What Our Kids Really Want Is A Mom Who Can Be More and Do Less

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If I stayed inside the house one more minute, I might seriously explode. Every time I turned around, a new mess called out to me. Every room I entered reminded me of something left undone. The soles of my feet were coated in crumbs from a floor in desperate need of attention.

Room to room I bit my tongue from lashing out. It was safer to keep my mouth closed because the anxiety in my heart threatened to spew on the ones I loved. No one tried to approach me. In fact, it seemed everyone in my home wanted to avoid me. The look on my face told them I was not happy with the state of the house, the noise level, the chaos. And when mama’s not happy, well….. it just gets ugly.

Running through my head were all the things I needed to do, all the people needing something from me, all the things I was supposed to have done last week, all the thoughts of what people must think, all the ways I’m failing, all the ways I can try to keep up. A serious boxing match was going on inside my head. I had to step out of the ring. I needed fresh air.

Grabbing a book and a blanket, I headed to the backyard. I collapsed on my back and stared at the sky for a few minutes. The clouds moved in a hypnotizing motion as I breathed deep of the breeze. Everything that seemed so pressing only moments before seemed to fade away. Moving away with the clouds.

My heart rate slowed, my breathing slowed. All the anxiety that held my shoulders so tightly began to dissipate. I prayed. I thanked. I asked.

I tried not to stress about what the kids were doing inside the house. I tried not to think of what I would walk into when I reentered the walls of our home.

The screen door slammed, the grass crunched under his feet as he made his way to my blanket. His 10-year-old body cast a shadow over my face as he stood over me, allowing me to open my eyes to see him.

“Hi, mom, can I read with you?”

“I’d love that.”

We sat and read. We only had about 15 minutes, but it was glorious. It was all I needed to regain my composure and be the mom I wanted to be.

My stillness drew my boy back to me. My stillness draws me closer to my Father.

My anxiety, the pressure I put on myself, pushed my kids away from me. When I stopped, when I walked away, when I slowed down, they drew back to me.

My kids don’t want a spotless house. They want an available mom. My kids don’t want a completed task list. They want to complete a board game. My kids don’t want a perfectly scheduled week. They want a spontaneous tickling match.

When my kids are grown, I don’t want them to remember me being grumpy because I was trying to achieve the unachievable. Or impress the unimpressible.

The reality is the life of a mom is hard. What is harder is the pressure we moms put on ourselves. The expectations we place on us are unachievable. The guilt of what we aren’t, the guilt of what we can’t do, the guilt of what we should’ve done only increases the fight to do more, try harder. It’s an endless, vicious cycle.

The only way to break the cycle is to pull out completely. Escape to fresh air to clear the head. To see the beauty right here.

You remember I said I have a little rebel that lives inside of me? The rebel is rearing its head again.

I need more stillness. I need more slow. My family needs me to be still more than they need me to be supermom. My family needs me to slow down more than they need me to set records for accomplishing more in a day than humanly possible.

Yesterday was mine and Steve’s 14 year anniversary. As he thought what I would like most for our anniversary, he decided it was time with him and time with God. At 5 am he woke with me, and we headed to the coffee maker. Coffee and Bibles we sat together and prayed for our marriage. Steve had done his homework and came prepared with a list of verses on marriage. We read them to each other.

That started my day slow. And still. The rest of the day I focused on doing what was necessary but allowing room for spontaneous. And when I tucked the boys into bed, I sat on the couch. This is unheard of in my house because I don’t watch tv. Ever. But the rebel in me decided I needed a break.

I did something radical. I watched a movie. (Mom’s Night Out…..highly recommend). This after a chain reaction of simple decisions through the day that turned out to be exactly what I needed. And it turned out to be one of the best days I can remember in the longest time. A lot of letting go. A lot of lowering the bar of my own expectations.

For the most part, I live in a constant state of doing. If I have free time, I will do something productive. Every minute of every day is filled with something. In the course of a day, I rarely, rarely, rarely do something just for fun. I rarely do something that has no purpose. Everything I do has a purpose and accomplishes something. And I’m tired. So I’m ushering in more stillness.

Life as a mom can look crazy ugly and crazy beautiful at the exact same moment. Being a mom is a high calling. High callings come at a high price.

When I stop doing, I start seeing. The doing will always be available. The seeing changes. I don’t want to miss seeing what is here to see right this very moment.

I want to be the wife of my husband’s dreams. I want to be the mom of my boys’ dreams. And what they want more than a beautiful home, gourmet meals, perfectly planned outings, and accomplished looking days is simply me. Doing less and being more.

Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

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My Favorite Family Books for Summer

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When I think of summer, I think of books and sweat.  Mostly because I remember sitting outside on summer days, swinging on the porch swing, reading the day away.  Even in my adult years, summer is the time I read more than any other time of the year.  And for my kids, when I hear, “I’m bored,”  the answer is usually, “Go read.”

