Motherhood: The Maximum Threshold

Hey, gang…how y’all doin’? I hope you’re well. I wanted to talk to all you mamas about something that I’ve noticed many, many times in my years of motherhood, but that I was recently reminded of in a Facebook comments thread.

Here’s how it usually goes: Someone will post something about struggling with motherhood and it’ll get a chorus of “me too’s.” Inevitably, somewhere in the comments, one of those sentiments of solidarity carries a caveat, “I feel that, too, but I only have X number of kids.” It’s got that unspoken sense of comparison and failure that says, “It’s okay for you to feel that way because you have more children than I do, but if I also feel that way then I must be doing something wrong because I don’t have that many kids. I must be failing.”

Y’all, that is straight up bull slaw and I will not have it.

Listen to me. Your personal max is just that, the maximum threshold of challenge you have ever personally navigated. Struggle doesn’t discriminate based on family size, experience, age, or any other variable. This shiz is hard regardless.

We do this comparison/failure thing all the time with all sorts of things. You’re allowed to complain about being sore after running because you’re an ultra marathoner. I however, should shut up and stop whining because I can only run six miles, never mind the fact that I’ve only recently taken up running. You’re allowed to struggle with exhaustion after your work week, but I’m “only” a stay at home mom or I’m “only” a student without a “real” job so I should have nothing to complain about.

Guys, this is not only completely untrue, but it’s also unhelpful and unhealthy. When we’re talking about this issue as it pertains particularly to motherhood, I think it’s even more dangerous. Motherhood is intrinsically connected to the depths of my identity in a deeper way than being a runner, or an employee, or a student ever could be. My identity as mother defines me to my absolute core, so a sense of failure as a mother is felt far more deeply than any other failure I can think of. I think this is true for most moms I know.

We all know that comparison is as unhealthy as it is a natural response to being a human. We’re constantly tempted to check where we are in relation to the herd. Are we behind? Ahead? Keeping up? Holding people back? It’s human nature, which makes it that much harder to resist.

Mamas listen unto me. Hear my voice and take a second to really think about this. You are currently working at the maximum level of motherhood you have ever experienced. Of course your experience of parenting feels like it’s pushing you to your limit because it is. The number of children you have does not dictate the level of difficulty you are allowed to experience. I have friends with one child, friends with five kids, even a pal who has eleven. Each and every one of them is allowed to feel the magnitude of what they’re being asked to do on a daily basis. It does not matter if you have one child or fifteen, you’re allowed to feel the weight of that responsibility. You’re also allowed to be annoyed by the noise, mess, and sacrifice and also to laugh about it all. Numbers simply do not count here.

We wouldn’t expect a novice runner with shin splints to suck it up and stop complaining just because she’s never run a 10K or a marathon. Shin splints hurt no matter who is experiencing them. We wouldn’t tell a student cramming for finals to shut up and work just because she’s not currently a lawyer. Intellectual exertion pushes us to our limit regardless of the level of work we’re doing.

Mamas, you are allowed to take up space. You are allowed to admit things are hard and frustrating. You’re allowed to say, “me too,” and laugh at the absurdities of motherhood right alongside your sisters who are juggling more or fewer children than you. You are allowed to be there in the comments section, taking up space, and being part of the community. You’re allowed to be there, because here’s the thing. We want you there.

Comparison wants to whisper shame and tell you that not even your struggles are enough. Comparison wants you to be small, and insignificant, and alone. But in my experience, the right group of moms, and honestly the group that I’ve worked hard to cultivate and attract to my posts and writing, is the kind of group who wants you. If you don’t show up, we’re missing out on another voice validating us. If you don’t show up, we’re missing out on a chance to love you. If you don’t comment or say, “me, too,” we’re missing out on another voice in the herd reminding us that we’re all in this together regardless of family size, experience, or ability. We need you to show up. Desperately.

Now, I know that not all comments sections are kind. We obviously have to be wise and share our hearts with people who are safe and can be trusted, but that’s true no matter if we’re sharing on the internet or in-person. The other side of this is that we need to be on the look out for mamas who are making those comparison comments, the ones we can see who need a little extra validation. Those are the friends (or strangers) we need to speak up for, offer a hand and a reminder to that they’re important and loved. We need to take care of those mamas. Odds are, we’ve been on the receiving end of another mother’s kindness, too, and it’s our responsibility to pass that on.

Motherhood is such a gift. We get to experience creation, sacrifice, and intimacy with another human in ways that are almost inexplicable and then we get to have that person puke on us, and make us laugh, and walk away. It’s hard and it’s funny. Motherhood pushes us to our absolute maximum threshold every single day. The silver lining is that we also get each other. We get to be part of a community of sisters who gets us and sees us right where we are. We come in all shapes, sizes, numbers of kids, types of jobs, different cleaning styles, religions, ideologies, and so on. There are infinite differences, but we can all agree that this is the toughest, most rewarding gig we will ever have the privilege of holding down and navigating it alone is just not an option.

You belong here. You are wanted, and needed, and necessary. I hope you know that, my friend.

xoxo,

Mary Susan

House Rules

Y’all, I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable here, but I put on real pants today, pants with buttons and a zipper, and they fit. In the spirit of that level of success and productivity, I thought I’d take the time to write down my updated list of house rules.

