Take a Bite of THAT, Big Apple

“I am not – I repeat – I am NOT taking selfies all weekend.”

Taylor Brooks, New York City, 2017

After the worst vacation ever last year, we’ve been hesitant to try again. (Our doctors’ bills seem to go up exponentially when we travel.)

But MIRACLE OF ALL MIRACLES, we actually had a successful solo vacation to New York City last weekend.

(I know. It’s surprising to me, too, and I was there.)

We’re one week post-vacation, no signs of E. coli or Giardia in sight. We. made. it.

We didn’t just *make it*, we killed it.

We biked around Central Park, an experience you should definitely ask Taylor about.

We ate at a Michelin star restaurant where the food was tiny and weird, but beautiful. (And also a little gaggy, if we’re being honest. Looking at you, boiled quail egg.)

We visited the 9/11 museum – an incredibly moving memorial that should require its visitors to pace their emotions better than we did. (You just don’t realize how big and detailed that place is when you first get in. We emoted too fiercely in the beginning and got overwhelmed by the end.)

We went to the top of the Freedom Tower (One World Trade Center) for the killer 360º city views.

We took pictures with various booty-related things because you can take the parents away from the little boys but you cannot take the little boy humor out of the parents.

And when all else failed, we ate. Again. We exceeded the daily caloric intake suggestion by roughly 400%.

Pizza, street hot dogs, pasta, donuts, cheesecake…we left no neighboring eating establishment unvisited.

Throughout the whole trip, we only had one argument that resulted in a brief stint of not speaking to each other. It happened in the middle of Times Square and it was a combination of fatigue, bloating, 98º temperatures, seizure-inducing LED billboards, one of us who absolutely did not need to consult a map, and the other who was hangry enough not to enjoy wandering aimlessly with all 504,000 of our fellow sweaty tourists looking for a toy store that may or may not exist. Our silence lasted through lunch where pizza magically fixed everything and I stopped being a jerk.

We truly had the best time ever.

Relaxing? No.

But fun. So very fun. And delicious.

A few takeaways from New York City:

  1. Taylor is way too nice to live there. He’s all “excuse me” and “pardon me” on the subway. Resident New Yorkers are all “don’t talk to me, creep”.
  2. Judging by the size of our hotel room and the amount of space between restaurant tables in New York, things in Texas really are bigger.
  3. “Not taking selfies” all weekend made for the most hilarious vacation photos of all time. When he wasn’t ignoring me, he was sabotaging my photo efforts:

(Tell me those aren’t incredible.)

Having a best friend for a husband is such a sweet gift. He makes me laugh like none other.

Thanks for exploring the Big Apple with me, my love.

My heart and my stomach will be full for a long time.

(literally. I think I’m still digesting that pizza.)

Look Past the Clearance Jesus


// This post is part of Andrea Lucado’s blog series, “Notes To Your Younger Self“.  Both the series and her new book, English Lessons, explore faith journeys – the good, the bad, the skeptical. She is fabulous, as is her writing. Be sure to check out the rest of this series on her blog – AND – go buy her book right meow, or enter the giveaway below. You won’t be sorry. //

 



 

If you were to Google stock photos of Good Christian Teenagers, my high school yearbook picture would show up. I was the World’s Best.

Someone needs a volunteer for the mission trip? Camp? Retreat? Bible study? Prayer team? Small group? Sign me up.

There’s a new ministry? It’s called Ignite? Elevate? Revolution? Engage? Impact? I’ll be there.

I grew up in a church culture unlike my parents’.

My parents’ generation was all about the do-do-do. They had to do enough to be saved (or not do enough to stay saved). They studied the Bible to keep all the rules.

My generation, on the other hand, swung whole-heartedly to the it’s-been-done, come-as-you-are culture. The rules weren’t important, so we didn’t study the Bible.

And – first off – is there not some middle ground here?

Secondly, can you really swing too much in the direction of grace? No.

H o w e v e r . (And this is a big however.)

The grace I knew and learned was cheapIt didn’t cost me anything.

To clarify, grace really is free. To anyone, any time. That’s the scandal of the Christian faith.

But our response to grace is not.

Following Jesus is quite costly.

True discipleship costs us our pride. And reputation. And control. And security. And comfort.

All of which I hadn’t given up and didn’t realize until I got to college.

Combine the newfound freedom of adulthood, the different religions and worldviews I was encountering, an alarm that didn’t set itself on Sundays, and…well…my comfortably shallow faith didn’t hold up well. Like a $2 umbrella in a monsoon.

I was flipped inside out and sideways, unable to right myself. I didn’t know how to bend the spokes of my foundation back into position; it felt permanently distorted.

What I did know was that my “Jesus is my buddy” meme-like faith wasn’t cutting it anymore.

I eventually walked away, too overwhelmed and unmotivated to figure it out.

By the time I graduated, I was in a rough place spiritually and I. didn’t. care.

Apathy is such an effective tool for Satan. He throws meaningless periphery at us until we become passionate in the distractions, providing the cover he needs to sneak in and steal our m
otivation to fight for what really matters.

This was me. Far more passionate about finding the perfect apartment than rebuilding my own foundation.

Also me, though, was a new bride moving to her husband’s hometown.

So – as all Good Southern People do – I started going back to church. I didn’t want to; I wanted to save face.

And yet.

Slowly, week after week, I began to see Jesus clearly. Feel his presence tangibly.

I saw him in people whose lives were different because of their faith. People who were refreshingly weird.

People whose authentic imperfection revealed an identity in something bigger than themselves.

People who asked hard questions. Who loved me both as I was and enough not to leave me there.

People who spoke and loved and spent and grieved and hoped differently because of Jesus.

