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A Trip To Paris At Home

trip

Alright. I’m not gonna lie to you.  When we got the call yesterday morning at 6:30, I groaned. I did.  I’m pretty sure I whined shamelessly.  It went a little something like this: “Seriously?! Again?! AH! That is the fourth time in seven days. You’ve got to be kidding me!’

Yeeeeeeeeep.  Here in the snowman capital of the world we had ANOTHER snow day. Sheesh!  With subzero temperatures verging on fifteen below, I guess I can see why they thought it necessary to cancel again. But, really, could they have asked me first? I have orders I am behind on, not to mention dishes, housework and Downton Abbey!

Alas, though, I gave in and accepted that all of that would have to wait. Again.

A very sweet friend sent me some tea in the mail and I caught a glimpse of it sitting on the side table while aforementioned tantrum was transpiring. It was so charmingly called “Breakfast in Paris” tea. Ah! Breakfast in Paris, I thought to my little ol’ self. If only……

The best part of being a parent, in my opinion, is that I really don’t have to act like an adult all the time and I have a great excuse for it: I’m just being a good mom!! If I want to take the whole day and pretend that I am strolling the streets of Paris, shopping and visiting the Louvre and sitting in cafes admiring the Eiffel Tower, then by golly I will! You know….for the sake of the kids….

Here is the schedule for our day.  We started by listening to the “French Traditional” station on Pandora to set the mood. Then, I taught the girls the three French words I actually know: Bonjour, Au revoir, and Merci. Of course I used a very obnoxious and completely off accent all day and called the girls Mademoiselles.

We put the kettle on and used our finest china, pretending that we were taking our tea and breakfast in a street café.  We imagined it was sunny and warm and there were birds chirping (or at least I did. The girls kept contradicting me saying, “Nu-uh, Mom. There are no birds. It’s cold!”).

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Then we made crepes using this yummy recipe. I did add a little canned pumpkin for nutritional benefit as well. We filled them with jam and fresh fruit. We sipped tea and talked in accents and dreamed of a warm morning in Paris gazing at the Eiffel Tower.

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After breakfast we took a stroll down a street lined with blooming flowers (or really took a walk up to our second story bathroom) to the “salon” where we had French manicures and did our hair in French braids.

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Then, alas, because the house and messy kitchen sadly won’t clean itself we pretended to be French maids. The kids weren’t really buying it, but we had to stay in theme, right? 😉

Then we went “shopping” at the Le Petit Closet (again, insert me in French accent, “Oh yes! Dis is da finest Fraunch boutique in all of Par-ie.” And the girls groaning, “Mooooom. It’s our closet!!”) We put on our finest duds and put on a fashion show.  I draped a tablecloth over the door as a backdrop. Verrry hip this year on the Paris runway. Then we struck some serious and very chic poses. Do you see the pure diva sass I’m dealing with here, people?!

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Before lunch, we took virtual tours of the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. They both have A-M-A-Z-I-N-G sites with 360degree views. On the Louvre’s site you can click on paintings and statues and such and get a larger view of them and information about them. You can see the museum room by room. I was IN LOVE! Je T’aime, Louvre! They also have a whole wing dedicated to Egyptian history which was a great opportunity to tell the girls about the ancient Egyptians and what they believed and how it differs from what we believe as Christians.  It turned into a little theological/Bible lesson. Bonus.

After all of that, we took a tour of local attractions via our very own, personal tour guide, Pinterest. Do you know there is a trampoline bridge over the Seine?!!! WHAT?!! That alone makes me want to visit the city of love for real!!! Did I say yet that I like to act like a kid sometimes?

 Then for lunch we had veeeeeeeeery authentic French cuisine: French (garbage) fries. Hey! I did crepes, alright?

Then we strolled to what I would like to pretend was an outdoor theater in the park and watched the movie “Madeline” (on Netflix).  It’s a story about a little French girl in Paris who is trying to save the girls’ home where she lives. Cute.

After the “theater” we had pumpkin lattes (DECAF!) with chocolate on a veranda overlooking the Seine river.

Then I about collapsed from exhaustion. Who knew touring Paris could be so tiring?

So I made the girls rest for a few minutes while I prepped for our next item on the venture.  I told them we would paint pictures of the Eiffel Tower (because, honestly, you can’t go to Paris and NOT do something artistic, right?). So I googled a silhouette of the Tower and then traced it onto a piece of watercolor paper. Then I used some handy dandy rubber cement and painted over the silhouette.

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You can also use art masking fluid but it is WAAAAAAAAY expensive and a bottle of rubber cement is only a couple of dollars and change and does the job nicely.  I told the girls to paint all over the paper in any colors they so desired.

While they worked I serenaded them because that’s what they would do in France, right? Artists need mood music to get the creative juices flowing. In this case, “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor because that’s pretty much all I know at this point.

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Then when it was done and all dried and the masterpieces were created, I took an artist’s eraser and rubbed off the rubber cement revealing the tower beneath it and voila (as the French would say).

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We ended the day with French onion soup for dinner (which I would not recommend. I don’t believe it’s really French or a favorite with kids). Lesson learned.

All in all, it was a pretty romantic day….for me at least! A couple of times Ev said, “This is the best day EVER!” So I think they enjoyed it as well.

