The Growings-Up

Eli hill

 

Washed in the bright light of midday and serenaded by the rhythmic clickety-clack of the key strikes, I nestle in to the corner of my couch. It’s an old, gray second-hand piece, which we have positioned next to our large window in the living room. It sits under the ancient air conditioner and is the coolest spot in the house, also the most contested spot over the next three hot months of summer. In the next room, lulled by the soft droning of the box fan, with lunch-filled bellies, my sweet sons, my treasures, have fallen fast asleep. These days naps are the exception instead of the rule. My boys are now 5 and 1/2 and nearly 3. Their shoes are too tight and pants are too short, again. The tick marks on the closet door tell me that my oldest is over half my height. The toddler bed and tiny training potty we have packed up are undeniable signs that on the outside, they are growing up. The questions they ask around the dinner table speak to the growing up that happens on the inside. 

 

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As a mom of little kids, freshly out of the season of diapers and late night cluster feedings, I find that I am keenly aware of the growings-up of these boys. I am aware of their growing bodies and minds, the constant hunger for food and attachment, for nourishment both physically and emotionally. I watch the tricycles become bicycles and then the training wheels come off. The blocks go from Mega to Duplo to the tiniest of Legos. The breastmilk was slowly replaced by mushy purees and tiny bits of food and now they sit in grown up chairs around the table feasting on a grown up feast. We moms certainly notice the growings-up of our children.

What I am less aware of on a daily basis is that, as a mom, I am growing up too. I am learning and growing right alongside these boys. In this season I am gifted with the privilege of seeing the world through eyes at 3 feet tall, and what treasure abounds… wonder, excitement, curiosity! Each moment is filled with longing to know, to see and to touch, and to understand. Each breath holds a question that when answered helps shape these precious little people into their becomings… the godly men into which they will one day mature. 

Each moment spent with my children, each question they ask, each answer I give also shapes my becoming, the becoming and molding of this woman and wife and mother I was created to be.

I am growing out of the infants and toddlers phase and into the wonderful world of little boys. This is a new season of motherhood for me, of stretching out of my comfort zone as I watch them climb higher, ride faster and play rougher. I am growing up and can see that they are bigger and need me a little less. They sleep through the night much more often. They play well together in the worlds their imaginations create. They are more independent. 

It is good to watch them grow. It fills me with joy and tugs hard at my mommy heart strings at the same time. It is in this new season I so often find myself whispering the same whisper of generations of mothers before me, “slow down”. Alas, I know that I can’t actually slow the growing up. Time will pass and years will be stowed away in memories, the makings of future stories to tell. So instead of weeping and begging time to stand still I am learning to turn that whisper around. 

“Slow down.” 

In my growing up I am learning about slowing down.

I am learning that I am the one to do the slowing down, to nurture and foster a heart that knows that slow is a treasure.

I can intentionally slow down the pace of our days and clear more off of the calendar. I can savor the questions and the wide eyes and the tiny hands. We now linger over bowls of oatmeal in the morning and play yet another round of chess. We snuggle up under piles of blankets and read the very same book again and again, yes…again! Today we are eating off paper plates and letting the floors wait a few more days to be washed. I turned up the music and danced hand in hand with my son who is becoming a handsome young man. I stretched out on the grass and soaked in the sun and perfect blue of my preschoolers gleaming eyes as he told me all about roly-polies and ladybugs and centipedes. 

The boys will be up from their naps soon. We have big plans for this afternoon, big, slow, unhurried plans. We are going to dig in the dirt, let it dapple over our hands and smear across our faces as we search for buried treasure. This is a favorite game of my boys. With excitement they tuck their shovels into the dry ground and giggle as they toss the dust and pebbles over their shoulders. We smile and play and dig down deep. They enjoy the quest. I enjoy them. They dream aloud of what treasure they might find! A dinosaur bone! A box of jewels or candy bars!  And though our shovels never clank a metal box or scratch the surface of a fossil, my heart overflows with gratitude for the treasure that I have found!

