Peanut Butter Nights

Yep. Living the dream.

This is good sleeping weather. Slightly windy and balmy, the weather is showing signs of rain. The sky in the front of the house is fairly clear, but gets progressively darker in the back yard leading down to the river. Today was fun. We had a preschool Easter hat parade, egg hunt, and party. I have had coffee, but my eyes still feel heavy. Dinner time is approaching.

As I make a peanut butter sandwich in the kitchen, my husband is warming up some type of frozen burrito meal. My younger two children have had the leftovers from a cheese pizza that we ate at school today. The only lights on are the den lamps and the television. Pete The Cat is on and my son tells me he wants magic glasses like Pete. The glasses evidently change the weather. I like the weather like it is….reminds me a little of summer nights when thunderstorms roll through (even though it is still cool right now).

This time last year, I was a “working stay at home mom”… or whatever that is called. But now I am in my classroom and more tired than usual. My family is very understanding and so sometimes dinner is simply leftovers or something easy. As I am making my sandwich, I ask my husband if he has ever eaten the peanut butter and jelly that is swirled in a jar; the conversation turns to childhood foods our mommas made and I suddenly miss my momma’s salmon croquet patties. I hope my children always have good memories of me.

We eat our smorgasbord of dinner selections and I am grateful for the simple things… family, home, quiet, and the sandwich is not half bad, either.

Distractions

I love you.

As I am sitting on the sofa, my little guy is watching his Kindle. Yes… we allow some daily screen time. He and I have played Candy Land, made brownies, and watered the ferns outside on the porch. The sun is out and I can hear boats going by occasionally on the river. It is a good day to reflect on the last couple of weeks. I am also washing the obligatory ten loads of laundry that seem to be my Achilles heel. So far this morning, I have heard a little (and sometimes loud) voice call my name many times. Par for the course as my husband is at work so I am the One In Charge, so to speak.

The morning did not start out so idyllic. I had every intention of going to church. Unfortunately, a pinched nerve led to a migraine. Little guy got up before the sun and immediately went into action mode. My house was a mess. We had navigated through two birthday parties, a scholarship program, and a ball in two weeks’ time. I knew that my “cup” was empty and, honestly, my patience, too. As I looked around at the laundry and the messy house, a realization hit me.

“I am not irritated at my son for needing me when I have so much to do. I am irritated at the distractions of housework and schoolwork for taking me away from my son.” All this time I assumed that the constant barrage of “Mommy, mommy, mommy!” had begun to wear on me when, actually, the pressure of being everything to everyone was the real distraction. So when the laundry is clean but unfolded, the closets still need to be organized, or lesson plans have to wait until he goes to bed, it will be okay. Distractions can wait. He is my priority.

Human

My purse (aka: the abyss)

I have all but turned my purse inside out. I have lost a credit card. Yes, I understand that we can have a hold put on it. I cried, though… BECAUSE I AM DONE. She is done and she is me. It is before seven on a Friday night. I am in my pajamas. There was not a full moon the last two days, but it missed a good chance. Crazy town. Literally. My calendar looks like it threw up. I over scheduled my life because I love my family and want to be everything to everyone. Yikes. There are more deadlines than days available. Mayday. Mayday.

How is it possible for moms to handle all the appointments, shopping, parties, and errands for everyone else and lose something that should be so easy to keep up with? I am a creature of habit. Although my house gets out of hand at times, I actually have a method to the madness. I can proudly say that I know the locations of birth certificates, social security cards, and, yes, credit cards. But as fate (or just a crazy week) would have it, I lost a credit card. The crying for part is just a symptom of something else.

I am imperfect and my life, and probably yours, does not allow for that, does it? Perfect wife. Mother. Friend. Family member. Employee. What about human? Humans are not perfect. Where am I allowed to mess up? It seems as if there is no room for error in the roles we play as women. So when something happens as common as losing a credit card… and my first response is to cry, then it is time to reset.

You are not perfect. Neither am I. We are women. We are nurturing, strong, selfless, loving, giving…

And we are human.

Image: Google

Never Enough

Last week I fed my child hot dogs three nights in a row. Granted, I did include fresh fruit with the less than stellar meal, but I still felt guilty. Without sounding like I am making excuses, it had been one thing after another for several weeks. I got a stomach bug Christmas night and then caught a cold after school started back in January (a cold… not the other dreaded thing). My husband works shifts so sometimes I am the lone parent at home for a week or so. May I also add “Mom of the Year” status because I allowed too much television time as well.

Lately I have just been feeling as if I am not enough. Too tired. Too stressed. Too scheduled. But at the same time… Not patient enough. Not young enough. Not good enough.

