hearts just see people–and the potential for awesomeness and excitement and new experiences.  And little things make us happy.  Like, every.little.thing.  Frosting on cupcakes (forget the cupcake), sunshine, sticks, bugs, a sparkly new barrette (that may or may not make it till the end of the day), new crayons, markers, glue, holding someone’s hand, birthdays, paper crowns, paper anything, we’re just so enthusiastically thankful for all of it!  All.of.it.  Cause life is something to be celebrated, lived, wished upon and cherished–not gotten through.  We get to do this.  Every day.  We get to!  And there’s so much to learn, so much to do, and so many people to love and who love me.  So, I’m gonna hug you now–again.  Yup, this momma is going to be four forever.  It pretty much rocks.

And what does this mean in our faith, our walk?  For me, it means I must forever be humble–and the good Lord makes this pretty easy for this momma.  It doesn’t take but more than an hour or so for a reminder to this busy, frazzled girl to receive a heads up that I’m not perfect.  And I’ve come to enjoy laughing at these little things and have just relished breathing so much more.  Because these “stresses” we really just place on ourselves and we let others place on us.  Really.  Life goes on, and it doesn’t matter five minutes from now, and you are so much more than…  SO MUCH MORE.  So just stop, breathe and live.  I learned this all of last year, friends, and just started really living it.  Huge for this girl.  Huge.  And huge for my family as well.  So, I have come to embrace imperfection–while still expecting all good things from myself and trying my best–but not beating myself up for the silly things that don’t come out perfect.  I’d rather spend that extra time on my soul and my family.  And then I’m not so hard on other people as well.  As I judge myself a little more softly, I cut others much more slack.  Funny how that works.  In the words of Ram Dass, “We’re all just walking each other home.”  I’m giving my best shot with what I’ve got right now and seeing that we really all are.  You need something, I’m here for you, sister.  I’ve got you, you’ve got me.  None of us need anyone screaming at us or pointing fingers in each other’s faces.  I’ve always maintained that no one has been ostracized or judged to heaven.  And I watch how my boys, how my preschoolers play–I mean, occasionally there’s a sharing problem and those problems are solved pretty quickly–but the thing is– they’ve got each other’s backs.  They’re tight.  They’re good.  And if someone needs a hug, well, you better believe someone is GETTING that hug (or two, or three).  They could care less if you’re wearing North Face, Under Armor, Ugg or Coach or you have something on from the Wal-Mart clearance rack or Goodwill.  It’s who you are.  And if you can’t cut out a perfect circle to make that “C” caterpillar?  Forget about it.  You’re still my best friend, and I love you anyway.  No judging.  Except for maybe who can run the fastest on the playground.  But they’ll forget about it two seconds after no one can breathe and everyone is rolling around on the ground and laughing and giggling–and again–hugging each other.  Yeah, humility, all inclusive acceptance, and less judging–or how about we throw that judging thing out all together and just leave it to God–you know, since He is perfect and doesn’t have a muddled heart?

And kids aren’t perfect–by a long shot–they have their issues just like crazy grown ups do.  In fact, there are some days mine make me want to roll up in a ball and rock in the fetal position (with the door shut, in my closet, for like a LONG time).  They can be very egocentric.  They eat too much candy.  They can be so very wrapped up IN THIS MOMENT that they can’t see past it and it’s FOREVER and LIFE IS OVER and it is RUINED and forever broken and …  just my kids (smile) ?  They can be needy, they can be such siphons of your time, your energy, your space, your body — and have NO perception of parameters or boundaries.  They have no filters, can be super sensitive, they throw fits, they have no sense of time and they want things now, now, and now (again, just mine?).  And yet, I think I just described myself (smile).  But in a way, some of these things can be positives too — we just live in a world that doesn’t have time for them — patience or a status quo that is bendy or roomy enough.  Having two very “feely” and sensitive boys who do things their own way, I’ve often been driven to a state of crazy (well, I blame my kids, but I’m there on my own quite a bit — smile) by a world who doesn’t “get” them.  But I so get them, and Jesus so gets them — and I know that’s all they need.  (and I’d insert that they’ve had amazing teachers that have been extremely instrumental in this whole “getting them” process as well) And part of that is that I think we expect kids to grow up so fast, to process into adults so quickly — assembly line style — we need them to do everything so simultaneously.  Who has time for kids that have these intense emotions, feelings and ways of seeing the world differently?  Not a lot of people.  Not a lot of hearts.  But Jesus did and Jesus does.  And this is what it also means for my walk, faith, and heart.  May we always be open to those kids, those people that don’t “fit in” to what everyone else perceives as “normal”.  Because, I hate to break it to you — but, there really is no such thing.  We’re all created exactly as we’re intended to be.  We all have a specific purpose to our creation.  Yes, some of us have bigger, huger that huge struggles we have to deal with and face, but we all are perfectly we.  And we are all okay.  Some of us just need to work harder or need lots (and the range of that ‘lots’ can run the gamut) of help, but we’re all his children.  No one is dispensable.  We all have value.  We all are miracles.  We all start off as little children–some of us are just dealt more challenging hands.  But the hands that hold us are the same.

