Get your nails done
Curl your hair
Run the extra mile
Keep it slim so they like you, do they like you?”
Don’t be shy, girl
Take it off
This is what you want, to belong, so they like you
Do you like you?”
Do they like you?”
Back in May, our family sat around our dinner table and made a list of individual goals. We divided them up into reading goals, learning goals, activity goals, and just fun goals. Some examples were- reading 10,000 pages, learning to make pizza, learning about civil rights, learning to fish, learning to run, going to a water park, having two days a week with no technology, etc.
I’m happy to report that we met all our goals and we are entering the new school year as well rested, well-rounded people who are quite frankly, much smarter and cooler than the rest of you slackers.
Eh…something like that. Here’s the truth- only Josiah met his reading goal. He surpassed 10,000 pages actually, which is impressive until I tell you that we probably haven’t spoken to him in a few weeks. There’s been no fishing, no deck building, I have learned 0 new songs on the guitar, no water park, and my children have developed a deep abiding relationship with the television this summer, followed closely by becoming besties with the Xbox. I did not learn how to make artisan bread or homemade sushi, but I DID learn that if you offer no alternative, your children will eat peanut butter and jelly for more than one day in a row.
This week has been difficult, for many reasons, but one of the reasons is that I have been struggling with guilt over how our summer has progressed, and the lack of meaningful interactions between me and my kids. Actually, that’s just fancy blog talk for saying I feel like a failure. A big old not running, frozen waffle making, swimming counts as a bath failure. School starts in a week and my house isn’t more organized. I have no meal plans ready. There are no homework stations and at this point, I am not quite sure where Josiah’s toothbrush is.
It’s amazing to me that we do this- we look at summer vacation and forget that it’s only a vacation for the kids. My life and responsibilities haven’t stopped! In fact, they have at least doubled, because now I have three kids home. Home. All the time. All the days and hours. They are home. With me. All the days. They are home with me and that means I have 88% less time to do laundry, cook, clean, organize the house, take care of the dog, do ministry, write, spend time with friends, spend time with the Lord, and be a wife. Not sure if 88% is right, but who has time to do correct math when all the children are here?? So we have less time and less energy, yet we make goals for ourselves as though we have all the free time in the world. It’s crazy and unrealistic. And for me, it has set me up for grouchiness and crying and guilt.
And I’ve decided I’ve had enough. I can’t find any scripture about spanish lessons or running a marathon or reading Shakespeare or learning cursive. But I’ve read plenty about rest and loving others and laughter and being patient and kind. And I think my ancestors would roll their eyes at my fretting, so I am taking my cues from them. I want to encourage you with the following questions-
1. Has your child been eaten by a wooly mammoth or scarred by an attack while gathering water at the watering hole?
2. Has your child lost any fingers or limbs in a combine this summer?
3. Did you child contract Bubonic Plague while gathering wild mushrooms to feed the family?
If you answered “no” to each of these, then congratulations, your summer was a success!
And more questions-
1. Did your child eat this summer?
2. Did water come into contact with your child’s body this summer?
3. Is your child currently breathing?
If you answered “yes”, then you are a rock star summer parent.
The truth is, while many parents wrestle with wanting to have a perfect Pinterest summer, I struggled more with wanting some high level spiritual experience for my kids. I wanted us to be sweet and generous and loving and prayerful and creative and singing and Spinterest. Spiritual Pinterest. But I bet I don’t have to tell you that the world of Spinterest does contain an extraordinary amount of “spin”. Our family is just full of human sinners, and three months of constant togetherness has brought out that sin in some unique and loud ways. Some days were louder than others.
Sweet friends, take a deep breath. Channel your inner Elsa and let. it. go. Don’t let your Spinterest hopes distract you from what is right in front of you- a beautiful, restful, joy filled sink of dirty dishes. They’ll be there tomorrow. Maybe even the next day. And no one will die or abandon their faith because of it.
Your babies are watching to see how you feel about those dirty faces and dishes.
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Google “Mommy wars”, go ahead. I’ll wait. See you in about 57 days.
