Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas with Highly Sensitive Kids

We think of Christmas as the most wonderful season for kids, but it can be a little complicated for us and many other families. I have two very sensitive kids, one has diagnosed anxiety while both of them have some sensory processing challenges.

Don’t get me wrong, they love Christmas. Their little bodies are quite literally tingling with excitement and anticipation. They feel the spirit of the holidays coursing through their veins. Their senses are bombarded from every angle with beautiful and exciting things to take in – food, presents, lights, people, activities, and more! It’s so hard to contain all this beauty and excitement, they may just burst. Unfortunately, when they burst it won’t be holiday cheer that explodes everywhere but a confused tangle of emotion they can’t quite manage as the holiday preparations and expectations build.

Loud noises, lots of people, the pressure of accepting gifts, the anxiety of anticipating gifts and fun events, and the complete lack of their normal schedule are all things that throw my boys off their game. Worst still, it’s been building since Thanksgiving and Christmas is only now right around the corner.

With this in mind, as we navigate this holiday season, we try to make choices that will set them up for a positive experience. They are still overwhelmed, bouncing from the highest of highs to confused rages as they don’t know how to regulate themselves well enough to keep up with the onslaught, but they are much better off than they could be without these choices.

We ask friends and family to keep gifts to a minimum. We’re not trying to be pushy or unappreciative. We’re not trying to cheat our kids out of the Christmas experience. We just have visions of a little boy last year, crying in his room that he didn’t want any more presents because he was so overwhelmed. With less presents, they are able to appreciate and enjoy each one instead of feeling the need to shut down. We also encourage them to choose presents in line with our values. No violence. Things that encourage creativity, imagination, and cooperation. It’s confusing for the kids otherwise. We are blessed by family who try incredibly hard to support us in these choices.

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We focus on giving. We spend all month making presents, decorating cards, shopping for less-fortunate families, and talking about gratitude. This year, my son was very concerned he didn’t have money to purchase gifts and that everyone is always giving him gifts. So he broke into his piggy bank, and we went shopping. He also wrote heartfelt cards to friends and family and donated money to our church’s world hunger program. These things were inspired by him and helped him navigate the feeling of not being able to participate in the giving of the season. It also helps us steer away from the gimmes.

We try to regulate our kids’ food options. We’re not trying to be party poopers about fun holiday food. We have seen the affects of food dye and sugar on their bodies. It adds another layer of overwhelm that they have to sort through. For the past two weeks (or more!), everywhere we have gone has tried to offer them treats filled with these things… school, church, occupational therapy, the dentist (really, the dentist! Candy canes to take home and hot chocolate flavored toothpaste), and every other well meaning person who wants them to have a once-in-a while treat that is clearly not very once-in-a while. So food dye is completely off limits, and sugar is kept to a somewhat reasonable level. These are firm limits for us which makes the decisions less stressful.

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We avoid electronics and too much screen time. Screen time and electronics are an enticing escape for our kids from the overwhelming real world. Unfortunately, it doesn’t give their bodies and minds a chance to truly calm down and reset. Furthermore, it is very challenging for our kids to switch gears from electronic time back to the real world. We find it best if we say no to video games, phone and computer time. While we try to avoid exposure to too many commercials for all the season’s must-have toys, we do enjoy our fair share of Christmas movies!

We give them ‘outs’ during holiday entertaining. Both my boys know that their rooms are off limits to guests unless they expressly open them up. Even then at any point, they can close their rooms off and that is their safe space. It is a space, familiar to them, where they know they can go to escape, regardless of what is happening. Middle of dinner? Go ahead. Presents being opened? If you realize you need a break, great job being aware of your body, go take it. Their rooms are equipped with some of their favorite tools for centering themselves – music, calming essential oils (bergamot is a favorite!), weighted blanket, books, drawing supplies, and a chin up bar for meeting their bodies’ need for heavy physical work. When we travel, we bring some of these items with us and set up a safe space for them there even if that safe place is in the car.

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We spend as much time outside as we can. Outside is familiar and safe to our kids. Noises are less intense outside of the confines of four walls, and there is plenty of space to spread out. Climbing, swinging, and running help their bodies feel grounded, and in imaginative play they regain a sense of control and direction.

And finally, we adjust our expectations. We know this is a really hard time for our kids. We know this is a really hard time for us trying to navigate and meet our kids needs with my husband working round the clock during his busiest work season. We try not to picture perfect Christmas gatherings and set ourselves up for disappointment. We know we are all doing the best we can. We are continually trying to adapt the season to be less stressful for us, but in the meantime we focus on loving each other through it and know we’ll recover together.

As we go through these final days of preparation and move into days of celebration, these will be the things we focus on to help our children find balance in the chaos. Each year, we try to fine tune our approach in the hopes that we won’t spend two months recovering from two weeks of supposed “holiday fun”. I’m already keeping notes for next year so that we can be intentional with our plans. We find in daily life that some limits give us and our children the freedom to explore and enjoy ourselves. The holidays are no different. We can’t celebrate Christmas the way much of culture thinks we should at the expense of our children. We can embrace the specialness of the season without throwing out all of the things that ground our kids.

