Stealing Faith

humor for relationships, family & life

8 Reasons I Pray for My Children


A few weeks ago a friend gave me this nifty page with suggestions of how to pray for my children daily.

 

Oh heavens, do I need to pray for them on a daily basis. Mostly that I won’t string them up by their toenails.

 

While I actually love the page itself and would highly recommend it to anyone so inclined, I thought it would be fun to take a few of the virtues and mention, with trademark sarcasm, why it’s important I pray for this quality in the hoodlums.

 

1. Self-control. Remember the time Dos slid her fingers through the arm hair of a practical stranger? Yes? Well, if anyone needs self-control it’s this girl. I was foolish enough to venture into the mall with my brood today in search of a gray shirt. I turned my back, next thing I know, Dos is in the store front window, running her hands up and down the mannequin’s legs. Self-control? Needed.

 

2. Justice. There is nothing so well-developed as a sense of justice in a six-year-old. Uno collapsed into tears a few days ago because Dos got a larger piece of gum. It was a Chiclet – I’m confident it’s impossible for those to be irregularly sized because they’re all coming out of a factory that uses scraps of gingham to size their product. My opinion doesn’t matter, however. Justice must be maintained.

 

3. Mercy. Just this evening Tres took her father’s slipper from his foot and slammed it down on Uno’s head. Why, we don’t know. But until Uno learns to holler, “Uncle!” I’m guessing I’ll be praying for mercy for the two-year-old.

 

4. Courage. My children watched me butcher a chicken. They touch friendly snakes without fear. All have been known to practice their gymnastics on the steel handrail affixed three feet above our cement sidewalk. I pray their courage is tempered so they don’t end up dead one day from foolhardiness!

 

5. Purity. Some families might see the word “purity” and equate it with chastity and such. Not us. I’m considering purity from the germ standpoint. On any given day our children run around barefoot, feet sporting the dirt-encrusted line of a flip flop sandal. Dear Lord, please keep them from foot and mouth disease, stepping on earthworms, and stealthily-hidden shards of glass.

 

6. Humility. I suppose I should be grateful my children are secure in their affections, but it’s disconcerting to have the following conversation with your kid: “Sweetie, you know I love you, right? No matter what.” “Yeah. I know.” It’s never crossed their minds they might need to practice a smidgen of humility.

 

7. Perseverance. Nothing says you’ve got a child with stick-to-it-ness than a horse-obsessed six-year-old with a piece of rope. That child can turn anything into a horsey item. The walker doubles as a horse and a horse-mounting step stool. Every spare bit of time becomes the stage for a quick horse race. The kid is horse crazy and willing to do anything to work horses into everyday life.

 

8. Peace-Loving. Dos can screech like a hoot owl. How would I know this? She was NOT demonstrating her peace-loving nature. Instead she was sitting in the Barbie Jeep with her sister, screaming, because Tres wouldn’t remove her foot from the pedal. Did I mention the Jeep was moving with nary a hand on the steering wheel? Peace. It’s another quality we find lacking on a daily basis.

 

There are certainly other qualities we need in our house, these are a few that stand out.

 

As you check out this graphic, what qualities do you think your children need the most?

 

This post was originally published September 26, 2012 and is being recycled as part of the “I’ve Been Around” summer! Hope you enjoyed it and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

Going Natural


There’s a little bit of a punk in me.  Maybe it’s in you as well?

 

Because I’m a stinker, sometimes I do things just to get a rise.  I guess it’s my way of checking my mental pulse.

 

One of the ways I do this is to follow blogs and news from sources holding different values than I hold.  I’m a firm believer that untested philosophies are worthless, so if I can be challenged to defend my point of view I’m likely going to be more intelligent about my opinion and more likely to convince others I’m right!

 

(Let’s be honest, it’s all about being right, right??)

 

I recently read an article about how underutilized the IUD is as a form of birth control.  If you’d like to read the entire story, here’s the link.

 

Here’s this nasty, hard-looking device being promoted as awesome.  Forgive me, I like to avoid a plastic anchor being placed into my body just so I won’t possibly be burdened with a child!

 

What really made my blood boil was the innocently offered statement:

 

“Today’s options are t-shaped and work by damaging and killing sperm, as well as changing the uterine lining to make it an especially inhospitable environment for little embryos (should the sperm survive).”

