Introspective Insights

Introspective - adj: Examining sensory and perceptual experiences. Insight - n: The capacity to discern the true nature of a situation.

Reflections From the Spray Park

I always struggle at places where tons of moms are because I can’t stand the Pinterest-bragging-cooking-from-scratch-organic-food-designer-kid-bathing-suit-perfectly-coordinated-everything that is here. The talk at times is the worst – I did this, I did that – the constant “one up” banter. Since when did we decide that we were all in a competition? That somehow being better is the goal?

This is my cynicism talking and I know not everyone here is in the perfectionism race. But I feel it around me here and it makes me grateful to be alone scribbling in my notebook. But I’m looking too – seeing the two moms who can still sport bikinis. Wow – that’s never going to happen here. The mom with the over sized t-shirt and hat hiding her beautiful face. The momma nursing her newborn, bleary eyed kissing her baby’s head.

Maybe the truth is that I hide here alone because I don’t want to take a chance on truly knowing others when the external fronts we all display are so off-putting. We all struggle and we all fight guilt and self rejection and perfectionism and is my facade better than yours?

Finally, after all this time, the community I’ve longed for I have in abundance. Friends and invitations and I am humbled by God’s providence. Yet how do I allow a larger community in – always allowing new interactions? To become what I longed for back then – to return it back? Mostly its laziness, tiredness, excuses.

But I know I need to change, so I offer the ice pack and the band aids and she smiles and thanks me. And I realize that we all are looking for acceptance and love and we can easily give a smile, a hand, a kind word.

Sucker Punched

I’m not one to whine and complain, but there are times when a day attacks and wins. I’m not sure when it started, but by mid-morning, the headache began. By noon, I couldn’t keep my eyes open and by mid-afternoon, I was angrily yelling. In my self-inflicted time out, I asked myself the same question I always ask, why do I fall victim to this madness?

I crawl out of my hole, apologize to the kids. Start slow and quiet, helping with homework. Understanding fills the room. Hugs and silliness and laughter follow. Yet, I still face off to the fear, the sneaky lie that tells me that I push the kids away every moment and that someday they will give up on me. Yet, I know that even when I’m irrational, I always love them. And this broken, tarnished mom will always start again.

Connection

For years when the kids were infants, I craved community. It seemed as though other people had relatives, friends, and acquaintances that helped when their babies were born and while we had that kind of help, we had very few meals made for us. Sharing a meal, to me, was what community was all about. My fondest family memories were around the table. My husband cooked for the first full year of each of our children’s lives and I am very thankful for that.

At times, when the days were tough and long and the baby was crying or my ears were ringing in the quiet, I angrily asked God why we didn’t have neighbors or close church friends that could come along side us during this time. God was quiet, as he is sometimes.

My third pregnancy was challenging with gestational diabetes, my terrible attitude, and incredible stress at my job. In some ways, Abby’s birth was a relief and a stark realization that my negative outlook needed to change. Our doorbell was quiet, the phone collected dust. Community seemed like a utopia. And it was then when I needed it most.

After leaving my job, I remember feeling like I was on a free fall. In those first few months, God answered my prayer for community. In fact, he answered it a few months before when I was invited to a women’s Bible study. I joined MOPs a few months later and from there we finally found a church that we loved. We were welcomed with open arms, wherever we went. That leap of faith, leaving my job, broke down barriers for the connections we longed for.

Now I’m blessed with many friends, along with those faithful few that I’ve always had. I’m reminded of this transition today as I sit in my parent’s house full of family. I realize that when I am home, my church family and others fill my heart, ring my doorbell, and chime my phone every single day while away from my biological family I love so much.

Connection, community, we were made to crave it, seek it, and engage in it. I’m grateful for this yearning and the beautiful community God has given us.

Who is in your community? What was your path discovering those connections?

No-Spend Challenge?

While the stereotypical stay-at-home mom sits home and eat bonbons (said no one ever), I am usually out and about looking for the latest bargain. Most of the time, I’d like to think it is to find items we need, but that probably is not true.

