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God Can, But What If He Doesn’t?

I’m writing over at Off The Page today about the twin pregnancy I had with my middle child(ren)….

God Can, But What If He Doesn’t?

“See that? That’s baby number two! You are having identical twins!”

what-if-he-doesntWe were ecstatic. Well, I was. My husband was a little nervous.

Then the doctor quickly added, “Hmm, I see the heartbeat for Baby A but not for Baby B. Come back in a week.”

I wasn’t worried. I knew it was early and had heard of twins’ hearts beating at the same time, making it difficult to detect their heartbeats separately.

I had faith that God could make that second heartbeat show up.

But at the next ultrasound, there was still no heartbeat in Baby B. The doctor was concerned but also saw that both babies had grown. Again, I didn’t panic. After all, the babies were growing…

Continue reading by Clicking Here…

 

 

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4 Simple Ways for Teaching Our Kids How to Be More Open-Minded

I’ve written an article for A Fine Parent about how to raise our kids to be inclusive.  This is an easy 4 step tool to helping your kids be open-minded  – it’s a good reminder for us adults too !

Happy family moments giving thumbs up.

“Last week in the preschool parking lot, my 3 year old asked LOUDLY, “Why is that girl in a wheelchair, Mama?”

She is always asking questions (a little too loudly) about people that she deems as different from herself.

Why can’t he walk? Why does she look like that? Why does he talk like that?

Kids are naturally curious and naturally unfiltered. Sometimes that can lead to embarrassing situations but our job as parents is to choose the teachable moment over escaping the situation.

As Dr. Greene, pediatrician and renowned writer, says, when a child asks ‘why’, what he is really saying is “This is interesting to me. Let’s talk about this together. Tell me more, please.”

The child is actually looking for connection more than a specific answer. What’s important here, Dr. Greene goes on to say, is that we don’t have to feel the pressure to answer every ‘why’ – which is good because often we don’t know it!

We don’t know why the sky is blue, or why she was born with no arms, or why gravity exists. But since the child is looking for connection, we can engage in the conversation.

In the case of my daughter asking about the wheelchair, I could have told her not to stare. Or that asking those questions was impolite.

But that would have sent a message to not look at people different from us. A message that there was something shameful about being different.

So when she asked why the little girl was in a wheelchair, I answered, “I don’t know but look how cute her pink shoes are! They look just like yours.” And I brought her over to say hi to the little girl.

Click here to continue reading this article!

(Photocredit: afineparent.com)

 

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When Leading by Example isn’t Enough

Reposting in honor of World Down Syndrome Day 2015

(originally posted on 3/21/14)

While on vacation recently, we attended a church breakfast to meet an esteemed colleague of Paul’s.  They had an adult daughter with significant disabilities. After speaking with the mom for a while, I called Mia over to say hi.  But the minute she saw this woman in the wheelchair, she hid behind my legs.   I tried to pry her fingers from me and make her say hello but she refused.

You could see the fear in her eyes.

And I was mortified. 

Here her father and I have devoted our lives to loving people with special needs and their families.  To encouraging their parents and siblings. To spreading awareness about their abilities versus their disabilities.

And my own daughter was scared.

All she saw were the differences.  The wheelchair.  The drooling.  The erratic movements.

And I was so disappointed.  I wanted her to see what I saw.  A beautiful soul.  Someone who is as valuable as you and me.  A daughter, a sister, a friend.

Did I really expect my 4 yr old to run over and kneel down next to the wheelchair at the appropriate level?  To say hi and be ok with a non-verbal response?

Uh, yea, I did.  I actually did.

I thought I had been leading by example. That she had watched me interact with all the students with special needs at my theatre program.  That she had seen Paul’s disability ministry and the way we accept and love all the kids in that program.

I thought that our strong example would set the tone for her own response when it came to interacting with people with special needs.

Isn’t that what we are supposed to do as parents?  Lead by example?

Maybe.  But sometimes it’s not enough.

Sometimes it’s the conversations that make the difference.  That drives home the point. That allows the other person to ask questions, to explore their own doubts and fears and judgments.  To bring to light topics that might otherwise remain hidden.

It’s not enough to merely not bully.  We have to talk to our kids about bullying.  It’s not enough to accept and honor people with disabilities, I need to talk to Mia about differences.  About each person’s uniqueness.  About how cool it is that people who don’t walk can use wheelchairs as their legs.  About the little boy in her Sunday school class who uses a communication device for his voice – because he does in fact have a voice.  And how we all have a voice – whether we communicate with words or expressions or with sounds or with a device.

Setting the example sends a strong message.  But sometimes, it’s not enough.

And so that is my plea today.  To not ONLY lead by example, but also to have those conversations.

And guess what, it’s not just for the kids. You might have some of your own fears and misconceptions.  That’s ok – it’s ok to recognize and acknowledge that you have those fears.  Those judgments.  But it’s not ok to hold onto them.  Not anymore. Educate yourself.  Volunteer somewhere.  Befriend someone different than yourself.  It will change the way you see the world and ultimately the way you see yourself.

