Monday, February 29, 2016

Our kids pulled out our wedding video the other night and called for me to join them as I cleaned the kitchen. I reluctantly set down my dish towel and piled on the couch to watch with them. They had pulled out the disc that contained an hour or so of footage of us getting ready and having our pictures taken. It was unedited and raw. And can I say completely uncomfortable to watch. 

I stared at the screen at the young girl before my eyes with the freckles and wrinkle free face. Her hair was pulled back in a simple bun and she wore only a little mascara. She seemed reserved and nervous. Part of me wanted to change how she looked and wanted her to be something that she wasn't yet. She seemed so innocent and child like. I looked at the groom next to her who looked so young and happy and carefree. I wanted to tell the couple what was ahead. How many twists and turns would come in the next 14 years...job changes and moves and many houses. They would experience miscarriages and babies, times of celebration and great disappointment. I wanted to tell the girl she would have someone in diapers for twelve years straight! How she would find and lose herself over and over and would learn her style and her giftings. How motherhood would be the biggest challenge and the greatest gift. I wanted to tell her how that man standing there who she had not even yet kissed would become her best friend. He was the man she rested her head on and cried with when things were rough. How some days he could make her so mad but she is so much more in love with him now than on the day she would say I do.  I wanted to share with her how his hand in hers would feel like home. I wanted to tell her that life was hard but also beautiful and that things really did get better with time. 

Watching the video the kids laughed and made fun of me and I cringed hard at myself but laughed along at the awkwardness. Sarah scoffed at my dress and puffy veil and sparkly flip flops and asked if I would change anything. I wanted to say yes and started to but I paused and thought about her question. Yes, today our wedding would look different and yes, we are very different people from those two standing before me on the screen but that was who we were then and it has shaped who we are today.

"No Sarah, I wouldn't change a thing".

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

the couch.

Thirteen years ago a newlywed couple went couch shopping for their new apartment in the city. The bought a comfy couch on sale for a great price and proceeded to get into a huge fight on where to put it in their new living room. They eventually worked it out and the couch found a spot that they could agree on and they made that apartment home.

That same couch moved with us seven more times to different homes and living rooms. City row houses and country farmhouses and a beach house in North Carolina. The couch was a constant. We brought five babies home from the hospital to this couch where I would sit for hours nursing and burping and changing diapers. I laid on this couch pleading to God to save my baby when we had our first miscarriage. I threw myself on this couch and bawled on the day I found out we were miscarrying twins. I spent many nauseous days laying on this couch. On sick days we spread blankets on its seats and it become a refuge of rest for children to get better. Couples too numerous to count have sat on this couch sharing laughter and stories and tears. Movie nights and forts and jumping antics have inhabited these cushions. Bedtime stories, afternoon naps, and winter nights cuddling with the man I love...all happened on this same couch.

The couch has held up remarkably well for all that has encompassed these thirteen years but lately it has been looking a little sad and saggy and I have found myself pining away something different. In September we bought a building with some close friends in downtown Lancaster that houses Mark's office and new co working space.We spent most of the fall working on the office and buying things to furnish the space. I think watching his office get transformed made me want to buy new furniture. I convinced myself a new leather couch was just what I wanted and would transform my living room. I found a leather couch on Craigslist that was a great price from Pottery Barn and even though it was way darker than I liked we decided to go for it. Mark drove an hour and half away to buy this couch and brought it home and...I hated it. It was way too dark, not at all the look I wanted. I have been drawn to the "boho" style with its warm earthy colors and plants on Pinterest and have been pining pictures of leather couches not taken into consideration that nothing in my house matches that look. Ugh. I cried. Over the couch that I hated. From disappointment and embarrassment that I didn't really know what I wanted. And I cried because I was now still stuck with my thirteen year old couch.

Long story short, the hated leather couch (which is actually beautiful) found its way to Mark's studio and looks amazing with its white walls and floors. The old velveteen rabbit of a sofa want back to its initial home. And you know what...I actually feel happy.

I learned what I don't want. The old couch looked much better in our home than the leather one. And I found a new love for our couch and all the faithful ways it has been there for us over the years.

Maybe a new couch is still in my near future but sometimes what you already have is better than you think. You just need a new perspective.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

if you are worried about being a bad parent you are a probably a good one.

Almost four years later I am finally working on a baby book for Eden. Recently we got out the other kids baby books that I faithfully scrap booked back in the day and Eden kept asking "Where's my baby book? Where's my pictures? Where's ME?". So I started the process of going through a gazillion files and sorting and editing. In the process I came across pictures I had never seen. Snapshots of our every day life. I also came across pictures that I remembered being critical of but was now thankful to have. As I sorted through the images I was looking at myself through Mark's eyes and how he captured our life and it was changing my point of view.
So often I see how I fall short as a mom or how I can improve and I miss the ways I am actually getting it right. But as I looked through the pictures I was seeing myself loving on my kids, reading to them, sitting with them around the campfire, feeding them as babies, combing their hair, being with them. Mark captured me smiling at them and kissing their cheeks. And I actually looked happy...which is a fear of mine that all they will remember is a tired grouchy mom. 
The pictures were ministering to me.
I am a good mom.

