Acting like a 5 year old

When my twins turned five I was not aware of how difficult everything would become for them. Strong, independent five year olds, right?

Wrong.

Actual conversation–

Royal-Flush-14k-Solid-Gold-Toilet-Flusher2ME: Make sure you go potty before we leave.

JUDAH: (throws his head back and says in a melodramatic sigh voice) WHYYY???????

[He goes into the bathroom. A few seconds later, he emerges.]

ME: Did you flush and wash your hands?

JUDAH: (flops on the floor and says in melodramatic sigh voice) UUUUUGH!!!

The conflicts with my boys are usually about one of three big issues: using the bathroom, eating meals, or cleaning up after themselves.

In my mind, these should be simple, expected tasks for five year old boys, but mine act like I’ve asked them to cross the Grand Canyon on a tightrope while juggling cats and eating dog poop. How could I be so cruel and have such high expectations?!

Sometimes, they try to meet my authority with an authority of their own. Here’s an example of 5 year old negotiation at its finest–

JUDAH: Can I have a piece of chocolate?

ME: After you finish your lunch.

JUDAH: (throws his head back and says in melodramatic sigh voice) WHYYY??????

ME: Because you have to finish your lunch first.

JUDAH: Okay, well, if I finish my lunch, I get a piece of chocolate AND a piece of cake.

He says this like the finishing of the lunch was up for negotiation. Like he expects me to be overjoyed that he did something basic and foundational for his health and well-being. So overjoyed, in fact, that I would now be willing to throw in extra rewards and bribes for the privilege of watching him sacrifice so much and work so hard.

Um…no, son. You must finish your lunch. That is not negotiable. It is the dessert in question that is not guaranteed.

My boys will never be lawyers.

The negotiating and overreacting is tiring to me as a mom. I want to scream at them that this stuff is NOT THAT HARD!

It’s actually for your own good. You will feel better after you do it. Just pee; get rid of the bad stuff.  Just eat; take in some good stuff. Just clean up; it’s part of being a member of this family.

Today I started to wonder if God feels the same way with all of my excuses and bargaining. Sometimes I feel myself respond to that gentle whisper in a Judah-like fashion–

Talk to that homeless woman. She’s a person just like you. Show her love.

ME: [mentally throw back my head and say in melodramatic sigh voice] WHYYYY??????

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

ME: Okay, well, if she’s still there after I drop the boys off at preschool, THEN I’ll talk to her.

Why do I act like loving people is negotiable? It’s basic and foundational for my life as a follower of Jesus. It’s for my own good. I feel better after I do it.

Sometimes I am more like a 5 year old than I’d like to admit.

And it’s really not that hard…Get rid of the bad stuff. Take in the good stuff. It’s part of being a member of God’s family.

Advertisements

Christmas stuff

There are two beautiful things that my kids do not know are counter cultural:

1.) We visit toy stores and treat them like libraries. Look at toy, check out the buttons and sounds, comment on how cool it is, return to shelf. If you shop with us, you will hear me repeat over and over again as we browse through the aisles, “Let’s see what else we can find.” Even just turned 2 year old Sariya knows the routine. If she asks for a baby or stuffed animal she means that she wants it to ride in the cart with her for a few aisles. Then we work together to remember where the baby “lives” or “sleeps” and put it to bed on it’s shelf. For the Miller kids, toy stores are for borrowing, not buying.

2.) Christmas is about love, joy, peace, hope, and giving…not getting. We spend the Advent season leading up to Christmas with a fun family activity for each day. We eat treats, we make crafts, we pray for people, we serve each other (in fun ways…like making someone else’s bed after you get a chance to jump on it), we watch movies, we act out the Christmas story, we go for winter walks, and drink tea together. At some point along the way, we also make a big deal of a family trip to the Dollar Tree where they get to carefully choose several items to give to family members. They pick them, they pay for them, they wrap them. It’s all very top secret and very fun. So, when Christmas morning comes, what’s often the most exciting thing? Watching someone open the gift that you have been keeping a surprise and are SO excited to give them.

I love these ways we’ve “brainwashed” our children. We are attempting to teach them lessons that many adults have yet to master, and in the process, we are experiencing firsthand the joy that comes from giving, serving, loving, and living simply.