The thing is, I heard about Jesus my whole life. I liked what he offered, too. Free grace! I’m all about a good bargain.

But unlike a bargain sweater, bargain faith sucks. It doesn’t satisfy. (And do we want it too, really? Do we want to devote our lives to a small, off-brand God?)

No, the freedom and hope and newness that Christ offers comes only when grace takes root.

When the cross becomes less like a charm on a necklace, more like the sacrifice we pattern our lives after.

If I could go back and tell myself – or anyone in that season – anything, I would say:

KEEP LOOKING.

Look for the real Jesus.

Not the nice one who gives us nice, big, holy goosebumps once a week; the powerful one who defeated death. The one who was brutally tortured and murdered for you and for me. The one whose sacrifice demands a response.

It is this Jesus that I have chosen to follow, and it was the crumbling of my faith that led me to him.

It wasn’t until I let go of his cheap substitute – the one that allowed me to be me, wholly unscathed and comfortably selfish – that I began to see what true, redemptive, transformative, gospel
power was.

(And I can assure you: transformed me is WAY more charming than regular me. Regular me is insufferable.)

If you are done with the cultish fluffiness of church, same.

If you are done with Christian hypocrisy, same.

You can be done with those, but don’t be done with Jesus. (Funny how the two don’t always go hand in hand.)

Don’t stop looking for him. He’s there. Working in and through people all around you.

And he has never stopped looking for you.

 



GIVEAWAY ALERT:

If you want to win a free copy of Andrea’s book (which everyone should), leave a comment below – or on the Facebook or Instagram posts linking here – to be entered into the drawing. Answer the question, “What would you go back and say to your younger self?” The winner will be announce on June 15th!

 

Update: a winner has been chosen and her book is in the mail…..but yours totally can be, too. Just go to Amazon.com and buy that sucker. (You’re welcome in advance.)

Thank you for sharing all of your own stories and advice!

5 Ways Toddlers are Terrifying

“I totally forgot what toddlers are like.”

– me to my husband each time we have another toddler

(…which is stupid because our kids aren’t even far enough apart for me to forget the craziness of toddlerhood, yet here we are.)

The good news is, our current toddler is a minutely reminder of ups and downs of this stage.

Here are a few of the things I forgot about toddlers.

1. toddlers are frighteningly emotional.

i.e. National Donut Day at Krispy Kreme.

Toddler insists on sprinkle donut.

Sprinkles fall off donut.

Toddler loses all ability to function.

I honestly wasn’t sure he would recover without medication.

……until I asked if he wanted milk. Then he was totally fine.

Toddler emotions are scary, as is toddler reasoning.

2. toddlers are incredibly irrational.

We spent a good 5 minutes crying over the fact that this shoe couldn’t call Dada.

And don’t even get him started on that time I failed to get all the banana “poop” off before handing it to him.

To be fair, while toddlers ARE incredibly illogical, sometimes their illogicality borders on creativity.

For instance, don’t want to carry an entire book around?

Tear off the page you want to look at and throw the rest on the ground.

Makes perfect sense. To a toddler.

(Every time I scan our library card, I expect an error message to pop up on the screen and a small, elderly woman named Louise to walk up. “Excuse me, ma’am?” she’ll say, as she adjusts her bifocals. “Your account has been flagged for misuse of books. According to our records, over two thirds of the books you return have been repaired – poorly, I might add – with Scotch tape.” 

Hasn’t happened yet, but there’s still time.)

3. toddlers are always hungry.

Starving for ‘nacks* all day, errryday.

*And by snacks I mean anything resembling food.

Like fabric softener.

Or packing peanuts.

Or deodorant.

They really never stop eating both food and non-food items.

4. toddlers are wildly destructive.

I made a sensory bin recently.

After carefully researching and searching Pinterest for the best, most educational bin, I found the perfect recipe.

To save you time and energy, I’ll pass it along to you for free:

 


DIY Sensory Bin Instructions:

Step 1:  N O P E.


That’s it. There’s only one step.

If you’re considering a sensory bin, no. Just nope.

I know this. I KNOW how ridiculous a sensory bin is, yet the 384lb bag of dried Sam’s Club pinto beans tempted me. They looked so fun. So I did it. I made the stupid bin.

And then toddlers.

(Why are my kids always in various stages of undress? Something to explore at a later date.)

Words cannot express how many beans are in a Sam’s econosize bag. Suffice it to say, I found them in the dryer, in the fridge, in a diaper, next to my toothpaste, and in my bra.

Toddlers are destructive enough on their own. They certainly don’t need ammunition.

Just nope.

5. toddlers are very independent.

Did you know that toddlers don’t need help with anything? Ever?

It’s true.

My toddler can change his own diaper!

In fact, he changes it during almost every nap time!!

Especially after he poops in it!!!

He still has a *little* ways to go with his motor skills before he can effectively change himself, but I certainly don’t want to discourage him.

Let children take the lead and all that. Child-led parenting, you know?

So instead of discouraging his little heart….

…..I duct-tape the crap out of his bottom half.

(Rather, duct-tape the crap *in* to his bottom half, if we’re being technical.)

If duct tape isn’t nearby, I put his diaper on backwards.

He may be illogical and he may be destructive, but what is not – yet – is skilled in inverse diaper changes.

(It’s quite a genius hack that I feel really good about until – due to a comedy of errors in the parking lot – I present him to his Bible school teachers pantless, backwards, and without a spare diaper. #sorry)

Toddlers are so spooky.

But.

Though they be in a constant state of fragility, moments away from a complete unraveling, they are also HIL-ARIOUS.

And really, stupidly cute.