It also means that it’s okay if I’m not always brave.  I’m still scared a lot.  I may always be scared a lot.  This kid will always need her heavenly father.  And that Holy Spirit?  He’s always in my heart–my divine–what makes me divine–is living inside of me.  Pretty amazing.  And he helps me be brave.  So very brave.  He helps me get up every day and try my best, my very best, to be the best child of God I can be, and to shine — no matter what –to shine even when I don’t feel like I can, or am even good enough to try.  Then sometimes he just helps me be brave enough to show up– and then he shines for me.  I may always feel like a scared little kid, and hey, that’s okay.  I’m still welcome into eternity.

It also means that I want my kids to be surrounded by light.  Darkness is everywhere.  I want them to be surrounded by light, and I want them to be equipped with the tools and strength to BE the light in that darkness.  It’s so important for me that they have that foundation.  Because there is going to be plenty out there to trip them up, plenty of people out there that will cause temptation — and I need to make sure that my walk and my heart are pure and steadfast examples for my boys.  Perfect?  No.  And I’m not about to cover those blemishes up–because I don’t want them to expect perfection from themselves.  I say sorry — a lot.  And when we pray together as a family, we ask God to help us be the parents God wants us to be for our boys with our boys.  They know we don’t have it all together.  They know we rely on God — they see us rely on God — and the best part?  They see God carry us and answer that prayer on a continuous basis.  They’ve seen this momma lose her temper, cry, not do perfect mommy things.  And I have had to ask my boys for their forgiveness.  I’ve had to ask if we can start days over and if I can try again.  I’ve had to ask for their grace.  And we hug, and forgive, and try again.  And they know that their Daddy and I will always do the same for them.  Always — and that their Jesus will too.  So, it’s not that I want the people and presences in their life to be perfect.  No, that’s not what I’m saying or asking.  But I want them to try to shine as examples for my boys — to try to do their best — to not keep on showing up as bad examples — to keep perpetuating sin — let’s call it for what it is.  When we mess up, we say ‘I’m sorry’.  We own it.  We try again.  We don’t keep repeating patterns that inadvertently — and not so inadvertently — show my kids that you think that behavior and pattern is okay with you.  This is my job as their momma.  Being their momma is a responsibility I take seriously.  My kids are extremely important to me.  They are extremely important to God as well.  I expect people to respect that, and if they can’t, we make space — we have to make boundaries.

God loves his children.  And we are all his children.  I love it when he calls us his children.  He is my father.  He is really the only father that has ever loved and nurtured this girl.  He wants so much for us–and has such incredible plans for all of us.  Having that childlike faith, that heart, thankfulness, enthusiasm, resilience, appreciation, excitement, hope, love, acceptance — that’s really what it’s all about.  I’m not saying that — he is (smile).  He wants us to be like that.  And think about how joyful kids are.  Really.  Even in the most dire and darkest of circumstances, they are so joyful.  Because in the midst of all of that–they know nothing else.  And they are so thankful for everything.  God wants us to have hearts like that — those are the kind of hearts that gain us entrance into the kingdom of heaven.  Not heavy, doom and gloom, brimstone, pointing fingers and angry raging hearts.  Childlike hearts.  And those excited child hearts that can’t wait to share what they just got for Christmas hearts (guess what I got?!?!?!?!, guess what I got?!?!?!?!?)?!?  Yup!  Those are the kind of hearts that share our Jesus too!  That joy, that excitement, that love!  We’re all in this together.  There’s no club.  No group, no membership.  Really, there’s not even a building.  He just wants your heart.  Your childlike heart.