And I say this, not complaining or trying to get anyone to feel badly for me, but I see this all the time on other women’s social media. Maybe not in so many words or all at the same time… but enough to know that I’m rowing this boat along with MANY other mothers. Whether it is a funny meme about having kids and never being able to sleep late again, to posts I read about another mom who looked for her phone while holding it (guilty) and searching for sunglasses perched on top of her head (guilty)… I understand.

A couple of months ago, I started using the phrase, “hide the candy.” One day I actually bought myself some candy and hid it, only eating it after everyone was in bed. Women do not regularly receive encouragement to take care of themselves… especially women with families. Think about it. When I was in high school and college, I regularly slept in, shopped for myself, actually completed a Bible study or book…and now taking care of myself is a five minute shower or a rendezvous with a Reese’s cup while hiding it from my kids. Yes. I know it comes with the territory. What’s that? Yes… I am having a hard time. I deleted this blog once and it “magically” was still here so maybe someone will relate or be helped in some odd way. You are not alone. The title of Mother is the greatest blessing ever bestowed on me and so maybe times the weight of my title is sometimes too much to bear. I have never been the most confident of women.

I am a 47 year old woman with a college student, high school student, and preschooler. I am trying to juggle making it to my son’s college baseball game at least once, helping with all the high school activities that come with the territory for my daughter, and making sure I read/play with my youngest. I can easily feel stretched to the limit. Sprinkle in a full-time job and making/keeping appointments for at least three of us, and the mental load gets heavy very quickly. I also struggle with anxiety. But that is for another time.

Image: Google

Do you ever feel as if you go through phases in your mom life? I can keep a decent-looking house and car, but then I go through a phase where nothing seems to get done. Many times it is due to crammed schedules, but for me the more common reasons are the need for perfection causing me not to start a new task because it will not be up to my standards (cleaning out closets) or anxiety that I cannot “keep up” what I have just accomplished (the clean car). And how do I balance keeping up with letting go and resting?

There is not a perfect answer just like there is not a perfect life or even a perfect mom. And for someone who carries their own weight in guilt about her own failures…. imperfect is hard to accept. Luke 12:7 says, “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear. You are more valuable than many sparrows.” And I have to believe that He knows my name, my fears, my insecurities… my struggles. I will never be enough, do enough, love enough… but I am not expected to be everything. You are not either.

Sparrows by Cory Asbury is my jam right now.🤣 “You take good care of me… you know what I need…” If you are struggling, this song is a good reminder of God’s provision. And I am sure this includes the wisdoms and resources we need as mothers.

https://youtu.be/-YgF0ucaZ60

Image: Google

Hide the Candy

That’s a Reese’s cup in the ice cream… in my child’s bowl. I ate it.

This is not a New Year’s resolution blog… or a blog to talk about how bad 2020 was. We all had our struggles…some more than others. I personally know friends who lost loved ones to Covid and any other number of illnesses. The two young men missing on the Mississippi River are now presumed dead. I lost a college friend the same way. He left behind a wife and grieving parents. I am forever grateful that my family is healthy. Things could be different. There is nothing magical about the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve and resolutions tend to be temporary promises we make to ourselves. Have I lost you yet? Understand that these are not negative observations, but just my personal opinions.

Image: Google

From the time our current situation started in March, moms have stepped up to the challenge (dads are awesome, but I am writing from the female experience.) I remember crying in Greer’s parking lot in Grand Bay, Alabama, because the kindly grocery boy was sincerely apologetic that they did not have the basics I needed. Just like most of you, I could not find bread, milk, or toilet paper when this all started. Moms added many titles to their already prolific resumes. Many stayed in the outside workforce as “essential” while others worked from home and also helped children with virtual school. I taught from home for awhile. Fortunately, my older two are almost grown and my preschooler was fairly flexible to work around.

In normal circumstances, moms tend to put their families first. In extenuating circumstances, this is even more obvious. Whether making sure their families have masks, sanitizer, and/or the basic needs, moms continue to come through. I am sure many of us spent hours (probably online) finding the perfect Christmas presents and making sure to order on time! My time at home last spring was what I could describe as “blessed.” Really. There were nature walks with my little one and time to hang out with my older two. I would not change that for the world. One realization I have had this year, however, is that I have neglected one family member. I have neglected myself.

