five dollars of perspective

This story is not about me.

It’s about a moment in seeing those around us and caring just a bit.

It’s about perspective.

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And how I almost missed it.

*****

You see, I was tired and wanted to get to the airport fast. There’s something about traveling that makes one feel the pressure of arriving early – it doesn’t seem to matter whether you travel rarely or on the every nine day or so schedule that I’m on. There’s always this nagging pressure of hurrying and anticipation.

Today was no exception, really. I was up early and just finished a two hour drive from the beach to Orlando and was standing by my rental car filling it up with gas so that I could avoid the exorbitant fuel fees of returning a car without gas. I was in a daze, my own world, and so tired. Then I heard this plea from a man with this look of desperation on his face.

Ma’am would you please have any bit of change to help us get to three dollars for a gallon of gas?

Now, perspective, I was in Orlando in the midst of the spending capital of the world. Disney, Universal, Sea World, Mega hotels, restaurants, and more were everywhere. You are talking about money being thrown around left and right in this town.

I looked at him and said no, no, no…just my card.

I didn’t want to be bothered, really. He went to the next man who didn’t even respond to him. And as the third car pulled away, who also gave him nothing, I saw his car and a woman, who I’m just calling his wife, in the front who burst into tears and put her head on the dash. She was sobbing that cry of desperation. I know. I’ve cried that cry – in different circumstances – but that cry.

I didn’t have change? Didn’t I just think nothing of spending $6 for an over priced caramel macchiato in the resort on the beach where I was staying? Now, now, now…my money is terribly tight. But, listen, I know it’s not that horrible if I will buy that syrupy coffee.

They pulled away. I felt mad at myself.

And then I saw them pull into a parking spot at this 7/11 and the man get out again. Person after person after person ignored him. So I made a decision. I’m not. I dug in my purse and found $5. That’s it. That’s all I had. I drove that rental car, the rental car that I grumbled cost me $69 to rent over to that car and pulled up next to the passenger door. With my window down I held out the five dollar bill and simply asked if it would help.

The woman burst into tears again. And the man said over and over thank you, thank you, thank you.

And then he said words that made me tear up.

I know it probably seems so strange and sad to be begging for $3.

And in that raw real moment of two human beings sharing a piece of paper with some value assigned to it I remembered a time I counted out $1.27 in change and walked into the grocery store to buy frozen vegetables for dinner because that was all I had. I remembered wondering how I was going to feed a family with $16. I remember putting in $10 of gas because that’s all I could afford.

No sir. No it doesn’t.  You do what you need to do and it’s not a reflection of worth. 

I could have driven away, friends. I could have gotten into that rental car and drove to drop off the vehicle and left them there and me in my shuttle on the way to the airport. I would have spent that five dollars at the airport. On coffee. Candy. Something. In fact, in that airport I spent $16 on a gluten free chicken breast with honey mustard and swiss cheese and a cherry coke.

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How many times do we look away? How many times do we judge?

Oh my friends, I judged. When I first saw him I thought he just wanted my money. I lost the human connection – the struggle that we go through to put food on our tables and survive. I lost the perspective of what it was like to not be able to walk into the airport and order lunch and sit with my laptop in front of me and wait. I simply forgot to see.

Now, now, now…this isn’t about me. I don’t want or expect accolades for handing a five dollar bill for a family in need. In fact, I should have done it right away and I feel embarrassed at the thought that it took me so long. This is about seeing others.

What can you do today to see others in this frenzy of life? How can you slow down? Maybe it’s not five dollars handed to a family at a 7 11 Gas Station in Orlando, Florida. Maybe it’s a smile and a how are you doing today to the cashier at Target. Maybe it’s calling your friend out of the blue and telling her how much she matters to you. Maybe it’s writing a note. Maybe it’s not jumping to the worst conclusion first and instead operating out of the posture of grace.

These are ripple effect moments.

