for now

I have this little thing that is known, affectionately, as “roller coaster emotions.” You know when you’re on a roller coaster, tick-tick-ticking up to the highest point? And once you reach the peak, you pause for a second before plummeting down? That’s a pretty solid metaphor for my feels. Life is ticking along, getting more and more exciting by the day. Then, suddenly — the top! Everything’s amazing! I can conquer the world, the laundry, the social outings, all of it! That three second pause at the top of the hill is what I live for. And every single time I reach it, I forget that the ride doesn’t stop there. Once I’m comfortable, once I’m convinced nothing will ever, ever knock me off my top spot, we start to fall. We don’t tick-tick down, like we did on the way up. We just drop. And sometimes the fast descent feels impossibly longer than the slow climb.

My loving husband often tries to remind me about these swings when I’m on the good side of things. When I’ve got a little mania glittering in my eyeballs and I’m cheerfully on my tenth load of laundry for the day. Hey! Thanks for the heads up, man! Is that the thing I say?

No. No, it is not.

I say/scream/wail/sob/dramatically whisper “WHY DON’T YOU WANT ME TO BE HAPPY?”

I’m a delight. I promise.

J&J 2019
These two put up with a lot.

Here’s the thing. I love feeling great. Who doesn’t? I don’t want to lose the great. I know I will, but why would I want to be reminded that it’s coming? When I’m in the thralls of the not-so-great, it already feels like it will never end. Why can’t I just enjoy the goodness while it’s around?

Do you want to know a secret, though? (Of course you do. That’s why you’re here.) I think I know why Jason loves reminding me that my high mountaintop moments don’t last forever. Because the lows don’t last forever, either.

The lows don’t last forever either.

Most of my major life lessons come from musicals, so before I leave, I’m going to quote one of my (raunchy but amazing) favorites: Avenue Q.

Nothing lasts, life goes on
Full of surprises
You’ll be faced with problems of all shapes and sizes
You’re going to have to make a few compromises
For now…

For now we’re healthy
For now we’re employed
For now we’re happy — if not overjoyed
And we’ll accept the things we cannot avoid
For now…

The high-highs don’t last, but the low-lows don’t either. To me, that’s more than comforting. An event, a day, a mood does not define us. As we ride the emotion roller coaster up and down and again and again, I think we can all take a little solace in knowing that the ride doesn’t stop unless we let it. And with friends, with therapy, with medicine, with age, we can start to make the course just slightly more balanced.

Don’t stress – relax – let life roll off your backs
Except for death and paying taxes,
Everything in life is only for now.

 

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if the news of the world is too much to bear

if the news of the world is too much to bear

If the news of the world is too much to bear,
turn it down, turn it off, take a break.
Get all of your news from the anchors at home,
Soak it up, breathe it in, come awake.

This just in: puppies still really cute.
Little kids still angelic in sleep.
Kisses fix boo-boos, hugs say hello,
children love fast and love deep.

Take it from kids, making new friends is easy.
Simply smile at someone you don’t know.
It does not even matter if you don’t catch their name
Just say “hi!” and then go with the flow.

Live from the news desk, a strange case develops:
“The case of the lone missing sock.”
We’re following leads, but they dryer’s not talking,
We have to go, so we’re fighting the clock.

In other news, moms and dads still bicker,
kids and teens still fight and whine.
But at the end of the day (or the week or the month),
everyone’s right back to “fine.”

After this break from the outside news,
return, it’s your duty to do.
And to fight for what’s right and teach your children the same,
It won’t always be easy, that’s true.

For the real world is hard, it is cold and unfair,
We don’t always find peace as we grow
But we cannot ignore it, not totally at least
It’s our job to let pure goodness show.

So let’s teach all our children that yes, life is hard —
But we know how to lighten the load.
Knowledge is power, friendliness can bring peace,
Be kind, and you’ll reap what you’ve sowed.

I don’t always know how to raise my kids now
In a world that seems so full of hate.
But I do know that hate cannot thrive on it’s own —

So we’ll love, and we’ll love, and we’ll love, and we’ll love
And we’ll love and we’ll make our own fate.