I’m not talking about tolerance.  I kind of hate that word. Things I tolerate?  I tolerate my kids fighting for about 5 minutes.  Then I’m over it and someone is in trouble. I tolerate my husband watching 9,763 basketball games during March Madness because I know he loves basketball (and because I don’t tolerate Fantasy Football).  Tolerance is not the goal when it comes to loving others who are different from ourselves.

What I’m talking about is acceptance.  About seeing others as equals.  About focusing on the similarities WHILE appreciating the differences.  Because as we’ve all heard before, we really are more alike than different.

jennaToday is World Down Syndrome Day. March 21st.  People with Down syndrome have an extra copy, a 3rd copy,  of the 21st chromosome – hence the significance of the date 3-21.  It is that extra chromosome which plays a role in the physical and developmental characteristics of someone with Down syndrome.  But that’s about it.  It doesn’t define their personality.  It doesn’t determine if they like the Cubs or the White Sox.  It doesn’t determine if they love to dance or play chess.

But that extra chromosome?  It does have power.

It’s got the power of unconditional love.

Of forgiveness.

Of changing perceptions.

Of changing people.

You have that power too.  With your words.  With your actions.

We are told that the 2nd greatest commandment is this: to love others as we love ourselves. Not to love only those that are like us.  Not to love only those we are comfortable being around.  But to love others.  All others.

If you are lucky enough to know someone with Down syndrome or any developmental disAbility, be sure to thank them today for the difference they have made in your life.

Be intentional about befriending someone with special needs.

I promise, it will change your life for the better.

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What’s for Dinner? (and why that’s my response to difficult conversations)

You can’t have 3 daughters and not have drama. It’s just not possible. I’ve come to accept that. But I’m starting to wonder how to respond to the Bigger Issues. Not the fighting over clothes, or the boys or the hormones but the deeper subjects. The feelings underneath the drama. Working with kids of all ages, I see many of the issues they are facing. Adolescents dealing with severe anxiety and depression. Addiction starting as early as 5th grade. Peer pressures I didn’t have until high school.

I told Paul that I want to be ready with a response. What are we going to say when one of our girls shares something that shocks us?

What if they bring home a boyfriend that we really don’t like but she just knooooows he’s the one? Or dyes her hair green and demands to keep it that way all through high school? Or has an eating disorder or wants to identify as a male or gets pregnant at 15?”

Paul was silent for a minute and then said, “What if she smokes cigarettes?” I looked up at him certain he was making fun of me. He wasn’t. And I burst out laughing.

Um, cigarettes? That’s what you’re worried about?

But Paul grew up where drinking and smoking were taboos. And I grew up where divorce and being gay were taboos.

And now, we don’t really see anything as taboos (except cigarettes, apparently), and we are trying to live our lives from a place of acceptance and not judgment. The older we get, the clearer it becomes that everything is complicated. That life is messy and full of gray areas.

And parenting is about as gray as it gets – there is no right way, no one size fits all. And yet, as parents we have certain expectations of how it’s going to go. Maybe it’s school, meet a boy, get married, have kids. Or maybe it’s take over the family business or go to medical school. X then Y then Z then happily ever after.

So what happens when the reality differs from the expectation? What happens when she chooses a different faith or lifestyle or ideology?

I know I won’t agree with all of my daughters’ choices but I want to send a very clear message with my response to whatever they have to say;

That no matter what you do, you cannot change my love for who you are.

That’s what the foundation of any disagreement should stand upon. And while my hope is that my reaction to the Big Things will be natural, I don’t think it can hurt to be prepared.   So I came up with a response to any shocking thing the girls will say to me:

What should we have for dinner?

Hear me out. For those of you who know about my cooking skills, or lack thereof, don’t worry. It’s not about the actual meal, it’s about the emotional place I want to respond from.

Because this is what I want:

If one of my girls comes to me and says, ‘I’m a lesbian,’ I want to gather her in my arms, squeeze her tight, tell her I love her and I’m so thankful that she shared it with me and then ask, what should we have for dinner?

If she comes home and smells like smoke, I want to tell her she smells disgusting, (warn her about her father’s aversion to cigarettes), and then ask her what should we have for dinner.

If the police bring her home for underage drinking, I want to hug her tight, tell her how thankful I am that she’s safe, ground her for a month (and a ton of other consequences), and then ask her what should we have for dinner.

When she comes home from school, quiet and tearstained and tells me that someone is not being nice to her, I want to gather her up and tell her that there is NOTHING wrong with her and offer to make her favorite dinner.

Because that’s where it will happen. Around the table.

*So when did you start thinking you were a lesbian?

*Do all your friends smoke? It’s kind of an expensive habit, isn’t it?

*Do you feel a lot of pressure to drink alcohol? Do you know that wherever you are and whatever time it is, you can always call me and I will come pick you up?  

*What do you hate about school so much? Is someone bullying you? Is there a teacher you really don’t like?

And I will share with her.

