Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hashbrown KeepinItReal

Ok, here’s my confession:  most days, I would die an embarrassed, painful death if people I know stopped by my house.  I have to clear a spot to stage photos of the kids.  With three children under the age of seven and a job where I work from home at tasks that have no real start and stop time, I just stay overwhelmed.  The laundry is overflowing, the toys are EVERYWHERE and the kitchen table is buried under school papers and mail. 

What is the answer to all this mess?  Don’t relax for one second.  That’s the answer.  Don’t sit down with your husband, who, by the way, appreciates the struggle, but also is driven crazy by the clutter and chaos.  To be fair, it drives me crazy too (or craziER, to be precise).

I went through a no-kidding, hormone-driven nesting phase when I was pregnant with my youngest.  I cleaned out closets, deep-cleaned nooks and crannies, caught up the laundry and breathed a sigh of contented relief at night when I fell, exhausted into bed.  In the evenings after the children were asleep, I folded laundry and put it away IMMEDIATELY, made sure that the stray dish in the sink was washed, wiped down the stove top, scrubbed shower floors, and on and on.  I didn’t sit down and watch television at night.  I didn’t sit down to do anything except drag out my laptop and get some work done for the magazine. It was extremely satisfying, I have to admit.  And at the time, I thought, “This isn’t that hard.  Why have I struggled so long?” I kept it up for about 3 months after Bryce was born, when apparently, the hormones wore off and my driving force ran smooth out of gas.

The problem with the clutter is two-fold.  The first is that there isn’t a specific place for everything, so when I’m trying to figure out where to put away, say, the foam -tipped craft painters or the school papers that I don’t really have time to sort until Saturday, they get shoved in a pile that looks more and more unsightly as the week passes.

The second reason is that to do one thing requires multiple steps – most of which I don’t have time to do right then.  For example, I’d like to put away the clothes immediately after folding/hanging them, but I’d first need to sort the clothing in the crammed closets and chests of drawers to make room for the clean clothes, make a bag for charity (that would realistically sit by the door or in the back of my car for six weeks), put away the off-season stuff in bins (that have clean laundry in them because, let’s face it, the laundry baskets are already full) and put said off-season items away in the storage areas high above the closets (which can be accessed only by ladder and must literally be climbed into to reach the back).

To heap more trouble onto the pile, it’s nearly impossible to do any of the housework tasks during the day because sweet little hands are contributing ceaselessly to the mess, and sweet little voices are, all the while, asking for snacks and apple juice, for help turning on lights and wiping themselves.  Add to that the fact that my two-year-old is terrified of the vacuum cleaner and I have to hold him while I vacuum if I do so while Daddy isn’t home.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly blessed to have a home to clutter, a husband to drive crazy and healthy children to wipe!  It’s just that I drive myself bananas in the process, trying, and failing, to keep up with it all.  I saw the chart below on Facebook recently. Yeah, I know, I have time for that life-sucking activity!  Ironic, isn’t it?.

It’s so true!  But the fact is my sanity suffers any way you look at it.  I can’t enjoy sitting down to play with the kids amid the disaster, and I refuse to be the drill sergeant who obsessively barks orders at them to keep things straight.  I have enough orders to bark without adding constant clean-up to the list. Orders like; "Don't hit your sister!", "Please get your feet off of him, he hates that!" and "For the love of all that's holy, don't play in the toilet!"  Midday mopping anyone? No happy medium.  Am I right?

It’d be fantastic if we could be a bit easier on ourselves, to do that which we’re advised by more mature women who implore us to enjoy this time with our children and leave the mess.  We absolutely know that all too soon, the kids we’re picking up after will be gone from under our wings and roofs and we’ll have much less mess to contend with.  But still…

Maybe there’s no sanity.  Maybe we just all band together and be real.  Maybe the only people who care so much about how cluttered the house really is, is us. Oh, and our husbands.

I’m searching for the balance between the mama who never-stops-working-at-it-for-a-second and the one who trips over the dolls in an effort to give cough medicine in the middle of the night.  But until the sippy cups sprout feet instead of fuzzy mold like the one I found under the couch last week, and walk themselves to the dishwasher, which needs emptying of the clean dishes as I write, I'm simply stumped.

Carry on, you mamas and daddies in the trenches.  And let me know if you find some housekeeping hacks for me.  In the meantime, the struggle is real over here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Careful what you wish for

At a gathering of some women friends from my church tonight, one friend told me that her husband, who normally doesn’t eat much fast food, treated himself to a Big Mac for his birthday.  Another friend mistakenly thought she said he treated himself to a nap.  I said with a laugh, that would be a treat to me, to have everyone out of the house so I could take a long nap.  

Yet another friend at the gathering is in her 50’s and was widowed not too long ago.  When I made the comment about the nap, she put her arms around my shoulders and whispered to me, “Careful what you wish for.  I can sleep as long as I like.”  She went on to point out that the things we wish for when we’re in the middle of the busyness of raising a family, like some alone-time, seem ironic when you actually get them.  

My prayer tonight is that I can stop wishing for peace and quiet and appreciate the chaos a little more, do less photographing of my life for Instagram and more LIVING in it.  I pray that the worries, stresses and the weight of my to-do’s will fade into the background during the times my babies demand my attention. That when they say, “Hold you, Mommy,” I will realize, each time, that there will be a very last time they ask, and it won't be too far down the road. I pray that I'll remember these days won’t last forever and I have to soak them up, to hold those babies, even though I’m more than half-crazy and the house is most always a disaster.  Because one day, I’ll look back from the vantage point of my neat, quiet, empty house and span of days ahead and wish for them back.

