It seemed to be so, anyway. As I walked down the sidewalk, in the beginning, I felt proud of myself for the suggestion. This wasn’t just a good idea – it was a great one.
Those happy thoughts lasted all of thirty seconds.
It was a beautiful evening yesterday. It was the kind of Florida evening that we live for down here in the sunshine state. Now that the heat has broken, we are blessed with that perfect, 70 degree air that bathes the skin in delight.
After an afternoon spent relaxing, baby napping, kids playing their electronics, I felt that it was time for everyone to get outside and breathe in the perfect night. So I suggested a walk.
“We need to get out,” I told the family as everyone pushed their feet into flip flops. I plopped the baby into her stroller, and Lee and I together walked down the sidewalk, and I thought this was such a good thing to suggest. We were together, as a family, enjoying a beautiful Florida evening.
What could go wrong?
By the time we finally rolled back into the driveway, I sincerely regretted suggesting the walk. The children fought and bickered the whole time. They hung on Lee and I, tripping us constantly. Nothing about it was relaxing…or really even remotely fun.
I was frustrated.
As we entered the house, everyone made a beeline for their respective electronics again. Sloan grabbed his phone, Landon grabbed my phone, and Tia grabbed my computer. Before I could even get my shoes off, they were back in their solitary corners, eyes alit by the glow of the screens.
With a huff, I demanded all electronics be turned off for the duration of the evening. “This is ridiculous!” I cried, and everyone sort of laughed at me because they thought I was joking. But I was serious.
Part of me wanted to just throw my hands up and say, “Screw it!” Because, honestly, the most pleasant, relaxing moments of my days are when they’re all occupied with their screens. It’s just so easy to let them sink into the games, and the videos. Screen time drastically reduces arguing.
But it also drastically reduces imagination, bonding, interaction, and basic togetherness.
Sometimes I feel completely oppressed by electronics. I feel like I’m in a war zone. I’m charging up the banks of Normandy with a water gun in my hand.
I’m losing the battle.
And I’m not innocent in the matter. I’m as drawn to the screen as the rest of my people. It’s always there, begging me to pop it open, to check the news, Facebook, Instagram, email.
Everything is waiting for me, and it’s so easy to get pulled in. No wonder the children enjoy it so much. It requires so little of them. And it requires so little of me.
As moms, we’re constantly told to pick and choose our battles. Know when to fight, and know when to let things go. This maintains a healthy balance inside the home, and I fully and wholeheartedly embrace that wisdom.
But the fight against electronics is not one I want to lose.
We simply must teach our children the art of balance. In a world that’s growing increasingly more isolated, despite the many, many ways to remain connected, it’s not worth it to me to throw in the towel. It’s a battle worth fighting, even on the days when I don’t feel like fighting it.
[Tweet “Limiting kid’s screen time is a battle worth fighting.”]
But it’s hard, this battle we’re fighting as parents. And maybe you feel beaten down by it all like I do. Can I offer a challenge?
Put the screens away.
How will this look for your family?
A couple of years ago, Lee and I instituted ‘No TV during the school week’. It’s a good rule. It eliminates at least one temptation daily. But sometimes (most of the time?) I feel like it’s not enough. Because the PlayStation, the iPhones, the computer – they’re all there waiting for little eyes to latch on.
So what will we do?
I’m not sure yet. I’m chewing on it. But as we head into the Christmas season, I do know that I’m feeling so battle weary. We could all use a break from the war. Perhaps, we could even learn to be in the same room together joyfully, without electronics occupying us.
Because I’m tired of being alone together with my family.
How do you combat in the electronic battle? What rules do you have in place to keep your family from being overrun by screens? I’m up for suggestions!
It’s 5:30, and I am up early, tapping away at my computer long before the sun rises. This is the only time my house is quiet, but it’s grown increasingly difficult for me to get up at this time, because when my house is quiet I WANT TO SLEEP!
We’ve officially been in the crazy time of life for a couple of years now, but I feel like it’s all starting to swirl together and crash on top of me. Between soccer and gymnastics, homeschool and middle school, and the active (dare I say ornery?) toddler in the midst of it all, most days I barely have time to catch my breath.
