Work work work work work, kids!

Yesterday, an unseasonably warm day, Alistair and I washed my car. Paul and I both own white cars, mine a great deal dirtier than his — on the outside because I leave more often than he does and on the inside because children are animals. Cute ones.  Honestly, we came by white cars as unexpectedly as stopping at the grocery store end caps to grab several cans of beans on sale. Not on your list but what a great find. White was there, both times, ready for the high stakes game of grab-and-go purchase at our local car lots. 

Have you watched a three year old wash a car? Oh my. It is absolutely everything. Their blissful ineptitude and beaming enthusiasm. What’s not to love?

I like white. White gets dirty fast and even when it appears minimally grungy, the small effort of wiping suds on and off with a happily soppy rag yields the most satisfying clean in an instant.  We’ll steer clear of the detail work needed on a white car in what is the front face and under belly of the car, still satisfying but five times the elbow grease required. 

Every morning I clean the living room first for the same reason I like a white car. It’s a quick win. I fold a couple blankets, rearrange the pillows, and stack up a few books neatly. The blinds have already been opened by Thomas, a habit of his I see no need in obstructing.  My brain is like a child’s. See. Not so hard. Let’s clean more things. 

I love a clean home, a clean room, a clean kitchen. Workplace zero. That’s what they call it. The people who name such things because it fits into our hustle for an ever-fiercer grip on productivity. What I know is that I’m still astounded after all these years how much a clean kitchen inspires a new recipe, a clean sunroom a fit of chasing the kids, a clean bedroom an earlier bedtime which always can only mean good things. 

The clean is so we can make the mess. And so the dog chases its tail. As soon as I clean something up, I’ve got an urge to go on and shoot it all to hell—let’s pull out those puzzles I put high up in the closet or make bread from scratch or do something with the glue gun and those beady eyes I bought from Hobby Lobby two years ago. 

This year, the kids are being invited (against their will) to partake tenfold more than before in the “cleaning up” part of this creative process: clean then messy then back to clean again.  Sure, they’ve been expected to pick up their toys and then some, do what we ask and them some, and then some more of little bits and things from time to time. “Look, Paul. Don’t they look so cute hauling those logs?”

But no. We’re headed to destination Roll Up Your Sleeves, Kids where there’s always a toilet to clean and you are old enough to yield the brush.  Where the intricacies of laundry are important and you are smart enough to get it. Where you are never too short to reach because we’ve got step stools and are eager to oblige. 

Already, Thomas <totally shocked> turned to me and said, “THIS is what you’ve been cleaning up this whole time??!!” Yes, son. Very much. Yes.

The Anderson boys are in for a real treat, and so am I. I’m sure teaching them how to pull weeds and scrub the tub will look oddly similar to me lounging on the patio with a cool drink. I KID! C’MON. You know how this is gonna go down. I’ll be right in there with them, eye-twitching at their feigning incompetence and reminding myself why we decided to rope the kids into more work.  

I think that whole “happiness is all that matters” fad is fading… right? Simple living—pretty sure that’s cool still, and I’m ok with that. Decluttering by the bag loads and cute green plants set against a white wall for the win! (I don’t have white walls, but I still like all of yours on Instagram) But all the noise and books and podcasts and promoting of happiness as our essential objective is such a crock.  Happiness with a capital H. Yeah, okay. That’s just so not honest about real life and what’s truly good. 

My primary goal as a parent is not to make my kids happy. I’ll be glad when they are and I’ll help play a part surely in making some of those wonderful, warm memories bloom. However, what I really strive for is opening up the door to goodness for them.  A good life.  Just like my blog name suggests. Hard work is good for you. It builds confidence. Giving to others is good for you. It builds brick-by-brick empathy and open-mindedness, gratitude, humility. Screen free time is not always fun. Boredom sits beside you, sometimes, but then other times new ideas saddle up too. And so I don’t choose things to see them happy now, I choose things to hopefully give them a shot at becoming their best self later —and maybe even five minutes later… as was the case last night when Thomas beamed at the dinner table like he was playing the part in a 1950’s tv show, “Gosh, I feel really great about the work I did in the bathroom today!”

