I don’t give myself enough credit or grace, but I don’t think I’m alone in that. When I drop one ball, no matter how many others are STILL in the air, I feel it deeply.
Yesterday was tricycle parade day at kid’s day out for Joshua. I read the flyer, but:
1. I forgot.
2. I missed the part about them wearing their costumes.
3. I missed the part about needing to bring a tricycle.
Oh the trifecta of failure!
Here’s what happened. I carried Joshua into the gym, and since momma’s arms are his favorite mode of transportation, and I wasn’t leaving right then, he was thrilled.
He and I played chase all over the gym, and he loved running around the cones. All of the kids immediately bailed on their tricycles and ran and played. Joshua did not care that he wasn’t in a costume.
It fell hard on me though as I left headed into the office. After I left work I had to go by Ethan’s school to take his nap mat by since it was left at home Monday and Tuesday morning after I washed it over the weekend. I dropped it in the office, and they were very kind to me. They said that happens all the time, it was no big deal, and that they’d be sure he got it.
A diagnostician was leaving, and she said, “I don’t know why they send those things home so much. You know what happened to my kid’s nap mat when they were that age? It stayed in my car until Monday! We washed them maybe once every 6 weeks, and they were fine! All that they’re doing is giving you too many chances to forget it!”
That. That was what I needed in that moment. Someone who also lives a life with a million balls in the air to say that missing one thing was not a failure. Missing one this was not the end of the world.
That’s where I live. I live in the neighborhood of struggle because to err is human, and I forget that I am. I am a lot of things and have a lot of responsibility, BUT I AM HUMAN. I can make mistakes and not feel any less valid in my efforts.
I know I’m an overachiever. I know that I’ve had to work double time for every opportunity I’ve ever had. I know that aim toward perfection has always been my way, and it’s suffocating.
I see this most when God holds up a mirror when my kids struggle. Right now the biggest place I see this is Lauren. It’s not because we put that pressure on her. She does. She is a little bit too much like me in this area. If she misses the right answer, she gets upset. If everything isn’t 100 percent, she feels like she failed.
God is good in it. He’s giving me chance to change her trajectory. He’s giving me chances to heal this in me by seeing it and having to pour grace over Lauren, I can hear it for myself too. I can hear that getting it wrong is just part of learning. I can hear how 100 percent doesn’t matter as much as learning and trying your best. I can hear that even when you get the wrong answer, you can learn from it to know what to do next time. I get to tell her she just needs to slow down and remember to be patient with herself.
God is so good and He does good for us. He is healing me and teaching her about His heart for her. I am thankful. I am hopeful. I am glad to be His daughter. I am glad that there is grace for this. I am glad to be a part of breaking this cycle for my babies.
I’m trying really hard to take care of myself through creating time and space for opportunities to rest and be still. This is counterintuitive for me. I spend my days (and nights) caring for others and our home. I wanted to try to find a way to have an opportunity to just be and relax.
The idea I landed on was simple: take a 20 minute bath after Rob gets home. It didn’t have to start at the same time. With three kids, everything requires flexibility so that wasn’t important. The important thing was that it had to happen, and it had to be at least 20 minutes Monday through Friday that week. Here are my take aways and the things I learned:
1. I’m not used to slowing down. I set a timer to ensure I stayed in the whole 20 minutes. The first time I checked it to see how much time had passed it had only been 6 minutes. I checked because I was already feeling antsy from being still. I wouldn’t let myself check it again, but it was hard the first few days to not just rush out of the tub.
2. 20 minutes flies by when I’m making lunch, but when I’m trying to be still, it seemed like an eternity. Again, it felt weird to be alone and not doing something for that long.
3. No one died. I have an incredible husband who is an amazing dad. He took great care of our kids without me. I don’t have to be right there doing everything for everyone to be okay all the time. They were fine without me in the same room, and everyone survived and was happy to see me after my bath.
4. I really love the tub in our new house, and I really love bath bombs still. I honestly forgot I even had them, and I’ve hardly used our tub in the almost year that we’ve lived in our house.
As much as I had to fight down my impulse to get out sooner or to not feel bad about that 20 minutes, I’m glad I challenged myself to do this. It truly was a challenge for me. I’m sure there are people who get long hot baths anytime they want who will read this and think, “What’s the big deal?” This may seem like the norm for others, but doing something just for me is not my default.
Most of the time I have at least the tiniest twinge of guilt when I take time for myself. I’m learning from life and those dear to me that I have to. My friend Becca taught me that you can’t pour out of an empty vessel. You have to fill yourself up with good things you need to be able to pour out for others. I have to be full. I have to rest and refuel, and I can’t do that if I never slow down. I have to remember that I’m a person still, and having needs comes with that territory.