Disclaimer: I do always like to have a reality check though, for those of you who might think this was all kittens and unicorns and kittens riding on unicorns and are tempted to be discouraged. It wasn’t all sunny. I did plenty of scolding in my French accent, the girls didn’t dig all of my ideas, and at one point I just threw my hands up and really scolded…in clear English….and SUPER loudly. It was fun, but not perfect, even in Paris!

Here is a FREE printable in case you feel inspired to do your own stay-cay vacay to Paris!

Revoir, mes amours!

paristicket

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Identity Theft: Being a Wife and Mom

identitytheft I stood beside my husband trying hard to maintain eye contact with the speaker with two little hands wriggling for freedom in mine. I had given them the speech before we went in: though I understood the temptation, they were not to ask for candy and needed to understand we were not there for them. I was exhausted, overwhelmed and ready to cry but knew it was important that I be there. So as I waited in one of those rooms, filled with mourners and smelling almost nauseatingly of chrysanthemums, we stood in line with others who came to pay their respects to the family of the man from our church who had recently passed away. I had never even actually met him because we haven’t been at our church all that long and for a lot of our time there he has been sick and unable to come. Still, I had spoken with his daughters and wanted them to feel loved and supported. I scanned the room and smiled, but as I saw the people approaching I inwardly groaned, because by now, I was well acquainted with this routine. People walked up to our girls and gushed over how beautiful they were and, “oh my, look at those dimples.” While I tried my very best to concentrate on what people were saying, the girls whined about when we were going to leave. My husband was introduced over and over to family from out of town as the associate pastor and father of these two charming and delightful children. I waited patiently.  Anytime now, surely someone would acknowledge me. But as I stood them, smiling politely, I was no more than a footnote on a page. When I was acknowledged at all, it was to be told what a wonderful husband I had and how blessed I was to be his wife. If introduced at all, I was nameless. Just an accessory, really, on my husband’s arm. I felt as important as the tie he was wearing. “This is his wife and his lovely yellow tie.” His wife. Pastor Sam’s wife and Evie and Nora’s mom. Nameless. Faceless.

The girls began to really get antsy, as little girls do in a funeral parlor filled with nothing to do but to try to wriggle free from their mother’s iron fist grip. After twenty minutes of “your husband is the best thing since cherry pie” and “oh. You are so lucky to have been blessed with such a husband and children. Count your lucky stars the heavens were smiling down on such a person (I’m sorry. What’s your name again? Yes. Yes. That’s right. Sam’s wife)” I gave up and let go of their hands. Before I knew it, they were trying to race each other down the hallway all the while I was trying to keep my attention on the funeral director who was shooting jokes at my husband left and right. I told them they needed to sit, which to them translated into jumping violently on the couch. The elder of the two smirked at me, knowing full well that my blood pressure was rising, which meant her fun was just starting. Through gritted teeth and a plaster smile I told them to sit quietly in chairs within arms reach of me. Once they had done so, the older one began to bounce in the chair, again to try to see if she could crack me. I really think this girl has a future in interrogation some day.  At this point, my head was throbbing, my feet were screaming, and my heart was drumming in my ears. I shot the girls that look that only mothers can give that says something like, “I love you but if you choose to cross me again I will sell you to the circus and make sure they give you a terrible job like cleaning up elephant poop and scraping gum off of bleachers and brushing the lion’s teeth…” A man from our church chose that moment to mosey on over to us and tell my girls how good they were and how sweet and charming and pretty they looked. Again, I was acknowledged only by a conspiratorial smile as if I would readily agree how well behaved they had been. The elder of the two flashed me her dimpled, smug grin that I know translates to her, “I win”. At that point I think my smile must have looked akin to one someone must have when they are sent to an insane asylum because her smile faded quickly. The gentleman from our church must have seen it, too, because he chose that moment, the first time I had been acknowledged as an individual the whole evening to say chidingly as he walked away over his shoulder to,” enjoy the journey. ”

Then I screamed. I did. I yelled that I, too, was trying to be thoughtful and considerate by being there and that it had been by my choice, not obligation. I shrieked that I did, in fact, have a name. When I was born to my two, lovely parents they did not put on the birth certificate “Sam’s wife”. I stomped my feet a little, threw some really poetic insults at the condescending comment, and stormed out of there, wives and moms around the world applauding me, my oldest daughter gawking at me and my husband giving a great speech to everyone about how I was the love of his life and what he, in fact, would be without me

…… In my head. That whole, lovely scene only played out in my head. What actually happened was I smiled again, politely, not really dignifying the comment with a response, then grabbed the girls by their hands, ushered them outside, put them in the van and lamented to my husband about how I have lost all identity as a mom and wife, how no one seemed to even see or acknowledge that I was even there, other than to scold me for not ” enjoying the journey “. I may as well have a name tag that says ” Hi. My name is wife and mom. ”