Previously, I’d say that our house rules were pretty normal. My demands are usually fairly minimal, stuff like “don’t jump on the couch,” “muddy shoes belong on the mat,” “don’t bring slugs indoors,” that sort of thing. But, as with most things these days, I’ve come to realize that our house rules need a little bit of a revamp.

Below you’ll see the letter I’ve written to the darling cherubim I like to call my children. Please feel free let me know if you’ve got any ideas for additions or revisions.


Dear Offspring: As I’m sure you know, times they are a-changing. Therefore, I have updated our house rules. I’m sure you’ll agree that this is long overdue, as I have heard your repeated protests and observed your continual opposition. Today, you’ll be pleased to know that I have heard you and your demands are reflected in policy changes below. Please review the proposed legislation, which follows. Thank you for your continued support in keeping our home a haven of rest, serenity, and joy for many years to come.

  • Do what you want with the couch. Go ahead and jump, climb, slide, destroy, and ruin that thing…I’ve accepted the fact that its demise is near.
  • Just put the shoes anywhere. I’m tired of hearing myself speak pointless reminders into the empty, echoing void.
  • All future arguments will be settled by trampoline cage match. Just sort it out amongst yourselves. You know where the bandaids are.
  • If you could just kind of attempt to clean your teeth, we can call it good. Just try. Do it for me and the people living in the tri-state area who can smell your stench.
  • If you are tempted to tattle on someone, please refer to #3.
  • Just use the screens. I don’t have it in me to police screen time anymore. Give my regards to Mario and the Koopas. Good luck with your turnips and I hope you catch a red snapper who’s looking pretty dapper. I’m out.
  • If you can keep living insects out of the bathroom, that’d be cool, but I understand the deep desire to bring the outside in. Let’s just avoid the ones with stingers, shall we?
  • Go on ahead and just scatter those LEGOs like party confetti. I’ve become accustomed to navigating the house as though I’m traversing minefield and I rather enjoy the challenge of charting a new potentially pain-free path through the living room every morning. If I ever find one, I’ll let you know!
  • Feel free to partake in wrestlin’, wrasslin’, wranglin’, tanglin’, tumblin’, bumblin’, or any other form of fisticuffs while you’re upstairs. I accept the fact that your fighting will eventually bring the ceiling fan in the kitchen down upon me. ‘Tis inevitable.
  • You’ve got open access to the nail polish, the stove, and the lawn mower. Again, you know where the bandaids are.
  • Essentially, kids, the house is yours. I formally surrender to the fact that I am a mere observer of the real-life Lord of the Flies reenactment that my life has become and I shall sharpen my pike as a sign of unity with your new form of government…
  • HOWEVER, No child shall eat, breathe, or make any manner of mouth noises anywhere near my person. If there is a youngster in the tri-state area who is partaking of foodstuffs and I can audibly hear the consumption of said food, I will flip my actual lid. I can handle all of the other annoyances for they are minor in comparison. But if I hear another child noisily masticate a graham cracker right in my ear, I am out. Totally not kidding, Imma check myself into a hotel and y’all are on your own. Good luck, you know where the bandaids are.
  • And while we’re at it, if the rare occurrence happens in which I am granted the opportunity to sit and eat my own meal, y’all better not touch my body. Me sitting down to eat is not the signal for you to climb into my lap, hang on my arm, or violently lay your entire body across my back. It is not the time, younglings. Not. The. Time.
  • In conclusion, my food is the same as your food. Actually, it’s probably just a collection of cast off scraps that I’ve pillaged and gathered from your plates. Contrary to popular belief, my meals are comprised mainly of the food you refuse to eat. Do you remember that food you loved yesterday that I foolishly assumed you’d eat again today? Anyone recall that old favorite from days of yore that you can’t bear to eat ever again? It doesn’t magically become different food when I scrape it from your pitiful plate of refusal onto a different plate which is then placed in front of me. When my plate is full of these outcast foods, it’s still the same food, so please don’t try to steal it from me. It is still the cheese I sliced incorrectly or the third helping of meat you demanded and then realized you couldn’t eat. It’s not miraculously more delicious than when you had a chance to eat it, so just let me eat it in peace. It’s all I’ve got and I just want to eat undisturbed.

Sincerely yours,

Your devoted mother


At the time of publication, I literally used the phrase, “Don’t put that sheep in your pants,” so I suppose that’s getting added to the list.

Weekly Mish-Mash

Hay, friends. Back in the day when blogging was kewl, people would do like a weekly wrap up and I’ve always thought it was fun. However devoted I am to blogging like it’s 2014, the truth remains that I’m not real good at following a schedule. Thus, this may be the only time I ever do this…only time will tell, I suppose. But anyway here’s a random conglomeration of stuff that happened around here this week. Enjoy!


I got a little crafty this week and managed to make this rosary hanger!

Obv you all need a tutorial to make this bad boy:

Step One: Raid your murdery basement for an attractively distressed piece of wood.