They are the things that change lives more than we will ever know. They’re the gifts, the blessings, the times in life where lives can be changed and even saved.  They are the moments where we see each other for the potential. They are the times where we step back and simply don’t think so much about self but more about others.

Don’t be in such a rush that you miss those around you.

Love. Give grace. Care.

Those are the true finding joy moments in life.

So to all of you – I issue you a challenge – what is one thing you can do today to bless someone else? One thing. And then challenge a friend to do the same – send them theses five dollar of perspective words as a start. And then, if you want, share about it on Facebook and let’s let this one simple gift grow. #littlethingsmatter

With joy.

Rachel

(and by the way — this was the same day that I experienced the delayed plane and received another jolt of perspective. You can read about that here -> Waiting )

top photo credit: Bob Jenkins

18 Things to Know about Motherhood

These are those little things we all should know so that motherhood doesn’t make us go completely insane. Or at least not at the point where we completely lose all of our marbles. (Which, if you read point five, are hidden between cushions two and three of the couch.)

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Here are just a couple things to remember.

1. Don’t expect perfection. Perfection will make you go crazy. Trust me. For a long time I had to keep every single toy sorted in it’s own box. Then I’d come in the room and all the toys would be dumped in a big pile. Now? We just try. (Until the day when I’ve had it and sort them all and breathe for the thirteen minutes that my world is organized. Those thirteen minutes are absolutely glorious. )

2. Allow Mismatched Socks and Keep Old Furniture. And mismatched clothes. Any of that. Pick your clothing battles wisely. In fact, simply follow these basic clothing rules: Picture Day? You win. Weddings? You win. All the rest? Let them be creative. You’ll smile more. And the furniture?  Try, try, try to not stress over marker colored furniture. And white furniture? You need to read point one again.

3. Silence is not always golden nor always bad. Always investigate. Silence leads to the above marker colored furniture.  However, silence often is coupled with intense creativity. Or sneaking of snacks. Or playing the wii. Or sometimes, sometimes it’s taking a nap in the oddest of places. Kids can, and will, decide on the oddest places for that quick nap. I mean, seriously, I wonder what goes through their minds. I might just lay here on the bottom step since it looks so comfortable and close my eyes for just a moment.  And, hahaha, yes, I just had to share this picture again. #cute

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4. Laundry, dishes, cleaning, telling them no, and so on on will never ever be done.  Laundry and dishes are akin to breathing. We just do them. Daily. Hourly at times. Telling them no to the things that they ask over and over for? Normal too. Like today. I think I’ve said no you can’t have a sip of my coffee or no snacks yet – you know the rule that I remind you about daily or no media at least five times. And it’s 9:57am.

5. When you need money, lift pillow cushions, and hunt. Or if you need crayons, markers, remnants of food,  hair bindies and at least 87 Lego pieces then remove two couch cushions. And this really is about point one – even if you clean out, vacuum, and state no eating on the couch there will be a day within the week where it will look like you use your couch for extra storage.

6. The Slow Cooker is your best friend. But only if you google the words EASY in front of it. Don’t fall prey to slow cooker recipes that are 18 or more steps. Might as well just order take out then. #noguiltintakeout

7. The words, “watch your aim!” will be simply normal words when you have boys. And always always always check the toilet seat before sitting when you have boys in your home. And simply expect the smell of urine in the bathroom which no amount of cleaner, essential oil, scrubbing, or yelling of watch your aim can effectively eliminate.

8. The sniff check works for determining if clothes are dirty. However, don’t use the sniff test for underwear. When in doubt, wash. Always.  In fact, when cleaning a ten year old boys room simply enter with the laundry basket and proceed to wash. And, sometimes it’s okay to simply put the clothes in their drawers because they will dig through, rummage, hold up, and unfold every single item in their drawer while looking for their one favorite shirt.

