Flawless, Youthful and Free

My eyes open slowly. As I roll from my side onto my back, I let out a long cat-like stretch. I feel a slight afternoon breeze blow in from the window as I wipe the remaining drool off my cheek. I guess I fell asleep while the kids were napping again. Peeking at the monitor, I see they are both still asleep. Thank God. Maybe I still have some time to get a couple things done or just sit. Some glorious sitting sounds nice.  I sigh as I pick up my phone and start to scroll through my Instagram feed. Another flawless Instagram photo. She’s got on the perfect shade of lipstick, sun-kissed skin, smooth hair, and a seemingly effortlessly boho-chic outfit on. How does she take such perfect Instagram photos everytime? I swear to God she has a professional photographer following her around snapping pictures of her and her friends. Flawless, youthful and free.

I slide off the bed and adjust the stretchy waistband on my leggings, pick off a sock that clung to my leg, and toss it back into the clean laundry pile. I stop to look in the mirror as I walk by.  Inspired by the Instagram photo, I grab a lipstick and apply it lightly to my lips. Smack. There, much better.

I shuffle to the pantry and grab a pack of fruit snacks and then continue on to the kitchen counter pressing the Keurig power button. I lean against the counter as I wait for the water to warm and shove the fruit snacks into my mouth. I do not feel flawless, youthful or free. I feel very much flawed, tired and constrained.

***

Sometimes when my husband and I are driving anywhere close to the airport, I like to fantasize about going on a trip somewhere. In this fantasy, someone, a family member or friend, tell us that they will watch our kids for us starting right now for an extended number of days. But the kicker is we have to leave and go to the airport right then and there without packing or anything. So, naturally, with this offer of guilt-free childcare for several days with no strings attached, we head to the airport with nothing but the clothes we are wearing and our purse and wallet of course.

We can buy everything we need on the trip. We pick a tropical, warm destination like Hawaii or even So Cal will due. All I will need there is sunscreen, a swimsuit and a few sundresses. Easy. I’ll also be able to get a wax at the spa in the resort we stay at. I’ll even throw in a massage. We’ll be able to get our necessary toiletry items there as well.

At the airport, as we await our flight, I’ll pick up book and a few trashy magazines. Hours on a flight, with no one else to take care of, nothing else to do, I can just nap and read or chat with my husband.

This fantasy is so silly, but I find myself thinking about it from time to time (in detail- as you can clearly see). I know why. I miss the spontaneity that life before kids held. I miss the freedom. I miss me time or special time with my husband. There are obviously many things in the way of making this trip a reality. But this daydream drifts into my mind often.

***

I am beyond blessed with what’s been provided in my life.  But sometimes, even with the best of circumstances and best of what life has to offer, I find myself wanting more or wanting different. Whenever this happens for me, I seriously need to get myself in check. This can be a slippery slope that leads me to believe that what I have is not enough or not fulfilling. The lies and deceit start to scroll through my mind like an Instagram feed.

Social media is not truthful. I have to remind myself of that. However seemingly perfect a photo or life may appear, it absolutely is not. The same way that I find I’m envious of another’s situation, I am sure people may be of mine.

If I find myself in a dangerous zone of fantasizing too much or feeling sorrowful over the fact that I can’t hang out carefree poolside all day, I have to get out of it. It can affect my attitude, my outlook, and therefore possibly impacting my marriage and my children. There are some steps I can take in order to curb this downward spiral of self-pity.

Scripture. If I find myself in this place, I have to look back to what God’s word says. I love my Write the Word journal. The first thing each entry has me do is write what I am grateful for. This automatically causes me to shift over to positivity and reflection on the blessings God has placed in my life. It often only takes a few minutes of scripture reading and personal reflection to put things back in perspective or at least get my thoughts moving back in the right direction.

Self-care. I sometimes find that if I haven’t taken some action or essential steps to care for myself, it impacts me greatly. I tend to get lazy at self-care as a mom. For example, I have been out of my face moisturizer for days and I just keep putting on sunscreen in the morning instead. My face feels greasy and parched at the same time. I need to set aside a few minutes and order my face moisturizer! It’s the small things.

Yesterday, about three quarters through the day I realized my underwear was on inside out and I just left it that way for the rest of the day. I didn’t even take the time to turn them right side out or even just change my underwear! These are not big things. Wearing clothes properly and nourishing my skin.

Today I am wearing something I feel cute and comfortable in. I have showered, shaved my legs, and curled my hair. I made yummy turkey lettuce wraps for myself at lunch instead of eating my kids’ leftovers. It feels good. Self-care is essential.

Friends. Getting together with my friends or a friend (not just checking their Instagram feed or Facebook status) in-person either with kids or without,  refreshes me like you wouldn’t believe. Most of my friends are mothers and therefore totally understand this stage of life. We get to laugh, cry, talk, drink wine, and bask in understanding and grace from one another. My friends encourage, sympathize and smile. They help keep me grounded and sain.

