She Runs A Good Race

mothering is a marathon

The Feel of Her Hand

It doesn’t happen often.

She’s eight (“and a half, Mom”) now, and growing more independent.  Well, as independent as 8-year-olds go.Unknown-1

But when it does, it halts me.

The feel of her hand in mine.  The little soft fingers wrapped around my wrinkled adult hand.  Innocence and purity secure in my protection and love.

I’m not good at living in the moment, being emotionally present at all times with my children.  I try.  It takes effort. REALLY being cognitive about it.  I go, go, go.  I’m preoccupied with my to-do lists and their to-do lists, and the tyranny of the urgent.

But when she lets me hold her hand as we cross the street (rare) or at school (even more rare) or side by side at church, I’m all there.  I stop. I feel.  I relish.  I inhale the moment, because someday it will be gone.  Poof.

Until the day in the far-far-future when she says to ME, “Mom, take my hand now…”

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Inhaling Sunshine

tumblr_static_sunshineThe first mile of a run is always tough.  Its the worst part of the run.  It feels terrible.

You huff and puff.  You second guess why you even got out for a run.  You doubt yourself and your ability to run at all.  You may even tell yourself it’s totally ok to turn around, go home, and get another cup of coffee and cozy up on the sofa.

And then…you turn the infamous running corner.

Your breathing is in nice rhythm.  Your pace is steady and strong.  You can start chatting with your running mates and not gasp for air at the same time.

You are SOOOO In for the long haul.  Distance does not matter.  You feel empowered.  All is right again.

This is just like summer break. For me, that is.

The first couple of weeks I huff and puff emotionally about the change in routine, the family all-together-ness, and the June-gloom-which-feels-like-doom.

AND THEN I hit my pace.  I have figured out our new schedule or the-no-schedule and completely adjust.  I no longer want to throw my hands up and surrender motherhood.

But rather I surrender to the change.  I embrace it.  We all embrace it.

I begin to inhale the sunshine deep and let it sunbathe my insides.  And it feels so good.  So warming to my soul.  I begin to delight in the un-structuredness and the “What shall we do today?” and the choices before us.

No more emotional gasps for breath.  Good rhythm. Steady pace.  Memories being made.  Summer bucket list being checked off.

I begin to feel strong and capable of mothering-through-summer-break.

Ahhh…

Inhale…

Exhale…

Summer goodness abounds.

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Jen Hatmaker Is My New Imaginary Friend

I have a crush on Jen Hatmaker.

She is a new discovery to me.  Writer, blogger, speaker, mother to 5 (she wins!), including two she adopted from Africa, and wife to Brandon Hatmaker.  She lives in a city I would love to live in, Austin, Texas.

Anyway, after reading her blog post that went completely and insanely viral, “The Worst End of School Year Mom Ever,” I was hooked.

Because she’s my kind of girl.  With her unbridled and unfiltered way of writing, she engages you quickly.  She is hysterical on top of that.  She says how she thinks and feels.  REALLY thinks and feels, not what she wants you to think of her.  She’s not trying to win our approval or favor.  Yet, she is not abrasive.  Some people find sarcasm abrasive; I do not.

She’s not writing to make herself sound like The Perfect Mom, The Organized Mom, or The I Have It All Together All The Time Mom.

She’s honest.  And imperfect.  Honest about her imperfections.  So you relate to her, like her, love her, want to high-five her and buy her a drink.  (I actually tweeted that to her, but I’m so tech-challenged, it probably did not reach her.)

If you’ve followed my blog or me around long enough, you know I don’t mince words.  I’m painfully honest about life as both a mother and special needs mother, and totally full of a zillion imperfections.  I am not afraid to admit Major Mommy Failures.