20 minutes a day may not seem like much, but it was so good. I can’t wait to do it again. So here’s the challenge, if you’re still with me:
Find something that requires you to be still and alone. Don’t do anything that requires any kind of effort- just be. Create the space to do that for 20 minutes a day for at least five days in a row and see what happens.
No one will die. All the wheels won’t fall off without you. You are a person who has the right to need things no matter what your days are filled with. Slow down. Be still. Breathe. Give yourself that gift. Give yourself some space. No shame. No guilt. Remember that you are worthy of good things, and rest is something you are called to.
It’s hard to know where to begin. When life ebbs and flows in tiny wakes, we forget it can be rough. When the wakes form into giant waves that send you reeling, it’s hard to remember your strength. Even when you’ve known the sea was building, you see the wave out on the distant horizon, and know it’s coming for you, that doesn’t mean the wave can’t crash so hard that your lungs fill with a sting that makes everything hurt; in that moment trying to breathe is useless. In that moment all you can do is wait for the wave to pass and then fight to get your head above water.
That’s what these moments have felt like. For a long time we’ve had good reason to believe that Ethan was on the autism spectrum. His speech is still pretty delayed (even though he’s surprising us all the time), he does not like making eye contact, he has tantrums and outbursts out of nowhere, he is completely impulsive, and loves the rhythms of repetition. We were not surprised to hear the developmental pediatrician say he has, “high functioning autism,” but that doesn’t mean it didn’t hit like the wave breaking in a hurricane. It doesn’t mean that even with our suspicions in hand, being clued in for the first time to the fact that there are things he’s going to have to work much harder at than most kids wasn’t crushing. Oh, the pain of knowing that there are challenges your child will face that you can’t fix or make go away! It is the deepest and most real pain.
Does this change anything about how we see Ethan? No. Does this change who he is to us? No. See the list above has everything to do with Ethan’s behavior and development and very little to do with his heart. He is the kindest child. He genuinely cares about those around him. He loves to be outside. Fresh air and movement are his love languages. Well, music belongs in that list also. He believes in himself, and he is fearless in the face of new challenges. He is tenacious and not easily deterred. He loves books, and he really loves Pete the Cat books. He memorizes them faster than most any four year old can. Words matter to him, and I think it’s because he’s had to earn every single one. He is the coolest kid! He has a smile that can take any hard moment or day and make it better. He gives the best hugs. He wraps you up in his arms and legs and lavishes all the affection he can on you. He is amazing. He is a gift, a blessing, and a joy. He always will be.
So what does this diagnosis mean? It means we will have access to tools that can help and equip Ethan for his life. Ethan will learn behavioral things and speech things, and we will learn how to be the parents he needs us to be. We will learn more how to meet him where he is, and we will learn what it means to come alongside him in the ways he needs.
This autism diagnosis isn’t a curse, but it is a means to open the right doors for him. When I think of it that way, I can see what good that access can do for him. I won’t pretend it hasn’t been an exhausting time trying to figure out insurance, evaluations, scheduling appointments, and hanging in on day to day life. It’s been hard. When I’m stressed, I don’t sleep.
Sleep has been elusive for me for weeks. That’s one way I know it’s time to step back and ask for help. I’m so bad at that, but I reached out to a friend named Kristal whose son has autism, and she told me it takes a village and welcomed me to talk with her anytime. That was the first thing that fought against the feeling of figuring it all out alone. That feeling, the feeling of community, took the sting from my lungs and is allowing me to breathe. The next big breath came when the ladies at the speech therapy place we toured spent hours each day chasing down our benefits and working to get us set up. They kept in contact and kept reminding us that they were going to make sure Ethan gets that he needs.
It’s hardest when you feel that lump that says not all is right, and it’s harder when you’re like me and hate asking for help. I’ve always had to go out and work hard for everything. I’ve never been one to be dependent on other people and have always only wanted to depend on myself (marriage was the first time that began to change for me). In the few weeks in getting everything rolling, I know it will take a village. I know that helping Ethan get what he needs will be hard at times, but I know we aren’t alone. I also know he has a daddy and mommy who will fight to no end to advocate for him!
Since the diagnosis, one of my great joys is to hear Ethan sing the song “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman (link below). Everything in this song is a gift for where we are. He sings it with such conviction that it fills me with hope that if or when the bullies come, or he’s left out or treated differently, he will hold fast to every incredible part of who he is.