This idea of identity theft is sort of a recurring theme in my tales of woe, actually. Just yesterday I was crying to him about it again. I have people tell me all the time how incredible my husband is and how lucky I am to have him. Though I usually respond with a very sincere and hearty word of concurrence, it can also be discouraging, because though he has earned every single word of praise, I can’t even be introduced by my name if I’m introduced at all. When I begin my lamenting it usually sounds a little something like this: I feel like a job. I am the packer of lunches, the finder of socks, the kisser of boo boos, the maker of meals, the comforter, the cheerleader, the team mascot, the folder of laundry, the discipliner, the cleaner….. You get the idea. I’m rarely even called by my name. I’m, “Moooooooooooooom!!!!” most of the time. There are so many days when I sit back and wonder how it came to this. How did I lose all sense of who I am as a person and become a job? When did I become so faceless and nameless? When did I become nothing more than arm candy for my husband and a convenience to my children? If I’m honest, some days I can be downright resentful of my family, because, in the spirit of being totally candid, so much time spent being a mom you are undervalued. You are taken for granted and abused. In fact, there can be an attitude that you should be cleaning up after them, cooking for them, and taking them where they need to go. And my husband, who truly is this amazing man and great spouse, can’t meet all of my needs all the time and can get wrapped up in work or coaching soccer, because, despite popular belief, he really is only human and the poor guy can only do so much. So he can’t always see that I am drowning sometimes in loneliness and frustration. I heard once that when people were polled, what they wanted most was to be appreciated. I also read this somewhere: you know you don’t appreciate someone when you think it’s their job to do anything for you.

A pet peeve of mine is to go to a restaurant and see people treat the service there like their own personal slaves. My mom used to be a waitress and I only know a fraction of how hard that really was on her to be on her feet all night, dashing to fill orders, to be hit on by drunken men, to have people yell at her because their steak wasn’t prepared to their liking though it was no fault of her own, to work for crummy tips, all with a smile plastered on her face. But I have been out with friends and witnessed some of them treat our servers in this way, making snarky comments, ignoring them when they check on our table, and not offering any word of gratitude and say something like, “They’re getting paid for it.” As if passing them a lousy tip gives you the right to treat them any way you want.

OK. I digressed a bit. But here is my point: Just because someone has a job it doesn’t give anyone the right to treat them as less than human. As a means to an end. A job. Hence my point. As a wife and especially as a mom it so often feels like I have lost all sense of self and feel underappreciated. My children, as I did to my own parents, don’t get how much I sacrifice for them on a daily basis, and honestly, I don’t expect them to until they have kids of their own.

As I have been sitting here writing, I wanted to tie this up with a nice little bow; a word of encouragement and enlightenment to those who are struggling like me, most days just trying to keep my head above water and sanity in tact. So here it is, my incredible words of wisdom: you’re not alone. When I talk to my friends, most of ’em feel the exact same way. Being a mom is tough. Sometimes being a wife, even if you’re married to a really great guy like I am, can be really tough, because all of a sudden you wake up one day and realize that you have lost so much of who you used to be. I think I used to be fun (I think??). I used to be spontaneous and go out swing dancing. I used to hang out with my friends on weekends and NOT talk about kids. I used to be the interesting girl across the room that you wanted to get to know better. I used to have a name.

My mom recently handed me a folder full of all these papers, mementos of things I created as I grew up: report cards, pictures, essays. I came across one essay I had written as an introductory paper for a creative writing class. It was titled “Mirror of my Life.” As I read it,I was reminded of the girl who wrote it. She talked about her dreams and ambitions, her frivolous activities. She talked about making up skits when she was all alone, talking in different accents and dreaming of a life on stage, perhaps.  She talked about her fears and hopes and the world that was wide open before her. At seventeen, anything seemed possible. As I read those words, I missed that girl.  I missed the girl who was carefree and laid back, who spent her free time writing poetry and daydreaming and reading books.  Then as I read further, I caught a truer glimpse of her, reading between the lines: a girl who dreamed of being married and having kids.  She was a girl who prayed for and laid awake at night dreaming of and writing letters to the husband she couldn’t wait to meet.  She was a girl who was at times lonely with the ambition to have her own family someday, lonely in the waiting. Then I was reminded of the girl who just a few years later married a man beyond her dreams when she was so young, but who cried herself to sleep so many nights and sat in lonely corners during the day aching to hold a baby of her own. For years, she sat and prayed and waited, empty in heart and womb. Then I am reminded of the person I am now, living out those very dreams written down on the paper in my hands. After that, I come to pity the girl on the paper because though she may have had much less responsibility, she had much less to be thankful for.

So here it is: my secret to sanity when I feel like I’m fading into absolute oblivion, because, as with all things in life, it usually comes down to perspective. I will take a few thoughtless comments from people who can’t see what I do, though I know I do them. I will take not being introduced properly to so-and-so’s second cousin twice removed who I will never see or remember again in my life.  I will take the forgetfulness, being taken for granted, and yes-being walked on at times, because even on the most exhausting of days I wouldn’t trade this life or what this girl has for anything in the world.

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DIY Owl Tote

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Last year, I made this advent calendar counting down until Christmas. Always one to cram extra projects into an already exhaustingly busy month, on day nine I had written, “Make a Christmas present for your teacher.” Blah.

I have a few friends who are teachers and I know they often receive the same gifts. So, I wracked my tired brain for an idea that might be somewhat original, cheap, and also something the girls could make, preferably having to do with owls since their teacher has a fondness for them.

I came up with nothing. HOWEVER, while I was browsing the aisles of Walmart in search of other last minute craft supplies, I stumbled across canvas totes, all under $3. Score. I snatched one up and scurried home, giddy with anticipation and self-congratulations of being so thrifty and clever.

This bag took less than an hour, and if we’re being honest here, it could have taken half that time had I not enlisted the girls to help me out with this. Ah! I love them. They are precious, but heaven help me! Let me get this out of the way because if you read any of my posts you know I like to keep it real, lest you think this was some Hallmark, Kodak moment so when you try this out with your kids you are cursing me and my family for generations to come because I made it seem like this project was sunshine and kittens and lollipops. Sugar and spice and everything nice it was not.

