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A Pause in Parenting {A Poem}

My four beautiful  girls were all huddled around the computer desk a few days ago and were pointing, giggling, and talking as I cooked dinner. They were all so happy that I broke away from food preparation to investigate. (I’m always looking for new ways to make them happy – especially for when they spend time together) Upon inspection of the screen of my laptop, I was surprised to see them looking through my old blog. As they looked through all the old posts with stories and photos, they shared memories and debated names of former stuffed animals.

I was sucked in as easily as they had been. I knew in  my heart Abigail was just making a really good attempt at procrastinating her homework, but I let it slide. We all ooo’ed and awe’d at how cute everyone’s younger and littler selves were and shared our opinions on silly things. “Sophia, you always look better with shorter hair.” “That was so fun when we dressed as Rapunzel.” “I wish Caroline could have kept her curls.”

Bella remembered out loud, “That time Caroline threw up in my mouth was so gross.” Abigail found the photo of her first crush in 5th grade and we discussed her continued respect for  boys with brains. Sophia questioned me as to why I let her hair grow so long and scraggly. There were so many happy memories. Even the bad experiences have become happy over time.

It was a beautiful moment that I won’t forget. I felt so close with  my girls. I felt so lucky to be their mom. I was so grateful for so many wonderful memories. I was so astounded that they have grown up so quickly. I wanted time to freeze.

I was so glad that I blogged. My mom pride swelled as I realized that my little hobby had preserved so much for us to share. The girls lamented, “Mom, you used to have the best blog, and now you are so boring. You just blog about your problems.” Out of the mouths of babes. I chuckled as I reminded them that they used to often be mad at me for blogging about them and sharing all their secrets, but was privately happy that they were not just giving me permission to blog about them, but were practically begging for it.

I look forward to sharing more kid stories although I think it is more difficult to find such entertaining material as they age. It will be a fun challenge.

This morning however as I searched my heart and photo folder on my hard-drive for a more recent story or two, I just couldn’t help but feel heavy-hearted with the fact that my little girls are so grown-up.

A Pause in Parenting

They will grow so fast, they would say:
Try to enjoy every day.
I skeptically disagreed.
The dirty diapers will never stop
and neither will the million scraped knees.

I dragged along trying my best
not to totally screw up their joy.
I felt like a failure most of the time
and lamented my previous care-free me.

Ran around like a chicken I did.
Please don’t cut off my head.
Dragged them to and from every magical place
While I often wished for just a moment of peace.

It was in the car and school and church
and yard and kitchen and parks
that each little memory was made.
I didn’t believe I would ever miss it:
the toil and sweat was pain.

I stole a smile here and a smirk from them there
and a billion laughs and songs and sighs,
I often just cursed all the work it required
and didn’t stop to see the end
that would come quicker than a wink of an eye.

Now, I can’t make them stop.
They grow every day.
A millimeter at a time.
I would debate their inevitable progress still
if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.

I can’t stop time.
I can’t keep them for mine.
Someday they will fly this coop.
I didn’t enjoy every minute like I was told
but I tried as hard as I could.

They, however, enjoyed a lot more
then I ever had time to see
and I guess that is the way
that God always intended parenting to be.

Don’t listen to the lies, mom.

Dear moms,

motherhoodFB

I know you really like stuff like this. I do too.

I used to use messages like this to justify myself in the parts of me that I wasn’t mastering.

    • Carrying around extra weight
    • Not pursuing fulfilling hobbies
    • Not learning anything new
    • I could only have so much patience when dealing with kids all day every day.
    • Lack of organization/cleanliness that I wanted
    • Inability to serve others
    • My marriage wasn’t happy.

You name it, the kids were to blame.
Everything I did was for my kids and gosh dangit, they were lucky to have me.
Then one day, someone proposed a question to me:
If your kids grow up to be just like you, would you be proud of what you had taught them?

The answer was a resounding, “Hell, no. I’m not happy.”
That day I started to change.
Now, I live my life for the greatest amount of health and happiness that I can find
because that is what I want most for my children.

I suggest you do the same.
You can’t believe how good it feels.
You don’t even have to neglect your children,
or yourself,
or your God.

You will come to see that they all go hand in hand
towards your greatest health and happiness.

Love,
A changed mom.

Changing from the inside out.

You, like millions of other Americans have one big resolution this year: lose weight.

I’m here to tell you that if you don’t want to be unsuccessful like most of the other Americans will be this year, you’ve got to do something different. Lay off the Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Slim-fast, South Beach, HCG, and all the others you’ve tried before. Don’t even go there. Don’t go buy the gym pass either. Quit wasting your money.

What makes me the expert? Thirty-five years of fat, that’s what. I am just like you. I’m a forty-year-old mother of four who has carried around excess weight since I can remember. I tried everything and even had short-term success with many of them, but the answer isn’t in what you are putting into your body or what you are doing with your body. The answer is in your heart.