I’ll keep you, you little weirdo.

You’re kind of my best friend.

The Invisible Mom

I can count on one hand the amount of times in my 5 1/2 years of parenting that I’ve asked my husband to come home from work early to SAVE OUR SHIP, and that is one. One time.

Today, actually.

This morning, within the span of the 15 minutes between 8:45-9:00 AM,

one child pulled an egg out of the refrigerator and egged the back door

one peed his pants

one drew a masterpiece with a blue sharpie on a white door

one threw the baby monitor into the toilet

one thought 15 gallons was an appropriate amount of water to clean aforementioned blue sharpie while another thought dumping said water would help get the floor clean

and one was spanking me with a snorkel while I made the SOS call.

I only had 3 kids at last headcount, but there’s a good chance they multiplied when I wasn’t looking.

After I talked to my husband and before he came home, one child put a toy down the shower drain, one spiked and shattered my favorite coffee mug, and one bent the preschool pictures I spent their college fund paying for.

If you could see my house right now, you’d call FEMA to have a disaster zone declared. (Or the CDC. They might have interest in the species of fungi growing in the carseat cupholders.)

It’s not that I haven’t done the dishes today, it’s that I haven’t done them again. Same with the laundry. It’s amazing how many clothes 3 tiny humans can go through in any given day. (And I’m VERY generous with my stain limits. We need at least 7 on that shirt before we’re changing.)

If I were to make a Realistic Family Photo Album, it would look like this:

this is my toddler crying because I wouldn’t let him have any of this juice

this is my toddler about to slap an orange out of my hand because he’s furious it broke apart and can’t be put back together

this is when my oldest gave himself a haircut with nose hair trimming scissors

this is me trying to have “quiet” time

(The more pictures I dig up, the more I realize this would actually make an incredible photo album. What started as a joke is now morphing into a necessity in my mind.)

There is so much about motherhood than no one sees.

No one follows you around and compliments the way you used a creative consequence instead of yelling.

No one applauds when you shower with one kid underfoot or use the bathroom with another on your lap.

No one high-fives you for playing peek-a-boo 894 times in a row.

Momming is hard work, with little to no verbal affirmation.

And in a culture where we love us some public Facebook accolades, it can be isolating.

We see the post of that girl’s husband bringing her flowers “just because”. We see the picture of the mom who was sent to an all-inclusive spa resort for the weekend. We see the family with the nanny that comes in 3x a week. We see the friend whose parents live 2 doors down and are able to come by and pitch in 24/7.

When that’s not our story, it’s easy to feel invisible. And overwhelmed.

It’s also easy for invisibility to morph into either discouragement or bitterness.

This isn’t a new feeling.

There’s a story in Genesis 16 about a mom named Hagar who felt this way. She was done. Completely. No light at the end of the tunnel, no husband to call and have come home from work.

(In fact, she was in a polygamist situation gone bad – a victim of others’ poor decisions. So. She was infinitely worse off than any of us, but since I know nothing about that culture, let’s skip over that part for now.)

Hagar was dejected enough to run away – alone – to a desert.

And yet.

It was here, in her fear and loneliness that God found her. He sent an angel to her.

“The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. He said, ‘…. You will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress.'” (v 7,9)

Hagar then replies with one of my favorite proclamations,

“You are the God who sees me. I have now seen the One who sees me.”

When she thought she was at her most invisible, God sought her out.

Her story wasn’t immediately wrapped up in a neat little package, as it’s often not today. She still had a long road ahead of her.

But God was there. He heard her cries. He saw her.

And, hey! GOOD NEWS!

His eyes still work today.

Sometimes he sends an angel to comfort, sometimes he sends a text from a friend.

Sometimes he shows up through a child stopping and saying, “I lub you, mama.”

Sometimes he loves us through a spouse that comes home in the middle of the day to give us a break.

Our goal as moms isn’t to receive applauds. And we need to quit measuring our success by how Instagram-worthy our lives are. Or how many times our husbands notice all of our hard work without our pointing it out first. That’s called “entitlement” and that not only gets us nowhere, it is toxic to our homes.

Our goal isn’t to receive accolades.

But.

We are also not invisible.

We are seen by the same God who formed the universe and who knit our children together. The one who created the heavens and who knew our middle child would love avocados.

He sees us where we are, as we are.

Whether you are a mom in the sticky chaos of Tiny Human Land, a mom wading through the trenches of teenage hormones, an empty nester encouraging your bone-weary daughters and loving on your grandkids, or a future mama reading this and planning ahead about how high to put eggs in a refrigerator, you are doing a good work.

We are doing a good work.

El Roi is the God who sees.

He sees you, mama. He sees me.

Not just on Mother’s Day, every day.

May we see the One who sees us.

When Magnificence Redeems Minutia

At an ENT appointment last week, the audiologist looked at my oldest son and said – with her actual words, to his actual face – “You are the reason I didn’t have more kids. I did NOT want another boy. This – *motions to him and his 2 brothers* – is my worst nightmare.”

To which I wanted to reply, “Then you should definitely either watch Saw or read some news headlines. I guarantee there are far scarier things out there than 3 wonderful, kind, adventurous boys.”

This is a thing for us. It happens a lot. Nearly every time we go in public, actually.

People really feel the need to opine on the misery of our family of boys, nary a baby girl in sight. How stupid is that? Honestly. Get a grip, people. There is absolutely nothing about my beautiful family that requires sympathy.

My heart can only take so much of that, man. It breaks every time. Not just for my boys, but for theirs.

What a sad perspective for them; what a discouraging encounter for us.

Redeeming Memories

Over Easter, I spent a lot of time reading and re-reading the gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection. There is so much to explore and absorb and celebrate and learn, but I kept coming back to Peter’s view of the resurrection.