*Did you know I used to smoke? I’m SO thankful I quit. It’s stinky and expensive and actually a pretty mean thing to do to your body. Don’t tell anyone, but Mormor even sat on the deck with me and we had a few together.

*Did you hear about the time that your daddy drove a car on a golf course? Grandma and Grandpa were so angry, he had to do community service for months!

*Look at this picture of me and my best friend when we dyed our hair red in high school!  

Because guess what girls, we have been there. We know the feelings. All the feelings. We have felt them and guess what else, we still do. We can relate to you. The world is different now but the feelings are the same. And the best thing to do is to feel them. Even the yucky ones. They are signals. Talk about them. Let them out. Cry. Scream. Talk. Sometimes sleep on them. If you take care of yourself, you can trust your feelings. Don’t numb them. Don’t ignore them.

Let’s have dinner together tonight and see what kind of feelings are there.  

I want dinner to be the safety net. Where no matter what happened or didn’t happen that day, dinner is the reset button. Where we sit together. And we talk. And we feel. And it’s safe. I know about enabling and the need for tough love and all that stuff but I also know that grace and love, those matter. They win. I know I never felt closer to my mom than those times she smoked a cigarette with me on our back porch. The times when the differences between us didn’t take precedence over relationship.

Because here’s the thing – it’s true. There is nothing my kids can do that will change my love for them. And what should we have for dinner?’ means I love you no matter what. It means you can’t shock me into loving you less no matter what you are dealing with in your life. It means even if you are grounded, or your choices have natural consequences, or you are living a different lifestyle than I imagined for you, I love you. I accept you. Not in spite of. Not anyways. Just period.

Sounds easy, right? Here’s the tricky part. I’m learning that in order to truly show love and acceptance, you have to love and accept yourself first. Don’t you hate that? Why is it that in order to help someone deal with something, there’s always something about you that has to be dealt with first? The whole remove-the-plank-in-your-own-eye-thing. When I think of trying to accept myself just the way I am, those internal critics come screaming out. But you know you can do better! Now that was a dumb choice. Seriously, you’re going to eat that? Again?

You think you can parent from a different place. You think you can judge yourself harshly but love your children unconditionally. But guess what, I don’t think you can. Because that voice that you have inside your head? That critical voice? That’s what comes out when you parent. Maybe not with the same words because you’d never talk to your kids that way, but it comes out. In the reactions and the looks and the sighs and the tones. Oh the tones.

I had a youth pastor in high school who would always say to us, “I love you and there’s nothing you can do about it.” He was of course teaching us that that’s how God sees us. He’s not an angry God. He’s not disappointed in us. He’s not mad at us. He is, in fact, the Perfect Parent that loves us no matter what we do. He gives us a platform every morning to stand upon – a platform of complete love and acceptance.

feetAnd as we step onto that platform, the love and grace we extend ourselves will naturally flow to our children. That’s what I want for my girls. Every morning when their feet hit the floor, I want them to know they are standing on a platform of love. Of complete acceptance.

So I’m practicing. Practicing accepting myself. Practicing responding instead of reacting.  I’m sure there will be times when they are teenagers (or toddlers) and I will want to scream or cry or yell. That’s when I want to be aware enough, conscious enough to choose my response instead.

And during those times when I’m about to ground one of the girls FOR LIFE, Paul will hold up a spatula as my reminder, and I’ll take a deep breath and ask,

What should we have for dinner?

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Why It’s ok to Text in Church

I send people to voicemail. All. The. Time.

    • 75% of the time it’s because I’m in the middle of something important like writing a grant or teaching class or watching Grey’s Anatomy. I have every intention to call them back and sometimes even do.
    • 20% of the time it’s because it’s someone calling me back (usually because Summer called them first.)

Picture2

  • 5% of the time it’s a number I don’t recognize and I’m pretty sure it’s Com Ed, the electric company I’ve been fighting with for the last 4 months.

 

I used to love talking on the phone. I would talk to my friends for hours – even after spending all day with them. I have no idea what we talked about but we never ran out of things to say. Recently however, I have developed a habit of sending people to voicemail.

Sometimes it just feels like too much, answering the phone. Like I don’t have the energy. When this happens, it’s always a good sign that I need some adult social time. That the conversations about Sophia the First and Dora and Elsa aren’t cutting it. That watching Barney for the 9,876th time is beginning to kill a small but important place deep in my soul.

These kinds of things can start to wear me down. And being an extrovert, I need people to recharge me. People over 3 feet tall. People who can make me laugh because of something clever and hilarious and not just because they are cute. People that can just BE with me and don’t need me to make them a snack or play tea party or wipe them all the live long day.

I have come to understand that there is a small window of time where I can reach out and schedule a date night or a girl’s night or some time with friends.

But if I let that window go by, everyone goes to voicemail.

A few months ago, I heard about a conference and I asked my mother in law if she would watch the kids if I went. By the time the conference came up, however, I was past the point of reaching out for adult time and I hadn’t even registered. But my MIL showed up. And I went (Paul made me).

