Vulnerable

I’ve spent the latter part of today feeling vulnerable.

I’ve had a problem with this blog of sorts.  It wasn’t a big problem; at least I don’t think it is at this point.  I think I might have just had a hacker of sorts.  I haven’t gotten the specifics back of the scan I paid for yet, but basically it sounded like an unsavory website was trying to increase its search engine ranking by inserting code into my website to make it look like I linked there.

Or at least that’s how I understand it.  Or misunderstand it.  Who knows at this point.

It made me feel really discouraged.  I already pay to have this site hosted and for the domain name, and now I’m  shelling out more money to protect my site from people who promote content that goes against everything I believe in.

I want my site to be a place of honesty and integrity.  It’s not always pretty, but it’s real.  And I share that struggle because I find that’s where hope lies — in that small space where we share a piece of ourselves and find we don’t crumble in the process.

But I get bothered by things, and it’s probably things that most people wouldn’t be so bothered by.   Stuff like this.  And mean comments.  Strangers telling me that the things that I share are pointless and a waste of their time.

And it made me question this whole lifestyle.

A few months ago, I had hundreds of readers.  In the grand scheme of the web, that’s less than raindrop in the Atlantic.  Now that I write for other sites as well, there are a lot more readers.  Thousands instead of hundreds.  And from where it stands right now, that will probably grow.  At least that’s the plan.

It’s what I’ve wanted.  It’s what all writers want — we want our voices heard.

And yet when they are heard, it gets scary.

I start to worry.

What if my pictures are stolen?

What if I’m sharing too much about my children?  I try to write about myself as a mom rather than about them as people, but the two obviously intersect.

What if I embarrass people I know by sharing so intimately about myself and my life?

And what if they laugh at my girls, then, because of what I share?

I get worried by my insecurities — what if people don’t like what I have to say — but that doesn’t stop me from writing.  What could stop me is if it hurts or embarrasses others.

But here’s the problem.  I don’t know how to stop.

I don’t write because I think I have something important to say.  I don’t write because I like the sound of my words.  I don’t write because I want people to like me.

I write because it’s the only way I know how to exist in the world.

For many, many years, I was so afraid of touching the world.  I would hole up in myself, afraid my every word or action or touch could hurt those around me.  I lived trying not to make waves, trying as hard as possible not to really exist.

And obviously that isn’t living at all, and it leads to some pretty dark places.

Slowly, I started to venture out.  I can’t say I’m fully comfortable now.  There are still times when I want to lock the world out because I’m so afraid of hurting people.  But I’m much better at overcoming that these days.

When I decided to start this blog a few years ago, it was a big step for me.  After so many years of hiding who I was and what I thought and believed and how I experienced life, I decided to let people know.

And I love it.

For me, there is nothing more rewarding than sharing the less than perfect parts of me and seeing that others are still there and that in fact, others share the same doubts and trials and struggles.  I don’t think there’s any better way to connect with someone than through absolute integrity.  People don’t relate to the shiny parts of other people’s lives.  They relate to the struggles.  The struggles unite us.

And so to realize that I now have a larger audience with which to share my message is absolutely exhilarating to me.  I can be real for more people and I can make more people feel less alone in their struggles.  I can make a difference.

But then the doubts come in.  The insecurities.

It might sound weird and probably obnoxious, but I don’t really feel like I’ve chosen to write like this.  I didn’t sit down one day and think, “gee I’m going to start sharing all the dark parts of my life.”

No.

I write because I don’t know how not to.  I don’t know how to keep all of this in my head and stay sane.  And I don’t know how to make sense of this whole life unless I can use it to connect with others and make others feel like they have companions on their journey.

So I don’t really know where I’m going with this.

Like I said, I’m just feeling vulnerable.  And uncertain.  And discouraged. And foolish.

But tomorrow is another day, and tomorrow I will begin again.

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Blessings

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I am exhausted — down to my bones exhausted.  It’s snowing.  In late April.  I know it’s Chicagoland, but still…  I just made the mistake of going online and reading all of the headlines of gloom and doom.  And I know none of this is going to change, well except hopefully for the weather, anytime soon.

And yet I cannot help but feel absolutely, completely, and awe-inspringly blessed.

I have this family, both my little in-our-home family and our extended family.  There’s love there at every turn.  There is joy and loyalty and companionship and constancy.

And there’s laughter.  These girls are loud, but most of it is laughter, so even at their most deafening, those moments are precious.