Hold my hand, let’s walk home together, and pick up some extra besties along the way…

Love y’all.  ❤  Now this momma needs to run off and play with her kids.  By the looks of my kitchen table, it’s craft day (you’d be surprised what treasures you can make with toilet paper rolls (smile) )…

Peace and Namaste — and G just asked me if there is going to be a super, big, huge, HUBONGOUS playground in heaven…

(most likely with a super high twisty slide)

 

“When it’s dark, be the one who turns on the light.” — Joseph, age 9, Brooklyn, NY

 

 

 

Shingles, magic tricks, and motherhood…

focus on the good

This will not be my best work.  It may not even be coherent.  I’m hopped up on pain meds and we (as in narcotics and I) do not get along.  I generally have avoided them — ignoring them after having surgery, twice, on my legs and even after having my wisdom teeth removed — but this kind of pain is just an entirely different kind, so I’m partaking — and finding we are STILL not friends — but the nausea, room spinning, fainting and vomiting of participating feel better than the searing agony of my nerves frying inside — so you win some, you lose some and you make the best of it.

Ahhh, shingles, something new and different for this momma.  Just as summer begins.  A curse caused by the chicken pox virus lying dormant and being reawakened by stress and too little sleep (also known as the end of the school year) and attacking and frying specific nerve regions within your body (hence the blisters on the outside).  It is something that science fiction horror is made of.  When I have tried to sleep and managed to drift off a time or two, I’ve had nightmares of tiny creatures birthing from these painful fluid filled pods all over my skin and I wake up in a sweat to find — yes, oh yes, they are still there.  This is real.  I’m a little alien.  Being an alien is quite uncomfortable.

Meds are supposed to help with sleep, but the layout of my little puss pockets (one must laugh–or shudder–then laugh again) gives me one tiny little sliver of my side to lay on — they cover half my back, an entire side and continue to roll on over to my tummy.  Sleeping involves careful strategy of pillows, no one can move or cause me to move.  I sleep with a husband who climbs Mount Everest every night (otherwise known as RLS — restless leg syndrome) — so this does not happen.  My babies can not hug me, bump into me, or give me kisses — unless they bend over — and DO NOT FALL on top of their mommy.  No snuggles, no cuddles, no mommy lovies.  I am, on all accounts, a smidge depressed.

I get no sympathy from the peanut gallery that is my husband.  He won’t even LOOK at the darn things (trust — I’ve taken pictures over these past few days of their progression — he will see, one day — one day ).  So odd and crazy what our bodies can manifest and do.  My youngest was CERTAIN it was the case of a psychotic mosquito with ADHD that nom, nom, nommed his mother “betause he was starvin'” — but then later revisited that theory to make room for the possibility of fire ants or perhaps, a scorpion.  He would at least entertain a visual of his mother’s Star Trekish appearance (and even helped me take said photos).  Love you, G.  You are scared of nothing.

I miss yoga, a clean house, getting out of bed, and completing the general tasks of life.  I’ll get to that again soon.  Stumbling to the kitchen to get myself water, vitamins, ibuprofen and the occasional pain pill reminds me of how much I am needed as my family room and kitchen have become a plethora of Legos, wrappers, art projects, books, pillows, and other conglomerations of family living without mom — just kind of getting by.  And I don’t care about the mess.  They’re doing a great job.  And I miss them.

G leans over and gives me the most gentlest of kisses and whispers, “Hey momma, what’s dat behind yourah ear?” and pulls out all sorts of things — pennies, Lego star troopers, cookies, candy — quite fantastic, his magic skills.  He knows how to make me smile.  No wonder my head and ears have been spinning.  I’ve got lots of stuff in there.  His hand and finger tricks are also quite dizzying and mystifying in this state.  I’m pretty sure he’s on the road to greatness with these tricks — or at least will be able to entertain at pool parties.  I miss that too.  The pool.