Step Two: Use a janky saw and the assistance of your children to cut the board to a random length. Don’t measure, just follow your heart.

Step Three: Buy some screw hooks and attache them all willy nilly. You can kinda measure, but when it gets to be too mathy, just eyeball it.

Step Four: Have your husband hang it up for you.

Optional Step Five: Go ahead and have your kids fiddle with it a lot because it’s too temptingly close to the heat register where they’re spending all their time because life is unfair and it’s snowing. Anyway, they’re going to need to fiddle with it quite a bit, until it falls and then you have to restring/rehang it. But it’ll be just fine and only one rosary bead should be lost. If you lose more, you’re doing it wrong, duh.


While I’m on the subject of tutorials, check out the amazing clean dish sculpture I made yesterday!!

I consider myself a bit of an expert on the creation of the clean dish sculpture. Since I’m so good at telling everyone how to do things properly, here are some pointers for the novice: It’s really important to include a full mix of dishes. You need to have a solid base of bowls and pots, but not too solid or it takes the element of danger out of it and if you’re not at least a little worried about that bowl you got as a wedding gift, are you even sculpturing?? I also like to mix in some colored kid’s plates and a smattering of cutlery to really showcase the flow of the piece. Upon completing one of these masterpieces, I like to time it so I can pat myself on the back and then turn around to see that a child has left a dirty plate on the counter. It really speaks to the impermanent nature of art and life, don’t you think?


Now for the fashion portion of our blog! The kids (and grown ups) received hand made masks from Granny in Texas. Pandemic, but make it fashion!

The smiles on these little faces were a sight to behold…I think.

Truly, the kids were so excited to get these masks and Granny is so cool she even had Star Wars fabric for everyone, so it was a hit. Obviously, I wish we didn’t need them, but I’m so grateful to have them!

Some of the chums received new Eastery jammies from their Nana and there was some seriously adorable modeling happening last night, if I do say so myself.


Speaking of yesterday, man was that a long ride on the struggle bus. Lawd. I feel like everyone’s emotions have been very cyclical. We’re fine until we’re not and then we’re sobbing hysterically because we can’t remember the number forty. Not kidding, that was a serious source of consternation for one of our guys yesterday. Gracious.

Thankfully, his daddy, who is his number one best friend forever for life these days, came home from work and then life was good again. I’m always just broken down with thankfulness when the hubz comes home from work (for a multitude of reasons) and I’m not the only one. The guy can’t get in the door without being mobbed by every person in the house desperately needing to be held and tell him all of the important things that happened. He just scoops them all up and listens and loves on them like the saint he is. We hit the jackpot with that one, y’all.

Yesterday he also brought home packages from Nana that included hot cocoa mix AND Spaghettio’s ABCs and 123s, so I’m predicting that morale will be much improved today. Fingers crossed and all that.


A fun activity! Our wonderful, wonderful preschool shared a fun link to a Covid-19 Time Capsule. It’s such a fun idea and it’s got free printable journal pages for kids to record how they’re feeling, what activities they’ve done to fill their time, books they’ve read, etc.

It’s a really cute idea and I looooove time capsules. Of course when we tried to do it, people ended up throwing pencils because they weren’t doing it “right” whatever that means, so perhaps we’ll revisit it at a later date. Lord give me grace, etc, etc.


And last, I was joined this morning by a gal who lost a tooth last night…and by ‘lost’ I mean she pulled it out with a bloody vengeance that is surprising coming from one so sweet and gentle. She takes great joy in ripping teeth from her head, which makes me absolutely shudder and gag in horror. It’s the quite ones you have to watch, I’m told…

This would’ve been a picturesque morning of bible study, journaling, and hanging with my girl, but alas the noises of a child slurping hot chocolate make me rather stabby. Not gonna lie, y’all, I’m struggling with the constant noise and neediness that comes from social distancing with four kids. I’m trying real hard to offer it up and remember that God can be found in the most mundane of tasks and frustrating of moments. So, even if my morning prayer time is less than peaceful and I’m currently running on a constant level of annoyance, I’m praying that I’ll view the kids as less of an interruption and more through the lens of vocation.

And, as I’ve been interrupted in writing this about four gajillion times now, I’ll end the rambling. You are loved, my friends!

Mary Susan

Transition

The other night one of my kids was acting weird. She just wasn’t herself and I could tell that something was bothering her. When I prodded a little, she completely and theatrically melted down. “I don’t know, I don’t know,” she kept repeating. “I don’t KNOW what’s wrong with me. I don’t KNOW what I’m feeling, if I’m happy or if I’m sad. I don’t know what to FEEL. My life isn’t turning out the way I wanted. Like, who am I even??!?”

Did I mention we have a flair for the dramatic?

I tried to cover my grin as I calmed her down. Poor kid was just so frustrated with so many things and having such a difficult time articulating her emotions, so I leaned back onto something that I’ve used with the kids for a long time now. It’s just a quick check in that reminds them of their identity and consists of three simple questions: Who are you? Who made you? How did He make you? Being reminded that she was created by a loving God who made her and made her good was enough to settle my girl for the night.

And the whole situation seemed hysterical to me until I was having an identical breakdown like two days later.