Since all three kids are at school, it is difficult for me to be home. Being alone is not the issue, it is the quiet. Before the first frost, I could literally hear crickets. I miss my little people and a vibrating restlessness overcomes me and I leave the house.

It is true, I have found phenomenal deals on things that we need, but I have also purchased some nice-to-haves and want-to-haves too. This spendiness problem daily challenges me. One of the ways I show love to others is buying them gifts. But I can’t buy gifts all the time and ironically, I’m terrible with remembering birthdays. So I end up with a bunch of pretty awesome items that are reasonably priced, but the sheer sum is the issue.

I’m considering a no-spend challenge. I’ve heard of others doing this for either 10 days or up to 30 days. I honestly don’t know how to do it, and yes, this is definitely a “first world” problem. It seems there should be some rules – number of days, possibly some exceptions such as getting gas or food (and a fluffy latte is not food).

Ideas? Thoughts? Have you ever done a no-spend challenge? If so, please tell us about it in the comments.

Little Helping Hands

As early as 18 months, I started letting the kids help me bake. Little hands measured, stirred, scooped, and spread. As much as I wanted them to help, it was also a source of irritation for me. I started each baking session with my extra patience on and sometimes it ran out before we finished. I’m ashamed to admit that I made each one of them cry in frustration at least once.

Sometimes I bake because I want to surprise Jerry and the kids with a treat. While I don’t feel obligated, at times my annoyance with the little things that go wrong result in a stinky attitude. The love language I often express towards others is acts of service. I also enjoy giving gifts, so the combination of the two often leads me to obsessively looking for that perfect item and then running home to cook and bake three items in two hours. Baking is usually therapeutic for me, but occasionally I have that stroke of bad luck where I cut myself, dump sugar between the stove and cabinet, and realize I have no measuring spoons clean. Then I am rushing and brushing away the very people I’m preparing for.

Tonight, I was determined to make apple pie and start the apple butter in the crock pot. Pie crust and I don’t get along, so I ended up grumbling and patching it together like a quilt. After peeling and chopping about 50 apples, I knew I was in over my head.

My sweet, four year old Abby walks up, “Mama, can I help scoop the apples into the crust?” My first instinct and response is, “No”. My time line already a mess, bedtime looming in the distance, dirty dishes literally spilling off the counter, to do list too full for the last three hours of the day. She insists, whining, “You NEVER let me help!” I pause and look into her pleading pools of blue. I hand her the spoon and she begins – two apple slices at a time (there are at least 60 slices in the bowl). I sigh and walk away as Kayla sits at the table and chats incessantly over the single apple she has been peeling for the last five minutes. I’m frustrated, but thankful that my girls are here in my space, doing what I am doing and choosing to be with me. I know it won’t always be this way. God, please give me the patience to pause and listen and communicate with a word, a sound, a look, a gesture, a hug, that I am happy they are there.

Six Years

To my Zachary on the occasion of his 6th birthday.

Six years ago, he was born – our second child, a son, Zachary John, which means “remembered by a gracious God”. We were in awe of this precious boy – crying softly, hand tightly clenching Jerry’s finger. He cooed and sighed in his sleep foreshadowing the loud, joyous, boyish sounds we now hear every day.


He preferred one of us snuggling him to sleep instead of a lovey, thumb, or pacifier. A whole year of nights he only wanted Jerry. He smiled at everyone, everywhere, always looking for a smile back. Every picture in his baby book is a grin. To my astonishment, he laughed at 10 days old, on Valentine’s Day. A precious love gift for this exhausted mama. I’m still in love with him today.


His first steps were terrifying to him, but that dimpled smirk and sigh of relief boosted his confidence. Now, he never stops running.


When I’m angry and tired, he gently comes to me and says, “I love you, mama.” My heart melts. He likes to listen to us read to him, but yesterday he read his first sentence.


This mama aches for that little baby boy, but loves this delightful, six year old boy in front of me. Time marches forward, ignoring my pain, but gifting me with the joy and discovery of my Zachary.

