The Yoga-Pant Years and What A Good Mother Looks Like

God has blessed me profoundly by surrounding me with wise mothers from early on in my own motherhood. This was something I totally took for granted until I started a community moms group and had my eyes suddenly opened to the stress, anxiety, and insecurity that most mothers face on a daily basis.

I had been oblivious to the judgemental nature of “other mothers”.

I had been unaware of controversies ranging from cloth diapers vs. disposables to what brand of sippy cup you use. (I am not even joking.)

I had been mercifully sheltered from society’s idea of The Perfect Mother and was virtually skipping down the lane of Young Motherhood. Not that I didn’t have my share of troubles, mind you. But I took them in stride as normal setbacks, oblivious to the fact that hundreds of mothers in my community were daily feeling like they were “bad moms”.

Shortly after starting the moms group and realizing that I’d practically had a fairytale existence when it came to being a young mom*, I discovered a new passion: freeing moms up so they could enjoy their blessed roles as mothers.

I was constantly telling them, “There’s no one right way to be a mom. If you love your child, you are a GOOD mom!” But I often felt like I was swimming up-stream against a massive down-stream current. Occasionally, it felt like I was making a difference, but mostly it felt like I was talking to a wall. The culture of motherhood as it’s portrayed in television, via celebrity mothers, and through our own unrealistic expectations (of ourselves AND of others) is so utterly pervasive. I eventually realized that, like a lot of other freedoms, it had to be grasped by choice. It’s cliché but it’s true: you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink it.

In retrospect, I think I likely did more good than I’ll ever realize. While freedom is something to be chosen, it can be helpful to have someone yelling about it all the time—makes a body more conscious of its existence, for example. ;)

I decided to write this post after reading a blog post by another mother who outlined what a day for her looks like. She’s a mother of five and has very solid goals and values for her family while also being a writer and a team-player wife.

At one point, she mentioned that she showers,dresses, and puts on make-up every day because she believes she feels better when she looks better and it’s beneficial to her family when they see her looking presentable. She added that it doesn’t take that much effort to put on clothes rather than yoga pants. But it was the next part that I loved her for—she wrote:

(NOTE: while my children were very little, I wore yoga pants daily, no makeup).

It was a breath of fresh air! Why? Because there are some things that I know in my gut I’ve just got to give myself permission for and it’s SO NICE when that gut-grace is validated by Another Mother!

I’ve heard other mothers exonerate the benefits of getting dressed and putting make-up on; Fly Lady even advocates tying your shoelaces. And I tried that; I really did. But it just wasn’t edifying for me—and by proxy, it was unedifying for my family. I was less likely to clean house if I felt all done up; I didn’t want to get sweaty after fixing my hair! And jeans are not comfortable for getting down on the floor multiple times a day with my babies. Getting nice shirts spit up on or smeared with boogies made me a frustrated, irritated mommy. We’re not even going to talk about the agitation of having mascara running down my face when frustration and stress gave way to tears!!!

In other words, hearing an older, more experienced mother acknowledge that she started off in yoga pants freed me up even more than I already had been. It took away the last niggling bits of doubt & guilt and replaced them with the drops of grace I’d been missing.

And that’s what I want to impart to mothers everywhere, at whatever stage they might be in: whether you’re in the Yoga-Pant Years, the Bridge Club Years, or something in between, give yourself permission to do it WELL, not perfectly. Do it in a way that edifies your family, regardless of pressure and perspectives from the status quo.

What does a good mother look like? Well, I’ve seen all kinds: frazzled and yoga-pant-wearing, pristine and accessorized, exasperated and helpless, tender and wise…but they all have one major thing in common—they love their kids and they regularly sacrifice their own needs and desires to take care of their children’s.

THAT’S what a good mother looks like; don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. ♥

*I use the term “young mom” to mean “new mom” or “mom of littles”. It does NOT mean “young in years”!


Planning Ahead For Looking Back

Every year, I wish I’d done a better job of documenting the previous year. I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions, mostly because I don’t trust myself to follow through, but this year, I’m making one: Better documentation of life throughout the year so that, next year, I’m not wishing I’d done a better job of it!

I’m sharing my ideas and plans here for two reasons:

– It might inspire someone.
– I would love—read LOVE—to hear your thoughts and ideas about how you document various aspects of your life.