I’m feeling rather adrift if I’m honest, having a difficult time finding my place in things. Without Easter to look forward to or Lent to keep me disciplined and no solid end in sight for the stay at home order, I’m having a hard time coping. It’s like the “day after” feeling I always get after holidays, but amped up a few hundred notches.

Who are you? Who made you? How did He make you?

Today’s Gospel reading from John (20:11-18) shows us Mary Magdalene encountering Jesus and mistaking him for the gardener. When she fully recognizes Him, it’s obviously a moment, but eventually Jesus says, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. but go to my brothers and tell them…” and gives Mary that incredible job of being the Apostle to the Apostles.

In today’s Blessed is She devotion, Kendra Tierney writes:

She can’t hold on to Him as her friend and teacher. She needs to let go of Him as a Man so she can embrace Him as God. She can’t get caught up in her expectations for the moment and for her life, because Jesus has a new and different love for her to experience. And an important job for her to do.

Kendra Tierney, Blessed is She, 04/14/20

“She can’t get caught up in her expectations.” Man, that gutted me. I think that much of the reason I’m struggling to cope these days is that I’ve been caught up so tightly in what I expect my life to be like. I have a vision for how I think things ought to be, what Lent should look like, how I want Easter to be celebrated, how frequently I think I should be able to receive Holy Communion.

“…Jesus has a new and different love for her to experience. And an important job for her to do.” I think it’s only human nature to cling to what we know, especially in difficult times of transition.

I’m a birth doula, so I often see the world through the lens of childbirth. I always say that life is like labor, transition is the hardest part. Transition is the part in childbirth that seems to take the longest, when a mother’s body is completing its final preparations to deliver her baby, it’s an eternity of seemingly unstoppable intensity. This is the point when mothers frequently begin to doubt themselves, when they say they can’t go on any longer, beg for it to be over, many times searching frantically for any “out” they can find. Alas, the only way out is through, as we all know. In order to get through transition in childbirth, a mother must push through the intensity so that she can push in a more literal sense to bring her child into the world.

And as I’ve seen time and time again in childbirth, the women who cope with labor the best are the ones who submit themselves to the experience. They don’t try to control or manipulate the situation, but surrender themselves to the waves. Laboring women who do fight their bodies get panicky, tension making the pain more intense. Labor oftentimes takes longer and is more of an ordeal that they survived than an event they took part in.

We’re in transition right now. Just like the experience of a laboring woman, it feels that there’s no end in sight. Our current reality feels like some sort of endless in-between where we’re promised something good on the other side, but it feels like we’ll never ever get there.

The only way out is through. The only way to cope is to refocus our lives on the One who is calling us to a new and different experience of His love. In order to progress, we must let go of our expectations, lay down the ideals we’ve been clinging to, the preconceived notions of what “normal” is or what our lives “should” look like, and submit ourselves to the experience, however difficult it may be. It is only in surrendering to labor that a pregnant woman comes to deliver her child. It is only in surrendering ourselves to our present circumstances that we will encounter new ways to experience the Risen Christ and, like Mary Magdalene, receive a deeper sense of what we are called to as His disciples.

Who are you? Who made you? How did He make you?

The Delagrange School for Wayward Children Salon and Day Spa, Inc.

Since last I wrote, I’m happy to report that my life has seriously increased in the glamour department.

When the initial stay at home order began, I had great aspirations of what I was going to accomplish with all my “free time.”

Y’all, we have established the fact that I am a liar, but let us also make it clear that I am not smart.

I have been a parent for ten years now, so I have no excuse as to why I foolishly thought that this time of intense social distancing would be the magic moment I’ve been waiting for to get my shit together. I have no other explanation than to say that clearly I was either in denial or delusional or both when I energetically and optimistically told my husband that, “The house is going to be spotless! I’m going to deep clean the kitchen! There will be purging! It’ll be cleaner than ever!” Incidentally, I also told him that my goal was to be skinnier at the end of the mandated social distancing than at the beginning, but based on the fact that I’m super dedicated into the Quarantine Carb Diet of 2020, the odds of that happening are decidedly not in my favor. Cest la vie.

Obv, we know that my house has never been grubbier. ‘Grubbier’ is a euphemism for “looks like a crap hole.” Y’all, there are sprinkles on my kitchen counter that were spilled in a freak cabinet avalanche over a week ago. I have no intention of cleaning them up. That’s just beyond my skill set at this point. I may, however, create a tiny memorial wreath to place upon the sprinkle pile to honor those sparkly bits of sugar lost in the accident, may they shine on in eternity. That seems prudent.

The other day, I did reach the point of cabin fever in which I rearranged the entire living room by myself and all of the electronics are still in working order, so I’ve got that going for me. But, suffice it to say, things around here have been…tenuous. I seem to vacillate between being on top of the laundry and using it to barricade the front door. I mean, why fold clean clothes and put them away when you can block any would be visitors from entry? It seems like a logical next step in social distancing to me and as my husband said, probably also filters all the air coming in through the gaps in the door, so win-win!

