Wednesday, October 29, 2014

For the Mamas Who Fear Not Being Enough

In the quiet dark of the early morning while the four who call me Mommy are still tucked in safe and I can hear the thoughts that pillage my head and heart, I whisper prayers for two sweet friends who are laboring today.

Today they'll be mamas all over again. One is doing this for the third time but it will be a fourth love. Twins sandwiched between her only daughter and this newborn son and they're all less than four years old. One will bring home a second son a good two weeks before she expected him to arrive, but I've heard tell that his monogrammed towel is already hanging on the bathroom hook.

They've both prepared as much as one can for this late night feeding, early morning rising, baby in a sling with the toddler on the hip motherhood adventure.

But there's a little bit of fear mixed in with all that joy. A little bit of worry that nags a mother's heart and makes us wonder--will I really be enough? Can I split my heart again--and again and again and again--as many times over as God calls me to be a mother?

I think it as a I sit at a table covered with failed spelling tests and this week's assignments and sticky cereal milk and damp paintbrushes. Is there ever going to be enough of me to give some to each of them?

There's no doubt about the love. For some it's the moment the stick turns pink or the ultrasound tech points to the screen or the wailing newborn is placed in her arms, but that mama heart does just crack right open and welcome another and there's no doubt there will always be enough love.

But time? Energy? Attention? Will there be enough of that?

Those who know Christ, the apostle Paul calls us His "handiwork", His "masterpiece", His "creation anew"--called to do the good works God planned long, long ago.

Long before any of us knew how many extra hands and feet would crawl into our beds each night.

God chose you to be this mother to this many. Whether that's one or four or a baker's dozen. He chose you.

He will make you enough.

Somedays it's a struggle to believe. There's yelling and fighting and slamming of doors and I have to distract three so I can comfort one.

Somedays it's a beautiful, glorious mess around here. Teeth brushing gets neglected but they're all in my bed and we're reading stories that are age-appropriate for two but timeless for all.

Somedays the house is clean and the school day was good and there's actually time for a walk with a red wagon and the chatter of an eight year old.

Somedays everything falls apart and there's the forgetting what my knees are really for and the reminder that this is all a gift--that I do not want right now.

There's not enough hours in all the days of all the years to come to ever make us feel we have enough time to be everything everybody needs.

So don't be.

Be the mama you've been called to be. Seek grace. That will be enough. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Man I Met in Denver

It took a three hour plane ride and a two hour time change. It took a list of who goes where when and a casserole in the freezer.

It took more than just a few changes of clothes in a carry-on. It took an unpacking of guilt that we would spend money just so I could have some time and you could have a companion.

It took three cocktail parties, two dinners--one fancy and one just down home, and more than one person's words for me to grasp just who you are when you put on a polo or a button down or the full suit and leave the house every morning.

Too often I've let you be the one who just didn't get how hectic my days are. You come in juggling grant requests and loan closings and American dreams that don't always respect a 5 pm EST ending, and I throw someone or something at you.

The dishes. The laundry. The unswept floor. The uncooked dinner. The baby boy. The strong-willed middle. The flunked spelling test. The rejection.

I want you to get everything about me. How every moment of my everyday is wrapped up in motherhood and words and tantrums and it's so very important because I'm here with these little people who share our eyes and tendencies and flaws.

I forget that what you do all day is important too. Not just because it pays the bills and makes the Friday night pizza happen and gives you joy. It's important because what you do is an extension of who you are.

And how many people really get to say that?

They whispered in my ear at this national trade conference for your industry. How you're so knowledgeable, so kind, so straightforward, and easy to understand. How you can answer all the questions the new CFO attendee came with and give a presentation that people actually learn from. How you're incredibly gifted at what you do with numbers and constraints and ideas.

And even though they told me surely I was more--I was happy to be just your wife.

I was proud to say I stay home and take care of our kids and our household so you can do what you do and ACE it everyday.

I was ashamed to realize I could do more to make it easier.

Not more dish scrubbing or towel folding or casserole making. But more leaning in rather than on. More listening. More recognizing that your job is not where you spend a few hours everyday so you're gone from me and these kids, but is in fact a place where you are respected, encouraged, and needed.

