Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I Am A Runner

I run. I am a runner. Of course, I am a runner in the same way that I am a writer. I am a runner not because of any acclaim, not because I am good at it. I am a runner only because I run, or maybe we should just tell the truth and call it jogging. Nonetheless, I run.

I may be the world’s worst runner. Picture a three-year-old child running toward the swings, arms flapping, zero form, just trying to get to the fun. That is what I look like running. It is ridiculous.

Besides that, I do not actually like to run. It is hard. I sweat, and I can’t catch my breath. My face gets all red and my legs ache. I also find it incredibly boring. Mainly, I just think about all the things I want to write. I create worlds and opinions and arguments as I stomp down one foot in front of the other.

However, I still run, usually, a few times a week. I do this because I know the end game. I know when the run is over and I am standing, hands on my knees, in my front yard or on the treadmill, trying to catch my breath that I will be happy that I ran. I will have a bit of pride and a deep gratitude. Pride in the discipline to do the work and gratitude for a body still able to exercise hard.

I run so that I can chase my children around the soccer field. I run because my own mom had a stroke in her mid-fifties. I run because I am stubborn. I run because I am anxious. And truth be told, I run because I want to be fit and thin.

Running may not be a cure all. I may still have a stroke in my fifties. Running doesn’t always keep my anxiety in check. But, it does make me free. And strong. And brave. And tough.

So I will keep running and writing. I will scratch both out in spite of my skill or grace in the endeavor.

You can too, you know. Whatever the thing is that you want to do, just get to doing it - one foot in front of the other, until one day you find your elusive nine minute mile.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Jack's Last Day of Preschool

I didn't expect it to feel like a punch to the gut. For months, I knew the day was coming. How is it then that it snuck up on me?

Winter lingered long this year. Maybe the May snow tricked me into thinking I had more time. But sure enough, the last day of preschool arrived like a thief in the night.

Last day of preschool

First day of preschool

Do you know those first day of kindergarten posts that always pop up on Facebook and Instagram? The ones of tentative children and weepy mothers? I've always thought those were slightly dramatic. I mean, the kids are going to school not to war. Oh, silly me, I was wrong.

That morning as Jack dressed and headed out the door, I couldn't even get him to stand still for a momentous photo - the last day of preschool. The end of an era. Didn't he grasp the importance? No, he just knew snack would probably be something sugary since it was the last day. He just wanted to get there and be done.

I snapped a few forced shots before loading us into the car. My throat caught and I couldn't breath right. What in the heck was happening to me? Surely, I could make the drop without a meltdown.

Jack bounced out of the car and into his classroom. He was excited and full of energy. I held back tears and refused to make eye contact with the other mothers. After walking out of the little red schoolhouse with Grace on my hip, I sat in my car and weeped. Weeped as if my baby boy had gone to war.

Baby Jack is gone. He is bike riding, Lego building, fence climbing, doing it on his own Jack now.

I miss baby Jack, but I love five-year-old Jack. He is funny and interesting. He is my heart, always has been, this first born child who challenged me. Who still challenges me.

I counted down the years that day in the car while wiping snot with the back of my hand, because surely I wouldn't need a tissue on the last day of preschool. 13. Only 13 more years until high school graduation. That is shorter than the time I have been out of college and wasn't that just yesterday?!

So long baby Jack. And don't mind the crazy lady sneaking into your room after you fall asleep. I may crawl in beside you and smell your hair and watch you sleep. Like I used to when you would fall asleep in my arms nursing. And don't mind me next month when I wield my tissues and weep as I drop you off for kindergarten. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Back to Blogging

Wow! I stopped writing. I stopped writing everything a few months ago. For the past few months, I have been annoyed. I have been primarily annoyed at my children; however, I have also been annoyed with others too. I have not been pleasant to hang out with.