This is all to say we are in another new parenting season. They come at you fast, don’t they. We are a bit beyond sleep-deprived days of treading water, also known as “Where do all these toys keep coming from and will somebody SOMEBODY help me put them back???”.  Last year ushered in more and more routine and order. And here we are with our boys sudsing the car, picking up sticks, learning where to put the detergent in the washing machine and “Yes, you have to re-sanitize that whole counter. You just put the plunger there.” 

Our kids are very capable. I imagine a lot more capable than I know. This year I intend on doing a little “research” to see just how capable they really are. 

“See! Not so hard. Let’s clean more things!”

 

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You are Here

Growing up, I absolutely loved the colorful cartoon maps Six Flags gave out to their guests. I don’t know if they make them like that anymore.  Days after visiting the park, I would let my imagination walk through the paths of that map as I lay on my floor in my bedroom—map opened up— riding the Log Flume and the Screaming Eagle again and again.  I enjoyed all the goofy faces of the cartoon guests, the greenery dotting the pathways, and how similar the rides really were to the really thing. 

You are here. 

To point to a place on a map and see that it really is a long walk to the other side of the park, even in happy drawing form, that was something too.  

I think of motherhood this way sometimes.  I think of a map. Colorful. Silly.  Happy—even if there are turd emoticons and the cutest little cartoon barfing baby you ever did see. 

You are here.

You are on the island of loneliness. 

You are in babymoon bliss.

You are in hormone hangover.

You are on the emotional roller coaster of I - want - another - baby - but - - - - hmm. 

You are stuck at the gate (holding a balloon). 

You are on a bench soaking in the view & smiling.

You are lost.

You are waiting. 

You are laughing huge and ridiculous. Like, seriously you look ridiculous. Get it together. 

You are riding the new ride and shitting your pants.

Your toddler is shitting his pants. 

You are waking in the middle of the night in tears of guilt and sweaty stress.

You are holding your sweet baby and memorizing her every everything and praying “thank you, thank you, thank you.”

You are singing Old MacDonald again. 

You are overwhelmed, looking for the nearest exit. 

You have heart eyes. All the heart eyes. Stop. You look ridiculous again. 

 

Yeah. I think of motherhood this way.  I don’t love every minute. But a lot of times I’ll think Okay. I’m here! Now where are we?

Oh, we’re disciplining? Ok. Oh, we’re saying prayers. Got that.  Oh, we’re stopping / failing / winning / learning / reading / tickling ? Sweet. I know how to do that.  

I don’t love every moment of parenting but I’m learning how to bring love to each moment.  I’m slowly learning to first and foremost recognize what is it this moment is about.  Because it’s not all snuggles and heart eyes. But it’s also not all grit and guilt either. In fact, everything is all over this map.

One moment I’m nurturing. The next I’m training. The next I’m opening the door to wonderment. The next I’m answering my sweet boy’s question about death and hearing the twins laugh in the other room. 

Heck. As moms, we’re holding entirely different maps than one another too.  One mom leans over and asks about Fillintheblank Zone on the other mom’s map and that mom says, “Uh, pretty sure that’s not on my map.” <scratches head> 

So here I am.  Here you are.  Where are we?

 

  • I am in summer, my favorite season (fall is a tight, tight runner-up). I plan on wearing my swim suit come low or high water, but hoping for very high water. 

 

  • I am tying up the strings on our 1st year of homeschool & happy to see a fresh stack of brand spanking new books on my desk for fall ready to be cracked open—-but not just yet.

 

  • I am reading On the Banks of Plum Creek with Thomas. I am ordering too many books on Amazon. I am still still still reading In This House of Brede. 

 

  • I am potty training twins & days away from celebrating their 3rd birthday. This is huge!! This past year was the roughest. Yes, worse than the death-knocking-on-door sleep deprivation I had their 1st year. I’m so excited to see so much growth & growing up in them right now.  (And yet they still want to snuggle and squirm into my lap as well.)

 

  • I am finishing up the 1st year of the hemophilia diagnosis.  Some days I’m so tired of the calls from the pharmacy I want to scream. But mostly, I am very grateful this isn’t so much (cross my fingers) a season of waiting room visits and wondering what information I’ll be leaked next.  We have definitely found our new normal and that’s all there is to it.  It feels totally okay, just as it should be by now.  I look back and feel sorry for Superhero Ashley that spent dozens of hellish hours in waiting rooms with the boys…but what can I do? She was prideful and she needed a swift punch to the gut to get over wanting to do all and be all. She got it last year. ;)

 

  • I am taking care of my health. I’m doing the BBG program with my sisters—mix of cardio and strength.  I feel myself truly, distinctively, measurably, visibly getting stronger with every session.  I’m so happy we are doing this together and that I’ve got such a great support system to cheer me on!