Max will sit and read with me.  And talk and talk and talk.  Shingles don’t keep me from listening.  Nope–can still do that.  I’m still a mushy mess too.  As we’re sitting on the bed, he looks at me and says, “Mom, do I talk too much?” I panic thinking I’m not appearing to look interested or loving enough and answer with an, “Of course not, honey. Why do you say that?”  And he answers, “Well, you’re like the only one who ever really listens to me.  I mean really listens to me.  You don’t interrupt me or make fun of me and you always ask me questions about what I’m talking about and never tell me what I’m saying is stupid.”  Ahhhhhh, got all teary (but honestly, I may have spaced off for a minute there when he was going into ornate detail about the helmets and uniforms he was designing for his third imaginary football team he was creating).  So, some good moments have come from this.  Always look for the good — there is always something to be thankful for.  I keep reminding myself of this.

And I will be SO thankful when this is all over and I can feel like a mommy again — I can play with my kids, do things with my kids, and be physically present.  That will be nice.  I’ve tried to watch TV to pass the time — I hear a lot of people have shows and things and enjoy this past time, as my husband encourages me to do it frequently (he thinks it gives you an edge to connecting with society) — but nothing is ever on — or I’m terribly picky.  However, I found this Kardashians show that made me feel MUCH better about my predicament.  Those people have excruciatingly painful lives.

So over this and ready to fast forward till the day when my old normal is back — with a few scars to show “oh yeah, that funness happened.”  But smiling, and just going with it, and catching up on my reading and pinning like a mad woman on Pinterest and getting all crazy social on Facebook.  I’m sick of this bed, but most likely will want to crawl back in it once the gravity of the mess of my house hits me off meds.  I am so hugely (is that a word?) thankful that this all happened after school and at the onset of summer vacation.  I can only imagine the stress of attempting to get back to work with this pain and what all that would look and feel like for this mommy.  For that, I am also so immensely (that is a word) grateful.

G has made me a decadently fabulous ring out of football beads that I MUST wear “all da time” and “nevvah take off tause I lub you”. Also, an incredibly ornate homemade “pop up” book.   Max is checking in every few minutes with an “I love you, Mom.  Do you need anything?”  And in all this yuck, I’m reminded what incredible boys I have, what amazing blessings are in my life that is so rich in love, and how I can’t wait to get back IN it — instead of just being a casual observer.  Every day will get better.  It’s hard for me to imagine this body back to normal with what I see it covered in now.  But it will happen.  I will sleep.  Pain will leave.  Nerves will heal inside and blisters will be gone.  We rebound.  It’s the way of things.  In the meantime, I can’t WAIT to find what other magical objects come out of my ears.  I’m really hoping for a piece of candy.

And thanks to my beautiful mother, who heard I was hungry for meat and potatoes, and brought over Shepard’s Pie, and all kinds of gelato and ice cream  and strawberries — so this family would have something to eat this week.  I appreciate it so very, very much.  The boys do too.  And all the best to my step dad, who had surgery today on his hand — and is in recovery for the next few hours.  We have been thinking of you and praying for you!  When this mommy is all healed up and you are up for company, we will come and visit — using our quiet voices.  G may even be able to pull something out of your hand.

Time for another round of ibuprofen and some anti-itch cream — it’s really more of a constant burning — like a flame on your skin — than an “itch”, but no such cream exists.  You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit, right?  It cools.  It helps some.  And G will tell me I smell like summer.

There is even joy and treasure in pain.  And there is always–always–something to be thankful for.

Love,

The alien chick

 

 

 

In Defense Of Struggle…

shine your light

It’s been a crazy past couple of weeks (and all the busy mommies and daddies say “Here! Here!”).  Conferences, practices, our amazing girls made it to state basketball, my amazing niece made it to state basketball also, so late night basketball games at the Well, mixed in with all of our other crazy, and it made for a cocktail of even less sleep–with two boys, school, homework, extracurricular activities, and our action packed jobs–leaves my emotions a tad frazzled and frayed.  I was just about to pat myself on the back for keeping it all together — must admit the silver lining of spring break was a huge incentive — when Thursday night hit …

