A Constant Chinese Fire Drill

On of the hardest things about being a mom of young children is the perpetual state of chaos that exists in your home. Each day is like a Chinese fire drill in the living room with the toys being the objects of replacement. Unless you are witness to this organization, good luck ever finding that kitchen utensil you gave your child in exasperation as you attempted to make dinner.

Baskets seemed like a viable alternative to the increasing mountain of parts and pieces that my daughter identifies as treasures. However, the baskets fill to a point of overwhelming capacity and then no one wants to deal with the contents. There’s nothing quite like tip toeing your way to bed through the dark house only to kick into the one missed toy that had to be motion activated and in the quiet of the night you cringe as you hear, “I’m a pink teapot hear me whistle…”.

Less stuff would make my life easier, but it’s hard to keep up with the voracious imagination of a toddler without a rotating number of toys and objects that can be touched, pitched, disassembled and worn around the wrist as a new fashion accessory. There is hope. One day my mess maker will also be able to put away the things and help restore sanity to the living room. This will be done at the cost of a once mute child, but what’s the fun without new adventures in life? I vividly remember my 6 year old brother’s new found ability to read and repeat every road sign as we ran errands with mom. As much as I look forward to the ability to reason with my toddler, I know there will be days I wish that she came with an off button. Especially when she starts repeating the speed limit to me.

As someone who thrives in a clean, organized atmosphere, having a child has stretched my ability to stop caring so much about the temporary and start living in the long term. This means that some Saturdays are spent completely cleaning and reorganizing the house instead of hanging with friends, but when you are stuck in bed with a snoring toddler on you because she needed someone to cuddle with, you know that making memories is more important than perfection.

If I can raise a puppy, I can raise a child…right?

I will admit that as a teen, babies weren’t my thing. I did my fair share of babysitting and child wrangling, but spending time around opinionated, messy humans of small stature and questionable balance was not my first choice. I preferred furrier mischief. Throughout middle school I was part of a 4-H dog club. We trained our dogs in a variety of categories and then competed at county and state fairs. The amount that I learned being part of that 4-H club is something I will always be grateful for. However, the friend that I gained through those many hours of training is something I will never forget. I was and still am shy in nature. I don’t make oodles of friends and going through the awkwardness of the teen years, a dog who wanted to be my constant companion without caring about really anything else, was perfect. We were a constant duo and if I could have taken her everywhere, I would have. As I grew older, so did she and for some reason God decided that dogs should have short life spans. My life was rapidly transitioning from school, to work, to marriage. She met and approved of my now husband and not long after, her time was up. 
Time moves on and I found myself buying a house, opening the door to the possibility of getting a new dog. As life would have it, I got pregnant and my husband and I had to make a choice. Do we get a dog now or wait until the baby is a toddler? We got the dog, who we both quite like, but now I found myself facing another serious anomaly. What was I going to do with an tiny, opinionated, messy human of my own? Everything I new about raising things was derived from taking a 6-8 week old puppy and teaching it how to be a proper house guest. Surely if I admitted that my parenting approach consisted of Google and what I new from raising puppies people would be aghast. 

My baby is now quickly approach the 1.5 year mark and so far we are all still alive and mostly unscathed. The good news is that there is no “right” way to raise a child because they are all unique and uniquely different. (This is also the bad news.) As my daughter develops and becomes more interactive, I am amazed at how her perception of the world extends as far away as she can get while still seeing me. I am her everything. Separation from me is excruciating, horrible, terrifying and meltdown inducing. Her sense of trust is connected to my presence. This is NOT the same with dogs. Puppies hit a point where they realize there is a whole world on the other side of their fence and it’s meant for exploring. I think this would be called young adulthood for humans, but babies…no. Developmental rates between kids and dogs vastly differ in some aspects. 

The weight of the responsibility that comes from the complete reliance of my toddler can be intimidating. However, it is also enlightening. For a being that can’t communicate with words, our days are like a constant game of charades. It’s my job to figure out her needs, but I also know that regardless of my deciphering she trusts me to make the right choice. If only I had the same attitude towards my relationship with God. How often I feel like a babbling toddler trying to communicate my requests to God. I need to trust that regardless of my interpretation of a situation, He is making the right choice. 