I have a home.  It’s not palacious; it won’t win any decorating awards.  But I love it.  I feel safe here and at home here.  I feel blessed to make a nest for my little ones here.  It wraps us and houses us and contains us and inspires us.

And I have friends, both old and new.  Some remind me of who and where I’ve been, and others remind me of who and where I want to be.  They challenge me and inspire me and comfort me and make me realize I’m not the only one to experience this crazy world in these crazy ways.  They make me feel comfortable being me.

And I have this weird non-job job here where I get to take my thoughts and hit send and they go to all the corners of the world where people who are like me make themselves known, and this whole world feels suddenly so much smaller.  This process validates me and encourages me and inspires me and helps me realize that even though I might not venture out of my home as often as I would like, I can still make a difference and touch people and impact people and be touched and impacted right back.

It’s so easy to see the darkness around.  I think sometimes it’s easier to see the dark.  It can feel more real and more true and definitely more pressing.

But on the other side, if you look through it and focus your eyes on it, you can see that there is light and that this light can make even the most pressing darkness less oppressive. It can transform and inspire and comfort and release.

These blessings surround us.

Let’s bathe in them.

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Marriage

I remember when TJ and I met.

Things were so exciting.  He would come up to Milwaukee and visit me in college.  He would make me dinner.  We would walk around campus.  He was in school at the time as well, so we would study together.  And I remember that he had this long black coat.  He thought he looked really cool in it.  I liked that it smelled like him.  He let me keep it and wear it around campus when he wasn’t there.  I looked like an idiot in a coat ten times too big for me, but I didn’t care.  It reminded me of him.

A year or so later, he decided to go to nursing school at a campus about an hour out of Chicago where I was living at the time.  I went with him one day to check out the campus, and I realized how much I missed academia.  I applied to grad school there, and a few months later, we both moved into our own apartments at NIU.

He proposed to me on that campus and two years later, we were married.  Our life when we first got married was crazy.  I was teaching and waiting tables and going to school full time.  He, too, was a full time student and he worked multiple jobs.  On top of that, our campus was over half an hour from where we decided to rent our first apartment.  Sometimes I would wake up in the mornings and realize just how much I had in front of me that day.  But I would remember that at the end of it we would both hop in our car, head to our new apartment, and I would fall asleep next to him.  That gave me the strength to push through.

And then one day, the pregnancy test turned positive.  Our little duo was to become a trio and then a quartet and then a quintet.  Now our lives feel possibly more full than ever before.  We don’t have a moment to ourselves until about 10pm and then we are both too exhausted to move.

We very rarely get time to have long conversations.  We never get moments to ourselves.  And sometimes it gets hard to see the couple in the midst of the family.

It’s easy to see each other as parents.  He’s my other half.  When I need to tag out, he’s the one to tag in.  When he needs a break, I need to pick up the slack.  And when I need a break, he’s the only one who can take over.  I’m not sure we ever really had romantic dinners, but if we did, they have been replaced by chaotic battles where food is very rarely the only thing thrown.

We rely on each other.  And sometimes that can cloud our perceptions of each other.  It gets hard to see each other when we so desperately need to see our relief.

And that’s hard.  When we start seeing each other as co-parents, it can get lonely.  We want to be seen as more than mom and dad, and yet we can sometimes only see that in the other.

We each want to be visible.  We each want to be validated and appreciated.  We both want to be heard amidst the overwhelming noise that surrounds us.

But we try really hard.

We don’t always want to try hard.  Usually we want to retreat into our own private peace.  But we do.  Because we have decided that we are worth it.

And this might all sound weird, me reliving moments in our mutual past.  But all of this is a badge of honor of sorts that I wear proudly.

That man and I… we are living in this world.  We are living in this broken, chaotic, messy world.  And we have held hands, and we aren’t letting go.

It seems like every news station and newspaper and website these days is talking about marriage.  Trying to define it or redefine it or understand it or dismiss it.  Marriage is painted as the ultimate destination of love.  It’s a feeling.  It’s a requisite for happiness.  It’s a right.

But in trying to determine the logistics of who can and can’t get married, when trying to determine in what capacity its sanctity lies, what we don’t talk about is what marriage really is.  And this is scary to me because there is a whole generation of children who are growing up watching these battles and are erroneously learning that marriage is the destination and not the starting line.

Because here’s the thing.  Marriage isn’t supposed to be easy.  It’s not about getting your needs met.  It’s not about fulfilling your dreams or reaching your goals.  It’s not about romance and it’s not about Valentine’s Day, and it’s not about the big vacations.

Those are all some benefits of marriage, but it’s not what it’s really about.