Mom-fessions of an Early Bird

What a privilege to contribute to the Mommy Brain Collective! You can check out my latest post over at stephlenox.com!Steph Lenox

 

 

Steph Lenox

Lacing up my sneakers and sneaking out the front door, the sun, glinting through the space between the leaves of the old oak tree, greets my sleepy eyes with a warm good morning. Sunrise, my old friend. It has been hot here recently. We have had more than the average handful of oppressive, over 100+ degree days. At 6:30 am the cool, crisp morning air is a welcome refreshment. Crunching gravel, my feet feel heavy at first. But once I hit the smooth asphalt my pace quickens and a lightness sets in. Me-time. Some moms dislike that term. Other moms love it and embrace it. I don’t care what we call it, but for me this early morning, head-clearing, space-creating time makes me a better me, and a better me is a better wife and a better mom.

I love the dark of morning before dawn. It brings the excitement…

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Welcome to Therapy

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It was a Tuesday afternoon and this mommy had a rare whole hour to spend kid-free. Instead of tending to the urgent things like a Coscto trip or picking up the dry cleaning, I had been invited to tend to the important things.  I sank back into the comfy cushions of the sofa, big thick throw pillows on either side. The lovely room was warm and welcoming as sunlight filtered through the tall trees before spilling in through the window. “Nice,” I thought to myself, “I shall be quite comfortable… while being terribly uncomfortable. Welcome to therapy.”

I’m not sure what I expected. I think I had prepared myself for a dimly lit room with bare walls and the faint drip… drip… drip of a leaky faucet in the background. Probably because that picture mirrored how I felt inside, dark and bare and irritated. A dear friend new I was struggling. She knew that I was stuck, soul-stuck in a hard place. I was stuck in that jagged craggy place of uneven footing that feeds on trauma and fear and anger. I lived in a panicked place and the stress of it was affecting my mommyhood. I was anxious and quick to growl and scowl and lose my temper with my sweet children and dear husband. Overwhelmed by feeling big feelings I tried instead not to feel at all, and then expected my children to follow suit. My friend suggested that I see someone. A name. A number on a scrap of paper.

I held on to that paper for months. I was not brave enough to make that call. I knew that with that call, with that first appointment would come the invitation to unweave the warp and weft of the story of my life, to dig deep and let go and make room for God’s healing hand. I did not think my heart could bear it. I have fought against this unraveling my entire adult life. And then a phone call came, a reaching out from an unexpected place. “Go. For you, for your kids, for your husband. It’s okay to ask for help.” the voice gently prompted me. A father speaking compassion to his daughter, telling her it’s okay to not be okay. Don’t hide. Don’t run. Don’t make-believe. That is not how healing comes.

Healing, I thought, was instantaneous. Jesus saved me. He is my Healer. I am healed. That is the end of the story.

Or rather, I wanted that to be the end of the story.

Jesus could have healed my most broken, wounded places in the blink of an eye. Insecurity, gone. Shame, gone. Anger, gone. But He chose instead to lead me to someone He would use to do this healing work,  to remind me that I am not alone. I think of how the sunlight streaked through the tree branches and danced across my arms as I leaned back into those pillows. Expose and then heal. Open and then grow. Admit. Forgive. And then I will flourish, as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter, as a friend. I am His and He has good things for me and one of the good things He has for me in this season is therapy, it’s that sofa, that office, that kind smile in the chair across from me. He asks me to trust Him and to welcome His light as He shines brightly into my darkest places.

Slowness

     My body feels the season beginning to shift and responds with achy bones, tired eyes and soulful sighs. My heart aches and swells, longing for the sweetness and slowness and coolness of the se…

Source: Slowness

Slowness

img_4260     My body feels the season beginning to shift and responds with achy bones, tired eyes and soulful sighs. My heart aches and swells, longing for the sweetness and slowness and coolness of the season to come. I can’t help but feel antsy and stiff in this stuck-here place where heat and sweat and busy rushing still grip and cling to my weary spirit. This time of year is familiar with tears, and mood swings, and extra cups of coffee.  I returned from the store today with a box of freshly-sharpened pencils and an eager anticipation to bid a fond adieu to summer.

