I Am The Perfect Mother

Perfect motherIt’s 2:00 am and he’s splayed across the bed, hot breath on my cheek, dirty feet hanging off the edge. Why does he sleep like this? His arm swings up and flops across my cheek and I jerk my head away in response, because it hurts and I’m annoyed, and why does he sleep like this?

I stumble out of bed and move to the couch with a sigh. I didn’t have to let him sleep in my bed tonight. I know that. But dad is out of town, and when there’s a vacancy in my bed, they like to fill it. They think they’re doing me a favor, keeping me company. I tell myself that they’ll only be young once and in ten year’s time no one will want to keep the other half of the bed warm for me when dad’s away.

At least I hope not, because I feel like that would be weird.

In the quiet dark as I huddle under a blanket that’s not quite warm enough, I take stock of the last few days. Four of them and one of me means at any given time I’m letting three people down.

I only saw a few minutes of his game while I saw most of his brother’s. 

I couldn’t watch her do gymnastics tonight because the baby needed to sleep.

He needed help with a Power Point presentation, so I couldn’t help the other with his reading.

The baby spent most of her time alone in the exersaucer instead of being engaged and held.

It’s okay. I know it’s okay. No one suffered. Everyone was cared for and fed and clothed. But the pressure of feeling as though I dropped the ball mounts at 2:00 am. Darkness always whispers lies. 

I roll to my side and thoughts drift to the upcoming school year. There are decisions to be made – big decisions. The kind of decisions that feel monumental in the middle of the night, but when daylight comes you’re reminded that these decisions won’t make or break the family.

Can you make a wrong decision in the daylight? I guess you can, but if you’re prayerfully seeking wisdom, and all of your options are good ones, I don’t think it’s likely. Lee’s dad taught us that. Perhaps it’s one of the most valuable lessons he ever passed down to us as a married couple.

If you’re seeking the Lord, then whatever decision you make is the one He wanted you to make.

Such freedom. I’m thankful for that lesson he taught us. 

Italysunset2

Morning will come swiftly and 2:00 am rolls into 3:00 am while I still lay awake. The good news is the baby is still sleeping. It’s ironic, isn’t it? The night she sleeps all the way through, I’m wide-eyed on the couch.

I love my children. Deep down in my very core I feel the love bubble and churn. I love the baby in the crib who grins with her whole face when she’s happy. I love the seven-year-old with the spindly legs and smattering of freckles who’s currently splayed horizontally across my bed.

I love the nine-year-old who works harder than most grown ups I know, and who isn’t afraid of anything. And I love the eleven-year-old who is so much like me in personality that he makes parenting a challenge, because have you ever tried to parent yourself?

It’s 3:30 and I feel my eyelids finally getting heavy. I forget about all the ways I dropped the ball the day before, all the times the kids had to figure something out on their own because there isn’t enough of me to go around – all the times I didn’t respond appropriately because too many people were talking at once. I let those moments roll off my shoulders.

No, they didn’t get showers last night, or a healthy meal. Not everyone got in their full thirty minutes of reading, and I forgot to sign two out of three take home folders yesterday prompting notes from the teachers. I didn’t do things perfectly.

But I gave out sincere hugs and kisses before bed. I laughed heartily with them at dinner as we listened to the comedy station on Pandora. I gave a little to each of them in the areas they needed most.

I decide to accept the fact that despite not doing everything perfectly, I’m still the perfect mother.

And guess what?

I’m betting that you’re perfect, too.

Momentum

“Are you excited?”

His voice reached through the phone pressed to my ear and I took a breath to give the expected response, then stopped. Tears pricked the corners of my eyes, and I felt the wind sort of escape in a small sigh.

“I don’t know,” I said, voice trembling slightly.

A month ago, I signed my first contract with a literary agent. For over a decade, I have been trying, without success, to secure a literary agent. It is a very big step toward my dream of publication – this is what I’ve been waiting for, what I’ve wanted to do since I was a teenager.

I should be excited.

I am excited.

But I’ve lost momentum.

When I began blogging seven years ago, I had no idea where that journey would take me. Very early on I came across one of the Compassion Blogging trips, and as I read through those posts I felt a deep longing for my words to matter. As much as I loved chronicling the humorous moments of mom-life, I knew I wanted my site to become more.

I very prayerfully began chasing that heart desire, and in 2012, the Lord answered my prayer and I was invited to go to Tanzania with Compassion International. I didn’t know that trip would change everything.