Quiet time…

I am sure many of you have done the same. Most women are nurturing by nature or at least learn to be that way by necessity. Often, I am perplexed as to the unrealistic expectations set upon us… or those expectations we unrealistically set upon ourselves. There are various reasons for this and may include upbringing, personality, family situations, and even guilt at times. Any time my family inquires about what we are having for dinner, I feel guilty when I know I have no intention of cooking. Guilt. Yes, that is the buzzword for everything I feel, it seems. When I get short, cannot afford the vacation, do not cook the dinner and so on, I always feel guilty. Taking time to take care of myself is obviously not at the top of my list of things to do.

For the sake of time, I will not elaborate on the Proverbs 31 woman. There are a plethora of blogs and Bible studies devoted to this. She is awesome… and she’s probably tired. Tired. Another buzzword. Physically tired. Mentally tired. Emotionally tired. Get the picture? My favorite meme this year is the one about the frontal lobe. Ladies, we have to do better for ourselves. This does not mean ignoring your family or responsibilities. It is called setting boundaries. And this is where I intend to start Hiding the Candy (I capitalized to make it look official 🤣).

Stay with me. A couple of grocery orders ago, I put some of my favorite candy in the on-line cart. I told NO ONE. When I unloaded the groceries, I hid the candy. One night during the weekend, I turned on a show I wanted to watch and ate the candy. A week later, I did it AGAIN. It cost about one dollar and made me feel like I was some kind of undercover mom spy being sneaky and selfish… it was great!

Image:Google

So how can moms take care of themselves without feeling as if they are sacrificing their family’s needs? Take small steps. If you are the mom that has regular pedicures, massages, or girls-only weekends, this may not appeal to you (no offense!). I am talking to the mom who has not pottied alone in two years, has not gone on a proper date for months, and cannot remember how to apply nail polish. You must. You must do this for you and for your family.

Leave the mess alone. I am not condoning having a messy house all the time. But sometimes we are tired. We may not feel well. The mess can wait. Better yet, delegate. I am SO bad at this because I can “do it better.” Seriously, though. Give your family responsibilities. They are as capable as you!

Lock the bathroom door. My husband knows that I MUST have some time to myself in the bathroom to shower. My little one loves me and I love him, but he’s a momma’s boy and follows me everywhere! I need that time to decompress, pray, think… sometimes I take a bubble bath. I highly recommend this.

Primp. Shave your legs. Give yourself the at-home mask. Paint your toenails. Wash your hair. Use the essential oils or perfume that cost so much. Before children, we had more time to look our best. You absolutely still deserve to take the time to feel pretty.

Simplify dinner. Frozen lasagna never hurt anyone. Drive through if you must. Take advantage of leftovers. Family does not like leftovers? Fine. There is always cereal.

Be honest about your needs. I am guilty about walking around and ignoring my feelings or waiting until I cannot hold them in and “snipping” at my family. Women are usually not adept at stating what we need from others. We put ourselves last. Telling your significant other that you are overwhelmed or need time away (a date or a Target trip without kids) is perfectly acceptable.

Give yourself grace. This is probably the hardest of all for me. I can replay a conversation or a time I got upset at my family with the best. My middle name should be “Sorry” as much as I say it. If you are doing your best and love your family, be kind to yourself. God is so quick to forgive us, yet we have a hard time forgiving ourselves.

When all else fails… reach out. Call a friend. Go to therapy. Join a support group. But do not neglect yourself. Your family needs you. You are valuable. Take care of yourself. Take time for yourself. Buy your favorite candy. And hide it.

Broken

Humble image of my broom, dust pan, and probably some dust bunnies.

I broke two ornaments today. That would not be the first time. Every year, I usually break a couple. It always bothers me in an inconvenient type of sense, but today was different. The two ornaments were special to me. Irreplaceable. They were not expensive, but they were sentimental. I had been especially careful decorating our tree because most of our ornaments are made by our children or gifts to me from friends and family. When the first one broke, I was slightly sad. However, when the second one broke… well, I was taken aback and honestly wanted to cry. Once they were broken, there was no “fixing” them. That was that and I swept up the pieces and threw away what was left.

Earlier in the day, I was trying to decide on putting more ornaments on the tree (or not). My husband assured me that the tree looked finished to him…but I was not convinced. This particular tree is a Balsam Fir. Although beautiful, the branches are not as sturdy and ornaments tend to fall off or bend the branches if not wired securely in place. I decided to add the additional ornaments and some extra ribbon, and that is when the two ornaments fell off the tree. There was no time to catch them, and I helplessly watched as they fell and shattered.

