Crazy Mom

Alright moms, this one is for you. Can you relate to the following scenario?

All I wanted to do was clean my bathtub. That shouldn’t be too hard, right? WRONG. I could not get the stains off the tub, no matter how hard I scrubbed or what cleaner I used. To compound the frustration, I couldn’t have the kids near because I was using chemicals (which I only ever use on tough bathroom stains; the rest of the time I use homemade cleaners). So as I was upstairs cleaning the bathroom, all three children were in the living room. I could hear everything they were doing, but they couldn’t see me and…let’s just say they were having trouble playing nicely. Ronan was tired and grumpy, and it was generally just a volatile situation.

So there I was, scrubbing as hard as I could but seemingly accomplishing nothing while chaos reigned without me, and things got a little insane. I cried. Sobbed, actually. I disciplined screaming toddlers a little too harshly and took out all my frustration on the tub, which didn’t care and still didn’t relinquish the stains.

Finally I came to my senses enough to abandon the scrubbing, let the two older kids play a learning game on the iPad, and just snuggle my sleepy, teething, almost-not-a-baby-anymore. It wasn’t my proudest mothering moment.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, it’s certainly not to praise my parenting! Looking back, of course, I should have just waited to clean the tub until the kids didn’t need me. Sometimes that’s hard to do though, because it feels like they always need me! In my brain, it was also my job to keep the house clean, and I felt beaten down that I wasn’t doing a good job at this one particular thing.

Again, you ask, why am I telling you this? I wanted to share one of my less than perfect moments simply as a reminder that we’re all susceptible to bad days. We’re all only human still; growing every day, being sanctified and on the journey to holiness, but still so very far away from it sometimes.

Photo by veeterzy on Pexels.com

Once I realized how upset I was getting, I should have just paused the entire project and given my attention to the immediate needs of my children. It can be really hard for us to do this as moms, because we feel like if we don’t power through in the moment, the project will never get done. I don’t lie when I say that deep cleaning the bathtub had been on my to-do list for several weeks, and there just never seemed to be a good time to do it. So once I started, I felt stuck needing to finish it. That’s all it was though – a feeling. In reality, I wasn’t stuck. I was choosing to push myself to the place of overwhelm.

Of course, sometimes there are situations that are truly overwhelming and we have no choice but to endure until we can breathe again. But in my case that day, and often in everyday scenarios that push us to the point of explosion, we do have more control than we think. We can choose to stop and breathe. Snuggle our children. Make a plan. We can admit our mistakes and then give ourselves the grace our Father does.

Bad days don’t make you bad mom.

Yes, we’re continually learning new strategies, controlling ourselves better and minimizing our mistakes. As we should! But some days you will still be less than the mother you want to be. Some days you might whisper-scream at your children, as I have, “I love you so much but you’re being so hard!” (I told you I wasn’t perfect!)

That’s not to say that we should throw up our hands and quit trying – of course we keep going! Just know, sweet mama, that your moments or hours or days of “crazy mom” (like me sobbing at the bathtub) do not take away from all the sweet moments of connection you also share with your children.

To mother well day after day is an impossible job in our own strength – so let’s stop trying. Let’s lean into our Father God, who has given us these children and has promised to give us strength for each day as we need it. You’ve got this, fellow mamas!

Oh, and if anyone knows how I can get the stains off my tub – I’d love to know! 🙂

Nani

Two weeks ago, my husband’s grandmother passed to the arms of Jesus. We called her “Nani”, and she was one of a kind. 64 of her 87 years were spent married to her best friend, and together they raised and loved 8 children, 23 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

Nani never missed a birthday, wedding, baby shower, christening, or any other event. If there was a family function, Nani was there! She and her husband (we call him Papa) traveled across the country to attend Bradley’s and my wedding in 2016. We were thrilled to have them there! When we got back from our honeymoon 10 days later, we first had to go to Nani and Papa’s house to pick up our car. We had been traveling for over 24 hours and were exhausted, but Nani insisted on making us breakfast before we could leave. When we finally did get out the door, she sent us home with a pack of specialty jams and a pound of butter. Nani made sure that no one ever left her house hungry, whether or not they wanted to eat!

