Monday, March 23, 2015

We Can Do Hard Things

A couple weeks ago, I started a post to tell you about a fun art project I did with the kids. It was Spring
Break, and we spent a rainy day gathered around the kitchen table painting, and laughing, and creating art for the play room wall.

A few days later, I set the table for dinner, complete with "fancy" glasses and candlesticks. This is something we do a couple times a week, and I had plans to tell you all about it.

Then I started a post entitled, "5 Things that Happened When I Stopped Saying 'Hurry.'" I had big plans for that one.

I had a post about how the chicken coop is coming along. (Most of the chickens and both ducks have "officially" vacated my coffee table and bath tub and are now residing in a semi-completed coop.)

I had plans, folks. Big plans.

But my plans never seem to work out these days.

Mr. J (4mos) is teething (maybe???) and goes on periodic nursing strikes. He's fussy to the max, but refuses to eat or sleep. So that's fun.

Miss PJ (18mos) is going through a "cognitive leap." That's a fancy term the "professionals" use to mean she's going bat-**** crazy. She's transitioning from two naps to one, wanting a later (less peaceful) bedtime, cutting four teeth, working through some food allergies, and trying to talk. (That last one means this: she wants to talk, but can't, gets frustrated by her lack of communication, and flails in the floor while her parents and siblings frantically hold things out to her to see if it's what she wants: "Snack? Water? Doll? Ball? Blanket? Hug? Duck? Prozac?!")

Miss C (8) and Miss M (5) have been ever so patient with the crazy babies while fighting their own double ear infections, sore throats, and fevers. So there's that.

I have never worked so hard in my life for so little results. From the time my feet hit the floor until the last Little is asleep at night, I do not stop. Yet at any given point, my laundry is behind, my dishes are piled up, my floor is unswept, and my hair is unwashed.

In the midst of it all, the PreacherMan and I have started working out again. And here's what I know about the first few weeks back at the gym. My muscles don't work right. Everything feels awkward and silly. I'm sore for days after a workout. And I see zero results. It would be easy to give up.

But here's what else I know: with time and consistency, those muscles start to build. The movements feel less awkward, and even fun. My body is a little less sore and a little more defined. The numbers on the scale and the reflection in the mirror start to change.

So here's what I'm telling myself, and what I'm telling you, in this season of parenting: This is all new. It's hard. It's a stretch. It feels awkward and painful and yields little results.

But we keep going. We push a little harder. We dig a little deeper. We find that survivor - that champion - that's inside each of us, and we push her to her max. Because someday (hopefully soon), it will all become a little less awkward, a little less chaotic, a little less painful, with a few more results. And it won't be because life has become easier, it will be because we have become stronger.

In the meantime, don't worry about what you're not. Ain't nobody got time for that. Think about who you're becoming and what you're accomplishing in these little people. Take a deep breath, a sip of coffee, and a moment to pray. Then jump in and do it. We got this, you and I. We can do hard things.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Animal Update

It's been a bit since we last chatted. So allow me to catch you up:

1. We got four more chickens."Easter Eggers." They will have blue/green eggs. I might have a problem.

2. The first set of chicks we purchased are getting huge. They love to roost on the edge of the brood box, tail feathers out. You can imagine how this thrills me. Cleaning chicken poop off my toddler's hands is my favorite.

3. We put chicken wire over the brood box to keep the chickens from roosting on the edge. This works, most of the time.

4. Ducks are disgusting animals who grow like they've been injected with radioactive material. They have no business in a human's home. They will be venturing into the great outdoors promptly.

5. But they're really, super cute, with lots of personality. And the girls love them.

Here's Miss C (8) with her duck, Edmund.

6. It's Spring Break for the kiddos, but not for the PreacherMan. So I'm here at the homestead, by myself, with four kids, nine chicks, two ducks, and two guinea pigs.

Caspian the Guinea Pig and Dot the Duck meet at last

7. My house may or may not smell and sound like a zoo.

8. We have officially named the birds. Ducks: Edmund and Dot. Chicks: Mama, Lucille Ball, Ethel Mae, Agnes, Bitsy, Minnie Pearl, Special, Chipmunk, Jamima.