I started thinking about the ornaments and the way it felt to watch them fall out of my control. Yes, I am aware that they are JUST ornaments, but they happened to be special to me. There is not a price for which I could replace them. And I believe that many of us are going through the same struggles in our own lives. We try to maintain a sense of control. “If I plan enough, pray enough, worry, enough… maybe nothing bad will happen,” we tell ourselves. But then it does. We are broken. There is no going back. The hurt, damage, circumstances are irreversible. We are left to sweep up the pieces of our lives, so to speak. I personally know people going through divorce, financial loss, sudden death of a family member, anxiety, depression… there is a never-ending list of struggles that do not discriminate.

And I am writing this thinking how trite I must sound. What advice or solution do I have to offer? It is humbling in the least because I do not have all the answers. But as I look at my Christmas tree, I see that it is beautiful in my eyes. There are two precious ornaments missing… but it does not affect the overall picture of the tree. There is still something beautiful in brokenness. You are still beautiful in your own brokenness. Your life has worth even though there may be parts and pieces missing. We all have broken pieces that have to be “cleaned up” and dealt with. Yours and mine may be different, but we are still the same. We all hurt at times and we all can still have beautiful lives in the overall scheme of things.

Merry Christmas.

and He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Date Night

Pascagoula Bridge at sunset

A long time ago in a galaxy far away from bills, health issues, jobs, child rearing, and 401ks… there was a thing called “date night.” I remember it well. There were movies, restaurants, picnics at NIGHT (with roses on the front seat of his jeep for me), and limitless opportunities to talk and spend time together. As time progressed, date night was replaced with ballgames, cheer competitions, late-night visits to the pediatrician, homework, and general adult responsibilities that eat away at time. Yes, date night became the occasional anniversary dinner or Christmas shopping for the kids.

With the development of the pandemic almost a year ago, date nights with my husband became even more rare. We had already gotten out of the habit of carving out time for each other as he had a long recovery the previous year from back surgery and was at home (no getting out for dates.) Life happened and sometimes got in the way of the truly important things like relationships. We had gone to a nearby town on our anniversary this summer, so I got the motivation to date my husband again. Unfortunately, we are usually tired and good intentions go “out the window”…. especially on a Friday night!

I picked the tree quickly… once we found the lot!😂

I got home from school this Friday and just wanted to go to sleep because I was so tired. We sat at the kitchen table (my head literally on the table!) and decided begrudgingly to go ahead and make the 45 minute drive to the tree lot we like to visit. This would be the first time our children would not be with us to pick out a tree (they were not interested in going) I was sad as this was always a family tradition, but kids grow up as we all know. We also decided to let little guy stay with my mother in law. Although we were exhausted and I was completely dressed down (including messy hair and minimal makeup), I wanted a tree, so off we went.

As we got on the Pascagoula Bridge, I took several pictures of the most beautiful sunset. This was the type sunset one might see with a significant other. We got to the town where the tree lot is located and literally could not get to the lot. It was situated on a frontage road off the highway and there was no exit. We decided to take a chance and turned off onto another road. Twenty minutes later we were still “lost” and I was laughing so hard . Finally, we got back onto the bridge. Unfortunately, we missed another turn and had to take the bridge to the end of it and turn around AGAIN.

Finally, we found the tree lot. I picked out a tree in less than five minutes. A couple and their three teenagers were admiring their tree and the mom asked me to take a picture of them in front of it. They made silly poses. This was actually fun! We left the lot and stopped at a gas station for fine date night food… Cokes and Reese’s cups. As we rode home, we talked about Christmas plans and listened to music. At home, we were surrounded by our three kids, a dirty kitchen, and more “things” to do than could be handled in one night, but for two hours I got a spontaneous date night. No flowers, pretty clothes, or fancy restaurants. Nonetheless, it was one of the best date nights I can remember in a long time.

Times

Image: Google

These sure have been strange times.

Actually, these sure have been strange times, blessed times, hard times…and the list keeps going. Sometimes I am not sure how I feel, how to feel, or even if my feelings make any sense. Even my prayers are sometimes jumbled and I just have to believe that God knows what I need to say before I do.

These are emotional times.

Yesterday, I rode by our first home we purchased as a couple. The home where we brought two of three children from the hospital in their little newborn outfits. I love our current home… but I cried for younger days and for the speed at which my children have grown. I miss my brothers who live 12 hours away. I always miss my grandparents. I miss watching my son play baseball. I miss smiling at people without a mask. I do not necessarily miss hugging.😂I think we ALL miss life before last March.

These have been trying times.

Every time I log into social media, I see someone grieving over the loss of a loved one. Whether from COVID, another illness, or tragedy, my heart aches for them the same. I see a country divided… both figuratively and literally…many relationships strained over political differences. And the families voluntarily staying apart from older or immuno- compromised family members is heart- wrenching. There sometimes seems to be no end in sight.