 

I can’t help but become outraged because that’s not just an inhospitable environment for the sperm to survive… that’s a fully viable child that’s being destroyed because the fertilized egg can’t implant!

 

When I think about the absolute magic that comes with childbearing and the odds against a child being conceived and carried to term it makes me incredibly sad that so many people make the choice to halt the life of a child based on thoughtlessness and convenience.

 

(In case you haven’t figured out, I believe life starts at conception, the moment that little sperm hits that little egg and fireworks erupt.)

 

Going cold turkey with birth control isn’t a viable option for most people, I realize.  After all, I am pro-child but fully terrified of ending up living in an asylum for small children à la Dugger-style.

 

I didn’t want to be on the birth control pill anymore but I didn’t want to practice free lovin’ either.  I didn’t like the hormones of the Pill and I didn’t like learning that during each year I had been on the Pill I had likely conceived three times but my body had created an “especially inhospitable environment” and flushed that baby out.

 

While there were definitely other options available I wanted something that was easy, logical and effective.  (And not so messy, either.  Because I’m a sissy and don’t like messes.)

 

At the time I was exploring options for birth control a friend passed on a very valuable resource, here it is.

 

My friend told me about the book Love and Fertility published by the Family of the Americas Foundation.  The explanation of this method is logical, easy to understand, and it also helped me understand my own body.

 

For us, it has been 100% effective.

 

So I’d like to share it with you.  I hope this makes you at least think of birth control options – and perhaps take a chance on going natural!

 

(I recommend buying the book from the Family of the Americas Foundation.  I included the link to the book on Amazon.com just because I thought you might enjoy reading the comments.)

 

This post was originally published May 23, 2011 and is being recycled as part of the “I’ve Been Around” summer! Hope you enjoyed it and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Your BIG Story


babycenter.com

Do you watch the Olympics and wonder where you fall on the spectrum of exceptionalism?

 

I do.

 

Not that there’s a lot of attraction for me in prancing around in a bedazzled gymnastics leotard or running, running, running in circles around an arena for 30+ minutes (athletics not being my strong calling in life), but there is an utter fascination I have for watching a fellow human being excel to the level of an Olympian.

 

In my own arena I am competitive, I want to be noticed, to have a story my children tell their children, to leave a legacy that will be noted as unusual and inherently useful.

 

I don’t think I’m unusual in that desire.

 

I also don’t think I always set myself up for success. Sometimes the lure of the sofa, of that extra episode of The Bachelor or Wipeout, or that difficult conversation that has to take place before the next step of progress… well, those obstacles crop up and it’s easier to embrace mediocrity, go with the flow, or relax a little.

 

Too much of that and you realize you never swam out to meet your ship coming in.

 

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” Randy Pausch, Last Lecture. (Here’s the You Tube link for this quote, the video is 76 minutes long. I listened to the audiobook with Lizard on a cross-country journey. Both of us were changed. Really.)

 

There are times I wake up to four little faces and feel completely overwhelmed by this life I’m living. I always knew I wanted to be a mother and have a larger family, but I also had a strong desire to be the president of a university, a published and successful author, and a secular, feminine success story.

 

These children’s faces, they crowd out my other dreams and make me wonder at what point I’ll come to my senses, realize four children is an insanely, irresponsibly large number of children for any family? (Much less a family whose birther is a woman who doesn’t rank highly on the maternal aptitude test?!)

 

I’m not up to this challenge. It’s messy. It’s exhausting. It’s rewarding, but it’s not always pretty. Yet it’s also more important, long-term, than anything else I can conceive, any figurative gold medal that can be hung from my neck.

 

We all love our stories of ridiculous success, the Michael Phelps, the Secretariat. We love tales of greatness that make our throats close and eyes mist with inspiration while stirring music plays in the background.

 

But in searching for our own BIG story, we tend to forget the greatness in our everyday, in the willingness to make irrational sacrifices of consistency are what make up success. We ignore or forget the truth that every success story looks hard, ugly and — in some lights — broken before they become worthy of soul-stirring musical accompaniment.

 

Yet success stories don’t ever look like quitters. Because the little, everyday, consistent choices create a story titled  ”Exception.”