You've changed and grown and developed into a leader and an advocate for small businesses, and the people who answer your phone calls and emails told me how much they appreciate you.

I appreciate you.

I don't say it enough. Not nearly. You're our family's sole provider right now, and if you're ever scared, you don't show it. You hold me when I throw fits and tell me it will all work out. You do your best to leave stressful days at the office, and even when you've wanted to walk right back out after walking into pure chaos at 5:30 in the afternoon, you've sat down on the couch and watched mindless cartoons or read an umpteenth round of Llama Llama just so I can finish dinner in peace.

People tell me they don't know how I juggle it all. The kids. The writing, The theater. The ministries. The volunteering. The house listing.

But I know how it's possible. And it's time I told you the truth.

I wouldn't be anywhere close to where I am or who I'm becoming if it wasn't for you. You gave me the life I always wanted.

Now, I pray I can do the same for you.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Being Still and Knowing Myself

Today has been the longest day. In the best possible way. Apparently, you can buy yourself time. If you get on a plane and head west, the clock turns back and suddenly there are two extra hours in your schedule.

Trips work that way. Especially trips without kids. And since my internal alarm is still set for Georgia time, I was up and wide awake at seven before I'd even had my in-room Starbucks brew. I've had a whole day. A whole day with no obligations or deadlines or temper tantrums or requests. It's a decadent luxury, and I know that.

But it's a luxury of solitude I desperately needed.

I've always believed I am an extrovert, a people person, talking to strangers or friends or anyone has never been a problem. I make connections. I build bridges and find common ground. I hate social silence because it feels uncomfortable and unnecessary. If I'm with people, then I'm going to communicate with people.

Yesterday, I rode an airport shuttle, a Delta flight, and a downtown shuttle in close quarters with dozens of people. I said nothing. I deliberately kept my silence and let there be quiet and didn't even attempt conversation in situations where others might have sensed opportunity.

My capacity for people is full.

It sounds terrible to say that doesn't it? I don't mean I don't feel compassion or mercy or the desire to welcome new people into my life, but I'm in a place right now where I'm recognizing that I've been spreading myself way too thin too much of the time.

I'm not the extrovert I've always thought. Most of the time, being with lots of people stresses me rather than relaxes me. For years, I have let my people pleasing side trump my quiet side. I have said yes even when it's not my best, I have attended functions because I fear missing out, I have done everything except embrace my true calling because I thought it was pretty important I help others be happy.

You know when it's easiest to help others feel happiness? When you feel it yourself.

You know what makes you happy? Embracing who you are instead of who you think this world wants you to be.

I love meeting people. I love finding kindred souls and I've spent hours over coffee with amazing people talking motherhood and writing and theater and just life. But I'm best at this when I've also built time into my life to recharge, decompress, and just have some time to myself. I didn't know this was true for a long time. I thought it was because I'd had a bad day that I needed a bubble bath and a good book. Or a long walk by myself. Or even just a trip to the grocery store that didn't require the dreadful car buggy and a cookie.

I didn't realize the bad days could be fewer if I took care of myself as well as I try to take care of my kids.

Blessedly, I have a husband who got that about me long before I got it about myself. He didn't ask me to come with him just because he wanted some time away. He asked me to come because he knew that while he was in eight hour meetings, I would be here. At an outdoor cafe, writing. He knew I'd have large chunks of time alone. He knew I needed this.

"Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live."
Isaiah 55:2-3

I want my soul to live. And in order to do that, sometimes I have to let my soul find quiet and rest.

And solitude.

You know what else I read today over lunch by myself? Ann Voskamp's beautiful words on how we can indeed be still because the loud internet is not the boss of me.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What I've Been Doing Instead of #write31days

I didn't do it. I stayed off the bandwagon. And for a person who a) adores The Nester and b) hates to be left out, staying out of #write31days was HARD.

I did it last year. Amidst three conferences, one week of single parenthood, and long rehearsals for what became A Christmas Carol at the community theater, I did it. 31 posts on Living Local. You can read them all right here if you want. I was really proud of myself.

But then I was done. I didn't turn it into an ebook. I didn't keep up the momentum. I was done. I was tired. But I was glad I had accomplished that goal.

