Dear Mom, I’m not judging your tantrum

I think it’s possible that the best writing topics are the ones that bear a sense of deja vu.

The ones you’re fairly certain you’ve written about before, perhaps several times.  Those are the ones we need to keep processing and pursuing because clearly there’s something there.

So along those lines… mothering is tough.  And I think so often we feel judged by well, everyone really.

We feel judged by the people at the table next to us in the restaurant.
We feel judged because of the noise coming from our cart at the grocery store.
We feel judged because we’re just so crabby sometimes in public and doing a poor job at portraying the ethereal mom-gasm we’re supposed to be embodying.

The other day Kel and I decided to screw the budget and take our two lovely little ones out for breakfast at Holland’s The Biscuit before we ran new-house related errands.

I regretted this decision within the first minute we were in the door.  Caedmon threw two tantrums before we were seated and two more before the waitress arrived.

When I picked him up for a time out and some stern words he slapped me in the face and I swear to you, everyone saw it.  I promise that I heard the restaurant gasp in some sort communal oh “Oh snap!” and “What now, Mom?”

I was sure they saw me as a terrible mother with out of control children. I was so embarrassed that I wanted to melt into a puddle on the floor.  Surely they were all wondering why we brought our tantrum-y son out for breakfast to ruin their dining experience.

tatrum These are the moments of parenting that suck the strength from your soul and send you wondering if 11:00 A.M. is too early for a glass of wine… and does wondering this mean you’re an alcoholic?

But, with every terrible grocery shopping trip and taxing dining experience I’m coming to realize that most people are giving me grace when my children and their tantrums hijack my sanity.  Either that or they just don’t care.

Most people around you have been there before, the other Moms regard you with sympathy and the older ones just remember it with nostalgic fondness … somehow.   Continue reading

Groundhogs Day (for when you wanna drive off a cliff)

Yup, life's like that.

Yup, life’s like that.

My amazing friend Hannah (read more about her at the bottom!) says that lately everyday of her life feels like Groundhog Day.  You know the movie where Bill Murray wakes up and does the same thing all over again, and again, and again, until he drives off a cliff?


Because if we’re honest, that’s what life feels like sometimes.  It feels like we’re making great efforts all day long only to fall asleep exhausted wondering if we’re making any this busyness is going anywhere at all.  And then… we get up and do it all over away.

(so put your little hand in mine….)

I wipe the same table so often it makes my head hurt.
I load the same dishwasher while saying the same things as I shoo the same kids out of the bottom rack.
I coerce my children to pick up the same toys off the same living room floor.
I cook meals that seem the same in the same pots at the same times.

And a lot of days I wonder about the smallness of my life, I know that in the grand scheme it amounts to so much but some days it feels like I’m stuck.

The other day I caught myself telling a friend that writing has been hard lately because I’ve exhausted all the inspiration I can find within these four walls.  I commented about how I needed to get out more and have some new experiences to stir up the creative juices.

And while new experiences, vacations and escapes are good, needed sometimes, I don’t think they’re the solution as often as we think.  So often when things are falling apart we think that we need to get away to fix things or find what we’re looking for.   Continue reading

31 Letters to My Mother {Day 3} Genetic Panty Problems

photo by f i R a s’ on Flikr

Dear Mom,

I spent about an hour on the phone yesterday with Aunt Betsy, it’s always so nice to be able to catch up with her.

I told her about a hilarious story from last week, which involved me sending Noelle to school without panties on.  And of course she was wearing a skirt which only compounded the problem.

I had spent a few hours sewing her a new, tiered skirt in black and yellow prints. I was so excited to try it on her, it fit and looked adorable!  I raided her closet and found the perfect black top to complete the ensemble.  As I was getting her dressed I made a mental note to slip some panties on under the skirt.

The morning got away from me and as I ran outside, I staged a few pictures of her in the outfit so I could show off my first garment.

When Kel got to school he sent me frantic texts, Noelle has no underwear on!  

Luckily we were had a backup pair and the day continued on normally, with some laughter and a few moments where I shook my head and mumbled something about my priorities being backward.

Panties are more important than presentation, especially at preschool.

As I chatted with Aunt Betsy she filled me in on a similar situation with you and me.

Apparently when we were going to Baldwin Street CRC I marched up to the front of the sanctuary for children’s church.  Upon reaching the front I promptly lifted my dress to show the congregation my business.  You’d forgotten my panties too.