 

No television cameras were there for Michael Phelps’ early morning practices day in and day out. No one was applauding his mom while she figured out how to feed that kid massively high calorie meals on the vague guess that the potential and passion she saw in her son would come to fruition and be rewarded with golden medallions on a world-wide stage.

 

I’ve been reading posts of parents sending their kids to school this morning. I suppose it’s the first day of a month of various first days of school.

 

What are these kids being taught about success? That it’s only for the fortunate few, those gifted with athletic ability, uncommon intelligence or unusual moxie?

 

Or are they being taught that success in any arena is the result of courage and repetitive hard-fought, smelly, sticky, sweaty, unreasonable effort?

 

They’re being taught what you believe to be true because they’re watching you find your BIG story.

 

So. What are you going to do with that?

 

This post was originally published August 6, 2012 and is being recycled as part of the “I’ve Been Around” summer! Hope you enjoyed it and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

Getting Real


Victor Bezrukov / compfight.com

Something very bad has happened to my email inbox. It is full of stuff. Lots of stuff.

 

This morning I looked down and saw there were well over 300 emails in my inbox. Now that seems like a lot of emails to any rational human being who isn’t dealing with a major job or extraordinary crisis. It was time for a spring cleaning.

 

I started at the top and worked my way down. In the process I came across an update I sent to friends and extended family after Tres turned one. And I ended up crying.

 

Generally I try to keep things lighthearted around here, that’s what Stealing Faith is all about… but I think all of us know that sometimes life isn’t as lighthearted as we might prefer. And today, well, it just seemed like the right time to share a bit of personal experience with you.

 

I should warn you it’s a bit raw. And it’s really scary for me to put it out there. But I’m going to throw this into the winds of the internet because maybe, just maybe, there’s one person out there who needs to know right now… this minute… you’re not alone. Here goes:

 

“I know you’re not supposed to have favorites, but, Tres’ first year has been my favorite “first year” of all our kids!

With Uno I was way too ridiculous about what a mom should do.  Dos was way too colicky and we had just moved to a new place and I was too lonely to spend a lot of time in enjoyment!  But Tres? She’s been a bright ray of sunshine.  She laughs, she interacts, she has a sense of humor.  We get a lot out of her for an infant!

(In a weird sort of way it makes me want to have about 16 more kids because with her I feel like I’ve finally “come into my own” as a mother!)

What all but about 10 people DON’T know is this precious little body of sunshine that is Tres was also the instigator for some challenging experiences for me, personally.

Here’s what I wrote in September, when Tres was 5 months old:

“Today, in the whole day, I had two times of maybe a minute each where I thought, “oh, here I am!  I forgot what this looked like!”

They were moments free of feeling overwhelmed, stressed, exhausted, angry, frustrated, hopeless, insane.   Moments where my head wasn’t spinning in circles and my over-riding conscious thought wasn’t, “Normal… What is real here? React to what is real, not what you feel…”

Yesterday I went to my OB/Gyn and found out that I have a very easily diagnosed case of postpartum depression.  He reassured me that I’m not going crazy, I’m not weak, this is real and that no matter how much I try to control it I can’t.

“It would be of tremendous benefit to you and your family if you were to take medication for 3-6 months to help your neurotransmitters stabilize,” he recommended.

I think that’s what he said. What I actually processed was: 

“Blah, blah, blah, FAILURE, blah, blah, FREAK, blah, blah, blah, ADDICT-TO-BE, blah, blah EMBARRASSMENT.

So, I agreed to take a drug. I’m scared to death of it and incredibly ashamed, but this morning I took the pill.

And this evening… For two moments… I felt a release of the pressure.  I was getting milk for Uno and Dos talked to me and I didn’t have a heart palpitation from trying to concentrate on more than one thing and their little girl voices didn’t rub me raw and make my brain twitch.

I didn’t know it had been that bad until I had a moment that suddenly felt ok.

If I can take my melodramatic perceptions and lay them out, I feel like I’ve been standing next to the Grand Canyon. I’m right on the edge, where every once in awhile my foot slips and sends rocks hurtling down. I’m scared of that canyon because I know if I go down there I’ll just be… Gone.