When Andrew was a toddler and still napped in the afternoon, the older boys and I would sit on the screen porch and read together.  This was a time I would read out loud to them books that wouldn’t hold Andrew’s attention.  Andrew is now old enough to join us, and this time has become a little tradition.  I sip coffee, they sip lemonade, we rock in chairs, and we listen and linger over words.

I’m a big believer in reading anything.  Read, read, read.  However, reading offers a perfect opportunity for some intentional spiritual nurturing.  I thought today would be a good time to share our favorite summer books.

These books are PERFECT for the ages of my boys 5, 8, and 10.  But honestly, we’ve been reading them for 2 years now and they enjoyed them then.  There are many years ahead to enjoy them as well.

Case for Christ, Case for Faith, Case for Creator.  All the Case for…. books by Lee Strobel are amazing for kids.  The information is so easy to understand, and it really challenges them to think beyond, “I believe because you tell me to.”  He has a whole series just for kids.  They are fun, and my kids love listening to me read these books.

I’m a huge Josh McDowell fan.  He writes apologetics I can understand.  The same holds true for the books he writes for kids.  Our favorite is The Awesome Book of Bible Answers for Kids.  I have always read this aloud.  Now they enjoy reading it on their own.  The chapters are short, so it’s a great book to leave on the table, and they can pick it up and read a few minutes here and there without feeling they have to have the time to become involved in a storyline.  Zachary loves to tell me the cool facts he is learning.  The questions are the types even we as adults struggle with.

Other favorites include Jesus is Alive by McDowell and The Amazing Bible Adventure for Kids.

I’ve tried buying my boys individual devotions and they never stick with it.  These books are different.  They don’t feel it’s something added to their to-do list.

If you are looking for a way to weave in spiritual training this summer, I highly recommend these books.  It’s effortless and entertaining, yet the truths sink deep.

Summer kicks off officially in my house in exactly one week.  Our books are out and ready to read!

What are some of your favorite summer books?  Both children and adult?

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5 Benefits of an Electronics Fast

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For 30 days our home is electronic/screen free.

We are just a little over a week into this.  And we feel free.

It was a spur of the moment idea Steve had one weekend. “We are shutting down for 30 days.  For one month we will have no tv, no Wii, no electronics (with the exception of the computer for me to pay bills and blog and him for work).  Steve even went so far as to cancel Dish Network.

I don’t watch tv or play video games, so this isn’t as painful for me as it is the rest of the members of my household.  Honestly, I felt this would be a breeze for us anyway.  Our kids rarely watch tv during the week.  There simply is no time.  Wii is only allowed on the weekends.  A couple of 30 minute time blocks.

We started noticing some attitudes in our boys.  More bickering than we cared for.  And a constant asking to watch something or play some game.  A break was needed.

 

Top 5 positive changes from week 1:

  1. We don’t rush away from the moments.  We stay.  We linger.  We soak.  We relish.  There is nothing to rush away to.  No tv show to catch.  No video game to conquer.  Nothing but time and each other.  Dinner is slower, more relaxed.  There is no need to rush to eat so we can fit a show in before bedtime on a Saturday night.  We took a family bike ride Sunday afternoon to a favorite tree swing.  After a long time swinging, we asked if they were ready to head home.  Zachary’s immediate response, “No!!!”  One week ago he would have been begging to go home so that he could play the Wii one last time before the new week began.  
  2. We are having moments we’ve never had.  I’ve come to realize the distractions of our devices cause great anxiety and a sense of urgency.  When they are taken away, we are left with the simplicity of life.  We are left with the beauty of the ones we love waiting to be enjoyed.  When our affection and attention is taken away from our devices, it must go somewhere.  So we turn it to the ones we love.  Andrew wanted to take a bath Saturday night.  While he was playing in the tub, I heard Jacob in there talking to him.  He was just sitting on the side of the tub chatting away with his 4-year-old brother he rarely has time to simply enjoy.  Jacob began making up stories and songs.  He had Andrew captivated.  After that Andrew began to want to be with Jacob again.
  3. We are finding new activities to enjoy. I’ve found the boys putting together puzzles, setting up imaginary play scenes, making up new games, using tools to create projects.  I’ve even found them simply resting.  Yes, just lounging on the screen porch, enjoying nature, enjoying life.
  4. We are thinking.  Want to increase creativity and productivity?  Take away your devices. Your mind will slow down and focus.  We have noticed this in ourselves as well as the boys.  We all feel much more able to think clearly.
  5. We are reconnecting.  I found I had gotten in a pattern of putting a movie on while I cooked dinner.  Now, everyone is taking part in the dinner prep.  We are all together in the kitchen.  We all help clean up.  We are simply together more.  Jacob and I have had extensive conversations, which have really been lacking lately.  One of our long talks occurred while he was helping me prepare dinner and Steve was outside with the other boys.  I said, “See Jacob if you had been watching a movie, we would have missed this opportunity to have this time together.”  He just smiled and said, “I’m actually kind of liking this electronics fast now.”

When the option of electronics is completely removed, kids will become kids again.  When all the distractions are removed, we can fully enjoy our moments again.