So friends if you are struggling to feel like you are not measuring up today take a moment to reflect on all the ways you are loving on your kids and all the ways you are getting it right ...because I think if you are afraid you are not a good mom its means that you are exactly a great one. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

beautiful chaos: when your expectations trick you.

This mothering thing is hard. This season of parenting has many challenges that some days makes me want to melt into a puddle of tears. There is so much noise, and fighting, and emotions and working things out and attitudes, did I mention attitudes?

Recently good friends of ours offered to take our kids overnight. I called them like five times to make sure I heard them right. "you mean like all five. Are you sure? do you know what you are getting in to?" And did I mention my friend is pregnant with twins. Oh my. 
I felt like such a horrible mom dropping five kids off to a pregnant woman and to make matters worse Moses and I had a big fight on the way over and attitude levels were high,  Hope suddenly says she maybe sort of has a sore throat and Eden broke out into a coughing fit. We were a mess.
After I apologized like fourteen times and dropped off enough sleeping bags and suitcases to look like we were moving in, I said goodbye and shut the door. Mark happened to already have prior plans so it was a rare night that I was alone. I met a friend for dinner and then headed to Barnes and Nobles to look for a book to read. Being out in public at night by myself was weird. I felt a little off kilter like I didn't know what to do with myself. I found the book I was looking for, paid for it and drove home looking forward to snuggling in by myself and reading in a quiet house something this introvert mother often craves. Silent time to myself. Ahh.

For some reason though the quiet and the night unnerved me. I missed Mark and the kids. I got home to a dark and silent house. I looked around at the house that just a few hours ago was bursting with life and yelling and fighting and the scurry of getting everyone out the door. It felt too quiet. I went upstairs and peered into their empty rooms and beds still unmade and I cried.
 I recognized how lately I have felt some resentment and irritation with being a mom. I think the older they get it is easier in the physical sense because they can get themselves dressed and bathe and brush their own teeth (well when they want too) but the emotional side is so much more challenging navigating their big emotions, their conflicts and their attitudes while trying to maintain control of what is also going on inside of me. So many times I take responsibility for them thinking if they mess up it is a reflection of me so I take everything personally. It can be exhausting knowing how to handle the conflicts and issues that come up. I want to get it right this mothering thing but so often it feels like we are just flailing around working through our stuff.

But standing there in the hallway by myself in an empty dark house I knew I wouldn't want it any other way. I love my house bursting with life. I love our five kids and the joy and craziness they bring. Standing there I was given the gift of perspective. In the quiet I could see how much I was given. In their absence I could see how much I am blessed.

Heading into the holiday season means more family time together. Usually I conjure up expectations of what that means whether it is getting our family picture taken for Christmas cards, finding our tree or whatever and I almost always am frustrated by how different the real experience goes. There are times I am pleasantly surprised but a lot of times when we are all together it is like a huge ball of energy and tension. Which is maybe just the reality of seven different people trying to get along and work through their own expectations and wants but I can easily get discouraged. We attempted three different Christmas card photos and each time the experience made me feel like poking my eye out. It felt tense and chaotic and not at all ideal. But when I look at the pictures now they are not bad at all, great even, and I am reminded that sometimes my expectations trick me. They lie to me and say I am falling short when really they were something that was unrealistic in the first place.

The point is I need to keep the perspective I got that night in the quiet house in the forefront of my mind. This crazy loud life is exactly what I want and it is a gift even if I do sometimes want to scream and pull my hair out. This house full of energy and noise and preadolescence hormones and mommy emotions and toddler tantrums and imperfect people is beautiful.

When Mark came home that night the kids were away I told him how much of a mess I was at home by myself and we both laughed at the silliness. But we both ended up with tears in our eyes at the thought that some day we will have an empty quiet house and we will look back with fond memories and a smile on the craziness that it is today.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

on middle school and letting go.

Last week I took Moses to middle school orientation. We walked the halls of the same middle school that I went to and his grandma before him attended.  But everything looked a little foggy and felt different than when I roamed the halls in 1991. That might be because I did the math and realized that was 24 years ago. 24! I came home and told Mark that a lot of the parents looked "old". He just laughed. Is this even reality!? 
I am too young to have a middle schooler.