Bob Goff, author of Love Does talked about how being available is the best way to show love. To show people that you care. That he, a famous author and speaker, put his personal cell phone in the back of his book. And he never sends anyone to voicemail.

I immediately shrunk in my chair. I kind of hate the word ‘convicted’ because it’s overused in the Christian-ese language but if I felt anything, it was that. He has hundreds of people that call him and he never sends anyone to voicemail?

Bob is also renowned for quitting something every Thursday. Now, that’s an idea I could get on board with. I have so much going on in my life that quitting something weekly sounds fabulous. Even luxurious. As I sat at the conference, the list of things immediately started populating in my head. Quit biting my nails. Quit putting off calling Com Ed. Quit not flossing.

But the being available part of his talk kept coming back to me. I knew I wanted to be the type of person, the kind of mom, wife, and friend that people come to know as available.

Being the overachiever that I am, I wanted to quit something AND become more available.

So, I decided to quit sending people to voicemail.

Almost immediately, I was challenged on that. It’s kind of like when you decide to quit eating sugar and then you go to your mom’s house and she made your favorite childhood dessert for the first time in 900 years. Similarly, my phone rang and it was someone I would normally send to voicemail. I took a deep breath (waited till the 4th ring of course) and answered. And no one was there! It was a butt dial! I was so relieved and thought, I’ve got this being available thing down!

The next day, we were running late for church because of a whole host of reasons including but not limited to world war 968 about who gets to take Piper’s pajamas off, changing outfits 4 times (once because of a milk disaster and three times because Mia likes to change outfits nonstop. All day. Forever.) Naturally, by the time I got all 3 of them dressed and fed and dressed again and in the car, I happened to pass a mirror and was reminded that I was still in my pajamas.

In all the excitement of me coming in and out of the house, Tessa poops on the floor. I said a few words that I would later apologize for at church and cleaned it up.

We finally made it to church, I got all the kids checked in with barely a kiss goodbye and headed towards the auditorium. I used all my effort to fight off thoughts of the pastor’s wife image I was so not projecting as I not-so-gracefully maneuvered over people to get to my seat.

Then my phone vibrates and its Paul asking if I made it and sorry he couldn’t meet me to help with the kids and that he was having a crazy morning.

I just put it back in my pocket.

Voicemail.

The word snuck out of nowhere and planted its’ rude self in the center of my vision. I tried to ignore it, to look around it, to focus on the pastor or on how the guy next to me was rubbing his foot (you know, because I stepped on it as I crawled over him).

But I knew. I knew that by not answering Paul’s text, it was basically the same thing as sending him to voicemail. And then the whole arguing with God thing started.

Me: But God, I was quitting LITERALLY sending people to voicemail.

 

GOD: I thought you wanted to be available?

 

Me: I do, but I’m in church. You don’t want me to text in church, do you God?!

 

GOD: Actually, I do.

 

Me: FINE.

 

(pout)

 

And I get it. To quit literally sending people to voicemail is one thing. But what about the other kind? The kind when Mia is trying to tell me about what happened at school that day and because it’s taking 3 and a half hours to tell the story, my mind has drifted to the last episode of Breaking Bad? Or the kind when there is someone asking for change on the corner and I choose to look down at my phone instead? Or what about the kind when Paul wants to see just how available I am and I start snoring. Voicemail. Voicemail. Double voicemail.

Because what does voicemail actually mean? What is it really saying? Its saying I’m busy. I can’t talk to you right now. I’ll call you when it’s convenient for me. I’m unavailable.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of times when it’s ok to be unavailable.

1.  When you actually are. When you’re at work or an appointment or somewhere where it wouldn’t be appropriate to answer the phone. I see lots of people who I wish would actually send people to voicemail more.

 

2.  For self-care times. When you need to take a walk. Or a bath. Or just be silent. That’s important. The whole oxygen mask for you first thing.

 

3.  When you can’t find your phone because your kids. And please don’t tell me to just call it – it’s on silent because that’s the first thing they do when they get ahold of it. It’s like they knoooooow.

 

4.  When it’s Com Ed. Because obviously.

 

5.  When you’re being available elsewhere and that elsewhere is where you need to be. At the park with the kids. On a date with the hubs. Watching Grey’s Anatomy.

 

If you’re wondering why the bathroom isn’t on this list, it’s because if you’re strategic enough (and hide behind the shower curtain), the bathroom can actually be a very good place to talk on the phone. Or the laundry room. No one ever goes in there.

So, I took my phone back out and texted Paul to let him know I made it. I even added a smiley face, you guys. And what I noticed was that my heart, clenched tight with the frustrations of the morning, started to soften, to open. I became available. To hear the sermon. To see the people around me. To place my hand in Paul’s when he sat down next to me.

I became available. And it changed everything.

When the mother of one of my students heard the ages of my children this week, she told me “If ever there is a time to be present-minded, it’s now.” AND I LOVE THAT. It’s a million times more helpful than ‘enjoy every moment.’ It’s helpful because it’s possible. We already know that we can’t enjoy every moment. But we can be present-minded.