E36CE464-B970-432C-9FDA-F6AE28A4EDE1.jpeg
My favorite news anchor, Jiminy Cricket.

all the things i do not know

I like knowing stuff.

And based on how many questions my kids ask me each day, I mean, it’s a good thing. Like any modern day mom, I answer what I can and google what I can’t. And this little arrangement has made me the smartest person in our family — according to our kids, anyway. On most days. Unless daddy bought donuts – or took the boys to a park – or, generally, is home.

Either way, if the kids have questions, I have answers. It’s a good arrangement that only makes me want to lock myself in a closet with headphones to get a break from the constant “hey mom?”s some of the time. And that’s pretty good!

And then I was putting Boone to bed one night…

“Hey mom?”

Here we go…

“Where do people go when they die?”

“Oh, um, Heaven, if they believe in Jesus.”

“What if they don’t?”
“Um, Hell, I think.”
“OK well do they go straight to Hell? Because I have heard people say that. Do they meet Jesus first and then Jesus sends them there? What if Jesus forgets I believe in Jesus and accidentally sends me there? Will you be in Heaven when I get there?”

We have now reached the point in the conversation where I basically look like this:

I am a believer. I believe that Jesus died so I could spend eternity in Heaven. I believe John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not die, but have eternal life.” But I don’t have answers for like… any of Boone’s questions there. I haven’t died. I haven’t personally met someone who took a death vacation and gave me the slide show presentation of afterlife pics. But Boone looked at me so expectantly. So hungry for knowledge. And these are good questions! I didn’t want to dismiss them. So I sent up a quick help me prayer, and I responded.

“Buddy, I don’t know.”

“Um… what? You always know things.”

I told him no one has all of the answers. But that I believe in Jesus and I believe I will go to Heaven when I die. I don’t know what Heaven looks like, I don’t know if you and I will be the same people we are now. I believe you will go to Heaven too, if you believe in Jesus, and do not worry, God won’t get your beliefs mixed up. Then I let out the big breath I had been holding in and I asked, “hey Boone, what do you think about all of this?”

Jonah has questions also.

He basically echoed a lot of my sentiments and said his fair share of “I don’t know”s. He ended with, “but you know what? I think I’ll see you there, and we’ll be the same, you and me.”

I grew up with a very black and white view of salvation. Believe in Jesus = Heaven. Don’t believe in Jesus = Hell. End of story. Any lingering questions about Heaven of Hell were answered with “it’s perfect!” or “it’s terrible!” and that was that. It wasn’t until I was much older that I started to really own the questions I had about my faith. Until I wrestled with these thoughts, I don’t think I really had the same understanding about my faith. It wasn’t personal.

I want my children to believe everything I believe. It’s true. They’re my little human copies, right? I want us to be on the same page about everything. But I know that won’t happen. If my father’s deep love of olives on pizza (double olives on pizza – WHAT) is any indication, kids just don’t always follow in their parents footsteps. And if kids did just blindly follow, would my dad like that I ate his terrible olive pizza even if I hated it? Maybe, I mean, because he’d probably have been able to order it more, but I think he’d be happier if I ate it because I truly enjoyed the nuance of the rubbery seawater taste of those awful little black and green fruits? Nuts? Fungi? What the heck are olives, anyway?

Back to my point. I want Boone and Jonah to share in my beliefs, but I want them to make it personal. They need to think and hear and choose for themselves. And in order to help this along… I have to say “I don’t know.” I will tell them what I think. But I will be honest about what I know — and what I don’t.

For someone who lives with answers at her fingertips, it’s hard to admit what I don’t know. Especially to the little people I’m raising. But I truly believe to help our children find the answers, we’ll have to admit that we don’t have them.

how to survive your summer in 51 easy steps

1. Make a plan called “How to Have the Best Summer Ever!”

2. Realize on the second day of summer that your plan is garbage.

3. Make a new plan called “Our Carefree Summer!”

4. Don’t tell everyone that your new summer plan is actually called “Dear God help us I miss the structure.”

5. Send your three year old back to his room every morning at 6:00 am.

6. Purchase a fancy color-changing clock for your three year old that will glow green when he is allowed to leave his room in the morning.