What it’s about is so very much more.

Marriage is about sacrificing yourself to meet the needs of another.  It’s about prioritizing someone else’s goals on par with or ahead of your own.  It’s about searching deep within yourself to bypass those selfish wants in favor of the betterment of another.

It’s about waking up every single day and deciding yes and choosing to act out love.  It’s about realizing that love is a feeling, but it’s also an act.  And that the greatest way to keep the feeling alive is to keep acting that love.  It’s about learning that as soon as we start focusing exclusively on our wants and needs, we find we start loving ourselves more than those around us.

And it’s about failing at all of that more often than you care to admit but standing back up and starting again.

It’s about choosing to create something together.  Something that is so much greater and so much more glorious than any romantic sentiment can be because it’s something real that has been tested by the fire.

It’s about facing the challenges and committing yourself and coming out the other side realizing that you are both stronger for it and realizing that there is no one you could trust more than the person who rode the storm with you.

This might sound weird, but to me, it’s the challenges that make marriage what it is.  Anyone will stand by us through the good times.  Anyone will like us when we are at our best.  But we are about more than the good times and our best.

What I think, unfortunately, a lot of this social talk about marriage does is make it seem like love is about roses and hearts and diamond rings and sentiments.

No.  Love is much harder than that.  And it’s much, much better than that.

Love brings us to marriage, and marriage puts us through the fire.  And through that fire, we become pure and real and holy, and our love becomes worth more than any of the diamonds this world can hold.

Sadly, it seems as if too many people these days believe that marriage can be thrown away.  They believe there is something wrong when it gets hard.  They believe happiness can be found in walking away and starting again.

But just like anything else in life, easy paths lead to shallow victories.

Marriage is worth it, people.  Love is worth it.  Commitment is worth it.  Integrity is worth it.  And forever is absolutely fucking worth it.

Marriage isn’t a feeling.  It’s a commitment, and it’s a covenant, and it’s holy, and it’s worth every single ounce of our being.

If only we let it.

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When Our Babies Cry

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There was a bit of a back up on the way to school this afternoon, so when I pulled up to get Magoo, she was already out waiting with the other kids for their moms.

I walked up, and from a good 25 feet away, I could tell that something was wrong.  If you’re a mom of a school aged kid, you know the feeling.  You tense up as your mom radar is going off, praying that it’s skin and bones that have been injured and not a heart.

Sure enough, as soon as she saw me, her composure started to dissipate, and the lower lip that was starting to tremble was giving way to full on tears.

As I walked up to her to give her a hug, I noticed the problem.  She had a little cut on her lip, and she was holding a wipe up to it to stop the bleeding.

I bent down and looked in her eyes, and she told me the story of how she had just been running on the playground a few minutes before and fell, cutting her lip.  It was only a small little cut, but to a six year old with her mama’s flair for the drama, it might as well have been an amputation.

I got her in the car, and she settled down.  But as I was pulling out of the parking lot and driving home, I almost started to cry.  But it wasn’t from sadness.

Those moments — those moments when you can see them holding back the tears from the world — and they see you, and they see their peace and their comfort and their home and the floodgates open and the sobs start coming…

For me, those are the moments.  Those are what motherhood is about.

During those precious times when we see the tears that are just for us, we know we matter.  We know we have created a sanctuary.  We know we are the sanctuary for another person.

And so this afternoon, when Magoo sobbed into my shoulder, I felt that I had been given the gift of my lifetime.  The gift of a little heart and a little soul that trusts me completely.

No one wants to see their child hurt or cry, but I think all of us mamas feel a huge sense of relief when we see it happen because we know they share with us, we know they feel comfortable, and we know they are telling us the secrets of their hearts.

She started crying again this evening.  The day had just been too overwhelming for her with the cut and the fights with her sisters and the dairy she couldn’t eat and the little boy who saw her get hurt, evidently mortifying her.

And so she was just tired and by 7:00 pm, she had nothing left to give.  And so we went upstairs, just she and I, and we read a chapter of Charlotte’s Web.  By the time we were done, she was back to happy and I was back to feeling peace.

And I write about this day because it’s fresh in my memory, but I won’t ever forget it whether it’s written or not.  Just like the other times the tears have come after school.

At most moments, if I look, I can find the blessings in motherhood.  But the thing is that it’s very rarely the times when they do something for me.  Instead, it’s the times when I get to be mom for them.

Because to me, mom is a big thing.  It’s where security and trust and comfort and confidence and peace lie.  And to get to be that for someone…

It breaks and makes my heart on a daily basis.