First, I had the girls help me cut out pieces for the wings (I don’t have a pattern, but it was pretty easy to freehand them) and was trying to make sure we all had ten digits on each hand by the time it was all said and done because Ev couldn’t keep her eyes on what she was doing and the dogs were wrestling and bumping into us. I asked Nora to keep an eye on the pieces to give her a “special job” while I was trying to sew pieces on. She lost them. Twice. Poor girl tries so hard, but is slightly absentminded like her Mama. Then I had the girls take turns helping me by pressing down the pedal while I guided the bag through the machine. StrEEEEEEssful!! The dogs kept looping around my legs and under the table, digging in my garbage and stepping on the pedal. Again, fingers were counted after that fiasco. I discovered also, much to my great annoyance, that I had to rip out one side of the bag so I could fit it into my machine, then I stitched it back up when all was said and done.

So, that out of the way, I will tell you how we pulled this together. Let’s start with the supply list, shall we??

-canvas tote

-scrap fabrics for eyes and wings

-large buttons for eyes

-sharpie paint marker

-fabric markers

-glue gun

-sewing machine

We started out by making a wing pattern out of paper and making two, cutting them out along a fold so you have two mirror images. Then I traced something round for the eyes and drew large circles in the middle of large buttons (also found in the craft section at Walmart). I pinned the fabric pieces to the bag (after opening up one side so, as aforementioned it fit better through my machine) and went to work sewing the pieces on. I chose to do a straight stitch because I like the raw edge look, but you might prefer an applique stitch. Once the fabric pieces were on, I stitched the open side back up and hot glued the button eyes on. Once all of that was done, the girls wrote on the back of the tote. Pretty easy peasey, my friends. I think they turned out cute, don’t you? Oh. Yeah. The bag is pretty cute, too. 😉

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You’re in Danger of Becoming You’re Mother (and that ain’t bad)

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I tripped over the dog for the hundredth time as my youngest daughter, ever curious, asking me when dinner was, what we were having and making her opinion on the subject no secret.  She stomped a foot.  She grunted. She whined.  She did NOT want chili for dinner.  She wanted macaroni and cheese.

In our home we have a strict, “I’m-not-running-a-restaurant” rule.  If you don’t like it, then you go hungry.  I don’t know if this rule has ever really been enforced because my kids would rather swallow raw asparagus than miss a meal.  I had a headache, so noise, especially loud, high-pitched noises explode inside my head.  I have told the girls many times that it feels like someone is taking a frying pan to the back of my head each time someone is loud. Depending on the day, even normal talking can make my head feel like someone is drilling it with a jackhammer to it.  This was one of those days.  As I tripped over the dog again in my attempt to retrieve something from the refrigerator, it happened. I did what every mom vows never to do. I yelled, but worse than that, I yelled a little something like this, “You’re driving me crazy! You can eat what everyone else is eating! If you don’t like it, you don’t eat! I have listened to you complain all day…..” and it only went downhill from there.

We’ve all heard it. We’ve all said it.  We’ve all sworn that we won’t do things like our parents do them. When we have kids, we make a solemn oath that we won’t follow in their steps or make the same mistakes they did.

Ah, children are so naïve, aren’t they?

And then it happens.  It creeps up on you.  It sneaks into your home like a nasty little varmint that you keep trying to get rid of, but it keeps coming back. You try to stop it, but it keeps coming anyway.  It finds a way in. You think you can be that one person to not experience it.  You read books on how to prevent it or how to protect against it.  You try to safeguard your home, your husband, your children, yourself but it can’t be helped! Just when you think you are safe is the time you are most vulnerable to it.  Out of nowhere it comes: you say something that sounds just like your mother!

Dun…dun…dunnnnn (that was my best impression of dramatic music).

Yeah. I do it. I’m not gonna lie to ya’ll and say that I never yell (ha!). I won’t try to tell you that I don’t lecture and my kids have totally learned to tune me out (what a joke!).  I won’t even pretend that I don’t sometimes act a little more childish than my own children (please girl!). I do all of the above and much more that we won’t discuss at this moment so I can still keep some dignity and possibly a few friends.

I mean, why fight it, right?  We are going to sound and act like our parents at some point, and I know when/if my children have children of their own someday they are going to pray they don’t make the same mistakes we do, and vow they won’t, then they will probably end up giving a similar speech to their children like the aforementioned sad performance.

Here’s the thing, though, that I am failing to mention: I had (have) this great mom.  Did she yell? Yep.  Did we deserve it sometimes? Yep. Did she lose her temper? Uh-huh. Was she often surrounded by whiny, complaining, ungrateful kids as kids can be? You betcha. Did that poor woman give us so much and get little in return? Absolutely.

So I’m hear to tell you the good news! It is time to cut yourself and your mom some serious slack! Everyone knows the curse of every mom is to be frazzled, exhausted, and seriously underappreciated. Do you love your kids? Uh-YEAH! Do they drive you a bit nutty sometimes? Um-YEAH!