7. Say “Stay in your room until your clock is green” every five minutes starting every morning at 6:00 am.

8. Coffee.

9. If June: buy expensive mineral sunscreen and have your children stand like statues while you slather it on like spackle.

10: If July (or mid to late June, whenever you crack): buy cheap spray sunscreen and mist in your child’s general direction. Ask them lovingly to “close eyes and pinch noses.”

11. Just come to terms with the fact that sand will be everywhere.

12. Cry a little bit when you see the first back-to-school display.

13. Cry a little harder when your six year old learns super soakers are a thing.

14. Wine.

15. Teach your kids that the “S Word” is “Snack,” and we do not swear.

16. Glance into your child’s room to see clothes and sand and toys and books and bedding everywhere. Then say a different kind of “S Word” and just shut that door. Shut the door.

17. Try not to look too excited when your kid says he’s tired. “Do you want to TAKE A NAP DO YOU WANT TO TAKE A NAP?” Nope, he’s good now.

18. Visit every park that’s ever existed. Pack every vegetable and cracker and fruit you’ve ever owned. Listen to children complain about being bored and hungry.

19. Attempt to put your child to bed when the sun is still very high in the sky.

20. Try to explain daylight savings time and end up crying and exclaiming that it really, truly is bedtime, no matter what it looks like outside.

21. More wine.

22. Curse the “young adults” next door who are being loudly unsupportive of your belief that it is, in fact, bedtime.

23. Send your kid back to his room.

24. Send your kid back to his room.

25. Send your kid back to his room.

26. Go to sleep.

27. Wake up; send your kid back to his room.

28. Make a mental note to research how tiny humans function with so little sleep. You never will, though. You’re too tired!

29. Buy school supplies far too early. Think about teachers. Mentally send them a fruity cocktail. They earned it, man.

30. Start planning activities that are an hour or two away, just for the air-conditioned kid-buckled driving time.

31. Watch your kid swim the entire length of the pool underwater, when last year he wouldn’t even go down the slide.

32. Realize that summers really go pretty fast, even if sometimes they seem kinda long.

33. Remember it’s your three year old’s last summer before he starts school — preschool, sure — but school nonetheless.

34. Watch your six year old ride a bike without training wheels, after summers of complete bike apathy.

35. Sit in the grass with your kids and catch fireflies long after they should be in bed.

36. Think “this summer thing isn’t so bad.”

37. Get up too early, stay up too late, overplan the warm July days you have left.

38. Vow to do the same when it’s August.

39. You’ll sleep when you’re dead, anyway.

40. (Or when school starts.)

41. (Or when daylight savings time FINALLY ENDS.)

42. Stop rolling your eyes when people say, “oh, they’re only young once.” Even though they’re actually young for like 12-18 years or however you want to gauge it.

43. I mean, they are only young once.

44. At least, they’re only six and three during summer once.

45. So decide to just “soak it all up.”

46. Except for the sand.

47. I mean, you’ll soak that up anyway without even trying.

48. Maybe invest in some industrial strength blackout curtains.

49. Buy lots of coffee and wine.

50. Embrace your summer fully.

(51. And pray for all of the teachers. Their time is coming. You know it, I know it, they know it; pray, just pray, just pray.)

Happy summer to all, and to all a good bedtime. (Or wine.)

let them be dads

Hi, moms.

This one’s specifically for you. But it isn’t about plans or hacks or solidarity. 

It’s about dads.

Moms, if you’re like me, you stay at home with your kids. I know a lot of you are like me, so maybe I’m speaking directly to you here. I’m going to drop a major truth bomb here. It’ll blow your mind. Get ready for it:

Dads are dads.

Dads are cool.