Because that’s what it means to be available, right? It means being present-minded. And it through availability that we can best show love.

So that’s my goal for this Season of Life. Ok, that’s too overwhelming.

So that’s my goal for this Holiday Season. Ok, let’s be realistic.

That’s my goal for Today. Today I can do. I can be available Today.

I know all too well that being present doesn’t happen naturally.  Showing love by being available –  it’s a constant choice. A choice to put down my phone when I want to be available to my kids. To answer the phone when I want to be available to my people. To be still and quiet when I want to be available to myself. To notice and to listen when I want to be available to God.

Our life is a series of Today’s.

And so I’m learning. I’m learning how to show love by choosing to be available.

I’m learning how to quit voicemail.

And that maybe texting in church is ok after all. 

“It will be our accessibility, not our words which will be our legacy” – Bob Goff

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What Not to Say to Parents of Young Kids

People want to know what it’s like.  Having 3 kids ages 4 and under.

I think you can pretty much guess what it’s like.

It’s like a whirlwind.  Or maybe more like a tornado.

Or, if I’m honest (and uncensored), it’s like a s#%t storm.  Literally.  Babies poop every time they eat and they eat all the time.  Mia needs help wiping. Summer just potty trained herself so you can imagine how that’s going.  I’m responsible for cleaning out the kitty litter and now my aging dog has started to have accidents in the house. Paul is the only one self-sufficient in this area, which is good because I have to draw the line somewhere.

My days are crazy.  Filled with so many confusing scenes that sometimes I find myself looking around just to see if I’m the only witness to the insanity.

Yesterday Summer told me the baby was sleeping.  Then she bit her.  And said, “Look! Now she’s awake Mama!”  As if I would be happy about that.  Seriously?

And the day before that, I went to preschool orientation and had a long conversation with the Pastor of the church.  When I got back into the car, I noticed I had forgotten to put my nursing pads in and sure enough, I had two noticeably large wet spots on my shirt.  Awesome.

But you know what the hardest part is?  It’s the advice.  The well-meaning but often contradicting advice given by other mothers, grandmothers, strangers and most certainly, your own mother.

Let the baby cry it out or she will never learn to sleep through the night.  If you let her cry it out,  she will feel abandoned and never form healthy attachments.

Don’t let the baby sleep too long during the day or she won’t sleep at night.  Be sure to wake the baby every 4 hours to nurse.  Never wake a sleeping baby.

Sometimes it’s not even a contradiction, it’s just a guilt trip.  Breastfeeding is best but if you have to supplement with formula, just know you’re a bad mom.

This is my 3rd child so I’m not as sensitive to these contradictions.  But there is one piece of advice that gets me every time.  I try to escape it, but it just keeps finding me. It finds me at work. It finds me at the gas station.  And most recently, it found me at Walgreeens.

I was in the check-out line and Piper was crying because I hadn’t timed her feeding right. Mia was pulling on my arm begging for a candy bar and Summer was bypassing me altogether, taking handfuls of candy off the shelf.  A little old lady in line behind us was watching the debacle.  She smiles and tells me how her children are all grown and living far away and tears of nostalgia fill her eyes.  As I finish paying, she pats my arm and I knew what was coming.  I braced myself and sure enough, she shakes her crooked finger at me and says,

Enjoy Every Moment.

There it was.  And it just hung out there. I looked at my kids who were now fighting over the candy that I already said neither of them can have, and thought, even this moment?!  If there is anything that gives me mommy guilt, it’s that. I have not enjoyed every moment.  There are sometimes so many moments in a row I am not enjoying that a week will go by and I wonder if I was meant to have kids at all.

As I walked to my car, I think, I get it.  You’re sweet.  You’re old.  You have a perspective I don’t have.  But there’s just no way.  

When?  I want to ask her, when am I supposed to enjoy these moments?  We have T-ball, awana, work, sports club, preschool, and in between all of this, I have to find the time to sit down for 25 minutes and nurse the baby. Every 3 hours.  Around the clock.  And while you might think nursing is a good, forced time to enjoy my little one, I end up paying for it.  Sometimes it’s with markers all over Summer.  Sometimes it’s with markers all over the wall.  Often it’s both.

We got back into the car and by that time, all 3 are crying and I’m contemplating joining them.  As I sat with the keys still in my hand, the backseat chorus of wails continues at alarming levels.  I watched the little old lady get into her car and I imagined her in 1950, with all her kids piled in the back, no car seats, no seatbelts.  But the wailing was the same.  The wailing is timeless. And as I watched her now, I enviously thought of how she was putting on her own music, not children’s choruses of pre-pubescent voices so high pitched that it hurts even my dog.  Or maybe she drives in silence because you know, she can.

Why would she want to go back to this season, I thought?  Why the look of nostalgia?  The tear? As she drove away, her eye caught mine and she winked.  And I realized, she’s not sad.  She might miss the chaos as she fondly thinks back upon it but what she is really feeling is gratitude.  She’s thankful that she had the season in the first place.  It’s not that she wants to re-live it.  I’m quite certain that she doesn’t.  But I believe she wouldn’t trade it in for anything. It’s what made her heart full.  It’s what keeps her heart full.