How can you trust me? Well, you don’t have to trust me. I may not be trustworthy. I could go on a binge and gain every pound back tomorrow. And, yeah, I am pretty sure I could find a way to gain thirty pounds in just a day. Honestly I still have forty pounds to lose to be at optimal health but I know a big secret.

Let me tell you about the fifty pounds I have lost. I’ve kept it off for two years. I could credit my running or even my calorie counting and those two things do deserve a good portion of the credit, but the real secret lies within my heart. This secret is not one that you will find on any shelf of any store in America, or the world for that matter. You can’t buy the secret.

The secret is real change. Real heartfelt change.

Oh, you don’t want to sign up for that? Can’t say that I blame you. It’s not easy. In fact it’s a whole lot harder then filling up a Walmart buggy with the latest in weight-loss like the rest of the Americans. Guess what? It’s o.k. if you aren’t ready. It really is. Let’s revisit this whole thing next year. Actually, let’s just call January off limits, and revisit whenever you decide you are ready. Don’t worry, I will keep on loving you just the way you are.

But. But. There is always a but. (And a butt unfortunately.) You need to know one thing. It’s going to hurt to hear it so let me preface this with a big hug. Doesn’t that feel nice? Hold onto that feeling because here comes the slap in your face.

You don’t love yourself.

O.k. I am hearing you call me a liar. I deserve whatever you are going to dish out. The message-bearer is always the one at stake, but it’s a risk I want to take because someone has to tell you the truth. And that someone is going to feel really good when you finally get what you really want.

Let me be your Mike Sufferidini. That guy changed my life.

You see, my brother’s good friend, Mike, he called me out on Facebook. I can’t remember the context, but a few years back when I was negatively criticizing all my health-nut friends, he had the guts to say something like this:

“Alice, you sound like you have given up. You aren’t too old. It’s never too late.”

I was raging mad. If only I had a few dozen eggs to throw at his house. Or his head. Oh, forget, the eggs…I needed knives.

But. He was right. After a few weeks of pouting and raging and crying, I had an awakening.

What was my problem? Why was I trying to justify my weight? Why was I so envious of others? Why was I willing to lie to myself and tell myself I was really just a better mom then all those ladies who spent so much time running? I knew it was a lie. I knew I was just being fat and lazy.

What I didn’t know is the secret: I wasn’t fat and lazy. I was scared to death. I was broken. I was sad. I was a living vessel of conflict. My heart was the problem. No, not the clogged ventricles. The secret parts of my heart that carry all the emotions were the problem. The pain that I had hidden away there for all these years was the problem. I thought it was hidden well when I stuffed it into the secret compartments in the first place but the pain was seeping out through the cracks and causing me to over-eat and under-exercise.

So, when I look at you with your extra hundred pounds.  I don’t have anything but love because I get it. I get where you are and I get where you need to be and I get how hard it is going to be for you to get there.

After you are done being mad, please believe me when I say that the secret is in changing your heart. You’ve got to get the pain out. You can’t let the seeps continue with their contamination because it is killing you.

If you purge it, weight-loss will come.

It’s in the heart. It’s different for everyone, but I promise you, when you are ready, you will find the pain that is holding you back. My only hope is that you won’t wait any longer. Not because it’s January, but because your change is ready and it’s beautiful.

Cat and Dog on Relationships

Recently Updated3A friend just posted a cute video of her pets and I had one of those moments of recognition. I borrowed stole some still-shots from the video for visuals. First, her mean kitty came up to the new kitty’s cage to hiss at her. Then the sweet sweet dog came and chased the mean cat away and hovered over the kitty to let her know she was safe.

While watching I was like, “Crap, I’m the mean cat.” I want so badly to be the hovering loving protective dog, but if I am honest with myself, I guess I should be honest with you too….I might reach nice dog status 30% of the time. The other 70% I am definitely in the cat-scratch-your-eyes-out mode.

I’m just cranky. People threaten me.

As I watched the mean kitty all defensive and aggressive, the principle that the therapist has been trying to teach me came to my mind’s forefront:

I have to rid myself of the fear of abandonment if I am ever going to have fulfilling close relationships.

In plain terms – I can’t be scared of other people because if I am I will use aggression, control, and other ineffective defense mechanisms to save myself from being hurt. Acting in such ways just causes me hurt because it pushes people away and that is what I was afraid of in the first place.

Funny sidestory – I am just remembering my kids showing a video from their ipod of Caroline crying the other day. One of my kids said matter-of-factly, “Caroline has abandonment issues.” Their 9 year old playmate was like, Wha? What is abandonment issues?” Yes, this is the stuff we talk about at our house.

Back to the dog and the cat. Remember my recent post about feeling lonely. I’m learning how vital relationships are to living a happy fulfilling life. We all need to connect. Joy is found in connection. I believe  progress will be easy if I can let go of the fear.

To gain greater connection with others I will be working on seeing others as harmless little kittens that need my love and affection, not as threats to my stability and way of life. All the pet owners in the world have room for another pet….even the cranky cats.

“Yesterday I was a dog.
Today I’m a dog.
Tomorrow I’ll probably still be a dog.
Sigh!
There’s so little hope for advancement.” ~Charles M. Schulz

Don’t listen to him…there’s always hope for advancement.