Jen Hatmaker, if I had my wish, would be my next door neighbor.  And running partner.  (I don’t know if she runs.)  And prayer partner.  Oh, and of course, my writing coach.  I imagine us throwing back a glass of wine and sharing war stories and encouraging each other forward.  My stomach muscles would ache from all the laughter.  Did I already say she is hilarious?    She’s the type who would never judge me for pulling one of my kid’s hair (once!)   She would remind me to have new mercies each day for my kids and remind me how deep breaths and Twizzlers help when you are pushed to the brink in Mommy Land.  She would pray for me, in a caring humble way, not in a “Lawd, HELP HER!!” way.

My other pretend next-door neighbor would be Glennon Doyle Melton.  Because I know that if she heard me raise my voice at my kids, she would probably knock on my door, and give me a wink and a hug.  And again, not judge me, but say, “Carry on warrior mama.  You can do hard.”

Glennon, creator of Momastery.com, writer, speaker, blogger, is another new fave.  She is so gutfully honest about her own struggles, and is passionate about “making the unknown known.”  Her heart and vision is to help others unmask and take off their superhero capes they hide behind.  To help others be vulnerable and truthful about who they are.  She is so snarky and smoke-and-joke in her writing that I feel she gets me and the snarky way I sometimes feel.  Yet she is so sensitive and deeply profound, and writes provocative posts.  She was born an old soul.

One more shout out I must must give is to Rebekah Lyons, author of Freefall to Fly—A Breathtaking Journey Toward  A Life Of Meaning.  (I have actually met Rebekah in person and she is lovely, I might add.) She writes like Jen and Glennon, from her heart.  She writes her own story, authentically and transparently.  She blows open the topic of depression and anxiety women face.  She bares it all and in the meantime blesses us to our souls and we are changed for the better.

What all three women offer to us in their writing is validation, encouragement, wisdom and feeling completely understood.  They offer themselves.  And if we lived next door to them, I’m sure it would come out of their pores and smiles.

What is speaking to me these days in my life as a mother, is—IT IS HARD TO BE A MOTHER.  A GOOD ONE, that is.  It’s definitely easier to be unintentional, lazy, emotionally-reactive, and neglectful.  I don’t want to be that.  God, no.

It’s HARD to do it all, wear 17 hats, and keep the Pottery Barn plates spinning and do it gracefully without ever becoming frustrated, tired, or just unglued.  NOBODY CAN, I remind myself, but not enough.  As my friend Kristin says, “NO ONE lives the Pottery barn life, and its time we all started talking about it!”

If “they” say they do, and, with a smile on their face, then they are inauthentic. And I cannot be friends with them.

–I love being a mother and then I don’t.

–I try and I fail.

–I do good and I do bad.

–I hug and I holler.

–I cuddle and I cuss (not in front of them).

–I love-on my littles, and then I’m a total lame-ass.

–I’m emotionally present, and then I’m aloof.

–I’m all fun-goofy-and-dance-party mom, then I’m somber and

preoccupied.

–Like Katy Perry sings, I’m hot and I’m cold.

–I embrace the chaos and clutter and a minute later I curse it.

–I question whether I should have become a mother—and then I have THE BEST MOMMY MOMENT EVER, and I recoil at the thought.

–I make special dates with my kids, and then I dream about special dates for me, all alone, in a beautiful hotel by the beach.  Alone.

I’m human.

I’m embracing my humanity, my feelings, my thoughts, my strengths, my weaknesses, my sins, and my angst.  I am trying to let go of the guilt I feel all of the time about the mistakes I make 23 times a day.  This is a real challenge…the mommy guilt.

I lay it all out for you to read and peer into.

And I do sometimes wonder what my mom or mother-in-law would say if they were alive and reading my blog.  Would they applaud me or be horrified at what I spill out?

It’s cathartic for me, and by the lovely and kind responses I’ve received, it’s cathartic for you.

The angst I feel in motherhood fuels my writing.  Maybe that is why God has not healed me or released me from it, nor has He slapped me up side the head with a new perspective. (Not that He, in His goodness and mercy, would actually do that.)