We know these are fragile constructs. It’s not the way our Western world works.

And this week, I was so tempted to conform.

Sariya has a mid-December birthday and the boys hadn’t had a chance to pick out gifts for her, so the three kids and I braved the Christmas shoppers and hit up Five Below (I was too chicken to visit Toys ‘R Us). Each kid wanted their own mesh shopping basket, so I distributed baskets and we started wandering through the store. Initially, Sariya was super thrilled just to be carrying such a cool basket. Did you know you can wear them on your head and see through the mesh?! Super cool.

But then she noticed something…The boys were actually there to shop and were putting things in their baskets. Oh, yeah. She could get into that.

Collect what I like? Got it. Done.

I looked at my little girl and realized that our carefully constructed “toys are for borrowing” policy was about to crumble. She was on her very first shopping spree. I knew it would NOT fly to have a double standard and let the boys collect while her basket remained empty. There is a limit to what a 2 year old can understand. So, the new policy became only one thing in your basket. If you want to keep that new thing you picked up, then you have to put the other thing back. And she did. After changing her mind three times, she walked out with only one item.

But it wasn’t just Sariya that was affected by our trip.We spent over 30 minutes browsing that giant room full of toys and I found myself succumbing to the Sariya-syndrome…I wanted to buy it all too!

Ky and Judah would LOVE that game.  Sariya would be so cute in that hat.   My kids would be so happy to play with this. They would be so surprised to receive that. And it was only $5! Or $3! Or $1! What’s one dollar??!

I wanted to spend and wrap and give. It could be so fun to shop for them and it could be so easy to just buy buy buy.

Then I remembered that all three kids get fully celebrated (and fully gifted) on their close-to-Christmas birthdays. And I remembered the pile of toys we just got rid of and the pile of toys we still have. And I remembered that for most of the morning they played with my kitchen broom instead of their toy pile (true story). And I remembered that miraculously, we have been able to keep Jesus’ birthday about love, joy, peace, hope and…well…His birth. And I realized that if I give in now, if I let the stuff win, it could all crumble.

I don’t want a Season full of wish lists and “I wants” and packages torn through and stuff they don’t need and gifts discarded and “why didn’t I gets.”

I want a Season full of celebration and family and friends and simple joys and cherished gifts and Jesus. Lot’s of Jesus.

That’s what I want for Christmas.

To ALL the moms out there.

I am a working mom, my life is busier than yours.
~I am a stay at home mom, my life is busier than yours.
I go to work all day then come home to mom duties.
~My mom duties never stop.
I work so hard.
~I work harder.
I never see my kids.
~I never get a break from my kids.

Sound familiar?

Whether a full time working, part time working, or full time stay at home mom, we feel the need to prove just how difficult our lot in life really is.

And I think it’s time to stop.

Fellow moms, regardless of what’s listed beside the little briefcase on your facebook profile, we have one major thing in common….We are moms. Do we really have to argue about which “type” of mom has it rougher? If you’re a mom, your job is hard. No matter how many hours you spend with or without your children. Your job is hard. Let it go at that. We do not need a laundry list of negatives in order to validate our particular mom path. A busy, overstressed life should not be our litmus test of worth.

Let’s be people who find contentment and joy in what we are doing instead of constantly bemoaning the difficulties. It’s time to stop comparing and complaining. I know your baby has not stopped screaming all. day. long. I know. But, it’s time to stop the complaining. And I know you had to work late the past three nights and only had enough time to tuck your kids into bed for the night. I know. But, it’s time to stop the comparing. Let’s stop.

No more focusing on the worst parts of being a working mom. Let’s focus on the beauty. 

No more focusing on the draining parts of being a stay at home mom. Let’s appreciate the wonderful.

There’s a whole lot of good in motherhood. Focus with me on the roses instead of the thorns. And please do me a favor, focus only on the category you fit into right now. Do not allow this to become fodder in the world’s most worthless fight. Instead of competing and comparing, let’s celebrate and encourage. Breed some contentment in your own life.  Recognize the good things about what you get to do! Add to your list. Fill up ten pages. Post it somewhere you can see it, so in the miserable moments when you are tempted to say “woe is me” or think the grass is greener or fear that no one appreciates all that you do, you can look at your list and appreciate you, your many jobs, your children, and the gift that it is to be the specific type of mom you are right here, right now.