Writing about the so-called mommy war is almost a requirement for mommy bloggers. The angles are endless- are mommy wars real, are they important, where do they happen, what weapons are used, is it really wrong to throw your Starbucks at another mom (yes. unless you let it cool first), etc etc. You’ve probably experienced it- the judgmental stare of a mother as you soothe your precious cherub with a bag of processed dye laden cheez nodules after they tripped over the laces of their made in china sneakers. Or maybe you’re the mom with the organic homemade fruit leather who is being unfairly evaluated as you do naked yoga in the park with your child, little Artisan Flannel.
I’ve read quite a few blogs in the last few weeks, many of them shared on twitter and Facebook by friends, so it’s clear to me that the subject of this war hits home for a lot of moms. I say moms, because I honestly don’t think dads get into this stuff like moms do. But by all means, dads, if you are getting judged unfairly because of your naked yoga skills, chime in! Just words please. No pictures.
The sentence I see repeated over and over again in all these blogs is “We’ve all been there.” As a writer, I know that sentence can be very healing, and create a sense of comfort and solidarity with your reader. Get a group of moms together, and at some point the subject of parenting choices and the judgment that can follow will probably come up. Breast or formula, co-sleeping or sleep training, cloth or disposable, cry it out or soothe, vaccine or no vaccine, homemade or jarred baby food, stay at home or work outside of the home, public or home school, santa or no santa. It doesn’t end when the kids get older. Help with homework or let them do it alone, modest clothing or fashionable clothing, PG13 movies or G, sleepovers or no sleepovers, competitive sports or just for fun sports, dating or courtship or chastity belt, driving or no driving, paying for college or getting a job and on and on and on and on. Sometimes I wonder if parents breathe a sigh of relief when their kids go to college, just for the sheer fact that they probably won’t ever meet anyone else’s parents and compare if little Artisan is smoking pot or binge drinking.
We all hear the encouragement- “Don’t worry about others! Just concentrate on you! Think about you and your family, and that’s all that matters! Be confident in yourself!”
I want to flip it. Worry about others. Don’t concentrate on you. Think about other families. You aren’t all that matters.
See, the thing is- we have the luxury of caring. The fact that we have to choose between Goldfish and Cheddar Bunnies means that we have a choice. It means that we can afford to buy snacks. It means we have a way to get to a store. It means we can pay for them. It means we can read.
It means we have food in our country.
There is a mama out there tonight in a country where they don’t look out for summer storms to ruin picnics, they look out for bombs to blow up their homes. It is not even on her radar to think about what kind of snacks other moms are making. She can’t imagine caring if the mom down the road uses cloth or disposable diapers…because there is only one option. Her eyes will close tonight and she will pray that the morning will come.
There is a mama today that will stand in line to be humiliated at an office for food stamps. She will have escaped from domestic violence and instead of calling her brave, we will call her a leech. She doesn’t have time to mentally critique the other mom in line for letting her 3-year-old wear a Katy Perry shirt, because she knows that shirt probably came from a charity clothes closet.
There is a mama today who will incorrectly strap her baby into a car seat to drive to a park, because she read that babies need stimulation. She will feel the weight of stares because she didn’t put sunscreen on the baby! and while she knows it might be easier to claim to be the baby’s older sister, she proudly carries him like a mother. It took her weeks to work up the courage to walk away from the clinic where they promised her that it would be over soon and she would never think of it again. She knows that she has no idea what she is doing. She knows that you know that too. She is hoping that someday, some woman might be kind enough to help her learn the ropes.
There is a mama tonight that will die. She is one of the lucky ones who hasn’t caught the disease of her country, but even in health, there is hunger. She dies because she chooses to give her food to her child. She will sacrifice herself and pray with her last breath that the food will be provided. And it won’t be. Her child will die days later too.
THESE are the mommy wars we should be fighting. Do we pretend our wars are real because it makes us feel better to think we are fighting for something?
Someone will accuse me of using the “eat your vegetables, because there are starving children in China” argument. That’s ok. It’s mostly true, but more like “there are starving children in your city, so please stop stressing if your neighbor’s vegetables are organic” Let’s take our energy and passion and fight real wars. I’ll bring the snacks.