What do you find works to help your family, and especially your kids, find balance through the holidays?

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Now, because I can’t help but share this, here is a reminder after all the chaos is through to keep the meaning of Christmas with us all through the year… (B is at the mic, and E joins him… from their school holiday program).

 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Highlight Reels and Real Life

Advent is here! We spent the weekend recovering from Thanksgiving chaos and getting ready to be hurled into Advent. I rushed to get our Advent calendar and other traditions together to start on time.

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We made it to church, and my boys randomly decided to wear their Easter best. They were ridiculously good during worship.

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I shoved the boys outside to play so I could finish the Advent Calendar. I love this Advent Calendar. Each year, I change out a few activities and keep old favorites. The boys love to open the envelope each morning to see what we’ll do. Details on making it and our activities can be found at Advent Calendar 2012 and Advent Calendar 2011. This season is so stressful with my husband working nonstop and the normal holiday preparations that the Advent Calendar helps keep us focused on fitting on some of our fun and meaningful activities amid the busyness.

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We did our first Advent Calendar activity making Christmas garland covered in things we are thankful for like dogs, organizing, singing, Christmas lights, and more!

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We lit our family Advent wreath and read the accompanying devotion from We Light the Candles.

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And, we read the first day of our Advent Storybook (I love this book btw! It’s such a simple, short easy tradition and it’s a beautiful storied journey to Christmas.)

Great, right? I happily shared pictures on Instagram and my personal Facebook page of my accomplishments.

Then I got a couple of messages asking where I find the time and telling me how amazing I am to have this all together. I cringed. True, scanning through my timeline, it looks like a perfectly orchestrated start to the season. But as usual, social media doesn’t show the whole picture.

In between the snapshots of boys all dressed up for church and my advent calendar finally hung and ready, real life happened. This real life was filled with boys who are still trying to recover from the sugar and chaos of Thanksgiving. They are cranky, tired, and oversensitive. They are fighting constantly. It was filled with dirty dishes, a stressed out mama trying hard not to have a panic attack with the onslaught of Advent, and marbles that I swear multiply every time we put them away so the next time they are dumped they wreak even more havoc. Every time I attempted to clean something up to make room for Christmas, something else got dumped. I bribed them with hot chocolate to go outside so I could just get the dang calendar finished. It was a messy, messy weekend. It took everything we all had to pull it together as much as we did, and in the end we lit our Advent calendars before eating our chinese take out dinner (that is full of gluten and therefore makes me sick every time we get it).

At the end of the night, as exhausted as I was, I love looking at that social media highlight reel of my day. It reminds me of the good. My younger son has a tendency to dwell on the negatives (no idea where he got that from… ahem… yea okay I do). At bedtime, we let him voice his frustrations and validate those feelings. We all need to be able to process the rough parts of our day. But, we always end by sharing gratitude for our favorite parts of the day. It doesn’t mean the bad ones didn’t happen, but it helps refocus all of us to thinking about them as bad parts and not as if the whole day was bad. That’s what the social media highlight reel helps me do at the end of the day.

I know I’ve talked about that highlight reel before, but as we go into a beautiful, stressful, and emotional season I think it needs repeating. When you see someone’s beautiful day on Facebook, remind yourself that real life was lived in between those snapshots. When you’re feeling like you’ll never be ready and Pinterest just keeps showing you all the other things you should be doing, walk away and know that no one is doing it all. Don’t let comparison steal your joy this season, and don’t let comparison dig you into a deeper hole than you already are in if joy already seems like a stretch. And maybe, snap a picture every so often for your own highlight reel to make sure to remind yourself of those moments at the end of the very long days.

Give yourself grace. Holidays can be beautiful and wonderful. They can also be heartbreakingly hard. Whatever yours is this season, or even just this day, it’s okay. You’re doing the best you can, and it’s better than you think. I’m sure of it.

 

Some past holiday posts:

Advent Calendar 2012

Advent Calendar 2011

Ditching the Naughty and Nice List: A Faith Perspective

Santa: Let’s Play Pretend

My Kids Remind Me to Choose Joy

Christmas: A Season of Giving

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Our Stories Matter: Regina and Luke’s Story

Life is so incredibly full these days . I shared on Facebook already, but I’ll make it blog official too!

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Our family is growing! My pregnancy is going well, and I will write more about it in the weeks to come.

But right now, I am really excited to share a friend’s story. November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and over the past few months I’ve had the privilege of learning more about parenting a child with Juvenile Diabetes. If you don’t already know, Juvenile or Type 1 Diabetes is very different from Type 2 Diabetes. One of my son’s classmates has juvenile diabetes, and his mother works at the school. I work with her during my hours there, and I watch as she helps her son navigate the world safely. I watch as she strives for a tricky balance between encouraging her child’s independence and knowing that she absolutely needs to be there or nearby to keep him safe. When I cringe and agonize over the sugary treats that come with school parties, I know that she’s struggling even more. I know that as Luke gets older, she and her husband will equip him to confidently manage his condition, but in the meantime, it’s a round the clock job for mom.