We jump from one activity to the next, and we don’t stop jumping until the house silences again at night, and I look around and wonder how on earth it’s already bedtime again, and have I had any water today? What about any real food? Did I eat an actual meal, or simply graze the half eaten plates of the tiny people all day?
I CANNOT REMEMBER!
When we brought our first born home from the hospital, I felt the confidence that only comes from inexperience. I immediately got him on a schedule, and felt such pride at my Mom-ing abilities.
Yes – I just used “Mom” as a verb. It’s the most active thing a woman could do, so it only makes sense. Frankly, I can’t believe we haven’t officially made it a verb before now.
When Sloan was around 18 months old, I remember noticing the first chink in my mom armor. My angelic little toe-headed cherub didn’t seem to want to follow my directions anymore. He had a will, a strong one, and it was all his own. It was at this point that I lamented my loss of daily freedoms.
“I’m just so busy!” I wailed to my husband one evening after a particularly rough day of Mom-ing. “The only free time I have are the three hours he’s sleeping in the afternoon, and then the rest of the day I’m at his beck and call.”
I think back to that younger version of me – sweet little fresh-faced girl who felt certain her life was being swallowed up by her baby. I want to give her a hug…and maybe a little chocolate. I want to whisper in her ear that she will never have so much time to herself again.
It is now twelve years, and three more babies later. Gone are those three hours stretches of alone time in the afternoons. Gone are the early bedtimes and precious evenings alone with my husband. This house is filled with noise and chaos. It’s always dirty.
I eek out slivers of stolen moments here and there throughout the day. I grossly underestimate how much I can actually accomplish on a daily basis, and am constantly overcommitting myself, because I still forget that Mom-ing four kids takes every waking moment of the day.
In the midst of it all, I wonder if I’m doing okay. Did I do the right thing yesterday? Did I feed them any vegetables? Fruit? Meat? Tell me they didn’t just eat bread and candy.
Mom-ing is hard.
Most days I’m sort of feeling my way through the dark, but I’ve convinced myself of one very important thing:
At the end of the day, if I can tally up a few shared moments of laughter, and obvious displays of love, then I did alright.
Last week, I took the kids to the beach during a day off school. As we made our way down the road that leads to our favorite stretch of sand, Sloan put on Lacrae, rolled down the windows, and messed with the sound settings until he had the bass pumped at full volume.
Shrieks of delighted laughter floated up and out of my pumpin’ minivan as we literally rattled the windows of the cars next to us. The kids rapped and I laughed, and people definitely stared, but who cares. Because I was Mom-ing the heck out of that one moment.
Moms, you’re feeling buried under the weight of it all. I know that you are. Maybe some of you have some silence built into your days as kids go to school, or young ones take naps. Or maybe, like me, the only silence you’re offered is in the dark hours of the early mornings.
Either way, I know it’s a lot. Mom-ing takes all of us, and so I want you to know that I see you, and I offer this encouragement:
Roll down the windows of your (smokin’ hot) minivan. Fling open the doors of your home, and put on a little Lecrae. Rattle the windows with your pumping bass, and let the world know that despite the insanity and never ending to-do list, you are Mom-ing the heck out of life.
[Tweet “Pump the bass, and let the world know you’re Mom-ing the heck out of this life. #momlikeaboss”]
Find moments of each day for laughter, and dole out as many hugs and kisses as you’re allowed. And when your head finally hits the pillow at the end of the day, whisper into the blessed silence, “I Mom’ed like a boss today.”
Do you remember that feeling you got as a kid when a birthday would come and go, or Christmas morning passed in a blur, and suddenly it was all over and you were left feeling a little let down?
It was the post-celebration blues, and they snuck up on you every single time.
The same feeling washes through when you finish writing a book. It’s sort of a day-after, did-that-really-happen kind of feeling that leaves you wringing your hands and wondering what you should do next.
The thing is, there’s still a lot to be done. Just like after a great birthday party, or a memorable Christmas, there is cleaning up to do. A new day dawns, and brings with it a flurry of activity. And yet you find yourself a bit dejected for a few days until the moment finally passes and you can start looking forward to the next celebration.