Did I just hear the sound of your mind exploding? I told you. Dads are like, a totally different thing. They aren’t moms. They aren’t you. But sometimes, when you see them wrestling on the floor with your kids, you might think, That’s too rough. That encourages violence. That’s NOT how we play.

And then, all well intentioned, you might say something like, “isn’t that getting a little rough? Let’s calm down, OK?”

Or – or or or –

Dad’s given you a night alone in the basement. Pre-kids this would sound like a weird torture horror movie thing, but post-kids, it’s heaven. You settle in with your wine and whatever show you’re binging and start to relax. Then you hear it — a THUD from above, a scream, the pitter patter of running feet, a naughty giggle. You sigh, put the wine down, and think I should help out up there. And so you do. The little one runs to you, and the big one cowers a bit and says “sorry.”

Or – or or or or –

On your way out the door for a long awaited girls night, you hug and kiss the kids over and over again and then you hand Dad a piece of paper with writing all over it. Is it a love note? A poem, perhaps? A rundown list of his very best qualities? No, it’s a list of reminders, more reminders than you would give the hired help, i.e. a BABYSITTER. “Don’t forget the kids love the cherry toothpaste and hate the strawberry toothpaste. The tubes look similar. Check them.” “Little likes his bedtime routine to go pjs, teeth (cherry toothpaste!), book, prayer, song, night-night hug, lights out.” “Don’t let Big talk you into letting him read longer! He’s been doing that lately. He needs his sleep.”

Now, moms. Please raise your hand quietly to yourself if any of the above scenarios has ever happened to you.

*Raises hand timidly inside the Biggby in which I am writing this post.*

It’s dad, keeping his boy safe from the big scary Dory (who promises candy but isn’t really delivering).

Look. My husband, the father of my children, is a quality human. He’s smart, funny, kind, and he’s a fantastic dad to our boys. He also happens to work a job that keeps him away from home quite a bit, so the day to day care of our boys falls mostly on me. I’m usually the one who knows why one of them is grumpy — I know who had a hard time getting to sleep, who might be developing a cold, and why the little one is constantly yelling “BADOONGY FACE!” (It’s from The Book with No Pictures, and if you don’t own it, you definitely should.)

And because I know these things, I assume I know our kids better.

And I realized, one evening, watching Boone (Big) and Jason (Dad) bond over The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker for far too long far too late in the evening… 

That I’m the mom.

And he’s the dad.

And I have to let him be the dad however he wants to be the dad. Sometimes I struggle with finding a balance with our personality-opposite boys. I feel like I should take what I’ve learned and share these things with my husband, instead of allowing him to figure it out on his own or, heaven forbid, find a completely new balance original to him. 

Moms, we can’t perpetuate this stereotype that dads are Tim Allen-style grunters and goofballs who pop in for a quick joke and spend the rest of their down time souping up the lawn mower. If you are lucky enough to be part of a two-parent home — and here I’m expressly talking to any kind of two parent home: two moms, two dads, mom and grandma, etc — you have been given the gift of live-in help. And a live-in perspective that differs from yours. 

When we stop the rough housing, rescue our kids when we’re supposed to be relaxing, or leave a list of reminders before we go anywhere, we’re basically saying to our partners, “I’m better at this than you.”

Teamwork = dream work, of course.

I, for one, don’t want to be better. I want us to be equals. Parenting is hard, and I don’t want to be the only one in charge all of the time. So, one more time for good measure:

Dads are dads.

Let them be.

the long con

If you’ve ever seen any heist movie ever, you’re likely familiar with the long con. Designed, as the name implies, for long term implementation, the “long con” is some form of deceit that sets up over month or years, truly earning the victim’s trust. Perhaps it’s the shifty troublemaker who superficially befriends an old wealthy woman, convincing her to leave all of worldly possessions to him when she inevitably passes away. Perhaps, in a nutshell, it’s parenting.

This is what parenting looks like.

