Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Myth of the Supermom

Once upon a time, I was asked to write a blog about being a Supermom. Naturally, since the Man is on a week long out of town trip and I'm kicking it with all five kids, now is the opportune time to rise to the occasion and instruct all of you in the Ways of Awesomeness.

First, I'd like to extend an invitation to come spend some time in my home. Seriously, there is no better way for you to learn the ropes than to watch me in action. You will note Exhibit A) me yelling at my kids and only grudgingly apologizing hours later, Exhibit B) just how little actually gets done during the day, Exhibit C) some seriously impressive three year old tantrums, Exhibit D) me reading novels when I should be parenting, and Exhibit E) a goodly amount of chaos. Also, while you're here, can I please take a nap?

And I need a nap because keeping up with all of these kids is hard work.

If, after your foray into my home, you still believe in the Myth of the Supermom, I will tell you my secret. Come closer. Seriously, lean in a little bit farther. I'm getting ready to pretend whisper into your ear only to surprise you by yelling. Are you ready?

THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A SUPERMOM.

Public service announcement:
This kid knows first hand that there is no Supermom.
He is Super Good at getting into trouble.
He also has Super Awesome bed head.

Supermoms are like magical pregnancy unicorns. They may be able to wear five inch heels and flounce around majestically in their third trimester before popping out a beautiful bouncing baby without a milligram of pain medicine, but sooner or later, something is going to bite them in the rear. And it may be the aforementioned beautiful bouncing baby that they just accidentally sat on in their newly sleep deprived state.

We all have moments when we think that we are rocking it, when we think we have achieved the perfect state of the Supermom (or the magical pregnancy unicorn). When you are in that moment, enjoy it while it lasts. Nothing lasts forever but those moments really are great to remember. Personally, I like to look back on the day when I managed to change a poopy toddler while nursing a newborn. On the days when I have to bodily straightjacket a screaming, hitting, biting three year old, I remember that, once, I too was awesome. But no one is awesome all the time. Except for Jesus. And last time I checked, He wasn't in the running for Supermom.

This kid is so happy that sometimes...
she makes me look pretty Super.

Now that we have debunked the Myth of the Supermom, I do want to say a few things to encourage you, oh sister in the trenches of motherhood. One: every pregnancy is different, every child is different, every mother is different, every family is different, every stage of life is different. Figure out what works best for your family--in this stage that you're in--and don't worry about the rest of it. What works for someone else may not work for you. Then again, it might be worth a shot. Who knows? The point is: everyone is different (say it again: everyone is different). Do what works for your family. Let the rest of it go. Comparisons are odious.

I said "odious" above, not "odorous".
Littles' feet after a long day of playing in the yard are odorous.
Luckily for him, Trigger doesn't care.

Second: cut yourself some slack. And yes, this is me, preaching to the choir. Most of us are our own worst critics. Guess what? You don't have to be Supermom. You just need to be you. Case in point: I lost my temper yesterday with one of my lovely and challenging young children, but Littles informed me I only lost it a little bit so you know what? I'm taking that for a win and refusing to wallow in guilt. Stop beating yourself up. There's no such thing as a Supermom.

Sometimes cutting yourself slack means letting Kid No. 2 read to Kid No. 3.

Third: laugh about it. I think a lot about that Princess Bride quote: if you haven't got your health, you haven't got anything. But in parenting, if you haven't got your sense of humor, you haven't got anything. See, if you don't laugh about the fact that your son called from the bathroom, "Mom! I made the Great Lakes! Look! There's Lake Michigan!" you might start to suffer from anxiety or high blood pressure. If you can't laugh about the fact that the twins used "rest" time to rearrange their room by shoving the bunk bed away from the wall, unloading all of the clothes from their dresser, constructing a humongous maze of dumped toys, and adding a shining pool of pee in one corner and some new marker-to-the-wall artwork, you might literally explode like a blender with its top off. My new plan these days is to remember that I would've laughed about it eight years ago before I actually had kids of my own, which tells me that somewhere, deep in the recesses of my heart, I can dig up the ability to laugh about it now. Hopefully.

If you can't laugh at yourself or your own kids,
feel free to laugh at mine.
Finally, and this is one that I learned from a friend recently and am still trying desperately to implement in my own life: prioritize kindness. There's a lot of things your kids will not remember about their childhood, but how you treated your kids probably isn't one of them. So if you have to choose between getting dinner on the table on time and not screaming at your kids, choose the late dinner. If you have to choose between a Pinterest perfect craft that you can photograph and then put on Facebook and not losing your temper due to shattered expectations, choose just a simple coloring sheet and move on. If you have to choose between a pristine home and losing your ever loving mind, go ahead and start naming those dust bunnies so you can count them as pets. Most of the time, you won't have to choose. You seem like the kind of person who can be awesome and kind at the same time (obviously: you are kindly choosing to spend your time being awesome by reading my blog). But for me, sometimes I have to stop trying so hard for awesome and just settle for kind. It matters more.