As much as it terrifies me, there’s also a little part of me that wants to fling myself over and GO. 

Just fall, fall, fall and never, ever resurface. 

That part of me has a constant voice in my head chanting: “Sucks as a mom, sucks as a wife, sucks as a professional, sucks as a daughter, sucks as a sister, will never live up, will never get it right, never, never, never, useless, useless, useless.” 

I suspect maybe everyone is standing next to the Grand Canyon in their insides. But maybe most people are farther from the edge and have a safety fence that makes it so they don’t even realize that there’s a gaping hole available for them to drop into. 

I don’t know. Maybe.

My feelings and knowledge of reality are almost always separate right now. Instead of a good angel and bad devil on my shoulders I have the Id, Ego, Superego, whatever, running commentary on what I’m SUPPOSED to be doing and thinking right now in order to function appropriately for my life.

That voice fights constantly for attention with the other one inside. When other people talk to me it’s sometimes hard to listen or even hear what they’re saying.

I haven’t been able to control it. I haven’t been able to remember what anyone tells me. I haven’t been able to enjoy my children or my family. I haven’t been able to let go of an irrational fear that we’re not going to have food to feed our family, or that I’m actually insane.

So that’s the long and short of it. The thick and skinny.

I’m terrified. I’m ashamed. I’m humiliated and I am internally convinced I’m a failure.

I’m hoping there’s hope, though. Because for two moments today the noise inside of me stopped.

And that’s enough to give me hope for tomorrow.”

Just reading this makes me cringe inside.  It’s absolutely terrifying to even put this piece of writing out into the real world.

So, why would I bring you in when I’ve been quiet about it for so many months?

Well, for a couple of reasons:

1.  It’s Tres’ birthday.  Her birth sent my hormones into the crazy tango and yet, she was the only think that I would smile about during the dark months.  Even knowing how the hormones affected me, I would have her again.  She’s been that incredibly awesome.

2.  I still find the concept of postpartum depression shameful.  And yet, I experienced it, I was treated for it, it is real.  Maybe if I speak up someone else won’t feel as ashamed as I did because they know it’s not the end.

3.  I took the medication and it was worth it.  Against my own personal belief that you shouldn’t take medication unless absolutely necessary, I followed my doctor’s recommendation and took it.  Those two moments I wrote about above turned into a life this past fall where I rediscovered how to laugh!  I was so scared I would lose that when I stopped taking the medication… And I didn’t!  Now that I’m drug-free (yay!) I can say with assurance I haven’t forgotten how to laugh, I enjoy my children more, I’m a healthy participant in my marriage, and I’m excited about living each day!  That’s all good stuff.”

 

Maybe one of the worst things about going through a hard time is you lose the ability to think that things can’t actually get that bad.

 

For example, early in our marriage someone close to us committed suicide. It’s a long story but the upshot is that act and event changed us. It changed our marriage, our parenting, our view of life. We suddenly realized how bad things could feel. And how precious life is that how deep the web of relationships go.

 

Once the damage was done, we realized a few things: One, life can be grim. Painfully grim. Two, you can make it through. One step at a time, one day at a time, and sometimes it’s about accepting help as it comes.

 

And then there’s the day you find yourself laughing and realize it’s been a long, long time since your belly hurt because of joy. And you feel alive.

 

Today my overwhelming thought is to encourage people don’t give up. Even when it looks dark and overwhelming, find the little spark that makes you step away from the ledge.

 

I’d love to hear your responses to this post… and actually, I’d also love to see some things that help us smile. So… please! Post your favorite corny jokes in the comments. Or good jokes. Totally up to you. I’ll award a gold star to the comment that makes me laugh out loud! Ha!

 

This post was originally published February 6, 2012 and is being recycled as part of the “I’ve Been Around” summer! Hope you enjoyed it and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

Get Out of My Way (and no one gets hurt)


Speedy2 / Stock.xchng

There will come a day when my children will walk by a coffee shop and say, “That’s the scent of my childhood. My mom always smelled of coffee.”

 

I say that today about Downy fabric softener – but my kids will likely say that about coffee, as I drink that caffeinated beverage far more frequently than I complete laundry using Downy.