Boone has all of the potential to be an amazing human adult someday. He’s kind, he’s smart, he’s funny. But right now, he’s also six. And stubborn. And strong-willed. And truly lacking in the focus department. We, as parents, fight battles with our kids everyday, and sometimes we forfeit. Kids refusing to wear pants? Hey, if we’re aren’t planning on leaving the house anyway; fine, go and be free. I’ve also been known to occasionally turn a blind eye (or ear) to the verbal explosion of potty words. The old saying is true: pick your battles.

But parents, sweet parents, you know as well as I do that we cannot constantly wave the white flag. 

A few weeks ago I was flying solo at church with my boys. My husband works a lot of weekends, so this isn’t particularly unusual. But on this Sunday, I was scheduled to sing with the praise band. Before I can continue, can I just say? I love singing with the praise band. I love adding harmonies to songs of praise and watching the congregation engage in the worship experience. But when I sing, I want to be fully present. And this Sunday a few weeks ago… I couldn’t be. Boone and Jonah ran around wildly while I tried to rehearse. I worried about them instead of letting the words of praise wash over my soul. When I could finally bring Jonah to his classroom, I thought things would improve. But instead, Boone continued to run around. To complain. To distract. I threatened to take away his screen time for the day — it made no impact. I tried to reason with him — to absolutely no avail. So I took away his beloved, newly purchased, hot-item-of-summer, the fidget spinner. I put it in my back pocket while he whined and protested. I was tempted to just give it back and say “fine, THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE, TAKE THE %$*#ING FIDGET SPINNER” (because I, a loving Christian mom, am not above swearing through clenched teeth in church, but Jesus loves me). But I didn’t. I left Boone with my friends who probably deserve a medal and I went on stage to sing.

This is what parenting looks like, too.

God… I prayed, this… sucks.

You won this one, He responded, so keep going.

I won?! I’m seriously worried Boone will rush the stage for the beloved fidget spinner while I’m trying to lead the church in worship. I do NOT feel like the winner here. 

He’s sitting with friends. They will watch him. I will watch him too. Just focus on me.

And this is when I realized the children aren’t raised in a day. Bad behaviors aren’t corrected once and then forever perfect. I stood on the stage and sang “Holy Spirit, you are welcome here,” but I knew the Holy Spirit was already present, watching over my moody kid. And when I sang the line “your glory, God, is what our hearts long for / to be overcome by your presence, Lord,” I was, completely, overcome. When I sat back down, I felt the fidget spinner in my back pocket. I understood that the long con of parenting is simply soldiering on, day after day, because children grow up. Through correction and discipline, even when we feel like they aren’t reachable, they learn. They absorb. It is our resposibility to keep aiming to win the battles we can, but also to realize that even when we cannot, parenting is a long game. 

We probably won’t see the final version of our kids, even if we watch them get married and start families of their own. We are all constantly adapting  and evolving, or we should be. But if we color whatever phase of parenting we are in with the thought that it is not a quick fix, I think we’ll realize the long game really is the way to go. 

Don’t let the hard days of parenting be the only ones you remember. Instead, see the difficult days as stepping stones in a part of the long con – the con to turn your crazy kids into tolerable human beings.

And this is also what parenting looks like.

You were a crazy kid once.

Somebody long-conned you good.

Pass it on.

i can’t live with or without you, kid shows

Love it or hate it, “screen time” has been a saving grace of moms since the TV got more than three channels. While I can’t say that I’m totally on board with leaving my child in front of a television indefinitely, some days are a little more… screen-y than others. We are just trying to make it, OK? Let us live.

IMG_6116
WHAT TIME IS IT? Screen time. Obviously.

Wherever you are on the screen time spectrum (ranging from “we only play quietly with sticks outside” – ps teach me your ways – to “ALL SHOWS ALL THE TIME”), I know you have strong opinions about television shows. Kid’s television shows, specifically. Maybe you like to relive your youth and present your children with old-school Sesame Street (Gordon forever) or The Magic School Bus. Maybe you turn on PBS and let it run all day (no judgements; and also, #savePBS). Maybe you allow your little ones five minutes of a nature documentary a day after they’ve exhausted themselves with all of the stick-playing (seriously, teach me your ways). But whatever path you choose, I know we can all agree on one thing:

Caillou is the worst.