Regina is beautiful inside and out, and she handles this parenting gig with grace and humor. I’m really excited that she’s agreed to share her story here, because it matters. Our stories as mothers matter. It’s in knowing each other’s stories that we are moved to grace, empathy, and compassion in moments when we might otherwise be tempted to judge. When we share stories together, we open our hearts and we break down walls so that we can support one in another in this crazy thing called motherhood. Because as I’ve said before, mothering is hard, but it’s a whole lot harder if we think we’re doing this hard thing alone.

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This is Regina’s story.

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My Perfect Imperfect Little Life: Our journey with Type 1 Diabetes

I will never forget the day we heard the words, “Mr. and Mrs. Goldy, I’m sorry to tell you this, but it’s very likely that your son has Type 1 diabetes.” We listened to the emergency room doctor as he was telling us that Luke, our ten month old baby boy, had sugar levels over 700 and how normal is anywhere from 80-100. He explained that his PH levels were off and that his blood was acidic and how that would explain the many symptoms he’d been displaying over the last several weeks. Tears were streaming down my face and I asked innocently, “will he outgrow this?” The doctor explained how you cannot outgrow Type 1 diabetes. He tried the best he could to comfort us and assured us that we brought our son to the best hospital. About an hour after admission our baby was sent to ICU where he was treated for Type 1 diabetes, hydrated, and given insulin. His body was limp, as it had begun shutting down. Seeing him hooked up to all of those machines just broke my heart. He was so dehydrated that it was hard for the nurses to find his little veins. I wanted it to be me that they were poking. Although I knew it was what had to be done, it sickened me. My husband and I were scared, but determined to face any challenges diabetes held head on, together.

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In the days that followed we received a crash course in type 1 diabetes. We learned what the disease is, how to test blood sugar, fill a syringe, inject insulin, count carbs, what to do when blood sugar was too high or too low, what ketones are, how to log, how to cope, etc. What we didn’t learn was how to live with it once we got home. We didn’t know just how life changing it would be and how every single second of every single day would revolve around our son’s pancreas. We became his pancreas. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease which means Luke’s pancreas doesn’t produce insulin anymore because something caused his body to attack itself. From this point on for the rest of his life his blood sugar will need to be tested multiple times a day and he will receive insulin for his survival because his pancreas doesn’t work anymore.

After three days in the hospital we went home, were reunited with our two year old son Sam, and began our “new” life. We were flustered every meal because we knew that meant testing and drawing up the appropriate amount of insulin. Try to imagine getting a ten month old to eat exactly thirty grams of carbohydrates every meal while also ensuring those are healthy meals he’s eating and not junk. Then try imagining a two year old fighting for your attention while you are trying to calculate, log, inject the insulin, and get the ten month old to eat everything in the dish so his blood sugar doesn’t go too low. It literally has taken us years to adjust to this new way of life. Living with type 1 diabetes can be compared to living life on a rollercoaster. We have our good days and our bad.

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One thing any parent can relate to is the loss of freedom. Most of us feel a loss of freedom because once you have children your life changes drastically and you can’t always go where you want when you want.  Nights out usually mean getting a babysitter or relative to watch over the children. A parent of a type 1 diabetic however, can’t just call any babysitter or relative to come watch their child.  Unfortunately finding a babysitter is very difficult for us because this means testing and treating is required. And unless you do it all the time, it could make you uncomfortable and us a little nervous about leaving our little one in your care.  In our case, only one of our mothers is able to test and treat, and none of our friends really know how to test or treat either. Luke has never spent a night away from us. If I plan to go somewhere at night, I am most comfortable if my husband is home and if he is away or out, I am the one home. Nights out as a married couple are few. When we do go out it’s only for a two hour period because we feel the need to get home for the night time check. We test around the clock which is necessary because Luke is still young and there have been times when his sugar has dropped in the middle of the night. So our social life isn’t like it once was. And though I am really ok with it, there are times I envy the ability others have to just hire a sitter. There are times I envy that freedom. 

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We have learned that although we can’t change certain situations, we can change our attitude and how we deal with them. For example, parties and holidays can be stressful because there is the added anxiety of not knowing what food and drink will be served, what kind of cake it is, and if there is going to be candy in the goody bags. Though it is true that a Type 1 diabetic can eat almost anything as long as it’s treated with insulin, we have found that there are many foods that are more challenging and can negatively affect Luke’s blood sugar such as pastas, pizza, cake, cookies, bagels, and bread. Many of these are staples at children’s birthday parties or holiday celebrations. Unfortunately, even when treated with the right amount of insulin some of these things can spike Luke’s sugar level and without careful observation could cause a dangerous low afterward. So I test more frequently at parties and on holidays because I do allow my children to eat some of these things on special occasions. Yet, you may also find me frazzled, raising eyebrows, maybe even getting teary eyed because it is in circumstances like these when the disease disheartens me the most. It is in these instances when Luke is among his friends, and they are laughing and playing and eating whatever is being served that the disease seems to be on my mind the most. I’m doing my best to find a balance between something dangerous for Luke’s health and letting my son just be a kid.

