Sunday, September 6, 2015

The spaces in between

Yesterday I saw a photo.

If you know the story behind the photo, you know exactly how awful it is.

It's a little 3-year-old boy, curled up on his belly. On the sand. With the water lapping at his face.


The photo makes him look as though he is merely asleep.... Not that he had drowned and had literally washed up on shore, with his (also dead) 5-year-old brother.

I have heard, "Syria this ... refugee that ... worst humanitarian crisis since WWII ..." but none of it clicked for me. 

Not until I saw that sweet boy, who reminded me of Z. 

Then everything changed. My heart ripped, my body wracked with silent sobs, and I begged God to let it end.

Let the senseless death, the hopelessness, the loss of precious life, please God, just bring it to an end.

And I thought about the mother of these boys, who also drowned when their boat capsized.

What kind of fear does it take to risk her children's lives in order to save them?

In the middle of the summer, we took a boat ride out on the Puget Sound. We were on a speed boat, and I was honestly afraid most of the way. Both kids had life jackets, but I kept I thinking of what could happen if the boat flipped, or my kids fell in.

My fears were really unfounded, as the risk of an accident happening was ridiculously low.

But then there's the refugee mom. Who had the odds completely stacked against her.

How afraid must she have been to put both of her children on an overcrowded raft, filled past the point of safety? To cross a sea without life jackets on her kids. To know that a giant wave or a shark or a malfunction of the raft could be the death of them. To know how often people have lost their lives making a trek across the sea like they did.

And yet she stepped onboard anyway.

What must have been running through her head when the raft sank, and her kids sank with it?
Did she have more kids than arms to reach them? What could it have been to experience the terror of drowning while knowing your children were drowning in the dark water somewhere next to you, but out of your reach?

And in that moment, was the risk still worth it? Was death still a better option than the terror of living under ISIS control?

As I slowly woke this morning, little Alyn was first on my heart. I wished someone could have held him. I wished he didn't have to die alone. I wished he hadn't died at all.

And the veins of entitlement, which has so subtly weaved itself into my character, became so apparent to me. 

Entitlement feeds my discontentment with ideas like, "my house should be bigger, cuter, more in-style. I should be cuter, and smarter and more in-style. My kids should be better behaved, and not so draining, and so needy." All while others would be thankful for a safe home with doors that lock, instead of living in a car, or a tent. They would be thankful for any children, no matter how demanding. My blood has run thick with entitlement, and it has poisoned my soul.

As I drove to church yesterday, the shame felt heavy and unavoidable. I asked God to forgive me for the years I have allowed discontentment to drain my gratitude and joy.

And still, even with the Syrian refugee family fresh on my mind, even with gratitude pouring from every part of me, I still struggled today with the hard of being a mom to three kids.

My kids were not screaming in terror of drowning, but they were screaming. About poop. Loudly. In the grocery store. For a long time.

And I thought to myself . . . This is hard.

I now go to church by myself. Ryan helps sometimes, but mostly, I do the church thing with 3 kids alone. And in the parking lot, my kids were running ahead of me, in spite of my admonition for them to stay close, and a blue van drives a little too quickly, a little too close for my comfort. And I scream "STOP!!! STOP!!! I reach out, but I have more kids than hands. (Z was safely in one arm, and my bags and phone in the other.)

As soon as my kids stopped and the van passed, we were out of danger. But the Syrian mom, when would she ever felt like they were out of danger if they had survived? Would she have ever been able to let her guard down? 

No, my fear was very much fleeting, unlike her gut level fear of staying in the same place, or chancing death in a risky move accross the ocean.

And still, I thought to myself, "This is hard."

I wasn't trying to contain my kids on a small raft, fleeing for our lives. Instead, I was trying to contain them in a shopping cart for an hour, trying my best to minimize bickering, squashed loaves of bread, and screaming about poo.

And in spite of our admittedly low discomfort in the grocery store ... And in spite of the fact that I was surrounded by food I could have easily bought and eaten ... "Still" ... I thought ... "This is hard."

And what do I do with these spaces in between what is hard for others and what is hard for me? How do I live each moment filled with gratitude, breathing in the beauty of the present, and offering myself grace in the moments that are not so beautiful. (My preschooler screaming about poop all the way from the checkout stands to the restroom for instance --- not a glorious moment.)

And yet no matter how hard my day is, there is someone else having a harder day and someone else having an easier day.