 

If they ever confront me about my addictions to Coca-Cola and coffee I will put down what I’m doing and give them my full attention. Then I will very carefully explain:

 

“We had four children in six years. Not a one of those children slept more than six hours at a time until well past 10 months old. Don’t judge; you owe caffeine a debt of gratitude as it saved your life more than once.”

 

My children, at their tender ages, do not realize the importance of coffee and soda in my daily routine. They act like getting a cup of coffee upon awakening is a privilege instead of a medical necessity!

 

Each morning I stumble from bed, hair sticking up like a peacock’s crest, eyes unfocused and crusty. Instead of clearing the path to the coffee machine before, the children create a footpath obstacle course of small acrylic horses, lip gloss applicators, and colored pencils while I have to battle my way through a spiderweb of words and requests for milk, breakfast, clothing, and justice.

 

They’ve even flopped themselves onto the floor in front of me in a desperate attempt to divert my single-minded java pot target.

 

No pain, no gain, they say.

 

And I say, “Challenge? Accepted.”

 

Then I stumble over them, enter the kitchen, and wrap my hands around a coffee mug while angels sing the Hallelujah Chorus.

 

Two moments later I am a functional human being. Thank you, coffee.

 

Do you have a special relationship with coffee? Are you children to blame?

 

This post was originally published November 8, 2012 and is being recycled as part of the “I’ve Been Around” summer! Hope you enjoyed it and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

Octopus Testicles


Colossal Octopus by Pierre Denys de Montfort

Colossal Octopus by Pierre Denys de Montfort

I talked myself out of quitting homeschooling again today.

 

I quit homeschooling about twice a week. This is because my children do not sit obediently at little desks and look up at me with cherubic faces, begging to learn. Instead they do their work sprawled out on the sofa while bugging each other and there’s usually a younger sibling asking me for a snack, a drink, a potty time, etc. while I’m trying to explain the place value of numbers. It’s hectic!

 

When things get rough I go back to my original post about why we homeschool. Nothing has changed, but I wish this choice were easier! Since I have no compelling reason to challenge our original ideals, I love the curriculum we use with Classical Conversations, and I usually think my kids hung the moon after I’ve had a good night’s sleep, twice a week I tear up my resignation, put my big girl panties on, and stick around.

 

This week I’ve been analyzing the choice once again.

 

As you know, recently a car accident killed an acquaintance of ours and her children. Last month another family in our social circle lost their eight-year-old daughter in a boating accident.

 

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about mortality, walking through the emotion of grief with these situations… and homeschooling came into play in my internal dialogue.

 

I’ve never been a “fire and brimstone” type of person – I don’t talk about life change based on the fear factor because I don’t believe we’re called to walk in fear and I also find fear to be a dirty motivator that doesn’t spawn lasting change.

 

But if, by a horrible circumstance, my children were killed in some way, I would be resentful of every moment I missed. I would hate that I didn’t see them read their first words, that I wasted the opportunity to know them in a moment-by-moment way.

 

Just this morning I was talking to Dos about Kraken, the mythological giant octopus that sailors of old used as spooky stories. We talked about fiction and myths and about the octopus of today. She thought about it and said:

“Mommy! An Octopus can be as big as the ceiling? Bigger than me?!”

“Yep, very big!” I assured her. It was a proud educational moment.

She got a look of shock on her face and said, “Oh! So I could get died from its mighty testicles?!”

“That’s tentacles, my dear,” I said. Proud moment… destroyed.

 

I will laugh about octopus testicles for the rest of my life! But if I had been rushing her out the door this morning with her lunch box and school bag… I would have missed it.

 

I believe our kids are a gift from God that are our responsibility to steward. It’s my job as a mom to satisfy their physical needs of food, housing, clothing, cleanliness. But it’s my privilege as a parent to meet their intellectual and emotional needs so that when the time comes they can be released into this world capable of functioning in a mature, well-versed and useful manner.

 

There is very little about the role of a mother that is easy. I would many times prefer to be back in my professional life because the lines aren’t so blurry and I’d work with people who already have a skill set as a functioning adult. (And don’t cry when I tell them no or ask me to wipe their behinds.)

 

But I don’t want to miss this. I don’t want to miss the octopus testicles. I want to be present at more than breakfast and bedtime, to live the process instead of witness only the end of the year performance.