Things don’t always go as we plan, and my journey is not quite the way I envisioned it would be. It’s far more challenging but far more rewarding too. In the trials we encounter, we find our true strength and purpose. Every day I am thankful for the gift of motherhood, the gift of a wonderful husband, and the gift of two beautiful boys. Would I change any of it? I would not. It’s perfect in its imperfection.

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I want to thank Regina for sharing her story, and I encourage you to learn more about Juvenile Diabetes. Regina and her husband are continually raising money to support research and the hope for a cure, and you can find their fundraising page here.

We’re all in this together, and we all face our own challenges. So often we have no idea of what those challenges may be as we pass moms at school pick up, the grocery story line, or soccer practice. The more remember that as we’re out in the world, the better place that world will be.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Overcoming the fear of falling… or failing.

It’s a rare quiet moment in this house. The boys got a little extra sleep last night after weeks of night waking and very early mornings. They are content digging through craft bins and creating masterpieces while they quietly sing to themselves. I have no doubt it won’t last long, but I am filled with gratitude for this moment. I am filled with gratitude for their contentment, something we don’t see often enough around here.

I think I am more acutely aware of the moments of simple and profound joy because of our struggles. A few weeks ago, my first grader learned to ride his bike without training wheels. It’s an exciting day for any kid – the joy, the pride, the freedom. It was definitely all that for B. Just a few months away from his seventh birthday, most of his friends were riding confidently on two wheels, and I think B could have been some time ago. But he was scared. He was scared he wouldn’t be able to do it. He was scared of falling, yes, but more so he was afraid of failing.

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When B gets an idea into his head, his anxiety takes it and runs with it. It grows so large that he is constantly in a state of fight or flight not knowing which to do. For more than six months, B refused to even try to ride his bike without training wheels. When you mentioned it, his whole body would tense and he’d get very angry. He didn’t know what else to do. He had to protect himself from the fears.

So a few weeks ago, I suggested that B take to the really big hills surrounding our house on his balance bike. We’d taken a slightly smaller bike and removed the pedals so he could practice his balance. Up until this point, it hadn’t done a lot of good. We’d spent years telling the boys to not take anything with wheels down our steep driveway or the front or back yards. They are fierce for sledding but a recipe for stitches and broken bones with small boys on wheels. He was bigger now, and I thought it was worth a try.

B wasn’t sure about my suggestion but he hesitantly put on his helmet and grabbed the bike. He started on smaller hills and quickly got to bigger/steeper ones. I stood to the side cringing pretty sure he was going to topple over the front of his bike on the steepest ones, but I was thrilled he was taking the risks and figuring it out. Finally, he figured out he could go down the long hill of a driveway in the church parking lot and with the momentum continue to ride around at the bottom. His balance was perfect.photo 2

The next day, his Dad tentatively suggested they try the two-wheeler with pedals. They took it over to the church parking lot not sure how it would go. We all knew B could do it, but we weren’t sure if he was ready to risk falling/failing. My husband was getting our younger son set up on his tricycle before helping B, and before he could finish he turned around to see B gleefully riding circles in the parking lot. I was inside cooking dinner and got a phone call to come outside so B could show me something. I figured he was riding the bike, but honestly nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.

There B was, confidently doing figure eights across the parking lot. He looked like he’d been riding for months, but the truly breathtaking part was his joy. He was absolutely cackling with joy as he pedaled his legs as fast as he could. I could hear it across the parking lot, across the yard, from my front porch. His joy filled the air and turned everything it touched. The sun shined brighter. The grass was greener. I could feel it in my toes. With tears in my eyes, I was grinning so hard my face hurt. It wasn’t that my boy was riding a 2 wheeler. That was cool. But really, it was that he had taken a risk, he had pushed his anxiety aside and tried something hard, and the resulting pride and joy were so big he couldn’t keep them in if he tried.

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I recently read an interview with Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx. I was drawn by its title:

Billionaire Sara Blakely says secret to success is failure

She explains in the interview that every week her dad would ask her, “what have you failed at this week?” He would high five her failures as much as he would her successes. If she didn’t fail at something, it meant she wasn’t putting herself out there enough. We’ve all heard that failures are learning opportunities, stepping stones, and all that. But I just love this idea of truly congratulating ourselves when we fail. We tried something hard. We put ourselves out there. It didn’t work out, but it meant we weren’t sitting at home twiddling our thumbs or hiding under the covers.