Wendy and I turned in our manuscript on Tuesday. It’s been an intense couple of weeks as we’ve gone through the book with a fine-tooth comb, pulling out sections that didn’t make sense, or stopped the flow. We’ve done rewrites, and we’ve challenged one another on theological concepts, always pushing each other toward becoming stronger communicators.
We’ve pushed ourselves late into the night, and throughout the day, filling each down moment with editing and sharpening.
And now it’s out of our hands.
Add to the the fact that I turned my novel back into the editor on Sunday night after doing all the rewrites, and you find me here in the corner, feeling like my birthday and Christmas just rolled past me in one giant swoop. I’m a little sad that it’s over.
There’s still so much to be done, obviously, but today I’m simply in that strange aftermath – the waiting period before life kicks back into gear.
Tomorrow my husband celebrates his birthday. He’s had a stressful few months as well, so we’re sneaking away for a few days, just the two of us. We’ll join Matt and Wendy in San Diego, and we’ll celebrate birthdays and finished manuscripts.
And hopefully we’ll sleep, because I’m running on fumes.
I’m not taking my computer with me, and I’m not going to lie – I’ve had a couple of panic attacks today as I’ve thought about leaving it behind. I need to get started on marketing plans, and I need to finish my ebooks. I need to contact people for endorsements, and I have a MOPS talk to prepare.
But if I don’t stop to take a breath, I simply won’t make it to the next goal.
There’s something to be said about stepping back and taking it all in. Just like there’s something to be said about sitting in front of the fireplace the day after Christmas and not diving right into the cleaning and organizing. Memories can’t be made if we don’t stop to digest the moments.
Books won’t be launched if we don’t stop and digest the accomplishment of writing them.
So tomorrow morning, I will drag myself out of bed at O’Dark Thirty (it’s hard to fly from one coast to the other), and I will leave the work behind. It’ll all be waiting for me when I return, no doubt.
I’m going to step away and celebrate the accomplishment of finishing these first steps. This is the time to breathe, to soak it all in, and to not think about what’s next.
So that’s where I’ll be, and that’s what I’ll do. And hopefully I’ll come home relaxed, refreshed, and ready to prepare for the next big celebration. TWO BOOK LAUNCHES!
Life is very full these days. From sun up to sun down, each moment of my day is parceled out in not so generous sums, and I’m slowly working my way to next Thursday when I will release all the strain, shut my eyes, and sleep for four whole days.
Lee and I leave next week for a much needed getaway. We’ve both been under pressure, me with two major book deadlines, and him with a hefty travel schedule. And in between all that we have these four little people who offer heaps of patience and grace (well, three of the four are offering patience. The baby is terribly demanding…).
And so it is that I stumble through each day, moving from one task to the next with little time to stop in between. This has, naturally, led to a bit of distraction, upon which my kids have capitalized and exploited in the most unfair of ways.
It seems they’ve grown quite thrilled with their ability to scare me. Normally it’s not that easy to make me jump because they’re loud, and they’re not really that good at waiting quietly in the shadows. Little giggles give them away, and so I’m usually prepared for their delighted BOO! I feign shock, and we all laugh.
HA HA HA!
But two things have occurred in the last few weeks: The first is the above mentioned distraction, which has left me vulnerable to attack. I’m all caught up inside my head, constantly sifting through all the thoughts that bounce around inside my overworked brain.
The second is that these kids of mine have become somewhat adept at hiding. I should be proud because they’ve really upped their game. But lately I find myself mumbling each time I round a corner, “If one of you jumps out at me I’m going to drop kick you into tomorrow.”
Mad parenting skillz.
This little game of scare-the-pants-off-mom rose to a whole new level last week when Lee was out of town. After a long day, I put the kids to bed then headed to my bedroom where I spent an hour after bedtime cleaning up, trying to find my floor under all the clothes that had buried it.
Around 10:00, I made my way to the kitchen to grab a drink before closing down the house for the night. Just as I rounded the corner, Sloan stepped out from the shadows with a whispered, “Hey there!”