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My precious girl is off to camp this week while my oldest son and my husband are in Ethiopia. This is Selah’s second year attending Pine Cove camp at The Towers and she LOOOOVES it. Some of you might remember that last year, I found this list she had written down about all the things she wanted to do at camp. I still laugh reading that list! You can read it here-
This year, we’ve been dealing with a good amount of anxiety. One of the funniest things about Selah is that she isn’t scared of things she should be scared of, and she IS scared of things that likely will never happen. She can deal with anxiety even over things she has done multiple times, and sometimes she doesn’t recognize what is happening in her mind and body as anxiety. I’ve been working with her a ton this year on stopping and recognizing what is happening to her physically and emotionally, being able to put a name on it, and making a plan to relax. What happens when she DOESN’T do these things is that she will get nervous, get unfocused and impulsively act on whatever idea pops into her head. I don’t think I need to tell you that those ideas are not always wise (see also multiple self inflicted haircuts).
So this month, I started seeing her display anxiety and I knew part of it was Wes and Josiah leaving and part of it was her going to camp. Even good stress is still stress, but sweet Selah just doesn’t always recognize that, so one afternoon I snuggled with her in my reading chair and asked her to make a list of all the things she was worried about for camp week, and asked her to write down some truth about those fears and a plan for how to fight off that anxiety. The following is part of her list (some of her fears are too personal for blogging), and some of her methods for calming down.
What I am scared of, by Selah Nicole Butler the First
1. What if daddy and Josiah have so much fun and don’t want to come home?
Truth- Daddy and Josiah have more fun at home because we have more fun things like pizza and sports on tv and Watermark and friends. And I am here and Mommy is here so daddy will always come home for mommy. I should write to daddy sweet words so he doesn’t forget that I live here in AMERICA.
2. I am nervous because what if there’s a rat when daddy is gone and it bites me.
Truth- Mommy will just call a brave man in our community group but I don’t know who that is. I should find out. Mommy will call the xfrigerader (so close) to come and set traps. I can make my own trap with a pipe cleaner and cheese and a net. I need a net. I can use tights.
3. Scared because a girl at camp last year said I talk too much.
Truth- God made me have all my words and HE LOVES ME SO THERE. Pray that she likes me. Pray that if I have too many words, they should mostly be about God. Some of them can be about horses and Taylor Swift.
4. What if it floods at camp?
Truth- Selah, remember about Noah. If it rains a lot, we can build tree houses. God, can you make it rain a lot?
5. What if an Ethiopian person gets mad at Josiah about talking about Jesus and he hits him with a broom or a rock or throws him into a crocodile pit.
Truth- Daddy is there and he is strong. Josiah can run really fast. He can swim fast too. Maybe if he hits him with a broom then Josiah will catch the broom and then sweep his kitchen for him so he will want to listen about Jesus. Mr. Tim will protect him too. And Ms. Baker will because she is a teacher so she knows what to do when kids are mean. I wish Ms. Baker was my teacher. If Josiah gets hurt, I will never stop crying. I will be very mad at that man and I will throw a evangle cube at his face.
6. What if I ride a horse and it gets spooked by a snake and it runs away and I fall off of it and I land on top of the snake and it makes the snake mad and the snake is Voldamart’s snake.
Truth- I’m just kidding about the Voldamart part. If my horse gets spooked, I will just say whoa nelly and feed it carrots. If the horse doesn’t like carrots, I will feed it mexican food. If I fall off the horse, my counselor will carry me to the hospital and mommy will drive really fast to come visit me and bring me some flowers. I will forgive my horse because it’s a horse and I don’t even know if they have brains. I would be so scared if I saw a snake too, especially if it has jewels on it’s back. It’s like snakes are trying to trick people because they are shiny with diamond on their backs but they are mean. That’s just like STAN (pretty sure she meant satan) because he tricks people that he’s nice but he just wants to steal, kill, and destroy. He even wants to kill horses.
7. What if my counselor is mean or doesn’t love Jesus or doesn’t like me or is a boy.
Truth- I don’t think my counselor is a boy because that is not aprowprate. I think my counselor will like me because I am nice and I will make her bracelets and I will brush her hair and I will sing to her but I WON’T SING JUSTIN BEIBER DON’T ASK ME. If my counselor is mean I will ask her what’s wrong? and give her a hug because everybody has a bad day.
8. What if a girl is mean to Mela because she has brown skin? What if Mela cries?
Truth- I will WANT to punch her but I won’t punch her because I will get in BIG trouble and that girl is just sad and she might not have any friends. I will tell Mela how pretty she is because she has really pretty curly hair. I will make Mela a special BFF bracelet and I will make the other girl a bracelet and tell her she can only wear it when she will use kind words. I will hold Mela’s hand if she cries and give her tissue and ice cream. I will cry too because that’s so so mean. I will pray with Mela because she loves Jesus too. But I might not pray with the mean girl until later because I will be so so mad.
