What a Mom Needs

Sometimes God has to bash me in the head a few (hundred) times to get His point across, for the lesson to ring true. Usually. Sometimes, when He knows I need it and can’t handle anything else, there is this whisper that I recognize.

Tonight I was weary. Not just the normal exhaustion, but bone-weary. I haven’t eaten in a few days because of what I thought was food poisoning. This afternoon, my toddler confirmed it was a virus by throwing up all over everything. EVERYTHING. As soon as the first of five loads of laundry was in the washer and she was snuggled up against me, she threw up again. She started saying “Uh oh!” and reaching for a towel that we’d put on the bed for clean-ups. I tried to take it from her, but she shook her head no and her sweet sick self, covered in ickiness, proceeded to wipe puke off her mommy’s arm. And I cried. Because I was tired, because I lose sight of the need for selflessness like that in relating to others, because in her moment of need, she only saw mine, which was so much less.

My teenagers didn’t do a lot today. At all. But they were kind to their mother. They spoke with gentleness in their voices that is sometimes lacking. They gave me hugs. They asked if I needed anything. They did a couple of chores and did them better without whining. They gave this mama what I long for. Not a perfect house or a perfect life void of challenges and trouble, but one filled with tenderness that reflects the value of those we love.

My husband, who I swore off store duty when we got another car, went to the store accompanied by one of my boys. After doing all the laundry because he knew I was lightheaded and not recovered from my own 24 hours of puking and three days without eating. While I sat with our tiny daughter and watched Sweet Pea Beauty (Veggie Tales put some great lessons in this one, but that’s another story) he replaced towels and handed me new outfits every time she threw up. He rubbed my back, still sore from lots of throwing up. And he did it all without a single complaint, reminding me that he’s glad we’re in this life together, even when days like this are our life.

My sweet girl asked to go to sleep early, her tousled head on my shoulder. I held on longer than usual because I still can and she needs it. She woke up after an hour or so and I walked around with her until she fell back to sleep. We prayed for her and I settled her into her bed, tucked the covers around her, and she woke up. And I let out an exasperated sigh. Loudly. Very loudly. Because I have had a hard few days and she needs sleep and I whimpered in my heart, “I can’t do this anymore.” And the words began immediately in my mind. The words the kids I’ve been helping prepare to lead worship time at church have been swaying out of sync to for the past two weeks. The words I barely heard when they sang last night because I was feeling so terrible.

So pull me a little closer
Take me a little deeper
I wanna know Your heart

And God was near. The day came back to me in snapshots. The moments. The ones that God had showed me He was right there. In the ways He had reminded me not to give up. In the ways He had revealed, again, why I want and need to be a mother. In the ways He continues to help me relearn love through the actions of my husband. In the ways He showed me that right here, in the middle of teenage challenges and toddler tantrums, in the midst of puke all over my world…

He will pull me closer. He will take me deeper. He will show me His heart. Sometimes like Rapunzel in Tangled with her cast iron pan and sometimes, when I am where I was tonight and can’t even find words to pray, in lyrics like a breeze that gently blows over my mind. I am so abundantly grateful.

Passover — An Oven and My Heart

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I was inside the oven. Akin to Hansel and Gretel, except that I’d put myself there rather than being shoved inside by a witch. It’s a hazard of being a short girl with arms that don’t quite reach. There I was, being overwhelmed by fumes from the chemicals of the oven cleaner I’d sprayed on because my oven was ancient and had no self-cleaning cycle. It was nasty. I tend to procrastinate when it comes to oven cleaning, which makes the task I avoid because it’s gross even grosser by the time I get around to spraying it, waiting, then wiping out the toxic gunky mess. It’s something I do before Passover every year.

