It’s hard to believe but yes, it’s been eight months since my last published post where I revealed the house destruction and reconstruction taking place, and the fact that I couldn’t find my pants.
You’ll be happy to know I located my pants.
I’ve been gone so long I forgot my username and password to the blog, and then when I found them again WordPress haughtily told me the world has changed and my previous password was “weak.” “It used to be strong!” I whispered to myself as I undated 14 plugins and went through five unapproved comments.
I’ve been blatantly missing from the world of blogging and I’m not sure how many people missed me, despite the fact I see there were 100 visitors in the last week to the site. I’m not entirely sure how committed I am to coming back… I miss blogging. I still have lots of thoughts to think and share. But I’ve been looking at my computer keyboard with concern, the screen is taunting me with one big question:
“What makes you think you know it all?”
The last few months have had significant happenings that have inhibited my utter devotion to www.stealingfaith.com. I’ll list a few, starting with the most significant: My dad died. My house was destroyed and is not reconstructed yet. We have four kids. We homeschool three of those children, currently on a blanket on the floor where our kitchen island will someday reside.
I’ve walked through this season with the utter knowledge that I do not have my life all put together with a bow on top and anything that comes out of my brain to this blog is simply my best guess at a good way to think or proceed for the time being. I have only a few things I’m truly certain about:
God is real. Love is essential. Laughter rejuvenates the broken hearted. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. This life throws curve balls.
If all of that sounds like something you can put up with, I’ll do my best to try to post more often than once every eight months. I’ll try to entertain you with stories of how my kids confused “Botox” and “buttocks” and then had a discussion about the merits of beauty treatments, and maybe every once in awhile I’ll be able to share something that seems to hold true about this life.
I know you’re supposed to love your children unconditionally.
All the parenting guides talk about how important it is for children to feel they have a safe space to be fully loved, and fully known. The experts agree that a happy child is one that is respected and considered with warm regard in all circumstances.
But I can’t do it.
I just can’t love them unconditionally anymore.
I think if it were a moral failing I’d be able to recover from this. If it was poor decision-making or youthful indiscretion, I could manage it. But this.
… I’ll never recover.
I cleaned the back of the Suburban this afternoon. I will be haunted by the experience for the rest of my days.
Stella has been so good to us over the years. That beast of a burly vehicle has carted us across the country, literally from coast to coast in her almost 200K miles. She has been privy to laughter, secrets, arguments, and many, many viewings of Elf and Tinkerbell. Stella the Suburban has carried our children home from the hospital after their births.
And yet she’s been treated so poorly.
I found decaying slime of some sort in the cup holders, nacho cheese affixed to the seat, an entire bag of Honey Nut Cheerios scattered across the floorboards! Underneath the seats I discovered the remains of chicken nuggets, water bottle lids, juice box straws, and miscellaneous bits and pieces of toys, crafts (I HATE CRAFTS!), and love notes.
There were forks with broken tines, spoons still sporting oatmeal, and knives once used for good left to decompose in solitude surrounded by gray pleather and black acrylic carpeting.
I gained a yellow paper clip and 46¢ but lost my lunch.
What on earth could exhibit such appalling behavior?! What magpies of destruction could have come to kill and destroy our Stella?!
My children. The ones that sprang from my innards. I housed them, tucked in my very own guts and they, they have repaid that kindness with a trashy hatred of their own.
Based on their vehicular living quarters, I’m scared to even image how they left my uterus.
I am so very saddened by this event. I am scarred for life. What has been seen… can never be unseen.
I can no longer accept my children unconditionally. My love for my children, tempered by my defense of Stella, must now be offered with a trash bag and a threat.
This day will live in infamy as I pledge my intention to never… Never, never, never see such a thing again.
I’ve been all over the house this morning starting loads of laundry, washing dishes, making the bed, wiping down the table after breakfast – I don’t sit down much.
Bubby has followed me from room to room, generally making trouble everywhere he goes. The dishwasher, it’s like baby crack. He can’t stand it. If it’s open he begins to climb and I begin to screech. We play this little game of him wandering out of the kitchen to see what his sisters are doing and me quickly dropping the dishwasher door and loading what I can before he rounds the corner again, sees it open, and makes a beeline for the lowered door. I, in return, slam the door shut and he hits the closed door at full speed and slides down the front of it to an unhappy, crestfallen heap on the floor in front of the dishwasher.