Yesterday at 6:39 Moses climbed onto the bus for his first day of middle school. Mark and I saw him off and then sat on the bench of our porch and drank our cups of coffee and cried. We cried tears of joy because we are so proud of the young man he is becoming and the confidence he carries. In reality I was way more nervous about this whole middle school thing than he was. "I've got this mom" was his attitude. We cried because our son is growing up and venturing into new unknown territories. A lot of what was talked about at the middle school orientation was about gearing up for high school. I was just warming up to the whole middle school idea and now you keep talking about high school! What!! We cried over the reality that he is heading into a new season. And it it exactly what he is supposed to be doing. Growing up and going on new adventures away from us. It is the "away from us" part that is hard. 

Every summer I hit the end of July and want to throw in the towel because my kids are driving me crazy and every August I weep when it is back to school because I am going to miss them. Every new school year is a new letting go. It is a reminder that I am not in control. A reminder to trust and let them go experience and learn new things. 

So yesterday I cried and let go some more. And in the letting go I find fresh love for these five who have my heart.

and then there was just one. 
and eden never one to be left behind insisted that she pack her backpack and lunch too...just in case.
and look at this face. how could you say "no"!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

it's okay.

I started out the summer strong. We had our bucket list hanging on the fridge. I was going to be the fun mom and we were going to make memories that would last a lifetime. I was ready.

Fast forward to last week and I hit a wall. I was tired of fighting children, noise and piles of laundry and dishes. I didn't want to make memories with anyone. I just wanted everyone to leave me alone. I did not want to take anyone to the pool or out for ice cream or do anything fun. Poor attitudes abounded including my own as much as I tried to "savor the moment"and "embrace chaos".  

This morning I took all five to Target. My sister is getting married and the girls needed shoes for the wedding. Simple? No. Surviving target close to lunch time is like an olympic sport and the older they get the more requests you have to fight off while trying to remember what the heck you even came into the store to buy in the first place. By the time we left I had full out broken into a mom sweat and was speaking to kids through clenched teeth. I stopped and bought myself an iced coffee as a reward simply because I had just survived Target with five kids. 

This mothering thing is tiring. 
Beautiful and rewarding but tiring

And its okay. 
Too often I put unrealistic expectations on myself to be super mom and super human. And it's okay that I feel tired and that five kids in summer can sometimes feel hard. And fighting children is normal as much as I hate it and feel like there is something wrong with them.
And...GRACE there is GRACE.

There is grace for me when I feel cranky. There is grace to not have the house look like how I would like it to all the time.. There is grace for the pre adolescent child with the mouthy voice. There is grace for the siblings who need to compete about everything and anything.  There is grace for children who misbehave in Target and whine in loud voices, "You never get me anything I want." There is grace for the garden that is full of weeds and produce that needs picked. There is grace for the three year old who is still not potty trained.

There is GRACE. Even when I don't feel it. There is. 

If you are feeling this way too you are not alone. 
Hang in there friend.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

oh that every season would be my favorite.

Yesterday I had a mom meltdown.  A full on mama temper tantrum with tears and snot, foot stomping, threats of quitting and nose pinching. Apparently when I get frustrated I pinch the bridge of my nose. I realized this because one day while riding in the suburban Eden was sitting in her carseat pinching her forehead and nose with a scowl on her face and the kids began yelling from the backseat, "She's doing the Mom know the thing she does when she is upset!", followed by a chorus of laughter. And sure enough I do it. And my mom did it too when her kids were driving her crazy. And they are. Driving me crazy.

But when I woke up and snuck down the stairs in the early morning light after a good nights sleep I can see things more clearly than I could yesterday. Oh yeah, I love those little people fiercely even when we do have rough days. Sometimes it is hard for this introverted mama who loves quiet alone time to spend all day everyday surrounded by people who need or want something for me. I realized I need to do a better job of carving some time to pull away and get perspective. Because this mothering thing is not for the faint of heart. Some days it is just plain hard. Yesterday was one of those days full of fighting and whining and just poor attitudes including my own. But today is a new day and I am receiving the promise "His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness".

This summer is flying by. It has been good, full of memories made and time spent together. I don't want to wish this time away. I know that in a few weeks I will be sitting in a quiet house with just one child while I send four off to school. I want to savor this season full of noise, fighting, laughter, tears and fun. 

This is my prayer today, 

"Oh that every season would be my favorite. That I would look back on life and feel overwhelmed by the goodness of God to invite me into motherhood. Life is moving, always. May I get into the flow of the beauty of it, that I would trade my heaviness for a weightless grace to love deep."