I only had the privilege of knowing Nani for seven years, but it’s felt like she was in my life forever. Like a true Italian grandmother, she welcomed me into her family with open arms, cheek kisses, and lots of food. She made the cake for Rory’s baby shower, and the leftovers of that cake sustained me through the long, ravenous days as a nursing mother with a NICU baby. I will never forget how good that frozen cake tasted!

As her family, celebrated her life and laid her body to rest last week, it was a privilege to listen to the countless memories and stories that were shared through both tears and laughter. While I didn’t know Nani for very long, I cherish the sweet moments we did share. Perhaps my favorite memory of Nani is a perfect example of the kind of woman that she was. As my mother-in-law says, she was “a grandmother and a half.”

Bradley and I had been married for three months, and it was my 22nd birthday. It was a weekday, so Bradley was at work and I was home alone on my birthday for the first time in my life. Around 11:30 in the morning Nani and Papa showed up unannounced at the door, laden with a giant cooler, presents, and Papa’s tools. Nani had remembered my birthday even though I had just joined the family, and didn’t want me to be alone. Inside the cooler was lunch from a nearby grocery store and an ice cream cake. Papa spent the entire day working on our upstairs bathroom that we were remodeling, and Nani wanted me to give her a tour of the condo. She took pictures of every room, and made me pose on the front steps. We ate lunch, and then she just sat in the living room and talked with me for hours until Bradley got home.

I will never forget the thoughtfulness of Nani and Papa to not only remember my birthday in the first place, but to also realize that I would be by myself and to voluntarily fill that space to make sure I felt loved. If there was one thing Nani excelled at, it was making sure people knew they were loved.

Nani will be deeply missed, but we have hope in knowing that she is with Jesus and this goodbye is not forever. In the meantime, I’m so thankful she was a part of my life, and hope that one day I can be as loving to my granddaughter in-law as Nani was to me.

Remembering to Learn

I can distinctly recall being around 12 years old and making a list of all the languages I wanted to learn. I was going to start with Hebrew (I was fascinated by Jewish culture!), then French, and somewhere else on the list were Russian, Italian and Spanish. There was no reason for my list other than that I thought it would be fun and useful to speak all those languages, and I naively assumed that learning them would be easy. Well, I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that I never made it past counting to 10 in Hebrew, and while I did slightly better in French, I still have only a very rudimentary familiarity with it – nowhere near being able to speak or understand more than a few words without a lot of help and prompting.

While I sometimes regret not following through on learning even one other language well, I love how my childhood mind looked at learning as fun, and assumed that I would always have time to learn whatever I wanted. (Lest anyone be overly impressed, let me also assure you that I was not a highly motivated learner in all subjects – only the ones I happened to like!) 🙂

As we get older, many of us stop intentionally learning new things. Of course we’re always learning just as a by-product of living, and that is one of the best ways to absorb knowledge. Necessity can be a motivating teacher! However, there are also many benefits to learning a new skill just because we want to, that we don’t always get from simply making it through each day.

I think it’s especially important for those of us “in the trenches” of motherhood to take the time to learn something new. We can fall so easily into the daily grind of caring for the basic needs of our children and families, and the last thing we want to do at the end or in the middle of a busy day is stretch our brains to improve a skill. But just like exercising regularly gives you more energy even if you want to just lie on the couch, working our brains can actually make us feel less tired and more eager to create and improve.

So, you might be saying, that’s great, Lieren! That’s easy to say. How do I choose something and make time for it in my already busy day?

Let me start by clarifying that, just like most things, this is not a blanket statement. We’re all in different situations, and many of us might be constantly learning new things simply by nature of our jobs or where we are in life. This might not apply to you. But if you resonate with the feeling of being stuck in the same routine day after day, with an underlying feeling of restlessness, these ideas are for you.