Pooping in Peace

bathroom

I felt euphoric in the bathroom a moment ago. I had just finished cleaning my room (which is always the last place to get attention), folding three loads of laundry, and parking Caroline in front of a Barbie movie. Because I had already done a lot of the household duties for the day and given Caroline enough attention this morning (so she was happy to veg and watch TV for a bit), I found myself able to use the restroom in total peace.

I am always astounded to think that there are actually people in this world who don’t know the bliss one can have by just being left alone to do their business. Does anyone else find that motherhood is one big long lesson of learning to appreciate all the things you took for granted before? At least 50% of the time while I am in the bathroom, one of my older kids (who are not so young anymore mind you – 9,11, and 13)  comes barging in with non-emergency items of business. I sometimes worry that in my obituary someone will write my catch phrase, “Really? This can’t wait 5 minutes? Get out of my bathroom! Please! Can’t a mom just poop in peace?”

I really wonder if I will become totally constipated once I am an empty-nester. I don’t think my body will know what to do with a completely quiet bathroom.

So while I was in the bathroom just enjoying the moment of peace I pondered on WHY I felt so happy? Was it just the moment of peace and quiet or was it more? I came up with the fact that over the previous 12 hours I had done some things just for me. Last night LG and I snuck away to see the late $5 movie of StarTrek. We had a blast and it was a bit nostalgic for me as we used to watch Star Trek every night at 11 p.m. as newlyweds. (It was the only channel that came in without paying for cable) This morning a friend texted me unexpectedly and we went and got a Jamba Juice together. I am such an extrovert and often forget to feed my personal need for human relations.

So today’s chores (although the same as every other day) didn’t seem typically mundane; I didn’t mind them as much. I was able to power through them and see them for what they are:  a necessary evil. Getting them done after I already had some fun and before a nice quiet moment to myself in the bathroom made my life a lot happier today.

Mom advice to myself for the future: sandwich the mundane between the non-mundane and start locking the door to the bathroom.

Finding Gratitude

So, if you read the about page, you have figured out what this new blog is all about. Basically I plan to chronicle my journey of learning to love being at home. After 14 years of parenting, I still haven’t figured it out. Yes, I’ve figured out some of it, but my goal is to figure out all of it. Ha! Let’s see how long it takes. {forever} I hope you plan on sticking around.

My hubby and I felt strongly that I needed to be home more. I quit my job to do so, which means that we will have to live much more frugally.  We can make it on my husband’s income but to do so successfully it will take a lot of sacrifice.

I don’t like sacrifice. Well, at least I don’t like sacrifice until I realize that it was actually good for me, which is always the case.

To be happy, I realize that I am going to have to look for the good. Find the gratitude. If I can’t find it, I know that I will just be forever stuck wallowing in my sacrificial pity party.

Here is what I found on Week 1 of my new focus on family:

FORCED GRATITUDE (I had to force focus to find it)

By quitting my job, I automatically didn’t feel as rushed. Last Thursday I was able to happily take Abigail her forgotten lunch and spend 10 extra minutes (even though it made her late to preschool) helping Caroline paint her X. Video here.

abgail lunchcarolineX

On Friday night, after a grocery challenged week (because we are trying to stay under budget) Abigail and I made cookies for her to take to her movie night instead of buying something at the store. I noticed myself taking pride in my capability and I really enjoyed the time with Abigail. She is pretty good in the kitchen. Yeah mom!

cookies

Also on Friday night, instead of being bitter that I couldn’t afford to take the girls to the movie while LG was out of town, I tried to embrace a different form of entertainment. We went for a walk around the neighborhood and I fell in love with this view of the girls through the blooms. I also introduced the girls to one of my favorite chick flicks and we collectively admired the strength of female relationships.

steelwalk

On Sunday, I was feeling especially insignificant. My husband got a new calling in church (he is working with the youth) and was focusing on his new assignment. Instead of trying to draw him away as a comfort to my own insecurities, I was able to look and see how blessed I am that he has this new opportunity to focus on his own spirituality. I love him so. This took some serious humility, but it was empowering.

lg

UNFORCED GRATITUDE (happened naturally)

Last Tuesday, after reading of my faith experiment on facebook, a friend brought me 6 pounds of ground sausage and said she wished she could quit her job and she wanted to support me in doing so. Yeah, I cried. It made me feel not so alone.

sausage

Yesterday, Sophia was able to wiggle out of her cast, saving the family $150 at the doctor’s office.

I don’t think things like this are coincidental. I take them as true gifts directly from God.

cast

And just this morning, after overcoming my bitterness by vlogging I gained some insight for myself.

This blog needs to be about me staying vulnerable and honest.

If I can do that then God will let me have it as a tool in my journey.

(Last week, I started this blog, but then realized I was just using it as an escape and figured I would have to scrap it.)

That gift made me especially grateful and happy to be at home cuddling on the couch with Caroline.

caroline

I’m so happy I could find love today.

One day at a time.