Max had had a pretty rough day at school.  Boy drama.  Over something pretty minor and silly.  I had bought the boys TOMS — they’re comfy shoes and they both fell in love with the “one for one idea” — although G thought that it was weird that the other kid only got one shoe.  After more thorough explanation, he understood and he was satisfied with the idea.  They were dark grey and camaflog.  Very “boy”, I thought.  Slip on, easy, vegan, and promoted a good cause.  Trying to be better about where our money goes to for things we need.  Momma satisfied, boys have easy spring shoes that are compliable with dirt.  G had a great day in his.  His friends loved them.  His teacher loved them.  “Mommy, see teeps asking me if dey are TOMS.  I teep on telling her, ‘No, dey are soos!'”.  Funny kid.

Max, on the other hand, had a “nightmare” of a day–for an eleven year old.  He was teased, taunted and tormented by a group of boys–two that have followed him up for the past few years of his life–to the point of tears.  No one in his ‘inner circle’–just a couple of mean kids.  He tried to just shake it off, but after hours of it–it just plain hurt.  A good friend of his knew how bad he was hurting and stood up for him, told the other kids to leave him alone–and let Max wear HIS shoes.  Seriously–what an awesome friend, brave friend, kind friend, loyal, sweet and true friend.  It’s one thing to KNOW the right thing to do, and it’s quite another to DO it when no one else is.  SO proud of this great friend of Max’s (who, by the way, didn’t think he was doing anything that was “that big of a deal”).  I have never, in all my days of being picked on as I moved from school to school to school, been teased to the point of feeling like I had to change what I was wearing–and I hurt that my kid felt this way.  But, moreover, my heart was just so happy that he had such an awesome friend that helped him out.  And that is how Max felt too.  He had a pretty crappy day–the kids hazed him and made fun of him “wearing your momma’s shoes?” “hey, sissy boy!” and other gender slurs I won’t even grace, but we only talked about THAT for about ten minutes–we talked about the amazing power of friendship for the rest of the night.  And instead of dwelling on all that negative, we focused on the good and I called Max’s friend’s mom to let her know (although I know she already knows) what an absolutely INCREDIBLE son she has. Friends are such awesome blessings! And then we took a couple of minutes to pray for those boys that were so mean.  How much fun can it be to walk around having the hearts of those kids, right?  Well, maybe it is, but just in case, we prayed for them. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those you persecute you.” Matthew 5:44 You never know the walk someone is walking…

So far so good, right?  Yeah.  Then the night took a turn.  And only because I let it.  I can blame my exhaustion, the emotional state of my mind, my fragileness, but in reality, I do this all the time.  I received a few messages questioning my parenting, what I place on my children, misinterpreting a few things I said–from someone who doesn’t even know me or my kids–and I took it much too much to heart.  I cried.  A lot.  It hurt.  A lot.  So, I went to the Bible and I prayed.  Because that’s what those feelings are calling me to do…

And then, I thanked God for that experience because it made me seek clarity in a place where I find my strongest purpose in life–parenthood.  It is a place I come to, each and every day, with absolute intention and mindfulness.  My heart, body, mind and soul are here–one hundred percent of the time–and I have two partners in this intentful, purposeful mission–my husband and God.  This is not a “fly by the seat of your pants” (longterm, no–on a daily basis, sometimes) journey for me or the parties involved.  And although we are all stressed, hurried, sleep deprived, anxious, and worried at times (I think it comes with the territory), we all love our babies and want what’s best for them.  That, I believe, is a given.  So, I must keep that in mind from the sender of these messages as well.

My boys were both born with big hearts.  It’s just the way God made them.  I’m not saying that in a braggy way at all.  It just is.  When Max was very little and would see someone crying, he would offer his blanky.  G was the same.  It was natural for them.  For many children it is.  My kids see sadness and want to fix it.  A gift and a curse at times.  They are “fixers” and “problem solvers”.  I have never had to force it.  If they hear someone is sick, they rush to the table to make a card or want to make them cookies (cookies make everything better, right?).  They want to stop and pray, right then and there, if someone has been in an accident.  When someone is crying, they are there with a hug.  Even if it’s their momma.  It’s their nature.  G says it’s “my Desus in me”.  It’s nothing I contrive or push.  It makes them happy, it’s who they are, they love to make other people happy.  And I so deeply LOVE that about them!