So I decided that I wasn't going to participate this year unless I really, really wanted to. Unless I really had something to say that was worth 31 posts. Because let's face it, I'm a writer. I'm not a crafter or a DIYer or a recipe blogger. At my heart, at this space, I'm a writer.

But I just couldn't think of anything I really wanted to write about. Well, actually I can think of a lot of things, but they're all random and not thematic and scattered. Sort of like my life right now. This business of freelance writing and novel writing and blogging all at the same time has me more than overwhelmed.

So instead of blogging for 31 days here's what we've been up to instead...

 A little consignment sale shopping...and yes, I'd really like to post my tips for consignment but I just can't seem to find the time. And then I figure someone better has likely beat me to it.

Hanging with the tractor in the rain on big sister's field trip. In his new $8 Thomas rain boots. Consignment.

Before the deluge began everyone was all smiles. Then they found out there would be no hayride or corn maze or petting zoo...

Got to admit I teared up a little bit at this fundraiser relay for our local cross country team. That coaching gig used to be mine, so I was a little nostalgic when she came around the track in her "Future Raider" tshirt. Oh, and it was insanely cold. Like 40 degrees.

A little pumpkin patch visiting later that afternoon. We like to buy from local vendors. This one is St. Paul's Catholic Church in Cleveland.

These two. My friend Brooke was visiting and she told them to look like they loved one another. This is as good as it gets. And when did my oldest become such a fashionista?


Millie Moo and I had a date yesterday. We went to the ENT (hello, tonsillectomy! Looks like this post will be getting an update.) and then shopping at Target. The goal was shoes. The wants were not. So we took pictures of what she liked to send to Santa. (i.e. Grandparents--are you reading this?)

And finally I've been doing a lot of fall cooking. I briefly considered a 31 days series of fall recipes. Then I realized I am indeed crazy. But I'll still post some. Like this incredible soup that has a secret ingredient you won't believe! For recipe updates it's best to follow me on Instagram.

So, yeah. That's what I've been up to. How about you?

Crockpot Peanut Butter Vegetable Soup

Yes, that says peanut butter. And it's amazing.

I discovered this recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks from one of my favorite living simply bloggers: Jane over at Thy Hand Hath Provided. It's healthy, frugal, delicious and usually can be made with whatever I have on hand.

My version is just a little different from hers because I am so passionate about my crockpot and our CSA has enough butternut squash to survive Armageddon, so I'm using it in everything. You can adapt this version for the stove and make it a quick meal on a cold winter night as well. To keep it super simple, just buy all your veggies precut at the store. I won't tell!

Crockpot Peanut-Butter Vegetable Soup (adapted from

2 medium carrots, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
4 cups water
2 cups diced sweet potato or butternut squash (or a combo!)
1-2 cups chopped zucchini and/or yellow squash (I use my freezer stash)
4 tsp chicken flavored bouillon granules
salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 tsp each)
1 pint stewed or canned tomatoes, chopped (again, I use tomatoes from my freezer)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

Saute carrots, onions, and garlic in 1 tsp butter or olive oil until softened. Transfer to crockpot. Add water, diced potatoes/butternut squash, zucchini/squash, bouillon, tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Cook on low 4-6 hours until all vegetables are soft and soup is bubbly. 30 minutes before serving, turn up to high heat and stir in peanut butter. You want to add it last when the soup is already hot so it will dissolve completely.

Serve with bread, salad, or just in a soup mug all by itself and savor.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

10 Things I Haven't Learned in 10 Years of Motherhood

I would have thought by the time she turned ten, I'd have been a bit of an expert.

Motherhood? Got it.

Yeah, right.

Instead, last Friday she turned ten and I ran myself ragged trying to please everyone ten times over and maybe I was successful. Or maybe I'm just kidding myself and we're never really a success at this motherhood gig because the world doesn't measure success with the immeasurable.

There's no way to tally up points and determine if I've got it right after ten years because every new day is a journey and a milestone and another twenty-four hours that might mean I've gotten it wrong all over again. Rewards are in the form of tight hugs and sleepy kisses and late night whispers of "I love you" that come after the day is done and the tempers lashed and the mess ups just keep piling up.

