Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Multiple Choice Tuesday

What happens when your kids wake up every morning and see you with your bible open on your lap?

A) The quiet time you were enjoying is snatched out from under you, and you stifle a huge sigh and vow to get up half an hour earlier tomorrow.

B) All four kids take their cue from you and head to grab their bibles, shushing each other loudly, and then pile on top of you to read for themselves and steal all your covers.

C) You are blessed, and they are blessed.

D) All of the above.

The answer is D... but I bet you already knew that.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sharing the Love

We celebrated Valentine's day with sweet friends from church this year. It was joyful chaos.

Our long line of mailboxes:

Tiny little preschoolers delivering valentines. The word "adorable" doesn't even come close.

This is what happens when 15 kids try to give one valentine to each of their friends... a beautiful mess:

Valentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays. Scoffers call it the "Hallmark" holiday, and that may be true. But when I became a mom, I fell in love with the sweetness of it all. I love the handmade mailboxes and the little paper valentines with their names scrawled across, half the letters backward. I love making construction paper garlands and icing three dozen sugar cookies. I love celebrating a day that is important to them, and reminding them that they are important to me.

"I like not only to be loved, but also to be told I am loved."
-George Eliot

Friday, February 21, 2014

On Peer Independence, Part 3

I had gone out to dinner with some old friends, a handful of girls I don't see very often. I was late and came rushing into the restaurant, a small cyclone around the table of hello's and quick hugs.

I sat down and joined the conversation, dutifully playing my role in the customary How are you's? and the chronic Oh, sooooo busy's.

Then from the end of the table, one chirped, "Oh my gosh, I read your blog. I loved it! I loved the pictures of the kids!"

"Oh, thanks," I said awkwardly.

Confession: I never know how to respond when someone mentions that they've read my blog. I think it's because I really put myself out there in this little space. Things I might not have the opportunity or the guts to voice in everyday life seem to seep onto the screen in this corner of the world. It's my kids and my home and my thoughts and my dreams. It's intimate to me. So when someone says they've read it, in a weird way it's as if they've just glimpsed me through the window in my ugliest pajamas, the ones I can't bear to throw away but would die if someone saw me in. So I usually smile, and then change the subject.

"Blog? What blog?" said another. "I didn't know you had a blog!"

"Don't read it - whatever you do, don't read it!" said a third. "It will make you feel like the WORST MOTHER EVER."

I froze. Had I just heard that correctly? I looked over at the one who said it, trying to gauge her intention. She tore off a piece of bread, then reached for her wine glass, utterly unaware that she had just stunned me, and insulted me.

My mind went blank as I desperately tried to make it work overtime, scanning my memory for what I possibly could have written that would make someone feel like the WORST MOTHER EVER. Or, conversely, make me look like the BEST MOTHER EVER. After all, isn't that what was being implied? Flickers of recent blog posts flashed in my mind like the beginning of those old-time black and white movies.

The conversation forged on around me, my friends oblivious to the fact that I had been slayed.

Here's what I think the girl was talking about: I'd posted something a few days earlier about homeschooling, something about how much I loved being with my kids. I'd written it for them to read someday, and for me to read someday too. It was nothing monumental, just a handful of words expressing that even though the days were hard right then, what we were doing together as a family was worth it, and I loved them. It wouldn't win any blog awards, that's for sure. I can say with complete honesty that I was not trying to impress anyone. I was writing a letter to my kids. But somehow, somewhere on the other side of the blogosphere, this girl read what I wrote and allowed every latent insecurity about her motherhood to awaken and taunt her. The irony is that I'd always admired her as a mom. She'd made different choices than me; also, she had great kids who were kind and happy and obviously well-loved.

So a few days ago, I remembered this story. I remembered how bewildered I felt. Why had a simple choice I made and wrote about - to homeschool my kids, to find the joy in the hard days - made her feel like some sort of failure? And why had reading the blog about homeopathic remedies made me feel like some sort of failure? Lots of people might call it the evil of comparison, but for me, it's the evil of peer dependence. It's a lack of security in who I am. It's listening to someone else talk about their life and becoming suddenly unmoored, as if I should not be doing what I am doing, and should instead be doing what they are doing.

And I'll tell you what: it's time for me to grow up. I want to be confident enough in the choices I'm making to not question them when something else comes along. I don't want to hear myself saying, "That person is making me feel like a bad mother/wife/friend," because, let's be honest: no one makes us feel that way - we do that to ourselves.

My name is Laura Smith, and I'm a peer-dependent person.

The good news is, I'm in recovery.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

"Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one."

"Wouldn't you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it?"

"When found you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying 'Celebrate with me! I've found my lost sheep!'"

Count on it - there's more joy in heaven over one sinner's rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue."
Luke 15:4-7

A love like that sure calls for a hallelujah. Wherever you find yourself on this Valentine's Day 2014, whether stumbling under the weight of the roses just delivered to your door or sitting alone by the window, I hope the love of the Rescuer is real to you. I hope it brings you joy.