Because shortly before Jesus rose from the dead for the happy ending the world was waiting for, Peter had given up hope. In Jesus’ darkest hour, Peter stood around a crackling fire and chose to abandon the very man he’d devoted his life to. He denied any knowledge of Jesus, any affiliation with his acclaimed savior. Three times he answered, “I don’t know who that man is or what you’re talking about”. (Jn 18)

When the rooster crowed, as Jesus had predicted, Peter realized the weight of what he’d done.

Can you imagine being Peter in this moment? The shame? The gut-wrenching agony of that decision? The memories playing over and over in his mind? His warming himself by the fire, smelling the burning coals. His answering the first question, then the second, then the third.

Peter chose to turn his back and – as far as he knew – he’d never get a chance to make it right. Jesus was dead and gone.

Fast forward to the empty tomb.

Jesus’ resurrection has countless layers to it. He was resurrected for creation, to redeem the earth and make all things new. He was resurrected for all of humanity, to redeem our brokenness and solidify our wildly undeserved seats in heaven.

He was also resurrected to redeem Peter. (And you. And me.)

In John 21, Jesus recreates Peter’s most painful memory. He sees Peter fishing out on the water and as he waits for him to come closer, he builds a fire. A crackling fire with burning coals.

It was around this new fire that Jesus asks Peter 3 times, “Do you truly love me?”

It was around this new fire that Peter gets a redo. As he smells the same smoke and watches the same crackling flames, he gets to answer again. 3 times.

Jesus not only redeems the world and all humanity, he redeems our shame. He redeems our entire lives, but also our single worst moment. Our greatest insecurity down to our smallest discouragement.

He redeemed the smell of a fire for goodness’ sake.

That’s how powerful the gospel story is. It is globally universal, it is also meticulously intimate.

Redeeming Minutia

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t let comments like the audiologist’s bother me. They piss me off, quite frankly. They happen entirely too often.

Part of me wants to take to the internet and write an angry “Dear Strangers Who Say Stupid Stuff in Front of My Children” post. (I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t have such a post in my drafts folder as we speak.)

But if there’s anything the Lord is working on in me, it is controlling my tongue. And learning to take my disappointments to him first instead of a throng of available and supportive Facebook friends.

So I have. I’ve been talking to him about my discouragement a lot.

And do you know what?

God still redeems even the smallest of memories today.

Because this morning, on the heels of the terrible doctor’s experience last week, my fellas had their semi-annual dentist appointments. When the dentist walked in the room – long before she got to the actual consult portion – she looked me in the eyes and said,

“Your boys are so beautiful.”

I started to brush off the compliment with a “Well thank yo–” before she cut me off.

“No, I’m serious,” she said, unwilling to let it rest. “They are incredibly well behaved. You spend a lot of time with them, don’t you? I can tell. You’re doing an incredible job. What a beautiful family you have.”

I’ve never made out with a dentist (or a 60 year old woman, for that matter) but I strongly considered it in that moment.

It took 5 seconds for her to encourage. That encouragement will stay with me for 5 years.

God totally knew. He knew I needed that.

He can redeem our worst choices and our most painful memories.

He can also redeem a doctor’s office visit.

Our daily lives are where his magnificence intersects with his intimacy. I think if we spent more time turning to him instead of the closest supportive ear, he’d have more chances to show us.

(Also, he specifically told me to tell everyone to chill the heck out and focus on being a Refresher instead of a Drainer.)

((…………………..ok, fine. He didn’t. But we should anyway.))

Dear Tooth Fairy, I Want a Refund

If I’m blogging chronologically, I should start with the Top 10 Reasons You Should Never Let Your Kids Have Snow Cones Right Before A One Hour Night Of Worship At Church, because that was a thing last night. Suffice it to say, little boys hyped up on sugar and Red Dye #40 worship very differently than their fellow churchgoers.

Worship the Lord with karate kicks, come before him with audible toots.

Anyway.

In other news,

Beckett got his first ever loose tooth.

This has become The Biggest Deal in the history of deals in our home.

Being the first time loose tooth parents that we are, we tried to pull it exactly 8 hours after its wobbliness was first discovered.

That was 3 weeks ago.

It finally came out last night.

……..3 entire weeks. That’s how long it took for the tooth to be ready, in case you needed some context for how premature and ineffective our earliest tying-the-tooth-to-a-nerf-bullet-with-dental-floss attempts were.

3 weeks is also how long this tooth thing has affected our daily lives. The rules of our home have changed to accommodate his journey.

During The Biggest Deal Ever, we were instructed to:

  • not look directly at the tooth.
  • only serve soft foods so as not to irritate the tooth.
  • overreact upon the sight of apples. (such an offensive fruit for someone in a state of dental vulnerability.)
  • inform everyone of importance (grandparents, teachers, classmates, friends, neighbors, Trader Joe’s cashiers, Pastor Rick, and mailmen) of the impending loss.

But now, thankfully, we are on the other side. The tooth has officially been lost.

We. made. it.

Let me state that during this time, we have also been informed of just how generous the Tooth Fairy is these days.

Beckett: “Seth got 3 LEGO sets and Graham got $20 and Ethan got a Rolex and Christian got to meet the Preside—“

Taylor: “I used to get a quarter.”

Me: “Daddy’s Tooth Fairy apparently hasn’t heard of inflation….but, still. He brings up a good point. (Also, thanks a lot, Seth.)”

The point is: this tooth has been a thing. For weeks.

Losing a tooth is a right of passage in KidLand. Comparable only to getting a driver’s license or graduating with a medical degree in neurosurgery.