These are the spaces in between.

I hope to live in those spaces with grace, compassion, and respect for the hard of others AND the hard I know. While still creating space for gratitude.

And maybe the person in those spaces I need to show the most grace to is me. Because I know there will be days I will fail, days I have failed. Days I have compared the hards of others, maybe to make myself feel better. And days I have ignored the hard of others, because I was too content keeping my own little world safe and happy.

We all live in the spaces in between. I guess the question is, how can we do it well?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

my 7 secrets to doing it all

There are two things I am told by at least one person every week. The first is "It takes a special kind of person to do foster care." I'll be writing my thoughts on that here soon, but today, I'm going to share about #2:

"I don't know how you do it." 

This could be in relation to foster care, surviving multiple pregnancy losses, writing a blog, working on a book, joining a play, or running a business. Or doing all of it. Plus a house to keep up.

So today, I want to share with you how I do it.

Here are my 7 secrets to doing it all.


With a lot of prayer and leaning on God.

Today, my schedule is so packed, I had to increment my time in 15-minute blocks to ensure I get it all of one and stay on track. My day started at 6:30, and will probably not "end" till 10 or 10:30. On days that are super busy, I have to break it down.

As we got home from school drop off for Maddy, Leyla, and a trip to the grocery store, I paused in the car and prayed out loud.

"Thanks God for our home, our food, our health, our opportunities. Help me to keep it together today. Help me to move forward in business, in my family, and take care of everyone's needs with love and patience."

I also start every most mornings with a short prayer, (let's be real here),  asking for God's help to accomplish what I need, with the right attitude. I find myself praying often on short bursts throughout the day, realizing I depend on God for everything. And as long as my babies will let me, I read for a few minutes from the Bible in the morning to start my day off right.

With lots of grace.

This morning, I needed to fix breakfast for 3 kids, eat, take a shower, get 2 kids ready for school, pack a lunch, and be out of the house by 8 am.

We got out at 8:10.

And Leyla threw a fit about getting shoes on, so I walked the rest of the kids to the car, and told her to join us when she was done.

Should have been a good idea, except that now that we were late, I was in a rush. 

At Leyla's school, I realized my mistake. First, I didn't grab her book bag which was right by the door. Second, I didn't lock the door, or for that matter, close it at all. (Gasp!)

And so after drop-off, I rushed home to close and lock the door that was clearly wide-open for all the world to see (and break in and enter.)

And that's where grace enters. See, I make lots of mistakes. A lot. I forget to close doors, lose keys, forget lunches and coats and backpacks, keep my kids up too late, and don't always get them home for nap time.

Just recently, I took Maddy to school, one minute late. (Literally. One minute). My hair was dripping because I tried to sneak a shower in the few free minutes I had. (That was not-so-awesome time management.) My mascara from yesterday was still pooled under my lids. I carried both Z and Leyla (shoeless, of course) as I tried to rush Maddy to out of the car.

All while the principal was watching, and hollering at me to "try my best to get my kids to school on time." Granted, it WAS the third day of school and a little early in the year to already be late. But still. After encouraging me to be on time, he acquiesced: "Well, I'm sure it's hard to get three out of the house. I never had to raise three. Actually, I probably couldn't do it. But still, try to be on time."

And I've learned to be Ok with that. Sure, I won't win any parent-of-the-year award, especially not from any teachers (and certainly not from the principal) ... And there is almost nothing in my home Pinterest-worthy .... But doing OK has become good enough for me. At least for most things.

Sometimes, I let things go.

Before Ryan became an avid helper in the home, I had to learn that some things had to be let go. In order to write, I'd ignore the laundry. In order to get dinner on, sometimes it would be the exact same easy meal as last week: baked chicken, peas and a side-salad. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy.

I find that the days I'm most productive, it's because I have a priority list of up to 6 items that need to be done each day. Bonus points if I make it the night before. If I can't get to all 6, the items get bumped to the top of the next day's list.

I don't always do my list, but I'm trying to make it a new habit. And the things that don't make it to the list -- well, I just serenade those with the Frozen theme song.

My perfectionist self is coming to terms with the idea of "good enough."

With lots of support.

My husband is pretty amazing. He has begun helping with laundry, does dishes every night, puts all the kids to bed at least twice a week, and does chores on the weekend.  

My parents and in-laws are close by. And while we don't use their support every week, it's nice to know we have it when we need some last-minute babysitting, or a night 1-, 2-, or 3- kids free.