So to my three beautiful little girls,

Thank you for making me mom.

Thank you for trusting me with your hearts.

Thank you for seeking me out when you are happy and sad and excited and scared and every feeling in between.

Thank you for making me laugh.

Thank you for making me cry.

And thank you for showing me your eyes — the eyes that dance, the eyes that know, the eyes that love.

All those years of praying for you, I never really actually knew all I was in for when I was to become a mom.  But you three have shown me and continue to show me.

Sometimes we have bad days.  Some days I lose my temper.  Some days you lose your temper.  Some days we’re sad and some days we’re lonely.

But no matter what, through all the days there are, you fill my heart until it feels like it will no longer fit in my chest.

Being your mama is the greatest honor of my life.

Please don’t forget that.  Ever.

I love you always and forever, to the moon and back, infinity, shmininity, and with a cherry on top.

“It [is] the pleasure of my life, and I [cherish] every time, and my whole world, it begins and ends with you.”  – Zac Brown Band

Have you liked my Facebook page?  I’m close to 400 fans and would love to make it there — check it out www.facebook.com/IndisposableMama

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I Am a Horrible Homemaker

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I am a ridiculously horrible homemaker.

And realizing that makes me happy.  So happy, in fact, that I feel like I could fly across the sky with all the weight that has been lifted off of me.

Let me back track for a moment.

I woke up this morning to a bed full of kids.  Magoo had a nightmare and crawled in around 3am.  Goose woke up around 6 and crawled in.  About an hour later, a cranky Mae joined us.

It was the first day back to preschool for Goosie since Easter, and apparently that 14 day break was enough to totally throw us off track.

We came downstairs a few minutes late, and I remembered that I had forgotten to lay out clothes for Goose.  We had plenty of clean clothes, but unfortunately the slight delay gave her time to pick out her own outfit which consists of the shirt she wears every day, a sweater of Mae’s, and an old pair of pants from Magoo.  I realized quickly the battle had been lost, and I moved on.

I went into the kitchen and saw that TJ had graciously made Magoo’s lunch.  Unfortunately it was in a plastic shopping bag because again she had left her lunch box in the car, and I didn’t catch it.  And I honestly have no idea where she put the other two she has.

Then we spent the traditional bazillion hours searching for boots and shoes.  It turned out both big girls’ shoes were in the car because they took them off in there, and again I didn’t notice.

I’m horrible at remembering to grocery shop.  When I do, I forget about the order of my meal plans, and half my produce goes bad.  There’s always a huge pile of clean laundry to be sorted.  It takes me a week to clean the play room – not because it’s so bad but because I’m so slow at it.  TJ can do it in less than an hour.

My tables are dusty, my floor needs vacuuming, and…

And I am absolutely ecstatic to realize that this makes me a horrible homemaker.

See the thing is that throughout that whole twenty minute ordeal this morning, I had the phrase “I am a horrible mom” going through my head over and over.  Every time a new thing would show up missing, the words would get louder.

Those are oppressive words.  “I am a horrible mom.”  I can physically feel the weight of them.  They make my step slower, heavier.  They steal my concentration, my joy, my hope.

The whole way to school, those same five words kept echoing, and they continued as we sat in the parking lot because after all of that rush, we were over ten minutes early.

I pulled to a stop and turned the van off.  Magoo hopped up to the front, and the words got louder as I saw her stepping over old sweatshirts and the lunchbox she left in there the day before.  I could barely concentrate on anything because the reprimands were so loud in my head when suddenly I stopped.

I saw Magoo laughing.  She was sharing jokes with me that only I would understand.  Goose was in the back begging to get out as usual because she really dislikes the fact that Magoo starts school ten minutes earlier than she does.  Magoo was sharing with me what she was learning in science, and I was asking her questions about the books they were reading.

And then it was time for her to hop out, and Goose stared screaming “g’night, love you, sweet dreams” to Magoo because she cannot stand it when they part without saying that silly little phrase.  Magoo laughs each time and repeats it back to her, appeasing her.  Mae was giggling at the whole transaction.

And I asked myself, if all this is true, if all of this is really happening, then how can I be a bad mom?

My girls love me and each other and their family and their friends.

They help people.

They believe in God and believe in doing good because of Him.

They are smart.  So very, very smart.

They are passionate.

They are creative.

They are compassionate.  They are empathetic.

They are learning to say “I’m sorry,” and they are free with their “thank you”s.

They bring joy to this world.  They bring light.  They bring happiness.  They bring hope.