We are moms. We are blessed.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

p.s. A special thank you to the fellow moms, both working and stay at home, who contributed to these lists. I admire each and every one of you for what you do for your family, your children, and your own well being. May you always find the beauty in what you do.

For WORKING MOMS only

For STAY AT HOME MOMS only

Creative discipline

Sometimes I feel like a creative genius, but most of the time I feel like my children have sucked every last drop of creativity from me. They absorbed it into their tiny little bodies and now they are using it to destroy our house one mud pie at a time.

P1080995Their abundant and oft-misguided creativity combined with my lack thereof leaves me with a dilemma. I want to meet my children’s creative disobedience with equally creative discipline. I want the punishment to not just fit the crime in size and severity, but somehow be related to it! I’m talking Mrs. Piggle Wiggle caliber lessons here.

So I come to you seeking advice because, more often than I’d like, my brain turns to a puddle of mush and I turn to the old faithfuls. Time out, spanking, we’ll never ever ever do anything fun ever again. You know, those things parents say. all. the. time.

Here’s a list of some the recurring issues in this household. (In no particular order.) Fix them, please.

1. Wasting hand soap.  5 pumps for two tiny hands… Are you kidding me?! And I was SO not thrilled when I found soap in the bottom of my bathroom cup after I rinsed my mouth with it.

2. Making mud. My boys love water. They also love dirt. They also love to mix them.

3. Playing in mud. Sometimes it rains and the mud is pre-made already!!!

4. Harvesting vegetables without permission. We have a garden and I love that my kids love the garden. I do NOT love that they pick things before they are ready. That broccoli would have grown big enough to feed our whole family. Instead it was popped into a four year old’s mouth for an afternoon snack. I gave birth to giant groundhogs!

5. Wrestling/fighting/sharing the same square inch of space all the time. I have 4 year old twin boys. I have no idea how to stop this.

6. Coming out of their room 100,000,000x before bed. It’s an issue.

7. Creative use of sharp objects. We have had our couch cut with scissors, a crocheted doily and a coaster cut with a letter opener, and a fork tine poked into the couch. Our poor couch.

We have tried preventative measures (i.e. no scissors for K after the couch cutting incident) but I know my kids are bound to be in situations where temptation exists (i.e. a week later, while avoiding all scissors, K picked up my parents’ letter opener and sliced their doily apart) and I want them to know how to resist temptation and make good choices.

SO, if you are brilliant and creative and you have an idea. PLEASE SHARE IT! Comment below and share it with the world.

If you need an idea of what I mean by a creative punishment that is related to and fits the crime, here are two “success stories” pulled from the pile of my many failures.

1. Nose picking. For a few days, I wrapped tape or band-aids around the tips of K & J’s fingers so they couldn’t fit comfortably inside the nostrils anymore. J seemed to be cured after 3 days of tape. K discovered he could pick his nose just as well with his pinkie. Unfortunately, I stopped taping and a few weeks later they got stuffy noses. Boogies built up and those fingers gravitated back to the nose. So, if anyone has any ideas I guess I should add that one to the list as well.

2. Making the rest of the family wait for you. Sometimes my kids act like their body has rigor mortis, their brain is on another planet, and their seat belt (they buckle themselves) is a 60 foot long wild snake. Usually, this sort of melt down happens when they are tired and/or hungry. In the past, I have approached this issue with preventative measures (always pack food. always.), but today I decided that a four year old is allowed to feel hunger and is fully capable of waiting. I was not going to cater and excuse this type of behavior any longer. So, on the way home from the library, while everyone was waiting in the car and K was having an “I’m going to die of starvation” tantrum, I told him that we were trying to get home for lunch and because he was making everyone else wait for lunch he would have to wait for lunch: 5 minutes for the tantrum and one minute added for any addition hunger complaints on the way home. Immediate attitude change.

10 lbs heavier

I have this mirror.