You must have been mortified.  How much time had to pass before you could laugh about it?

Aunt Betsy and I made a joke about how forgetting panties must be a genetic thing with us.

Then she was able to recall a time when Grandma Mac and some of her sisters had to turn around after walking to school in the snow because one of the girls had forgotten underwear.

So it must run on the Elenbaas side.

Perhaps we need a sign by our front door, where we keep our car keys:

STOP!  Is everyone wearing underwear?

Or: Keep Penny Parts Private!  Wear Underwear! 

Oh mom, this parenting this is a crazy dance and anyone who judges it without experience should be smacked upside the head.

I wish you were around to laugh and cry with me about forgotten panties, lost sleep and late night marriage fights.

Miss & Love you


Our mother’s laps and that universal longing

Over the weekend we housed 8 people in our tiny home for two nights.  Our friends Heather and Aaron came to stay with us over the weekend along with their sons, ages 2 and 3 months.

As you can imagine it was madness, life exploded all over the walls and floors of our home.  Luggage didn’t fit neatly into closets and Noelle kept trying to climb into the baby swing.  Friday’s breakfast dishes stayed where they were until we shoved them out of the way to make room for Pizza that evening.

Heather and Kasen

As we attempted to coax all four kids to sleep Heather stood in my kitchen nursing Kasen and singing him to sleep.  She opened with Somewhere Out There from American Tale and then transitioned perfectly into Somewhere over the rainbow.  He drifted off in her arms as I finished the dishes.

There is something about bearing witness to the intimate moments of a friend’s mothering journey that arrives as a special gift.  A baby nestled into his mother’s arms is a sacred and precious thing, don’t you think?

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Mama Chicken is Saving my Life Right now

she gathers…

Today I am participating in Sarah Bessey’s Sychroblog, because she’s asking a desperately needed Question.  If you don’t read her blog, please do, it’s quenching and beautiful.

What’s Saving Your Life Right Now?

My daughter Noelle is going through a perfectly lovely pretend phase.  She is always a baby animal and I’m the mama.  Tonight I was mama chicken and earlier this afternoon I was mama bird.

This week alone I’ve been mama piglet, mama puppy and mama kitty, but mostly mama chicken.

She calls for me “MAMA CHICKEN?!?” When she doesn’t want to stay in bed and when she needs me to wipe her on the toilet.  I makes me smirk every time, mama chicken, really?

As Noelle runs around like a baby chick, my son learns the word “NO!” and he uses it, again and again and again.  When I try to gather him up to kiss his baby skin he squirms and screams “NO!”  When I offer him his favorite food he throws it against the wall, “NO!” “NO!” “NO!”

When I try to change his diapers the squirming “NO!” chorus continues and I glance at the clock wondering how I am going to manage to entertain them for another 7 hours by myself with nowhere to go.  Can it really only be 9:42?  What the junk is wrong with our clock!?!?

And then Noelle runs in with her pink cape!  “Mama Chicken!  The baby chicken needs you to help build her nest!”  

Suddenly I breathe deep in spite of the summer dryness and I become the mama chicken, strutting proud with yellow feathers.  I chase after her and lift them both up into our bed as we gather the pillows into a circle and settle in the coolness of the ceiling fan.  As my children still for a few moments I  read about Toot and Puddle and Curious George.

This is the same bed that’s been bringing the nightmares lately.  The ones where they fall and drown and run in front of cars.

God how I want to be the mama chicken and gather them under me tightly forever.  How often I pray with words not fully formed that God will give me some sort of guarantee that they’ll live strong and free and decades longer than I do.

All us mama chickens want that don’t we?  But it’s not going to come, this absolution, no matter how we beg, and I beg…

So, in the midst of the summer heat and the nightmares this cool nest of pillows is saving my life.  This reminder that this nesting time isn’t forever and that time isn’t a guarantee.  Mama chicken and her chicks won’t gather skin to skin for too much longer, baby birds always fly the coop eventually, and they’re supposed to, and I want that, truly.

They will fly and my nest will finally be quiet, too quiet.  I know all the older hens tell us constantly to cherish it but it’s not as easy as words.  The poop seems endless, both realistically and figuratively.  There is peanut butter on my walls and crayon on the back of the couch, they take turns getting up every few hours, I’m so tired.