God commanded the leaven to be removed in ancient days, and said it is a command forever. While I’m not Jewish, I observe God’s feasts. I have committed to follow the God of Israel and for our family, that includes (as it did for the mixed multitude that left Egypt and observed that very first season of bread with no leaven) the instructions for His Holy Days. We eat the frozen pizzas and cookies and use up the baking mix the days leading up to Passover. I lament the almost-full jar of yeast that gets thrown away because I should’ve planned better…again. Still, we get rid of it. Because God said.

Scholars mostly all agree that the usual metaphor for leaven in the Bible is sin. The examples of leaven in Scripture paint a picture for us of staying away from those behaviors that are contrary to God’s word and God’s will for our lives. We suffer through Passover avoiding all the yummy bread, instead eating the flat, non-risen, yeastless variety to remind us. I wasn’t thinking about this while I was cleaning out the oven, though. All my efforts were focused on the task at hand, until…

Until something pressed so deeply into my heart and thoughts I couldn’t escape it. Why don’t I approach the “leaven” in my own life as diligently as I do the oven-cleaning? Why am I so determined to rid that oven of every crumb, every spill, every bit of burnt-on cheese, every trace of cleaner, yet when it comes to my own life I have a very different approach? I am willing to stretch and strain and end up with greasy black marks on my arms and brown chemical sludge on the front of my shirt to prepare my home for Passover. Why am I not willing to do the work, to endure the effort it takes, to dig deeper and reach farther when it comes to my own mess? I would rather do a bit of light duty cleaning on the outside. But real cleaning that requires elbow grease? Not really.

We will come to a season where God says, “It’s time. Time to get the leaven out. Time to clean house.” We have to be willing to take a good look at it and do the work. We have to want the leaven to be gone. We have to determine that whatever it takes, it’s time to rid ourselves of what’s built up, stuck on, burnt on.

If we’re serious about walking with God, we have to be serious about reaching into the corners, however yucky they’ve become, using heavy duty cleaners, and working until the job is done and all that’s left is what God made us to be, ready to do the jobs he’s given us. It’s not pleasant, it’s messy, we procrastinate, but it’s what we need to do.

May this season of Unleavened Bread prompt us to clean out more than the leaven in our pantries and may we work as hard to be like our Messiah as we do to ready our homes for His feast.

 

Get rid of the old hametz (leaven), so you may be a new batch, just as you are unleavened—for Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.  

1 Corinthians 5:7

Time to Choose a Horse…

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When I was a very little girl I would cross the one-lane road next to our house, walk through the ditch, curl my tiny fingers around the neighbor’s bottom fence post, prop my chin on my hands, and wait. For the horses. Eventually, they would notice me and meander over to see if I had apple slices. I would stroke their noses and secretly hope that I would get a ride soon. A real ride where I got to sit on the horse by myself and hold the reins, which was probably barely a trot, but felt more like a gallop to a four-year-old. I never understood why my childhood friends didn’t want to hang out at the fence the whole time they visited or why they were scared to feed the huge animals. I mean, all you have to do is hold your hand flat, right?

I remember visiting Great Uncle Roy. He lived out in the country in a white farmhouse and I’d leave the company of my cousins to watch his horses. Race horses that loved to run. Race horses that were known to nip and dance proudly by as you stood by the fence. Race horses I couldn’t ride, but I could stand on the fence and all would fade away except the sound of their hooves and the way their muscles worked to carry them from one end of their enclosure to the other faster than any horse I’d ever seen. I respected those horses and never dared to pet one. The closest I got was being bitten on the shoe before he tossed his mane and pranced away. Eventually, I’d find myself by the exercise pen, mesmerized by the real life merry-go-round of feisty racers, and some unknown amount of time later, my mom would be telling me to come back inside and “visit”.

I got older and junior high brought a change in school districts and the beginning of my parents’ divorce. The new school brought new friends, one who owned horses. I reluctantly, eventually, visited my dad and in the pasture next to his house there was a horse that I was allowed to ride. No saddle. No reins. Just me, climbing over another fence to connect with a horse, a handful of mane in my fist for as long as no one missed me.  For a few years, I had an escape. On a horse, wind blowing through my hair (when the 80s-amount of hairspray was at a minimum), I wasn’t a teenager whose world was chaotic and falling apart. I was just a girl on a horse.