9. There is never a limit to the amount of chocolate, coffee, tea, coke, or wine that one can have in their home. As we’ve discussed numerous times on Finding Joy always make sure you have a reserve stash of one (or all of the above) items.  And, if you hide chocolate, make sure you remember where it’s hidden.

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10. Your child will know if you skip any lines in the bedtime story. Therefore finding new books is advisable for the nights when you just need to rush through the reading. And no guilt for the occasional skip – let’s be real – how many times can we read those books about cartoon characters that really shouldn’t have been made into books?

11. New math will make you go insane. Even if you watch four YouTube videos saying it’s easy. Once we accept this fact it will be easy to deal with it. For those nights, find that chocolate, coffee, or wine that you should always have well stocked in your home. See point nine.

12. Homework will make you be thankful you’re an adult.

13. Serving rice for dinner will become a nemesis. Nothing sticks more than rice. Do not, under any circumstance, ever ever ever unless you want to slightly scream and utter words not appropriate for this website attempt to wipe rice up from the table, chairs, or floor until it is completely dry. Simply step away, ignore the mess, expect someone to drop by at that exact moment, and wait. This is crucial for motherhood sanity.

14. You are not defined by the vehicle you drive, the clothes you wear, or the state of your living room when unexpected company arrives.  Embrace the mini-van days. Or that there are crumbs smooshed into the seats of your vehicle. Yoga pants are a simple, and yet wonderful, gift for moms. And know that when someone comes over your living room will look like you’ve decided to never clean. Even though you had it clean this morning. It’s called life. Real life. So don’t apologize – welcome them in – and smile.

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15. Set at least three alarms for the morning. You’ll learn to sleep through constant snooze rings, etc…. And trust me, you’ll know that after alarm two goes off the third time that you’ve reached critical and that you now need to get up, slam coffee, pack lunches, get kids dressed, and out the door in 13.4 minutes. Which, you can do. Trust me. I did this morning.

16. Know the if – then statements of motherhood. Like these: If you mop the floor, then they’ll spill on the floor. If you wash the walls then they’ll touch the walls with hands covered in mud from digging in the dirt pile that you had reminded them to not dig in just five minutes ago. If you clean the carpet then they’ll spill on the carpet or track in mud from the previous mentioned dirt pile that they were told to not play in for a bit. If you need them to go to bed then they’ll stay awake for way way way too long making the morning where you waited to the last snooze seem like an impossible morning.  If you like dinner then they’ll hate dinner.  If you wear a black shirt with an infant then you’ll have spit up stains on it. And so on. The quicker these simple phrases become part of your mindset the better.

17. Write down the funny things they say. Seriously. Write them down. Or else you’ll be like yesterday he said this and oh I can’t remember it but trust me it was so so so funny. And we’ll all nod and smile and totally get it at the same time because at that very moment we’ll be trying to remember the ridiculously funny thing our three year old or six year old or teenager said just yesterday. Or an hour ago. (chalk that up to no sleep)

18. Learn to decipher between the 18 variations of the word Mom. Know what to respond to immediately, what requires two moms, when it’s about not finding the favorite shirt,  and when to simply ignore. Also, know that they will try to use more urgent variations of Mom when you’re in the shower. Be careful. Most times it’s simply because they want a fruit snack.  And finally know that Mom is really the most awesome cool empowering life changing name there can be.

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Motherhood.

A crazy journey for sure.

~Rachel

to all the mommas on saying goodbye

I stood in the hallway and watched him run into his classroom.

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His little feet, with the new gray shoes with velcro straps that still stuck tightly, that we so carefully picked out, skipped across the threshold, into the brightly colored room bursting with newness and opportunity, until he came to his desk where he plopped his “Awesome” Angry Birds backpack down. I stood there in the hallway, watching him, the boy that entered the world in a frenzy of activity, with nurses yelling and a midwife running, the boy who always tells me he loves me mega times infinity, open his desk with delight and wonder.

