Thursday, February 27, 2014

What's for Dinner?

I have a confession.  Lately, there are three simple words that can make me go from Mary Poppins to Mommy Dearest in two seconds flat...

"What's for dinner?"

Three innocent words...when used on their own, or used in a number of sentences, or when put in a different sequence, or when the question is addressed to someone other than myself...they don't hold the same power as when my husband or children speak them to me.  I don't know what it is.  I don't know exactly why it makes me feel like I could kill my family with my bare hands.  I really don't.  But, for the males in my family, here are some possible explanations, including, but not limited to just one of these answers, it could be a number of combinations, really.

1)  Maybe it could be because I get asked this question at 7:30 in the morning.

2)  Maybe it's because I'm asked this question at least three times a day.

3)  Possibly, it annoys me because I don't want to be responsible for the dinner decision... Every. Single. Night.

4)  Or...because I'm tired of someone ALWAYS complaining that they don't like that particular meal.  I mean, I can't please five people all the time.

5)  Perhaps, it's because I would have to first make a meal plan, and a trip to the grocery store, then unload and put away all the groceries, then cook dinner, then unload the dishwasher, so I could reload the dirty dinner dishes, and clean up the counters...the stove top...the table...the highchair...and sweep the floor.

6)  It might be that you are sitting on your rear with a remote in your hand when you ask the question.

7)  It could be that I've had a long, exhausting, stress-filled day, and I can't possibly do one more thing.

8)  Sometimes it grates my nerves that I have prepared 3 meals a day for the last 9 days and you just assume that I'll be doing the next one as well.

9)  It's almost certainly because I can't think of one more stinking way to cook chicken.

Or, maybe...just maybe...I don't want to.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Motherhood Changes You

Today I was talking with a new friend I'd met in Bible study.  She's young and beautiful, and a newlywed.  Her and her husband have only been married about nine months, so she's still settling into her role as a new bride.  As we were getting to know each other, we were asking questions back and forth about our families.  She asked what it was like to be a mom of three boys.  While most of my answer involved words along the lines of..."crazy", "loud", "exhausting", I also told her that it was the best thing to ever happen to me, but part of me misses the 'Stephanie' that was before motherhood, because being a mother changes you.  I had to make sure I wasn't scaring her off...after all, she is a doe-eyed, bride.  She's eager for the future family that her and her husband will eventually have, and I don't want to smudge the rose colored glasses from which she gazes out of.  Let's be honest...isn't that how we all were before we had our children?  I went home this afternoon and put Benji down for a nap and I thought about how exactly having children has changed me.  If I could go back to 21 year-old Steph, the new bride, anxious to start our family, and prepare her for what was to come, I would tell her this:

the minute you become a mother, your life revolves completely around something other than start practicing selflessness, now.

Motherhood has completely shaped who this 31 year-old Steph, is.  No other event or change in my life has made me see the best in myself, or...the absolute worst.  Motherhood changes you.  It gave me a reason to live.  It strengthened my faith in my creator and his love for me.  It made me appreciate the small a lazy morning in my jammies, drinking coffee and watching my baby's drool-y "coos".  It made me see the world as a beautiful place surrounded with good people, but also a world that was full of dark, evil, scary things.  It made me value more the importance of a good girlfriend, one that you don't have to pretend to be perfect with.  Raising kids had made me more open-minded and helped me realize that there's more than one way to raise healthy, happy children.  It's made me see just how "mean girl" females can be, even after they're adults.  I never loved my husband more...ever...or hated him more...ever.  I've learned that some things are just not worth a fight.  My own comfort, desires, vanity, my feelings...are not important.  My sacrifices, prayers, dreams, my attitude...are crucially important.  When you become a mother, you understand what it means to love someone so much it hurts...literally, it's painful to your soul.  You begin to worry about things you never thought of, catastrophic life-changing accidents that are beyond your control...but also, things like, what if he wakes up in the night and he's cold?  You'll wake up in the middle of the night for no other reason than to watch your sleeping baby...and put a finger under his nose to make sure he's breathing...and your heart will absolutely break when you touch his feet and feel that he's cold.  You'll be thankful that your children finally fall asleep, but when they do, you'll miss them.  "Sexy" used to mean chiseled abs, now it's seeing your husband reading The Berenstain Bears, to a bed full of sleepy boys.

Me and my Bestie-girls night is a little different these days

Time to yourself becomes almost non-existent, so much so that a trip the grocery store alone, or a solo bathroom experience seems a luxury.  What you used to think as an early hour, now is considered mid-morning.  There are many times of loneliness, yet you're never alone.  You have a new love and compassion for children everywhere, and you find yourself wiping a child's nose, who doesn't belong to you, or watching closely a little girl at the mall who looks lost.  Politics now becomes something you care about because it affects your babies and their future.  You become 100% stronger than the woman you used to be: what I used to consider a hard day, is now a piece of cake.  You research everything until you become a pro, yet you still worry maybe you're not making the most informed decision.  As a newlywed, you couldn't imagine women who thought sex with their husbands was just another task at the end of the, you get it.  You find out that the minute you judge another mother, God usually teaches you empathy through a similar circumstance.  You'll never again feel carefree, because you'll never again know the reality of not being responsible for another human life.  You will think a lot about family traditions, your childhood, about your parents' rules...and you'll now understand what exactly your mom meant when she said, "You didn't come with an instruction manual."  Your definitions of words like, "rich" and "successful" no longer have anything to do with money.  Every decision that you will ever make from this day forward, has very little to do with just you, ever again.  