I found that picture of the little girl on the rocking horse with the shadow behind her and began to think about how I’m still like her. I’ve drawn comparisons over the past few weeks of how riding horses is like our relationship with God and maybe my need to be on a horse again stems from nothing else giving me a tangible experience of total freedom and abandon that I’m grasping for in my faith. That picture re-framed it for me, though. How often am I just sitting on the rocking horse wishing, while God has this majestic creature waiting for me in the pasture who is pawing at the ground wanting to run? All I’d have to do is climb the fence and get on, then hold on tight for the ride. I’d get to feel the wind on my face, draw from the strength of the horse beneath me, hear his hooves eat up ground as we fly. Yet I sit there on my rocking horse wanting more, believing that an experience like that only exists as a shadow, even while I know that a rocking horse can’t satisfy because I’ve known the real thing.

It’s crazy what we do to ourselves. It’s been a very long time since I was that girl and just about that long since I’ve even sat on a horse, but the longing is still there. Always. Along the way, I began to choose the rocking horse instead of the one running through the pasture. There is something about the strength and power of a galloping horse that is beyond compare. My soul yearns for it. My soul yearns. A yearning because I’ve accepted a weak substitute for an all-encompassing experience. A yearning because I am staring at that pasture, wanting to put my foot in the stirrup, swing my leg over the horse’s back, and take off full gallop into the sunset. But God isn’t done and God won’t let me forget. I need to focus on the thrill of the ride, toss away fear, and get back in the saddle.  Taste the freedom instead of rocking in place.

Now the Lord is the Spirit,

and where the Spirit of the Lord is,

there is freedom.

2 Corinthians 3:17

 

One day…

I was talking to my sister today. My baby sister, who is a mom to two very cute but very rowdy boys, ages 1 and 3. And she’s had a rough day. A day where you need make a run to the store for wine and chocolate just to make it to bedtime (or wish that you could drink wine since some hormonal curse hit during pregnancy caused wine to taste like total crap, but that’s a personal problem). And I’ve had that kinda day, too. A day that saw half a bag –no, not the individual serving size bag– of dark M&Ms disappear.  And both of us are TIRED. Beyond tired. I typed “one day…” in a casual text to her in reference to our toddler/preschool worlds. And then I stopped. I thought about what that means, because I’ve already reached “one day” with my older kids. “One day” is here with a kid who is almost 19 and wants to move out. Two of my kids who were my baby girl’s age just yesterday now have jobs!  So, what does “one day” mean?

One day, there won’t be pee on my floor from a child whose favorite word is “Uh oh!”.

One day, I will sleep more than three hours in a row.

One day, I will be able to finish a chapter in a book in one sitting (or maybe a whole book again!).

One day, my living room won’t be cluttered with every toy the tiny girl owns.

One day, there won’t be an avalanche of board books on the floor.

One day, my back won’t hurt from carrying around 20 extra pounds for hours a day.

One day, I will cook without there being a disaster in the kitchen from my little helper.

One day, my computer screen will be free of grubby fingerprints.

One day, there won’t be glitter dust covering every surface in the house.

One day, my white sheets won’t be stained with lipstick.

One day, the third shirt I’ve put on that day won’t immediately be covered in yogurt.

One day, I won’t be begging God for a break at 1 a.m.

Because one day, she will get bigger. And I will cry.  And I will grieve these days. These days of exhaustion. These days of constant mess from my tornado child. These days filled with all that having a child in your 40s when you’ve been out of baby mode for over a decade entails. All it takes is a moment for these moments to be 20 years in the past. One day, I will be free of all the choices I’m making now to embrace being a mom of a munchkin. So right now, I’m making choices that guarantee I won’t regret a single minute.