We can’t enjoy every moment.  That’s just life.  And maybe it’s only when you are old and reflective and not covered in spit-up and your boobs don’t hurt from nursing and you haven’t wiped a tush in 40 years that you can look back and see the moments that you did enjoy.  And it’s those moments that make up the season of young motherhood.

So that’s my reframe.  Not to try to enjoy every moment because, OMG have you met my kids?  But instead, to be thankFULL.  And when I’m at my wits end from not enough sleep and the thought of cleaning up more poop is just too much to bear, I will be thankFULL.  Not so much for the poop, but for the fullness of the season.

Because that’s what it’s like.  Having 3 kids, 4 and under.  It’s full. Some days it’s full of crying and whining and time- outs.  Other days it’s full of laughter and playing and maybe even some teaching. All days are full of poop.  Most days end full of wine.

It’s not to say that my life was empty before I had kids. It wasn’t. It was also full of amazing things.  Things that I desperately miss like spontaneous road trips across the country with my best friends.  Dates that don’t end at 10pm by paying a fortune for a babysitter.  Sleep.  Just plain sleep.  Ahh sleep.

Don’t get me wrong, I am in love with my kids.  In fact, I dropped them off at school today and I already miss them!  Ok, that’s actually not true.  I don’t miss them yet.  It’s only been an hour you guys, come on.

But the moments I do enjoy?

*When Piper is looking around the room and her eyes lock in on mine and her smile spreads the width of her face.

*When Mia climbs to the top of her backyard playhouse and screams LET IT GO, LET IT GO at the top of her lungs.   My neighbors tell me that they love being serenaded by her.  I know they are just being polite.

*When I find Summer sleeping in my bed 2 hours after tucking her into her own.

*When both of them scream DADDY! at the sight of Paul’s car as he pulls into the driveway after work.

handsThese are the things that make my heart so full I feel like it will burst right open.  And for the other times, I will choose to be thankFULL.  Because while I don’t enjoy every moment, I am aware.  Painfully aware that the time is fleeting.  That this season is just that, a season.  And so, when I saw Summer’s purple handprint on our freshly painted wall, I didn’t get mad.  I took a picture.  Because I know a time will come when I will miss those tiny fingers and tears of nostalgia will form remembering how many times I had to wash those prints off the cabinets, her body, the wall.

 

People say enjoy it.  People say time passes quickly.  I believe them.  And so I’ll choose, in these moments, to be thankFULL.

 

As I write this, Mia is sitting on the potty screaming “Done!”

I guess that’s my cue.

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Raising Sisters

Maybe it’s because we are thinking of baby names and hers comes up as a potential middle name. Maybe it’s because I’m 36 weeks pregnant and slightly hormonal. Probably it’s because baby #3’s birth is imminent.

kissEither way, I’ve been thinking a lot about the baby #3 I almost had.

As I was packing our stuff for the move, I found an old ultrasound picture. It was dated July 2011. I can’t believe it was 3 years ago we found out we were pregnant with twins, which quickly became identical twin girls. And then spiraled into a diagnosis of TRAP Sequence complete with weekly ultrasounds and scary phrases like “acardiac twin” and “10% chance of survival.” That pregnancy was a whirlwind of emotions filled with desperate prayers for baby A to survive and simultaneous mourning for baby B, who would never exist outside my womb.

Cayden Marie. That was her name. It means heart of the sea. She never had a physical heart. And yet she held mine from the moment I saw her on the ultrasound with her twin sister.

Sometimes, I look at Summer and think, wow, there were almost 2 of you. Identical twins. I see her feisty spirit and am amazed at how her little heart sustained both of them for 9 months at the risk of her own life and to the surprise of the medical staff.

She is my miracle baby.

And she is at that stage where I just want to eat her up. Like literally smother her with jelly and take a bite. She strings all her words together so quickly that her little tongue gets in the way and it sounds like she is saying blah blah blah. (And yes, I’m aware it’s very possible she is mocking me and saying exactly that.)

I see our little family and how the girls love each other. The kind of love that I thought Summer would miss out on by not having her twin sister. But they have it. Yesterday, Mia was taking a nap and Summer started stroking her hair and saying “lub you, lub you.”   Don’t get me wrong, this is not always the scene in our home (and after 2 time outs today for both of them, it’s actually more rare than common). But still. It’s love.

And I get scared adding another girl to the mix. Girls are weird. They are territorial and mean and sassy. Part of me gets anxious about changing the dynamic these sisters already have in place. And yet, the other part of me is excited to welcome this new baby girl into our fold of love. Of messy, searching, real love.

I spoke at an Autism Resource event last week and there was a lively discussion about siblings of children with special needs. The parents were sharing concerns that many of their typically-developing children express – that they live in the shadow of their sibling, that they resent not getting as much attention etc.