I could go on with the things that get me back on track. Time away with my husband, even for an hour or two. A special activity with my kids. Giving myself time to write and reflect. Unplug from social media, even for a day. There are many things that help. I just need to be aware of when I am slipping into this place of discontentment and get started on something positive.

Flawed, tired and constrained? Should not be so. If I am ever feeling flawed-I must seek Jesus. He looks at my flaws or my own perceived flaws and sees beauty. He sees opportunity for grace and growth. If I am ever feeling tired-I shouldn’t feel guilty to take time for myself. If I don’t feel rested, clean or put-together, how will that transfer over to quality time with my kids or husband? If I am ever feeling constrained, I need to think about the blessings these little lives bring to our family and others. My kids aren’t here on earth just for me, but are here for His greater calling and purpose. I have been tasked with teaching them, nurturing them, and loving them.

Flawless, youthful, and free? Maybe not, but flawed, tired, constrained? How about no. I’m still reflecting about what my three words are or what I want to strive for them to be. What are your three words?

Pink Rocking Horse

Getting the keys to our new house was so exciting…until I realized that it also meant packing and purging the house of anything we didn’t want to bring to the new place.  And so began the long and tedious task of cleaning out the kids’ rooms. I had decided it was time to get rid of one item in particular of my daughter’s- her pink rocking horse. She had received it for Christmas from her Aunt Leslie when she was one and now that she was four-and-a-half, she was quite big for it. My son who was one-and-a-half, had taken a liking to the horse as well. Yet when he rocked on it, he came darn near close to tipping over backwards, or forwards for that matter. He also had his fair share of toe smashes under the wooden rocker.  It had taken its share of beatings the past few years, as was constantly ridden and dragged around the house. Its mane had been brushed and pulled out, the saddle askew, and the reins pulled to capacity. However, it still rocked, neighed when you pressed the button on its ear, and had the softest pink fur. It was a good item to give away. I knew it wasn’t a toy I could just take away in the middle of the night and my daughter would never notice. She would definitely ask me about it the next day or so and be heartbroken that I just took it away. However, it was time. The pink horsey, “Peaches,”  seemed more like a hazard more than anything else and at this point and I didn’t really want it coming to the new house with us.

My husband and I gathered up the items for our first of many Goodwill runs and knew this was the perfect time to take the rocking horse. We figured we could go as a family. It had been endless rain for an entire weekend and this seemed like a good opportunity to take a car ride and get out of the house.  My husband knelt down as we were getting our shoes on to go, “Hadley, you’ve had your pink horse for a long time, huh?” he gently smiled at her.

“Yeah,” she replied with a hard nod.

“Well, you got him when you were really little and you’re not so little anymore. You’ve gotten kind of big for the horse, it isn’t safe for you to ride anymore and it is not safe for your brother John to ride on either.”

“Well, I can just pull him around. See, like this.” Hadley demonstrated how she pulls the horse around. She bit her bottom lip and tightly pulled the rein. The horse bumped and glided along the tile floor in our kitchen following her thumping feet.

“Yes, but it can hurt your toes and will get banged up if we keep pulling it like that. It’s time that we give the horse away to another little girl who will be able to ride it and enjoy it,” he explained resting his hand on the horse’s matted white mane.

Hadley sighed, “Okay.” She turned to the horse and knelt down. Looking into its eyes and stroking its mane she whispered these sweet words to Peaches, “You have to go away now, but don’t be scared. It’s going to be alright. You have to be brave. You will get to play with another girl.” She gave it kisses and hugged its head tight. My husband and I exchanged tear-filled glances at one another. Have we made a mistake? Maybe, we don’t need to get rid of it just yet.

We buckled the kids into their car seats and  loaded the boxes, bags and rocking horse into the back of the car. “We don’t have to give it away,” my husband whispered to me.

“No, we need to,” I reassured him..and myself. “It’s time.”

Sorrowful sighs were heard from the backseat on our way to Goodwill. “Everything okay Hadley?” We would ask glancing back.

“Yeah… I’m just sad I’m going to miss my horse,”  she explained. “But I’m happy another girl will get to use it.”

“We are definitely stopping for frozen yogurt after this” I thought. “She is being so sweet about the whole thing and it might help alleviate some of the guilt I feel. “

We backed up to the Goodwill drop-off and my husband jumped out to help unload. Hadley suddenly pleaded, “Can you unbuckle me so I can see?”

“Of course,” I said reaching back and unsnapping her buckles. She quickly turned around in her carseat, popped up on her knees and peered over the backseat. The Goodwill employee and my husband unloaded a couple bags and boxes and placed them in a large rolling bin, and finally the pink rocking horse was laid on top.