Maybe God and a Dog Have More in Common than just the Letters

My husband and I chose to do something slightly insane when I was around 6 months pregnant. We got an 8 week old puppy. Getting a puppy is an intense commitment, especially when anticipating adding a newborn to the mix. Between the house breaking, obedience training and constant chewing it was a full time effort. I have had a dog in my life for as long as I can remember. This is something I wanted to share with my little girl when she entered the world. Now, a year and a half later my fuzzy little puppy is a full grown black German Shepherd. While on the smaller side for a shepherd, she is still muscle from head to toe and can easily plow over our daughter, Colleen. The amount of restraint our dog, Lexi, uses has come from a decent amount of training, but I love to watch the two interact. So much power, yet such gentleness. It makes me think about how omnipotent God is and despite that, he chooses to let us have an intimate relationship with Him. 

I took a bit of a risk agreeing to a high drive dog breed, but the reward is a resilience and loyalty that is hard to compare. While Colleen adores Lexi she also enjoys picking on her. Petting turns into whisker pulling or using Lexi as a walker. Despite the looks of annoyance that I get from Lexi, I know she can endure it and has a certain amount of affection for the small human. The bond between the two is one of trust and for Colleen, reassurance. Having Lexi with her when we go new places gives Colleen confidence. I wish that I could let go of my personal reservations and have a similar relationship with God, like Lexi and Colleen. Trust that He will always protect me, adoration for his love and relationship, comfort in his presence and reassurance, “…that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Too often I find myself during the day trying to take on life’s problems on my own. God is my Lexi, ready to be my friend or my walker. All I have to do is call out to him. While I don’t recommend a German Shepherd for every young family, I do encourage you to consider your relationship with God. He is patient and waiting. I look forward to the years ahead as my two goof balls grow and mature together. I know we will share many more great moments, muddy feet and plenty of dog hair. 

The Curse of Eve

Being a mom can make life feel like a freedom sucking vacuum. Between feeding, clothing, changing, bathing and entertaining a child not to mention house chores, cooking, grocery shopping and working, the little bit of “free” time we experience during the day usually involves sleeping, showering or eating. The life that previously existed where you had time to watch movies, read books, go to the mall, plan dinner dates, cuddle on the couch or simply eat your lunch uninterrupted is a fading memory. It’s exhausting and becomes isolating. Independence from children and responsibilities feels like a lost cause. Surviving 7am-11pm is the number one focus. For those of you reading this that have not had kids yet, you are beginning to wonder if offspring are really worth it. 

There are many joyful moments when raising children. Each new milestone is a thrill, the emphatic hugs are priceless, the heart felt laughs make you smile and the attachment to you as their parent is incomparable. Yet the desire for something in life beyond 7-11 survival is a constant nagging. Husbands often take the brunt of this built up nagging. Instead of seeing how hard they work to provide financially, we see a care free individual who gets out of the house, can eat lunch in peace wherever he chooses, has the freedom to stop by the store on the way home and after a few hours, he gets to send the kids off to bed. Don’t get me started on the weekend when heaven forbid he sit down and watch a race or game instead of fix one of the million things on “the list”. What about me and what I want or when do I get to relax???
This selfish attitude that creeps into my mind takes me back to Genesis 3:16.

Then he said to the woman,

“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.”

During the work day I am queen of the castle! I’m also queen of the laundry, dishes, muddy paws, stove, dirty bottoms and overall family schedule. When the days are long and tiring, it’s easy to become resentful of the perceived freedom that my husband has. Finding balance in your marriage once kids come is important, but maintaining a view point from your spouse’s shoes is also important. Chances are the last thing he wants to do is sit in yet more traffic on his way home to buy milk. When my husband comes home, I should strive to be queen of his heart and not the boss of his few hours at home with his girls. 

It’s important for me as mom to get a break and breather. Grandmas are excellent resources for accomplishing this. Sometimes you have to throw in the towel and wave a flag of defeat. It’s important to invest in my husband and marriage. Whether or not you have kids, don’t let the love be overcome by the schedule. Learn to communicate and make your time together a team effort.

Embrace Opportunity

It’s easy to want to be super mom when you combine holidays, family and children. Doing all the activities, attending all the events, making everyone happy. Even with super human powers, I don’t think it would be possible to do it all. Learning to find the balance between a positive amount of activity and a negative amount of attitude due to expectation is a challenge.