I saw him, the boy with the love of Angry Birds and building, who could eat apples all day long, breathe that quick inhale of excitement and expectation. Then, after smiling at his friends, he looked up, across the room of first grade crazy busy, and then the smile of love, hope, and you’re my mom look at me came across his little freckled face.

I love you.

I pointed and signed it out to him.

He smiled. One of those big smiles that moms and their kids get the joy of sharing, waved, and just stared. I waved.

And then it was my turn.

Turn around, don’t look back, and know that he’ll be great.

It was a saying goodbye moment of life.

Sometimes we know they’re coming. We know that the day will creep up faster than we thought it would and we’ll be the mother watching the little one drive away, flip the tassel, or open the locker the very first time. We can sigh, and love, and wonder where the time went. And then, then there are those tucked in last moments that we simply don’t realize they’re the last until one day we think back and remember.

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The last time carrying them up to bed. The last time holding hands in the store. The last time helping to tie the shoes. The last time that pesky 7 times 6 fact wasn’t known. The last time making their bed in your home. The last time wearing a onesie. The last time needing you to pick them up from soccer. The last times.

Motherhood, and life, is this tapestry of saying goodbye moments.

It would be easy to let the tears of nostalgia tumble from our motherhood eyes. I felt them, I could feel them welling up in my eyes as that precocious boy of mine in his blazing red Angry Birds sweatshirt waved goodbye. And I didn’t fight them. I let a tear tumble down my cheek and walked out holding my momma I love that little boy mega much head high.

That’s what we’re supposed to do.

We’re supposed to let them go. Grow.

Say goodbye.

Us mommas are all in different spots of saying goodbye. We just are. And we all know it – as I walked through the hallway back to that truck of mine that I’m working so hard to replace, I just let the tears sit on my cheek. Nods and smiles met my eyes. Because you know what? We all get it.

We get the moments of saying good bye. We get the letting go. We get the struggles even – the frustrations in the morning, the daily grind, the lack of sleep, the giving giving giving for those little ones to whom we gradually let out of our nest and onto their own.  We get it.

Even if sometimes it seems like everyone else has it all together.

But we all have moments. Moments of awesomeness and moments of despair and moments of hands in the air and moments of sweet sweet love. Moments of giving and moments of exhaustion. Moments of messy faces and what were you thinking and moments of angst. Moments of picture taking documenting just how far those babes have actually grown. Moments that layer upon each other creating memories of a lifetime of motherhood.

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So to you, all the sweet mommas in moments of saying goodbye and new transitions my words to you are simply that you are not alone.

Let the tears fall.

But know, know, know that they fall because of love.

And a mother’s love is beautiful.

It’s a beautiful thing to love a child so much that you say goodbye. It’s a beautiful thing to give of yourself. It’s a beautiful thing to fight for them. It’s a beautiful thing to do the ordinary.

And it’s most beautiful to love.

So today, today at 2:15 I will stand in the hallway and that little boy, the little boy who just grew up a bit more, will come running  to me and I will bend down to meet his eyes, which someday will probably tower above mine, and I will look at him and tell him I’m so proud of you Elijah.

Because that? That’s what we do.

We mother. 

And let them grow.

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Carry on sweet goodbye saying and very brave mother.

Carry on.

~Rachel

the day my son taught me about limits

Today I took my youngest son to Burger King. This is the boy who this morning took a nap on the bottom stair. And the picture doesn’t even relate to the post, but it’s just so darn cute and funny that I thought I would simply share.

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(And before I continue, yes, I took him to Burger King. Yes, I know it’s pretty much not real food. Yes, I try to eat and serve healthy meals 80% of the time in my home. Yes, he has Celiac Disease but I know this Burger King and they prep his food – no bun, apples, chocolate milk,  just for him. And, yes, we rarely go there, but sometimes sometimes it’s the answer and I love for him to have those moments that he rarely gets. Okay, moving on. That part is done.)