“Goodbye Peaches,” Hadley waved.

I was surprised at the emotion I felt. Tears stung my eyes as Hadley turned around and I buckled her back in. It was as if we were letting a little piece of her childhood go. My mind flashed back to a scene from the movie Inside Out, where Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong sacrifices himself down in the depths with all those faded memories so that Joy can get out on the flying wagon. He waves to Joy smiling as he slowly fades and disappears to be forever forgotten. I balled my eyes out during that movie by the way-particularly that scene.

We’ve been at our new home for almost two months now and she hasn’t mentioned Peaches, the pink rocking horse, once. As her mom I find that the grief I feel as old memories fade from her mind, is replaced with the sweetness of new memories. It makes this time of my kids’ young childhood all the more precious. There are certain things I am surprised that my daughter has already forgotten, as I will never forget. I will never forget that pink rocking horse and the joy her face held when she rode it for the first time or the way she held it’s fuzzy face and whispered her goodbyes for the last time. I hold these moments close to my heart and know that the fact that they are fleeting is what makes them so precious.

It’s Their Big Adventure

It had been a long morning at home, full of dark clouds and April showers. Then, miraculously, the sun made a guest appearance. As soon as the kids were finished napping I knew we better make a run for it while we could. I threw a Costco-sized bag of Goldfish crackers and a beach towel in a reusable tote, put a hat on my unshowered head, and rallied the kids up from their nap,” Let’s get out!”

“Moooom, where are we going?” my daughter asked as I buckled her little brother in his carseat and handed each little set of hands a cup of Goldfish.

“It’s a surprise,” I said, backing out of the driveway, “You’ll love it!” I reassured her. You see, the truth was we were headed to Edmonds beach, right by the ferry and train tracks, and there was limited parking. I honestly didn’t know how busy it might be or if we’d even find a spot. I had a back up plan in mind and knew of park nearby, but I knew if I told my daughter we were going to the beach, I’d have to commit no matter what. Even if that meant parking blocks away. I wasn’t sure I was prepared to do that.

“Mooom, just tell me.” she kept pestering as we waited at the world’s longest red light.

“If you guess it, I’ll tell you.” I glanced back at her with a wink as the light changed green. “There’s no way she’ll guess it right?” I thought to myself.

Grandma’s house?”

“Nope.”

“Nana’s house?”

“No.”

“JoJo’s house?”

“No.” We are golden, no way she’ll get it if she just keeps guessing family member’s houses.

“The beach?”

Shit.

“You got it!” I replied. “I have to tell you though, it might be busy and there might not be parking. We’ll just have to see when we get there.” Please let there be a spot.

We drove over the train track crossing and into the parking lot near the beach, but it didn’t look good.The shining sun meant that it was totally full and no one would be be leaving anytime soon. Decision time.

“Uh oh, looks like the parking lot is full.” I explained as I looped around towards the exit.

“Does that mean we can’t go to the beach?!” my daughter cried.

“No, I think we’ll be able to go, it depends if I find some street parking within a few blocks here.”

“It depends on if you find street parking?” she repeated.

“Yes, that’s what I said. Give me a minute here. Let me concentrate.”

“If we don’t find parking, then we can’t go to the beach?” she tried to confirm.

“Hadley, hold on a minute.” I said firmly, pulling into a street spot. It was a couple blocks away, but definitely doable. I knew I hadn’t packed the stroller for my son, but I was determined at this point.

“Alright, we’re here!” I sang grabbing the tote. “You’ll have to hold my hand as we walk,”  I instructed both of them. “We have a little way to go, but not far.”

We started our walk to the beach, or I should say, our snail’s pace stroll, as my one-and-half-year-old son was mesmerized by all of the world. His mouth gaping open at the birds that flew above, rocks on the ground, leaves that moved in breeze, airplanes flying over head and people walking by. Hadley looked up ahead anticipating what we’d walk by next. We were hand-in-hand, walking to the beach. I felt a wave of warmth rush through me as I realized the fun of this outing had begun for my kids already. I was frazzled trying to hurry them along to try and get down to the beach before they complained about being tired or thirsty or hungry and we’d have to bag the whole thing and call it a day. But as I felt both of my hands clasping their little fingers, as they jumped, skipped and strolled along the sidewalk, I felt how happy they were and we hadn’t even got to our destination yet. Hadley said hello to everyone that we passed by.  Young, old, walking a dog or drinking coffee, it didn’t matter to her, she offered her greetings to EVERYONE.

Not that I am biased in any way, but I have seen how people’s faces light up with delight at the sight of my girl shouting, “HI!” and giving them an abrupt wave. Now her little brother, John, repeats everything she does, so these strangers are getting a double dose of cuteness.