So imagine Beckett’s excitement to go to bed last night, tooth tucked safely under his pillow in a Star Wars themed ziplock.

And then imagine his excitement (!!)

when he awoke this morning (!!!)

to find (!!!!!)

in place of his first ever lost tooth (!!!!!!)

……………………………………

……..are you ready for this??……….

nothing!

He found nothing.

Not. a. thing.

Due to an unforeseen bout of narcolepsy last night during an episode of Heartland on Netflix, this:

We forgot. Completely, totally forgot.

Slept our way through this monumental event in our firstborn’s life.

This is world’s okayest parenting at it’s finest.

But. Part of being a good parent is pivoting. Parenting is, like, 87% reactive, so good parents are good pivoters.

Which is why I pivoted by writing a note, sticking a dollar in it, shoving it really far into his pillow, and saying,

“There was nothing there?! Hmm. Are you sure? Sometimes the Tooth Fairy hides things super well. You should probably go check again.”

To which he replied, “Really?!?!” and then, before actually reading the paper – and still maintaining sky high expectations of the fairy’s generosity – held up the note and said,

“What does it say??? Maybe it’s a treasure map!!!!!”

The thing about kids is – they find magic in everything. We’re the ones that underestimate their imagination.

So it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that – even though our fairy’s budget didn’t include 7 LEGO Technic sets or a billion dollar trust fund or a treasure map,

1 single, delayed dollar bill from the Tooth Fairy

+ 7 additional dollars in a combination safe

+ 1 pair of Walmart alligator houseshoes

+ 1 trip to the boutique toy store Krô-gér

= 1 toothlessly ecstatic kid.

TELL ME YOU DON’T WANT TO KIDNAP HIM.

He is the absolute best.

Couple closing thoughts if you, too, are rusty on the rules of losing teeth:

1. Seeing the tiny little skull bone in your great big adult hand may cause spontaneous eye moisture.

2. The Tooth Fairy is supposed to replace the tooth with a surprise. I forgot this part, so now the Star Wars ziplock containing the tooth is taped to his wall.

*gag*

This bag is to be removed when – and only when – we are looking for a way to instantly ruin his childhood.

Parenting, man.

No one said it was easy but it sure is awesome.

We love this little snaggletooth so much more than our tooth fairyness skills demonstrate.

 

Finding (or, rather, “Protecting”) Joy in the Little Years

This week, I get to spend time with moms of preschoolers speaking on the topic “Finding Joy in the Little Years”.

As I was preparing for the lesson, I remembered the time a while back when I had to break up with a Facebook group.

It was a group full of moms swapping parenting stories, pictures, and experiences.

When the group first started, it started out awesome – great stories of epic mom fails. Of kids being hilariously kid-like.

Over time, however, it morphed into a place to air grievances. A place to wallow on the unfairness of it all.

“Being a _______ (stay-at-home/working) mom is SO much harder than being a _______ (stay-at-home/working) mom.”

“My husband didn’t do the dishes when he came home from work. Doesn’t he know how much I have to do all day and he can’t do one load of dishes?!?”

“I deserve a vacation/back rub/spa day for completing one day – unassisted, I might add – with my children.”

I made my breakup official when the complaint posts started outweighing the encouraging ones. When the memes morphed from solidarity in motherhood to the “my kids are driving me to develop a drinking problem” variety.

Memes like this:

and this:

and this.

I love a good joke – especially a good meme. I even love an Old Vine Zinfandel.

What I don’t love are

a) jokes that even hint that my kids – my source of greatest pride – have ruined my life

and

b) the seeds of entitlement that get planted in my brain with those lines of thought.

She’s right. My job as a mom is infinitely harder than anyone else’s because _____ (x, y, z).

Preach, girl. My husband doesn’t help around the house as much as he should, either. I can’t believe he doesn’t appreciate me as much as I deserve.

When is someone going to notice and applaud just how much of my life I sacrifice to raise 3 miniature people every day?

Woe. is. me.

This is dangerous.

When we start viewing life through the filter of underappreciation, we buy into the lie that parenting isn’t possible without unhealthy coping skills; that we deserve things like middle-of-the-day Netflix binge watching because we just “can’t even” anymore. We need to pop the cork on the wine bottle at 3pm because it helps take the edge off. We obsess over the hardships of our lives as moms vs. our husbands’ lives as business professionals – professionals who attend “client meetings” that look a whole lot like “eating delicious food in an air-conditioned suite at a professional sporting event”…

Through these thoughts, seeds are being planted.

For you and for me.

I’ll even let you pick your seed type: bitterness? Entitlement? Victimhood? Selfishness? Pride?

Whatever the variety, it’s being planted. Our exhausted, overextended mom brains are fertile soil for things to take root.

And if we aren’t careful, these seeds grow into something nasty.

There’s a big difference in bonding over a shared experience and bonding over a shared complaint.

Social media thrives in the latter.

When we forget this…when we let our guard down…when we get sucked into the “woe is me” narrative…our joy gets thrown out faster than nice things in a house full of tiny humans. We grow bitter and ohsovery underappreciated.

Sometimes we don’t even realize it has happened.

Sometimes we get about 8 miles down the path of discontentment before we look around and realize that, somewhere along the way, all of our joy has been choked out.

Sometimes we even laugh our way down this path because those posts/memes/stories/plot lines are just so funny.

The thing about humor is that it’s sneaky.

If you wrap a story about your husband being an idiot up in a joke, it slides into my brain and takes roots easier. More subtly.

The funnier you tell a story, the more I enjoy it; the more I enjoy it, the blurrier the lines between laughing AT your kids and laughing WITH your kids get.