I'm sorry I crushed your dreams of being Supermom.
Feel free to try your hand at being Captain America,
but know you've got some competition.

We all want to be Supermom. But let's just be honest: there are days and then there are days. Celebrate your Super moments (and the Super moments of other moms you see), laugh about the off days, and for the rest of it...make like Elsa and let it go. You've got better things to do with your time.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Sharing Our Plenty

A few weeks ago, I saw a friend post on Facebook asking how other parents of littles manage to fit in a quiet time. I didn't have a chance to comment because--Five Kids--but I had a quick moment of empathy because, let's be honest, the struggle is real (see photographic evidence below).

Bruiser not included because he was too busy throwing a tantrum.
Twinkle got in on the action, empathetic soul that she is.
Bee was not impressed.

There are seasons of plenty and then sometimes there are seasons that just are not. And while we may find ourselves with an abundance of one thing (in my case, children), occasionally that leads to a deficit in another (in my case, the brain waves and time required to study God's word). But here's the beautiful part of being in community: what I may lack at this moment, someone else may have in profusion. And sometimes that someone may have so much that a little bit of their plenty can overflow into my life.

Here's an example. A couple weeks ago, the Man's younger brother sent him a message that included a quotation about God's sovereignty and timing. The Man, in turn, passed it on my way.  It was something so small, but sent from a generous heart, it encouraged my thoughts back to God's goodness and lifted my spirit that day. Neither my brother-in-law nor my husband were under any compulsion to share, but they did, out of their overflow, and ministered to my heart, which was in need.


I share this for two reasons. One, if you find yourself in a season of need, don't kick yourself while you're down. This isn't the time to put yourself on a guilt trip for not having an hour long quiet time. Look for the little ways God is still speaking to you. When I was surviving the twins, my quiet times were 5 minutes on the toilet with a little book of blessings from Scripture. Maybe you just have time to listen to a few short verses as you drive to work. Maybe you don't manage to touch your Bible in between Sundays. Sure, it's not ideal. We know that. But that doesn't mean God can't speak to you in other ways. So pay attention: He might be using someone else to draw you into His presence.

That brings me to number two. If you, on the other hand, find yourself in a season of plenty: share the wealth. If you have time to pray for someone, let them know. If you learned something in your quiet time, tell someone about it. If you read something that made you think more deeply about Jesus, text the quote to a friend. You never know who might need to share in what you are learning.

We all go through different seasons of life. When I am in a season of need, sometimes it's hard not to look back longingly at the season of plenty, when really, I should be giving thanks for what I learned during that time and continuing to wait for the unique ways God might speak to me even now.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Have Kids. Will Share.

April got away from me. Let's be honest: quite a lot of things get away from me these days. I assume this is one of the perils of having a big family. It's not the only peril. Here are some more!

Once upon a time, if I was planning a meal that used ground beef, I would buy one of those handy little one pound packets at the store. We'd even have leftovers! A couple of years ago, I graduated to the three pound tube of meat. I'd use two pounds and freeze the extra pound to use for another meal. Now, the whole three pounds go into the pan. Leftovers are hit or miss. Oh, the days of tiny grocery bills...they are long gone.


We get a lot of "You've got your hands full!" comments. This is nothing new. We've been getting them since the twins. And I get it. When you see a huge family, sometimes you just want to say something. Yesterday though, I had someone tell me that I sure did have a lot of helpers, and that may be my new favorite, only to be trumped by hearing how adorable or well behaved my children are. I did get asked the other day if I ran an at home day care. Nope. These are all mine.


Last week we had record wreckage in our home (please try saying "record wreckage" five times fast). In a six day span, we managed to break 9 different items: a wooden cutting board, a plastic bin (that wasn't even ours--the twins thought it would make a great step stool), one dessert plate, a Thomas the Tank Engine spoon, a juice glass (that one was me), three bowls (in one fell swoop--unloading the dishwasher is hazardous), and one other item that currently escapes my mind (see paragraph one).

In addition to the record wreckage, the twins like to take advantage of any momentary distraction exhibited by Mommy (i.e. homeschooling or nursing) to create fabulous murals on their walls, doors, bed spreads, naked bodies, etc with whatever markers they have secreted away from the last time all drawing utensils were confiscated. They also managed to use an entire previously unopened bottle of baby wash at bath time last night. The Man and I are going to get our new family motto emblazoned on our imaginary coat of arms: This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things. Either that or tattoo it across the kids' foreheads. Preferably in purple as that has been the marker color of choice lately.