These have been times of blessing.

This Thanksgiving was blessed as my parents were here with us as well as my in-laws. We ate, laughed, and visited over dessert. I did not take that time for granted and pray that there will be many more to come. Back when school closed down in March, our son came home from college. Although I know he missed playing baseball and being with friends, I am grateful that my family of five had some extended time together. And I have seen this sentiment echoed by others, as well… many posts on social media are filled with photos of immediate family reconnecting because of the current circumstances. Weddings are smaller but maybe more meaningful. Game nights are more frequent.

These have been times of strength.

Our essential workers have stepped up…and big time. The medical community continues to give it all they have with immense sacrifice and bravery. They also serve to educate communities on how to stay healthy. Our educators have navigated uncharted territory so that students may continue to grow, learn, and and have a sense of normalcy. And those teaching in person also put themselves in the line of fire to keep themselves and their students safe. I am proud to be a teacher. Other workers, like my husband, produce the oil, gases, and products we need on a daily basis.

These times have been uncertain.

Although I try not to live in fear, I have battled anxiety for the better part of 25 years. Actually… I am currently battling anxiety if I am honest. Watching only five minutes of the news can send me down a trail of worry and fear… so I choose to watch carefully and only sporadically. When I see a small business having to close, I see someone’s dream shattered. When I hear of someone losing a job, I think how it must feel to worry over that stack of bills on the kitchen counter. Last year, my husband had major back surgery and was out of work for over half the year. I know there is a mother right now wondering how to make Christmas happen because I was that mom. Praying so much for those families right now…

We must take the circumstances as they come, I suppose. And though I cannot change what happens in the future, I can make this time count. Right now. Just today. Smile. Count my blessings. Tell my family I love them. Take things one day at a time.

Sometimes

Sometimes she needs to know she isn’t messing everything up in her life.

Tell her you know she’s doing her level best as a wife and mother.

Sometimes she needs to remember who she was before.

Give her time to pursue a dream. She had them once. Probably still does.

Sometimes she needs to remember she’s still the woman with whom you fell in love.

Tell her she’s beautiful. Look at her like you did the first few months you fell in love. Take her away from all the mess. The stress.

Sometimes she needs a break.

A five minute shower doesn’t count. A day without hearing her name, making 1090 decisions in a one minute time frame, or half-drinking her coffee does.

Sometimes she needs to cry without judgment.

Your attempts to fix things or say “don’t worry” aren’t needed. Be there. Just be there.

Sometimes she just needs you.

Between Grace and a Hard Place

I always post more pictures of little guy… it’s not on purpose. Being a mom to two different age groups is a blessing… and a challenge.

I am sitting in my den on my husband’s recliner. Paw Patrol is blaring and my Yorkie is sniffing around like he is about to mark his territory. Honestly, I would rather be on the couch, but I am tired a being kicked in the stomach. My preschooler literally has almost a whole house in which to play, sit, kick…. but wants to be attached to me with super glue because I am SO awesome. Just kidding. Today I am not as awesome as usual. Still kidding! I do my best and whether that counts as awesome or not I have yet to know.

My daughter is with a friend. They are varsity cheerleaders and her friend’s mom (a friend of mine) graciously offered for my daughter to ride to the game with them and stay the night. My husband is on night shift. My oldest son is away at college studying and playing baseball. I am grateful my daughter has such a sweet friend and I am grateful for the opportunity my oldest has to do things he has dreamed about since first setting foot on a baseball field at the ripe old age of four. I am also grateful for my youngest blessing.

I am a preschool teacher. My youngest is in my class. No playing favorites… I promise. I am blessed to teach him, but it can be hard. Today was one of those days. Like many three year olds, he “tried” me. After school, we had a staff meeting. My principal was talking and he steadily talked, fussed, got up… you get the picture. I was NOT happy and instead of just reprimanding him calmly, I was very short. I already felt badly about missing my daughter cheering tonight at the football game. And I know my husband and oldest have been texting about baseball. As the mom, I do not get those text messages as often. As frustrated as I was with my youngest, I felt guilty about being so short with him.

As we drove home from school, I began to think. I thought about how God gives me an unending amount of grace. I thought about how I am not perfect and sometimes that is going to manifest itself in my parenting (or anything else). I realized that I may have a hard parenting day but that I can always pray for grace and ask for forgiveness. I also realized that I am human. While other moms my age are sitting at the game (and I would love to be, as well), there is grace in the hard places to be what I need to be to all three of my children.