Humor can be a sneaky avenue for toxic seeds to be planted. Not always, but more often than we realize.

We don’t have to look very hard to find joy in the little years (or any years, really); we have to work hard to protect it.

And evaluating the thoughts we allow in is a good start.

What story is your Facebook feed telling you? Is it encouraging you, or reminding you of just how hard being a mom/wife/coworker/human is?

What are your favorite Instagram accounts saying? Do they point to truth and authenticity, or to perfectly filtered, unattainable lifestyles?

What are the conversations at your play groups/work/girls’nights like? Do you walk away more appreciative of your spouse than when you walked in? Or did you swap enough negative stories to walk out with something new to be bitter about?

If your kids read your texts about them, would they feel loved? Or would they feel the need to apologize for inconveniencing you and cramping your independence?

I am all about some good “fail” stories. I’m all about hearing stories of unnamed children doing horribly embarrassing things in public places. I’m all about laughing with my husband about the time he asked, “Why do babies need burp cloths? Aren’t burps just air?”

Let’s laugh about that, absolutely. That’s what life is about – finding joy in the messiness and absurdity of living on planet earth.

What I’m not all about, however, is letting those connections morph from shared experiences to shared complaints.

Or allowing the weariness of navigating parenthood to turn into victimhood and bitterness.

Or giving entitlement room to grow and choke out my joy.

Being a mom of tiny humans doesn’t make me some sort of sacrificial martyr. I have the honor of loving and raising 3 of the greatest masterpieces ever created.

There is so much joy in the little years that it is physically painful for my camera roll.

There is so much joy in life.

So, yeah.

I reject this “woe is me” line of jokes you’ve got going, pop culture. You aren’t going to rob me of the joy I find in the messy, exhausting, ridiculous, awesome hard work we’re putting into building this little family.

What a beautiful life I’ve been given. As far as it is up to me, my kids and my husband will never doubt my gratitude for that.

About Those Influencers…

I didn’t date a lot in high school.

I had a bazillion guy friends, little to no boyfriends.

Maybe it was because I was a commitment-phobe.

Maybe it was because I was wiser than my 15 years and knew I should spend my time making friends and having fun instead.

Maybe it was because no one swept me off my feet.

….or maybe it was because I spent 90% of my time looking something like this:

That could have certainly been a factor.

I didn’t take myself very seriously back then.

I wore costumes year-round, I found t-shirts and jeans to be the best use of my clothing budget, and I spent too much time exploring abandoned houses and swimming in public fountains to be concerned about creating “the perfect image”. (Hence the dead broom on my head in the picture above.)

Fast forward to 2017. Fast forward to the age of Snapchat.

Things have changed a bit, huh?

Teenagers today not only feel pressure to create the perfect image – to create the most viral persona – they have quantifiable evidence of how they’re doing along the way.

Comments, likes, views, retweets.

It’s calculated and explicit.

When I was in high school, unless I could spare the extra $5 to buy a Seventeen magazine in the checkout line, I wasn’t explicitly bombarded with the cultural expectations of a 15 year old girl. Of how I should look, dress, and act. Of how I should get a boy to notice me, of how I could appear more attractive.

I mean…I knew in a round-about way, based on interactions in the halls at school and on movies and tv and magazines, but I didn’t know specifically. (And I certainly wasn’t given feedback on it.)

I didn’t worry much about my overall life image, I worried about individual encounters. I thought about my image on a temporary, personal scale. I considered its effects interaction by interaction.

Did I wear the right shirt to school today? I hope this one kid in my one science class doesn’t make fun of it.

Did I say the wrong thing to my teacher? I hope the 3 people who heard it don’t think poorly of me.

Did she just give my crush the note I wrote about him? I hope he doesn’t make fun of it on the football field.

If I bombed, it was somewhat containable and – afterwards – I got to go home, regroup, and start again the next day.

But now? On social media?

It’s public and widespread.

It’s quantifiable.

It never ends.

And it’s affecting the way our girls view both reality and themselves. (It affects everyone, really, but let’s stick with girls for the sake of this post.)

They’re no longer just “social networking”, they’re crafting a personal brand.

They are promoters of themselves, equipped with online tools and wide audiences:

“Let’s grow your audience”

Suddenly everyone is a marketer and the product is…himself. herself.

Post by post – with each newsfeed scroll – they’re being fed a narrative. They’re being given a set of expectations for how they should look and act and relate to others.

No longer do they seek it out on the front page at the checkout stand, it’s being hand delivered (and custom-advertised) to them.

And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our culture has really crappy standards.

So as a result, our kids shifting.

They’re moving from relationships to fan accumulation, from innocence to seduction.

The shift

A few years ago, I came across the live-tweeting of a middle school girls’ beach trip. As I scrolled through the pictures, I was astounded at how these still-prepubescent 7th grade girls had seemingly been replaced by young adult women in string bikinis.

Before you get all “DON’T TELL ME WHAT I CAN AND CAN’T WEAR”, it wasn’t the amount of Lycra on their bodies (or lack thereof), it was the image as a whole that shocked me: the stance, the pursed lips, the magnified cleavage. They all had an identical, obviously-learned stance, and it was crazy seductive.

It instantly aged them – physically and sexually. From 12 to 18 with one pose.

When I was their age, I wouldn’t have known sexiness if it hit me in the face (remarked the girl in the tantalizing straw hat).

But today? It’s no wonder they’re sexier than ever before – they follow accounts depicting it. They’re coached by internet celebs on how to achieve it. They learn about healthy relationships from the Kardashians.

Per their newsfeed, they honestly think life looks like this:

{{pay attention to both the account names and captions}}

and are disappointed when it doesn’t. When they don’t. When her body doesn’t. When he doesn’t.