Holding Time


I’ve written before about the fleeting moments of childhood rushing by me.  I was reminded of it
again today as I watched my preschooler almost turned big kid.
 

He’s all boy, my Zachary. 
Always smiling his dimpled grin – big blue eyes sparkling.  Today he was so hungry at the restaurant that
he ate his spaghetti and his two sister’s also – using two forks to shovel
everything in – grinning ear to ear, mouth stuffed.

He took his first shower today and laughed in delight at the
water running down on him – inching further and further under it.  Shaking, wiggling, shimmying around.  

I forget that even at five there is so much for him to
discover.
  Yesterday a neighbor let him
ride his battery powered car with real gear shifter, accelerator and brake.  He hit the accelerator for the first time,
bubbling cackle infectious.  

Preschool is almost over and big kid school looms on the
horizon.  I can’t imagine him not home
with me…can’t imagine him all spiffed up in his school uniform, backpack, and
lunchbox in tow and yet this reality is a few months away.  How can I hold onto this time?  I feel helpless under its ever flowing
current.
  

God puts us here to care for these small ones for such a
short time and yet the day-to-day can swallow us up if we allow it – I have
often and too easily allowed it.  Today I
aim for consistency in capturing the wonder, recording the moments, priceless
memories and gratitude for this gift of motherhood – even if fleeting.

Streams of Starbucksness


I am at Starbucks with my sweet three year old Abby.  She’s been really cranky today, but she is
quiet right now.  She is eating a pink
cake pop and people watching.  We are
making the mermaids on our cups talk. I’m the mommy and she’s the baby.  She looks out the window and says, “The cars
are going fast!”  Jazz pulsates and
slides out of the speakers.

Abby is hunched over her chair backwards watching the
manager interviewing someone.  I’m
admiring my gold purse and pondering the purple stainless and ceramic mug that
is on my wish list.  I sip the sweet,
rich foam off the top of my latte – nectar of the coffee warming my
insides.  I look into her adorable face –
hair a mess, smiling, dimple shown, big blue eyes laughing. 
 

Abby plays a game, “Can you sit in this position, mommy?”
Leaning forward, on the edge, on her knees, legs spread apart, sideways with
legs crossed.  She says, “It’s a little
table!  That one is a little table!  It’s a baby!”

She climbs on my lap. 
She says, “You have to write, mama. 
Why?”  I say, “I must!” She says, “You
so cute.”  I kiss her still pudgy,
toddler cheek. How I wish all of my moments with her were like this – coming off
lunch time with her tantrums and my yelling. 
Night and day.

The music slows and saddens, tranquil trumpet.  This moment fleeting, the clock signaling the
end.
  She bonks my head with hers
grabbing my pen and clicking it so I cannot write – snapping me back to
reality. 

To My Zachary


Yesterday you turned 5 – five, five, five.  I can’t believe that half a decade has passed
since I first held you in my arms.  Your
older sister taught me to be a mother. 
But you – you taught me how to love as a mother.
  Pushing you out was one of the most excruciatingly
difficult things I have ever done and I will never forget the feeling of you
entering this world.  All pain and
discomfort and intense, overwhelming eleven hours of labor began to fall
away.  

My heart began to race and didn’t stop for another six hours.  I sat up instead of sleeping – watching you –
 baby burrito cooing and humming in your
big sleep.  You were such a loud sleeper
and my heart ached with love for you – love at first sight.  

Now you run and jump and search for toys that begin with the
preschool letter of the day.  Every toy
can be made a gun or a sword and you leap off the top of couches in a single
bound.  You have a heart of gold
crumbling under the weight of my yelling and apologizing as fast as you
can.  You hug, kiss and protect your
sisters.  You tell me you love me when I’m
having the worst day.  

Your clear blue eyes dimpled cheeks and chin envelope me in
the reminder that there is so much good in this world.
  And you – in your five your old glory are one
of the best of those goods.  