Well, there you have it. Let’s hope none of these things happened at camp this week!
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It’s almost February, and the days are long. And the hours from 3:00-7:00 are even longer. I’ve hit that time of year when I can’t get warm no matter what I wear and Wes is not happy about me setting the thermostat to 75. I’m tired of making soups and chili. Give me flip-flops or give me death.
There is something that I feel I need to confess. A friend was being very sweet and said this to me- “I don’t know how you keep up with three kids!” We were talking about school projects and paperwork, and I laughed really hard and ruined her image of me.
I mean, I try. I have a system, y’all! Several systems. Multiple systems for when my systems don’t work. And a few back up systems. But I’m not going to lie and tell you that I didn’t find a paper this morning that I was supposed to have signed. In November. But even keeping up with forms is not as hard as this other thorn in my side. Homework.
It’s called homework because it makes your house feel like those old factories from the 1920s where you ate a crust of bread for lunch and lost fingers in machines and wore pinafores. I don’t really know what a pinafore is, but it sounds dreadful. It wasn’t supposed to be this way…
The mom in my head is one who greets her children at the door with a smile and hug. They have a snack waiting on the table for them, something with protein and carbs to bless their little bodies with energy and strength. Then all three sit at the table while she rotates, helping each one achieve academic greatness with their homework. When it’s done, she kisses them on their cherubic heads and papers are neatly filed into folders, placed back into backpacks and backpacks are gently placed into their own special cubby, ready to be used on the morrow. The children, their minds sharp from learning and their bodies nourished from the snack she lovingly prepared, go outside to ride their bikes and spread cheer to the neighbors.
But I have to, HAVE TO, be honest with you. I have my strengths as a mother and wife, but this is typically how after school goes…
Kids fly in through the door and I am in the kitchen, trying to get prep work done on dinner…
Josiah- “-Some sentences about who did what wrong on the way home-”
Me- “Guys, hold- hold on. Guys. I can’t. Guys. Guys. GUYS.” (while dodging the flurry of papers that they are throwing at me)
Malachi- “Can I have a snack?”
Me- “yep. In a minute”
Selah- “Did you write me any letters today?”
Me- “Nope. Do you all have homework?”
Chorus of yes and various complaints of the overwhelming responsibility of being in school…
Me- “okay, well…Josiah, why don’t you go up to your room and Malachi, you sit here near me and Selah…Selah…SELAH. WHERE ARE YOU?”
Selah emerges from the playroom wearing a wedding dress and clown wig.
Me- “Selah. It’s not dress up time yet. You have to do homework first. You sit on that side of the table.”
Selah- “but that’s not my side.”
Malachi- “it doesn’t matter Selah. Don’t make a foolish argument”
Selah- “BUT THAT’S NOT MY SIDE.”
Josiah- “it doesn’t matter. You didn’t even buy this table. You don’t have a side.”
Selah- “oh I have a side and IT IS INCREDIBLY SPECIAL TO ME AND MY ACADEMIC CAREER IS SOLELY BASED ON THIS SIDE OF THE TABLE” (paraphrase)
Me- “guys. It doesn’t matter. Selah, just sit and get your homework out. Boys, you too.”
I hate homework. I hate it like a fat kid hates gluten-free cake. Hate it more than Uggs with shorts. I hate it more than Rainbow
Doom Loom, which is saying a lot. I mean, I could just try to blame my kids and say that they are too rowdy, but the truth is, I am just terrible at helping them. I have no patience. I want it to be oooooooover. And Lord help us if the directions aren’t clear. It takes me approximately 4 seconds of staring at something I don’t understand to say “Uh…I think you are supposed to uh…write some numbers or stuff”
Sitting with the kids at the table while they get out their homework…
Child – “I don’t know what to do”
Me- “it says write a sentence with the word “have” in it.”
Child- “What do you mean?”
Me(Oh Lord…what do you mean, what do I mean?? A sentence. With have.)– “A sentence. What is something you could talk about, using the word have?”
Child- “What does “have” mean?”