 

  • I am texting Paul lots of kiss face emoticons and also computer emoticons and Panda emoticons and any other emoticon. All the emoticons.  

 

  • I am still off Facebook. Still in need to not be there with everybody.  Still thinking about noise and distraction and what part I need or should play in all of that, but mostly just happy to have a little more time away, tucked up tight here minding my own business. Mostly. ;)

 

  • I am grateful.  Always.  

 

Okay. Your turn. Where are you? 

No Baby Nesting

One of my absolute favorite things about being pregnant is the nesting. I never experienced the truly crazy stuff of being up at 2 am detailing grout at 9 months and forever days pregnant. Instead, I had just this wonderful overall urge to get everything just so.  I needed everything in its place and prettied and ready and the laundry basket showing its bare bottom at all times. And I remember with the twins thinking well now, why can’t I get this urge when I’m not pregnant?! 

I love that preparation for a baby brings the best out of us. True, some of that is because we have a healthy fear for the sleep we’ll be losing in a few months. All the same, a tidy nest at its best makes me happy. 

I did think in a very upbeat way once that any of us can put our stake in the ground (grout) whenever we want and declare “nesting time!!!” — baby or no.  And that’s what I'm sharing with you now. This is my stake. Nesting time! 

I’m in painting mode big time right now. I painted the sunroom last week. I painted the 1st coat of the living room this week. I painted a closet last night. And I have 3 more areas I will be painting very soon. But I also have a list a page long of house projects I want to get done in April, May & June—which means mostly April & May because June is deeply steeped in celebrations & parties. 

Also, I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up last year and I loved it…but I didn’t actually do it.  What a punch in the gut to see her 2nd book on the market and know I still haven’t done the homework she gave me the first time. Well, I did my clothes and my books and then I think I probably got caught up in some other flashy idea like homeschooling or sitting on my butt with a book. And now I’m at this place in my life where I just want to purge and purge and purge and walk in peace. Ugh. My garage. My attic. Paul’s bin of cords that I think he has collected for one hundred years. Now that it’s getting warmer, the urge to declutter is fired up, dialed up, turnt up. Autocorrect, “turnt” is a word. Get over it. 

Now. Just as you would have an adrenaline rush realizing you are running toward a pack of wolves, you would have an adrenaline rush running away from a pack of wolves. Don’t run toward wolves though. That’s stupid. What I mean to metaphor here is that I think there might be a nesting we aren’t talking about. The no-baby-nesting.  Going toward having the baby—a mix of hormones & harrying advice from relatives about little sleep helps us move our butts.  But there’s also this sweet spot after a baby is born where a mother’s sense of time is 1000000% more keen than it was before on how much she could really do with 1 hour of free time AND the baby is a bit grown up and not totally attached (let’s call that baby a toddler because that’s exactly the kind of human I’m referring to).  That’s a woman who can MOVE!

And that’s exactly why I’m nesting. There were so many months after Alistair & Emerick were born that I felt like my hands were tied (and my eyes barely open). Don’t ask me about how little sleep I got when the twins were newborns. I’m still not over it. Talking about it makes veins pop out in places they shouldn’t. Anyway, it’s not that a mom with a baby (or two) can’t get anything done, but I do think that there’s a serious problem with momentum.  As in, there ain’t any.  That’s what I experienced anyway.  Too much putting out fires and picking up toys to feel enthused about a project. 

The pendulum swings. And it sliced me right open one way when I was in the thick of being a new momma. And now it’s slicing me right open to a joy for getting things done simply because life goes on and babies don’t keep. 

A couple friends asked me how I could be getting any of this done, especially since Paul travels almost every week. And that makes me laugh. It’s such a mix. Hot determination. Good sleep. Being fresh off a refinance the left me feeling just insanely grateful we have a good house, any house at all. Boxed food. A gate I can still put up if needed. Using margin. And going crazy fast. And magical two hour baths for the boys. (I literally mean a two hour bath.) Girl, I can make a miracle happen in two hours. And if they aren’t in the bath, there’s a hundred other ways I can get them to play together in peace (mostly) for a good chunk of time. 