 

My definition of motherhood may not work for anyone else – and that’s fine because it really only needs to fit me. But, for me, some things are more important than my preference or convenience. I choose attentiveness to those things for as long as this season lasts.

 

This post was originally published May 17, 2013 and is being recycled as part of the “I’ve Been Around” summer! Hope you enjoyed it and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

 

The Tired Mother’s Creed


robday / stock.xchng

robday / stock.xchng

“I shall embrace the fact that in becoming a mom I traded perfect for a house full of real.”

 

I came across this credo about a year ago… then today as I am frantically going through my email to make sure I don’t miss anything before we leave for a Rabbit Road Trip  it popped up again. And it hit me at just the right spot so I wanted to share it with you!

 

Thank you to The Gypsy Mama, Lisa Jo Baker!

 

Repeat after me:

  1. I shall not judge my house, my kid’s summer activities or my crafting skills by Pinterest’s standards.
  2. I shall not measure what I’ve accomplished today by the loads of unfolded laundry but by the assurance of deep love I’ve tickled into my kids
  3. I shall say “yes” to blanket forts and see past the chaos to the memories we’re building.
  4. I shall surprise my kids with trips to get ice cream when they’re already in their pajamas.
  5. I shall not compare myself to other mothers, but find my identity in the God who trusted me with these kids in the first place.
  6. I shall remember that a messy house at peace is better than an immaculate house tied up in knots.
  7. I shall play music loudly and teach my kids the joy of wildly uncoordinated dance.
  8. I shall remind myself that perfect is simply a street sign at the intersection of impossible and frustration in Never Never land.
  9. I shall embrace the fact that in becoming a mom I traded perfect for a house full of real.
  10. I shall promise to love this body that bore these three children – out loud, especially in front of my daughter.
  11. I shall give my other mother friends the gift of guilt-free friendship.
  12. I shall do my best to admit to my people my “unfine” moments.
  13. I shall say “sorry” when sorry is necessary.
  14. I pray God I shall never be too proud, angry or stubborn to ask for my children’s forgiveness.
  15. I shall make space in my grown up world for goofball moments with my kids.
  16. I shall love their father and make sure they know I love him.
  17. I shall model kind words – to kids and grown-ups alike.
  18. I shall not be intimidated by the inside of my minivan – this season of chip bags, goldfish crackers and discarded socks too shall pass.
  19. I shall always make time to encourage new moms.
  20. I shall not resent that last call for kisses and cups of water but remember instead that when I blink they’ll all be in college.

~ with love from one tired mother to another.

 

This was originally printed on June 20, 2012 at LisaJoBaker.com

 

This post was originally published May 2, 2013 and is being recycled as part of the “I’ve Been Around” summer! Hope you enjoyed it and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Would You Rather…? 50+ Questions to Engage Your Kids


Mexican Jumping Beans

Mexican Jumping Beans

Last night we went to dinner to celebrate Father’s Day. In a restaurant. Yes, folks, we actually went into public with all of our children.

 

Since dinnertime at home typically resembles a case of Mexican Jumping Beans, I knew the smart move would be to prepare for the event. It took awhile, but I finally figured out what to do beside the traditional coloring pages:   Would you rather.

 

Yes, the game that, as college students, involved asking inappropriate, sometimes risqué questions where there’s really no good option but a choice must be made.

 

I tamed it down a bit for the youngsters and broke the questions out right after we ordered. It captured the attention of the 5-year-old and 7-year-old for the rest of the night, with the 3-year-old chiming in when she felt particularly inspired.

 

I’ve created a .pdf with more than 50 Would You Rather…? questions and you can get it right here: Would You Rather…? 50+ Questions to Engage Your Kids.   To whet your interest, Would You Rather…

  • Be forced to hop everywhere like a bunny or crawl like a slug?
  • Play Hungry, Hungry Hippos or tag as the only game for the rest of your life?
  • Put your hands in vomit or poop?
  • Be blind or deaf?
  • Be a giant hamster or tiny rhino?

 

Grab the whole list by clicking here and hitting print!

 

This post was originally published June 17, 2013 and is being recycled as part of the “I’ve Been Around” summer! Hope you enjoyed it and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Dirt Don’t Hurt


I’m with them.