I think one thing I do that is really like my mom is that I beat the tar out of myself every, single day for the mistakes I make.  I am wracked by this paralyzing guilt and fear that my kids are going to resent the heck out of me.  I worry endlessly that someday they will do exactly what I am talking about: pray they look nothing like me as an adult. Parenting is nothing if not humbling. But, here’s the thing: everyone makes mistakes. Everyone messes up. Everyone says things they shouldn’t say and everyone takes the ones they love the very most in the world for granted. Everyday.

But if as Christians we are dragging that guilt around with us, we are cheapening the grace of God and what Christ did for us.  We are preaching to ourselves and our children that His grace isn’t sufficient, when the Bible makes it abundantly clear that it is. .

As a child of God, I am under the grace of God every day. I don’t need to beat myself or my mom up for the mistakes I make. We are all sinful by nature and fight that everyday, whether we are believers in Christ for salvation or not.  We all have regrets. We all have things we wish we could take back. So let’s rectify our mistakes, beg for forgiveness, do whatever we can to make things right with those we love and move on.  Don’t drag those mistakes with you.

So, what is the point of this little monologue, you say? By jove, I’m so glad you asked!

I want to list some of the ways I am and strive to be like my mom.

1. I dance with my kids. When we were kids, and even in high school, my mom would put on Eric Clapton for us and we would “floor dance”. Yep. My family is pretty special. We make up our own dances. We would lie on our backs and flail our arms and legs and sing loudly to “Layla” and “Malted Milk” and laugh until our stomachs hurt.  I have made dancing a serious part of our daily routine. We dance. Always. When I am ready to scream, I put some music on. Sometimes it’s Clapton. My recent drug of choice is Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, and the Rat Pack. That’s some good stuff! When the girls get to choose, it’s something Disney. 🙂 But, either way, we twirl, we jump, we make fools of ourselves and best of all, we laugh. My kids haven’t been able to appreciate the true art of floor dancing with me yet, but I’m working on ’em.

2. We make memories and traditions together. To this day my mom says she dreads the impending holidays because they are such a stressful time for her, but growing up, I was clueless! She always made them so special and homey. At Christmas, especially, we baked cookies, made ornaments, went out to look at Christmas lights. We strung popcorn for the tree and watched Christmas movies. We would leave cookies and milk for Santa and in the morning there would be a nice thank you note from him. We would go black Friday shopping at 5 in the morning! I still love that! She taught me young to fall in love with Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (now I am a diehard fan! Has anyone else seen “Harvey”, which I also watched with my mom). I light evergreen candles at Christmas because it reminds me of being at home with my family. She would even let us stay home sometimes to just make memories together. At Easter time, she and my dad would hide baskets for us with clues hidden all over the house.  I could go on and on and on, but I love the traditions she passed on or started with us that I now do with my kids. Sometimes, when trying to pull these things together, I want to scream! I understand the stressful part of it for sure, but I keep thinking that I am making memories for them that I know they will look back on fondly as I do.

3. I kiss boo-boos. Some of you are probably thinking, “Uh-huh. Yay for you. What mom doesn’t do that?”. Still, I want to highlight this special gift mom’s have to make things right. Even now, when my world is falling apart around me, I really just want my mom to make it all better for me. My girls both have an amazing flair for the dramatic. Sometimes I think because I try to downplay things, it only exaggerates this trait of theirs more.  When Evie gets hurt she will scream (top of her lungs, bursting dogs’ eardrums scream) at me to, “Come over here right now!! Now, Mommy!!” If I know it is minor, even if I see blood, I will try to walk to her calmly and try to access the damage before I panic (outwardly, at least) to balance her out. But, my other child tends to show off every “boo-boo” she has at least twenty times a day.  She is by nature an attention seeker, so if someone else is sick or hurt, she feels the need to top it. She, too, has a headache or a scratch or feels queasy. I have come to appreciate and find the humor in this at times, but other times I find myself wedged into the back of the closet trying to hide when I hear her coming with a fake cry and an imaginary boo-boo that needs attention. Nora is stubborn and proud and in her language, when she comes to me, with an exaggerated limp because she brushed against the wall, I know it means that she needs love and attention. I sometimes am not incredibly sympathetic, and wish I truly was much more like my own mom in this way and have found myself trying to practice what she would do.  In times like that she would look at me and say, “Oh, honey. I’m sorry. Rub it.” It was so wise and magical! She didn’t give me fanfare or over exaggerate a minor bump, but she gave me the attention and sympathy I needed. As I got older, she listened when I had trouble with friends or kids who were mean at school.  She talked me through some really low points in my life and offered encouragement.

4. I surprise them sometimes. My mom was so great at every once in awhile having something special for us when we came home from school. I will never forget a special, Velcro watch she surprised me with one day with interchangeable faces. She would load us and our boxer dog, Maxie, in the car, and we would all get ice cream at Dairy Queen. I loved the days I would come home from school and she would have fresh baked cookies waiting on the table for us. Sometimes, we would order Chinese food and get a movie and watch it as a family. We wouldn’t do these things very often, so when we did, they were super special.

5. I strive to be an encourager. My mom wasn’t perfect. She could be critical sometimes, I think as all women it is super easy to do, but more often she was encouraging. She would point out the things that she was proud of me for or encourage me to pursue.  She would sing my praises in front of me to other people. It made me want to be who she made me sound like I was.  I have been trying with my girls (if I wasn’t such a slow learner!!) to “correct” them instead of criticize and be an encouragement and not a negative voice in their head. Lately, I have been trying to make a point to sit down and say something to Nora like, “Hey, God made you a leader. I know you want to lead this situation, and someday maybe you will have authority to lead people, but right now you have to learn to submit before you can be a good leader. Right now you need to learn how to be someone that people will want to follow,” rather than, “You are so bossy! You never listen and are so controlling!” I have seen a huge difference in her attitude when it’s constructive and encouraging rather than just critical. I still make mistakes, but by the grace of God hopefully the encouraging will outweigh the discouraging!