Aaanyway, since it’s Holy Week and since the kids have a bit of a break from school work, they’ve been exercising their imaginations and have been very resourceful in their play. That, combined with the fact that I clearly have lost all reason and gave them free rein of the nail polish allows me to happily inform you that the Delagrange School for Wayward Children now hosts its own Salon and Day Spa.

We. Are. Fancy.

Yesterday, I was able to visit the gym (aka, work out in peace while the kids painted their nails/the table) and then I received a full spa treatment that really upped my relaxation game. Please, feast your eyes:

“Get ready to feel relaxed.” Or “relayed.” Either way, get ready.

When I entered the spacious spa facility I was greeted by three attendants, one of whom was a dog, another who was an overzealous intern, and the last of whom was highly tolerant of her co-workers. She’s gonna get a shout out on Yelp, for sure.

I was treated to a nice warm water fingertip soak and a facial treatment that included a soaking wet towel that I was assured was warm at some point, but was decidedly chilled when it reached my pores. ‘Twas quite refreshing. I then enjoyed a lovely massage and hair brushing experience that was both unique and effective. What can I say? I’m a new woman now.

We followed up our spa treatment with a trip out of doors to enjoy the fine weather and go “Honking” which means we walk to the overpass near our house and try to get all the trucks to honk at us. It works best if you fight over which truck is “yours” while simultaneously screaming, “HONK!!! HONK!!! HOOOONNNKKKKK!!!!!!!” at the top of your lungs. (In case anyone is wondering, my smart watch did in fact give me a warning about my loud environment potentially damaging my hearing. That ship has sailed, dear watch.)

So, yeah. That’s our current situation. Day spa-ing it up, honking all the trucks, and we also had our own small Tenebrae service last night, which was genuinely really lovely. Because after all of the bickering and messes and tense emotions of the day, seeing your babes bathed in candlelight and reading the Old Testament is really a beautiful way to end the day.

I hope you’re finding ways to keep adapting and smile as you make your way through Holy Week, my friends. There is so much good to be seen, so much we’ve been given. You are loved!

Mary Susan

Note: At the time of publication, there is actual snow falling from the sky. And so the Lentiest Lent that ever Lented continues to get Lentier. But there is a pair of cardinals visiting our fairy garden in the snow, so life can’t be all that bad. Stay well, dear friends…Peace and perseverance in all things!

Additional postscript: A concerned reader just reached out to check on my tweezer situation. I am relieved to report that my saintly mother mailed me a pair of tweezers, so the facial hair dilemma has finally been resolved. Thank you for your support and understanding during this difficult time. I will update you in the future if we ever return to that perilous state.

Ask Ms. Gail

Found yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place with the kiddos? Or perhaps you’ve found yourself stuck in a weird nook in the clubhouse you’ve been told repeatedly that you really won’t fit in?

If you’re anything like me, we’re almost two weeks in and still struggling a bit with our new normal. Social distancing, shelter in place, watching the numbers of confirmed cases rise, counting celebrity diagnoses, juggling school work, vying for attention and computer time are all contributing to the fact that errabody at our house is getting a liiiittle bit twitchy. And maybe a little stabby. At the very least we’ve got cabin fever and a very short fuse.

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Ms. Gail! I have this weird ability to collect very useful friends and right now, Ms. Gail might be the most usefullest of all. She’s a teacher at my kids’ preschool, happens to go to our church, and is an all around kind and decent human. She also has a Bachelors in Child Development and Family Studies, a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, and PhD in Urban Studies with a specialization in Learning and Development. Boom.

Ms. Gail has personally helped our family navigate some weird behavior issues (kid issues and parent issues, let’s be honest) and she is such a good teacher. When our kids started showing some signs of stress and I felt my parenting slipping into reactionary anger mode, I reached out to see if she had some advice I could share on Ye Olde Blaaagh. Happily, she obliged, and I’ve got some great info for you all. I’m going to split these up into a few posts, but for right now I want to leave you with these words from Gail:

 First of all, many children have been home for going on two weeks. The newness, excitement of not having to go to school, and being able to stay home is probably wearing off or long gone. Children are feeling stressed at this time. No matter how much we try and protect them from the news all children realize something is happening.

If adults haven’t already, they should have an age appropriate conversation about what is happening. Not scary but why we all need to stay home. Also, limit how much news and conversations about what is happening around children. Children hear everything, even if you think they are busy and not listening they are! 

I have said many times, “It’s hard for me to wrap my head around what is happening,” and I, as an adult, have the ability to understand. Children do not have the cognitive or emotional abilities to fully understand what is happening, so they will make sense of what they hear in their own way and it will likely be much scarier than we can imagine. They are missing their friends and teachers and they are getting sick of their siblings and adults in the house!

Above anything else, let patience and kindness guide you. There is no best way of handling this situation. Don’t compare yourself to any other parent/family. Do what you and your children need.

I told you she was good.

I was going to split this up into a bunch of different posts, but decided to lump it all together into one resource. Here’s the table of contents:

  • “Reading” Kids’ Behavior: How Children Communicate Stress and How We Can Help – p. 2
  • Guidelines for Talking About Current Events With Children – p. 3
  • How to Manage Anger and Cabin Fever – p. 4
  • Navigating the Transition From Traditional School to Home – p. 5

Hard Reset or The One Where I'm a Big Fat Liar

Welp, we hit a wall yesterday. We hit. a. wall.