We hear so much about porn (and as a mom of boys, the thought of what’s ahead in parenting them makes my hands clammy), but not a whole lot about the influencer portion of social media with our girls.

A world where they are sold aesthetically-based, looks-driven lifestyles.

A life in which physical appearance becomes the goal – for her, her wardrobe, her makeup, her future spouse, her future “micro fashion” kids.

A life in which her personal brand is filtered and perfect.

And, yikes.

I fear we’re parenting physically and forgetting to catch up digitally.

We pay attention to who she hangs out with after school, but not where she spends her time online.

We know who her friends are, but no idea who the social media influencers and vloggers telling her how to be a teenager are.

We don’t let her watch inappropriate movies in the living room, but admittedly know little about the YouTube channels she’s subscribed to or what Netflix shows she’s binge-watching. (Like when a 6th grade friend of mine confessed she wasn’t allowed to watch Modern Family with her parents but was on season 6 of Grey’s Anatomy, thanks to some late night, unmonitored Netflixage. And obviously Seattle Grace Hospital is the best place to learn about healthy relationships and sexuality…..said no one ever.)

The truth is, each family is different. Each home has different rules. It really doesn’t matter what your specific rules are.

What matters is that you are consistent in both worlds – that you monitor the digital world to the extent you monitor the physical.

Don’t just check the friends she follows online, pay attention the influencers. Who is she following? Who does she retweet? Which accounts does she tag? What giveaways does she enter?

Check the internet celebrities. The YouTube stars. The Instagram fashionistas. The Twitter personas. The brand-sponsored Snapchat stories.

These are the people telling her how to be a teenager; the accounts helping shape her opinions and decisions.

They are to her what magazine subscriptions were to you. We have to know who she’s subscribing to and what messages they are planting in her heart.

I want nothing more than for our girls to be the confident, beautiful, valued masterpieces they were created to be.

Let’s not let something stupid like a filtered Instagram celebrity be her only defining measurement.

 


 

And, hey. If – by some miracle – you’re a teenage girl who’s made it all the way to the bottom of this post, CONGRATS! (Your mom made you read this, didn’t she?)

But since I have you, here’s a word to you:

If you find yourself trying to measure up to what you see online…or if you are sad every time you open up Instagram and see that perfect chick…or if you can’t find the boyfriend the all the “goals” accounts describe…or if you can’t keep up with all the new tweets from *thatoneaccounteveryoneloves* and you’re driving yourself crazy trying…

Unfollow. that. crap.

Fix your newsfeed, girl. Save yourself some sanity.

You’re stronger and better and prettier than you can even imagine. Find people and accounts who remind you of that.

ABC Bible Verses

Several years ago when my firstborn was 18 months old, I sat across from a mentor and asked her how to teach him about Jesus.

“Do we sit down every Tuesday for family devotions? Play sermon tapes at nap time? Lay my hands on him and pray over his diaper changes? Anoint his head with oils? Leave it up to the professional at Bible class?”

It seemed so daunting to me.

I didn’t know how. I didn’t have the answers. I’m not great with small children.

Looking back, it makes me laugh. He was so little. And I placed astronomical expectations on myself.

It’s taken me a few years to realize how much we try to over-complicate this.

Faith-filled parenting is not about a formula to success or about my kid knowing every book of the Bible by his second birthday; it is about speaking truth and teaching about Jesus throughout every day life.

Did you know that God isn’t frazzled by chaos? It’s true. He’s right there in the middle of it. Right there in the peanut-butter-coated house you and your tiny humans inhabit.

And any amount of time you devote teaching your children about Him will be blessed. It will never ever be wasted.

Don’t let intimidation deter you – just do it!

Here are some Tiny Human Faith Endeavors we’ve undertaken recently. I share them not because we’re awesome, but because we’re very not. (Which is why we need to arm our kids with God’s words instead of our own.)

Resources help me.

I hope these help you!

ABC Scriptures

A few years ago, the boys and I did a Year of Fruits. Each month, we focused on a different Fruit of the Spirit. It was very unplanned with very low expectations. It was shockingly simple, yet profoundly sweet.

This past year, I upped the ante a little bit with my oldest. At the beginning of the school year, we started ABC Bible Verses. 

Instead of memorizing one Bible verse per month, we memorized one per week – each verse starting with a different letter of the alphabet.

If this seems crazy, let’s refer to the fact that my boys can watch How to Train Your Dragon exactly 1 time, and spend the following week reciting every dragon species within the movie. If we can spend time filling our memory banks with names like Deadly Nadder and Hideous Zippleback, we can spend time filling it with truth from the Bible.

And, wow. I am blown away by just how much these guys have learned. (My 5 year old, specifically and especially.)

Because today?!

Today we finished.

26 Bible verses in 26 weeks.

And, like, the amount of pride I feel towards that child is inexplicable.

Here’s what we did:

Each week, we’d write the new verse on the chalkboard in the playroom.

And at the end of the week, we’d make a video after we’d memorized it.

Some videos were perfect, some included one brother helping the other say his verse, some included forced flatulence and hysterical laughter. (Kids, man.)

I typed up the verses we used…feel free to print and use in your own home!

(or download the PDF here.)

Honestly, we didn’t have, like, an Official Bible Memorization Hour. It was incredible how quickly he picked these up. (hello, underestimation of tiny human brains)

I recited the week’s verse when I remembered, we worked on it kinda sorta on the way to preschool, and – BAM. Memorized.

Kids are crazy spongey.

This is an endeavor I’d highly recommend.

