I've noticed over the past week or so that all I have to do to get at least 45 minutes of happiness and contentment out of my children is pull the cushions off the couch and throw all the pillows on the floor. Seriously. It doesn't matter how grouchy or whiny or uncooperative they are being; toss those cushions down, and it is like instant joy! Sounds of laughter and friendly, loving play fill the house. And an added bonus, they don't even care if I'm not participating. Has anyone else experienced this phenomenon? Please try it so you can let me know if it's a universal kid fix or just my strange little boys.
Just a few insights I gained on day 2...
1. I am, in fact, not mentally prepared for gray hair.
I have always assumed that when my hair starts turning gray, I'll just go with it. I mean, what's in a hair color, right? Well, wrong. I realized today, when I had a slight panic attack at the sight of a light streak in my head of dark brown, that I'm apparently not as unconcerned about the aging of my hair as I thought. Turns out, it was just a dog hair, so crisis averted for the time being, but it was quite a self-revelation of my own vanity.
2. I like my kids' crafts so much more when they let me do them.
I was going to do a little handprint turkey craft I found over at Candle in the Night's "31 Days of Crafts for Kids" series, but I decided to save that for November because I wanted to do Fall trees today since I've been talking to Brock about seasons and what happens in the Fall. I tried to include Roman in the craft-making too, but he was not having the paint on his hands. So I just painted his tree myself and let him put on the leaf stickers. But now I feel like a critical jerk of a mom every time I see their pictures because I like the look of mine, I mean Roman's, so much more than Brock's.
3. Couch cushions are magical.
*This post is part of a 31 day series called Real Life. If this is your first stop along the way, I am so glad you’re here! All of the blog posts in this series will be linked together on the intro/Day 1 page if you are interested in reading more. Click here to be taken to Day One. Thanks for reading!
"Mommy, you look beautiful."
My three-year-old spontaneously said this to me yesterday when I walked into the room, and I must admit, it was a little ridiculous how good it made me feel (especially considering I didn't even have any makeup on yet). Those words have a lot of power, and I'd say that little boy learned this very quickly when I grabbed him in a hug and gushed about how sweet and kind he was. Then later, as I was still reveling in my son's compliment (clearly Words of Affirmation is one of my love languages), I started to wonder what exactly prompted him to say that. What was it that made him look at me and tell me he thought I was beautiful? What does "beautiful" even mean to him? Will he think his mom is beautiful 15 years from now? What is his standard of beauty? I thought about these two little boys I have and realized that there are some things I want them to learn about beauty, things I want to teach them with my words and my actions, and these are those things...
1. Beauty is attractive and good, so appreciate it.
There are so many beautiful things in this world; people, things, places, animals, nature. There is so much to appreciate and enjoy and take delight in. It's good to look around and soak up the beauty, to be in awe of a multi-colored sunset or a clear blue ocean. It's good to look at your mom or your future wife or your friends and see their attractiveness and appreciate their beauty (and appreciating it out loud gets you more points, of course). If you are able to one day drive a car that you love (which probably won't be one that your parents have bought you), it's good to take care of it, to admire it, to be proud of it. Beauty is a good thing, but don't worship it. Appreciate beauty. Be thankful for beautiful things, beautiful people, this beautiful world, and acknowledge the magnitude of it all.
2. Beauty can be deceiving, so guard your heart.
Beauty is a good thing, but just like everything else in life, it can be used in bad ways. Sometimes the flashier something is on the outside, the less substance it may have on the inside. Sometimes the outside is compensating for a lack of something inside. Remember that spinning, flashing, noisy, spastic toy you got from the quarter machine and how quickly it broke (and surprisingly, I had nothing to do with its breaking)? Sometimes the lights and the noise and the flashiness (or in a few years: the makeup, the sexy clothes, the vulgar actions or words) are designed to draw you in, to make you want what you see, to entice you and take something from you; whether it's your money, your attention, your innocence, or your love and affection. This kind of beauty is sometimes a trap, like a mask hiding something dangerous and undesirable. Sometimes beautiful things can and will hurt you. So be careful when it comes to beauty. Be careful that you don't allow your appreciation and admiration of beauty to consume your thoughts and your actions and cause you to make decisions that are unwise and harmful.
3. Beauty is more than looks, so look deeper.
Beauty can be dangerous, but if you understand beauty for what it really is and ought to be, this may keep you safe. There are lots of cliche statements that make this point: "Beauty is more than skin deep." "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Or your dad's personal favorite, "If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife" (which I am obviously offended by). Ultimately, real beauty is grounded in God and is meant to be a reflection of His character, so beauty is not just an external thing but an internal one as well. Look beneath the surface of those pretty girls you'll go to school with. Look beyond the brands of clothing people wear, the social status and level of desirability someone possesses, the external attractiveness of what you see. Beauty can be found in an honest, loyal, considerate, compassionate heart. Integrity and kindness and gentleness are beautiful. Wisdom, intelligence, contentedness, confidence, self-control, peacefulness, selflessness... you can't really see these things with your eyes, but they are so beautiful. Physical beauty is not bad (as I've already mentioned), but I hope that you will also see a depth to beauty that protects you from its deceptive charms and allows you to see it even where most people cannot.
I'm an imperfect teacher and need to be reminded of these things myself, but I will be a happy mom if my children learn and accept and practice these truths about beauty. In the meantime, they can just keep calling me beautiful whenever their little hearts desire.