That being said, we have three “rules” in this house.  I’d call it my “mommy mantra”, but the hubs in in on this too.  Number one: KNOW WHO YOU ARE Most important.  You are a child of God.  You are an incredible, holy, amazing, unique, blessed, fortunate, undeniable, talented, uninhibited, beautiful, fantastic, dearly loved child of God.  You are who HE says you are.  Not who anyone else says you are.  Know this.  Always know this.  “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2 Number two:  SEE THE GOOD.  Find it.  Seek it.  From the beautiful sunrise to the sunset, it is there.  From the hands that give, to the mouths that speak encouragement, find those people, seek those things, and fill your minds, hearts and souls with all of it. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:4-9  Number three:  BE THE GOOD. And from there, be the good.  You know who you are, you’ve seen what that good looks like and what it can do, now do it and be it for others.  From the smallest to the biggest of things, you can.  Every single day it is a choice–and you can!  God has equipped you with everything you need and we can do so much.  That is why we are here.  We all matter, and our choices matter.  Chose to be the good and make a difference.  However small, however big–you can. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” 2nd Timothy 1:7

And I don’t think we have to look impossibly far to see people hurting. And I don’t believe I am shining a spot light on the negative when I say this.  It’s a fact of life.  It’s real life.  People hurt and people need each other.  All around us.  Everywhere.  In our communities, neighborhoods, and abroad.  It’s as close as next door and as far reaching as continents away.  It’s a rather human epidemic.  And, the amazing and awesome upside to this?  We can HELP each other!  Halleluiah!  So awesome that we can be empowered to be a part of the solution, yes?

And if your children have never been bullied, never or seldom seen a kid being teased, or made fun of or hurt, that is SO AWESOME and I am truly, truly happy for you–but the antibulling campaigns, seminars, and conferences that are sweeping this nation and locally meeting with us at our schools say otherwise.  My husband’s 16 and my 13 plus years in education and the school system say otherwise.  Every year, unfortunately, it seems to be getting a little worse–and we are scratching our heads and asking ourselves “why?” and “how can we stop this?” and “what can we do?”.  And I’m not saying that just because I’m LOOKING for it so therefore (and that is why) I’m seeing it, it’s because I’m IN it and it’s THERE and we ALL want to help and make it BETTER.  And my kids are like that too, and I praise their AMAZING hearts for that and their friend’s AMAZING hearts for that and we neeed MORE AMAZING hearts like that!!!  YAY for AMAZING HEARTS like that!!!  And YAY for eyes that see it!  That notice, that empathize, that will stand up and not just walk on by.  That takes courage, and I will always and forever champion that!

Max told me this story a few weeks ago about a girl in his class that gets constantly picked on because she is over weight–and she’s kind of mean too.  Max told me, “I think she’s kind of mean because everyone is always being so mean to her, mom.  Hurt people hurt, right mom?” (we’ve talked about this a lot–how it’s not okay to be mean or rude to people, even if they are mean and rude, tough one for mommies too).  “That’s right, sweet heart.”  So proud of this kid.  “Well, a few of the kids got up in her face at her locker and were telling her she was fat and ugly again and told her she didn’t have any friends and it made me so mad and sad and it just hurt me, but I was kind of scared she’d get mad at me if I said anything and the other kids just kept saying it to her. It was pretty awful.”  Max said. “So, what did you do?” I asked him, getting the plates out for supper. “I walked over to them and said, ‘Well, I can tell you she has one friend.'” He looked at me and sheepishly smiled. “And what happened?” I asked. “She didn’t say anything, but she kind of smiled at me and the other kids just said to me, ‘Yeah, who?’ and I said, ‘Me! That’s who!'”.  One of the proudest mommy moments ever.  Best part?  Well, sadly, it happened again the next week.  Same scenario, same scene, but THIS time, she had TWO friends–one of Max’s buddies had seen what Max had done and followed suit.  I can only imagine it will keep growing.  Pretty awesome.  Don’t deny struggle from your kids.  They are strong.  They can handle the “negative”. They can do it.  They are so brave.  And they can cause a wave of amazing, truly amazing things to happen.