Those sentences can be true of any sibling pair. I know many people who lived in the shadow of their valedictorian sister. Or didn’t get as much attention as their drug-addict brother. Or star-athlete brother.

But here’s the difference.

All the siblings of people with special needs that I know, and I know hundreds, love their sibling with a rare kind of love. A protective, all-encompassing love. The siblings, they are compassionate.   They have a perspective unique to seeing the world through the eyes of someone with a disability. When you celebrate things like your family getting a wheelchair van, or your sister learning to walk at age 4 when her muscle tone was finally strong enough, or your brother getting invited to a friend’s house for the first time at age 10, your perspective widens. Your values change. And for these sibs, hearing people say the R-word is no longer something to gloss over. They know the pain it causes. Seeing someone being bullied is not something they tolerate – they stand up. They defend.

And as I thought of these amazing siblings, I realized my job as mom isn’t to make sure my girls are all best friends. That they always get along or have the ‘twin’ thing going on. My job is to raise compassionate kids. To raise girls that value their bodies and learn how to respect themselves. To teach them how truly loving others starts with loving yourself, something I’m only learning now. To stand up for the right thing even when it’s unpopular. My job is to teach what compassion, and integrity, and true strength looks like.

Sometimes I feel like these lessons get lost when I am spending my days teaching and re-teaching what sharing looks like. What being gentle to the dog looks like. What not whining sounds like. Why drinking mommy’s juice is not a good idea. And by juice, I mean wine.

And the part of me that always wanted boys is starting to diminish as I begin to see the overarching role of mom is the same for both genders. The qualities you want to instill in your kids – empathy, truth, humor, respect – they are the same qualities whether you are raising sons or daughters. The difference is if you have to try and teach these qualities through an overload of drama and tears and boobs or an overload of hairy, stinky testosterone (and an obsession with boobs).

I guess that’s the fun (?) part; figuring out how to teach your kids the values that are important in the midst of it all – and I get to do it in the midst of princess dresses and periods. Times 3. God help me.

As I reflect on baby #3 coming soon, part of me says goodbye officially (again) to the baby #3 I almost had. But there is a bitter-sweetness about it this time. Because I’m no longer mourning the loss of the twin-thing. It wasn’t the twin thing that makes sibling relationships special. It’s the love and respect they learn to have for themselves, each other and the world around them. Ok fine, the twin thing is still so cool but whatever.

I am focused on teaching these qualities to my girls. I’ll start with sharing and not pushing and singing songs NOT from Frozen, and if I’m lucky somewhere in there, they will learn to love each other and others. Because they have compassion. And insight. And strength. And hopefully, those qualities will shine through the hormones and the drama and the sharing of one bathroom.

I will have 3 girls ages 4 and under in the next month.

Pray for me.

And send Mommy juice.

 

 

 

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Finding Strength in the Midst of Weakness

Is it still April Fool’s day?

Because being 7 months pregnant, moving into your parent’s house, being responsible for a 4 and 2 yr old, and completely throwing out your back must be a joke.

It just has to be.

Oh wait. It’s not. That’s actually my life right now.

sos1I can’t stand up straight. I can’t put any weight on my right leg. I use my tall laundry basket as a walker because it slides across the tile floor better than the rolling chair. I would say I look like my 94 year old grandma except that I just saw a video of her walking at a rehab facility and she looks in much better shape than I do.

I go about the house putting things I need in the laundry basket and then beg my 2 year old to help me with everything else. So far this morning, she has thrown out her own dirty diapers, let the dog out, fetched my phone, and spilled her cereal all over the floor which the dog proceeded to lick up while I laid there screeching out instructions and commands that neither of them took notice of.

When I tried to distract my daughter from pooping so that I didn’t have to move off the couch to change her, I realized that um, yea. I need help.

I think that’s why when my mother-in-law offered to stay with me, I was nearly brought to tears.

Ok, fine. I cried.

And I paused slightly before saying yes. And of course my yes came with “only if you want to” and “don’t feel obligated” and “are you sure?”, followed by a slight internal panic of the house is a mess, I can’t get off the couch, there is a sticky spot on the floor where dog spit mixed with milk and cheerios and OMG OMG OMG.

But really, is there any other choice? I. can’t. move.

And so I said yes, please come and stay with me. Please help me.

Just don’t judge.

And I guess that’s it. That’s the fear that often keeps us from accepting help.

The fear of being judged. Judged for showing that I am not strong enough. That I just can’t do it myself.

That alone, I am not enough.

We say yes to everything that shows our capabilities. That shows what we CAN do. How MUCH we can do. We say yes to everything that puts us in a good light. Even if it annoys us. Even if we don’t want to or don’t have time. Even if it comes at the cost of our families or ourselves.

We are much more hesitant to say yes to accepting help. To displaying our weakness for the whole world to see. Is it my fault my back went out? Am I stupid for picking up my 4yr old child when I’m pregnant? Am I a failure because I left everything till the last minute and now I can’t do them because I’m hurt?

In my moments of panic before she arrived, I thought of those hundred things I put off until today. Like finish packing for our move and cleaning the house. Things like grocery shopping and showering.