Now, here is what the story is about.

I ordered him the kid’s meal – with the toy – which I rarely do (see above for reasons why). I mean ever. Normally I’m a dollar/value meal orderer, because we don’t need anymore crappy toys and extra food or fries. But, not today. Today I was feeling like I’m just going to order him his third kid’s meal in his life with the toy and the bag and it all.

Yes, life. Because when you live with a food allergy or Celiac Disease you just don’t get that stuff very often. Then when the bag came I peeked inside and saw pink. A pink Carebear thing on a cloud with rainbow stickers coming out of the cloud.

Um, do you have a boy’s toy?

Those were my immediate words out of my mouth to the gal at the window.

Nope. That’s all we have.

I, of course, was irritated-disappointed-frustrated and more just a bit. Here I decided to bend my own rules, get him the burger with no bun and lettuce and tomato and chocolate milk and the toy was the pink girl thing that I remember from my own childhood.

Samuel. They only have this toy. It’s kind of like a cool wish toy.

Those were my words to him. Then, in the next breath, I said to him these little words.

Do you want to give it to Emma? (that’s his friend who lives behind us. She’s a girl.)

Without missing a beat Samuel, in his much more wise and brilliant almost five year old state told me words (that I wish I could remember verbatim because they were profound in their simplicity) that had me thinking for the entire six minutes home.

Why would I do that? This is the best toy ever. And the best day ever.

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Holy moly.

That was a wake up moment about limits for me.

He didn’t see the boy/girl toy difference. Not at all. He only saw it when I pointed out to him that his toy was pink. In fact he uttered words about it being pink, after I said mine,  but that it was still cool. It got me thinking about all the other things that I teach my kids without even realizing that I’m teaching it to them.

Of course there are truths that I want them to know. Yes, yes, yes…that’s a responsibility of parenting. But this simple thing like deciding that he couldn’t be happy with the toy because it was a pink bear with a rainbow on it’s belly? That was just silly of me. I want them to fight and make tough line in the sand calls over things in life that really matter.

Not over a toy that had pink on it.

So he taught me.

He taught me to not be so quick in judging. He taught me to be content with what he is given. He taught me to look at the awesome in a situation and to not think that one is being ripped off. He taught me gratitude. He taught me that somedays can simply be the best days ever. He taught me to not let boxes and norms define. He taught me the power of a smile. He taught me, well, he taught me how quickly sometimes I make assumptions about what is right.

In fact, right now, he’s wandering around carrying that silly bear with the stickers and talking about how he can’t wait to give stickers to his brothers when they get home from school.

He wasn’t looking at what he thought was right.

He was simply grateful.

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We live in a world of limiting factors – boundaries, speed bumps, regulations, rules, ideas, expectations and more. Sometimes they can leave us stuck and missing the bigger picture of life – from seeing the possibilities. Who would have known that a two minute exchange at a Burger King in Minnesota would have let me see some of mine.

I don’t want non relevant limits to define possibilities. I want to see like he sees.

So with that, to my sweet Samuel, today, today I learn from your wisdom. I learned to see the good and to not see what’s not right in the beginning. I see how quick I am to judge a situation sometimes and not look for the good. I see how the moments really matter more than having everything perfect.

For being less than a month away from being five you’re pretty smart.

And I’m simply grateful.

For you.

~Rachel (and to Samuel, that would be – mom)

 

13 Types of Motherhood Days

A collection of typical motherhood days, their frequency and what to expect.

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1. I am Mom and Hear Me Roar Days. These are the days when you are on top of your game. They’re the days when your kids do extra homework, when the CrockPot was started the night before, when people drop by and your house is spotless (extra star bonus there), when your hair is perfect without a shower, when there is no laundry to do or fold, when your bed is made, and when the weather is perfect and there is a bonus rainbow even though it didn’t rain. Frequency: Rare. This is why Kate Perry sang that song. Play it loudly on those days.