If all this is true, then how is it that I can be such an abysmal mom?

And then I realized the truth.  Homemaking and mothering aren’t the same things.  Yes, providing a stable environment for kids is an important part of being a mom, but except for those ten minutes every morning, my kids lives are stable.  I get crazed by the toys and the clutter, but they don’t even notice it.

For so long, for as long as I have been a mom I believe, I have equated homemaking with mothering.  And I have found myself so lacking.

Because when it comes down to it, if I have to choose to vacuum or read a book to my kids, I will almost always choose the book.  If I have to choose between cuddling and laundry, we’ll be searching for clean socks tomorrow.  And if I have to choose loving and laughing and living to dusting, I will.

See, they are two very very different things.

I am a horrible homemaker.  And I can do something about that.  I can make improvements.  And I don’t have to feel so much pressure because the improvements will make things easier, but they won’t determine my worth as a mom or a person.

Our homes are our homes.  We want them to be wonderful places for our children to grow up in.  We want them to be the nest in which they’ll strengthen their wings.

But they aren’t all that matters.

And I’m glad I finally realized that.

Is there something that you perhaps falsely equate with being a good mom?  Is there something you can let go of?  Is there a space where you can be the funnel through which grace flows in your own life?

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Other Places I Share My Every Waking Thought

I realized lately that I have been horrible at fulfilling my obligation to promote my writing elsewhere on the web.  It’s part of the whole blogging agreement, so I am going to try to get better at this.  So without delay, here are some other places I have appeared around the web in the last week or two.

Are you sick of me yet?

Is Too Much Parenting Information Leading Us Astray?

What Motherhood Is To Me

A Thousand Points of Grace

Seeking the Faith of a Child

The Negative Is Easier to Believe

The Power of Five Minutes

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Becoming Mom

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The girls woke up really early this morning.  In an effort to do nothing while still maintaining consciousness, I started searching through my phone, and I came across a photo montage video I made of Magoo shortly after she turned one.

Two things instantly came to mind…

1.  That little girl had a lot of clothes

2.  I took a lot of pictures.

I had forgotten about that video.  The last song on it is “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts.  That’s Magoo and my song.  It always brings a tear to my eye, and that’s just compounded when it’s accompanying pictures of her infancy.

To be honest, it was weird to look at those pictures now that she’s almost seven.  I know they are her.  I’m the one who took all the pictures, and I can remember almost every moment portrayed.  And yet, she’s not that baby anymore.  At all.

But another thing stuck out for me.  I realized just how much of my life revolved around that little girl from the first moment she was born… actually from the first moment I knew she existed deep within me.

We had wanted children for so long, but prior to Magoo, my life was all about work.  Not in a bad way.  I loved my job.  I found it fulfilling.  I spent almost every waking moment thinking about my students and how I could help them develop their writing and make it in a world that was maybe less than comfortable to them.  At the time, I thought nothing could be more fulfilling.  Nothing could be more exhilarating than standing in front of a classroom, working with students, and seeing their eyes light up when they finally understood something they had been grappling with for a decade.

And then I became a mom.  And I learned a new kind of fulfillment.  A kind that, as of yet, I have found nowhere else in this world.

During those early days, there wasn’t a whole lot to do to be honest.  Magoo was a very calm baby.  She was easy to please.  I had no car, so I had no where to go.  For eight plus hours a day all we had was each other and a whole lot of corn surrounding our little townhouse.

So we read.  And I took pictures.  And we sang songs.  And I took pictures.  And she slept.  And… I took pictures.

And looking back, those first moments and months of motherhood still have an aura about them.  Yes, I was lost in a fog of hormones.  But I was also lost in a fog of this little person. And I never wanted to leave that second fog.  And I don’t think I have.

Throughout pregnancy, a mom starts to focus more and more of her thoughts towards her child.  Anxious thoughts, anticipatory thoughts, excited thought.  But besides eating well and taking vitamins and decorating a nursery, there’s not a whole lot a mom can do at that point besides think.

And then you go into labor, and it’s all about you for those five or ten or fifty million hours.  It has to be.  The experience is all consuming.

And then the baby passes fully into this world.  She is placed on your chest.  And you are never the same.

The things that matter are different.  The priorities are different.  No matter how much you still passionately care about other things, nothing can quite match the passion with which you love your child.

And it happens in a instant.

And that’s what I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this morning.  How there is a before and an after.  And how they look so very different.  And how we can be so fully engrossed in each when they happen.

I’m not sure I’m making a whole lot of sense here.  I’m not a morning person, and I almost never write in the morning.

