Sibling Love

My chicks are all back in the nest, where they belong.

Everett is delighted to be reunited with his “girlies”. Kaylia was at camp for a week, and then Anika was at camp the next week, and it felt like two weeks was a long time to be missing a family member. My thoughts keep going to my cousin, who lost her son in an accident this last week, and my heart feels heavy for moms who can’t be with their children.

These are the days to hold them close, and enjoy this stage. But at the same time, I always want to keep in mind that the whole point is for them to grow up, and eventually leave the nest, and I don’t want that to be a depressing thought. I want to learn to be fully present, and enjoy each stage, being able to look ahead with excitement and anticipation, and lots of trust that God has good things in store for the future.

But right now, it’s good to have them right where they are. There’s been some fighting already, but it warmed my heart to look out the window and find them chatting together in the play structure – so much to catch up on!:)

Other than the play structure moment, my favourite interaction would have to be this one:

Anika: Locked in her room, reading her book and wanting to be alone.

Kaylia: Knocking and repeatedly begging to play.

Anika: Repeatedly ignoring her.

Kaylia: Made Everett come to Anika’s door with her and started feeding him lines. “Tell Anika to open her door.”

Everett: “Anka, open my door!”

Kaylia: “Tell Anika to let you in her room.”

Everett: “Let you into my room!”

Kaylia “Tell her you want to hug her.”

Everett: “I want to hug you!”

Kaylia: “Tell her you want to kiss her.”

Everett: (long pause) “No. I not saying that.” And stomped down the hall. A kiss was going too far.

May you have better luck with your kiss requests this week. Have a happy Monday!

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Summer Bucket List

I made a summer bucket list with the girls a month ago. They had all kinds of fun ideas for what they’d like to do this summer, but I had only one item to add to the list – family float time at the lake. We used to do this before Everett was born: a hot summer afternoon + something to float on for everyone, and a few hours later, I had my all-time favourite summer memories, every single time.

But it’s been three years since this has happened! We’ve had some great weekends at the cabin since Everett was born, but we’ve never had a HOT weekend! It’s been rainy and on the cooler side every time we’ve gone out there the last two summers, and I was starting to get desperate! How was it possible to miss out for so long on my favourite summer activity??!

We finally got our hot weekend, and our family floated, and now I don’t care what happens for the rest of the summer, I have been satisfied.

We stayed at the lake until Monday so that we could drop Kaylia off at camp, which is five minutes away from my parents’ cabin. It’s her first time going, and we’re all pretty curious how this will go! It’s been awhile since we’ve only had two kids in the house, so Anika and I have a list of chick flicks to get through, and Everett is missing his little playmate, so he’s filling his time with “helping” me, which we all know is outrageously helpful. Although, he did empty the whole cooler when we got back from the cabin, which was legitimately helpful, so maybe it will turn out okay!

I hope your week is off to a wonderful start!

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Let Mothering Be Hard

A few weeks ago, while scrolling through Facebook, I came across a post written by a mother, publicly honouring her grown daughter, who is also a mom, by saying, “I’m always amazed by how you can do it all! You make it look so easy!” and went on to list all the many responsibilities her daughter juggles.

This bothered me. I love words of affirmation, and I think encouragement is a beautiful, life-giving thing. But I had a problem with this comment, because it’s what our culture always glorifies – doing it all, and looking perfect while we do it.

The problem is, it’s pretty much impossible to “do it all”, and not lose our sanity. If anyone is actually doing it “all”, and is able to make it look easy or perfect, they are either exceptionally gifted, or they’re faking it. If they’re exceptionally gifted, this should not be the normal standard, and if they’re faking it, it shouldn’t be praised and glorified.

Standards have been set so high, there is no room for admitting weakness, stress, or struggling.

There are a few problems I see with this:

  1. Moms who can’t do it all get the message that they fall short.
  2. It encourages comparison.
  3. It ignores the fact that each mother has a vastly different life-calling, personality, and number of responsibilities on her plate.
  4. It suggests that when women burn out and must take a break, they are “less than”, falling short of the times when they are able to do it all. It makes it hard to admit when things are hard.

Social media plays a large role in this, but it seems to be a message we communicate in a wide variety of other ways, as well. It’s an attitude which permeates our culture.

We praise the woman who can do it all, but where is the honour for the mother who goes slowly? Who dedicates her hours to the small, simple acts of caring for her family in ways which the outside world will never see? Where is our praise for women with strong boundaries, a good understanding of her personal energy levels, great wisdom and self-control when she decides not to spread herself thin by committing to too many things?

There are some women who do a fantastic job of working full-time, raising kids, and keeping the house under control, while making it all look easy, but I don’t know of very many. From what women have shared with me, a lot of these brave, hardworking mothers all have times of struggling and fighting discouragement and guilt. It seems that most of the time, something has to give. There’s guilt over hiring a cleaning lady, or guilt over not spending enough time with her kids. Always guilt about something, because she’s doing everything but doesn’t know if she’s doing it well enough.