Second verse, same as the verse. Repeat 12 times.
I caught him off guard when I went into the bedroom to make the bed, however. I watched him sail through the living room, search the kitchen, and bang on the bathroom door. He’s in the stage where his walking balance is better when he has something in his hands – today it was a wiffle ball and wooden block – and he lumbers like Lurch as he walks.
When he found me in the bedroom he literally cackled with glee. I looked down at him, his snot encrusted nose, his dimple, and his joy… and I melted.
This season is so short.
In the room next door I have a girl pushing 8-years-old who is almost too big to fit on my lap – and it happened in a heartbeat. The days felt like eternity, like I was being pushed beyond any possible endurance, but there she is, growing into a real person with hopes, dreams, desires. It happened so fast.
I have agonizing years in front of me with this little boy, but the reality is he’s already far from the precious nugget of life I held against my chest July two years ago. He was all hope at that point. Hope and tears and pooping and eating.
And now, a breath later, he’s dimples and “mama” and verbal excitement at the sight of me. In another six gray hairs he’ll be all t-ball, tie shoes and, “Can I chew gum?”
All while I’ve been loading the dishwasher, matching socks, and cooking meals day in, day out. Oh, the tedium of it all! And yet…
It’s so fast, so precious, and so significant. We’re weaving a tapestry of normalcy over here, a picture of laundry and peek-a-boo and find your toes, school work and reading clocks, cooking and laughing. That normalcy, while terribly boring in the moment, is incredibly significant in the long run. It’s creating a home.
These chores that chafe, the way I groan every time I see the pile of socks waiting to be matched, they are significant. The load won’t always be so heavy, and the years will fly. My son, the one that giggled when he found me and has dimples on his knees… he will exchange his all-encompassing love for his mama over time but I will always have his heart because I put in the work to make normal… normal. I’m building the base for his comfort.
That, to me, is good stuff. Make that the BEST stuff.
It doesn’t help me to think you’ve got it all together.
Now, reality says there are some people who really do have it together 98% of the time while I’m over here, grateful for the 43.8% of the time I’m not just totally losing it.
If you’re one of those who really, truly, deep down inside has it together… well, that’s awesome for you and I sincerely hope it works out for you long term.
But I’m hanging out over here in the land where my 7-year-old dresses herself in tights for church that are sporting the crotch down around her knees — and she doesn’t see a problem with this.
I’m in the land where a perfectly normal, reasonable conversation with the man I love can suddenly escalate into a full blown, relatively ugly event because despite loving each other we’re still working out the kinks in living with each other.
And in my world professionalism looks a bit different than I read about in graduate school. It’s not all best practices and new updates and all sorts of other things that are awesome but unessential.
So if you want to be my friend, to help me, encourage me, or walk alongside me in this journey, be real.
Be real because I need you.
Don’t hide your chaos from my sight because you’re trying to be impressive and fake it ’til you make it. Let me see you wrestle with your life and ask the Big Questions because it allows us to journey together.
Tell the truth. Invite me over for breakfast and serve me some scones, complete with crumbs in the butter tub. Crumbs are a side effect of living and they remind me that we can tell each other the truth, not bothering to hide the dirty business.
Hold my hand and keep on holding, even if your palms get sweaty. My palms are sweaty too but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s good to have a friend who can help you hold tightly to the important stuff, like God and family and inspiration and passion… even if it gets a little uncomfortable.
It doesn’t help me when you create a mask big enough to hide behind.
It helps me when I see you for who you are, and am given the opportunity to admire your humble spirit, the way you keep asking hard questions that encourage you to grow…
Be a genuine, bona fide friend, one I can trust with my life because you’re willing to reciprocate.
I think we’ll all end up the better embracing this change.
Perhaps you, like me, grew up in the era where we tell people, “Just do your best, win or lose, and I’ll be proud of you!”
I call BS! (Actually, I don’t want to call BS because I don’t typically use the word BS because profanity and I aren’t kissing cousins. But I need to call something on that sentiment… how about Farkle? If I call Farkle will you know I’m really saying there’s no chance the above statement can be true? Besides, farkle is a really fun word!)
