imperfect love in action

Today, as I rocked my baby to sleep for her afternoon nap, I looked down and noticed her soft, sweet little feet sticking far out, over the arm of the rocking chair.  Earlier, I had sat next to a friend rocking a wrinkly, smooshy newborn and wondered at how short a time ago my firstborn had been that small in my own arms.  It’s been a day of the future gently nudging at my present, reminding me of how time rushes past, despite my feeble attempts to save it in a flurry of photographs, saved art projects, careful memory-making.IMG_8647I am acutely aware that my precious family will never again be exactly the way it is today.  Tomorrow, we will all be a day older.  A day older, certainly, and hopefully a day more loved and loving. And that’s what’s so clear to me today- no matter what the future holds, we have done the work of loving each other for another day.

IMG_8769It may not have been perfect love in action.  Maybe not even close.  (Sometimes, there is yelling. It’s inevitable.) That’s ok. But at some point in the future, near or far, there will be hundreds, thousands of these days of being loved stretching out behind us.  They add up, bolstering us to face the tomorrows that might be hard and lonely, or bursting with joy.  That is what I want my family to be about.  Really, that’s what I want my life to be about.

 

*An administrative note: I moved this site over to www.agentlemother.com.  If you’re subscribed on this site, head over there and re-subscribe.  I promise I’ll make it worth your while!

on not caring what other people think (and grocery shopping with kids)

IMG_8720I have a confession: I care about what other people think of me. Too much.

Whew. It felt good to get that off my chest.  Because, for some reason, that feels like the dirty little secret that people carry around with them, doesn’t it?  Everyone is constantly telling you that you shouldn’t worry about what other people think of you, that if you’re confident in yourself, it doesn’t matter. If you have your eyes firmly fixed on God, you won’t even notice what others around you are whispering.  If you’re a good mother, you’ll do what’s best for your family and not even notice when the old lady at Trader Joe’s throws you some serious shade while both of your kids slam their mini-carts into the banana display.

Well.  Those people are probably right.  No, they are definitely right.  We shouldn’t care.  If we were closer to perfection, we wouldn’t care.  At some point in my life, I hope to not care.  I’m getting better at it all the time.  Like, for instance, that little vignette about the lady with the pinchy, angry mouth at Trader Joe’s?  Yeah, that happened and I was kinda like, “Ha! At least they’re not crying!” (There was crying, later, but we were already halfway to the car when it happened, so I consider that I shopping victory.)  It’s getting easier for me to not care what strangers think of me, and for that, I’m grateful.

But if I’m being perfectly honest (and that’s what I’m going for here), I still care way too much about how those closest to me perceive my actions.  Even when I’m acting in a way that I know is right, I let worry fester. Did they misunderstand?  Do they understand what pressures I’m facing in my life?  Did they realize that I’d prayed long and hard about this decision?  Do they know that I didn’t mean to offend? Do they even get how hard it is to keep both of my children fully clothed and diapered and fed at the same time while also trying to clean the house?

I hope you’re not like me.  I hope you don’t care and that that comes easy to you.  But maybe it doesn’t.  Maybe you’re just a little bit like me?  Maybe you care a little more than you want to admit?  If that’s the case, my point is, there’s hope.

Detachment from the judgement and misunderstandings of the world isn’t something we can expect ourselves to master overnight.  Or over the course of a year.  Or, really, over the course of a lifetime.  I mean, this is stuff that SAINTS struggled with, people!  There’s a reason why you hear so many people say later in life that they give little mind to the judgements of others… maybe because they’ve had a lifetime of practice?  It takes work to continue being you and purposefully detaching from the harsh criticisms (real or imagined) of others. So what I’m saying is, it’s ok to own it.  We don’t have to pretend we don’t care when we do.  Acknowledge it, put it in its place, and move on. Be open and honest and let others worry about their own thoughts. I can’t control the mind of that grumpy lady in the grocery store any more than I can control who my kids take out with their shopping carts. So one day at a time, I’m going to have to practice letting it go.

best laid plans and hope for next year

DSC_0190So. Yesterday was a rough day.  For many reasons, mostly the type of reasons that anyone who cares for small children all day has a myriad of (Colds! Tantrums! Why are there legos in the toilet!).  But yesterday, more than anything, I felt overwhelmed.

Because yesterday I realized that it was the second day of Advent and there was a disconcerting lack of Advent-y things going on.  I was definitely, at some point, planning on having the kids make one of these adorable advent wreaths. I’m pretty sure a bible study or reflection series was on my to-do list.  And I can say that I most certainly (almost certainly?) was going to wrap up 25 Christmas-themed books for my kids to open each day until Christmas.  I bought little gifts to put in the kids’ shoes for St. Nicholas Day, but wait, did those get delivered?  And I really wanted to get this tradition or this one started for our family this year but it is looking less and less likely.DSC_0175

However, we did put up the Christmas tree last weekend.  And I’ve basically bought gifts for everyone on my list already (don’t ask me how this happened; I honestly don’t know.) And I’ve made some Christmas candy and we’ve finally found some non-obnoxious Christmas music to listen to (Nora Jones Christmas station on Pandora!).

But really, I had planned to purposefully focus on Advent this year, and wait to fully celebrate Christmas until the Christmas season actually began.  The goal was to instill in my children that this season is about peaceful, joyful waiting- that it’s a liturgical season onto itself.  To get in all those lessons that Advent and Christmas aren’t really about the presents or the tree or the food.

And here I am, and the only seasonal goals I’ve completed are, in no particular order: The Presents. The Tree. The Food.

Oy.