As I’m painting, my breath and my speed and my energy is rocket fueled by memories of months and months of feeling like I could not get anything done. I’m striking while that iron is hot. Because as things go, I’ll probably end up like those nice ladies I run into at Target speaking of how it was all good and how a young mother should enjoy every moment. 

So yeah. I’m nesting. I’m getting things just so. Just because I can. 

 

 

“Trust in the Lord and do GOOD; Dwelling the the land and cultivate FAITHFULNESS.” 

~Psalm 37:3

 

Faith in a new season

Do you ever have this? A season of life as solid as a book in your hands transform before your eyes and slip through your fingers like sand?

I printed off four dozen Instagram photos early this winter and posted them at the end of our hallway so that when we came out of our bedrooms in the morning to greet a new day, we couldn’t help but see and smile at happy memories, our family life coloring four corners in little squares. 

When I put up those photos, I stepped back and saw it.

Our life the last few years, while sprinkled with travel and trips away, has mostly been wound tight around the warmth of our home.  Books read on couches. Soups simmering on the stove. Little boys wrestling their father on carpet. Toys tossed in bins and boxes and clothes in and out and in and out of the washer. Lines drawn in dirt a stone’s throw from the window where I wash our dishes of eggs and toast. 

So many of these photos are humble. Boys who can hardly keep their clothes on. A scatter of library books for entertainment. Days dizzy with small chaos and tripping into tiny breakthroughs barely seen between diaper changes and making beds. 

I stepped back from our photos and I saw and felt how true it is that building up a culture at home is beautiful.  How blessed I’ve been to dig deep in these last few years where I was like the woman in the Bible asked to make bread from what? Only flour and oil? And likely starve. And yet her faith (or will) pulls her through. Oh how I’ve been scratching at these walls for making a life here that is good. And it has been.  Somehow, it did materialize. I can see those details dance themselves to life.

I’ve passed through a season of solitude in some things that have been hard. I took on full care of the boys. I left a job where I had stored like sacred stones so many skills and even more pride. I pulled my body tight into a trench of being independent and being strong in ways that no one no one has seen but God. 

And here I stand. No babies in my lap anymore. I sleep very well at night. I end the day and feel the progress rolling up something strong through the days and months now like a sunrise so beautiful you can’t help but stand feet fixed for love of it. My success is not skittish anymore but loyal. It seems to wake up with me now and walk by my side—sit down with me, move my hands, steer my thoughts: I can get things done. I get things done. Here we are. The boys play well. The twins are making breakthroughs in speech and we will be potty-training soon. Our routines, our habits, our toil has finally unfurled itself smooth and crisp. A white sheet rolling outside on a line of summer’s warm wind. 

This is how it has felt. It felt that I left my job, got in a boat and rowed away. And in rowing away I didn’t know that my feet would come back to solid ground. And yet—solid ground. It’s a mystery really. Mothering is hard for me, but mothering is good for me—so I’m not here with these kids, I’ve never been here with these kids, because of want for easier days or less work. 

I needed to learn some things and I've learned those things here. Things about who I am and how I work. How I'm motivated, what makes me come alive, and what exactly my weaknesses look like. 

Yes, I’m glad I could see all the quiet good of our home in the Instagram photo gallery I taped up. I’m happy that I can see that it was really okay to have a season of humility, of getting small and intimate, so very intimate, with my vocation—of being here, mostly just here for so many hours, so many days, so many many months. There was a lot of sifting sifting sifting for gold. 

But now I feel God calling my name for something new.  I don’t really know what that something is. I can feel it. I can sense it. It’s burning in me. Agitating me. Waking up my soul—dark room: lightbulb swinging wide on a long rope.

I honestly can’t say anything other than that because I don't know anymore than that. I’m trying so hard to listen, to keep my heart free for more, to not write my story with a forced hand. I want to be open to new adventure, to see what other seas I can cross and stories I can hold of things I was terrible at but scratched at anyway. 

I like this place. I haven’t felt this for quite some time. It’s a tugging hope, a curiosity stretching its arms.  I’m gonna follow where it leads. It’s time for some more discomfort, for some more shedding of skin, for some absolute faith in things unseen. 