I CALL FARKLE!!
We don’t really agree with the statement, “Just do your best.” Maybe we would in an absolutely perfect world, but when you get way down serious about your motivations, no one really does their best, so the foundation of the concept is cracked.
Now you want to cry Farkle! on me, right? “Of course we do our best! I do my best all the time!” you cry.
To do your best is to put everything on the table. Leave nothing in reserve. The best is the best, there is nothing more.
And that’s not how we live.
Carrying that extra 5 pounds around? Not doing your best. The unmatched socks on the sofa? Not your best. That crabby response you shot off to your child when they pestered you one time too many? Nope, that’s not your best, either. (FYI – these are all examples from my own life. So if you’re feeling called out, I’m right there with you.)
Your BEST would be good enough, perfect even, if you actually gave it. But you don’t, and neither do the people around you.
We are not a best-giving culture, despite our pretty, self-esteem lifting rhetoric. We are a culture of doing as much as is comfortable, taking a teeny step further, encountering resistance, and calling it Best to justify quitting.
I realize there are exceptions to this idea, but if the exception were the rule we wouldn’t be fascinated with stories about physician Ben Carson or watch the Pursuit of Happyness and cry.
What’s more, I’ve come to the conclusion we don’t want to do our BEST. We don’t want to exercise the muscle of conviction. Doing our true Best creates conflict and the majority of us are dying to avoid conflict.
Even more… our true Best breeds fear. For if we lay our true Best down on the altar of effort — if we give every single, tiny bead of our fiber to the cause, right to the scrapings and smidgens — if we do that and it’s truly not enough we are crushed. We have nothing left. We have exposed our deepest vulnerability and been found lacking.
That’s terrifying stuff, friends. That’s the harsh reality of living most of us can’t even begin to grasp, so we instead come up with excuses as ways to pad our fear:
“I didn’t really get to study for that test as long as I should have because of PollyAnna’s birthday dinner the night before. You know, she’s been such a ray of sunshine in my life I couldn’t blow her off!”
“I finally told my wife if she couldn’t see how hard I was working to make her happy it was her problem, not mine. She’s always so negative. Sometimes I wonder how we’ll make it to the end.”
“If my boss wouldn’t give me so many hats to wear — this organization is growing so quickly it’s hard to keep up! — I would be able to stay on top of my workload. But there are only so many hours in the day…”
“Today little Malcolm was begging me to jump on the trampoline with him but I saw the mountain of laundry — and my bladder isn’t what it used to be — so I said, “No Way!” He’ll probably forget about it by tomorrow.”
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the excuses except that they’re excuses. They’re explanations for why we didn’t give our Best. Why we don’t want to give our Best.
I propose we need a change of vocabulary. We need to throw all that “Do Your Best” business out the window and claim our reality. We are capable of doing our Best in some things — butnotall things.
What’s more important, that’s OK. That’s something you can embrace. You are not a super hero and you shouldn’t be. Intentionally prioritize your life so you can articulate what’s most important to you. Tell the people around you what really matters and let them take their judging to the Olympics, out of your life.
If you have created your set of standards based on your priorities (and, if you’re a Christian, God’s calling on your life), all that judging that goes on really doesn’t need to affect you; their judgement tells you more about their priorities than speaks to anything you are doing yourself.
Speak to yourself honestly:
“I can only spread myself so thin. So when it comes to losing the weight, I’ll be ok with holding on to that fluffiness around my midsection. But when it comes to educating my children – I will do my best and leave nothing undone that matters.”
“My priorities in this season are time-consuming. So I’m going to have to put that previous heart’s desire on hold in order to really devote myself to what is in front of me right now. When circumstances change in the future, if that desire is still there, I’ll trust there will be a way to accomplish it.”
My final thought on the Myth of Doing Your Best? If we can figure out a way to live authentically, with purpose, with nothing held back, I’m pretty sure we’ll discover that vulnerability we are scared to expose will be replaced by something breathtaking to behold. By something stunning, uncommonly beautiful because it’s rarely seen and infinitely cherished.
It’s your Best.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24
I know I just posted a “Me Likee” Link Up but there have been so many good articles lately that I need to post on them more than once a month!