So, I embrace you, Mothers of All Littles out there.  I embrace your gifts and talents and courage as a mom.  Whether you are a SAHM, or a working mom, both lifestyles are taxing and wonderful.  I embrace your failures, your fears, and your anger, that you never even knew you had, till you had children.

I do not and will not judge you.  I wont judge you if you “have it all together” or if you pretend to, or if you can never, ever, ever seem to get out the door on time.  I won’t judge you if you pull up to school in a sippy-cup-laden, messy minivan, or a pristine Prius.  We all try so very HARD to get it right.  As my friend, Kristin says, “NO ONE has a Pottery Barn life, and its time we all started talking about it!”

I just lied. 

I would be a little bummed about your pretending (or just jealous of your incredible organizational skills!).  Actually really bummed.  I understand the appropriate game face at certain times and situations.  I took Social Skills 101 and 102.  But a lifestyle of pretending, denying, and hiding does not equal joy or growth. Does not.

My new mantra is:

 HONESTY+VULNERABILITY+TRANSPARENCY= TRANSFORMATION

I want to grow.  Desperately.  And I want you to grow, too.  Into the most beautiful, loving, giving, compassionate person you can be.  As mothers, as wives, as daughters, sisters, and girlfriends.  All these parts of us are gifted and to be shared.  For the good and blessing of the world.

Even though Jen Hatmaker and Glennon Doyle Melton are just my pretend BFFs, I am thankful I DO have women in my life (you know who you are dear girlfreinds) who accept me, who inspire me, and who push me (and sometimes) drag me towards a transformed life.

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So…About Blogging on Mother’s Day

frugal-gift-ideas-mothers-day-1-intro-lgSo I write this blog about life as a mom. And as a special needs mom, too. Duh….

And its 10:56 PM on Mother’s Day and I have yet to write something as beautiful as Ann Voskamp or witty as Anne Lamott, or just about Ann Young, my dear sweet mother, who passed away in 2004.

But I can’t.  And its a little ironic. BECAUSE I WRITE A BLOG FOR MOMS. So I SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO THIS TODAY.

Instead, I will insert some quotes I love from my new coffee table book, Mom Candy.

Here goes:

“Making a decision to have a child–its momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”  –Elizabeth Stone, writer

“Mighty is the force of motherhood.  It transforms all things by its vital heat.”  –George Eliot, novelist

“There really are places in the heart you dont even know exist until you love a child.”  –Anne Lamott, writer

“I am your mother, the first mile of your road.”  –Kelly Corrigan, novelist

“A mother understands what a child does not say.”  –Jewish proverb

“Kids spell love T-I-M-E.”  –John Crudele, columnist

“(Motherhood is) a choice you make every day, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yoruself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.”  –Donna Ball, novelist

“The real menace in dealing with a five-year-old is that in no time at all you begin to sound like a five-year-old.”  –Jean Kerr, writer and playwright

“Raising kids is part joy and part guerilla warfare.”  –Ed Asner, actor

“Children are a wonderful gift.  They have an extraordinary capacity to see into the heart of things and to expose sham and humbug for what they are.”  –Desmond Tutu, activist

“Your children are the greatest gift God will give to you, and their souls the heaviest responsibility He will place in your hands.  Take time with them, teach them to have faith in God.  Be a person in whom they can have faith.  When you are old, nothing else you’ve done will have mattered as much.”  –Lisa Wingate, writer

“Rest easy, real mothers.  The very fact that you worry about being a good mom means that you already are one.”  –Jodi Piccoult, novelist

“The story of a mother’s life:  Trapped between a scream and a hug.”  –Cathy Guisewite, cartoonist

“Parenthood is sh**, snot, slime, fear, tears, spit, and spills.  It’s as intense as combat, which is to say hours of tedium relieved by moments of alarm and flashes of joy to remind you that you are alive.”  –Scott Simon, journalist

“Its a marathon; not a sprint.”  –Melinda Gates, philanthropist

“Parenting isn’t a noun but a verb–an ongoing process instead of an accomplishment.”