In the past, I have hired a mommy-helper, giving me 3 full hours each week of focused time.

In short -- I don't do it alone. I'm not parenting alone, I'm not cleaning alone (although I have in the past), and my kids have adjusted to doing things without me.

Downtime is double time.

And by downtime, I don't mean that hour I get to myself everyday. (Ha.) I mean, the time I use the bathroom. (Sorry, it's true. I'm human). I mean the time waiting in line. I mean the time I'm supervising Z's playgroup. It means the time I'm relaxing from my day, in bed, and I'm on my phone. The time when I'm snuggling Z and feeding him a bottle before nap time. (In fact, that's when I wrote the bulk of this post.)

I mean, those times.

Instead of just scrolling through Facebook (a habit I'm working very hard to break), I'm reading a book. In fact, many of my books are read by utilizing the few minutes I'm in the bathroom to myself, as well as when I sit down to eat lunch. I read. I carry a book with me when I can.

Also, another habit I'm working on is writing at night before I go to bed. I'm working on my first chapter of my book, so instead of reading about other people's lives at night, I'm writing down my own.

When I have downtime, I try to double it up as productive time. Yet still make it relaxing.

I'm intentional.

For so long, I waited. I waited to start something until it was perfect timing. I waited for Ryan to initiate a family day. I waited for my to-do list to whither away before spending quality time with my kids.

And in the end -- I just felt like life, and what I really wanted, was always on snooze.

It's taken me a while, but I've (finally) realized that life with a plan far outweighs life without one.

And so on the two weekends a month I set aside for family time -- we DO something together. We usually go on a hike. Or for a drive. Or a bike ride. Instead of wasting our day puttering around the house, we make it count. And some of our best memories come from those family days.

Getting connected in my church has become a priority for me. So instead of waiting for connection to just fall in my lap, I'm plugging in. I'm singing once a month at church, and helping in the Kindergarten room once a month. Maddy and I also just started the play together. (Which sounds overwhelming, but it's 6 hours a week, which can double as Maddy/Mommy time. If Maddy were in a sport, I'd probably be spending that time rushing her to games, etc. So this way, we're together AND it's an extracurricular activity. And I can read or write or work on the days Maddy doesn't need to be there, and I'm not on stage.)

I use nap time for work time. And if I don't get it done during naptime, then I'll let my kids watch a show while I finish up.

We have dinner together most every night, and that's our time to connect. Breakfast, however, is served alongside cartoons while I do yoga in the office and take a quick shower. If I don't get it done in the morning, chances are it will never happen!

While I drive for errands, or to pick up kids, I listen to trainings for personal development, leadership and business education. It has the added benefit of my kids hearing these trainings. Recently, Maddy told me, "I felt the fear mom. And I did it anyway." Since I've never said that to her, I know where she got that from. My university on wheels.

I don't do it for me.

Well, at least, not ALL for me.

The other day, Leyla was having a very rough day. This happens a lot. I think God must have given me this idea, because honestly, I was ready to just grit down and win the control war. Except I think He showed me that right then, she needed love and attention, not further discipline. So I stopped what I was doing, and just played. Like roll all over the floor, play and tickle, and throw her in the air, and try not to get smothered by a toddler and preschooler relishing in their mom on the floor with them.

We have dance parties in the kitchen, and sing-alongs in the car, and rummy matches late at night. I know I focus on getting things done, but at the same time, my kids and my hubby are my top priority. At times that means putting the phone or book down, and just snuggling. Or playing that extra game of cards. Or missing the conference call I know will be recorded because my kids are having a meltdown.

I mean, really, my family is so important to me. I might have to schedule it in . . . but I take time to NOT be busy in order to make them know I love them and get to know them.

I run my business because I want to give my family choices. I stay at home because I want to be present in their lives. I fix (mostly) homemade meals because I want them to know that healthy food matters. I foster Z because that's what a person does when someone else needs them. And Z needed us. (And now, of course, I love him. That took all of like, what? One day?)

I am so far from perfect, so please, no pedestals here. I'm messy at times, today I'm still in my pajamas from this morning, and there are days where I feel like the worst parent ever.

But I do all these things in hopes of being a good steward of what I have been given, and in hopes of making a difference in other people's lives. Starting with my own family's.

How do you do what you do? I'm not the only busy mama here -- so please share your tips and tricks for getting it done!