Yet, this nest imagery, the constant reminder that this house which often feels like a trap is a truly soft place to roost.  The vivid imagery that these tired arms are the wings that today can gather them tight and close.

I am the Mama Chicken, and so we will read another book and do the chicken dance and this nest, this pretending this peace with the no guarantees is saving my life.

Where I stop the counting

My daughter is getting great at counting, so am I.  She needs to keep learning numbers where as I need surrender my counting skills.

I must allow grace over all numbers and measures

I wake up to the sounds of a fussing baby, look at the clock, how much did I sleep?  A number…
I manage to put my feet on the floor and my thoughts flit to my weight, how well did I eat yesterday, did I gain, lose?  A number…
My daughter asks to watch Mickey Mouse, I think about how many hours of TV she watched yesterday, was it too much?  A number…
I log into my WordPress stats, how many hits throughout the day?  Are my stats going up or down?  A number…
I try to distract the kids so I can start my day in prayer, how many days behind am I in my reading plan?  A number…
We move through our day, counting the hours until Kel gets home to provide relief.  Counting, numbers, counting, numbers, always evaluating and coming up short.

Every day a rating, an evaluation, am I making progress, forward motion?  Am I a success or a failure?

I’m constantly numbering my days and coming up short.  One too many cookies, not enough books read to my children, too little quality time for Kel, not enough prayer, too few dollars in the grocery budget.

Can I confess something to you all, that may not be a big secret?  I sort of suck at grace, I’m a terrible good conduit of it, I struggle to give it because I struggle to receive it.

overflow at church

Last night our church held a beautiful, candlelit worship service, stripped down, simple and deep.  It was the first hour I’d spent off the mom clock in two days.  As the music flowed and the scripture washed over me I broke down and headed to the cross for the body and bread, where I was intercepted by my a beautiful friend.

As we knelt in prayer she knew my soul, my specific brokenness.  She prayed that I could see myself as valuable, lovely and enough.  She prayed I would realize how valued I was by our church and community and that I could learn to give myself the gift of grace.

I told her about my crusty shell, my walls, my sharp tongue.  I’m hard on myself and my family, I expect more than any of us can feasibly achieve.

I recoil at the idea that God sees beautiful things when he looks at me. Surely he sees my flaws, the weak prayer life, the moments I yell at my children or criticize Kel for the 42nd time.  How could he see me as enough, as lovely?

She knew, she already knew.  I realized the wise soul, ahead of me on the grace journey have been reading between the lines of these pages.  They’ve seen my need to be easier on myself.

We prayed that I would become full of grace and tender, more empathetic and free of the chains of “not enough.”  I prayed in earnest that however painful it may be that God would tear down the stony walls and restore to me my tender heart of mercy and grace, first for myself and then for my family.

I returned to my seat where another dear friend handed me a tissue for my drippy mascara cheeks.  As I glanced around the softly lit room I saw the faces of the older women, those who have gone before, beautifully lifted toward their father.

They’ve lived this season, with young ones, lonely days learning the rhythms of grace.  Oh father may that be me someday, a little more wrinkly and lot more gracious.  May I have eyes for the younger ones and bless them with encouragement and prayers, kind words and surrogate mothering.

As I prepared to write this I breathed a simple prayer, may my broken connection to God’s grace speak to yours if you have one.

May we work together to change our seasons, out of crusty, dry graceless days and into a lush spring valley, full of green grace.  May we begin measuring our beauty by the great worth God sees when he looks upon us and give up our weights and measures.

Three years a daughter, Three years a mother

Saturday was the best day I’ve had in ever so long.  So much so that I’m fairly certain I told my husband how content and overjoyed I was nearly 20 times as we sat together and wound down from the busyness of the day.

Yesterday we celebrated three years of our oldest, our daughter Noelle.

Noelle Ava on her birthday from birth to three

The more I stop and really see my children the more overwhelmed I am with how much beauty God poured into each of them.  My Noelle is fully of curiosity, joy and compassion.  She was given a doctor play set by her grandma and she has been attempting to “feel us better” ever since with TLC and immense determination, watch out or you could take a pretend needle to the face.

I sit here at my breakfast table listening to the thunder and rain and reflecting on this morning three years ago.  In a small hospital room, exhausted with a freshly cut C-section scar across my abdomen.  I was trying to walk without abs and praying to learn how to nurse and swaddle my freshly given baby girl.

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