 

God Blessed Texas

Yesterday was one of those days I questioned my sanity regarding my decision to homeschool. Really. It sucked. My boys are lucky that they ended up with the clothes on their backs, some water (and not the filtered stuff either…just drink the crap out of the tap), and the three-week-old bread that is probably freezer burned by now. Seriously, though, it sucked. Some days being mom and teacher to teenagers who are male is one of the hardest things on the planet. At some point, I took away everything that could be plugged in and used for entertainment. Late last night, as I prayed for them like I’ve done every night since they were born, I reminded them of a quote from the book they already know is my favorite from childhood. “Marilla, isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

And so today began. And they woke up late. Again. And instead of yelling and being annoyed, I went in their room, sat on the youngest’s bed and said, “Isn’t it nice to think that today is a day with no mistakes in it yet except for not waking up on time? Get out of bed and do today better than yesterday.”

Today was Texas Independence Day. I love Texas. Love it. There is no other state I’d want to homeschool in. No other state I can imagine calling home. Today we did better. Today we studied Texas. We read trivia. We discussed the history of our state. We revisited the flags that have flown over it and noted again how handy it is that an amusement park taught them a tiny bit of history (Six Flags Over Texas, in case you’re wondering, where the flags are on display and home of the Shockwave, which was the first roller coaster I rode as a child and the first one my children rode as well). We researched the symbols of Texas and discussed them over dinner (because it’s cool that the state food is chili and the state large mammal is the longhorn, among other things). Dinner was at Whataburger. We never eat there, but it’s a Texas thing, so tonight we did. While we were there, we heard their presentations on the history of Whataburger and how the restaurant made only $50 on opening day and burgers were 25 cents (that would’ve made our meal quite a bit cheaper!). We ended our day eating Blue Bell, which is arguably one of the most marvelous things about the Lone Star State. We had to skip the fireworks, because the stand we’ve passed for the last week was closed for some reason this evening, but that’s okay.

Okay…because today we did better. Today there was laughter. Today there was learning. Today didn’t suck. Today was a day with fewer mistakes. Fewer frustrations. Fewer harsh words. Fewer challenges. Fewer opportunities for a mom to need to discipline and correct. Today my boys survived without their tablets, their PC, the TV, the laptop (except for supervised school). Tonight, I went in their room and instead of being cuddled up in their respective corners with something that has a glowing screen, they were playing cards together. Half an hour later, they were doing a puzzle. A PUZZLE!  Together!  I truly thought they had no idea where the puzzles were and that they would be unable to remove the cobwebs from the section of their brains that once knew how to put puzzles together!

Today we celebrated what makes Texas great, and in the process I realized that living here, doing things our own way, figuring out how to live out our faith, our values, our life, is a little dose of awesomeness. As much as some days suck, I wouldn’t be anything else than a Texas girl and homeschooling mama, raising these kids right here in the place I love best.

Meanwhile in Villa Villekulla

‘Meanwhile they had come out into the kitchen, and Pippi cried,

Now we’re going to make a pancake, Now there’s going to be a pankee, Now we’re going to fry a pankye.

Then she took three eggs and threw them up in the air. One fell down on her head and broke so that the yolk ran into her eyes, but the others she caught skillfully in a bowl, where they smashed to pieces.

“I always did hear that egg yolk was good for the hair,” said Pippi, wiping her eyes…

While she was speaking Pippi had neatly picked the eggshells out of the bowl with her fingers. Now she took a bath brush that hung on the wall and began to beat the pancake batter so hard that it splashed all over the walls. At last she poured what was left onto a griddle that stood on the stove.

When the pancake was brown on one side she tossed it halfway up to the ceiling, so that it turned right around in the air, and then she caught it on the griddle again. And when it was ready she threw it straight across the kitchen right onto a plate that stood on the table.