This is not an unpopular opinion. Everybody hates Caillou. He’s probably the only thing that’s ever come out of Canada that makes everyone cringe. (Don’t worry, neighbors to the north, Poutine more than makes up for him.)

I’m not going to detail why Caillou’s the worst, OK? We all know. His voice is terrible. He’s on a perpetual path of destruction and constantly surprised that he ends up in trouble. In one episode, he decided to try olives and he liked the olives. Come on, C. Olives are gross.

(Sorry if you like olives, but that was the last straw for me.)

No, I’m here today to talk about the other kid’s shows that are ridiculously crazy weird. In no particular order, I present to you:

THE PREMEDITATED LIST OF CHILDREN’S SHOWS THAT ARE AWFUL (and one or two that don’t suck)

The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That

Truth: Martin Short (a Canadian; further proof that Canada mainly exports kids shows and gravy on French fries) is a genius. He can sing! He can do silly voices! He’s a delight.

Also the truth: This show has unsupervised kids regularly being asked by at best – an imaginary human-like feline or at worst – stranger in a cat costume – to go on adventures. The moms of this show are always cool with this, as long as the kids are home by mealtime. “Sure, kids! Go ahead and fly on a rocket ship to the moon with a creature I’ve never seen!” “Someone wants to zap you down to the size of ants so you can scurry around underground? Neat! Just be home in time for dinner!”

Really, moms? Really? You don’t have… any follow up Q’s, here?

And don’t even get me started on Thing 1 and Thing 2’s shenanigans. I’m pretty sure they’re personally responsible for my toddler’s destructive streak.

The Garfield Show

Truth: Garfield loves lasagna and hates Mondays, and that kind of shtick just doesn’t get old.

Also the truth: This show, found on Netflix, is not the Garfield of our youth, 90s kids. This is some 3-D CG weirdness that kind of feels like if a dollar store tries to sell a ripoff action figure and name it “BatGuy.” I can’t comment on the actual content very well as I am constantly distracted by the fact that Garfield sounds more like a lazy Jim Belushi than the monotone feline we loved in Garfield and Friends. (In fairness, I think the original Garfield voice-actor died, but I for one think casting could have found a closer match.)

Bubble Guppies

Truth: Kind of cute? I do appreciate how the show makes mermaids accessible to all genders.

Also the truth: I kid you not, these are the lyrics to the theme song – BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE GUPPY GUPPY GUPPIES BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE GUPPY GUPPY GUPPIES BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE GUPPY GUPPY GUPPIES BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE GUPPY GUPPY GUPPIES BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE GUPPY GUPPY GUPPIES BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE GUPPY GUPPY GUPPIES…

I’m sorry but that is just inexcusable.

(And now for the ones that don’t suck!)

Octonauts

Truth: This British children’s show is actually cute AND educational.

Also the truth: Yes, there’s some annoying songs in there. And the moral dilemma of the half-animal, half-vegetable creatures deemed the “vegimals” who are kind of the Octonauts’ servants. But! This show actually teaches real things (like that Cone Snails are wicked scary) and it’s fun for mom and kids alike.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

Truth: We still sing the “stop and go right away” potty song at my house. Regularly.

Also the truth: Sure, there are questions. How does trolley know where you’re going? What’s teacher Harriet’s deal? Does she have a family or does she live at the preschool? What does “ugga mugga” mean? Who cares. This show teaches awesome lessons and delivers them with catchy songs you can sing to your toddler when they’re being a jerk-I mean, need some gentle reminders on how to be a nice friend.

I hope this helps the next time you need a 22-minute break from your precious unicorn offspring. Feel free to pass along this handy guide to a pregnant friend who doesn’t yet know the dark underworld that is children’s telvision.

Unless you think she’s the kind of mom who will just send her kids outside with sticks.

(Can I meet her?)