Over the past week or so, I have asked myself the question of why I am so easily frustrated. First, this feeling of annoyance creates incredible guilt. I have a wonderful life. I love my family. My husband is seriously the best man I know. My kids are mostly well-behaved and adorable. My life is full of gifts I do not deserve. I want for nothing.

So, my first revelation in processing this feeling of annoyance was that it is circular. I feel tired and annoyed then I feel guilty and the guilt creates pressure to be less annoyed which makes me more annoyed. Silly really, but true none-the-less.

Then, I started reading "Dad is Fat" by Jim Gaffingan. This has been the best therapy. I hit on the solution and the cause of my annoyance problem in one of Jim's chapters.

"The blurbs are meant to be (hopefully) funny, silly, and/or insightful. Some of these observations will lean toward a dark, sarcastic take on the prison sentence that is parenthood... Occasionally I receive comments that associate my musings with being anti-family... This could not be further from the truth. I love being a parent and enjoy finding the humor in parenting... You joke about it. That's how you deal. If parents don't like being a parent, they don't talk about being a parent. They are absent."

As I have dug into my faith: reading the Bible, going to Bible study, trying to be a Biblical wife. In doing those things, I lost my sense of humor. I stopped talking like myself. I started trying to emulate someone else. The Proverbs 31 wife maybe? I don't know. But at some point I decided that I needed to be more mature and serious. The problem is I just don't work well that way. I cannot write without being honest. And I think parenting little children is ridiculous most of the time. I am like a fish out of water as a mom. I am just flapping around trying to get back in the water.

Yes, I have rainbow and butterfly moments. But mostly, we are a hot mess. There are the occasions when I look at my children and my heart melts. Of course there are. Sometimes we all eat healthy, and go to bed on time. Sometimes I even do crafts or school work. I have days where I feel like a superstar.

Yet, there are many, many moments with my kids that I do not like. For example: waking up to a crying three-year-old at 2 a.m., my five-year-old putting his sister in a headlock in Target, kids refusing to go to bed in a way that makes me want to hunt down Super Nanny. These moments do not make my heart melt. Instead, they make me want to bang my head against a wall.

I lost sight that this is not failure. This is just parenting. Whose kids do not drive them nuts? What mom is perfectly happy when their kid poops in the pool?

My children have humbled me. Especially when there is an audience for the chaos. Recently, we spent a week with family at the beach. I have always prided myself on being a successful, self-assured girl who gets what she wants when she works hard enough. I felt like an utter parenting failure when each night on this trip everyone else was trying to rest quietly in their rooms for the night, and my children were fighting and crying and refusing to go to bed.

So, instead of trying to focus only on the rainbows and butterflies, and writing nothing. Or worrying that what I write will not be taken as comedic survival, I am just going to write what I feel. I am going to share the good and the bad. Because, do you know what? Parenting is ridiculous. It is love and fun and poop and chaos. It is a love so deep and strong I am suffocated by it. But it is also frustration so strong I want to punch a hole in the wall. It is life. I can love it and still want to run away to a secluded island with a stack of books and a comfy pillow. That feeling doesn't make me (or you) any less faithful or any less in love with my family. It just makes us human.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Grace Turned 3!

Our sweet Grace celebrated her third birthday in January. We kept it simple this year with a small gathering. She got to eat a pink cupcake and rock her new Minnie Mouse shoes. She was in heaven.

Grace's sweet and stubborn personality is shining through, bringing us joy and frustration. I love it! She has always been tough as nails. Grace loves books and all things Disney. She adores her big brother, thinks her dad hung the moon, and treats my every word like the gospel. Three is a sweet, sweet age.

I asked her a few questions and her answers are good y'all.

What is your favorite color?

What is your favorite food?
ravioli with cream sauce

What is your favorite toy?
my pink car

Who is your best friend?

What is your favorite activity?
being on the computer

What is your favorite game?

What do you what to be when you grow up?
I'm not gonna tell you

What are you thankful for?