“Eat!” she cried. “Eat before it gets cold!”‘ — Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

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Before I had this tiny girl human who has forever changed my life, I never thought Pippi could be real. I loved her when I devoured books as a child and still have the copy of Pippi Longstocking that my grandma gave me almost 40 years ago. I read it with my boys and we watched a TV movie based on the story. And even through three boys, Pippi’s adventures seemed outlandish. But today, today I made pancakes for the first time with this 19-month-old adorable tornado. About halfway through the process, I realized that somewhere in Sweden prior to 1945 there must’ve been a kid like mine.

I raised three boys and there were messes. Every. Single. Day. Huge messes. There are still messes. I’ve never been a mom who was particularly bothered by a mess, especially if the cause was cooking, creating, fun, or making memories. The messier the better, in fact! For a brief period of my daughter’s life, I had some moments of panic where I wondered what I’d do if she was one of those children who has to rush to wash her hands at the tiniest speck of dust. I no longer have those concerns.

My little Pippi munchkin…in the flesh, in my kitchen. Raw eggs on the floor (a whole egg), down the side of the stove from her vigorous whisking, flour on the counter, the stool, my shirt, and the dog, batter on all those places plus my pants, the cabinet doors, and various other locations that were within flinging distance. She was slinging batter as she raised her tiny arm over her head and shook the whisk to put more batter on the griddle that was just out of her reach. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a mess in a kitchen after making such a simple dish. Pancakes. By the time dinner was over, there was dried batter, dried egg, wet flour, sloshed milk, and every combination of them awaiting me in the kitchen, all covered in a layer of fine flour dust.

Memories. I keep telling myself. Memories. They’re made in the process. She’s learning through the process. Yesterday it was lipstick all over the white bedding after pee and peas were “shared” with my white comforter. Today, it’s a pancake explosion all over the kitchen. Every day is a surprise. Every day I realize that I wouldn’t change a thing over here in Villa Villekulla.

It’s a Beautiful Mess

I woke up exhausted from days (years) of not enough rest.  My two oldest were headed off to work, hitching rides with my husband. I was left with a toddler who wakes up with much more energy than I do and a teenager who I hoped would be able to drag himself out of bed by 10 and do something productive by bedtime.

But then it turned into one of those days.

I spent an hour playing on the bed with my sweet girl. I got texts from my sister that weren’t really about anything, but made me know I was on her radar. My husband texted and asked me to call him just because he wanted  a few minutes to talk between dropping off the boys at two different jobs and pulling into his parking lot at work. We ate yogurt…maybe because my tiny one really wanted yogurt, or maybe because that’s her newest sign and she likes to use it (and I’ll admit that this Noosa Aussie yoghurt kinda makes me happy with its across-the-pond spelling and clever sayings on the packaging). We talked about everything black in the house because after insisting on painting her toenails black yesterday, that’s the color of choice and she’s trying really hard to say it.  Before 10, my son was awake and in the kitchen to eat the sausage I’d made. It didn’t even frustrate me that he (as is his appalling practice) turned down the farm fresh eggs. He took out the trash without being asked. He helped his baby sister get more food. He interacted with his school lessons and asked real questions and …wait for it…listened to the answers and did his assignments without whining! He cleaned the bathroom, tidied the dining area, and mopped the hallway without me saying a word!!! He even took breaks to take some pictures of what happened when my carefully laid plans went awry in the most awesome way.

Today, I had a moment of brilliance! After cloud dough ended up all over the living room floor last week, I decided that for today’s sensory activity I would use an old sheet. It’s big, I reasoned. The shaving cream with food coloring will stay in the bin that is quickly becoming Messy Girl’s favorite thing. If the sheet gets some shaving cream on it, I can throw it in the washing machine, turn on the hot cycle and stand back while it cleans itself and pat myself on the back for my great idea! She will have structured play and I can be the awesome, organized, planning-ahead homeschool mom who can teach math and grammar and keep a toddler occupied at the same time!!! Sometimes, I truly underestimate my daughter…

The sheet I put on the floor was not big enough to contain her ideas for the shaving cream. And she laughed. I laughed. My son laughed as he stopped his grammar lesson to be a photojournalist. Memories were made. It set the tone for the rest of the day. A day that allowed me to hear him reading to her while I made dinner. A day where my three  guys made it safely home after working all day and we sat down to eat and listen to tales from the world of Dairy Queen. It was a day I loved being a mom.  It was also a day I learned a lesson.