The summer bucket-list, hastily taped to the front of the fridge, is mottled with unchecked boxes. This daily reminder of good intentions speaks of failure and loss and heatwaves. Each unchecked box tells the story of rushing and busyness and heat-induced laziness. The list reads back failed attempts at projects half-finished, neighborhood barbecues missed and lost days spent lazing about watching too many shows on the screen. The empty boxes reflect my inside feelings at the close of this season. More empty than full. My Super Mommy side wishes each box were smudged thick with black ink. All those markings would surely represent memories made, fun had, together time. Best.Summer.Ever! Or would they?

There it is again. The insatiable wishing and wanting and striving for more. To be more, to do more, to see more, to give more. As if the empty boxes serve only to point out my inadequacies. Summer, for me, is sweating and striving. It’s sweating all the small stuff that never feels quite so small. It’s striving to cram in as much as we can as a family. It’s the trips we can’t take during the year. It’s the staying up late and the camping and the beach days and the swimming and the grilling and the house projects. And these are wonderful things. But I realize now that these things will not make me Super Mommy. And this summertime striving can make me lose focus on what really matters. Perhaps each unchecked box is actually a gift. Just as the emptiness we sometimes feel is a gift from the Only One who can fill it. He allows this emptiness to be   a teacher,  instructing us to lean hard into Him and be filled with His Presence not filled up by the things on our to-do lists.That BBQ we didn’t make it to turned into a silly game of hide and seek and cuddles with our littles on a heap of blankets in the middle of our living room. It was not a spectacular day documented with well chosen photographs posted to Facebook. It was a simple day. It was an unhurried day. At the time it felt like a let’s-highlight-mommy’s-failures day because we didn’t make it to the party. We slowed down. The organic Kale salad for potluck did not get made. The cute matching outfits didn’t make it on the boys. We ate cold leftovers and the boys spent the day toddling about in their underpants. And.It.Was.Glorious!

It is still technically summer and the days are still dripping with heat. There is plenty of rushing and bustling around me and oh so many invitations to do the same. But September is here and I have purposed to give myself permission to slow down. Fall is a natural ally. Fall beckons with breathy whispers of crisp mornings, it bids us come and breathe in coolness and breathe out comfort. It brings rainy days spent cuddled up in cozy reading nooks, sipping tea with cupped hands made warm by oversized mugs. It brings meandering down trails with dear ones, crunching leaves underfoot and learning what slowness teaches about nurturing those we love. I am grateful for this time of year. God has given the gift of seasons to us His creatures. Fall bids me come and dwell on better things, as does the Lord my God. So I shall go and nestle in and enjoy the slowness of this season.

When I lay me down to sleep…on tuk-tuk and cow parades

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The days are long, the nights are short and sleepless, and troubles are plenty. Throughout the day my eyes settle on the clock hung on the living room wall. The hour hand inches forward, a slow progression counting down the moments until the closing chapter of the day. The minutes dilly-dally, the second hand drags on and tired mommy that I am, I daydream about my pillow. Actually, my husband’s pillow (his is better).  I drink too much coffee. I change diapers, wipe noses, settle squabbles and chug choo-choos around and around and around the tracks. I drag my exhausted limbs about the kitchen, chopping and stirring and scrubbing. And then the glorious moment arrives. Bedtime. The littles are tucked away sweet and snug and safe. Husband too is snug and snoring and has not yet noticed his pillow has been switched out for my slightly-less-than-adequate lumpy stand-in (the benefit of matching pillow cases). At the end of each long day my body is tired. But my mind is perniciously awake. So when everyone else is off to bed and the house is finally quiet- this precious, hallowed time that all moms look forward to- it is overrun by a frantic procession of noisy tuk-tuks and fretful cows parading around my mind.