I hope I can share this with my kids. I hope I can give them an example of being brave, putting myself out there, and not letting a fear of failure win. There’s a beautiful resilience modeled in the applause of failure. I think I will start by asking myself
“what have I failed at this week?” in the hopes of showing my boys while they are young that not only is it ok to fail but it’s a sign you’re living life out loud and equipping yourself for success.

So, what have you failed at today?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Finding Rhythm in the Whirlwind and Sharing Some Resources

If you’re new here, welcome! Take a look around. I’m glad you’re here! New posts are coming soon...

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It’s been so long since I’ve written in this space. This summer was a whirlwind juggle of motherhood and vocation as I traveled the state with a team of camp counselors (different team each week) providing summer day camp experiences at churches, bringing outdoor ministry to the local communities. It was a beautifully exhausting summer full of lessons of love, grace, and courage. My head is still spinning and processing it all.

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Right after we wrapped that up, we headed to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for 10 days of family vacation. Wonderful. It was so great to be together as a family with nothing else to do but be together after a summer of chaos.

By the time we got back from vacation, school had already started and we were thrown into that whirlwind. We are still trying to find our routine with a full-time first grader and a half-time preschooler, Occupational Therapy, soccer, me volunteering at the school often for tuition trade, and whatever else life throws at us.

And then more beautiful chaos happened. Dear Parents with Young Children in Church went up on the Huff Post on Sunday and was the most shared article on Sunday! Crazy. Monday morning, while packing school lunches and begging my kids to just get dressed already, I got an email at 8:10 about doing HuffPost Live at 10:35. My first thought? Guess I’m going to have to shower and blow dry my hair. Ha!

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Thank you all for your support with this post. Thank you for sharing it and republishing it. Thank you for the messages you’ve sent me sharing your stories. I feel so blessed to connect with you all.  And thank you for not wildly making fun of me on video, at least not to my face.

I’ll be back soon with more posts. We are really being challenged with this new rhythm of life and my son’s anxiety. I’m just finding the words to share. But in the meantime, I have two fabulous FREE opportunities to share with you.

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We know motherhood can be hard, but it’s only harder when we think we’re in the hardness alone. You’re not. I am so excited to join 27 other amazing mamas on a mission to uplift and encourage mothers around the world.

Awakening Wonder: Discovering Delight in Everyday Moments is a free inspirational ebook designed to help brighten your day as you reconnect with the beauty all around you.

It was really fun to contribute to this project, and I’m enjoying reading all the other contributions. I invite you to come claim your free copy right here: http://www.raisingloveliness.com/awakening-wonder/

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Next, I have this FREE opportunity with my friend Dawn Trautman.

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Dawn is a dynamic and engaging author, life coach, and performer. She offers e-courses, one-on-one life coaching, and an interactive online group to not only motivate and inspire you but to help you focus and harness your motivation and inspiration into positive action in your life and the lives of others. I’ve been blessed to be a part of many of her e-courses, and I’ve enjoyed the conversation, the process, and the clarity they’ve provided.

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On Thursday Sept. 26 at 8pm EDT, she’ll be hosting a free live web event called Why You’re Not Living Your Calling and How to Start. Dawn describes this event as:

A high-impact web event to help you live your calling.

Knowing your purpose in life is one thing, but actually living it is another thing. In this one hour, free, live online event, we'll explore the most common things getting in the way, and share proven, concrete strategies to avoid them so you can live every day with purpose and passion.

You can sign up via her website and you can also find her on Facebook.

Disclaimer: I don’t normally advertise on this blog, and I am receiving nothing in return for these two plugs. These are just free resources and opportunities I wanted to pass on! Who doesn’t love free??!

I’ll be back soon with more to say… have a great week!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Not Doing It All.

Embrace summer. Summer slow-down. The secret to summer. It’s all over my blog reader; everyone’s saying it. Step away from the scheduling and the to-do lists. Let kids be kids. Lazy days, creative play, and the freedom to just ‘be’.

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This is summer. Sidewalk chalk and slip ‘n’ slides. Backyard obstacle courses and painting banners for daddy. Campfires and sticky s’mores. Days at the lake and hikes in the mountains. Digging in the garden and stealing nibbles along the way.

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I love summer for all of these things. By the time summer arrives, I am done with schedules, school, gymnastics, and everything else.  I try to keep all the balls I’m juggling in the air from September to June, and when summer comes I drop them all to lay in the sun. Summer is my time with my kids to hike, play, run, swim, dig, and create!

But this summer is different.

This summer things look more like this…..                                 …..than this.

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This summer, I’m trying to coordinate my work schedule with my husband’s and my mom’s in order to make sure the kids are covered. This summer, I am figuring out how to fit in kids’ therapy appointments and evaluations. This summer, I am spending more time away from kids than at home, and when I am at home I have a list of things that need to get done that have nothing to do with home. This summer, I’m working.