6. We pray with our kids. My mom is the one who led me to Christ and taught me about my need for salvation. She answered my questions and taught me how to pray. We are trying so hard to make prayer a priority in our home, to make it like breathing. Again, TRYING is the operative word, here. There have been times where I will grab one of the girls angrily in a hug and say, “I am so mad at all you, all I can do is pray with you,” and by the end of the prayer, I’m usually pretty humbled. I want to teach them that prayer truly is the answer pretty much all the time. We made a ” I Thessalonians” chair in our home that is designated as a place for any of us to go and cool off. I will post more on it later. But I want to encourage them, as my mom did, to pray, to seek forgiveness and guidance, moment by moment.

This is the short list!! I wish I was like my mom in so many other ways. How are you like your mom?

So maybe I’m in danger of sounding like my mother. Thank you. I will take that as a compliment. ❤

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Spring Cleaning Tips and Tricks

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It happens every single year.  After the chaos of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years and everything in between, we usually hit a nice little lull in January and February and sometimes, if we’re lucky, the beginning of March. But by St. Patrick’s Day our calender is marked up with appointments, parties, school programs, Doctor’s appointments and the like. Every single year from March until New Year’s it begins.  It always amazes me how the less we are home the greater the mess we seem to create. How is that possible? It is one of the great mysteries of life like the Bermuda triangle and missing socks.

And every day my poor husband gets to hear my redundant lamenting over how messy the house is. I try to keep some kind of order in my house, but let’s be real for a moment, shall we? There are times when three days worth of dishes are piled on the counter, the laundry is so backed up that we are turning our underwear inside out, and the carpets are so piled with pet dander that they look like shag. Who’s with me?

Just sitting here writing about it is exhausting me. Sometimes, especially when we are busy, it feels insurmountable. But I am here my friends to tell you there is hope! As someone who is easily overwhelmed, here are a few tricks I do to try to keep my brain from exploding in attempting to not only get the house clean but to keep it clean (well, or at least in some kind of order).

1. Keep your cleaning clutter to a minimum by using fewer cleaners (and do some good for the environment while you’re at it). I don’t know about you, but under my sinks can collect some serious clutter, too. I have read so many articles about how household cleaners are not only harmful to the environment but harmful more importantly to you and your kids. So, I keep it simple with three basic cleaners that do the job quite well:

*  bleach water. I use this for the really nasty stuff like the bathroom. You can use vinegar water for those jobs as well because it disinfects well, I just prefer the smell of a bleached clean bathroom.

*  white vinegar water: White vinegar is my cleaning BFF. It can clean windows and mirrors, your hardwood floors, and great to clean walls and baseboard and to dust with among other things. I use it to spray mattresses  and furniture to give it a fresh smell and eliminate odor. I even spray it in the air as an air freshner. It is a disinfectant without being harmful to breath in. It does the job without being harmful to you or your stuff. Some people say that they hate the way it smells, but honestly, I feel like the smell doesn’t linger long.

 *  baking soda. I love baking soda. It is a great abrasive for stubborn things stuck on your counter on tub, and it is a great deodorizer. I sprinkle it on carpets before I vacuum and in toilets before I scrub the bowl. When our pup has a little accident on the carpet, the first thing I do is sprinkle the spot with soda and it will absorb it before it can permeate your carpet. It’s great to put in a load of laundry to keep your clothes smelling fresh.

2. Make a (realistic) chart. When I look at my house as a whole and see what every room needs (i.e. my kitchen needs cupboards scrubbed, fridge cleaned off in and out, decluttered, cleaned in general, etc.) it can be a bit overwhelming. Cleaning (especially Spring cleaning) is sort of like going on a diet. If you try to do too much at once, you get overwhelmed and end up giving up altogether. Make a list of what is realistic for your week/day.  For instance, take Monday to tackle the kitchen, but leave the living room till the next day. When it’s broken up, it’s much less intimidating.

3. Make it fun.  I don’t know if anyone is like me, but cleaning is NOT fun to me. My maternal grandmother loves to clean and could make it an Olympic sport. I, sadly, did not inherit those genes. But something that helps me is to give myself little “rewards”. For example, when I need to sort things out like that pile of paperwork that has gathered on the dining room hutch or fold laundry, I take the opportunity to make myself a cup of tea and sit down to watch that new BBC program that just came out on Netflix and do my work then while I watch. In fact, I will look forward to three loads of laundry that need folded just so I have an excuse to get caught up on Downton Abbey. It inspires me to put in those three loads of laundry throughout my morning so that when the girls are down for rest time I can do just that. Also, I have been known to have a chocolate bar on hand and once one thing is checked off my list it is time for me to have a piece of my candy bar. Chocolate is always inspiring!