~Melissa Helser

Motherhood is a gift. 
I am just the mother my kids need.
 I am not alone. 
I am doing better than I think.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

the joy of being a child in summer

We have been spending most afternoons at the pool this summer. This is the first year that four out of the five can pretty much swim without a lot of supervision. It is a great way to get energy out and the kids have friends from school who they love to play with.  Afternoons have been a bit more relaxing than other summers although I am not quite at the "sit in a beach chair and read a book" stage yet. This was confirmed the other day when I was talking to another mom by the shallow end and suddenly heard shrieks from across the pool yard. There was my youngest child buck naked on the playground. She had stripped down and was happily running free. 

Going to the pool reminds me of my childhood. Growing up we lived a couple blocks from the community pool. When I was old enough I was allowed to walk or ride my bike there by myself on afternoons. This was pure freedom and I loved it. Sometimes I had to take my younger brother along for company too. 
It was on such an afternoon that I remember sitting on our beach towels my brother and I eating shoe string licorice which was one of the only candy we could afford to buy from the snack shop. We were taking a break from swimming and sat together in the sun. We had just recently watched a documentary on TV about Siamese twins which are twins who are born joined together and somehow the conversation turned to that topic. We pondered what it would be like to go swimming as a Siamese twin and we chuckled at the thought. 
I suddenly got an idea. 
"Daniel, " I said excitedly, "I dare you to go ask the pool guy how many pool passes a Siamese twin would need, one or two?" 
We thought this was just hilarious and laughed and laughed. And being the older bossier sister I somehow convinced him to do it. I am sure there was probably some candy or money involved. I sat there on my towel snickering as he walked over to the counter.

The pool guys response was classic, "it depends if they have two heads or one"

That story still makes me chuckle. It is so stupid and silly. But too often I get caught up in the seriousness of life and forget the joy of being a child in summer. Sometimes seeing my kids reminds me of my own carefree days of childhood playing with my siblings and laughing over dumb things. In them I can see myself. And if I close my eyes I can still feel the warmth of the sun after a long afternoon of swimming and my only worry is whether or not Siamese twins need one pool pass or two.

Are we having fun yet? 

Friday, June 12, 2015

sweet summertime.

Ahh sweet summertime. Welcome to the days of no schedule, afternoons at the pool, popsicles, sunkissed faces and evenings of eating dinner under the canopy of trees. And welcome to the days of  "what are we doing today?" on repeat, chasing a toddler around the pool while enviously watching other moms sit and tan, navigating grocery stores with a small herd and just overall more messes everywhere.
It is such a mix. There is more fun and more chaos. More time together and more fighting.
Each year as the kids get older and I see how quickly the school years fly I find myself wanting to enjoy and savor the time together that summer brings. Some days this can be a battle, okay, a lot of days it is. Mostly it is a battle of perspective. I cannot control every outcome. Kids are going to fight as much as I hate it. And there are going to be some crazy hair pulling moments.

 But there are going to to be sweet memories made. We will spend many fun times together. There will be moments I want to freeze in time.  

This is summer. This is life.
We welcome you summertime and all that you bring. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

growing up.

I sat in the fourth grade classroom blinking back the tears that were threatening to come. My mind kept drifting back when I was the same age sitting in a similar room watching "Growing Up and Liking it"feeling so awkward and uncomfortable. I remember my own mom sitting in the back of the class as we  heard about new concepts like menstruation and ovaries and something called a "period". Now I was here with my daughter watching a video about puberty and the changes that are happening and will come, exchanging nervous giggles and bashful glances between us and fighting off bawling right there in the back row. How can we be here already? Sure, I see the signs all over the place that adolescence is coming but really how are we here!

Moses came home from school that same afternoon and announced he too had watched his 6th grade videos on puberty and how babies were made and I was struck again by the reality of the new season we are in. After dinner Moses asked if we were having anything for dessert. When I answered no, Moses always looking for a reason to celebrate suggested we go get ice cream to "celebrate growing up". He said it with bashful smile and I laughed and responded, "So you want to celebrate puberty?

So we did just that. We all piled into the suburban and headed to our favorite local ice cream shop to celebrate puberty. Everyone ordered a cone and sat down at a picnic table. Silas licked his ice cream and then looked at me curiously, "Mom, by the way, what is PUBERTY?"

I am glad we celebrated! Sometimes in the midst of preadolescence meltdowns and new changes in parenting I can loose sight of the reality...they are GROWING up! It can be sad at times but also really awesome! I am excited to see what this new season brings. I love seeing their passions and interests developing. Hope wants to be a doctor and loves to nurture. Silas loves sports and wants to be a football or baseball player and a dad. Sarah aspires to be a writer or artist. Moses from a young age has dreamed of being a builder. I don't know many 11 year olds who already are developing their business cards. And Eden, who knows what awesome things that girl will do. It is exciting to think all that the future holds for these kids who call me "mom".

It is definitely reason to celebrate.