I didn’t sleep well, tossed and turned all night, then woke up to nerves because I was asked to do a (very short, not spectacular, I was only asked because I was probably the first one to pick up my phone) Skype interview with a cable news station about my doula work. 

Obv the computer camera wouldn’t connect to Skype. I had to do a hard reset and it finally connected, I’m happy to say I handled it maturely like the adult I am. PS. I’m a liar.

Obv I bribed the kids with candy bars and popsicles (yes, both) to be quiet while I talked to the news lady.

Obv they were only kind of quiet.

Obv I gave them candy bars and popsicles anyway because I’m all about mercy right now and you can only expect so much out of 4 and 6 year old boys, ammirite?

I was crabby all morning, but decided we’d turn it around! We’d take a neighborhood walk! We could do this! We got our shoes and jackets on and headed out!

At which point it started POURING rain.

Never to be deterred, with our great attitudes in hand (lying again), we just got our umbrellas and decided to embrace the mess. This was the high point of our day.

After baths and new clothes and starting some laundry, I settled in to digitally submit a week’s worth of school work for three children. It was a delight. It was quick and easy and required no critical thinking. I am a lying liar who lies.

Then whole afternoon just spiraled. To buy myself time to submit the school papers, I let them have screen time. But when I announced that screen time was over, the littlest bub among us lost his ever-loving miiiiiiind and literally screamed for 15 minutes straight because he couldn’t play Mario anymore. 

I responded with compassion, patience, and grace. I am a lying liar who lies. I lie a lot of lies.

Once the cherub was finally settled and I had broken up about forty-seven fights over topics ranging from the proximity of a chewing child to his or her cohorts, the volume of the chewing thereof, disputed ownership of a balloon, and the nature of squatter’s rights in regard to television viewing seats, I started to cook dinner. 

I had had a brilliant idea earlier in the day that I ought to try my hand at homemade focaccia bread. Because I’m good at picking the right day to try something new.

The particular recipe I used called for a steam bath as the bread is baking. “Cool, no problem,” I thought. “I’ll just toss this pyrex dish in the oven while it preheats to four hundred degrees and then I’ll pour the water in!” 

Now, obviously this is the time of the day that I *should have* remembered Mrs. Jackson’s seventh grade science class in which a hot beaker was filled with cold water and it broke everywhere and probably no one got detention because Mrs. Jackson is nice. But, alas and alack, I forgot Mrs. Jackson’s class (please forgive me, Kathie, I love you). At this point in the day, I lost all ability to employ common sense, so as you can guess I exploded a glass dish in my oven.

It didn’t really phase me. (Lying. Obv. Also, remind me to digitally submit my kids’ dissertation in a couple of weeks. It’ll be titled, “Swearing for Beginners: Fun and Fanciful Words I Learned On My School Break.”)

The child who spent his afternoon screaming his face off while demanding to be held (and also peed on me a little during the exchange) saw it all happen. He very casually informed me that he, “didn’t like that” and then asked for a snack. 

While I was cleaning up the mess, the eldest stood by observing and commented, “Mom, you’re allowed to make mistakes. It’s okay,” which would’ve been received better if her tone hadn’t been so condescendingly patronizing. 

We finally ate dinner, during which we go around the table and share two things we’re thankful for, one bummer from the day, and mention someone we’re praying for. Four out of four kids’ bummer was that, “Mom yelled a lot today.” Don’t fret. My husband and I had a big talk about how they’re growing up to be the most horrible little liars.

All of this to say, there’s still probably glass shards in my oven and I woke up this morning to find a new chin hair and pepper inexplicably stuck in my teeth. 

I’m sure there’s a metaphor of some sort in here, but I just really need y’all to know that it’s okay for this to suck and for you to hit a wall. (Literally? Figuratively? Only time will tell!)

(PS. I totally forgot about the part of the day in which I let the kids eat sprinkles so I could clean up glass and then they obviously dumped them on the floor. But I’m raising them to contribute around the house, so I tasked them with cleaning that one up…)

Corona Virus Got You Down? The Antidote to Fear is Faith

I gave up social media for Lent, so naturally my defense mechanism has been to compulsively check the news every five seconds. I’m working on it. The headlines are just saturated with Super Tuesday and ugly politics, but the biggest story of all is corona virus. I cannot escape it. The dread, the worry, the state by state analysis of its spread, the death toll, the potential vaccines, the worry, the worry, the fear, the panic.

It has been fascinating to watch it all unfold, fascinating to experience it playing out in my own heart. I’ve tried to check my emotions because I know that the media is fueled by clicks and site visits and there’s money to be made by inciting panic. And yet. Every now and then I find myself gripped by a fear that I can’t shake, my mind walking down the road of what if’s and could be’s. As I watch the internet reinvent headlines over and over, as I listen to people talk about it on the radio and see the numbers on face mask sales soar, I see an entire world that has been shaken to its core by something that has been here all along.