So...yeah, being a mother changes who you once were...but it becomes who you are.  For the better, for the worse, for the benefit and detriment to you children, for the decreasing bank account and increasing blessings, for your future, but mostly theirs.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Writer's Block

It always happens like this, just when I feel the desire to start writing again, a friend will mention to me that they haven't read any new blogs from me lately.  Which, is a blessing, I guess.  It confirms to me that I need to sit down and journal my feelings again.  Not because I think the world waits with baited breath to hear what I have to say...just the opposite, actually.  But, it's a confirmation to me from God that this is something that he has blessed me with to enjoy, while hopefully bringing glory to Him through my weaknesses.

I haven't blogged in quite a while, and the reason for that is...writer's block.  The truth is that I've struggled with a lot of thoughts about my blog.  Thoughts that I know are not from God, but they still mess with my head.  I felt like I had nothing to say.  Nothing to be inspired by.  I've been in a a lot of areas, probably all areas of my life, lately.  For the last six months, I haven't been the wife, mother, friend that I know I should be.  The reasons behind this are many.  Jon started a new job late this summer, and it was a big change for our family and the schedule that he's had for the last ten years. His carefree days of being able to take us to lunch, or pick boys up from school, or just work from home, are over.  I kept telling myself, "Stephanie, this is normal to most stay-at-home moms.  You need to suck it up." But, it still didn't make the transition easier.  Jon's new job is great and we know it was the right move for us, but I'm still getting used to the fact that now, majority of raising the boys during the week falls on me.  There were months that Jon left when the boys went to school and got home in enough time to eat a late dinner and put them in bed.  After the boys' bedtime, he either continued to do some work, or went to bed himself out of complete exhaustion, and it took a toll on our marriage.  I've been lucky to be married to my best friend.  We have had a really easy relationship for almost 15 years, it just came natural to us.  When people would mention how much hard work is involved in marriage, I really couldn't sympathize.  We communicated easily and often, we scheduled time for date nights and romantic evenings, and we made a great team in raising our kids.  But, when I had to step up and fulfill this new absence of Jon, we began to struggle.  Don't get me wrong, we weren't fighting or on the verge of divorce, but it was just...harder.  We went to bed at different times, there were weeks or even months without date nights, and we started to make decisions for our family separately, instead of together.  I became resentful and lonely, and Jon become obsessed with success in his new job.
My kids were adjusting to the new routine, too.  So, most times, their behavior reflected mine.  When I was tired and short tempered, they seemed to fight more.  When I was stressed with my list of things to do, that's when they seemed to really disobey and push my buttons.  When I was feeling defeated, they seemed to prove to me that I was failing at my job of being a good mother.   I love to blog about the orneriness of my boys and the funny mischief they get into.  Sometimes, a person would come up and ask me if I had any funny stories about the boys recently, and all I could think was, "Nope.  It's not funny these days."  I'd lost my joy in the everyday moments of life.  Let me tell you, when you're exhausted, and feeling down, "ornery" isn't funny, it's an annoyance.  It's another mess I had to clean up, another brotherly battle I had to settle, another discipline I had to take care of...alone.  I was uninspired in my marriage, in motherhood, and just in life, in general.

I'd pulled away from God, also.  It was harder to find time to do my Bible study or have a quiet place to pray, and so I didn't.  When I'm not spending time with God, I find it hard to do my job, and do it well. My source of strength, hope, perseverance, comes from Him and without spending time with Him, I was relying on my own strength to make it through.  At the end of the day, we all survived...dinner got cooked, laundry eventually got done, bills paid, groceries bought...but, it was done begrudgingly.  It was accomplished while yelling at my kids, and hurting feelings, and not meeting the emotional needs of my family.

So, all this to say, that I haven't felt joy or fulfillment, or growth in my relationships and therefore, I was uninspired to blog about them.  Since then, things have gotten better.  Jon's settled into his new job more comfortably and we've set boundaries on him bringing work home.  We been better about having "in-house" date nights after the kids go to bed for us to catch up on each other's lives.  We're working on goals for our family spiritually, and trying to make more time without distractions.  I've learned that meeting the emotional needs of my children is way more important than making sure the project list is done for the day.  And, God has given me inspiration again, through my friends, through my kids, through my marriage.  He's still working with me and changing me all the time, but during certain seasons,  the process is just slower than others.