What is the best thing that happened this year?
I played and played

What do you like about being 3?
sleeping in my big girl bed

Happy birthday Grace! You are my favorite girl in the whole wide world.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Lesson in Grace for This Worn Out Momma

Mothering young children is a seesaw of emotions. My children are adorable and funny and so sweet. But, they can also be really big jerks. This is the work of parenting and I completely accept the responsibility. Yet, some days I feel like the world's worst mother. 

Before I had children, I would often say I wished I could pop out a five-year-old. It wasn't lost on me the enormous work of rearing babies and small children. It is exhausting. Thankfully, it is also full of mercy and grace. 

I think it may be the winter but this week my kids are being crazy. Crazy y'all! I don't really blame them, I want to put on my flip-flops and run around outside in the warm sunshine too. Colorado winters are not for the weak, which is why I should start packing. 

So yesterday, I cried twice. First, in the car on the way to Bible study. Two key principles for raising my kids are teaching empathy and generosity. It doesn't really matter to me if we don't always eat healthy, their rooms are a disorganized mess, or they are filthy at the end of each day. All those things are surface issues that will become easier as they mature. 

Cultivating a heart for others and an understanding that we are all called to serve one another, those skills will take a lifetime to build. And they are rare qualities. So when my kids are jerks, I take it personally. 

From the time they got out of bed it was whining. "I don't want that cereal," "I don't want to wear that dress," "I will not go potty." Oh my word. I have failed at putting even an ounce of gratitude in these kids. Or at least that is how I felt in the moment.

The straw that broke the camels back? Finally we are in the car and I decide to be nice and play their favorite song, "Let it Go" from the Frozen movie. They like it loud so I turned the volume up. I was ready to improve our mood. And then from the backseat I hear a whiney, tear-strained voice, "turn it up!" 

This was a moment to demonstrate mercy or maybe grace to my children. Instead, I turn off the radio and start to yell at them. Because you know a five and three year old totally understand lectures. I tell them they are ungrateful and that I am mad. I start to cry because I am frustrated and failing. I turn the radio to NPR and ignore their cries from the backseat. I hate being the worst mother. 

The day continues to spiral downhill from here. I drop my son at school and my daughter and I head to a scheduled playdate with a friend. Visiting with my friend is improving my spirits and the kids are playing nicely together giving me a break. 

Then it is time to go, but I miscalculated the time it would take to get from my friend's house to Jack's school. I am rushing out the door when Grace looks at me and says, "I need to go potty." Are. You. Kidding. Me!!!

Now is the moment you pick to decide to finally be interested in going potty. I tell her no and I make her poop in her pants. Thankfully, we are still wearing diapers while we work on potty training. She cries. I rush to school and am four minutes late. All the other parents are gone. Jack is the last kid. 

I apologize to his teacher and ask how much money I owe her for being tardy and she says, "Everyone gets one get out of jail free card. Don't worry about it." Ah, mercy and grace. Then I bend down and hug Jack and tell him how very sorry I am for being late. We walk out of school and I again get down on his level and say, "Mommy was irresponsible. I am sorry I wasn't there on time." And my sweet boy looks at me and says, "It's okay mom. Everybody messes up sometimes." Mercy and grace. 

We get home and I unload the kids and smell Gracie's diaper odor wafting out. I take her upstairs to change her and tell her, "I am sorry baby. I should have let you go potty." And she says, "It's okay. I'll go potty now." Mercy and grace. And then I cry for the second time. 

My children do understand the beginnings of empathy. They may not understand it completely but they taught me a valuable lesson about showing mercy and offering grace. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Ugly of Getting Old

A few years ago I noticed this white hair in my nose. My nose of all places! Every single time it grows back I get out the tweezers and pluck it. Every single time it brings tears to my eyes because it hurts. I don't think we are meant to pluck nose hairs.