As you know, we homeschool. We are logically devoted to this lifestyle, largely because Classical Conversations gives us a roadmap that means Mama doesn’t FREAK OUT about what exactly to teach when all your children really seem to want to do is study their navels and pick lint from their toenails.
Because, yes, we are genetic overachievers like that.
Here are some of my favorite posts on homeschooling in the recent past – enjoy (and if you have your own, please post them in the comments)!
1. School Staring Age: The Evidence. For quite awhile I’ve been suspicious of the idea that enrolling your child in 6+ hours of school at age 4-years-old might be a little… dodgy. This study confirmed my gut instinct that little ones need lots of time to play – not worry about standardized testing.
2. Why I’m Not Cut Out To Be A Homeschooling Mom. When we tell people we homeschool the overwhelming response I get is, “Really? That’s good for you. I wish I could but I’m just not cut out for it.” While we are all called to different paths, there’s a chance that you were cut out for it… and just don’t realize that none of us are “cut out for it”! I appreciated this candid piece about how many ways we are inadequate – and yet wholly perfect – to teach our children.
3. Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy. This isn’t exactly a homeschooling article, but I think it’s a thought-provoking look at the choice to raise our children differently than we were raised, with realistic expectations instead of inflated perceptions of our own awesomeness… which really doesn’t make us happy!
4. Why Preschool Shouldn’t Be Like School. I am susceptible to feeling like my children are good enough, smart enough, and driven enough to achieve, achieve, achieve! Except my oldest is currently 7-years-old. And children must be given the freedom to be a child. Our culture is telling us to push our children harder than we, ourselves, were pushed and it really isn’t the way to make our kids fall in love with learning.
5. And Then I Realized I Was Doing It All Wrong In Homeschooling. When your child is in the traditional school setting you get parent/teacher conferences and pick up waiting conversations to help you figure out where your kids are ranking in the general scheme of education. When you homeschool,you are constantly wondering if what you are doing is enough… or too much… or…? This article talks about the paradigm shift one parent had in their value system for homeschool success.
6. Myth of the Teenager. We have bought into the propaganda that teenagers will be rebellious and difficult and forgotten the long-held belief that teenagers are in their maturing capstone, moments away from adult responsibilities. This post debunks the idea that teenagers have to be difficult.
7. To the Moms of One or Two Children. Now that we have four kiddos in our family I frequently have people say they don’t know how I do it all. The reality? Whether you have one child or 16 children they take all your time and the parenting journey is one of high highs and low lows. I appreciated this note of encouragement!
8. Homeschooling by the Numbers. Have you ever wanted a quick snapshot of the demographics of homeschoolers in the U.S.? Your wish has been granted!
9. We are Going to Homeschool our Children but that’s Only because We Hate Education. I am falling in love with Matt Walsh’s writing! I admire the way he is able to grab words and shape them into something beautiful and passionate. He turned his skill and humor toward education in this blog post – and I liked it!
10. Mothering Young Children: Come Singing and Sighing Unto the Lord. I’m not going to lie. This isn’t the headline that catches your interest and makes you think, “Oh, yeah! I can’t wait to read that article!” But let me tell you something: a friend sent this to me and I was moved, almost to tears but its encouragement and honesty. Try it. Really.
What are some of your favorite homeschooling reads around the Internet?
It was a hot date Saturday night and Mr. Casanova and I headed to dinner and a movie.
We don’t get out much, so the anticipation leading up to this event was huge. We picked out the movie, Gravity, about three weeks ago and looked forward to our dinner rendezvous on the other side of town.
We didn’t anticipate it’s Homecoming day for the local university. Our dinner location was packed. So was our second and third choice. We were all set to scrap the romantic plans and hit Taco Bell when we passed Cold Stone Creamery and decided ice cream for dinner sounded fabulous!
And then they didn’t have cherry pie filling and who wants to have cheesecake ice cream without cherry pie filling? That’s a travesty and it was not going to fly on Date Night.
We walked out of Cold Stone in dejection, wondering if we would be eating a movie theater pretzel for dinner, when we realized we were right near the Hot Wok. We’d never been to the Hot Wok before but it was on our list of new restaurants to visit and it’s called Hot Wok, which is a name I could chant under my breath repetitively just for fun.