As an introvert it is naturally easier to want to satisfy everyone by saying yes while secretly dying on the inside with the thought of adding one more thing to the calendar. It’s important to learn to say no, which definitely gets easier with kids. Between my dog and my very curious one year old, no gets uttered in a variety of iterations throughout the day. However, it’s also important to not worry so much about the perfect and embrace opportunity. Like when you find your child contentedly eating mini chocolate chips that they have just dumped all over the floor. Sometimes you just have to sit down and appreciate that smiling chocolate covered face.

Tomorrow we take time to remember an imperfect situation. A baby, in a feeding trough, surrounded by the stench of animal stalls and who knows what kind of dirt, pests and insects. I don’t know about you, but as a mom with a newborn that would have freaked me out a bit. Yet, I have a feeling Mary embraced opportunity and chose to treasure the moment by enjoying that little, perfect face.

In the quiet and the chaos, be thankful for the moments and the one who gave us the chance to embrace opportunity.

Merry Christmas

 

A Distant Blessing

Writing for me has always been a form of therapy. There is something satisfying about turning all of my swirling thoughts into a tangible work. I started this year with a goal of writing something once per month. Why I thought this was likely to happen, I really don’t know. I may have left my daily office job for bibs and diapers but my amount of free time has anything but increased. Life with a 6 month old baby and 1 year old puppy is in constant motion with little sleep. I foresee my midlife crises being the need for an amazing bed and sleep. Lots and lots of sleep.

At some point in my recent hours of half consciousness a phrase came to my mind – a distant blessing. I have no other words to describe this current phase of my life, especially as I often find myself falling asleep while sitting still. Yet, so often these three words fit points in life. It the difficult moments it can be hard to keep our situations in perspective. Distant blessings can seem much too illusive and distant to emotionally hold on to. As we push on through the struggle, I think it’s our past successes that remind us of the triumph or just plain relief that lies ahead. God thoughtfully gave us the gift of memory to encourage and inspire us on to victory.

As Ecclesiastes 3 says, to everything there is a season. I look forward to future joys and know that without the trying moments I would not enjoy the happy ones near as much.

It’s Only Water

With small children, there is never such a thing as having a plan for the day. My mixing bowl full of muffin ingredients had been sitting on the counter gelifying as the healthy oatmeal I added so thoughtfully had begun to absorb all liquid in the batter. The baby was no longer happy to play on the floor with her toys and the dog was incessantly begging to go outside and partake in the beautiful weather. I figured at this point what would a few more minutes hurt the muffin batter.

So, I embraced my inner monkey and managed to scoop up the Bumbo with my foot and headed out the back door. I now see that I made the very critical error of bringing the baby outside first. As I dashed back inside to grab a bag of frisbees and a hat for the baby, a great wailing came from outside. My baby had realized she was now all alone. Thankfully, after a few moments of consolation her alligator tears ceased and frisbee playing could commence. My dog happily flew through the air after her favorite toy and after a rather hard crash into the grass it looked like I had thoroughly tired out the pooch. I thought that I might now get to take a breather and sit in the grass next to my little one. It was at this moment that I noticed mosquitoes swarming my dog. A deep fear began to rise from within as I realized my poor child had been sitting stationary in the grass. I quickly gathered up our things and dashed inside only to be followed by said evil flying creature.

I was on high alert, but after no sightings of the mosquito, I lit a few citronella candles and hoped for the best. On my way to fill up the dogs water bowl I glanced over at my little one who was happily playing in her highchair only to see a mosquito the size of Mississippi on top of her head. My arm attempted to stretch across the dining room table and as I ran to squish the living daylights out of this evil creature, I did not think about the glass of water that I was sitting down on the highchair. As the mosquito and I entered into battle, I heard a loud clunk beneath me and soon felt a cold sensation pelting my shirt. The shock on my baby’s face, from the recent tidal wave that had soaked her, quickly turned to delight as she realized her tray was now full of a liquid substance.

Realizing that there was really nothing else I can do at this point, I let her play and splash and returned to my neglected muffins. The highchair and surrounding floor are now cleaner and the water provided such an excellent source of entertainment that I may have to do it again. Oh, and the muffins turned out moist and delicious.