It was the catalyst that led Lee and I to finally commit to adoption – an adoption that would be terminated.

I would walk through a year of grieving and heartache, and I couldn’t find my footing in the blogosphere anymore. I had accomplished my goal, and while writing has always been an outlet, at that point in time I found more solace in working on my novel, because blogging began to feel too painful. I was so very raw in those days, and I felt exposed online.

It’s been such a journey these last two and a half years. And now here I am, on the cusp of seeing another dream realized, and I find myself wildly overwhelmed.

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If it weren’t for my husband, I think I would have given up a long time ago, because this process of doing what I love hasn’t been easy. Success, however you may measure it, hasn’t fallen in my lap. I’ve worked for it – I’ve worked really hard, and I have a stack of rejection letters to prove that what I do isn’t for the faint of heart.

Maybe I shouldn’t have kept the rejection letters. Maybe the folder full of “No” is a little bit of a downer, but it does make the “Yes” a little sweeter. And inside that folder full of “No” are little glimmers of hope. Editors who took the time to write me a personal note on their typical form letter response.

“Love the concept, and the writing is beautiful, but it’s not a good fit for us.” 

“Keep working on this. You have the beginnings of something really special, but it’s not there yet.”

When I got those notes, I placed them on top of the stack of rejections to remind myself that I really can do this writing thing. Because the truth is, when you fight for something for so long, and you are constantly pushed backward, you start to question whether or not you’re cut out for this gig.

But now, there is someone else out there who believes in me. An agent who believes me capable of telling the stories I long to tell. I have a writing partner who, like my husband, has always been my cheerleader, and she’s right beside me in this new journey. She’s helping shape a message that the Lord placed on both of our hearts so many years ago.

I’m overwhelmed by it all. This is where the real work starts, and there’s a small part of me that is just scared. I’m afraid to get too excited. I’m intimidated by the need to gain blogging momentum again – to rebuild a platform in an already saturated market.

And that ever present nag that tells me I might not be good enough to pull this off likes to prick at my ears in the quiet moments when I’m most vulnerable.

Dream chasing is hard. It will always involve rejection. There are so many “No’s” that make up a “Yes.” And we’re all prone to look to our left and our right, and to see the people who are doing the things we want to do and assume that the success just fell in their laps. But 9 times out of 10, that’s not the case.

They worked hard for it, too.

If you’re chasing a dream right now, and you feel overwhelmed by it all, can I urge you not to give up? Don’t look at the “No’s” as a finality, but as the stacking point for the great big “Yes” waiting in the wings.

Maybe it won’t look like you thought it would, and maybe it will be more work than you assumed, but at the end of the day your dream matters, and the tenacity with which you’re willing to run after it will be the tipping point between excellence and mediocrity.

Let’s be excellent together.

A Space to Inspire

A few months ago, Tia and I discussed what she’d like for her birthday. She’s growing increasingly more difficult to give gifts because she is entering that awkward stage between little kid and teenager and, truth be told, she’s never been much of a toy kid anyway.

I hate spending money on gifts that they don’t really love, so I tossed out the option of redoing her room as a birthday present and she immediately said “Yes!”

Then I died a little inside because me and decorating are not the most compatible of companions.

TRoom1

The “T” above her bed isn’t crooked. It’s just the way I took the photo. Because I’m awesome like that.

A few days before her birthday, I realized that if we were going to remake her room I had better get on the ball. So I bought a couple of cans of paint, called in reinforcements (thanks, Jenni!), and the transformation began.

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The wall color is Benjamin Moore “Jack Frost” and it is my very favorite of all the colors. I’d paint the whole house this color if Lee would let me.

I let Tia sit down and surf Pinterest, then we created her own board so that I could get a feel for what she would like. I hoped to create a space that inspired her since this is the child who is much more prone to realism than imagination. I wanted her room to be a place that she could escape and enjoy. And I wanted her to be able to grow into the space rather than grow out of it again in a couple of years.

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The magnetic boards were another IKEA find and she loves that she can decorate the wall herself by moving pictures and cards and magnets around.

I could not be more pleased with how her room came together. She has a small space, so I really tried to utilize it well. I put a small dresser in her closet, and I got rid of all the clothes she doesn’t wear, which left her with fewer clothes and more space.

I’m totally fine with that.

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Makes you want to curl up with a good book, right?