This is a diagnosis. Ethan is still Ethan, and I could not be more proud of the person he is and the person I see him becoming.
I think we’re bad at noticing miracles. I think anything that doesn’t happen with the speed of snapping our fingers is easier to write off and overlook.
The best real life example of this from my life is my children’s speech progress. Lauren and Ethan have both come so far that it’s easier to look back and see the answered prayers and miracle their progress has been; it’s been harder to see it in the midst of it.
In the midst of the challenges, it’s been harder than I can accurately describe. It’s been hard to be patient, it’s been hard to hold on to hope when things seem like they aren’t progressing, and it’s been hard to believe that they would.
It’s defeating for something as simple as your child to not be able to tell you something hurts or they don’t feel well to not be possible. Those things hurt in a deep place, and in those moments we want that over now. We don’t want the hurt. We want our miracle, and we want it now.
Why? It’s like the microwave. That’s what we’re used to. Instant gratification. Less work to get what we want. What if God was teaching all of us something in the midst of these challenges?
What if He was teaching us to pray and wait? What if He was teaching us to trust in Him and His timing? What if He was making us better, more patient and loving parents? What if He was building in us foundations of unconditional love? What if He was teaching us what it means to never give up on someone?
Those are all the things I really believe I’ve had to learn to support and love Lauren and Ethan both through these difficult seasons. We aren’t finished working on their speech yet, but I look at my miracles in progress and feel nothing but deep love and adoration for who they are becoming.
I’m thankful for moments when Ethan can tell me he wants a snack or needs to potty differently than most people probably are. Lauren being able to have long conversations like the one she had with Rob before the Daddy Daughter Dance this weekend fill us up in a way that is breathtaking!
I actually hate hearing people complain about their kids talking too much or about being annoyed by their persistent talking. If all that was there was silence, they would feel so differently. Each word would feel like the biggest win! I’ve learned to celebrate the seemingly small things with all the gusto of someone who just won the Super Bowl. That’s what those moments feel like to me. They are the biggest wins ever.
If you’re sitting in a hard season with your kids or your job or your marriage, I would challenge you to press in and look at these from this place.
I also pray with our kids and every night I tell them I can’t wait to hear what they have to say. As they say more and that dream becomes more realized, I’m thankful. I’m not thankful because it’s happening quickly. I’m thankful because it’s happening at all, and in the midst of it, I don’t want to miss seeing it unfold. Slow down. Watch it happen right in front of you.
It will change you. The miracles that happen in you through it all will shape you if you let them. Let them. Let them make you better. Let them make you appreciate more than you do right now. Let them happen in their time, and don’t miss a single second of being grateful.
Finger smudges cover everything except a heart that soaks up the word “Failure.”
We run and wipe and try to make it all look right in a world of expectations, we struggle under the weight.
All around are giggles and tiny hands making messes and leaving their marks with toys strewn about the floor. In that stretch of mess is where real life and real love happen.
In that mess are happy kids who don’t need everything to look like a catalog. Instead they need a safe home and a mommy who measures her successes in the places that matter.
Don’t miss it.
Don’t miss the joy in their smiles while they write on the walls. Don’t miss the important thing we teach them about making things right as they scrub that same wall with a frown.
Don’t miss the love and life that is always happening. That’s not a mess. That’s a life well lived which should be celebrated.
Don’t waste those moments in self-condemnation where we really should honoring where we are and the gift of each day.
No matter the laundry. No matter the toy-covered floor, we are deserving of grace and celebration.
We are deserving of not being held to anyone’s standards.
Today we started talking about Lauren’s FIFTH birthday party. The last five years have been the fastest of my life. I can look back at a time and remember thinking about how long this much time seemed. Remember how long it seemed to take to get from seventh grade to high school graduation? I remember the summer after I graduated high school felt like forever before I could move to my new city and settle in my dorm.
I think the difference is that five years ago my focus shifted. I had been married for about four and a half years, and then our time was for us. We got to be selfish in and with it. We took trips to the River Walk in San Antonio on a whim and would go to late night concerts. We went to different parts of the world, played in Vegas, and went on late night outings to Buffalo Wild Wings with big groups of friends. I would mani/pedi whenever I wanted to or go out to lunch with friends. We had what was an abundance of time then. I just didn’t know it.