Then there are women like me, who stay home, and feel guilty because we have the extra hours at home, so we *should* be able to keep the house cleaner, be more focused and attentive, do more crafts with our kids, and yet even with the “extra” time, we still feel like we’re falling short.

Why are so many women feeling guilty? Why is it so hard to be a good mom?

My guess is because it IS hard. As it should be.

This is the most important thing I will ever do. It should be hard.

I hope there are other important things I get to accomplish in my lifetime, but to bring a human being into this world, and to be a part of the process of them growing into mature, wonderful adults is a big deal. It takes a ton of work and growing pains of all kinds, for everyone involved. There are no shortcuts to growth and awesomeness, and yet we’ve come up with the term “Super Mom” – for the woman who can do it all, and make it look easy.

I read this quote recently which summed it up nicely:

Looking back on my childbearing years, it seems as if I struggled every step of the way. I interpreted my struggling as a sign that I wasn’t good enough. Yet now that I have the perspective of a veteran mom, I think that there are certain struggles that can’t be avoided in mothering, such as sleepless nights with a newborn or an older child getting sick the day you’re leaving for vacation. And there are others that shouldn’t be avoided in mothering — how to meet your child’s needs without negating your own, when to take charge and when to let go, how to balance getting things done with building relationships or having fun. Struggles like these serve as stepping-stones to self-development. It is through these struggles that a mother defines who she is and becomes the mother she wants to be. (MotherStyles, Janet P. Penley)

Instead of focusing on perfection, I love the idea of embracing struggles, because it is the struggle which strengthens and shapes us. It acknowledges that life is messy, and that’s a good thing. There is room for mess, pain, confusion and uncertainty. There is no such thing as a Super Mom – there are just a lot of beautiful, strong women, working hard to love and care for their kids in the best way they know how, and that’s going to look a million different ways.

Saying parenting is hard doesn’t have to be a negative thing. For the last while, I’ve been doing some physical exercise which is hard for me. There’s nothing wrong with the exercise, or with me for finding it difficult – it’s just hard because I haven’t done it before, and I haven’t built up my strength and skill, but I will.

The same thing goes for parenting. It’s hard, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the kids or the parents. It simply means we’re building character and skill, and it will come.

Hard things are rewarding. They bring wonderful truth to the surface, and show us that we can become more than we were before. Parenting does this more than anything I’ve ever done. It is most definitely rewarding and life-changing. There are such beautiful moments, there are no words to describe it. I love these children of mine deeply, in the hard times, and the good.

We will gain far more ground if we lean into the struggle, rather than wasting our precious energy denying its existence and hiding its reality from the rest of the world.

It is hard, so let it be. The struggle is right and good.

Beginning of Summer

I love the beginnings of things – the first day on vacation, first thing in the morning, first page in a journal. You just never know where things are going to go, and I enjoy the anticipation. I’m not as good at squeezing out the last drops. I guess I keep jumping ahead, and start thinking about the next thing too soon, which is great for having motivation to start something new, but not so great for staying in the moment.

End of summer and I have some work to do. But beginning of summer? We get along great. I love the promise of great things to come, the long stretch of beautiful days before us.


Speaking of anticipating things, next week is my birthday, and I’ll be doing my usual “Birthday Favorites” giveaway – I share my favorite finds of the year, and anyone who shares theirs in the comment section over the next two weeks is entered into a draw. I’ve heard such great tips and things to try from all of you in the past, and I’m super excited to get started!

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Father’s Day Fail

When Ben and I got married, someone gave us the book “The Five Love Languages”. I dutifully read it and took the test. When it told me that I best understand expressions of love like quality time, words of affirmation, and acts of service, this made sense. Gifts and physical touch, not so much. I like practical stuff, and I’m not a huggy person.

Ben never could figure out what his love languages were for sure. He didn’t take any test, but he thought physical touch was most important for him, and based on seventeen years of living with him,  I guessed acts of service were high up there as well. But I was pretty sure words of affirmation weren’t a big priority. Every year on his birthday, I used to write meaningful notes in birthday cards. I still write loving blog posts about him every year, and I always wait anxiously for him to read them. And his reaction is the same – he says, “Thank you. That’s very nice.” And that’s all. Since it never seems to blow him away, I just assumed words of affirmation were more my thing.

Here’s where my giant failure comes in: This year for Father’s Day, we were super sneaky about getting a gift that would surprise him, and we talked about what would be fun to do together as a family, but when the idea of a card crossed my mind, my thoughts were “A card? Hmm….nah, he’s not really into cards and words of affirmation”, and I totally ditched the idea.


So we were sitting in a restaurant waiting for our food on Father’s Day, and the topic of love languages came up. I was ready to get some answers out of this easy-going husband of mine, so I found a test on my phone, and made him take it right then and there. The results? WORDS OF AFFIRMATION!!! What in the world?! Also, physical touch and acts of service, just like we’d guessed. But I totally did not see that first one coming. And I skipped the card! And didn’t get our kids to make a card!!