 

My dear children, I’ve been thinking about dirt.

 

Before our move last year, you didn’t get dirty often. We lived in a world of pavement, walking from roads to sidewalks to concrete slabs. Our dirt was buried under beautiful, lush, green grass or sweetly covered with wood chips.

 

It never snuck its way between our toes or underneath the nails, creating brown crescents of grime.

 

Nowadays, we are surrounded by dirt. We live on the ashes of ancient volcanos and have cinder dust flying through the air almost constantly. Our home is surrounded by dirt on every side, nary a poured concrete walkway nor carefully-placed set of pavers to be found.

 

You like to go barefoot. Each night I look at your feet and shudder. They are grungy and show flip-flop lines of encrusted muck. It’s gross. Truly. I send you into the bathtub and holler at you to scrub behind your ears and between your toes. {Dirt!}

 

You come out clean most of the time. But sometimes you just outlast the cotton candy-scented bath bubbles, play pretend games, and spill a layer of water across the bathroom floor.

 

I hate the dirt. It has been the symbol of my defeat against the war of cleanliness, housekeeping, and orderliness.

 

Dirt. {I raise my hands to the air and shake my fists!} Dirt!

 

But this year we took family pictures of you in our dirt-filled back yard, sporting overalls and darkened toes, shiny smiles and a smudgy nose.

 

What does that dirt mean?

 

In a bigger picture, a mountaintop view where dirt isn’t simply the breakdown of solid matter but representative of a life lesson, I realize I’m glad you’re learning to play in the messy.

 

I want you to understand that life isn’t always clean and orderly, coated with cultivated landscaping. A real life, a life that is lived to the fullest – it has the high highs and the low lows.

 

Real life has its moments of awesome, breathtaking beauty… followed all too soon by bone-crushing weariness and soul-searching confusion. {Dirt!}

 

If you can learn to play, laugh, and grow in the midst of the messiness you will find yourself in a grand adventure, one that will delight and consume you, one that will draw people to you like a moth to flame.

 

Those dirt-encrusted feet? They drive your mother insane and leave naughty footprints against the white porcelain of the bath tub but they are the marks of a fully-experienced day. They remind me to encourage you to be authentic.

 

There are no starkly perfect people in this world. Every person has issues. Some issues are visible like the grubbiness on your bare feet, other issues get covered in a pair of pantyhose and three-inch high heels, hoping that others will fall for the illusion of perfection, desperately hoping no one will look closely enough to see flaws. {Dirt!}

 

My dear children, please don’t ever live a life of fear, hiding the tricky parts of your personality in a frantic hope no one will look hard enough at you to see the imperfection! I pray you are surrounded by people who will love you despite — and maybe even because! — of your smudges.

 

Your imperfections make you valuable, real, authentic. They cause your mother to shake her head and say, with a fond, bewildered smile, “He certainly broke the mold when He made you!” But please hear, despite my constant nagging, I am proud of you. I wouldn’t trade you, with all your head-strong, heart-hurting sassiness! I love you because you are a challenge. I love you because you’re not perfect. {Dirt!}

 

Help me remember that, my dear ones, on the days when I get consumed by how many times the floor must be swept, or that the new throw rugs are turning gray, that the dirt wouldn’t be tracked into the house if we weren’t venturing out into the great unknown to experience life.

 

Remind me of the value of dirt, that it is good and significant, on the days I sigh loudly because the Hello, Kitty! bath bubbles have disappeared and left a brown ring on that white tub.

 

Remind me that dirty feet are equal to strong immunity… that a day spent outdoors in fantastic play is a day that nourishes the spirit… that the dusty plants can be brushed clean and the gritty bedsheets washed… that a streak of dirt is no match for a modern-day washing machine and a dollop of OxyClean.

 

{Dirt!}

 

Now, go! Play!

 

This post was originally published October 18, 2012 and is being recycled as part of the “I’ve Been Around” summer! Hope you enjoyed it and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

“I Just Want To Scoop Poop!”


Pooper Scooper

The large pile of dried dog poo was my first hint something was amiss.

 

I’ve discovered, despite having a Great Dane and the ensuing excrement caused by said giant canine, a pile of poo has always signaled impending disaster in our household. I knew immediately which child to confront.