I’ve worked all sorts of part-time jobs since becoming a mother. I’ve struggled with how to balance motherhood with my vocation. I’ve made space to volunteer in my passions and serve where I was able with the full support of my family. Whether it’s been teaching CPR and First Aid for a little extra income or serving as the President of a Board of Directors for a non-profit close to my heart, it’s been challenging but we’ve made it work.

This is different. I’m working at Camp. I’m serving as the director for a new program at the camp that I attended as a child, where I had my first job, met my husband, and even got married. It’s more than full-time, an hour away, lots of travel, and long hours.

My kids lives have been turned upside down by mommy’s new work schedule. They are ready to embrace all that is summer, and I am running out the door. They want play dates and days at the beach, and I am having trouble breathing because I don’t know how it’s all going to get done. My son who struggles with anxiety is grasping at straws as we make calendars and set routines to help him with the changes. In the midst of it all, I am mourning the loss of my summer with my kids. They will both be in school for longer days in the fall, and they are getting bigger every year. How in the world could I make a decision to miss out on this? Why did I decide to give this up?

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Breathe.

A friend recently said to me on the phone, “You know Jamie, I know you say you don’t do it all, but really you do.” She went on to list a bunch of things that I was just barely pulling off at that moment in time. I appreciate the support, and I know I am too hard on myself, but you’ve got to know I am not doing it all. Not only can I not keep up the those seemingly do-it-all moms who are keeping busy rushing their kids to all sorts of enriching activities, I can’t slow down enough to stick with the slow-it-down-enough-to-bring-about-world-peace families who are running barefoot through their gardens (which look far better than our poor neglected space this year) raising free-spirited creative kids. I can’t do it all, and anyone else that you believe may be doing it all is just not. It’s not possible.

We have to let go of the myth that we can and should it all. We have to let go of the idea that anyone else is doing it all while we watch from the sidelines. It’s so easy to judge our lives and our choices by the glimpses we see into other’s lives. Social media plays a big role in this. Go ahead and scroll through my Instagram. Looks like I’ve got it all covered, right? Someone commented on a picture recently, “Your life looks like such a wonderful adventure in nature. I love it!” I love those moments too. But that’s what they are, moments. I love to look at my Instagram, because it’s a highlight reel – beautiful moments captured amid the chaos. Kairos moments (have you read Glennon Melton’s Carpe Kairos? If not, do it.). Sure, there are nods to the chaos and mentions of the overwhelm, but I’m not instagramming the panic attack I just had, the parenting disaster that was bedtime, or my major budget blunder.

Don’t compare your every day struggles to everyone else’s highlight reel. Their entire life does not look like that, and they are not doing it all. As a recovering perfectionist and an achievement addict, the only way I will make it through this summer is letting go of the all. I can do some things. I can do hard things. I can do great things. But I cannot do all things. Oh, and I’m going to need a constant supply of coffee to do any things.

We’re in new territory for our family. There are going to be many bumps and bruises as we try to figure this out. On the good days, I come home and soak up my kids. I am refreshed, loving and engaged. I relish the minutes of our bedtime routine. I am clothed in gratitude brushing and massaging my little boy’s tired, overwhelmed body. I’m happy to read one extra book or rub a back for an extra ten minutes. But, there are bad days. On the bad days, I am stressed beyond words and feeling torn in two. I am cranky, anxious, and short-tempered. I can’t keep the to-do lists straight. I don’t know how I will possibly get all of my work done in time, and I think of all the people I will let down. Then, I figure out that we’re almost out of laundry detergent. I should add it to the grocery list, but who is going for groceries anyway? The same goes for my time at work. I am either stressed needing to be home or blissed out in the gift of this opportunity to be with these people in this place. There’s only one of me. I can’t do it all.

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I’ve always been amazed by families with two working parents - the juggling, the sacrifices, and the exhaustion. But I’ve also been amazed at stay-at-home-parents – the juggling, the sacrifices, and the exhaustion.  I’ve never been more sure that one is not easier or better than the other. Your Hard is different than my Hard, but geez, they are both really Hard. No matter how easy or great things might look on Facebook or Instagram, we all have our Hard. It’s not just you. Take a look at your own highlight reel when you get a chance, let the joy and love soak into your soul, and give yourself permission to not do it all.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Courage.

 

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I am so overwhelmed by the response to my Dear Parents With Children in Church post. Actually, overwhelmed doesn’t really even begin to capture it. Maybe I’m not supposed to tell you that. Maybe I’m supposed to pretend I expected the more than three hundred fifty thousand hits. Maybe I was supposed to be prepared for a launch into blogdom, whatever that is, maybe I just made it up, that’s how unprepared I am.

I’m not very good at “supposed-tos”, and I’m really not good at pretending. I’m a truth-teller. I finally got around to writing an about *that* mom page for all the new visitors. And oh my, there are so many new visitors. I really am so glad you’re here.

I can’t keep up with the comments and emails. I’m trying my best. I read every. single. one. I do. But I just can’t respond to them all. You guys have shared your hearts with me. Seriously. I am so grateful and humbled to hear your stories. They are sacred.