Me- (Oh. My. Word. I HAVE a pencil that I will perhaps shove in my eye.)– “Have is…like…you are in possession…I mean…it belongs to you”
Child- “what belongs to me?”
Me- (shoot me. Just write a sentence. ANY SENTENCE WILL DO.) “Nothing. Just use it in a sentence”
Child very sloooooooooowly writes the word H-A-V-E
Me-(I. can. not.)– “honey (gritting teeth), that’s not a sentence. Okay, let me give you a hint. I blank a favorite book.”
Child- “Why are you putting your book in a blanket?”
Me- (I am going to actually perish right now) “No, not blanket. I (hum) a favorite book. Fill in with the woooooooord?” (Come on. You can do this. Say have)
Child 2- “Can you help? Jennifer has eight flowers and John gives her four flowers and she gives three flowers to Chris, how many flowers does Jennifer have?”
Me- (please. ask me anything but a word problem. Ask me how babies are made. Ask me about periods. Please don’t ask me about Jennifer and her ever-loving flowers) “Well, how many does she start off with?”
Child 2- “Are they boyfriend and girlfriend?”
Me- “that’s not important to the problem”
Child 2- “but why is he giving her flowers?”
Me- (deep breaths, Brandy. Be thankful for curiosity)– “I don’t know honey. Maybe it was her birthday”
Child 2- “Why is she giving away the flowers? That’s not nice.”
Me- (I don’t know. Jennifer sounds sketch)– “Sweetie, it’s not real. We just need to figure out the problem”
Child 2- “What kind of flowers are they?”
Me- (I hate Jennifer and her whole family and everything she stands for.)
And I am just going to be honest and tell you that the other child doesn’t like help with his homework and that does not make me sad. So there you go- this is my confession. I’m so sorry, teachers. I am that parent that you wonder if they ever look at the folder. I do look at the folder. Most of the time.
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If you send a non crunchy granola mom to Sprouts late at night because her daughter is having flu symptoms, she’ll probably search Facebook for her crunchy granola mom friends to see what they buy at Sprouts. Then she’ll notice everyone is talking about “essential oils” and she will wonder if that means it’s essential that you have them. She will probably roll her eyes then because she will think the only oil that essential in HER life is vegetable oil because you need that to make brownies and brownies are delicious. While she’s walking into the store, she will message her friends and ask for recommendations for things to buy. She’ll probably also make a mental note to check if they sell brownies. Then she will begin down the first aisle of homeopathic remedies, searching for something called “Osscocaliumnus” or “Osssocolostrum” or “Ossomesauce” or something like that. She will muse that it sounds very much like a Harry Potter spell and it probably makes your nose stop running. Then she will look for elderberry syrup, which incidentally sounds like something you’d use for a potion. She will wonder if the makers of homeopathic medicines are fans of Harry Potter or if that is just a coincidence. But then she will turn the corner and there it will be- the promised land. She will look in awe at the rows and rows of tiny bottles, filled with different oils, all claiming to treat any kind of ailment.
She will see a bottle that says it treats stiff joints. Then she will remember that she woke up that very morning and her wrists were hurting. She will sniff the liquid and she will put it right back right away because dear Lord. A few bottles down, she will see one that treats attention problems. She will scoff and think “I don’t need that”. She will probably be wrong. At the end of the aisle, she will see a
potion oil that treats allergies. Then she will remember that she’s been miserable for a week because of mountain cedar. She will muse that she doesn’t even live in the mountains so this could be a scam, brought on by a giant lobbyist group for all non-mountain trees. She will see that you can try it as a sample but she will wonder- do I drink it? Put it on my hands? Is it a nose spray?? She will decide that based on how gross it would be to have a nose spray sample, it’s probably not that. She will read that you should put it under your tongue so she will spray it on her finger and taste it. Then she will wonder why these companies hate people.
Then she will probably remember that it’s getting late and she will grab her Elderwand syrup and Ossyosbourne and a few other bottles that look good. She will skip over to the bakery section, but she’ll probably just find organic vegan brownies. Then she’ll shake her head in sadness, because who in the hizzle wants to eat brownies made out of vegans?! Then she will just drive home where she will spend the next half hour trying to convince her daughter to actually take these concoctions by promising that if she does, she will get to drink a sprite made with the chemicaliest chemicals that ever chemicaled.