As we walked along the sidewalk, passing some of the homes and shops in downtown Edmonds, my kids said hi to everyone that passed.

“Hi!” Hadley yelled.

“Hi.” John chirped in response. Smiles erupted on my kids’ faces, the passing stranger’s face, and mine as well.

Finally, we made it to the beach. And it truly was a glorious sun-filled afternoon there in the sand. The ferryboats dodged in and out as the train zoomed passed and people walked by.  But the most beautiful sight was the smiles on the faces of my children. The adventure for them had begun the minute we left the house, stepped out of the car, and just started spending the time together.

Frozen Peas

Homemade fried rice is a favorite in my household. One night I threw sausage in a pan and added 90 second micro rice, egg and frozen peas with tons of butter. It was a hit! My husband loves it and my kids eat it too, which is amazing. It included vegetables from a bag, which again, is amazing.  Cooking one thing that your entire family will eat including a picky toddler and preschooler, that you can call a meal, is AH-mazing.

(Disclaimer: This is not a food blog. I’m sure food will be discussed as it is a staple in our household. An occasional recipe or tip may be shared, but this is not a source of meal planning or inspiration food wise. You might want to look elsewhere for that. I am simply doing the best I can with what I have and what I have in my freezer is frozen peas. Wine. I also have wine).

****

“I’m hungry!” My 3-year-old daughter shouts. Sweat drips down my spine and tickles my back as I pull my head out from the open freezer door to see her pink cheeks and droopy eyes staring up at me. It was a sweltering summer day in the Pacific Northwest. I know, I know, I sound like a wimp. But when it’s 90+ degrees, you aren’t used to that kind of heat, and you have no air conditioning, it can feel pretty dang hot.

“I know you are hungry Had.” I respond, less than sympathetic. I glance over at my 11 month-old in his high chair who is shoving his frozen teether and chubby little fingers into his slobbery mouth. Ugh teething. I gaze absent-mindedly into the freezer. “What to do for dinner?” I sigh to myself. Suddenly my eyes lock upon a bag of frozen peas. I had read about frozen peas as a soothing food for teething. Plus, it’s cold, and…a vegetable! “How about some frozen peas!?” I suggest cheerily.

“Sure!” Hadley agrees. I open the bag and dump some into a bowl. She jumps up onto a kitchen chair and smiles as I hand her the bowl. I drop a few on John’s tray.

“Ball.” he says.

“Yes, John. They are shaped like a ball, but these aren’t balls. They are peas, frozen peas.” The minutes that follow are quiet. I can finally wrap my head around what to start for dinner as my kids happily munch on their frozen peas. Frozen peas!

****

Summer play dates with my teacher friends are the best. Our kids are all around the same age. We as moms and educators have so much in common to discuss. Plus, we share the sheer joy that is summer vacation.

We were wrapping up another successful play date at my house. As we said our goodbyes, Hadley of course pipes up, “I’m hungry!”

“You want some frozen peas?” I suggest, “our friends are just about to leave and then I can work on lunch, but right now we are talking and saying goodbye.”

I whip out the peas and pour some in a bowl. My friend’s two little girls curiously walk over to peek inside Hadley’s bowl. “You want one?” I question. “Is it okay?” I ask glancing up at their mom.

“Frozen peas?” She questioned. “Sure.”

One pea after another her daughters shoved into their mouths. “They love them!” My friend exclaims. “I can’t believe they like frozen peas just plain like that.”

A couple of hours later my friend texted me, The girls wanted more frozen peas when we got home. I didn’t have any plain peas but I had a frozen veggie mix with peas and carrots that I gave them. They love it. Thanks for the tip.

Mixed frozen veggies? Brilliant.

***

Frozen peas represent much more than an uncooked, really cold, hard, and slightly gross  tasting vegetable. To me, they show the grace that needs to come with being a mom. The grace we need give ourselves and the grace we need give each other. Sometimes, it is really, really hard being a mom and sometimes, you just need a quick snack or meal that everyone at the table will actually enjoy. Frozen peas have always worked for me as a healthy snack and distraction. Plus, they make a great addition to our family’s favorite meal: fried rice.

I was happy to share the frozen pea snack idea with a friend. I love that she took it and ran with it. Not only that, she added to it. Not just frozen peas but carrots as well. This is such a small thing, a simple thing, and almost silly, a frozen vegetable. But it shows the need for relationship, friendship and community with other moms. To share ideas and experiences that we can together expand on or improve upon. It makes the journey of motherhood so much sweeter when you can share it with other moms.

So moms,  you are not alone. You are amazing. You are rockin’ it every single day. This blog is for you. My wine glass at dinnertime will be cheering to you. I hope these words and stories on this blog inspire, encourage, and humor you in times of need or in times of contentment. Trust me, frozen peas. Try it.