Hot Wok was awesome! Loved the Hot Wok. Took the last bit of my cashew chicken in a to-go box and later discovered it was like having a styrofoam box of toots on my lap but that’s a different story.
Gravity. Gravity. Gravity. It was not uplifting. It was the worst case scenarios of EVERYTHING, set in space. And it was a poor date night choice.
I told Lizard we are never going to another movie the critics like. I’d rather go to movies with horrible reviews but make me happy, like the Cutting Edge or Elf. I had absolutely thought Gravity would be a romantic comedy set in space, instead I was on a continual, apprehensive adrenaline rush watching people’s faces get hole punched by space station shrapnel.
Kind of a downer.
It reminded me of the time I became scarred for life when a friend invited me to go see Seven by telling me it was the new Brad Pitt movie that Disney had produced.
True Story. Scarred.
The whole experience helped me notice there are some movies you should just know the whole story about before walking in to them blind, or you’re liable to walk out with a heaping portion of Regret you paid a solid $9 to experience. Also, sometimes movie titles are misleading. For example:
We Bought a Zoo. This is not a Madagascar version of a family film. The pictures that kid draws are eerie and the creepy crawlies still give me goose pimples.
Being John Malkovich. Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich! The redeeming feature of this movie is the 1/2 floor and that makes me happy, but the ending… you should prepare yourself that what you expect is not what you get unless you like… well… Malkovich.
Napoleon Dynamite. There is nothing French or explosive about this movie. It’s hilarious and to this day I make liger comments, but if I’d been looking for a piece of historical pyrotechnics I would have been sorely disappointed.
Cinderella Man. There were no chorusing birds or carousing mice. There wasn’t a fireplace to clean. It’s a boxing movie and it brought tears to my eyes and inspired me but, nope, no evil step mother and no prince to rescue them all in the end, they had to make their own rescue.
12 Monkeys. Brad Pitt was on a creepy roll there for awhile with Seven, Fight Club, and 12 Monkeys. Suffice to say there were no bananas, no throwing poop, and no monkeys. Definitely not a Disney movie, either.
Grease. Did I miss something? It’s a classic – that’s whhhaaaaayyy more raunchy than I ever realized when I watched it as a young thing – but I didn’t notice a bit of pig lard. Or vegetable oil. Or any lubricating ointments. Ew… I said ointment. Sorry.
Salt. Not a cooking flick. This is no Julia and Julia where you can garner some nice tips for how to flavor your food. It’s a gritty movie of deception and multiple double-crossings and Angelia Jolie pulls off being a passable dude. Not a seasoning. Definitely.
Chariots of Fire. I stole this description because it’s so much better than what I would write: Sounds Like: The most awesome film Ray Harryhausen never animated, crammed to the toga-tops with belching hell-lizards, winged racing carts and blazing skirmishes with chillingly rheumatic armies of the undead. When In Fact: A handful of stringy, translucent blokes in thoroughly depressing short shorts splash through the grey shallows of a windswept Scottish beach, recreating a true story about 1920s men running fast and winning stuff. A bloody good one, mind. But still.
What are the movies you’ve seen that knocked you off guard like a sip of Sprite when you’re expecting water?
I’m a sucker for the stories that make me think, make me want to be a better human, or encourage me to never give up. I’ve come across a few that inspire me lately — here are the links:
1. Couple Loses 538 Pounds. We watch the Biggest Loser and are always so inspired by the tremendously hard work people complete in order to live a healthier life. This article is similar — and the couple is ridiculously attractive!
2. You’re a Stay-at-Home Mom — What do you DO all day?! I haven’t had many people give me a hard time for being a stay-at-home mom, but occasionally I get knuckle heads who can’t understand why we have laundry on the sofa or grapes smashed on the floor when I’m at home all day doing nothing. (Ha!) I loved this husband’s defense of his wife’s career choice… and it inspired me to work harder at being the mom I know I can be.
3. 25 Things Every Woman Needs to Know. There are some nice tidbits in this article that rank right up there with making sure a woman always has access to a power drill. And a plunger.
4. When Life Feels Like It’s Stuck on Repeat. I’m a big fan of Lisa-Jo Baker. Her writing encourages me often. This post gave me the extra needed boost I needed (in addition to a cup of coffee).