I saw it on the curb across the street one day. I couldn’t figure out why my neighbors had put it out for trash. It looked like a perfectly good mirror to me. I had been wishing for a full length mirror for the bedroom so I could actually see how my lower half looked without standing on the bed. This mirror even had a “hook on the door” feature that would make installation a breeze. So I trash picked it.

I love free stuff.

I cleaned off the mirror, hooked it on the door, and stood back to admire my fabulous find. There was absolutely nothing trash-worthy about this mirror.

Except it turned out there was….While I enjoyed being able to see myself from head to toe, suddenly I felt like nothing looked good on me. Was I seeing a weight issue that my waist-up dresser mirror hadn’t revealed? For a few days, I thought this was  the case. That baby weight was even more stubborn than I had thought.

Then I noticed something strange. Every other mirror I looked in made me look normal. Even other full length ones.

This mirror was adding 10 pounds!

It was like a fun house mirror, but sneakier because it was such a subtle change.  My brain had to work really hard to convince myself that the image I was seeing was not an accurate reflection of me. Because, well, what you see in the mirror is what you look like, right? There are still days when I have to step over to my dresser mirror for a few seconds to prove to myself that my full length mirror image is slightly askew.

But there are many many many women (and men) who have the equivalent of my 10-pound-adding fun house mirror permanently in their heads. No matter how many times they are told by accurate “mirrors” that they are beautiful, wonderful, healthy, and just the right size or shape, their minds still tell them otherwise.

I have always had a relatively healthy body image even with a less than perfect body. But I, like every teenage girl, saw flaws in my appearance. And I, like every mom who has had pregnancies, c-sections, and years spent breastfeeding, see flaws in my appearance today.  Of course, now I look back and think my teenage self didn’t have anything to complain about. So, I’m sure when my skin is covered in wrinkles and my boobs sag down to my knees, I will say the same about my 30 year old self.  And that inability to see my own beauty in the moment saddens me. I want to always appreciate the beauty that is right here, right now. Because it is here.

And when the fun house mirror thoughts start to take over, I try to remind myself of some things.

P1100347

This is one of them. My husband stuck this little post-it on my mirror one day, just because. Because he really believes it. And knowing that he believes it, makes me believe it. I am thankful for that.

It also helps to know that my children love me no matter what. They have a way of noticing the beautiful things and loving the not so beautiful things (FYI: soft bellies make great pillows).

But at the core of who I am, what gives me the most peace and perspective, is knowing that I am a child of God and that fact is not contingent on my height or weight or skin or hair. God doesn’t even care about my outward appearance. I am “good,” created in his image, and loved. Always.

I am thankful for these “dresser mirror” reminders in my life. May your life be filled with dresser mirrors, so that you can know the fun house mirror tells lies.

Distractions along the way

My children are HIGHLY distractible.

Highly.

On every walk, they stop to smell the roses, eat some clover, find the perfect stick, catch a beetle, look in a hole…you get the drift.

They will even ignore a favorite TV show to watch the erratic flight of a rogue housefly in our living room. (This happened today.)

Their distractibility is really quite astounding.

Sometimes I find it frustrating. Like the times when they simply cannot pick up all their toys because they just discovered that a fishing net will fit perfectly on their sister’s head. Must. Net. Sister. Or the fact that we cannot get through a meal without someone darting off to “do something” or even just take a daydreamy walk.

But, sometimes…Sometimes I find it inspiring. Like the times when they stoop to pick a beautiful flower in the grass. Most people (including me) would only see a weed; my kids see a perfectly formed, peachy-salmon flower the size of a sesame seed that they absolutely must pick for Mommy. And my heart melts.

The other day, I decided to take the kids creeking (this is an official term in our household). So I put on their suits and packed up our towels, fishing nets, buckets, some snacks, drinks, the diaper bag, extra clothes, and a chair for me to sit on (you know, the normal stuff) and we headed to a creek nearby. I parked the van, loaded S into the stroller and everything else onto my body like a pack mule. The walk to the creek was not long, we could see the clearing from the parking lot, but it had just rained (hard.) and we had to pass several puddles on the way. I put my head down and started walking faster, knowing the puddles would distract. “Mommy, can we jump in that puddle?” See? I knew they wouldn’t make it to the creek. “Not now. We want to get to the creek.”  The creek would be perfect. We’d been there before. It has a little bank for my chair, some pebbles to throw in the water, crayfish to catch, and lots of shallow water to splash around in. Perfect.

