Learning to laugh at myself

I pride myself on being organized.  For those of you who have been in my home this may seem hard to believe, but everything does have a place and I like for everything to be where it belongs.  This morning as I was showering I realized something that I had not realized before.  A year ago I could have said I’ve never lost a check book, debit card, credit card or money.  In the last twelve months, I have lost money, my credit card twice, thrown away my debit card once, totally misplaced my debit card another time, lost my check book a few times and lost the refills once … without clearly marked boundaries I have very little space that is just my own.   I know that this is due in part to many life adjustments occurring at or around the same time.  I quit my job, I had our third child, Bethany started pre-school, Lucas started kindergarten, and of course all the behavioral adjustments that each child has experienced because of those changes.  I am not running on adrenaline, I do not have set deadlines, and chaos sometimes reigns in my home.  For me, the challenges of being a stay-at-home mom far outweigh the obstacles I experienced as a working mom, but the benefits also coincide.

As a working mom, I forced myself to get up before the kids so I could get ready for the day, have quiet time, make lunches, leave instructions for the babysitter, fold laundry, exercise, etc.  Being gone five to eight hours a day was very emotional for me.  There were few times that I did not long to be home.  The major down side to being a working mom was emotional.  When things got out of hand as far as cleaning goes, I would simply hire someone to come in and clean what I didn’t have time for, but for the most part I would come home on Friday and clean the whole house and then have the weekend to enjoy with my family.  Now I can’t afford the cleaning fairy, and as I focus on spending time with my children, always being available for their needs, never feeling the pressure of  time constraints (however right or wrong that may be), there are many days when I’d love said “fairy” to appear.

So my debit card is missing, my extra checks have disappeared …  I am sure they have taken refuge in a place similar to where Matt’s wedding ring is also hiding.  (Yes, it too is missing, but that is a whole other story.)  Please don’t imagine that the house is in complete chaos.  Other than a couple loads of laundry on my sofa, it is clean … deep cleaned, BUT there are things missing that have become a treasure to somebody with little hands, I’m thinking.   My kitchen is now my sanctuary.  It is where I create, dream, plan, and maintain cleanliness.

The old me would worry about the mess and forgo quality time with my kids to get it fixed, but the new me is looking for new solutions.  A lesson I’ve recently learned is that it overwhelms my kids when I say “Okay, we’re going to clean the house today.  We aren’t going to do anything else until we finish.”  Once a week I’ve started saying “We’re going to play a game today.  It has five rounds.  Everyone gets ______ for this round.  The winner gets an extra ________.”  I don’t know how it is for other kids, but games and rewards speak loudly to mine.  At least once every day, I’ll say “Fifteen minute pick-up!”  I let each kid know what they are responsible for and I set the timer.  When the timer goes off we are done.  It is working like a charm, with little redirection necessary.  The house isn’t pristine, but it’s peaceful.

When I dreamed about staying home, I assumed I’d get better at the things I was good at and improve at the things that are a struggle for me.  If I’m really honest with myself, I’ll admit that I work better under pressure (which is absent for me at present), so the  only thing I’ve begun to improve at is the giving and receiving of grace, but I have a long road ahead of me in that regard as well.

Today, as usual is not a perfect day for me and so I’ve decided to laugh at the old me and the new me.

1. When we first got married I would iron our slip covers at least once a week and always before friends would visit.              

2. I currently almost always have a load of laundry on my sofa waiting to be folded or put away.  I have stopped apologizing about it to maintenance men, friends, family, etc.

3. I used to set the table for every meal Matt and I ate together. (Now we’re lucky to not eat on paper plates some nights.)

4. I don’t have a picture of this, but must share why I don’t ask Matt to help with much of the cleaning.  When I was working three jobs to put him through Seminary I once asked him to clean the bathroom and discovered that he basically flooded the bathroom to do so.  It took him almost two hours to finish the job.  Hey … he was thorough, but it is not his gifting. :o)

5.  I must not be very good at sleep training.  Even though I did with the older two and am in the process with our youngest, there are still nights when Lucas cannot fall asleep.  This is how I found him (beside the laundry, haha) when I came home from Ladies’ Night Out.