  1. Choose something you already have an interest in. Learning something new doesn’t have to be drudgery! Pick something that you’ve always wanted to do. For me recently, it’s been learning new knitting patterns. I’ve known the basics of knitting since I was very young but had only ever done simple things like blankets and scarves. So over the past two months I’ve learned how to knit hats and fingerless gloves.
  • 2. Choose a time to work on your new skill. It’s relatively easy to pick something to learn, but actually putting in the work requires planning and intention. Again, that doesn’t mean it has to be hard though! Choose a time with your current schedule and commitments when you can give anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or more to your chosen activity. One of the beauties of being self-motivated is that you can spend as much or as little time as you want to. I choose to knit primarily in the evenings, but also do some if I have a chance during the day. If you can’t find any time during your day, maybe you truly are too busy in this season and it’s not the time to take on anything new. Or maybe your priorities need to change. Only you can answer that!
  • 3. Choose a goal. As evidenced by the popularity and subsequent rapid abandonment of New Year’s resolutions, many of us enjoy setting goals but far fewer obtain them. Setting a concrete goal, such as reading a certain number of books in a month or trying a new recipe 2 days a week, can make your new skill feel more achievable and keep you from giving up. My initial goal was to learn how to knit a hat. Then it was to knit a comfortable pair of fingerless gloves. Now I need a new one! So if anyone has any ideas for my next project….let me know! 🙂

Don’t let the responsibilities of adulthood crush your love of learning! I may not ever be able to speak five additional languages, but I’m glad that I once wanted to. And who knows – maybe someday I’ll finally get around to learning Hebrew. Or maybe not. There are too many exciting things to knit! 🙂

My first wearable glove! I’ve since made much better ones, but this was an achievement at the time! 🙂

Comfort Chicken Pasta

Everyone thinks of something different when they picture comfort food, but for most people, I think pasta is high on the list. Especially pasta with just enough creamy cheesiness to feel indulgent, but not enough to make it too heavy. Since we’ve recently made some dietary changes (for several different reasons), I’ve been missing that comfort food pasta dish. So I came up with this this one evening, just using what I happened to have in the house, and it’s now one of my go-to comfort food meals.

It’s super easy with a short ingredient list, which is pretty much the only kind of meal I make these days! You could use another vegetable too; broccoli, squash or zucchini would all be delicious.

So if you’re looking for a tasty, comfort food pasta dish that’s actually good for you, I invite you to try this and let me know what you think!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 bag Brussel sprouts
  • 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 box chickpea pasta, or pasta of choice
  • 3/4 cup shredded goat cheese or parmesan
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Cut Brussel sprouts into quarters (smaller if the sprouts are very big), and place on foil-lined sheet pan. Cut chicken into bite size pieces and add to Brussel sprouts. Mince garlic cloves and add. Drizzle with olive oil, add salt and pepper, and mix.

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Brussel sprouts should be tender.

While chicken is cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to directions on the box, and drain.

Drizzle pasta with more olive oil, and add the chicken, Brussel sprouts, and goat cheese or parmesan. Add more salt and pepper to taste, mix, and cook until cheese is melted.

Enjoy!

The Last Time

If I’d known the last time that I hugged you, I’d have held you so much longer.

If I’d known the last time my fear took hold, I’d have been so much stronger.

If I’d known the last happy birthday we had, I’d have honored life so much more.

If I’d known the last time we disagreed, I wouldn’t have slammed that door.

If I’d known the last time my babies crawled, I’d have treasured every minute.

If I’d known the last time they played that game, I’d have joined them in it.

The last time you stood clinging onto my legs with a toothless grin on your face.

If I’d known that was the last time, I wouldn’t have tried to escape.

If I’d known the last time we danced to our song, I’d have relished my role as your bride.

If I’d known the last time we drove that road, I’d have fully enjoyed the ride.

If I’d known the last time I talked to you, I’d have said what really mattered.

If only I’d known – but we can’t predict when suddenly life can be shattered.

Hold tight to the present, cherish the past, and leap joyfully towards what’s to come.

“If I’d known” is a phrase we won’t always say; even last times will finally succumb.

Life can be hard, but also so sweet – a thrilling, uphill climb.

Let’s live in the hope of a future that’s ours, where there never will be a last time.