It’s just that I’m looking around this room.  I’m looking at three little girls in footy pajamas waiting for their daddy to get home from his morning men’s group at church, and I am overcome by just how full it all is.

Yes, I get overwhelmed.  A lot.  There is a whole lot of living going on in this house at every second.

But in moments like this, when it is all calm, and we aren’t trying to get to school or prepare a meal or get to bed, I’m just overwhelmed by the enormity of this gift and of this responsibility.

For years, I would pray and ask God for a child, for children.  At the time, I didn’t know what I was asking for.  I was asking for someone to love, and I was asking for someone to care for and nurture and teach.

But what I got… what all of us mothers get… is so much more.

We are given something bigger than ourselves.  Something that, God willing, will live on well past us.  A legacy.  Hope.  A future.  And a love so deep it expands us and changes us and makes us more than we knew possible before.

I look back on those prayers and laugh at how naive they were.  How little I was asking for in relation to how much I have been given.

My life was full before children.  I was happy.  I had passion.

But now… my life is a gift that I never even knew was possible.  And it’s something I cannot describe in words.  It’s just something that fills me to overflowing as I sit here and breathe them in.

Some people say that God doesn’t exist.  That we are all just a lucky coincidence.  They ask me how I can believe in a God.

Then I look at my children, and I laugh.  With all of this, how could I possible not believe in  God?

 

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The Hard Parts of Mothering

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I say that motherhood is hard.  I say it a lot.  Especially when I write.

Sometimes I feel self-conscious about this.  I don’t want people to read what I write and come away with the impression that I define motherhood as hard.  I don’t.

To me, motherhood is all things beautiful and amazing.  Most everything good that can be experienced through life can be experienced through the family.  The love and struggle and compassion and mercy and camaraderie, and warmth… it’s all there.  We don’t often need to look much further.

And yet I am constantly saying it is hard.

And I write this blog for myself and for all of you.  But mostly, I write it for my girls.  I write it so that I can stay whole, so that I can remember who I am when I’m not mom.  And this is a gift for them – my attempt at being a whole person for them.

But I also write it so they can look back years from now and know me then.  I want them to know how very fulfilled I was doing this work that I am doing now.  I want them to understand how much joy they bring to me.  I want them to know what it was like being their mom.  How much they changed me.  How much they challenge me.  How much they help me become the person I want to be.

And yet I am constantly saying it is hard.

And I will continue to say this.  Not because I have a harder time than most with it.  Not because it is how I define motherhood.  Not because I want sympathy.

But rather, just because it is true.

It is hard waking up in the middle of the night for months on end.  It’s hard putting your head down on the pillow knowing that the next time you open your eyes it will be to go comfort a crying baby.  It’s hard to maintain patience when multiple people are asking for something every moment of the day.  It’s hard having no privacy.  It’s hard having too much to do.  It’s hard having everything you do be undone.  And it’s hard loving so very much and sending that love out into the world and praying that the world will treat it gently, will nurture it, and will give it back whole.

And it’s hard being mom because mom is more than a title.  For many of us, it’s the title.  We might have a dozen other titles and names, but mom is the one that always calls us home.  Mom is the one we judge the others by.  Mom is what fuels us and inspires us and what sometimes eclipses the other names even when sometimes we wish the others could have a little more time to shine.

And it’s hard being home.  It’s hard being the one who is always needed because… well, you are always needed.  Mom and Dad are the two words in the English language that can’t be replaced.  You can quit a job and someone will come after.  You can resign a post, leave a friendship, move out of town, but you can’t escape those titles or the responsibilities they carry.  Because when you are mom, no one else can be you.  And that’s an honor.  And it’s hard.

And I say all of this, I write all of this, I preach all of this because we need to acknowledge that it’s hard.  That it’s overwhelming.  That most of us feel like we are failing most of the time.

Because that’s the secret we keep.  That’s what we don’t tell each other.  We might share stories of sleepless nights or endless piles of laundry, but how often do we share those deep feelings of inadequacy?  How often do we tell each other that we wonder if we are enough?  If we will ever be enough?  How often do we confide just how lost and confused and scared and lonely we all are in this mess?

And yet we are.  I would bet every single one of us, in our dark and quiet moments, feels at least a little bit of that doubt, of that uncertainty.  And I bet all of us at maybe more times than we wish feel the weight of that responsibility.

And we keep it inside.  I think maybe because that’s what our culture tells us to do.  It wants us to portray motherhood as this crowning glory of every woman’s life.  And for many of us it is.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard.