Meanwhile, I’ve been a little intimidated to write again. All these new eyes watching. Lots of disagreeing comments (and some not-so-nice) amid the overwhelming support. What if my writing isn’t enough? What if no one wants to read it? What if I insult all these amazing people who have shared beautiful things about children in church? Oh the What Ifs. Anyone else thinking of the Shel Silverstein poem?

A few months ago, a friend send me a desperate email, confessing her whatifs about a new challenge related to her own blog. In my all-knowing-blog-wisdom (yes, I am being sarcastic), I told her this. I only know because I went and found the email I wrote.

What if? One of my favorite things to do when I start to worry “what if” is to answer the question. What is honestly the worst possible thing that could happen if you disappoint people? Some might unlike your Facebook page. Some might not read the blog anymore. Some might even say something mean. Okay. It won't change who you are. It won't change the amazing things you've done with your family. It won't change the number of people you have helped and inspired. It won't change your value... as a person, a mother, a wife... or even the value of your blog. Now after all that, I don't think you will disappoint. And if you disappoint one or two, it won't change the ones you help.

It’s hard to hear our own advice, isn’t it? It’s hard to put myself in the positive side of things. But it’s true. If this blog crashes and dies, it won’t change the people I have reached. It won’t change the stories I’ve been honored to hear. It won’t change those I have encouraged. And it won’t change all the things I do every day - the way I mother, the way I live, or who I am in this world. I am filled with what ifs. I am a little scared. But I am grounded in love and grace, and I am gathering up my courage.

I talk a lot about love, grace, and courage. Someone commented on a post last week that they understand the love and grace thing, but what’s up with courage? Courage. It takes courage to live with love and grace. It takes courage to put ourselves out there and be truth-tellers. Some days, most days if I’m honest and I am, it takes courage to get up in the morning and do it all again.

I used to want to be fearless. That sounds so sexy. Fearless! Without fear. Above fear. Better than fear. But, I don’t think entirely leaving this fear stuff behind me is realistic. First of all, I have this little thing called anxiety. Yep, fearlessly anxious? Doesn’t work.

Living, parenting, loving, growing… it’s all scary. I find myself scared all. the. time. But as Glennon at Momastery points out, there’s not a lot that separates sacred and scared. Often it’s when I am really really scared that I am so very close to the sacred. When I’ve written words that scared me to death, I’ve been humbled by the most sacred connections. When I’ve been scared to put aside the world’s expectations for me and my family, I’ve found our beautiful sacred rhythm. If I strived for fearlessness, I would miss out on so much sacred.

Instead, I desire courage. I’ve heard it explained that courage is being afraid but doing things anyway. Courage embraces the fear, the scared, and the Hard, and Courage opens ourselves up to possibility, to growth, to the sacred. Courage is you sharing your story with me, and Courage is me sharing my story with you. Courage is stepping out in kindness and compassion, when it’d be easier to stand back while others hurt. Courage is seeing our weaknesses and our failures but still choosing to believe that we are okay, that we are enough. Courage is giving generously, of ourselves, our time, and our possessions, when it’s uncomfortable. Courage is going to bed with your body and heart aching, yes we all have those days, and knowing that you will wake up in the morning to give yourself, your family, and this world everything you’ve got.

It is with courage that I click post.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dear Parents with Young Children in Church


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You are doing something really, really important. I know it’s not easy. I see you with your arms overflowing, and I know you came to church already tired. Parenting is tiring. Really tiring.

I watch you bounce and sway trying to keep the baby quiet, juggling the infant carseat and the diaper bag as you find a seat. I see you wince as your child cries. I see you anxiously pull things out of your bag of tricks to try to quiet them.

And I see you with your toddler and your preschooler. I watch you cringe when your little girl asks an innocent question in a voice that might not be an inside voice let alone a church whisper.  I hear the exasperation in your voice as you beg your child to just sit, to be quiet as you feel everyone’s eyes on you. Not everyone is looking, but I know it feels that way.

I know you’re wondering, is this worth it? Why do I bother? I know you often leave church more exhausted than fulfilled. But what you are doing is so important.
When you are here, the church is filled with a joyful noise. When you are here, the Body of Christ is more fully present. When you are here, we are reminded that this worship thing we do isn’t about Bible Study or personal, quiet contemplation but coming together to worship as a community where all are welcome, where we share in the Word and Sacrament together.When you are here, I have hope that these pews won’t be empty in ten years when your kids are old enough to sit quietly and behave in worship. I know that they are learning how and why we worship now, before it’s too late. They are learning that worship is important.

I see them learning. In the midst of the cries, whines, and giggles, in the midst of the crinkling of pretzel bags and the growing pile of crumbs I see a little girl who insists on going two pews up to share peace with someone she’s never met. I hear a little boy slurping (quite loudly) every last drop of his communion wine out of the cup determined not to miss a drop of Jesus. I watch a child excitedly color a cross and point to the one in the front of the sanctuary.  I hear the echos of Amens just a few seconds after the rest of the community says it together. I watch a boy just learning to read try to sound out the words in the worship book or count his way to Hymn 672. Even on weeks when I can’t see my own children learning because, well, it’s one of those mornings, I can see your children learning.