“You may not be able to leave your children a great inheritance, but day by day you may be weaving coats for them which they will wear through all eternity.”  –T.L. Cuyler, minister

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all you uh-mazing women out there who wipe noses and tears, who holler and hug, and who are just trying, praying, hoping, and sweating it out as the best mother you can be for your children.

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Wanderlust

I could run away today.

I told you that I love being a mother.  And I told you that there are days that I don’t.

I do sometimes fantasize what it would be like to just travel, write, have some adventures (if I were truly that brave) and somehow make money to support myself.  To be my age, with life experience, wisdom gained, and little responsibility.  Not that I want to be IRRESPONSIBLE.  Not at all.

NOT that I don’t love my sweet husband or children or family life, even with the hot minivan and all.  Not that I don’t have a million zillion things in this life to be grateful for.  Not that I want someone else or different children.  I am NOT saying that.

I just sometimes want to feel that carefree feeling again.  To not worry or feel the mom-guilt or wife-guilt about what I do or don’t do in my roles. To not always think about how I need to change this or that, and finish those scrapbooks (where are they?) and try harder, and be more patient, and give more of myself, and meal plan and schedule plan, and life plan.  (I’m a planner by nature but sometimes I want to chuck my old-fashioned paper schedule into the Pacific Ocean. But then panic would set in and it would get ugly.)

Do you ever feel this way? EVER?  Do you ever fantasize about those days before kids when you had 54 hours in a day and all you cared about was seeing your spouse at the end of a workday? What did Chris and I do with all our time? We ran together, we trained together for our first marathon, we travelled,we slept on Manhattan Beach on Sunday afternoons because we just FELT LIKE IT.  Ahhhhh…..

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Inspiration Oozing Out of Me

I am so high I feel like I’m in the purple and orange hues of a Los Angeles sunset.

I just returned from a retreat. (Now, please don’t run away and click off.)

It was a different sort of retreat.  We called it a “Girlfriends’ Retreat,” a mix between a “girls’ weekend” and a traditional churchy women’s retreat.

My BFF in New York City, Kim, and I were in cahoots on this. Being on opposite coasts since our college days we had talked and dreamed about meeting in the middle of the US of A with our besties.  Then our other BFFs would bring more BFFs, and so, you get the idea.  Lots of estrogen coming together for rich Girltime. Which I am an addict of and strong advocate for.

Austin, Texas was the destination, and 16 girls were set to meet up and breathe in the heat, eat BBQ, and learn to do the 2-step at The Broken Spoke.

But that is not all.  We wanted something deeper and richer as well as good old-fashioned girly-girl times of TALKING,  shopping, TALKING, pampering, eating, and more TALKING.

Before our plan was on paper, I called NYC Kim and said, “What if we contacted Kristin Armstrong to come and speak at the retreat? She lives in Austin, Texas! It’s a crazy idea that she would say yes (to us strangers), but why not try?”   We both agreed to go for it.

Both Kim and I (and everyone who would take the books we handed out) had recently read Kristin’s book Mile Markers, and fell in fan-love with her.  Given that we, too, were mothers, runners, and writers, we felt a kinship to her.

We loved her honesty and transparency, her style of writing, and her intentionality in life and in motherhood.  What we also felt extremely like-minded about was how she cherished her girlfriends, and that she called them “sacred and mandatory.”

We were drawn to her.  And God authored the idea of bravely asking her to come and share her wisdom with our precious friends.

The short story is well I wrote to her…and SHE SAID YES!!

Kristin said in front of everyone that she receives many letters, but that with mine, it was compelling, and she could hear my voice coming through.  (What every wanna-be writer wants to hear!!) It was like God hugged me through her and told me to keep writing.