Friends, I’m not a cuss word kind of girl. In general four letter words do not fit very nicely on my tongue, so I don’t often say them save for very rare occasions. This was one such occasion.
I swung my fist through the air and yelped “AAAAAHHH – Whaaaaaat the H$#@!”
This was the moment that Sloan slid to the floor in laughter while I clutched my chest to make sure my heart started beating again.
WHY WAS HE NOT IN BED?!
WHY DID HE DO THAT?!
WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT CHILD?!
These are questions left unanswered. And honestly, I blame his father for everything that is wrong with him, and all the other ones like him.
“Oooooh my gosh, that was SO funny, Mom!” Sloan squealed, rolling on the floor. He sat up and wiped his eyes. “I mean, I literally scared the H-E-L-L out of you!” he laughed.
I tried to brush it off and be all, “Well, I mean ‘Hell’ isn’t really a bad word. It’s a place. A place. It’s a noun, cause it’s a place!”
“Not the way you used it,” he said, cackling now.
Since that day, it appears that the kids are on a quest to make my life a living H-E-L-L by jumping out at me at all times during the day, forcing me to prepare myself each and every time I round a corner. People of the world, I do not have time for these shenanigans!
This morning I got up early and let the dog outside. As I walked back into the house, Landon stepped from behind the curtains. “Hello,” he rasped in his little morning voice, and I screamed bloody murder. It’s really a testament to my INSANE self control that I didn’t end up punching him in the tiny little freckled nose.
He, of course, fell over laughing, then stood back up and wiped his eyes.
“Aw, man,” he said. “I thought I was gonna get you to say the “H” word again. Or maybe even the “SH” word this time.”
Join me next week for my online seminar: How to Be an Awesome Mom in Two Easy Steps.
Be aware that if you see me in public, and I appear to have a nervous tic, it’s because life and my psycho children are all conspiring to make sure I end up in an early grave.
I was young, maybe nine or ten, when I first saw The Secret Garden. Upon finishing the film, I immediately traipsed out into the Wisconsin woods behind our home and looked for the perfect tree in which to sit and read. The trees were romantic and mysterious then. I wanted to soak up the rustle of the woods and see what kind of magic I could find.
I grew up, and we moved away from Wisconsin. No longer did I have the whimsy of the forest in which to explore my imagination, but the fanciful longing for a secret garden has never really left me. And I still find a sturdy branch the best place to read a book.
In college, I found a great tree with a low lying limb tucked back in Waco’s Cameron Park. On pretty spring days, before the oppressive Texas heat threatened to melt off my face, I’d go to that tree with school books, certain that studying in that place would result in all A’s.
There may have been something to my theory, because my last two semesters of school I landed on the Dean’s List.
And now here I am, living in Florida, surrounded by beautiful trees, but not one worthy of a good climb. I still wish for a secret garden to call my own – a place where dreams come alive in the quiet serenity of nature.
Granted, I’d probably need a gardner to tend to that magical space as I’ve proven to be much better at writing about gardens than growing them.
Dreaming is possible without a garden, though. Sometimes I still find myself lost in a moment of daydreaming, although those moments are fewer and farther between now than they were before. Life has simply grown too noisy and busy. And it makes me a little sad that my kids aren’t growing up with the whimsy of the trees.
The last couple of weeks have found me in a funny place: Often sad for no reason, and terribly overwhelmed in situations that don’t normally phase me. I’m blaming hormones, the end of summer, and a lack of quiet.
The funny thing, however, is that I don’t want to be alone. I want my husband and children with me, which seems to contradict my longing for quiet spaces. I long to escape, yes, but to a place where there are no sports, no schedules, and no electronics to distract us.
I want to kick those kids outside and see them explore.
I want them to climb a few trees.
School starts in two weeks, and while I feel a sigh of relief escape my lips as I type that sentence, I also feel a small pang of regret and sadness, because it’s over. One more under our belts, and life keeps trucking along without sign of slowing down.