Dot and Edmund


Lucille Ball

Ethel Mae

"Mama" and Agnes

9. Taking showers with ducklings is fun (and sometimes necessary when the brood box has become too small).

10. Life is messy. The house is messy. The kids are messy. The animals are messy. But we're having fun and riding out this "season" with a little patience and a lot of laughter. Two more weeks, and all the animals are heading outside. Just a little longer....

Miss M (5) with dirty face and wind-blown hair. The best kind of (5) to be.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Unhurried Love

I heard it in her voice as she shooed her three kiddos out of Starbucks, that tone of frustration and impatience as little feet hurried through the door she was holding open.

She was the third mama who had ushered kids in and out during the hour or so that I sat with my laptop, pretending not to eavesdrop. All three moms had walked through those doors - both into and out of the coffee shop - with similar tone and words: Hurry up. Come on. Move. Go go GO!

This one seemed particularly perturbed as she added: Faster, please! The "please" did not mask her impatience as well as she might have hoped.

I sighed and shook my head and thought: That's me. I'm her.

I remembered just the morning before, when I sent Miss C (my eight year old) to her room for the third time to get her shoes on. As I haphazardly brushed my five year old's hair, I yelled down the hall:

"What are you DOING?!"

"I'm putting my shoes on!"

"It shouldn't take you this long!!"

She yelled back something I couldn't understand.

"Just get them on and get in here, please! We have to hurry!"

I don't think the "please" masked my impatient tone either.

She hobbled into the room, one shoe on her foot, holding out the tangled shoelaces of the other shoe. She couldn't get them untied.

In the meantime, Miss M (my five year old) was tapping her feet to a song she was in the process of writing.

I whipped her hair through the ponytail holder. "I can't do this while you're moving. Be still."

She loves to do things at her own pace, often singing or dancing or talking her way through them. I just needed her to focus.

As I handed Miss C back her untangled shoelaces, I started in: "We are going to be late if you can't pick up the pace..." But before finishing that sentence, I looked up and saw their faces. Like, really saw them. They were tired. And not the kind of tired that happens from a lack of sleep. It's the kind of tired that happens when you're worn down, weary, shrinking.

But it wasn't life wearing them down or causing them to shrink. It was me.

And that realization is what left me sucker-punched as I sat in Starbucks that Saturday morning.  Was I rushing my children through their childhood? When they're old and looking back, will they remember only stress and frustration and busyness? C (my eight year old) loves to brush the same handful of hair over and over again "until it's shiny, Mommy." M likes to stop every few seconds to use her toothbrush as a microphone while she belts out her latest Top Hit (that she made up). They both love to pause to give the babies kisses every single time they walk past them. But I wasn't seeing the shiny hair or creativity or deep love they have. I was seeing minutes on a clock.

So I vowed right then and there that I would stop being in such a hurry. Literally, I would never again say the word "hurry" to my children. If we are late, so be it. Being on time wasn't worth all the stress and frustration and weariness that came with it.

That was a month ago. And can I tell you? We have never been late. Not once in four weeks. You know what else hasn't happened? Tears as we're getting in the car. Yelling down the hall to get shoes on. Panicked, painful hair brushing.

I have been forced to find more creative - and loving - ways to get everything done. If a shoe is lost, we all stop and look for it. If Miss M is having a difficult morning getting dressed, I stop and help her, giving snuggles and tickles in the process. They love it when I brush their hair; so we made a rule that if they are completely ready before five after, I'll brush and fix it. After that time, they are on their own, and a simple pony tail will have to do. I honestly can't believe what a positive motivation that has been.

It has changed the tone of our home in so many ways.

So I'm issuing a challenge to all you mamas out there. Give it a try. Commit for one week, or one day, or even one morning, to stop saying "hurry." Don't rush them or remind them of the time. Be okay with being late, just once.

We can do this, you and I. We can change the tone of our home and the memories of their childhood. We can choose not to give into the rush and the panic. We can choose to love slowly and deliberately.

 Give it a whirl, and let us know how it goes in the comments below!