Mothering is about love.  It’s about more and less, but when it comes down to it, being a mom is about being love for someone else.  And that’s supposed to be beautiful and honest… but they try to tell us that means it’s also easy.  And it’s not.

So I write this because I want you all to see that you aren’t alone in your moments of doubt and sadness and worry.  I want my girls to know that being their mother is the most fulfilling role I have ever filled.  But I also want them to know that when they are mothers and they are sitting in a dark room in the middle of the night sharing sobs with an infant that they aren’t alone.  They aren’t weird for feeling the weight of it all.  No.  They are normal.  This is normal.

Life is about balance.  And motherhood is about balance.  It’s about balancing the needs of oneself and another.  About balancing a marriage with children.  About balancing responsibilities with caregiving.

And it’s also about acknowledging the balance between the easy and the hard.  The good and the bad.  The peace and the chaos.

There is not a single thing in this world I would trade motherhood for.  It fulfills me in ways I never knew were possible.

But I won’t stop saying it’s hard.

That wouldn’t be fair to me.  Or you.  Or my girls.

If motherhood were easy, there would be no glory in it.  When we love so deeply, we feel so deeply.  And when we feel deeply, some of those feelings will be unpleasant and hard.

But I have yet to find anything worth keeping that wasn’t hard.  It’s the challenge that makes it what it is.  It’s the glory in giving our all that helps us understand who we are and who they are.

So yes, motherhood is hard.

And it’s beautiful.

And it’s challenging.

And it’s joy.

It’s all of it.  And it always has been.  From the first time a mother laid eyes on the first baby, this world has known the all encompassing power of motherhood.  And it has been passed down through the ages from mother to child all the way to us and our little ones.

I’m proud to be a part of that tribe.

And I’m proud of the struggle.

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Failure

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Moms, do you ever feel like you are failing at this whole mothering thing?

Do you look around you and see so many people who seem to be functioning on such a higher level?

Do you just feel like you simply are not enough no matter how hard you try?

I do.  All the time.

Both big girls woke me up early this morning.  First Magoo and then Goosie climbed into my bed.  I don’t mind this.  TJ is always long gone for work by the time we wake up, so it’s nice to have someone to wake up with.

But just as I was closing my eyes to get a few more minutes of sleep, Magoo started screaming.  Her belly was hurting her.  I ran downstairs to check on her after she ran down, and the crying and screaming didn’t stop all day.  It’s still going on.

And then there are all of the Easter gifts that the little two want to do right now.  Every intensive activity or box that needed to be opened, needed to be opened that instant.  Or else screaming would ensue because they were both overly exhausted.

In other words, it has been a long day.  There is a mess everywhere.  I have a neck migraine.  My right eye will not stop twitching.  And I’m putting out fires everywhere I look.

And when I have a moment to breathe, all I can hear is the word, “failure” screaming at me at piercing decibels.

And why?

Because I didn’t organize the Easter gifts yet?  Because I had planned to go grocery shopping today and couldn’t because of Magoo’s illness so I was scraping together crappy meals for the kids to eat all day?  Because I only had the energy to do half a dozen crafts?  Or because I finally gave in and just let them watch television because everyone was miserable.

I think it’s all of that.  And none of that.

I just don’t function well with little structure.  I never have.  And it’s a part of this lifestyle. We build in as much structure as we can, but with only one adult around all day and three little ones, a lot gets left aside.

The girls’ clothes don’t always match.

Sometimes Mae wears mismatching shoes.

I don’t even know if we own any socks that match each other.

Their organized drawers get destroyed every time they go into one of them to find something.

They throw papers all over the floor.

They don’t keep the pieces of puzzles together.

I find random Barbie doll heads throughout my house.

And to be honest, I don’t know if this makes me a failure.

My kids are happy.

They are loved.

They are relatively emotionally balanced.

They do well at school and with friends and just in general out in the world.

And I think they feel secure.  I pray they feel secure.

But how much is enough?  Are those things enough?  Or do the details matter as well?  Am I teaching them to be messy because their toys aren’t always (or ever sometimes) put away?  Am I teaching them to be lazy because sometimes I just need to sit down and read or zone out on my phone?

Would they be better with someone who was more productive?  More organized?  More on top of things?

Or are my weaknesses just like anyone else’s weaknesses?  No better or no worse?

I ask these questions because I don’t have the answers.  I don’t know the answers.  I believe in perfection, so trying to find an acceptable place short of perfection is confusing to me.  I worry giving up high standards will make me complacent.  Will make me a failure.