It’s our mortality and we don’t like it one bit.

Corona virus is new and scientifically impressive because of its characteristics as a disease, but perhaps more so because of how it sheds a light on our privilege. Most modern day humans living in the developed world have no concept of the imminence of our mortality. Even a hundred years ago, people grappled with death on a more daily basis than we do in the year 2020. 

Even as I type this, I find that last admission laughable. While we’ve got the benefit of modern medicine, disease control, better living conditions, etc, we’ve also got a whole slew of things out there that our ancestors didn’t grapple with. Lock down drills, active shooter warnings, chemicals in our food/water, and global warming are all things that our distant relatives probably never worried about. Sure, we’re not necessarily worried that our children will die due to scarlet fever and our dinner (usually) isn’t dependent upon what we grow or catch, but the fact remains that death is a part of life, like it or not. Always has been, always will be. 

The difference between us and our ancestors is distraction. We fill our minds and our schedules with invincibility, controlling and scheduling every moment of our days. If we’re allowed any free time at all, we fill it with scrolling or gaming or texting, anything to keep us from sitting alone with our thoughts. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, sitting in silence sucks. It’s uncomfortable to be confronted with ourselves. Our humanity, sinfulness, regrets, and discontent are difficult and its so delightfully easy to avoid them. Our mortality even more so. 

However, distracting ourselves doesn’t change the fact that some day we will die. No amount of internet research or hand washing will ever make our mortality go away. We can’t control it, or anticipate it, or make it fit into our vision of how we want things to go, so we ignore it. 

The trouble with that is that by ignoring and trying to control, we attempt to make ourselves into God and we all know that will never end well. I’m not saying that we need to live in fear, constantly looking over our shoulder for the Reaper ready to mow us down. What I am saying is that we need to befriend death. We need to remember that we have each been created by a loving God whose deepest desire is to know us and to draw us into His heart. All of life is an opportunity to grow away from the worldly things that tie us down, our selfishness, pride, greed, power, all the things that separate us from that love and to move forward toward Him. It is only through death that we can move on to the next stage of knowing and loving God. 

I know this is easier said than done. I am as desperate to live a long and happy life as the next guy. Stepping out into the unknown requires vulnerability and trust, both of which are incredibly scary. But when we get caught up in the fear, when the loss of control taunts us, I think it’s important to remember what’s true. I ask my kids this set of questions all the time when I see that the enemy is speaking lies to them or I see them struggling with fear: Who are you? Who made you? How did He make you? He made you good and He made you for good things. Christ conquered sin and death and if we make of our lives a daily offering to Him, constantly offering up all that we have, all that we’ve been given as gift to the Father, then death has no sting.

I realize that this is too simple an answer for some. It is for me some days. Living life to the fullest doesn’t erase the fear of death or the unknown. However, I do think that there’s merit in looking our mortality in the face. It gives us the opportunity to ask hard questions of ourselves. Why am I so afraid to die? What is it that I am afraid to lose? Who or what am I holding onto? Am I willing to give those things to God? What unhealthy affections am I more loyal to than to Christ? What sacrifice is it that death would require of me?

These aren’t fun questions to ask ourselves. They aren’t enjoyable dinner conversation starters. However, if we truly seek to serve God, if we truly desire to be held in the arms of our Savior, to give our lives to His provision, these are questions that must be asked.

For me, the thing that I’m most afraid to lose is my children. The thought that a disease could come along, sweep them away, and there would be nothing I could do to stop it is a horrifying realization. But what I have to remind myself if that they’re not my children. They’re God’s. They are eternal souls given left to my care. If I am frightened by my mortality and theirs, then I need to be making sure that I am doing my very best to honor their eternal souls, to teach them love, and to bring them as close to Christ Jesus as I possibly can.

And that’s what fear can do. It can either paralyze us or give us purpose. Pope Benedict XVI famously said that we are not made for comfort, we are made for greatness. Greatness requires sacrifice and self-awareness. Any suffering that life could possibly throw at us can either isolate and ruin us, or be a channel through which we encounter the Lord. 

We’re not in control, but we do have a choice. At the end of the day, we have no say in who contracts a highly contagious disease and who doesn’t, but we have a choice in how we respond. While there’s certainly no good time for a global pandemic, Lent does happen to be a particularly good time to contemplate our mortality. We live in the shadow of death, it’s true, but what that means is that we live in the reality that each moment is a gift. Each moment is a grace and we get to choose whether we live our moments in fear, or make the conscious decision to live our lives running to the Father in thanksgiving. And when we struggle with the trust, struggle with having enough faith, I think it is enough to pray, “Lord, help my unbelief,” and to step out in faith anyway.

War Crimes

I like to tell my kids this is a benevolent dictatorship…and I kind of run a communist style ship around here, if I’m being honest. Everybody shares everything, too bad if you don’t like it, no soup for you, I’m not sorry.

 

So, seeing as I’m basically my family’s Vladimir Putin and all, I thought I’d take a little time to charge some folks for some war crimes. As one does.