I know how hard it is to do what you’re doing, but I want you to know, it matters. It matters to me. It matters to my children to not be alone in the pew. It matters to the congregation to know that families care about faith, to see young people… and even on those weeks when you can’t see the little moments, it matters to your children.

It matters that they learn that worship is what we do as a community of faith, that everyone is welcome, that their worship matters. When we teach children that their worship matters, we teach them that they are enough right here and right now as members of the church community. They don’t need to wait until they can believe, pray or worship a certain way to be welcome here, and I know adults who are still looking to be shown that. It matters that children learn that they are an integral part of this church, that their prayers, their songs, and even their badly (or perfectly timed depending on who you ask) cries and whines are a joyful noise because it means they are present.

I know it’s hard, but thank you for what you do when you bring your children to church. Please know that your family - with all of its noise, struggle, commotion, and joy – are not simply tolerated, you are a vital part of the community gathered in worship.
Related Posts
Children in Church
Children and Woodland Creatures at Church
A Little More Broken, a Little More Grounded in Love and Grace

Note 6/12/13: The response to this post has been stunning. I am reading every comment, but I cannot keep up with requests to re-publish in newsletters or church publications via comments. If you have a request to republish, please email me. Please include details of where you'd like to republish (i.e. church name and location), and I will respond as soon as possible. Any permission to reprint applies only to this post and to the location requested.

Note 8/27/13: With 418 comments, I am going to have to close the comments section. Blogger seems to be having trouble getting them all to load at this point. I've read every single one and I appreciate the conversation. For more conversation, I encourage you to check out other posts or join me on Facebook .

Friday, April 26, 2013

Top 10 Reasons We Should Be on the Another Mother Runner Ragnar Team

Jamie, mom of 2, dropped out of marathon training last year due to injuries but not before finishing her first 20 mile run. Spent 6 months hanging with her physical therapist leaving her husband wondering about this Dr. Gary. Hey, it didn’t hurt that he was easy on the eyes as she suffered through Graston. Currently training for her 6th half.

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Jennifer, juggling life as a single mom with her job as Clinical Director of a facility for adults with developmental disabilities. Swore up and down her sister was crazy for this running thing, until she drank the kool-aid. Started logging the miles, finished her first half marathon with her sister by her side in November and is training for her second.

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Top 10 Reasons We Should Be on the Another Mother Runner Ragnar Team

10. We’re sisters. The only thing better than BRFs (Best Running Friends) are Best Running Sisters. We’ve spent hours squished in a small car on family road trips, making it out alive and still liking each other - a fitting skill for Ragnar.

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9. We are moms to the cutest ‘future runners.’ We might be a little biased, but they inspire us to be the best moms, runners, and women! We asked Ben (middle) why we should get picked. He said, “Because you’re a great mom. Or you’re a great runner. Actually, you’re both!” Aw, sweet. Then he added, “But mom, I can run faster than you, so maybe they should pick me instead.” Thanks, kid.

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8. When our kids are not inspiring us to be better people, they are inspiring us…. to go on really, really long runs. My son was the kid who licked his brother during the Christmas program. Really. 197 miles sounds like a vacation!

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7. We can do hard things. Whether it’s discovering our fitness, quitting smoking, or climbing an ice-covered mountain. We know Ragnar won’t be easy, but we are ready for the challenge!

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6. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. Hey Elvis. Running (and motherhood) can be hard, but we make sure to laugh a lot and keep the whining to a minimum.

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5. We know how important it is to support our fellow mother runners, in person and far away! Here’s our “Training Survival Kit”. It includes some of our favorite running goodies, a get-it-done playlist, a note of love and encouragement, and of course the wisdom of Another Mother Runner!

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4. We’ve learned from the best how to cheer on runners, and we are ready to cheer for our teammates with the same enthusiasm, even if we can’t quite replicate their cuteness.

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3. We are always ready to celebrate a job well done.

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2. We had so much fun meeting and laughing with Sarah and Dimity at the Mother Runner party in Montclair, NJ. At first we thought this picture that showed up on Facebook was pretty awful. Then we thought about some of Jamie’s recent race pictures…yea, she’ll work on that.

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And the number 1 reason…

Of all the running shirts we’ve collected, we wear this one with the most pride. We are stronger than we thought. Through marriages, babies, post-partum depression, a child’s birth injury, a divorce, health struggles, depression-that-can-no-longer-be-called-postpartum, and running injuries, running has and continues to show us our strength.

From taking that first run with the Couch to 5k app talking in our ear to joyously crossing that first half marathon finish line, we discovered a strength, a spirit, and a joy in ourselves that had been lost somewhere in the hard work of motherhood.

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