6.  When my kids are sick, I have an unreasonable fear that they will stop breathing in their sleep.  Here they are sleeping on our floor, so that I could check on them without getting out of bed.  (In my defense, I was very pregnant when this was going on.)

7. I have a tendency to take on too much when it comes to birthday cakes.  Until this year, it was not uncommon for me to stay up well into the night to finish a cake.  I’m learning to let this go.

Bethany’s 3rd birthday cake … Ariel

Lucas’ 3rd birthday cake Rocket

Lucas’ 4th birthday cake Diego

Lucas’ 5th birthday cake Spider Man
Matt’s 23rd Baked Alaska

Simple boats from Tangled

Simple “Tangled” hair cupcakes

Matt’s simple Bavarian Apple Torte (31st Birthday)

8. I am okay with my kids running around in their underwear until they are well potty trained.

9. I used to take time to get myself ready for in-house dates.  Now I enjoy the days when I don’t have to wear make-up.

10. Every year we do a Christmas card.  We rarely get them in the mail.  So that all you kid-less (or those with more subdued children) can understand the “gift” of a photo card, I am including a small portion of our self-taken attempts at a Christmas card.

So … my priorities have definitely shifted, and I’m loving every moment in my little piece of paradise!

When I don’t have a perfect day …

It has been a long time since I’ve written.  Truth be told that is a result of deep discouragement.  When last I wrote I was hopeful that the months of cyclical sickness were at an end and we were on an upswing.  Unfortunately that has not been the case.  Kids got sick, Matt got sick, kids got well, Nicholas got sick, Matt got mostly better, Nicholas is still coughing but inhalers seem to help.  I was working through Nick’s sleep schedule (which was totally thrown off by illness) and feeling like we were about to be 100%.  I was getting into a good stay-at-home mom groove, and then on Saturday I began feeling all too recently familiar sensations in my lower back.  It is certainly not as bad as it was, but it has put all progress on the home front on hold.

All this sickness and pain has really taken a toll on me.  I am not as patient when I’m in pain.  I cannot accomplish anything when I can’t move.  Even lifting the baby to his high chair isn’t doable for me right now.  Inability on my part seems to highlight the innate differences between Matt and I.  We just do not see things the same way.  I shouldn’t be surprised.  Many months ago as we were driving along I voiced a revelation to Matt “I’m beginning to understand that other people don’t see things the way I do.”  I’m all about order and responsibility and he’s all about thinking and dreaming.  We are — a perfect match, but the differences and pain could give way to frustration.  I am resisting the urge to expect him to be an exact replacement of me on a good day in the midst of my neediness.

While I’m down, I’ve had so many friends offer to help in very practical ways.  Instead of being immediately grateful, I’ve felt ashamed.  So maybe as we (hopefully) catapult out of the cycle of illness, I must need address my pride.  And I know that’s what it is, otherwise the temptation to delete pride wouldn’t be so strong.  When I’m at my best, I love to give.  When I’m at my worst, it’s not that I like to withhold, it’s more that I have a hard time graciously receiving.

Recently we went to our daughter’s first school program.  She was so excited and serious about this performance, and I was struck by one of the lines of her poem.  “When I don’t have a perfect day, God smiles at me.”  I look at my children each night and my heart overflows with gratitude for the gift they each are; that I have been entrusted with the weighty privilege of raising them.  It doesn’t matter how hard the day was; how many times I had to redirect them, train their hearts, discipline in the midst of a tantrum … when it comes to the end of the day and I look at my three sleeping miracles, I smile. 

Parenting so often reflects the Father’s heart for us.  I want the best for my children, but often that means “tough love” … discipline.  The best for them is to have their hearts turned toward me and Matt, so that we can turn their hearts to the Lord.  I am in that place as a child of God right now. I can feel him so dearly speaking to my heart,  “Lindsey, you needn’t be so proud.  I have given you friends not only for companionship, but also for in times of need.”  Thank you, Lord that you can gently and compassionately redirect a heart that has strayed from your best.

As I begin to turn my heart toward him today, I am encouraged at the thought of being known … of being seen … of his presence filling our home and his peace our hearts.

The Lord your God is among you, a warrior who saves.  He will rejoice over you with gladness.  He will bring you quietness with his love.  He will delight in you with shouts of joy.”  

Zephaniah 3:17 HCSB