2. Keep the Keurig Running All Day Days. These are most of the days of motherhood. Whether it is coffee, Starbucks (which gets it’s own category of coffee delight), tea, chocolate, etc… these are the days when you need to rely on that extra little boost to get going. These are the days with littles hanging on or deadlines and all you can do is think thank goodness for caffeine. Or maybe that’s just me.  Frequency: Often, made worse if you run out of coffee.

3. Are you <insert any word needed> Kidding Me? Days. Monday fits in this category. Or days where your kids get in the truck and say oh yeah, I guess I did have math to do (hello, my morning) when you’re already late and the drive is only five minutes. Or the days when you open the fridge and the pickles are spilled and left there. Or your kids are fighting because the other one looked at them with their left eyebrow a bit raised which alerted them to the fact that they did indeed take the one Lego guy with the matching arms who also still had hands attached.  Frequency: Once a week

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4. This Should Be Part of Hallmark Days. These days can be either good, bad, or full of drama that resolves brilliantly within four minutes. You’ll know it is a Hallmark Day if you start to hear soundtracks in your head or any of Jason Mraz’s music. Hallmark Days often make good Facebook status updates due to the words like you’ll never believe my day or I thought I was going to lose it today and then all of a sudden I opened the door and there were flowers delivered and my kids made me hand drawn notes and so on. Frequency: A couple times a year but never ever ever after watching anything on the Hallmark Channel. 

5. Throw Out All the Parenting Book Days. These days happen here: Anytime you bring home a newborn. Anytime you deal with a three year old who won’t stay in their bed. Anytime you have a tween. Anytime that you realize that whoa whoa whoa this parenting book was written by another parent and that’s their perspective and they’ve never dealt with a child like mine. Anytime you start to realize that the parenting books are great dust collectors or make good booster seats in case of need. Frequency: A couple times a month. Or anytime the kids are in odd years.

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6. Dear Pinterest I <again insert any word needed> Days.  Feel free to add your own adjective – there are no limits here and no judging. Sometimes Pinterest can be the life saver for us moms – I mean, come on, if one needs to know how to make paper straws or how to paint your kid’s wall in seven fairly easy steps – it’s the go-to source of awesome. Sometimes Pinterest can be the curse to moms – I mean come on who actually can make cake pops that work (and if you do let me know because I need your help) or do cute lunchbox additions and fun shaped sandwiches everyday? Pinterest is there to make us feel awesome or like we can’t do anything. So choose when you go on wisely. Frequency: Whenever you type Pinterest in your browser or open that app. Be careful. You’ve been warned. 

7. It feels Like Monday Every Day Days. Again, a fairly normal day. Typically felt on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Monday really does get a bad rap. This is also felt any month of the year when school is in session. The strategy for this day? Accept it. Move on. And go back to that Keurig brewing liquid gold or to post pictures and threads about the craziness of Monday. Note: Rolling over and accidentally turning off the alarm when you think you’re hitting snooze is never advised. Frequency: Four times a week

8. My To-Do List is Larger than Google Days. No explanation needed. Be prepared to battle.  Frequency: 363 Days a year

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9.  How Come She Has it All Together Days? Ah, yes, the comparing days of motherhood. They’re the days when you run to the grocery store real quick thinking no one will run into you and that’s the day the neighborhood group decided to hold the meet up that you weren’t invited to. Or the days when you peruse Facebook and everyone else appears to be on number Day Number Four — Hallmark Days. Perspective, friends, perspective. Remember. We all have coffee, Pinterest Fails, and many many many it feels like Monday Days. Frequency: Anytime we compare or decide to ever run anywhere real quick hoping to run in and out without being seen.