When you deny your kids struggle, you also deny them miracles.  Straight up–you deny them the most amazing holiness on earth.  Divine miracles.  My kids have seen and experienced those with all of their being–and continue too–all because of struggle.

Katie's Crusaders 2012 014

A friend of ours was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago.  Stage four-completely out of nowhere.  Max went to preschool with her oldest, and I had all of her children in preschool in some capacity.  Dearest family.  Loved them to pieces.  We didn’t sugar coat it, we fell on our knees and prayed our guts out, offered our love and did what ever we could to encourage and support this incredible family.  They ended up teaching my boys and Marty and I more about faith then any sermon ever could.  They were the most grateful people, for any tiny little gesture–in the midst of so much struggle.  Loving on my kids, sharing their joys, sharing their struggles and pain through humor and regular, good old fashion life.  And all my boys wanted was for this precious momma to get better.  Oh how we prayed!  When Max’s birthday rolled around, the importance of gifts to him seemed so trivial.  We were running in the Katie’s Crusader’s race to raise money for Nicole (her family was one of the family’s nominated to receive monies from this race–phenomenal race we continue to support every year), and Max decided that instead of presents, he just wanted his friends to donate money to her family instead–to help with all of their crazy hospital bills, surgery, treatments (I can’t even imagine!).  He didn’t tell Nic he was doing this.  On his real birthday, we drove over to their house and he gave her the checks and cash he had raised.  To him, it was the best present he had ever gotten–seeing her face, getting that hug–and playing with all their kids that day–as well as all the snacks Nic had for them.  What an incredible experience!  That’s real life folks.  That’s heart and soul.  And this struggle has a magnificent ending–through the rough and rocky road of ups and downs for this amazing woman–she kicked cancer’s butt–and taught my boys SO MUCH about faith and determination and never, ever giving up. I wouldn’t trade any of our tears or pain for that.  Jesus gets made real.  We almost get to see and touch him in experiences like that.  Nicole, we love you! And the boys STILL–every single night–pray for Nicole–every single night.  They pray for her body and they thank God for her heart.  And this mommy? She does too.

sara and ella at the hospital

And our baby Ella.  The boys continue to pray and pray and send cards, gifts, and love and rally their friends and family around this precious baby.  G’s teacher knows Ella because he writes her letters at school.  Even Holly, who cuts our hair, knows Ella, because as G was getting his hair cut–she is ALL he could talk about–Ella and her chubby cheeks and her “tutest smile!”.  Max sends photos of encouraging pics he draws calling for prayers for her out on instagram.  His fifth grade friends are praying for this little love.  Talk about amazing–fifth grade boys praying for a baby that’s just a few months old fighting cancer!  Tell me that doesn’t do your heart some good! And the faith questions that came from this made their faith muscles even stronger.  It made all of ours stronger! Watching Patrick and Sara go through this and the boys seeing this amazing family love and pray and look to God has also connected them even closer to humanity, to something bigger and stronger than them, and again–I would never take that away from them–or that yearning of theirs to help, to love, to connect, to want to heal and to support and encourage.  I will always, always, encourage that.  Because that IS WHO THEY ARE–and that is who WE are–and that is WHY WE ARE HERE. Manners, we love you, Ella, Sara, Patrick, Ava–prayers going up always.  And yes, she has the ‘tutest cheeks evva!’. Can’t wait to come and visit you all this summer!  Prepare to be hugged and kissed like crazy!!!

ten pas family

And our baby John–who is no longer a baby, but a rambunctious two year old.  This little guy was born, and it was suggested that maybe he shouldn’t be, without a complete heart. A living, breathing, super baby, just like our Ella.  The boys STILL call him Super John and yes, they STILL pray for him and thank God for him EACH and EVERY night — wish y’all could come to prayer time every night at our house.  It is quite uplifting.  Really, y’all are invited.  We’d love it.  The boys have seen pictures of surgeries, momma Gina has posted video blog posts of his giggles and smiles that have melted our hearts through the tears, and we have praised God and rejoiced — what an incredible journey of fear, trust, anxiety, faith and joy!  They have a road ahead of them, yes, but one met with sure steps because even though life is uncertain, their faith and focus is not.  And our family is so blessed to have been able to be a part of this story of love as well.  Super John and his family.  Another gigantic miracle. Just typing through all of these stories I have tears streaming down my face–such incredible blessings and miracles. Kyle, Gina, Abby, Caleb, and Super John–we love you so–and continued prayers for your journey!