Never again. I won’t let his easy-going reaction fool me anymore, and he will receive the most beautifully worded cards from now on.

Words of advice for everyone reading this: Take the test! And make your loved ones take it too! And never skip the card!! Sheesh.

But we had a fun day, and it was great to celebrate Ben.

I really, really love Ben. He’s the most wonderful person to be around. He is always in a good mood, he changes the atmosphere of any room he walks into, he draws people to him and laughter out of them, and he brings all the fun into our home, along with large doses of wisdom and level-headedness. And fortunately, he’s so easy-going that I’m sure he’ll be totally fine with my late attempt to honour him with words of affirmation! But I’ll do better next year.;)

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I Was There, Too!

Every year for Mother’s Day, I make our moms a little photo book of all our best pictures from the year. They have quite a collection built up already, and I have fun seeing the changes in our family from year to year as I work on the photo books.

But I made a sad discovery as I put the albums together this year this year – there were no pictures of me. There were about a million of Everett, of course, with Kaylia coming in as a close second. Ben showed up a healthy number of times, but Anika made less appearances than other years because she’s entered her, “Don’t take a picture of me!!!!” teenager shrieking stage, but I still managed to get a few shots which she considered acceptable. But I’m completely absent in the photo book, because I’m always the one taking the photos.

I love taking photos, and I’m passionate about seeking out the beautiful little moments in our ordinary life, but apparently I have a problem with remembering to include myself. It’s my goal to change this, because someday, when our kids look back on the pictures from when they were little, I want them to see my holding them, caring for them, reading stories to them, in the kitchen cooking,  exercising, or whatever – all the little things they see me doing every day. I guess I want to see that, too, when I’m a little old lady, looking back on my life of lovely memories.

While I was reading to Everett before his nap today, snuggling and singing to him before putting him in his crib, he squirmed around until he was facing me, put his hands on both my cheeks, and said, “I love you, Mommy.” Then he messed up my hair, stroked it back down into place, and said, “You look nice with long hair!” (Which came out more like, “You wook nice wiff wong hair!”) He told me he loved me a few more times, then settled down with his head on my shoulder, and my heart exploded. 🙂 I want to remember all these sweet moments, but I also want the pictures to look back on, and they should include me, too.

We spent the long weekend at the lake, and I made a conscious effort to hand the camera off to someone else sometimes, so there’s proof I was there, as well! When I told my family about what I was doing, Ben argued that he takes lots of pictures of me. This is true, but most of them aren’t good pictures, because Ben delights in catching me at super awkward moments. He takes a million pictures all at once, hoping there will be at least one good one, and giggling at all the terrible ones, and then I have to delete the 999,999 bad pictures, and seriously edit the one decent picture, which is all very time consuming, so I guess I’ve become unmotivated to make it happen. But I have fresh incentive to give him another chance, so we’ll see how that goes.

In the meantime, here’s a peak at our first weekend at the lake this spring, and I was there, too!;)

 

We used to drive this stretch every week or two when we were living at camp. It was a pain to be two hours away from civilization in a lot of ways, but Ben and I always had the best time talking on those drives. Those hours in the van are something we look forward to, and the scenery, conversation, and bags of chips make the time pass quickly.:)

My parents spend the winter in Florida, and my older sister’s family lives an hour away from us, so it feels like family gets a bit disconnected during the winter months. Spring means getting back together again regularly, and the long weekend in May is when we always head out to the cabin together. It rained the whole time, so there was a lot of movie watching, game playing, and rock painting.

We celebrated Kaylia’s birthday there, and it was her dream to bake an Angel Food birthday cake with Grandma.

And if the goal is for my kids to look back on pictures of what they see me doing every day, then a picture of me taking pictures is appropriate!

Now I’m curious to hear – do you struggle with capturing your everyday moments, or are you a selfie-loving pro?!

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Mother’s Day Favorites

I heard a beautiful quote yesterday: “I haven’t done many great things in my life, but I have greatly loved my children.” (Suzanne Stabile)

I needed to hear that right now. Mother’s Day is a lovely idea, but sometimes I struggle with the idea of being celebrated, because I’m too aware of the ways in which I fall short. I can think of many ways in which I would love to improve my mothering skills, but if there’s one thing I do greatly, it’s love my children.

I wonder if I would enjoy Mother’s Day more if there wasn’t so much of an emphasis on being pampered and feeling special, but rather it could be a celebration of the opportunity to be a mother. A day to celebrate the chance to deeply love these sweet children of mine, a day to thank God for the answers to all my prayers during the years of infertility and miscarriages. I need the reminder that it’s not about getting it right every single time – it’s about all of us being sanctified and beautified as we become more like Jesus.

There are hundreds of ways I’ve messed up as a mom over the years, but I’d like a day to remember that love covers over a multitude of wrongs, and some time to remind myself that if great love = a great mom, then I was made for this. I was given everything I need to do this well. They are my greatest work.

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