I love you – my one and only boy.  I’m so grateful for you, Zachary John.  Your name means “remembered by a gracious God”
– he remembered me and in his grace and mercy gave me the gift of you. 

My Christmas Gift


With Christmas still around us in our eyes, ears, and mouths
and the hope of Epiphany looming ahead, I present a guest post along those
themes from my sister, Rachel Miller.
 

Like years past I spent the last several weeks planning and
plotting and watching for sales and shipping deals in order to find the perfect
gifts for my kids: three deliciously beautiful blonde boys ages 5 months, 2
years, and 5 years old.  All of the fretting and sweating and logistical
maneuvering was all worth it to see their eyes light up when they tore back the
wrapping paper and saw their new favorite toy/game/shirt/whatever.  Also
as in years past, my husband and I agreed to not buy each other Christmas gifts
to wrap and place under the tree.  I truly am OK with that decision, but
this year I am especially thankful for it.  I think if I had a gift under
the tree to unwrap, I might have missed the completely perfect gift that God
gave me this Christmas.  God allowed me to clearly see his own son, Jesus
Christ, in each of my children for the first time.

First Sebastian, my sweet chubby 5 month old.  As we rested
and nursed quietly this afternoon I thought about the fact that this is how
Mary and Jesus spent the first Christmas.  Mary, exhausted from travel and
childbirth, probably spent most if not all of Christmas Day resting, cuddling,
and nursing God’s own son as best she could in a barn. I’m sure we both
kissed chubby fingers, traced the curve of an ear, gently rubbed a tiny back.

 What a beautiful reminder of Jesus’ humble beginnings and Sebastian’s
potential to be an extraordinary force in this world.  Thank you, God.

Then Nathan, my crazy intense 2 year old.  Our pastor
spoke of the Magi at the Christmas Eve service.  He stated that, while
most nativity scenes show the three kings offering their lavish gifts to a
newborn Jesus in the manger, it’s more likely that it took them several months,
if not over a year, to follow the star and find Jesus.  He asked us to
imagine the chaos it would have caused in the streets of Bethlehem when this
caravan of wealthy VIPs entered the city in search of Jesus, all to find a
toddler not so different from the ones squirming in the pews that night.
 I could see it in my mind’s eye.  I could see the look of surprise,
yet quiet understanding in Nathan’s enormous eyes as the wise men presented
their gifts.
 I could see his heart-melting dimpled smile, and even hear
him trying out some of the new words describing his gifts: gold … muh …
frank-a-tents, all the while giggling.  A reminder of how God will use my
seemingly ordinary Nathan to do remarkable things for his kingdom.  Thank
you, God.

Finally Kameron, my firstborn.  Five years ago at this
time I really identified with Mary as I was only days away from becoming a
mother for the first time as well!  As I listened to Kameron have an in
depth conversation with his aunt about Thomas the Tank Engine and all of his
railway friends, I thought of Jesus as a young boy in the temple.  I
specifically had a vision of a boy not much older than Kameron surrounded by
the elders in the temple, speaking to them with authority about theological and
spiritual matters.  Ok, clearly Thomas the Tank Engine is not as deep of a
subject, but I had never seen him speak with such passion and authority about
the name, number, size, color, and unique characteristics of an impressive
number of engines.  I could picture Kameron in the midst of a spirited
debate with the elders, educating them on the attributes of God the Father in
his sweet yet matter-of-fact voice.
 A reminder of how God uses the mouths
of even children like my Kameron to speak his truth to the world. Thank you,
God.

Gifts under the Christmas tree are nice, and I still enjoy
the thrill of hunting the perfect present, but nothing compares to the
gift of clearly seeing Christ in your kids for the first time.
 I pray
that all Christians experience similar revelations in their journey of faith.

When
Rachel is not working her day job wielding her red tape machete or pushing
beer-leavened baked goods on the side, she is home with her three boys ages 5
years, 2 years, and 5 months eating homemade pizza and ice cream made by her
culinary gifted husband, Kal.