I turned 30 this year. 30.
I remember when 30 was old. I still occasionally catch myself thinking it until I remember that's how old I am. The other day, I had to bubble in my age for a survey, and I instinctively moved my pen to the lowest age bracket. Then I was shocked to have to move it up not one, not two, but three spaces to the [30-35 years old] bubble.
But (of course) 30 doesn't seem so old to me now that I'm in that category. In fact, neither does 40, 50, 60, or 70 because I know I may eventually be all of those too, so I think I'll just go ahead and adopt that whole life motto of aging people that "You're only as old as you feel." (Although that might mean I was 80 by the age of 27).
Anyway, now that I am a seasoned 30-year-old (of two whole months), I started reflecting on some of the differences in the way I see life now and the way I saw it as a 15-year-old. In all honesty, these reflections started as I was staring at my own literal reflection in the mirror one day and noticed the little hole above my belly button that once belonged to a piercing. My parents let me get my belly button pierced for my 15th birthday, and as I stood there looking at that slightly stretched and empty hole on a stomach that has since carried two children, I thought, "That's not nearly quite as cute and attractive now as you once imagined." Then I thought, "If I wrote a letter to my 15-year-old self, what would I tell me?" And this is what I came up with:
1. Don't Get Your Belly Button Pierced
I know the Internet is really only just starting to take off (thanks to Al Gore), and Google probably has not yet become a verb in your vocabulary, but take a break from IM-ing your friends for a second and go search in your AOL browser for images of "belly button piercings post-pregnancy." Your body is going to change (and that's okay), but just be aware of this before you put that permanent hole in your stomach. Also, you're going to become a follower of Christ in about 2 years and will develop a different view of modesty and your body, so no one is even going to see your cute little piercing anymore. Do your 30-year-old self a favor and save your forty bucks for college expenses (because those student loans are going to be a pain to payback)!
2. You Are Thin... Stop Worrying About It
I know you constantly think you are overweight and worry about whether you look fat in every outfit you put on. First of all, that is a ridiculous waste of energy (even if you were actually fat), and second of all, you will one day look back at pictures of yourself and think, "I thought that was fat???"
In the grand scheme of things (well, and even in the small scheme), your weight just isn't that important, no matter what your culture is telling you. So just take that off your list of things you obsess over.
3. Boys Are Not That Amazing
Speaking of obsessing... you are one day going to look back at the way you viewed and pursued boys and be a little embarrassed. I know you daydream about someone like Freddie Prinze Jr turning you into the most wanted, most popular girl in school, and I know you envision finding a guy like Heath Ledger who will sing songs like "You're just too good to be true" in front of the entire school because he's so in love with you. The problem is, you watch too many movies. That's just not real life. In real life, the Freddie Prinze Jrs and Heath Ledgers are just guys. And the future you would like you to know three things about real-life guys:
A. They're pretty gross.
B. They're generally not hopeless romantics
C. They will get you pregnant (which can leave you feeling pretty gross and unromantic yourself)
So just devote a little less brain space to thinking about boys, relationships with boys, and finding the right boy. (Spoiler alert: All that falls into place nicely before you even graduate high school, and you aren't even the one who orchestrates any of it!)
4. Strive To Be Kind, Not Popular
While we're on the subject of you wanting to be so loved, please know that 15 years from now, no one will really care how popular you were in high school. This new thing called Facebook is going to come out (and replace the short-lived MySpace) where everyone will create their own public personas and filtered realities anyway, so don't spend so much time focusing on trying to be accepted and cool. Just be kind to people... especially the people who will not add to (and might even subtract) your popularity points. They may be the ones who need your kindness most. Fifteen years from now, no one will remember how popular you were, but they may remember how you made them feel. Take time to positively impact the people around you, and don't worry so much about being welcomed into the clubs of the Most Beautifuls and Most Influentials and Most Loved.
5. You Are Your Own Worst Critic
One day you will learn that no one is thinking of you as much or as often as you are thinking of yourself. So here's a helpful tip that will save you some worry wrinkles: Quit worrying so much about what people think. You may find that if you spend less time trying to be a people-pleaser and less effort trying to mold yourself into what you think other people will like, you will have a lot more time and energy to devote to things that really matter. Like showing kindness, helping people, taking care of others, etc. Don't think less of yourself; just think of yourself less. (That little mantra wasn't created by your own wit, unfortunately... You'll read it in a book later on.)
6. Be Assertive, Not Passive-Aggressive
This, sadly, is something you won't learn until you're almost 30 years old, and then mostly only because you're married to a man who despises passive-aggressive, manipulative communication. But if you could somehow realize it earlier, you will be a much happier person surrounded by much healthier relationships. I know you have an irrational fear of the word 'No' and don't like to hear it, but there is something very valuable about being direct in the way you talk to others. If you want something, ask for it. If you don't like something, speak up about it (with gentleness and humility; I'm not telling you to be a jerk). If you have a problem with someone, go to that person and talk to them (alone, not with an audience) and find ways to work it out. Don't talk about people behind their backs. People will respect you more, and you will ultimately respect yourself more. Also note, those people who are talking with you about others are probably also talking with others about you. Save yourself the paranoia and self-consciousness and just be direct with people.
7. Some Final Encouragements
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