On Peer Independence, Part 2

There's a lot of talk these days about the "artificial lives" we can all create with the prevalence of social media. We only post our happy moments on Facebook and Instagram. Even the ubiquitous selfies have enabled our artificiality... how many have you seen lately that look almost nothing like the actual person would if they were standing in your kitchen? Gone are the bags under the eyes, the double chins, the hair falling awkwardly in the wrong direction. You see only the carefully angled smiling face, scaled, cropped, and tinted into a phantom of the real person.

There's a lot of talk about being real, and there sure is a place for that. But that's not what I'm pointing out here. This blogger was being real. I believe she was wholly genuine in her desire to digitally scrapbook her life and minister to others in the process. I believe she presented her daily life truthfully in the post, without any judgmental intention. The problem was me, not her. My initial reaction as the guilt crept into my mind and then slowly flooded every part of my body was that this lady just needed to come off her high horse. Who did she think she was, making me feel this way? While's she's romping about in the land of eternal sunshine, I am hanging by a thread here in the snowy tundra of Rochester, so I just beg her pardon if I bribe my toddler with M&Ms and let him watch Barney so I can have a sanity break.

I ruminated and hemmed and hawed. One minute I was stoking the flames of absurd anger toward someone I've never met, and the next I was clearing out our medicine cabinet of anything ever purchased in a drugstore and googling the recipe for elderberry syrup.

I had lost myself.

In my place was a guilt-ridden, judgmental defender of what works for me and my family. When that didn't feel right I became a guilt-driven poser racing to the farmer's market to fill my freezer with one hundred dollars' worth of organic meat.

Finally, like a shard of sunlight breaking through heavy gray clouds, I was blessed with a tiny bit of clarity as I remembered this thing that had happened to me about three years ago...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

On Peer Independence, Part 1

Why is is that we read something written to encourage or edify us and end up feeling horrible about our own lives? Why is it that we sit down with our cup of coffee to chill and surf a few blogs and end up feeling like horrible mothers or wives or friends?

Case in point: I checked in to one of my favorite blogs yesterday, read her interesting post on homeopathic remedies, and ended up feeling as if I've been poisoning my children all these years because I take them to the pediatrician, feed them food that is not organic, respond to their tantrums with discipline rather than essential oils, and let them use Crest toothpaste bought off the shelf at Target.

The blogger is a really cool person. She lives on the other side of the country and is pretty much nothing like me. She raises chickens in her yard, delivers her babies in a bathtub, and probably does not vote the same way I do. Through the beauty - and I use that word tentatively - of social media, I've found her, and read bits and pieces of her life as she's chosen to share them, and actually think of her as a friend. Over the years since I found her blog, I have been encouraged by her countless times. Yesterday she was writing about something she's passionate about, something she's discovered as she's stumbled through life. Her commitment to feeding her family food that resembles tree bark has ignited a passion within her that she wants to share with whomever is interested.

I'm certain she never intended for me to feel an almost unbearable sense of guilt as I toasted four frozen waffles this morning, smeared on non-organic butter, and poured sugar-filled maple syrup (think Mrs. Butterworth, not trees in Vermont) all over them before sliding them across the table to the kids on plastic plates that are probably going to give us all cancer.

She isn't personally offended that I vaccinate my kids and give them Tylenol when they spike a fever.

She was simply writing a bit about something she's passionate about; judging from the comments, I think she helped a lot of likeminded people who needed some direction and encouragement.

This post is getting crazy long, and if you're still with me, I'm guessing you have other things to do with your day. Will you join me tomorrow?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Mac Dad Will Make Ya...

Jump, Jump!

The Daddy Mac will make ya...

Jump, Jump!

Okay, I am dating myself in a major way, but let's all admit that Kriss Kross could have been so much more than a one-hit wonder. Anyhoo...

Today was field trip day!

Can we all have a moment of silence to honor the inventor of indoor trampoline parks?

Genius, I tell ya.

Friends were there too, making a good thing even better.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Quiet World

Today, the snow is falling. I opened up the door to let the kids out and was surprised by the stillness of the world, that particular kind of quiet that falling snow brings. It's as if God Himself is whispering hush, hush.

Chloe is getting her dolls up to speed on their memory work. I'm so glad I have a nine year old who reminds me of a nine year old...

The twins have wandered to quiet corners of the house with books and blocks and the whole afternoon stretched out in front of them. 

My sneezy little toddler is snuggled in his crib, soundly sleeping, not a care in the world. 

Snow days bring boots dripping rivers of brown slush down your hallway, and mini mountains of coats and mismatched gloves, and quiet, which we don't have enough of in this world. 

Thankful on this February day for the quiet, another gift from God that I didn't know I needed, don't deserve, and gratefully receive with arms wide open.

"Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one."
1 Thessalonians 4: 11-12