Friday, April 18, 2014

It's Four O'clock and all is...well.. "-My Messy Beautiful"

 This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

Frustrated, aggravated, I’m struggling to accomplish something that I shouldn't bother trying to accomplish until my three are in bed for the night. I’m ignoring the pulverized Goldfish crackers on the rug under my feet, letting Bryce wander around freely with a third serving so I can try to finish an email for work. Sometimes working from home is for the birds! I check to see if it's 5:15 - time for backup to arrive - this is a two man job (at least) and Daddy seems to have fresh energy when they tackle him at the door. They’re just so glad someone’s not grouchy! I’m guilty already for not having anything at all in mind for dinner and even guiltier for the monstrous pile of laundry that seems never to shrink. The fact that the den looks like a bomb exploded, scattering toys, shoes and snacks just adds to the anxiety!

I’m trying not to yell at them, then I’m yelling at them, "HEY!! Please stop yelling!  I was ON THE PHONE!”  I know, right? Or in my angry voice with my angry face, teeth clenched, saying, "Will you please speak more KINDLY to your SISTER!"  I KNOW, right? And the not-so-magic-momma-mirror appears and I see the ugliness of my anger, and over what? Nothing, really. My own stresses that have nothing to do with them. And that little voice in my heart whispers the phrase I saw online somewhere and wrote on the notepad on the fridge, and on the post-it stuck to the computer screen, "The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice."

Then the real guilt crashes in as I think of another mother some 70 miles away in a hospital room watching her just-turned-three-year-old baby fight for his very life, praying for a transplant that will save him. 

And I think of my grandmother who lost her 62-year-old son. Even though he was a grown man with his own grandchildren, he never ceased being her baby.  And I think of my mother-in-law, who lost her 18-year-old son. Many years later, she continues to laugh and cry, live a happy life, breathing in and out, but never quite outruns the sorrow.

Then the tenderness and overwhelming realness get all tangled in sadness and an aching...ache I feel looking at my own nearly three-year-old, cherub-faced daughter. 

I gather them all up in my chair, even my growny six-year-old boy who still craves my hugs and kisses

And I look at their tiny noses and their long eyelashes and the baby's full-lipped pout, and I feel a pang of regret that I don't do this more often. That I say, “Just a minute, let me finish this and then I’ll hold you.”

And I tell them, through messy, snarfled tears, with words that can't even touch being enough that I love them so, so so much.

And I know I'll be aggravated and tired and cranky/hormonal again, probably in about 10 minutes. But in this moment, I’m just so thankful I have mind enough to be thankful for this moment.

Friday, March 28, 2014

No make-up selfie - the LoBoat way

I was challenged to do the “no make-up selfie” by my sweet friend Leanne McElrath today.  Well, I love the idea of raising awareness for breast cancer, but I wanted to take it a step further.

I’d like to start by saying that to me, the face of breast cancer was always a stranger’s face. That is until 2008, when the face of breast cancer for me became this face:
 and by association, these faces:

That is my sister-in-law, Jamie.  At 38, she was diagnosed.  With two little boys and a grown up one (her husband), the cancer diagnosis turned her world upside down. After a lumpectomy, she had radiation, chemo and participated in an additional chemotherapy clinical trial.  The treatments made her very ill.  Her nails turned brown and gnarly, her eyebrows and eyelashes fell out.  She temporarily lost her (great) hair, a lot of her dignity and on many days her sense of humor (also great).  What she didn’t lose was her faith.  I know she would tell you that it was the prayers of so many (and mashed potatoes) that helped her muddle through the day-to-day awfulness.

She chose to participate in the clinical trial even though she wasn’t guaranteed to actually receive the trial medication; it was possible she could receive the placebo.  Afterward she learned that she did indeed get the powerful drug, which lessens the chance for any cancer recurrence.  She's been cancer free for 6 years!

Here’s how I’d like to raise breast cancer awareness.

Step 1:  (And this is the most important step!)  Pray for someone who has breast cancer and do it daily.  Add them to your prayer journal.  If you don’t know someone personally, ask your friends.  They’ll know someone.  If they don’t, I have a friend who was just diagnosed you can pray for.  Pray for “Lori’s friend” (God will know who you’re talking about) or private message me to find out her name.  Pray for your person's family, her husband and children, her mother and her friends.

Step 2: Get involved-either with your wallet or your time or both!  Do something.  If you’re able and feel led, donate to your favorite breast cancer research organization.  Here are a couple of links.

On The Susan G. Komen website you can donate as little as $5 online.  The home page of the website has plenty of other active ways to get involved.

Want something a little closer to home?  In Marshall County, the Foundation for Marshall Medical Centers raises money throughout the year with programs like the Pink Pumpkin Run to fund mammograms for women who couldn’t otherwise afford them. Click the link to find out how to help.

If you have a friend going through this and she's having a tough time with treatment, take her a meal, pick up some dirty laundry and deliver it back washed and folded (if you’re really good friends with her, put it away).

Lastly, never discount the power of your words.  Call, message, send a note through the mail.  Encourage someone, even if it’s a someone you don’t know well, someone whose name you got from a friend.  If you want to do something, let them know you’re praying for them, that you're thinking of them, that you care.