But today is a new day, and I’m starting to think maybe I’ve gotten it a little wrong. If I want to make Advent about joyful anticipation (and I do!), I have to let myself and my family prepare in our way.  I keep telling Joey that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday party.  So why shouldn’t I spend this time preparing the way I would for that party?  In our family, we prepare for a party by making lots of food, singing while we do it, and maybe buying a few heartfelt gifts for the person we’re celebrating. These little preparations aren’t the point of Christmas, but they do fill our hearts with excitement, anticipation, and joy.  And so maybe it’s ok that I didn’t order Christmas cards or find the perfect church outfit for the kids or have a craft to do each day.  Those just aren’t the things that fill us with joy.DSC_0151

My Advent will be imperfect because I’m imperfect.  Joy doesn’t require perfection.  I am not failing at Advent just because my kids are already talking about getting presents on Christmas.  That’s a concrete way for them to understand the excitement of the coming season.  They might not have made an advent wreath, but I bought some nice greens at trader joes, scraped the Halloween blood-candle wax off of some votives, plopped it on a $5 ikea tray, and voila, we have an advent wreath to light at dinner every night.  There isn’t  stack of wrapped books to open each day before Christmas, but I printed off this cute calendar yesterday and the kids kind of loved it. We didn’t get to Christmas cards this year, but we’ve spent a lot of time with people we love, and really reveled in being together. And now that I’m not stressing out about all the stuff I’m not doing (maybe next year! there’s always hope for next year!), I’m feeling much more peaceful and joyful. DSC_0179

Gratitude, Blessings, and Pie

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!  I hope you’re enjoying the holiday with good food, surrounded by your friends and family.

This morning I read this wonderful reflection and I love the idea of coming up with a thousand things to be grateful for throughout a year.  A thousand seems like a big number, but when you stop to think about it, we all have many more thousands, if not millions of things to be thankful about.  I’m going to take up this challenge this year.  Who’s going to join me? DSC_0185

Today, I’m feeling profoundly grateful for my sweet little happy, healthy family.  Life feels tough and prickly some days, but few moments go by that I’m not acutely aware how blessed I am that I get to do family with these people. My people. I’m also crazy thankful that our too-early snow all melted… it’s too early for this shenanigans, mmmmk?  The kids had fun, but I’m not ready for the wet boots and slushy mudroom. DSC_0167

What are you thankful for this year?  I asked my kids when we made our “thankful turkeys” yesterday and I loved their honest, sweet answers. (In case you’re wondering, yes, that is a monster turkey and yes, I did have to stop Joey from just listing different kinds of sweets for his 6 things to be thankful for. Because… 3 year olds.)

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Hope this day finds you filled with joy, love, and a profound awareness of your many blessings.  I also hope it finds you filled with turkey, cranberry sauce, and pie.

Also, a little poem for you, that I stumbled upon earlier today, and which made my heart warm and happy.  Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

Thanksgiving

by Tim Nolan

 

Thanks for the Italian chestnuts—with their

tough shells—the smooth chocolaty

skin of them—thanks for the boiling water—

 

itself a miracle and a mystery—

thanks for the seasoned sauce pan

and the old wooden spoon—and all

 

the neglected instruments in the drawer—

the garlic crusher—the bent paring knife—

the apple slicer that creates six

 

perfect wedges out of the crisp Haralson—

thanks for the humming radio—thanks

for the program on the radio

 

about the guy who was a cross-dresser—

but his wife forgave him—and he

ended up almost dying from leukemia—

 

(and you could tell his wife loved him

entirely—it was in her deliberate voice)—

thanks for the brined turkey—

 

the size of a big baby—thanks—

for the departed head of the turkey—

the present neck—the giblets

 

(whatever they are)—wrapped up as

small gifts inside the cavern of the ribs—

thanks—thanks—thanks—for the candles

 

lit on the table—the dried twigs—

the autumn leaves in the blue Chinese vase—

thanks—for the faces—our faces—in this low light.

 

This is life.

DSC_0209So that first post was kind of deep, right?  And then the second one?  Woo! Poems! I love ’em.  But I promise that’s not all that’ll be around here.  I’m all about the quiet moments of reflection, the poetry, all that.  But I’m also about real life.  The kind of real life where sometimes I leave my kids alone for 30 seconds so I can pee and come back to find their lunch (cream of chicken and rice soup, if you were wondering) smeared all over the counter.  And I ain’t even mad because at least they are being nice to each other and working together to mush the rice to one side and the chicken bits to the other.

Did I mention that I roasted a chicken, made chicken stock out of it, then lovingly prepared the soup from scratch so these little angels have strong, healthy bodies?

Did I mention before we sat down to eat I wiped down the counter thoroughly, as it was covered with mystery goo from breakfast, and was all, “Ok, no more wiping mystery goo on the counter?”

But seriously, I’m not even mad.  Look at them. Just look! So cute, right?

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So anyway… life.  Here’s the thing: I used to think that I had to be the {Fill in the blank} girl.  The smart girl.  The funny girl. The has-it-all-together-mom girl.  The artistic, thoughtful girl.  I basically took the idea of branding yourself and confused it with how to live my life.  But the truth is, while finding your niche might be good for a business or a writing style, it’s not such a great way to live our life.  It’s ok to be kind of funny, but also kind of serious about things that matter.  It’s ok to really like writing about food, but it’s also ok if you want to write about faith and your relationship with God.  Right?

Ok, so there will be silliness here and some serious stuff. Some poems that I find and love and want to share.  Maybe a couple recipes when I make something that I think you’ll love? Oh, and sometimes I do crazy things like attempt to make my own beeswax candles in thrifted teacups, or convince my parents to raise a flock of ducks.  If that sounds like stuff you’re into, hang around.  It won’t be perfect, but it’s my real-life stuff and I’m excited to share it with you.