4.) Set a timer. Okay. Now I know this one sounds cheesey because we aren’t all six. BUT, it really does help me! Just this morning I looked at the kitchen with crumbs everywhere, dishes in the sink, and garbage strewn about from breakfast and wanted to walk away. But, in my head I tried to ask myself how long it would realistically take me if I did everything that needed done. I set a timer for that amount of time (which was only ten minutes, by the way) and it made me work more swiftly because I wanted to be done by the time it went off. In the end, I actually had time to spare.

5). Make lists. Again, with someone who is easily overwhelmed, this helps a ton!! When I look at the house as a whole, I give up before I begin. But, if I sit down and make a list of what needs done in each room it helps me to see what my priorities need to be (the fridge can be cleaned out another day) and I get a huge sense of accomplishment when I can check one off. Am I the only one who likes to put something on the list after I have already accomplished it just so I can check it off?

6). Fill a laundry basket as you go from room to room.  This is another trick that has helped me immensely. We often get clutter at our house because there are things that I have no idea what to do with. So, I have started putting things in a laundry basket and just go from room to room filling it with things that are out of place and when I enter rooms, some things get put in the basket and some things get put back where they belong. If it is my goal to empty the basket, then I find that I really can find a place for everything and sometimes that place is the trash can or box to give away, which brings me to……

7). Keep a giveaway box. Just recently I put a box in the basement for things to give away. We are planning to have a yard sale this summer to raise money to go to our missions trip to Romania. Knowing the box is there and knowing what is going in it is for a good cause helps me to part with things a little easier than I normally would (being the pack rat that I am by nature). Keep a box to donate clothes to your local city mission or items to go to the Salvation Army or outgrown toys to go to needy kids. Having a good cause to donate to is great incentive for decluttering.

8). Involve the kids. Last summer when the kids were home all day, I nearly panicked. I didn’t know what to do with them all day without tearing my hair out! I would plan fun days (girl days or days at the park or days with friends) but I honestly found our very best days were spent…..cleaning!!! I don’t know what it was, but when we started cleaning together it was this bonding time for us. My girls are still young, but I think it was a sense of accomplishment for them. We would make a list, then I would ask who wanted to do what and they have always been eager to volunteer. Then we would put on music while we cleaned and had spontaneous dance parties or make a game of seeing if we could check something simple off our list (like putting away all the books or cleaning off a dresser) by the time a song had ended. It gives them responsibility and if you make it fun and make sure they know how appreciative you are for their efforts, it really is a great time to connect with your kids.

9). Every day, pick up as you go about your day. There is nothing more aggravating than feeling the huge sense of accomplishment of cleaning your house top to bottom only to have it messed up again in a half hour. Again, with busy schedules and little kids, it’s hard to stay on top of things, but I have found it’s easy to do a little every day, even if it’s a crazy day. Some days I find myself taking a potty break and taking 30 seconds to spray and wipe down the sink after I have washed my hands to remove toothpaste and foundation stains and stray hairs. When I am going to fetch my coat from upstairs, I pick things up that need to go upstairs and put them away as I go. I honestly feel like if I didn’t do things like that every day I would end up on one of those shows about people with the disgustingly horrible houses. If I do a little as I am going about my normal routine, it helps to keep the clutter and mess to a minimum.

 

And to help keep things in perspective, I try to remember this

 

thank heaven

 

So, those are some things I do. What tricks do you have for keeping things tidy?

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Ode to Moms (especially mine)

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I sat across from my mom at a restaurant and she handed me some money for gas, which I refused. I wanted this day to be for us, no strings attached, on me, but like most moms, she couldn’t let it go.  She is a caregiver, a provider, she has the innate need to take care of her children. “Mom, you took care of me for twenty years, I owe you.” That’s what I said, as if a ten dollar bill could begin to cover what my mom did for me in twenty years.

You see, I am THAT person-the one who lived in blissful denial of all my mother did to care for me until I became a mother myself.  We wanted to have children for so long that when I heard other moms complain about the woes of motherhood I would smile politely and nod my head sympathetically but inwardly be rolling my eyes and think something like, they call them bundles of JOY for a reason. Even then, I wasn’t seeing the whole picture.  This was before the middle of the night calls to change a wet bed, to clean up vomit, or to soothe away a nightmare.  This was long before the unspeakable trials of potty training and being woken up every morning to screaming (yes, even now).  This was before the frustrations, the heartache, the total exhaustion of motherhood.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so blessed to be a mom. I am so deeply fond of and completely in love with both of my girls.  I truly understand what it means to be a “mama bear” when someone has tried to mess with my girls (yeah-this a warning- DO NOT mess with my children.  If you do, well….just don’t. I have a clean criminal record and I’d like to keep it that way).  Still, no one tells you how much pain your children can inflict on you in just common, careless, everyday ways.