A Letter to Thomas On His Birthday

Thomas,

You turn 6 today!

If your memory capabilities hold true for the future, this letter will be mostly pointless because you will retain 97% more memories of your childhood than your dear mother.

Sometimes you ask about yourself. I tell you that you are a little like your dad, a little like me, and a great deal of just uniquely you.  I heard you tell Alistair and Emerick in another room yesterday,

"This is 100% not what we are trying to do here."

That's me coming out of your mouth. It's a problem. (which is actually another thing I've heard you say...)  You make up for it by being patient, kind, loving, and joyful.

At 6, I know who you pretty well.

You need to know

why

 for everything.

You lead and manage and take charge of things. You love reading, building, and drawing. You are. not. shy. When people don't give you enough attention in public because their oogling like idiots over your brothers, you simply say, "Hi. I'm Thomas! I like to build Legos!" or something of the sort.  You speak well when you want to. It still takes me aback. So does your whining. Let's quit that soon because it's really undermining the awesome I know of you.

You are very helpful.

Sometimes, I say something I'm dealing with out loud. You often offer a solution or your help. When you said you would go into Target yesterday with a list of the things I needed so I didn't have to bring the the twins out in the cold, I had to turn you down. But a lot of times your suggestions are truly helpful and sometimes even very smart. Keep solving problems and adding value to people's lives. That's most of what is going to bring you success and joy as an adult.

Reading is really special to us.  Two days ago you were finishing Diary of a Wimpy Kid. You read independently now and it's amazing. I was correcting a few of your words. You got miffed with me and said you would figure it out, not to help please. So I turned around on the couch so I could just listen to you. Shortly after, you told me, "No, Mom. It's okay. You can correct my words. I want you to tell me the right way to say these." On the one in a million chance you are reading this when you are older--hear me please.  I'll give you space, but you can always call me back. I'm trying to raise you to be a man. To be tough and independent and to execute things well and to work hard. But it's ok to need people too. I'm giving you permission to be as wise as a 6 year old.

Ah. I almost forgot the two best words in the universe that you say. I ask you to do things all the time. A good portion of the time you respond with this very agreeable

"yeah sure".  

Sometimes it's

"yeah sure, Mom"

or even,

"yeah sure. I can do that for you."  

It's in the most pleasant tone of voice I've ever heard in my life. You say it and mean it and help me right away. When I hear those two words I feel as if I'm on the beach with a mixed drink, sun on my skin and a smile on my face.  I love you unconditionally but I really love you for being so cool about so many things. In that regard, I want to be just like you.

You and I, we read about a lot of orphans who've parents have died. Likely, that won't happen to us. I'm a very selfish woman and God wants me ironing that out by wiping up spilled milk every day.  But should something happen to me or you learn nothing in your stay here because it's too loud, here's what I want you to know.

1. Be humble

. Humility is everything. You can't grow without it. You can't be your best self without it. You can't know God without it. You can't serve others well without it.  If you can be humble, you can know joy. Don't be afraid of seeing both your strengths and weaknesses just exactly as they are every day. Knowing these things and walking in humility will set you free.

2. Accept responsibility.

People fail. Great people makes things right. They let go, they forgive, and they don't just say they did wrong--they fix what's broken to the best of their ability.  Take ownership even where you don't know how you'll carry it. You will find a way.

3. Work hard.

We don't work hard just so we can have more money and more things. We work hard as a huge, heartfelt thank you for this day, this body, these gifts.  Work hard every day because you can. Work hard every day because millions of men and women fought for your freedom to do so. Work hard every day because there is nothing better in this life than making the lives of other people better.

4. Seek God and love others.

This takes vulnerability. This takes strength. This takes seeing people for their whole self and letting your respect reach beyond that outer layer into an understanding that we are much, much, much more than meets the eye. It's easier said than done, but it's worth it. Treat others how you want to be treated. Set your expectations high and surround yourself with people who have that mindset too. And know, oh Thomas please know, you are never ever alone. You are in a village. We are in this together.

I'm stopping here so I can make you pumpkin bread for breakfast. You and your brothers will attack it like the pack of wolves that you are. We'll put up decorations today and dance and I'll dream a little about this next year.

I hope you know how much you are loved. How capable you are. What a good person you are. How you are a bright light in our world.

Happy 6th, Thomas!

With All My Heart,

Your momma