And now for The Details:

Evernote* has been on and off my radar ever since it first came out a few years ago. I have decided to use it as a hub for my Better Documentation because:
» I’m a geek and I like things in the cloud, rather than on paper. (I can always print it out on paper, if I get a hankering.) Evernote is The Ultimate Portal to “the cloud”. I can use it on my phone or on my PC or via my email from someone else’s PC! (I use Gmail because I also like my email in the cloud.)
» I like to do everything with my phone— (no, EVERYthing. I’m writing this post from my phone [thank you WordPress!] and I’m annoyed that they haven’t yet developed a phone that turns into a car — and also a bed ;)). But when I don’t feel like thumbing it out on my phone, it will be nice to be able to access/add to my notebooks from my computer.
» I can create multiple notebooks and post pictures, videos, notes— even files! —to them. It will be a virtual library of scrapbooks, without the clutter! Evernote also has the handy capability of searching for text within images!!! So if I jot “Dream House Floorplan” on a napkin while at the coffee shop, draw out the floorplan, take a picture of it and upload it to Evernote, I can do a search later for “dream house” and Evernote will find that image! That’s just geeky coolness, even if I don’t end up utilizing that feature much. ;)
» Did I mention you can also share individual posts and/or whole notebooks from Evernote with your friends and family??

So those are the reasons I’m picking Evernote as my primary tool for accomplishing this year’s resolution. On to the good stuff…

The Resolution
1. I WILL take a picture of my family once a week (group or single shots). At the end of the year, I’ll have at least 52 pictures documenting how we have changed in appearance.
2. I WILL write a diary entry every day, no matter how short. I plan to include Weather, Mood, and Highlights from the day. I HOPE to include daily details as often as possible, but realistically, it’s going to be tough enough just getting the basic details down on a daily basis. But the FUN part of all this will be in two years, when I can look at diary entries from exactly a year ago and see what we were doing and how I was feeling (and whether or not it was raining that day too!).
3. I WILL take more pics and videos of the kids!! These will be posted to Evernote with a specific tag so they can be meshed in with everything else but capable of being separated into their own group for easier browsing.
4. Lastly, I plan to have a virtual scrapbook of get-togethers, parties, and other events or special odds & ends. It will contain things like pictures of birthday cards, movie tickets, group photos, cherished gifts, favorite clothing, etc.

Interestingly enough, as I was brainstorming all of this yesterday and today, one of my best friends was apparently having a similar inspiration. She discovered something called a “Smash Book“. You can see a short but very descriptive video of it here:

Basically, it’s the papery, non-geek version of what I’ll be doing with Evernote— and it’s pretty cool. If you’re not a cloud-freak like I am, or if you like being able to touch mementos, you should check it out. It’s a great concept, and while they sell everything you could possibly need to make one, there are lots of YouTube videos on how to make your own.

So there you have it: my ideas for better documentation of my family’s life in the coming year. Did any of it inspire you?

Please share your thoughts, suggestions, and original ideas because I would love the opportunity to be inspired by YOU! :)

*I was not asked to promote any of the products mentioned in this post nor was I compensated for said promotion. The entire post is comprised of my own thoughts, opinions, and preferences.

A Letter To My Daughter

Thanks to Penzu‘s “looking glass” feature, I found this letter in my inbox this morning—it’s one of a few that I’ve written in an online journal that I hope to print out and gift to my daughter someday. This letter was written exactly a year ago and, ironically, it was just the encouragment I needed this morning…

april 3, 2011

dear sweet daughter,

by satan’s existence, everything is ruined. by Jesus’ life, everything is redeemed. by God’s power, everything has purpose – even the ruining itself.

“God has to take care of us so we don’t get pukes!” oh, my heart… you said those words to me, darling girl, after the seemingly-hundredth time you puked. it was a nasty bug, a violent one. my answer to you was this: “God never allows something bad to happen to you if it cannot later be turned into good.” and in my head, i thought, ‘that is the hardest truth to swallow. but swallow it good and whole because it will be your anchor in life.’

sometimes — perhaps even often — God allows terrible things to happen. if you have heard of God’s goodness, you will wonder why He allows them. but if you are familiar with His goodness — intimately, personally — you will also trust and hope, in spite of the stack of evidence that the devil brings to the table. our stack of evidence — of God’s goodness and love and purpose — often seems smaller compared to the devil’s. but it’s important to know that the devil’s evidence is made up of half-truths and lies (primarily lies). our evidence is 100% truth, solid and gold. if you could pick up your stack in one hand and the devil’s in the other, you would fall over from the weight of yours and the devil’s would flutter away in the wind.

a fanciful metaphor, perhaps, but i daresay an accurate one.