5. There are no “cool moms.”Another from Lisa Jo Baker that reminded me I’m pre-approve (and so are you!) and that’s… well… that’s just awesome.
6. Seeing A Woman. I’m realizing more and more that pornography and sexuality is a crazy serious issue. I adored this wisdom from a father to a son on how to really see a woman.
7. Less is More. Have you ever wished your marriage possessed just a little more attention? This post helped me think through the ways I canstudy my husband in order to know him more.
8. Marriage Advice from a Divorced Man. They say regret can be a powerful motivator; this heartfelt blog post from a divorced man looking back at 16 years of marriage almost made me cry in its beautiful simplicity.
9. A Week of Food Around the World. A photographer set out to showcase cultural differences by taking pictures of families with a weeks worth of groceries in different countries. It’s hilarious… and sobering all at the same time.
10. The Prize for Motherhood ISN’T Great Kids. It’s funny how much better my life is when I take the spotlight off of my own issues and realize I have a sphere of influence I can control and a whole lot more in this life I can only observe. Reading this post helped me realize my reactions to events are 90% of the fight.
What are some of the stories/articles/blog posts you’ve read that inspired you?
OK, I admit it. That’s an overstatement in the “I caught a fish this big,” kind of way… so let me start over.
There’s this picture floating around the World Wide Web these days:
No, it’s not a picture of the result of cotton candy machine in gastrointestinal distress! But I wish it were. Cotton candy is my very favorite of all treats designed to make your body shut down in sugar shock and just looking at this rabbit makes my mouth water.
But it’s not to be. That is not cotton candy.
It’s false cotton candy advertising — kind of like those plastic grapes people use as centerpieces on their tables. They look so good! My mom had these and they were a constant temptation throughout my childhood. Sometimes I just couldn’t stand it and would gobble one of the plastic globes down.
It was always a disappointment.
Back to my story and the picture, I know the woman beaming next to that big ball of fuzz – her name is Betty! I know someone famous!
Well, maybe I don’t know her precisely, as I certainly don’t know her in the Biblical sense of the word and also wouldn’t be able to pick her out of a crowd unless she was carting her big ball ‘o rabbity fluff, but I’ve been in her general vicinity and I’ve said, “Hi.”
So it’s like we’re best friends.
Anyway, Betty raises some of the most beautiful English Angora rabbits in the country and I met her earlier this year when we traveled to national rabbit show. Each of these rabbits takes an amazing amount of care to keep the hair clean and unmatted, although they can be shorn like sheep and their fur used for spinning and other lovely yarn-ish items.
It’s definitely not a rabbit breed for me, as I like low maintenance. Half the time my kids walk around looking like they just stuck their finger in a light socket and earlier this week I found a bit of dried apple sauce acting as a fixing agent in Tres’ hair.
There’s no chance I’ll be able to keep up with the grooming needs of an animal sporting a hot mess ‘do like this, but I can still point out my near brush with fame and give a nod to all the Tribble fans out there.
It’s not every day you discover a piece of trivia that startles you so thoroughly you make a strange barking like a Pier 39 sea lion to catch your breath.
But, lucky me, I have experienced such an event. The news that caused my mirth?
The national animal of Scotland is a unicorn.
I don’t know about you but my picture of Scotland as a country has been highly influenced by Mel Gibson in blue war paint and Diana Gabaldon in the Outlander book series. These are both solid bits of media that portray the Scottish people as tough, possibly smelly, and rather austere.
When I think of a unicorn I have visions of Despicable Me and want to squeal, “It’s so pink and fluffy I COULD DIE!!!!!”
I couldn’t help but share this sweet portrayal of sugar and spice and everything nice a unicorn is made of:
Scottish warriors and unicorns are so opposite on another it’s hard to even imagine a kilt-wearing, horn sporting equine.
… or is it?
When this conversation appeared in my Facebook feed regarding the unicorn/Scottish national animal discord I cracked up:
“No one ever believes me when I tell them this: unicorns are manly. Also, I learned that Viking wore pink.
That means that four-year-old girls are pretty masculine.
Just think about it: their rooms are covered with pink and unicorns. It’s a total mancave. Also, if you think about it, rainbows are pretty full of testosterone and what not. I mean, God made them after wiping out almost an entire humanity’s worth of bad guys…”