Our family needs to just start a list of "You might have a big family if..." It's close companion would be "You might be a fifth child if..." And Twinkle is starting that one out right with doing two complete roll overs without anyone there to witness. Both parents were otherwise occupied wrangling kids and putting together dinner on both occasions. She also graciously took a nap in the barbershop while all the boys were getting assembly line haircuts. Evidently, for a fifth child, there is nothing quite so soothing as the hum of a fan directly accompanied by the sound of loud dance music and eight barbers buzzing. I now have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in my head.


At any rate, I'm including pictures from Twink's three month out door photo shoot (knocked out while the boys played football and the twins alternated hitting each other in the head with the swing and trying to con me into letting them play in the Man's jeep). I'm trying to get back to writing more regularly, but most of the time by the end of the day all I want to do is never talk to anyone ever again which might be a sign that I'm an introvert who... has a very large family. All of which means, let's not hold our breath.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

School and Books and Learning/Empathy

This is how school gets done most days:


Littles does math on one side, Tiny reads to me on the other, Twinkle does her best to distract us with her cuteness, and somewhere upstairs the Tornado Twins wreak havoc while Mommy dearest is otherwise occupied. I'm telling you this because I have a feeling inquiring minds want to know why the truant officer hasn't swung by yet to trot my children off to public school. Side note: no judging the plaid with stripes as seen above. Twink is still learning how to pair her patterns. Unfortunately, since that isn't yet covered by either of her big brothers' curriculums, she's not likely to learn any time soon.

Moving on, other than minimal amounts of effort to keep up with our school work, mostly the kids have been playing outside (because that makes everyone smarter and happier and healthier) and reading. I asked a homeschooling mom of six how she survived homeschooling with a newborn, and she told me that she just did a lot of reading and let that cover things. So basically, I've been taking a page out of her book and spending a lot of time reading out loud to the Bigs (especially Littles) and discussing what we read. 

This month we read The Good Master by Kate Seredy and are now plowing our way through its sequel, The Singing Tree, which is set in Hungary during WWI. It's been a great chance to discuss big topics (war, terrorism, racism, discrimination, loss, growing up) within the framework of a story. My hope as my children read these books and others like them is for them to be able to see the world through different sets of eyes, developing empathy as they go along. I also want them to see modeled in other ways some of the virtues the Man and I try to instill in them: responsibility, respect, hard work, honesty.


At any rate: we're reading a lot these days so hopefully my kids will one day make it to college and, if not, at the very least be semi-decent people, and man, that baby sure is cute. The End. More mostly incomprehensible blog posts to come at a later date, I'm sure.

Sorry. I ran out of steam at the end. Now I want to take a nap.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

A Flourish to our Family

Sometimes, when you have your hands full with a loud and proud fire team of four, God decides to give you one little flourish of extra happiness, just because he loves you.

Ours arrived on February 2nd, at exactly 22:22, and is possibly the most kissed baby in the history of ever.


I'm not going to write long or include twenty thousand pictures (although I'm really having trouble deciding which ones to include here), but we are incredibly grateful for our Bonus Baby. She has been mellow and sweet and snuggly and wonderful, and I'm sure we will spoil her silly. Even the dog likes her.


In the meantime, we are adjusting to being a family of seven, by which I mean, some days I feel like the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe and other days I imagine children dripping out of the pores of our home the way sap sometimes oozes out of a tree.  Good thing they're cute and we mostly like them. But we are starting to see progress: today I got in my first postpartum run and now I'm miraculously getting a blog up. This week we even managed to get a little school work done.  Last but not least, the Man and I have finally agreed on a blog nickname.

Ink Blots, meet Twinkle:



Here's to one month and some change of loving on this beautiful addition to our family. Wow, February went by fast...

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Macro/Micro

One of the things I've been learning this pregnancy--

Wait. Hold on. Quick side note.

Yes, I am still pregnant. You can address any questions, comments, or concerns at the non-existent link on the right labelled "My Sanity Is Already Walking a Fine Line."

Moving on.

One of the things I've been learning this pregnancy is that what's true at the microcosm is true at the macrocosm and vice versa. What does this mean? Essentially, that if it's true for my one small life then it's probably true on the universal stage. And if it's a grand theological truth that applies to the whole world then it probably also applies to my immediate circumstances.

For instance, this morning I woke up--still pregnant--and my news feed was full of the new restrictions towards refugees. I then proceeded to read Psalm 121 which says, "The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore." At the macrocosm, my heart is breaking for the many refugees who had a hope of a new life, a safe haven in the US for their families. At the microcosm, I am discouraged by the fact that I have not yet given birth and am stuck waddling around the neighborhood like a straight-jacketed penguin while I try to Get. Her. Out. When I remember that God keeps our going out and our coming in, I know that God is no less in control of US policy and the sojourners in our midst than he is in control of when our Bonus Baby puts in an appearance. He keeps the coming in of refugees; he keeps the going out of one small baby.