Yesterday we took our girls to a local fair.  We saw and petted pigs, horses, rabbits, cows, sheep, goats, chickens and alpacas. Yeah-alpacas.  We saw a miniature pony show, rode rides, watched a sheep fashion show, and two magic shows.  Oh yeah, and they got to jump in a bouncy castle.  It was….um…it was….how do I put this…..frustrating.  It went a little something like this, (me) “Honey, you can’t pet a horse from behind….just trust me. You really don’t want to pet it from behind….because you don’t if you want to keep your teeth and face in general!…don’t put your fingers in the rabbit cage, they might think they are carrots…..no, we aren’t going to buy food right now. You just ate, you will be okay. Stop whining now or we will go home right now!…sweetheart, watch out so you don’t get run over by that mini horse cart……honey, it’s okay. It will be okay. See? Daddy’s ok. The magician just wants Daddy to help him with a trick….please, please, please for the eighth time stop putting things in your mouth….Nora, stop running ahead. I don’t care if you want to go that way, we are going this way…..Sit down….I told you to sit down while the ride is going….sit down, please, you are scaring your sister….SIT DOWN!!….” You get the idea.  One of the hardest things about being a mom that no one tells you, that I don’t think anyone can tell you until you experience it for yourself, is the total heartache and courage it takes to be a mom.  Even without me giving you every detail of our day, I’m sure you can image the scenario.  The kids complained about how hot it was. No sooner would we walk into one barn they would want to go to another one.  At the top of the ferris wheel, one child kept tormenting the other one and terrifying her parents by not sitting, trying to look out over the edge, rock the cart, and stomp her feet repeatedly for the sole purpose of getting a rise out of the rest of us.  They whined, fussed, dragged their feet, bickered, tried to take charge, scowled, cried….again, you can see where I am going with this.  But despite all of that, we are trying to make memories, because we believe one day they will look back and say, “Do you remember going to the fair? I used to love going to the fair. And do you remember that one time…..”. Yet not once did they say “thank you” without being prompted.  Not once did it occur to them that this was a treat, not something they somehow had earned the right to.  When they misbehaved or complained and were corrected for it, they resented us for pointing it out to them.  It rarely occurs to them that perhaps they were at fault and not us for their unhappiness.

Again, my point is NOT to complain about my children, or even about being a mom, but more as a very small, minute way of thanking my own mom.  I remember one time when I was just out of high school pulling a favorite jacket of mine out of the dryer, and the zipper on it had melted.  I stormed up the stairs to my mom who was faithfully making dinner, that I was NOT helping with, I might add, with hands on my hips demanding why she had put my favorite jacket in the dryer.  Did she see? Did she see what had happened when she put my jacket in the dryer? It was my favorite jacket. Now what was I supposed to wear? And do you know how my mother responded? Did she throw it back in my face and tell me that maybe I should be doing my own laundry? Did she tell me off like I deserved? No. She apologized.  My poor mother apologized to me. I will never forget that.  It took years after remembering that incident to even feel remorse for the way I had acted, to feel shame for the level of ingratitude I displayed.

I can clean up all sorts of bodily fluids while gagging my way through it.  I can wipe runny noses, scrub crayons off the walls, make breakfast, lunch and dinner, kiss boo-boos (real and imaginary), put Barbie heads back on, pick out outfits, write “I love you” notes in lunchboxes, give baths, read stories to, sing to sleep, help find shoes….this is the part of motherhood that is often exhausting, but so rewarding.  I love nursing my children back to health when they are sick.  I love that when they are really hurt, they only want me.  I love that they ask me to make them pink eggs or have girl day or a tea party with them.  I love helping them learn new things and watching them explore a new world.  I love, absolutely LOVE when they are trying to learn a new word and say it wrong.  I didn’t have to heart to tell the girls a backpack isn’t a “pack pack” and even found myself calling it that.  I love that they want me to scratch their backs and sing them a song every night before bed.  I love the special memories that we are making together that only we can boast, like watching trains from the porch with a hot cup of cocoa before school.  These are the picturesque moments I only dreamed about, and they are so much better than I imagined they would be.  These are the moments you want to capture in a bottle and hope they never fade away.  These are the moments that make me sigh when I check on the girls after they have fallen asleep and make me wish they would stay this little forever.  This part of being a mom is something priceless.  This is what makes it all worthwhile.

But, those other times, when it feels nearly impossible NOT to nag them every moment of the day because you have their best interest at heart that makes this job so difficult.  Whether you are a mom like me and don’t want them to get kicked in the head by a horse or a cow and are forced to hold their wriggling hand in yours knowing they are resenting the heck out of you for it because they refused to listen, or the mom of an older child who has to be the one to tell them that they need to find a job because sleeping in and playing video games is not a viable option for a career choice.  The hardest part about that is because every mom knows these moments are investments.  Right now they won’t see your love, your sacrifice, they will only see how you are spoiling their fun.  Every mom worth her salt knows that you have to prod, correct, and discipline for the well-being of her child that she loves more than life itself, even in a world where so much seems to be going against her efforts.  Still, she must try because she loves her children so dearly.  There is a verse that my mentor growing up always told me and still says to me now that is the mantra of every mom, “So I will very gladly spend and be spent for you, knowing the more I love, the less I be loved.” (2 Cor. 12:15)

True love is a sacrifice, because true love means putting someone else’s needs and desires much above your own.  My desire to be liked, to be adored by my children (and this is such a great desire) often takes a backseat to what is best for my children.  I think this, in my own humble experience, is the hardest part about being a parent.  Parents (dads, too) know this more than anyone. So, finally, I want to thank my mom (and dad) for the sacrifice of love made to me growing up and even now.  Thank you doesn’t begin to cover it, I know. A lunch out is a pitiful compensation.  Still, thank you for cleaning up my messes, physical and emotional.  Thank you for taking care of me with so little gratitude.  Thank you for your diligence in correcting me though it took me years to acknowledge this as a sacrifice of love.  Thank you for nagging, even when it’s not necessary, because you truly want what is best for me.  Even now, I see you having trouble letting go because you want the very best and to see me be the best version of what God can make of me.

In short, thanks so much for being my mom.