I made this little canopy tent all by myself (ALL BY MYSELF!! ME! I DID IT!), and it cost me less than $25. Here’s the tutorial if you want to make one. It’s embarrassing how easy it is. I probably shouldn’t be as proud of myself as I am, but I can’t help it. I’m not a DIY girl.

You remember what happened the last time I tried a Pinterest DIY project, right? How I got attacked by Tracker Jackers and almost died?  Yeah…

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Tia loves her room, from the IKEA bookshelves, to the reading corner, to her antique vanity that her grandparents gave her for her birthday. The room is calming and sweet, and I do think that it will leave her inspired to dream a little more. It has now officially become my favorite place in the house. Sometimes when she’s at school I go in there to read.

Don’t tell her I said that.

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When the whole room was finally finished and put back together, she walked in and her eyes grew wide. “Wow,” she cried. “I love it! It’s so pretty I just want to keep it clean all the time.”

If that happens, then this just might become the miracle room. I’ll keep you posted…

When Motherhood and Artistry Collide

Last week, I stumbled across a video on Facebook that highlighted the ingenuity and artistry of motherhood.

Sonia is a mother from Tasmania who had a simple idea. She wasn’t looking to make a statement, and yet in her creativity she ended up doing just that.

Tree Change Dolls

Tree Change Dolls

Image Credit

She took something old, something discarded, and she made it new.

Tree Change Dolls

Tree Change Dolls

Image Credit

She took a toy marketed toward little girls, and she put the magic back into the doll. She stripped away the intended message, the over sexualized image, and she replaced it with innocence and imagination.

Tree Change Dolls

Tree Change Dolls

Image Credit

Where once these dolls had no no power to inspire, Sonia brought life and personality to them, and in so doing she awakened the imaginations of little girls.

Tree Change Dolls

Tree Change Dolls

Image Credit

Sonia is “just a mom.” She had no aspirations to go viral, or to make a business out of recycled dolls. She just had a vision, a creative gift, and the confidence to try something different.

Dear creative mom, do you see the magic at your fingertips? That vision that you have has the power to impact, to move us all, to awaken imagination and inspire joy. Your creativity is needed, and it all starts right there inside your home.

Don’t hide your gift. Don’t tuck away in the closet in shame. Share it. Show the world what you can do. Because creative motherhood is the pulse of imaginative childhood.

Your creativity,  your artistry, it matters. That furniture you’re repainting, the walls you’re adorning, the cakes you’re baking and cookies you’re decorating, those words you’re penning, songs you’re singing, canvases that you’re lavishing with color, those photos you’re taking, and the dolls you’re remaking – all of it matters.

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Your gifts are necessary, moms. Your creativity is needed. Because who but you will show these children of the digital age how to play? Who but you will give them the confidence to dream?

When motherhood, creativity, imagination, and artistry collide, the result is nothing short of magical. 

Tree Change Dolls

Tree Change Dolls

This is the beauty of motherhood.

You can follow Sonia’s journey in artistry on her Tree Change Dolls Facebook page.

Body After Baby: A Guest Post

I’m over at Extraordinary Mommy today. Join me there?

“Mom, are you having another baby?”

I get asked this question by my nine and seven year olds at least twice a week. Three times if I’m lucky. Our fourth born arrived four months ago, and the children are certain that something is terribly wrong with me since my body hasn’t immediately bounced back.

Tact. We’re working on it in our home. Clearly we need some practice.

Dressing your postpartum body can be quite the chore, particularly in those in-between months when you’ve finally (blissfully) gotten to the place where your regular clothes fit again, but they don’t fit…well. What to do when you want to wear something besides yoga pants, but you don’t want to purchase a whole new wardrobe? I have one word for you:

SPANX.

The modern day girdle, Spanx are a gift for those living in that transition between almost there and finally made it back to pre-baby weight!

It’s true that Spanx make you feel like you might die a slow death of midsection claustrophobia. Just pulling the body-shaping undergarments on is a workout in and of itself, so basically when you wear Spanx you’re killing two birds with one stone: Workout, and completely eradicate the flesh over your abs.

I am now at the point that, with the help of my trusty Spanx, I can fit into almost all of my regular jeans. No, I don’t think I get the full amount of oxygen that I need to fully function while wearing Spanx and jeans, but I do get my kids off my back about having another baby. So I consider it a win.

So for you moms who are trying to get your body back after baby, here are a few tricks (to go along with the Spanx, of course).

Postpartum1

 

Read the rest at Extraordinary Mommy.com.