I don’t have a secret garden in which to sit and reflect, and the quiet spaces I long for are likely mythological. But I’ve discovered over the years that these moments of overwhelmed a lot-ness (totally a word) are not the be all-end all.
There may not be magical stretches of quiet time, but there are slivers of time that are magical enough.
We kept all electronics off last night, and the kids went for a swim as the sun sank down below the horizon. I sat in a chair next to the pool, and I just watched them play.
I listened to the hallowed sounds of their laughter, taking in all the sounds, none of them quiet, yet the entire event feeling like a hushed song of praise. We were in the moment, all of us. Them in the pool, and me taking it in, and I knew that this was the moment I was longing for.
A moment to just be free.
A moment that says “This is enough.”
A moment in which I could breathe.
I was happy last night, despite my lack of a tree, a book, and a magical garden. Maybe someday there will be a time and a place for that sort of living again. Today, though – today was for popsicles and blue waters. Today was for giggles and flips in the pool. Today was magical with just a touch of whimsy.
Turns out the secret garden was here with me all along.
Tell me moms – how are you doing as summer winds down and school days ramp back up? How are you holding up?
After a week of steady rain, attitudes and annoyances all rubbed up tight against one another to form the perfect storm of insanity inside our home. From the moment the day began, the small people in our midst were clawing at one another’s throats.
You know how little baby tigers play with each other, tumbling around, nipping at one another’s ears and pawing at each other’s faces, and you wonder if they’re fighting or playing?
It was just like that here, but they were definitely fighting.
Even Lee and I felt the stress of a long couple of days, griping at each other in frustration over silly little things. And so the day went with all of us tired and annoyed, and feeling a little trapped.
Not to be outdone, Annika got in on the insanity of the day. Somehow she managed to fall over backward on the hard tile floor four times. By the last tumble, I was exasperated as she wailed and screeched. I was ready to sell the house, and move into a home made of rubber and foam, in a place where it never ever rains, and children never argue, and you can eat all the Nutella you want without repercussion.
If I’m going to dream up a utopia, it’s going to involve Nutella. Amen?
After dinner, the kids asked to watch a movie, and I was tempted to say yes. It would keep them quiet, and meant I could disengage almost completely. But somehow I knew that sitting in front of the TV was the wrong response. So did Lee.
“We’re going to the park,” he announced, and was immediately met with groans.
“But it’s raining. I don’t feel like it. I’m tired.”
The list of complaints went on and on. We ignored them and ushered our little tigers out the door and into the grey outdoors.
There was a break in the weather, so I plopped Annika into the stroller and walked her the half mile to the park where Lee met us. As soon as we arrived it started raining again, and my frustration level hit a high note.
WHY WITH ALL THE RAIN?!
All we wanted was a little free space to spread out – couldn’t God hold off the rain for thirty minutes so we could regroup? I expressed my frustration in a whispered prayer to the Lord.
And then I stopped. Because it was silly to feel frustrated over rain. I knew that it was. Besides, it was more of a steady mist, so why not make the most of it?
While the boys hit the tennis ball through the misty air, the girls and I headed to the swings, and it was there that I found a glimmer of hope at the end of a long day.
As Annika moved back and forth through the weepy sky, her face lit up and giggles erupted. Tia laughed in return, blonde hair slowly growing damp as the rain cleansed us all of the anger that had followed us to the park.
For twenty minutes, we played in the rain. Even the dog enjoyed herself, wandering freely off her leash in the field behind the playground. It was exactly what we needed, and isn’t it funny how water can do that? Cleanse and renew? It’s always that way, isn’t it? And so I was reminded:
[Tweet “When life offers a rainy day, you can either lament, or swing high into the rain. Choose to swing.”]
As we drove home, all damp and a little chilled, I found myself whispering a prayer of thanksgiving for our opportunity to play in the rain. It wasn’t the way I wanted it to happen, and it didn’t solve all the frustrations of the day.
But once I changed my perspective, I found that the rain was what we needed all along.
The goal now, of course, is to keep that attitude as it appears it’s not going to stop raining here in Florida for the foreseeable future.
Send a lifeboat. And Nutella. And maybe a little wine if you’re so inclined.