i hope and pray — i beg God — to allow that i leave a legacy of CONFIDENCE, TRUST, and JOY for you and your brother. my whole life (up to age 30 anyway) has been wrought with fear, doubt, and depression. i took a stand against the devil several weeks ago and said NO MORE, I MEAN IT!!! and mean it, i have; mean it, i will. we are children of the King and we have authority over the devil and rights to the power of God. joy is our inheritance and the devil is a cunning thief. if you are not experiencing joy in this moment, the devil has just robbed you.

be vigilant! never blame God for the devil’s work. when God allows the devil TO work, it is because He will triumph yet again over him by turning it to good. and we haven’t even seen the half of it. no ma’am. just you wait. one day…

until then, work to desire God. He is everything for us, and don’t let “reason” convince you otherwise. He is strength, He is comfort, He is joy, He is sustenance, He is refreshing, He is beautiful, He is satisfying, He is a friend of the best kind, He is our Creator.

i love you, darling precious little girl. may God instill in your heart from THE MOMENT I WRITE THIS that He is GOOD, TRUSTWORTHY, and everything else that i am only scratching the surface of at age 30. ♥

Tell-Tale Signs Your House Contains Tiny People

1. There are moltings of Tiny People Shells everywhere. Especially the pieces that cover the torso, the legs, and the feet. See fig.1 below.

2. The toilet is always pre-filled, saving you the trouble of having to put something in it before you flush.

3. Various surfaces that were formerly smooth are now sticky, so you really CAN re-use those Post-It notes over and over, in specific spots.

4. Miniature versions of everything are taking over your house. It’s like a miniature invasion of miniature armies, whose nefarious schemes are so tiny, they’re happy with just taking over the house, rather than the whole world. See fig.2 below.

5. The following description sounds more glorious than a trip to see the Seven Wonders of the World:

qui·et /kwīt/
adjective: Making little or no noise.
noun: Absence of noise or bustle; silence; calm.
verb: Make or become silent, calm, or still.

6. The carpet has built-in massage capabilities, if you walk over it barefoot, and the windows have ‘privacy facilitators’, also known as ‘smudges and fingerprints’.

7. And last, but most definitely not least—there is never a dull moment; rather, there are moments of tears, moments of temper, moments of craziness, moments of mess, moments of “WHAT did you just flush down the toilet??” and moments of negotiation (i.e. “Eat this half and you can go play”, “Play nice with your brother or you’re not playing at all”, “ALL the toys have to be picked up, not ‘some’—this is not a negotiation!”). However, there are also moments of sweet, moments of precious, moments of hilarious, and moments of “You did not just say that in public!”—that last one fits into the Sweet And Precious category because, years from now, it WILL be a treasured memory and a favorite at family reunions, first dates, and wedding rehearsals.

If you can relate to one or more of the above, your house most likely contains Tiny People. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on the day), there is no remedy. It’s a condition that must run its course and, more often than not, it’s a condition one gets so accustomed to, that oddly enough, it is missed when it has finally gone. ♥


When God Closes the Door on His Presence

I went down to the garage today to get something out of the downstairs fridge for my mom. My son followed me in, but when I went through the door to go back into the house, he stayed in the garage. I stood in the doorway calling, “Come on! Come with Mommy.” But he just stood there. I could have gone over to him and picked him up to carry him in, but I didn’t. Instead, I shut the door, leaving him on one side and me on the other. I didn’t go anywhere; I just stood there to listen. Sure enough, he started to fuss, no doubt coming to the conclusion that the garage wasn’t nearly as interesting when his mother was ‘gone’. I opened the door and didn’t even have to tell him to come; he immediately started toddling toward me, anxious for my presence.

It struck me, immediately in the moment that he started toddling toward me, that God has done the same thing in my life on occasion: He has shut the door on His presence so I would start seeking after Him.

It’s easy to get caught up in the frills and luxuries of this life; and, as I’m learning in Andy Stanley’s The Grace of God, it’s RIGHT to enjoy the frills and luxuries of this life because it’s all a gift from God. Problems arise when we *forget* where all the good things have come from; but God is good ALL the time and so, sometimes, He shuts the door to His presence. He doesn’t go anywhere — after all, He promised He would never leave us or forsake us.

No, He stands on the other side of that door and He waits until we start ‘fussing’ for His presence. And then He opens the door again and we go running — to HIM, the Author of our lives, the Giver of all things good and the *only* reason we are even capable of enjoying anything good in the first place. ❤

Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. James 1:17 (NLT)

If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me. Jeremiah 29:13 (NLT)