After birthing children, I began to notice (or have pointed out for me) my body aging. It isn't pretty. I know we live in an enlightened age where we should be able to grow old gracefully. Um…it doesn't seem so graceful to me. Plus, I am not ready to be old. I don't feel old and I don't want to look old either.

After Grace was born everything in my body changed. I am not sure if it was hormones, stress or just years passing. Suddenly old lady stuff started happening. First this weird thing popped up on my neck. I asked my doctor about it and she told me it is called a skin tag. Ehew! I think it was my first official old lady moment.

I do understand that by today's standards 36 is young; however, a few decades ago it wasn't really considered that young. When my mom was my age she had teenagers not toddlers.

Another sobering moment occurred at the salon. I needed my eyebrows waxed because even though I had just birthed my second child, I did not want caterpillars on my face. I was laying on the waxing table enjoying my moment of relaxation when the lady asked if I wanted my lip waxed. I told her no. Then she tugged at my upper lip hair and said, "I make you beautiful." As my cheeks flushed red, I told her to go ahead and wax it. Holy cow, I thought child birth and plucking nose hairs hurt, but the lip wax may take the cake.

I came home with my ego badly bruised and my husband asked what was wrong with my face. Now at my house we do not share everything. Doors are closed when we poop. I never ever talked to my husband about facial hair. Other than labor where he had to help me pee, we just don't talk about or share our gross stuff. So humiliated and dejected I had to tell him about the lip waxing.

Shortly thereafter, I started noticing gray hairs on my head. I just kept pulling them out. The result was a few months later these short wiry gray hairs popping up all over the top of my head. Now I just let them grow in.

Yes, there is hair color and waxing and even doctors to remove gross skin stuff, but I still know it exists. Old age is starting to creep in and it isn't pretty.

The good news is that the thirties are my best decade yet. The pressure to be pretty and perfect and driven and delightful that I felt in my twenties is gone. I accept myself more, wrinkles and all.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Jack Turned Five!

Sweet Jack turned five the day after Christmas. My how the time has flown. And yet, I don't even recognize the girl I was before I became a mother. Only five years but I feel like a different human being.

Jack at five is fun, adventurous and whiny. Will the whining ever stop or does it just become attitude as kids grow older? I am happy to say that he is almost always a well behaved kid with others.

This year Jack learned to ride a peddle bike. He also decided that his team is the Denver Broncos (and here we thought we were raising the kid right). He is learning to swim and went down the big slide at the pool for the first time. He also earned 865 superhero training points on all of his little guy adventures.

He is an amazing big brother. While he and Gracie can sure tussle, they love each other fiercely. The best complement to my mothering I have ever gotten is when his preschool teacher commented that my kids are always so affection with each other.

Jack adores his dad and loves to do "man work" with Christian. He and Christian go on bike rides and cut grass and kick the soccer ball. They are two peas in a pod and I couldn't be happier with their close relationship.

My favorite routine with Jack (which sometimes does make me want to pull my hair out) is bedtime. I lay down beside him and we talk about his day and what he is thinking about. Tonight he told me about the special golf tee he keeps in his bedside table. "It was the one I hit my first ball off of. Daddy gave it to me."

I love my boy. He is just precious. The way he sees the world and interacts with others is fascinating. Well, maybe not to the rest of you but to me who grew him in my body and watched him grow from a tiny helpless newborn to a kid, it is fascinating to see his personality develop.

As always, I asked Jack a few questions.

What is your favorite color?
all the colors

What is your favorite food?
ravioli with cream sauce

What is your favorite toy?
working trucks

Who is your best friend?
Wynn and Libby

What is your favorite activity?

What is your favorite game to play?

What do you want to do when you grow up?
the kind of work Daddy does, an engineer

What are you most thankful for?
my mom, my dad, and Grace

What is the best thing that happened this year?
the Disney World trip

What do you like about being five?
running faster

Happy Birthday sweet Jack! We love you dearly and are so proud to have you in our family.