And I’m still dizzy from the weekend away.  And not from hitting 6th Street college-town-craziness on Saturday night.

My head and heart are just spinning around with all the one-on-one talks I had with UH-MAZING women who inspired me in an incomprehensible way.

I’m gushing even more about Kristin Armstrong, and what she brought TO US.  That she cared deeply about being there.  We were not just another speaking engagement and honorarium to collect.  She had been praying for our group, and even had her friends praying for our group.  She came in to share her heart and wisdom, but NOT TO BE ELEVATED in any way.  And she was gifted.  She is gifted by God.  In “getting” women, how we are, what we need, what our souls long for.  She was genuine and honest and funny, and so wise for being so young.

AND despite any hardships she may have been through in her life, she had no edge to her.  She was soft, full of grace and composure.  A breath of peaceful, fresh air.  This left me inspired to be SOFTER, and less sarcastic, in my home life, especially.

I left with many points of inspiration:

  • To be intentional about my time and my kids’ time (that I might BE WITH THEM, not just watch them grow up)
  • To continue to write, write, write
  • To be full of grace with my kids
  • To not be so irritable with my kids or Chris
  • To be more in prayer
  • To remember always that girlfriends are sacred and mandatory, for life
  • To plan more events like this one where women connect openly, spiritually, and beautifully, AND have some girly-fun!

When God authors a dream, it does come true.  So now I ask and pray, what’s the next one, Lord??  (I think I have a few ideas…)

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I’m A Wanna-Be Fun-Summer-Mama

 

I love summertime and I also truly struggle with summertime.

I love BBQ’s, festive parties, July 4th fireworks, and eating outdoors.

I love that there’s no homework for my 3 kids (and me!).

I love the sunshine and warmth of Southern California.

I love seeing my kids swim and splash and play as if there were no better activity in life ever.

But I really struggle with the kids being out of school, home more, sometimes fighting more.  And Ryan is definitely more anxious with the change in routine, and the decrease in day-filled structure.

The E-L-E-V-E-N weeks of summer is daunting, lets just be real here, for us special needs parents.  If we are lucky to get four weeks of free half-day summer school, it certainly takes the edge off.  I do remember when it used to be 6 weeks.  Ahh…the good old days.

Filling up Ryan’s summer is expensive, whether I hire sitters, therapists, or send him to camps. Not to mention, I have two other kids.  UGH!  So at the same time I am relieved that summer is finally here, I’m also wincing a bit inside. And so is my wallet.

However, an “AHA moment” came to me just before school ended.  To shift away from my fear or dread.  I got a surge of hope and energy and intention.  Ironically or not, it came after a silent moment of prayer and meditation.  I am going to create a bucket list for my summer, for OUR summer: a list of things to do as a family that we will joyfully check off together.  And it does not have to be expensive or extravagant or glamorous either, darnit, to count!

Here are some ideas:

  • Visit 5 new places—which do not require plane rides or long road trips.
  • Give my kids disposable cameras for the summer and make an album of their shots.
  • Sleep in tents in the backyard. (And of course, bring the aero-bed out for Chris and I.)
  • Get a fire-pit—find a deal, or beg, borrow or steal. Ok, not that last one.
  • Have movie nights with friends in our garage/playroom. Invite different families each time.
  • Taste something new or try some new healthy recipes that the kids will absolutely love (at least I hope).

I encourage you to do the same.  Make it fun.  Reconnect with friends and families. Set some easy goals.  Have an adventure.

Be the nice, calm referee when your kids have had too much sibling togetherness, and figure out how to give THEM A BREAK from each other. Let your kids get dirty and sandy.   I should do this as well.  Often.

And if any of the above still sounds daunting or too much work or effort, call another mom/parent, and go for it together.  Make your bucket lists together.  I’m much more brave to get out of my comfort zone (even a trip to the beach), if I have another mom with me. There is power and empowerment in parental numbers.

Go and LOVE your summer of 2012!

 

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