Stay tuned for a review of our ULTRA CELEBRATION tomorrow night. We’re going to celebrate the heck out of this kid and his hard work.

3 final sidebars:

  1. I told Beck if he did it, I would, too. Here’s that video: https://youtu.be/2czRAQ2hpp0
  2. It’s incredible how much our 2-3 year old picked up just by overhearing his brother. He knows at least one word from every verse. They’re listening and learning, man. Always.
  3. If you’ve seen that un-be-lievably cute kid who did the same thing and ended up on the Steve Harvey show, do not watch the video above. It’ll be highly underwhelming. That kid was, like, a prodigy or something.

Hiding His word in their hearts. You can never go wrong.

Another One Bites the Dust

“HOW DO THESE THINGS ACTUALLY HAPPEN TO YOU?! 

I’m being totally serious–you are a completely engaged, capable, attentive mom–and yet?!?”

– my friend Aimee. Also, probably my husband.

There’s a list of about 5 establishments our family should never enter again. Due to unforeseen bathroom emergencies, we should never again step foot inside the Kroger pharmacy, Panera Bread, King Wok II, Rosa’s Tortilla Factory, or Braum’s.

It’d been a while since we’ve disgraced ourselves publicly with a banishable offense, so we were probably due.

And so it was that yesterday, sitting across the table at Chick-fil-A from a sweet friend, engaged in a serious discussion, I saw my son standing ramrod straight in the middle of the restaurant. Frozen like a statue halfway between our table and the play area.

He was, maybe, 10 feet away, so I yelled his name and called him over to our table.

me: Hey. What’s going on? Come over here.
him:
me: Buddy, come over here.
him:
me: Comeoverhere.

No response.

His posture was weird and he had this, like, shocked expression on his face.

It wasn’t until a few seconds in that I noticed something on the ground by his foot.

Something big enough to be seen from our table.

Something important enough he didn’t want to venture away from it.

Sand from the park? No, we didn’t play in sand.

A pile of hashbrowns? No, we weren’t eating breakfast.

Chocolate ice cream? No, we didn’t get ice cream.

It was then I realized.

Mmmm, yes.

The “something” was poop.

On the ground, in the middle of the Chick-fil-A dining area, 6 inches away from a 60 year old couple enjoying lunch, 10 feet away from me – A. HUMONGOUS. PILE. OF. POOP.

Not, like, a little bit. A lot a bit.

Have you ever made eye contact with complete strangers at a restaurant while grabbing fistfuls of human feces from the ground adjacent to their table?

Ever grabbed a wad of napkins to casually dispose of excrement before the smell affected their appetite?

It’s not an experience I’d recommend.

Like, how do you even close that conversation out? Nobody prepares you for these parenting moments.

I went with, “…aaanyway, sorry again. Enjoy your lunch!”

(It didn’t feel great. Hindsight’s 20/20 I guess.)

After taking care of the obvious offense, I carted my son to the bathroom to get cleaned up.

It was there I encountered yet another conversation I was unprepared for.

How do you make small talk with a lady washing her hands at the same time you are washing behind a naked kid’s kneecaps?

The answer is you don’t, really. You just let it go and pray her eyes can unsee that moment.

(And, to be fair, he wasn’t completely naked. He was wearing a shirt. And one sock.)

After cleaning him up the best I could, I realized I had nothing to put back on him. Not underwear, not a Pull-Up, not pants, not a loincloth. Nada.

The only thing worse than pooping IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DINING AREA would probably be toting my naked kid around, so I did what any reasonable person would do – yelled for my friend.

“THERE HAS BEEN A SITUATION. I NEED BACK UP.”

She provided a Pull-Up, I got my toddler (whom I’d completely abandoned back at the table), and we got outa dodge.

But not before I confessed our transgressions to an employee.

I felt terrible, but I also felt like Lysol bombing the floor couldn’t hurt.

“Excuse me, ma’am? I’m not really sure how to say this, but, uh, I thought my kid was potty trained and….I mean, he is mostly….but not today I guess – ha! – because, you see, he pooped on your floor.

….well, technically he didn’t poop ON your floor, more like the poop fell OUT onto your floor. From the leg of his shorts. Well, and his boxer briefs. I guess this is why you shouldn’t buy tiny boxer briefs. Cute as they are, they don’t hold stuff in, should there be an accident…knowwhatImean? Hah..ha..h…”

She did not know what I meant.

She also was highly upset by the situation.

There was no, “Oh my goodness, it would be my pleasure to help during this humiliating time.”

or

“Poor guy! Please have a year’s worth of free chicken sandwiches because I can tell you guys feel bad, and I’m incredibly gracious and forgiving. Plus, I know that – over the course of the past 5 years – your purchases here have singlehandedly paid my salary.”

Nope.

She was straight up mad.

She got all ‘tudey and, “Well – *exaggerated huff of disgust* – are you going to show me where this happened so I can sanitize this eating establishment?”

To which I replied, “You know, ma’am, maybe next time I’ll have him aim better. Like onto the ground right outside your car door. (Or something. Just thinking out loud here.) Yes. Right over this way.”

I know she was actually mad not just because she was fairly unkind in her response to me, but because one of my teen friends was working the drive-thru during this whole debacle. If there were any doubt, Ms. Shame-Heaper made her disgust quite well-known to the other employees after we left.

“You know your little friend? Her kid pooped on the floor.”

– her actual words

It’s unfortunate that we can never go back there again.

…but it’s super fortunate that we have about 91 other Chick-fil-As within equal distance to choose from.

So, yeah.

If you feel like you’re bombing as a human…if you’re feeling down about your parenting skills….just consider the time this girl and her entourage dropped a turd next to a lunch date.

We will overcome. And so will you.