But the truth is I can’t do it. I actually, physically can’t do it. And it’s shocking to me. Because I am an excellent faker. I can fake confidence. I can fake competence. And I can even fake ability (unless it comes to sports). But I can’t fake standing up or walking. My muscles either work or they don’t. Kind of the reason I can’t fake it with sports. My muscles just don’t do what they should do in those situations.

So I accept the help. And it’s hard. It’s humbling.

But here’s the thing I’ve learned about accepting help;

It’s freeing.

I know, crazy, right?

But it really is freeing. We are made to be relational people and I think in an effort to be independent and strong and show our abilities, we forget the relational part. We forget that we were not made to live alone. To isolate. And it gets dangerous when we strive to appear strong by being independent.

Here’s the irony. Some of the strongest people I know? They are the ones that ask for help. That rely on help. That don’t make it through a single day without help.

The mother of a boy with Cerebral palsy who hires a respite worker so that she can catch up on sleep. The father who brings his two kids with autism to the Special Friends Sunday school class so he can go to church with his wife. The parents who go to marriage counseling to ensure they keep their relationship strong under the pressure of receiving a fatal diagnosis for their child.

When I think of all these families affected by special needs, I don’t see weakness.

I see strength. They can’t fake it. There is too much at stake to even try. And so they accept the help. They even ask for it. Sadly enough, sometimes they have to beg for it.

And I guarantee they have wished on many occasions that it didn’t have to be this way. That they could do it all on their own. But they know something we don’t. They know they need community.

They aren’t resentful of all the things they have to do. They are enlisting people to get those things done.

They aren’t spending precious family time trying to make their outside persona look perfect. They are inviting people into their beautiful mess.

I think we could all learn a thing or two from these families.

So today I am forced to accept the help. To be vulnerable and invite my mother in law into my messy life. In the non-showered, kids are a mess, house is a disaster, sorry-but-this-is-my-life kind of way. Because I can’t fake it anymore.

I definitely can’t fake taking care of this baby in my belly. That has to be done for real. So for the sake of the baby, I will accept help. For the sake of my 2 year old who shouldn’t have to learn how to change her own diapers (though using the potty would be nice), I will accept help. For the sake of my 4 year old who wanted to go to school so badly today that I called a sitter to drive her home, I will accept help.

And I will remember the freedom that comes with that help. With suspending judgment on myself. With allowing myself to be vulnerable in my community.

While looking for a new house, we often heard that privacy is really important. But to be honest, I am excited that where my backyard ends, someone else’s begins. That to the right and left of our house, kids are outside playing.

Because being tied to a community is more freeing than living with no strings attached.

Because it’s in community that you can ask for help. That you can help someone else.

The bright side of my April fool’s joke of a life today? Catching up on Nashville and Parenthood and Grey’s Anatomy.

So accept the help – because even if the only thing you get out of it is catching up on some primetime somewhat-trashy TV, it’s worth it.

2 Corinthians 12:9 “For My strength is made perfect in weakness”

 

 

 

 

 

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Finding the Me From Concentrate

thQ99WU3U9You know that part in the Hunger Games when Katniss spins around and her dress lights up in flames?  It reminds me of those push up spin toys I had as a kid.  Mine was a peacock and when untouched, the feathers covered the bird entirely, but when you push the side, the feathers spin around and open revealing a beautiful bird inside.

I love that image.  I want that image.

I want to spin around so fast that any unwelcome layers of life are flung off revealing my true self.  To shed the years of built up fears, of people pleasing, of shape-shifting. To shake off the opinions of others, of self-judgment and anything else that is diluting the real me.

What would that look like?  What does it mean to be comfortable in your own skin?  To be the me from concentrate? Continue reading

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Worst Pastor’s Wife. Ever. (Part II)

(Click here to read Part I first) 

On the morning that I decided it was time to play the role of Pastor’s Wife, there was a torrential downpour.  Flooding everywhere, rain pouring down in droves. We arrived late because I couldn’t see more than a foot in front of me while driving.  We parked far thEGJVKJOYaway and at a mega-church, that means FAR away.  Being late: strike one.  I don’t have a raincoat or umbrella because it’s not the kind of thing I think of bringing. Ever.  I take my 4 year olds hand and carry my 2 year old and we make a sprint (well, as fast as a 4 yr old can run) for the church doors.  We get in and I just stop and stand there.  People walk through the doors, lower their umbrellas and shake the water off their raincoats while offering me a smile. I take the girls to the bathroom where my 4 yr old starts crying because her tights are wet.  I panic slightly knowing that this daughter of mine would rather be naked than have something – even water- on her clothes. No umbrella: Strike two. I put her under the hand dryer and tell her some story about Noah’s ark and convince her that it’s fun to be wet.  I turn to look at my 2 year old who is saying over and over “ooh, oooh!”  I look to where she is pointing and notice that she is missing her shoe.  It had fallen off in our desperate sprint from the car to the church doors.  I stare blankly at her wet shoeless tights. Continue reading

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