Macrocosm. Microcosm. It's still true.

Sometimes we think that there is a huge divide between what is true for us and what is true for everybody. Surely, we think, a small truth doesn't necessarily apply to big grand happenings, and the big grand happenings have nothing to teach us in our little lives. But here's my new secret: truth is truth, big or small. And if I can work it out on the small scale, maybe it will start to be reflected in the big things as well. If I can see it in the small things, maybe the big ones won't be as scary.


So, from my microcosm to the world stage: may we remember that God is keeping our going out and our coming in. And may we watch in wonder as he works good--in the little and the big--while we simply remember the truth of who he is.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

For the Love of the Run

I'm 39 weeks pregnant today, so I thought it was about time to finally write that post about how to love running. You know, timing-wise, it just seems appropriate. I went for a walk with the kids today in an attempt to get things rolling on the labor front. No luck, but I did have fun racing the boys home (I was pushing the twins in the stroller) while Bee laughed maniacally and Bruiser yelled for me to run faster. And...I can still beat the five year old. But barely. And only over very short distances. Still: small victories.

My last official run attempt this pregnancy on Christmas Eve.
It was not pretty. Trigger may have laughed at me.

But here are the things you need to know about learning to love running. I will bullet point for three reasons: 1) I'm really hoping that the Man will get home soon and I want to finish this blog before he does, 2) I'd really rather be in labor than writing right now, and 3) no one really wants to experience the beauty of me writing while simultaneously bouncing on a very large exercise ball. So, without further ado:

  • Take a partner. Accountability is key. This pregnancy, I've had a friend meet me every Thursday night. Sure, these last few weeks she's mainly entertained me while I waddle and occasionally pretend to wog (that's walk/jog to you), but it still counts. Normally though, my running partner is Trigger. He looks so pathetic when I miss our runs that it's highly motivating. Also, he has this incredible ability to mock me with a single glance if I slow down. Running with a partner means you bail on your runs less often and quit less early.
  • Make it something you get to do. To me, running is time without the kids. It's time that's just for me. When I'm running with someone else, it's time to enjoy adult company. It's something I get to do that makes my life happier. Seriously.
  • Switch it up. This last year, the Man built me a running plan that gave me one day of interval training (speed work! yay!), one day with a timed run, and one day with a long run. Because each day was something different and each week the times and distances changed, I was much less apt to get bored or burnt out.
  • Reward yourself. Sometimes this looks like "When I've run this many miles, I get to buy a new pair of running shoes." Sometimes it's more like, "Today I'm going to humble brag on Facebook about my run and people will pat me on the back." Other times, it's knowing that you get to come home from your run to a nice glass of ice cold chocolate milk. Do not reward yourself with an entire sheet cake. You will hate yourself afterward. Just saying.
  • Give yourself a goal. Pick a race, any race. Sign up for it. Better yet, sign up with a friend. Train with or without said friend. Show up for said race. Feel awesome.
  • Figure out what you like about running. If you start every run thinking about how much you hate running, you will never learn to love it. This is true about most things in life. Maybe the only thing you ever learn to like about running is finishing a run. This is fine. When you start each run, you'll say to yourself, "I'm going to feel so great when this is over." That's legit. Personally, there are many things I like about running (and a few that I really dislike--such as the fact that it's really hard to do when you're 39 weeks pregnant and your baby dropped 3 weeks ago). You just have to pick one.
  • Find a cheerleader. Maybe the humble brag on Facebook is beneath you. I have a former running partner that I text with about my runs, and the Man is excellent about high-fiving me  and telling me I'm awesome when I get back to the house. My middle sister also does a great job cheering me on (and she's run a marathon so she always gives me something to live up to). We all need cheerleaders in our lives. If you don't have one, I'd love to be that for you. Cheering others on is one of my favorite things.
Here's my last piece of advice though, if you really want to love running and you just don't, find something else that you can love. It doesn't have to be running. Really, it doesn't. There are lots of other great options out there. Swim. Cycle. Do yoga. Try out Zumba. Be purposeful to go race around the yard with your kids more often. Running isn't for everyone. And sometimes it's just not for every season. I am not running right now. Well, not more than 25 very awkward yards at a time. And that's okay. 

Anyway, I repeat: running isn't for everyone, but you know what should be for everyone? Joi de vivre and feeling good in your own skin. So find something that helps you do that. Even if it's just frequent dance parties in your socks while you cook dinner in the evening. Because God did a really good job on you, and I think we should always celebrate that. With or without a side of running.