And it’s hard to judge by other people.  Some people think scattered toys is normal.  Some think they should be cleaned up every night or even more often.

And so they say to go by my standards.

But I don’t even know what those are.

And I wonder if I’m alone in this.  Is this just an extension of neuroticism or is it an extension of motherhood?

This life as a mother is so confusing.  Never before have I done anything so important, and yet never before have I done anything where the expectations are so vague.

All I know is that I’m grateful for tomorrow.  Because today just did not cut it.

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Faith Like A Child – 365

I remember being in Catholic school as a child and hearing constantly about how everyone is supposed to strive for the faith of a child.  It made me feel special at the time.  I was child, and something in me was so magnificent that even grown ups strived for it.  I always liked hearing those things.  About how Jesus would call the children to him, how children were special to him.

Flash forward a couple of decades and that same idea that used to make me feel so special started to confuse me.  The faith of a child?  How can a child have true faith?  How can we so abandon our intellects and our maturities and come to that same simple understanding?  Why is simple understanding even worth striving for?  Isn’t understanding and sophistication what we should be striving for?

And then I was sitting at Holy Thursday Mass with my six year old last night.  The Tridiuum Services have kind of become our special time, just me and her while Daddy stays home with the little two.

I looked over and saw her praying, her eyes down.  She wasn’t praying that way because it makes her look holy (and incredibly cute.)  Rather, that’s what Jesus asks of her, so that is what she does.

During the homily, she leaned over and asked me for the rosary.  Occasionally I would glance down and see her moving the beads between her fingers, her lips silently moving with the prayers.

On the way home I told her that I admire her holiness.  I told her that I try to learn from her how to be more holy.  Her eyes got wide, and she asked me why I am trying to learn from her.  And I told her it’s because little children have a special faith in God, and that He wants all adults to try to strive to be like them.

And it made me think.  We grown ups of the world have a lot to teach our children about faith.  We have to teach them about Jesus and the Passion and the promises and the responsibilities.

But when it comes to faith, I’m not sure if it is we who should be the teachers.  In matters of faith, I think perhaps we our the ones who need to close our mouths and open our ears and our hearts.

I would never deny the fact that I struggle with doubts and trust and faith.  I still don’t understand exactly how to have the faith of a child.  How to simply trust and simply be and simply rest in the presence of the Lord.

I have three little girls though, and in them, I have been blessed with the greatest of teachers.

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Lostish

Sometimes I feel like I was born without armor.  And a tether.

Like I was born without whatever it is that is needed to keep myself in and the bad stuff out.  That thing that allows us to feel good about ourselves.  That part that can hear criticisms and can take them in and then shut them out.  Allowing us to weather the storms without them tearing us down from the outside in.

I wish what other people said didn’t bother me.  I wish I could hear words spread carelessly, not even about me always, and realize that they are about an idea of me rather than me.  That they are about a philosophy rather than a real, life, three dimensional, perfectly complicated human being trying to maneuver through a world that sometimes feels so foreign.

I wish callous words didn’t crush.

I wish judgment didn’t debilitate.

And yet the ironic thing is that I’m my biggest judge and my biggest critic.

I was lying in bed tonight trying to fall asleep.  And I felt like I was floating away in every direction.  I felt like there was nothing to ground me.  To make me feel solid.  To make me feel whole.

That’s the hard part of this mothering gig for me.  Yea there are parts that require patience.  But those are all minor in comparison to the joys.  The real struggle I have is with the aloneness.  With the fact that I am pretty much my only judge.  That others can tell me the big things — feed the kids, don’t hit, don’t leave them alone in parking lots with strangers — but only I can decide everything else.

And that everything is big – meal composition, free time activities, screen time, bed time, discipline, word choice, school choice…

There’s no one to tell me what to do.  There’s no one to tell me if what I am doing is right or if it’s wrong.

So I sit here assuming it’s wrong.  All wrong.

Some day I would like to adopt a little voice.  The little voice would tell me what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong.  The voice would build me up when I feel torn down.  It would correct me if I veer off track.  It would remind me of who I am and what I value.  Even when others think that who I am and what I value isn’t so great.

But there’s no Humane Society for little voices.  Those of us who have lost ours simply need to find it.  Or regrow it.  Or welcome it home.

Life isn’t easy, and it wasn’t intended to be easy.  But when I lay down in my bed at night with the lights off and the light sound of cars outside my window, I wish I felt less like I was floundering, less like I needed to hang onto the sides of the bed to keep myself grounded.  Less lost.

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