The mind is, after all, a flashy place of pageantry and illumination and rumination. It provides a wide toothy berth to chew over a vast assortment of wild ideas and fears and anxieties. It is an excellent space for an endless procession of musings to parade themselves down the Main Street of the mind, glinting and gliding and beauty queen waving as they pass. It is imaginative and beautiful but also dark and menacing at times, as all great parades are want to be. Just think Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Light Parade. Which, by the by, scared the dickens out of me as a child. Now, every night when my head hits the pillow I have my very own front row seat to a private petrifying parade. I think it is the way my subconscious tries to process latent fears and blatant worries. What if they don’t like me? What if this time he doesn’t get better? What if that was the last chance I had to squeeze her oh so tight and tell her that I love her oh so much?

These late-night worries (I like to call them my midnight thoughts because it sounds eerie and poetic and that makes for nice writing) it’s like they are all riding around together on rickety old tuk-tuks with bells and whistles and grime and smelling of diesel fuel, sort of sweet and putrid at the same time. Then there are the cows. Can I let you in on a little secret? I am deathly afraid of cows. These cows bellow and snort and their woeful lowing bespeaks the coming tragedies of life. Oh, the cows! Sad and gaunt and supposedly sacred, they waddle right into the middle of the road and halt and stare blankly on. They have been stealing my sleep. The thieves!

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The thoughts on parade bend and twist and take varied forms. Last month in the midst of a sardonic depression the floats carried loved ones long since passed dressed in high school marching band uniforms and cheese… giant wheels of cheese. I have yet to sort that one out. More recently I’ve been struggling with anger issues and doubt. I’ve also been binge watching Anthony Bourdain’s shows on CNN and the Travel Channel. I have sort of a love-hate thing with Anthony Bourdain. In working through anger and doubt issues it is fitting he should assume the role as Grand Marshal of the parade. He is charming and mean and says what needs to be said. He also looks quite dashing in top hat and sash.

And with all these goings on, I simply cannot rest. Forget sleep, I am a mom of littles after all. But I would kill for some quiet, eyes-closed, not thinking about anything, certainly not worrying about everything kind of REST. Alack, instead of rest I get cows and tuk-tuks and a very agitated me wide awake at one o’clock in the morning. Good times! So up on plodding feet I make my way to the kitchen for water and Benadryl. Back in bed I toss and turn. Instead of counting sheep I try counting cows, since they are already here and the poor overworked sheep are probably sleeping soundly after being hardily availed by my three year old who happens to think counting sheep is just the-most-funnest-thing to do at bedtime, especially when dear sweet hubby play-hops around on sweet toddler’s floor, bleating and laughing and carrying on. So I decide to give the cows a try and close my eyes and conjure up a fence… in a pasture… somewhere green. It’s very bucolic. “Up and over!” I order them in my mind. Nothing. The parade has stalled. Maybe they’re hungry. I fatten one up a bit and add an iconic bell on a leather strap around its neck. Nice touch. Unfortunately, Christopher Walken, who also scares the dickens out of me, is now chiding, “Need more cowbell!” Being the accommodating gal that I am (read people-pleaser) I heartily oblige and suddenly I have a field of dairy cows each bedecked with a noisy bell on a mountainside high in the Swiss Alps. Not wanting to miss the fun and sporting a fancy pair of lederhosen whilst hoisting a giant Bavarian stein to his lips, Grand Marshal Bourdain saunters on to the scene.

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I try to rest in the comedy. Maybe the cows are not so scary after all. I gaze out on big, sad eyes and a sea of fuzzy ears and docile faces amassed to touch the tip of the horizon. They stare and puff breath out of their wet nostrils. Sigh. I reach over finger and thumb to click the light switch off. In the dark I see them still. Silly creatures, they just stand there, licking their noses with their long black tongues. I swear they are smiling at me.