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Maggie, age 6

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#wildwoman #newyearseve

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Charged with Inciting Panic. You know that hour right after dinner when you’re completely exhausted from being an adult all day and the act of pretending like you’ve got your life together is really taking its toll? You know…it’s the hour when you feel as though all the life blood has been sucked from your body by a parasite and you’re about to fall into an unbathed pile of exhaustion. This is the hour in which she strikes. She will sneakily lure unsuspecting younger siblings to the stairs and whisper potty jokes to them, convincing them that screaming “poopy diaper head” in the faces of your dinner guests is a good idea. She will laugh maniacally while forcing you to listen to yet another knock-knock joke. Under the guise of entertaining her little brother, she will start a game of “chase” in which someone most certainly will be tripped and maimed. She will insist on leading the others in illegal games of “jump all over the damn couch even though Mom told us eight thousand times not to” and “let’s all violently wrestle until Lily’s hair gets pulled and she shrieks like a banshee.”

 

 

Lily, age 3 

 

Charged with Harassment and Stalking. She’s kind of the least offender because I truly believe that her intentions are pure…but she’s always there. She’ll demand to help with every single task ever of all time. Have some strong chemicals you want to clean with? She’ll pour. Have a sharp knife you’d like to chop with? She’ll show you how it’s done. Have some detailed sewing to be done? She’ll hold the needles. Have to finish your taxes? She’ll file ’em for ya. Have some sleep you’d like to get? She’s in your bed. However, if you actually ask her to help with a task she’s so uninterested it’s not even funny. Chores to be done? Nah, she’ll sit an observe the other fools and cry rather than comply.

 

Also, she’s an accessory to every other crime committed. She’s not usually the mastermind (…yet. Kid’s brilliant, so once she realizes her powers I have no doubt that she’ll use them for evil), but she’s usually coerced into helping, so we’ll let her off with a lighter sentence and call it good.

 

 

Everett, age 2

 

Charged with Aggravated Assault. Even his hugs hurt. Gentlemen visiting our home are advised to wear an athletic cup in order to protect themselves from the colossal skull that will crush their testicles approximately ninety-seven times during their visit. Also, watch for flying dump trucks being launched down the stairs, blocks torpedoed toward faces, and strategically placed Hot Wheels that were definitely not under your feet a second ago, but most certainly are under your feet now that you’re carrying a lot of stuff. The perpetrator has been known to climb basically anything with an elevation of…off the ground. So, watch for falling boys, as well.

Also, while we’re at it, let’s charge him with Indecent Exposure and Disorderly Conduct. You know, for good measure. And ’cause he never wears pants.

 

Remy, age 8 months

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Over it. #grumpybear #remyvincent

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Charged with Disturbing the Peace. Bro doesn’t sleep. Or rather, he sleeps, but only long enough to give you the illusion that you’re going to be able to get something done. He’ll nap juuuust long enough for you to get right into the deep disgusting middle of finally cleaning out the refrigerator and then he strikes. It basically goes on like that ad nauseam.

 

Alright, so that’s my legal work done for the day. Time to go dole out punishments! Mwuahahahaha!

Holy Week! And a Passion Play Set for Kids!

I hope your Holy Week is going well! Easter is my favorite holiday forever of all time. Add to that the fact that the kids are old enough to really start grasping the story and I’m just really excited to share it with them.

 

I did a little Pinterest hunting (you can follow me here if you’d like) and found some really great Holy Week activities to do with little ones. We’re going to attempt a foot washing mini-service with some of our best friends on Thursday, we’ll do hot cross buns on Friday, and watch Prince of Egypt on Netflix a few times this week.

 

I managed to put together a Passion play set for the kids the other day and they’ve really liked it. (Former children’s librarian talking here…giving kids tools to tell stories is so good for early literacy. Narrative skills help with vocabulary development, drawing conclusions, and story comprehension, so story play sets of any kind are great to have around!)

 

Anyway, I thought I’d share the links I found to be helpful and the pictures of our play set in case anybody else wanted to make one!

 

I got most of my inspiration from these two blog posts:

When You Rise – preschool activities for Holy Week

When You Rise – Passion story telling set

Because I’m both classy and Catholic I thought it was only fitting to make the tomb of our Savior out of an old Dos Equis box. Other than that, I used paper and had the kids color the scene with markers to finish out the tomb.

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You can sort of also see that the tomb has a trap door to make the Resurrection possible. The kids LOVED showing their daddy that the tomb was empty!

 

For Golgotha, I used an old flower pot turned upside down and some sticks and fake moss from Maggie’s Fairy Princess birthday party the other day. I chose the flower pot because it looked like a hill, but also because it has a drain hole that Jesus’ cross could easily fit into. Eventually I’m hoping we’ll be able to act out all of the stations of the cross, so it was important that Jesus would be able to “carry” his cross. I had some old kabob skewers lying around, so I used rubber bands and the skewers to make the crosses.

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I found an old peg doll that makes the perfect Jesus. I sewed him a little outfit, used some fabric scraps for burial cloths and we were good!

 

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So, there you go! Anybody else have good links or ideas for Holy Week with kids? I’m always interested in hearing what other families do to celebrate. 🙂

Happy Almost-Easter!

Mary Susan