10. Thank Goodness for Netflix Days. Anytime there is sickness, especially sickness involving puke buckets, in your home. Or the days when the toddler cannot sit still and you’re attempting to accomplish just one thing. Or days of excessive rain or freezing temperatures. I think Netflix was secretly created by mothers for mothers. It’s like the gem in the field of things to do. And there is no guilt over Netflix, mothers, none. I release you of that today.  Frequency: Once a week or on those moments when there was no sleep and you’re craving a 6.5 minute nap.

11. The Day You Got 18 Minutes to Yourself Days. According to this article in the Daily Mail moms average about 17 minutes of alone time a day. So, I’ve decided that anytime we get 18 minutes or above it’s a great day. Can you imagine? 18 minutes? I don’t even know what I could do in that time. Read a book? Get an extra scoop of Ben and Jerry’s? Call a friend? Sleep? Wait. I’d sleep. Frequency: Rare. Unless you count taking a long shower and saying “I can’t hear” you as part of the minutes. Or like this picture of me taken at the train station while I waited for 15 minutes. 

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12. The I Love Being a Mom Days.  Don’t overlook them. And don’t expect them every single day. Just like don’t ever fall for the savor every moment in life type of thought stuff (because, truthfully that’s just impossible and will make you slowly go crazy as you try to figure out how to love the moments of potty training, tantrum throwing in the store,  sassing back, and never ever ending laundry). But, but, but… these are the days where it feels like the stars aligned and the gift of motherhood hits you and you get teary. Savor them. Frequency: Varied. But expect it late at night when you go to check on the totally crazy preschooler who is now sleeping like an angel. 

13. When “This is Impossible” Becomes Totally Possible. Listen. Motherhood isn’t for the weak. I know, I know, we didn’t know what we were getting into when we signed up for it (and we’ve already established the truth about those parenting books). But most days when we fight, give, love, clean up, work, and do it again and again we’re making what felt impossible be possible. These are the awesome brave crazy love them forever with all of me and powerful days of motherhood. Let’s just call it the most extraordinary in the ordinary. Get your superhero cape. Frequency: Pretty much every single day. We just forget how <insert powerful adjective> awesome motherhood is – but no more – rock on super mom.

Those are my Thirteen Types of Motherhood Days derived from my experience dealing with can’t you be a little bit quieter, doors slammed, car driving, spaghetti noodles stirring, lawn mowing, button up buttoner, sock sorting, kissing them on the top of the head days of motherhood.

Feel free to add your own as I’m sure I forgot at least a dozen.

Oh yeah, that’s a day too. Forgetting things.

Perfectly normal friends, perfectly normal.

~Rachel

Want to talk about your “typical” day? Join the awesome community of moms on Facebook.

dear mom who feels like she is failing her kids

Tonight I cried.

Big fat heavy ugly tears.

I felt like I was failing my kids – those kids I love with all of me.

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I always wanted to be the mom that did all sorts of stuff with them. I wanted to take them to DisneyWorld. I wanted to take them to get new clothes before school. I wanted to go places on Saturday. I never wanted to ration food to them. I never wanted to have to work so hard to provide. I never wanted to have to choose between working and time but knowing that if I didn’t work we wouldn’t do what we needed.

So I sat on the rocking chair, with the marker stained cushion, in my living room and cried.

An ugly ugly cry.

I was stuck in this world of comparing.

I was looking at my life and seeing everything I really didn’t like. I was looking at everything I thought I was missing out doing. I was looking at my kids lives and thinking that because I couldn’t do all the things that I thought would make a great childhood that they would end up feeling ripped off. I looked at me and got simply super super super mad at myself for not doing more, being more, and so on.

Why can’t you be better? Why don’t you play with them? Why did you have to take that nap?

Thought after thought after thought.

I’m stubborn, my friends. Super stubborn.

And a terrible perfectionist.

I wanted to stay in my own world of pity and not look at the good. I wanted to sit in my own woe is me. Well, truth? Life is hard at times.  It just is. Yes, yes, yes, I know there is much good and that I forgot perspective. There is much awesome and many many opportunities. But there are also somedays of me just giving, giving, giving, giving, giving, and giving and feeling like instead of treading water I’m racing backwards and tumbling head over heels forgotten.