But they are sweet when they come.

I took Madelynne and four friends camping for her birthday. We hiked the gear in, pitched a tent (Joshua helped), and spent nearly twenty-four glorious hours in the woods with perfect fall weather. Except for the brief 11 p.m. rainstorm that wasn't on radar so we hadn't put up the rain fly over the tent.

Yeah, ten years of motherhood and endless rainy camp outs and I'm still not getting it right. But she told me I was the coolest/bravest mom ever.

Maybe that's true. Maybe it's just true that I'm the craziest mom ever.  I do know this. In ten years of motherhood, what I haven't learned often seems to far surpass what I have.

I jotted down this list the morning of her birthday when her daddy made homemade cinnamon rolls and I wrote in her Letters with Mama book and tried not to have a panic attack.

10 Things I Haven't Learned in Ten Years of Motherhood

I haven't learned how to keep my temper.

I haven't learned how to keep their rooms clean.

I haven't learned how to say no. 
Actually, I can say this to my kids. Just not to everyone else.

I haven't learned to remember a diaper stash for the car.

I haven't learned how to cease amazement with each child at each new development.

I haven't learned how to make time stand still so I can savor the moment.

I haven't learned how to know my capacity.

I haven't learned how to give each of them enough of me.

I haven't learned how to keep my insecurities from influencing theirs. 

I haven't learned how to believe I'm doing a good job.

The only lesson I've really learned in ten years of motherhood is grace. Pile upon pile of grace heaped up after the hard days, the bad days, the I'm-unfit-for-motherhood days. The saving grace of motherhood is that each day is a new day. A new day with no mistakes in it. 

So in ten years, that's it. That's all I've got that I know is true everyday. The other is what I'm still learning, still trying, still hoping. 

But on Sunday afternoon, do you know what I whispered to the mom with two close in toddling age who run her ragged and stretch her limits? 

It gets easier. 

And it does. So maybe I've learned quite a bit in ten years after all. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Simple Family Fun at the Chattahoochee Mountain Fair

Originally published in The Northeast Georgian, September 12, 2014

I have a confession. Every year when the fair comes to town, we try to keep it a secret from our kids. We avoid highway 17 or taken the circuitous route around so they don’t see the action. The few times in the past they’ve caught glimpses, we’ve managed to change the subject quickly and distract them with other activities. 
It’s not that I’m opposed to the fair, and actually I think we did take them once when we still had only two, and they were too young to care or even notice the carnival. But we avoid it because, gracious, like I told many when we went for the first time, I just about need to sell a kidney to take them. 
That’s what happens when you have four kids. Simple Family Fun becomes Expensive Family Disagreement.

To keep this adventure affordable, we went on Family Night and were the last to make the cut at the gate for discount admission (thank you, Lions Club!). The Monday night crowd was light and there was plenty of entertainment without the rides. In fact, I could happily go again just to wander the agricultural heart of this true county fair. But my kids had a collective mindset. 
Carnival rides. 
So three armbands and a few tickets later we were out of cash and ready to go. I’m going to remember this experience as training for when we finally get to Disney because I learned a valuable lesson. When you have four kids of varying ages and temperaments and fears, carnival rides do not equal family time. 

My oldest is scared of heights which meant she wouldn’t ride anything her sister wanted to ride. So then my second daughter was mad because we wouldn’t let her go off with a friend (family time remember?), and by the end of the night she hadn’t gotten to ride any of the big rides she wanted.  Since we were literally out of money, I couldn’t buy tickets to ride with her. Which made me a little sad, too. 
Not my husband, though. He’s about the same as our oldest when it comes to carnival rides. 
Then we had a four year old daredevil who wanted to ride big rides by herself, but she needed a “responsible person” and her sisters were riding the only thing they could agree on together. So there might have been a tantrum or two about that. 
Finally, we had to divide and conquer with one of us referring the carnival and the other taking two year old Gus away from the rides since he was out of tickets. That’s when I really had fun. We petted the cows and watched the acrobats and he made a new friend. The sweet pup standing guard at the milking demonstration received lots of love that night from a little boy who was reminding his mama to just enjoy life’s simple delights. 
Like Family Night at the County Fair.