Max and Otto

And then there’s this little guy.  His mommy is one of my sisters by heart.  The boys and I threw a baby shower for her, and due to our silly sport’s schedules, we had to throw it very early–and it’s a good thing we did–because baby Otto decided to come very early.  He gave his mommy and daddy and big brother lots of scares and even got an ambulance ride to the hospital for his second stay.  The nurses named him “Mighty Mouse” because he was so small, but so very fierce.  The boys never got to go with me to see him during his hospital stays as he was susceptible to catching anything with his fragile little lungs–but they sure loved this little boy and his big brother and this family.  Griffyn knew that this was the baby in Jess’s tummy.  He also knew that God would make him better–and that his brother Ross needed a big bag of Skittles.  That was absolutely necessary.  The boys thought Otto needed a super soft stuffed little lion to keep him comfy in his crib in the hospital.  That was also vitally essential.  And Jess, well, G thought Jess needed lip gloss.  Baby Otto is all over the place now–and the boys still fawn all over him.  Ross is the best big brother ever and Jess and Ben are the proud, grateful, loving parents of two bustling boys.  So many miracles.  The world is full of them.  All we have to do is stop and breathe them in.  My boys have held them, touched them, and continue to love and pray for them.  There are so many, many more.  Countless more in so many of you.  I am not leaving any one out intentionally as we love and are blessed by you ALL–so very–so very, very blessed..

And I will digress and say to all of you–and those we haven’t even mentioned–God’s got this–we love you, we pray for you always, and God’s got this!

last day of school and Mollys grad party May 2012 046

And  in all these lessons, experiences, prayers through struggle, I don’t think it puts too much of a burden on our children.  In fact, I believe the COMPLETE OPPOSITE.  I believe it only makes them STRONGER!!!  It gives them choices, voices, and enables them to act.  They are not helpless nor are they stagnant.  One of my most favorite songs is “With My Own Two Hands” by Ben Harper (you may recognize it from the “Curious George” soundtrack–sung by Ben Harper and Jack Johnson.)  We actually have the words to this song written in huge letters on poster board on our front door. It’s a reminder in all of our comings and going that we can–always–make a difference!  We can move and we can chose to make a difference!

With My Own Two Hands

I can change the world

With my own two hands

Make it a better place

With my own two hands

Make it a kinder place

With my own two hands, with my own, with my own two hands.

I can make peace on earth

With my own two hands

I can clean up the earth

With my own two hands

I can reach out to you

With my own two hands, with my own, with my own two hands.

I’m going to make it a brighter place

With my own two hands

I’m going to make it a safer place

With my own two hands

I’m going to help the human race

With my own two hands, with my own, with my own two hands.

I can hold you

With my own two hands

I can comfort you

With my own two hands

But you’ve got to use

Use your own two hands, use your own, use your own two hands.

With our own, with our own two hands.

With my own, with my own, two hands.

And even if, through struggle, things don’t go well, we know we will be okay.  That’s the other incredible value of teaching your kids and letting them go through, and allowing them to see, struggles and adversity with you.  No matter what, you will be okay.  Even if the end result IS negative, even if the end result IS something bad, you will be okay.  Because, here’s the thing, our HAPPINESS is NOT BASED on our CIRCUMSTANCES.  Nope, it’s not.  Just because you or someone else may be going through a rough time, doesn’t mean you or that person can not be happy.  Sure, it’s hard, it’s darn right trying, but it’s not impossible.  Hard, negative, trying, bad times–doesn’t equate with unhappy.  Happiness is a soul thing, not a state of affairs thing.  And maybe that’s where this momma and I differ.  So, I’m not afraid if my kids encounter unpleasantries.  I’m not afraid if they see them.  I’m not afraid if they step right into a pile of negative–because, you know what?  It’s going to happen.  I want them to be in tune to what’s going on around them.  I want them to have empathy and hearts that want to heal and help.  It’s not a burden that’s too great for them to bear.  It would hurt them more to walk away.

we rise