Then Lauren joined us on our adventures, and it was then our focus shifted in the best way. It was amazing how much time seemed to speed up. Don’t hear what I’m not saying. We loved and still do love being together as husband and wife, but there was something about getting to enjoy her together that seemed to amp up every clock while calendar pages flew by faster than ever. Watching her yawn and stretch. Watching her smile for the first time. Seeing her sit up and learn to crawl. Those first tricky steps. Every month we took pictures that documented her change. At times it was hard to believe it was time for a new photo then. We could never capture how much we had changed. There were never enough hours, minutes, or seconds to enjoy all of us being together.
The last five years have been filled with beautiful moments covered in sparkles and twirling tutus. In some ways I can’t begin to believe so much time has passed from the moment we knew about Lauren.
As we talked today about her 5th birthday party, my mind went back to her first. Making tons of Elmo and Sesame Street stuff seems like forever ago in some ways, and in others, it feels like only yesterday. I remember the fun of that day and how exciting it was for her to be surrounded by so many people that loved her.
Lauren has always been loved so well, and for that I am thankful. I think about the people present that day and it blesses my heart to know that every one of them still loves her. I remember the joy on their faces as she was passed around in her tutu, sparkling Toms, and big bow because she was still so bald!
She was so tiny. She was so delicate and sweet. She’s still those things – well, except for tiny. Today she’s becoming her own person. Today she has strong opinions on what she likes and dislikes. Today I get to watch her love her brother and find her own interests. Today I get to see her be a best friend. Today I get to see her tender heart find its way in the world. Almost five years later, I get to be so proud of the little lady she’s becoming.
Next Ethan entered our world like a swirling, ever-moving wild man of a tornado. The moment we knew he was going to join us, time accelerated even more. The energy and daring he has brought into our family fuels this place of fun in all of us. Remembering his tiny snuggles, him sitting up, him becoming a great escape artist, him never really walking but running everywhere, and his lack of any kind of caution will always put a smile on my face. His smile. There is something so sweet and captivating about his smile and beautiful brown eyes that gets me every time. He is the exact definition of adventure wrapped up in one little boy. I could never describe what it means to me to get to love him everyday.
In the last year, we learned about Joshua. At this point I know him better than anyone. I know his energy and movement are unending. I know how excited he gets when his big sister and daddy talk to him. I know how he likes to sleep with one of my hands curved around the gigantic baby bump he calls home for a short while longer. I know I love him and can’t wait to meet him.
Five years. I’m sure my heart will swell and grow in these feelings as each milestone passes. I am so incredibly thankful that I get to share these adventures with a husband who honors and cherishes our babies. I’m so blessed that he can’t even begin to talk about his baby girl being five.
I’m so glad that with God’s grace covering us, we have a lifetime of milestones to look forward to with all three of our babies. Fifty years from now I hope I hold each of these years this close to my heart and never stop treating each moment as precious. We’ll be looking back on more and more all the time, and before we know it, our babies will be out in the world and we’ll be blessed to look back on our great adventures together. What a life I get to have. My cup surely runneth over!
I’ve always loved weddings. It’s so exciting to me to see two people who love each other commit to each other for all their days. In that moment, everyone shares in their joy, and people unite in asking God to bless them.
There has been a shift in me in what I now see at weddings. I still have a heart exploding with joy, but motherhood opened a door to a new point of view. I now see daddies giving away their little girls and mommies holding their baby boys for the last time as just theirs. That aisle is now a window to a long road that I look down with a mixture of emotions.
I want our children to have what I have with Rob if God calls them to be married. The joy I share with my husband is something I hope for everyone, but now that I have my own babies, I can see how much parents have to let go.
When we found out Lauren was going to be a girl, the first thing Rob said was, “I’m going to have to give her away someday!” Every wedding I go to now, my heart swells for those daddies in that moment of transition that begins what will in some ways be inperseptable change until you are on the other side and things are just different.
There is a little bit of letting go in each phase our children go through. Their first steps on their own, wanting to do things themselves, or big kid stuff like finding what they love to do. In some ways I think those changes prepare our minds and hearts for high school graduations, driving away after moving them into their first dorm, or seeing finishing touches happen on the day they say their own I dos.
Every phase of life as parents is preparing us for letting go in ways that will be such a blessing to watch after we get to the other side. I pray that we don’t lose sight of all there is to be thankful for as we let go and watch our children take their place in this world.
As I hear my kids giggle back and forth instead of going to sleep while their baby brother or sister flutters around inside my body, I have so much gratitude that I get to be their mom, and that I have the privilege of getting to see them grow into who God made them to be.
With every bit I let go, I see who they are becoming and who I am becoming as well, and in that I see why God made me and made me a mommy. I am blessed and honored to have that immense privilege!