Showing unprecedented amounts of self control K & J stayed out of not just one, but all four of the giant, amazing, oh so enticing puddles on the way to the creek.

We made it to our destination! …And it was a raging river. I somehow didn’t think about how the torrential rains that had formed those giant puddle would also affect our little creek. Big time. The bank for my chair and those pebbles to throw in the water were completely submerged and that shallow water they were supposed to splash in was 2-4 feet deep and moving fast enough to push me under. My kids were NOT going in there.

Disappointing day. Failed expectations. Turn around. Go home.

Not my kids.

They live in the moment.
The journey is more important than the destination.
They see beauty everywhere.
And they deem every little thing worth exploring.

So we went back to those glorious puddles and spent almost two hours happily splashing, belly flopping, and fishing for flip flops.

k&jpuddle

K, J, and S, thank you for teaching me how to live.

love is… not easy.

We had an incident today.

Let me break it down for you…

Here was our morning:

After the boys’ speech therapy session, we ate some sandwiches in the car and drove straight to ShopRite for a marathon shopping trip. I needed both staple items (paper towels, canned goods, diapers, etc.) and food for vacation the following day. I found a whale-sized 3-seater cart that would accommodate my 100 pounds worth of children and after an hour of shopping, it was piled high with groceries. By the time we reached the checkout, a pack of 12 paper towel rolls was balanced precariously on the girl’s head because it didn’t fit anywhere else. (Helpful hint: when coupons print for “a valuable customer,” you have clearly bought too much.)

Plastic-grocery-bags-grocer

Then we got home:

We were all tired, so baby girl went straight to bed. But ice cream was melting, so I asked the boys to help me carry groceries inside. They agreed without much of a fuss. I was surprised and impressed.  The first load made it to the kitchen successfully.

And this was the incident:

I gave J two bags because he handled the first trip so well. Mistake #1. Then I loaded up my arms with as many bags as I could carry and followed him inside. Mistake #2.

J stalled out on the stairs, dropped his bags, and plopped facedown on the carpet. Now my bag handles were cutting into my fingers, my legs were holding up two additional bags of groceries, and my child was blocking my way. I started ordering J to stand up, get his bags and get out my way. He just lay there and looked at me like a sad little bloodhound. I yelled louder and with more anger and impatience. What was this kid’s problem?! Move!  How did he not see that he was causing me pain and bringing all of our efforts to a screeching halt? Move!! I yelled louder, anger bubbling up inside of me. Why did my children do this so often??

Finally, J conceded and grabbed one of his bags (an intentional rebellion) moaning and whining as he came. I furiously scooped up the final abandoned bag in my already overburdened left hand and plowed past J, knocking him on the head with a bag in the process.  (A total accident, I assure you. *ahem*)

And then that annoying whisper came. (Fair warning: if you memorize scripture, it will come back to haunt you at the worst possible times. The Holy Spirit’s tricky like that.)

“Love is patient…”

Okay, I was anything BUT patient with J, but he was being disobedient and lazy and selfish  and…

“Love is not self-seeking…”

Alright, I was being a little selfish too.

“Love is kind.”

Fail.

“Love is not easily angered”

TOTAL fail.

I think, sometimes as a parent, I tend to excuse and justify my impatience and irritability towards my kids because, well, they are making poor choices so they deserve it. Don’t they? I tell myself that my anger shows them just how disappointing and wrong their actions are…

But what about love?

If I am not acting in love (and I am clearly not in those moments), “I am nothing” and “I gain nothing.”

Crap.

So, I will do two things instead.

First, I will ask my kids for forgiveness when I am impatient and unkind. I will admit to them when I am too easily angered and find myself tallying up wrongs. My mom was always so good at doing that when I was a kid, and I will never forget the life-changing impact of a parent’s humble apology. It often ended up convicting and humbling me in process.

Second, I will pray for the strength to love my three little people more fully each day. I pray not for the emotional, ooey-gooey kind of love, but for the real, difficult, active, even-when-I-don’t-feel-like-it kind of love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
                        -1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13