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Truth?

Deep down I have a fear of letting people down. Letting my kids down. Letting my friends down. Letting my family down. Just not measuring up. And the funny thing is that I have had so many people let me down in my life – over and over and over again. And yet, yet my deep fear is of letting others down and being forgotten. So I overcompensate. I think I just need to do more, be more, and not ever really express how I feel.

I think deep down I fear being alone too.

So I write about it.

Often.  (Why Being a Mom is Enough, Dear Mom Who Feels Like She is Failing, and so on…)

Yet, somewhere, somewhere in the midst of it all I feel like I’ve picked up this false chart of motherhood awesomeness. And in it are these parameters of success – do this, look like this, teach this, own this, drive this, bake this, create this, wear this, believe this, love this, this and this and this. And then, I will look at life and see how many places where I just don’t fit this false mold of motherhood.

But, friends, do we need to fit?

What happened to being awesome even when life sucks? What happened to celebrating each others’ successes and being there when we trip and fall? What happened to the barn raising days of motherhood where we just linked arms and loved each other for who they are? What happened to celebrating the trying? What happened to loving those even when we don’t understand even why they’re upset? What happened?

Motherhood can NEVER be defined by all of the external things that one could hypothetically be doing, giving, being, creating,  or going.

It just cannot. It cannot be defined by Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook status updates. It cannot be defined by books on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. It cannot be defined by what the other moms in our sphere of influence are doing.

Motherhood is a story unique to each family.

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And it’s defined by only one person.

You.

Not what anyone else says you should, could, should have, could have, or must be doing. Not by what your mother or grandmother or friends are doing. It’s defined by you doing your absolutely very best in the moment and giving yourself grace for those inevitable stumble and trip but always get up moments. Because, trust me, you’ll need a whole bunch of grace for yourself to get through motherhood. It’s defined by you loving your kids. It’s defined by not the stuff, but the heart.

You see, I forgot that tonight when I sat in the living room and sobbed worrying that I was failing my kids.

I plain and simple forgot.

I forgot the times where I sat at the table and worked on spelling words with my first grader who barely can write but yet was working so hard. I forgot about the $1.29 window clings that I fight into my $40 grocery budget. I forgot about the mornings making sandwiches, cutting apples, and writing little I am proud of you notes for my kids’ lunch boxes. I forgot about the messages I send my teenage daughters. I forgot about the times sitting on my Samuel’s bed reading books. I forgot about setting up the tents in the backyard and making our own get-away because I couldn’t drive the breaking truck of mine. I forgot about how hard I work and how little sleep I get because I want to provide. I forgot how deeply I love my kids and would do whatever I needed for them.

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I only saw the holes.

I missed the entire fabric.

And the hidden beauty of my imperfect life.

Maybe life has those holes in it. We all have them. We all have places where we wish that hole wouldn’t be there. We all have places where we wish we could do it different. But even with all of that we all have love. But maybe, just maybe those holes in the fabric of life make the rest of life so much more beautiful. We see the connections, the threads, and the bonds that make the rest of the space extraordinary.

A mother’s love.

And that can never ever be qualified, quantified, measured, ranked, or compared.

Do you realize that?

You, right now? Do you realize that even in those moments that you feel like you’re failing your kids that chances are that you are not? Do you realize that in the scheme of life that the thing they need most is you loving them? Looking them in the eyes and telling them I’ll be there for you? That is what matters.

Not stuff. Places to go. Things to do. And all the times where you trip. Because we all do.

So I love my kids.

And they love me. Their imperfect forgetting perspective worrying that she was failing them mom.

Love your kids, sweet mom.

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That’s what matters most.

From me, journeying through this crazy world of motherhood to all of you.

Carry on.

~Rachel