 

“Who put the pile of poop outside the gate to the dog yard?” I asked my second born child.

 

“Tres!” Dos answered promptly. I gave her a hard look. Tres is a determined little sucker but at her non-daunting height of 32 inches she’s an unlikely suspect for manuevering a 1 ft. x 2 ft. pile of turds past a 3.5 foot fence.

 

Dos saw my look and ducked her head. “I did it, Mommy.”

 

“Why?!” I asked. “Why are you so fascinated with the poop?!”

 

“I just really, really want to scoop poop!” Dos said.

 

These aren’t the words you expect to come out of a five-year-old’s mouth. I could totally understand a deep, driving desire to snatch a piece of gum or break into a sister’s piggy bank – I myself was a hoarding thief of fingernail polish as a young tyke and was known to hide under the dining room table with a tub of butter, a 1/4 teaspoon, and an agenda to coat my innards with canola byproduct.

 

But scooping poop has never been an attractive pastime for me, nor have I heard of other people admitting to a lifelong yen for excrement extraction.

 

Yet Dos has been begging to get into the dog yard all week to scoop poop. I have repeatedly told her no because a preschooler and an excited Great Dane two times her size and four times her body weight make me nervous. Add in two hyper-active, horribly groomed miniature poodles and a shovel the size of a backhoe bucket and my nervousness moves straight to panic.

 

No. No. No. No. No. Permission to enter the dog yard: Denied.

 

And yet, I found a pile of dried poop outside the gate of the dog yard. Dos had gone about her pooper scooping activity in active disobedience.

 

The bells of doom toll in the distance. Mama frustration… extensive.

 

Dos spent some time on the naughty bench and we worked through our discipline process. Afterward I talked with her and asked, again, “Why are you so fascinated with poop? It’s gross! What is motivating you so much that you’re willing to disobey in order to get in the dog yard?!”

 

Dos started crying again. I hate it when she cries. She’s such a happy-go-lucky kid, batty as all get-out with a smile that makes you want to gobble her up or put her in your pocket. To see her cry, really cry, is heartbreaking.

 

Her explanation came out. The direct quote:

 

“I just want to scoop poop! I want a chore!” Voice breaking, lip quivering, snot dripping out of her nose.

 

“Uno has a chore and I want a chore! Right now my only chore is to play with Tres! I don’t want to share Uno’s chore and feed the dogs, I want my own!”

 

“I want to do the poop one!”

 

Sometimes in parenting, there is an audible click of understanding. I have noticed how well Dos has been playing with Tres. I’ve complimented her on it – she’s pushed Tres on the swing practically nonstop, performing underdogs and screaming in laughter.

 

I had no idea she thought playing with her sister was her “chore.” I had no idea she was jealous that Uno has the added responsibility of feeding the dogs every day.

 

She analyzed the situation, thought about her capabilities, and decided she could poop scoop to be a helper.

 

Dos reminded me of a valuable lesson today: Sometimes the most bizarre requests can’t be understood until we take the time to ask the heart questions.

 

In journalism school I learned the real answers, the ones that flesh out your story, that reveal motivations, intrigue, and fulfillment… those answers are to questions at least three-to-four levels deep.

 

Most of us give up on the communication effort after a simple greeting and follow up question or comment. That’s why I didn’t have a clue of why Dos was begging to collect dog logs day after day. I saw the request through my own eyes, was disgusted, and said, “No.” I never asked the deeper questions three-to-four levels down, pursuing her motivation.

 

Once I took the time to really listen, to really hear her, my perspective changed. I still think she’s insane for wanting to play with poop, but my understanding has broadened to know she has a need for greater significance within our family.

 

So my, “No,” turns quickly to a, “Yes.” I learn, I respond.

 

Tonight, clutching my real-life illustration, I wonder if you’ve been taking the time to ask the deeper level questions about the insane things in your life? I know I’m rethinking my response to situations, reframing my confusion to seek the foundational motivations.

 

Do you have anyone in your life who just wants to scoop poop? Go talk to them – make it a deeper conversation. See what you find out!

 

This post was originally published September 14, 2012 and is being recycled as part of the “I’ve Been Around” summer! Hope you enjoyed it and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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