My son sat with the digital camera flipping through the pictures he’d taken and he paused, looked across at me while I was giving goopy high fives to the cutie pie and he said, “You know, Mom, I don’t know why you hate pictures of yourself. These aren’t THAT bad.”  To which I replied, “Thanks!  Not THAT bad, huh?” And my youngest son said these words to me:  “No, no, no. What I mean is that you don’t notice what you think people notice in these pictures, like that you think you look terrible. What people notice is that you’re happy.”  Wisdom. Truth. And a messy, happy day.

My Valentine…Still and Again

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I loved him then. Back when he was a skinny kid who was a little too sure of himself. Back when we could make out at red lights and staying up all night was fun. Back then. When we were 17. Before this. Before now. Before…kids.

The huge gap between past and present with him in my life didn’t prepare me for how I could love him now. I didn’t know what it would do to my heart to know the lengths he would go to for his kids. For my kids. For our kid.

I’ve watched him, this man I love. And fallen in love again. Differently. He’s someone who gave “too much” in a divorce that took too long and walked away with nothing so his kids could have something. A dad who drove his kids to school every day and spent every evening and weekend with them even through that divorce because that’s the kind of dad he is. He’s a guy who answers his phone late at night and drives across town because his adult daughter needs him, returning to me after the sun has risen to lay beside me — exhausted, but knowing he did the right thing.  He’s a dad who fills another’s place for my kids because they need rides in the early morning on his days off and three hours after he gets off work when he hasn’t slept the night before. He’s the kind of father who brings home ice cream to celebrate a driver’s license, a first job, a part in a play, a month of school completed, knowing the flavor he buys is their favorite, not his, and he won’t get any of it anyway. He’s the stepdad who stops to get them snacks at the gas station when I’m not with them, knowing I would never let them get the 64 oz. Icee…and he does it no matter how annoyed he is that the chores still aren’t done and teenager smart mouths are running rampant.  All of this showed me that he had become someone I could love more than I imagined in the 20 years since I’d seen him.

But nothing prepared my heart for seeing him with our child. He knows she will want me in the middle of the night, but he gets up, snuggles her close, and whispers to her, then hands her off to me. No matter how little sleep he’s gotten, when she says “Da da”, he opens his eyes and smiles at her in the morning. A real smile. One that invites hugs. He reads her books and does the voices of the Pooh characters and lets her brush his hair. He hides under the covers and feeds her dolls and lets her help him play guitar. He loves her. And she knows it.

And I love him. The things he does. The way he sacrifices. Even when the kids don’t notice. Even when they take it for granted. Even when there’s no way they could realize what it costs him in time and effort and energy to do whatever they need. That’s what twenty-something years and seven kids will do to a cocky teenage boy. And that’s why he’s still, again, the love of my life. Every day.

The Best Thing

A few days ago, I realized that my tiny girl is growing up in a grown up world. Yes, she has some toys, but we don’t go overboard. She has loads of books and blocks and puzzles and stuff to make music. She has dolls and stuffed animals and freedom to dress like Punky Brewster pretty much every day of life, and she does. She knows half of her ABCs, her colors, most of her numbers, and quite a lot of animal sounds (as an aside, she tells us that animals say “dada” and “mama” if she’s in a spunky, silly mood that day). She attempts to say only a few words, but has a sign language vocabulary of a little over 80 signs. It’s not like she’s lacking quality time or individual attention. More often than not she lives in a “big people” world because she’s the youngest child after a 12-year gap.

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With all of this in the back of my mind, I ran across something on Pinterest about preschool sensory activities. The next day, my husband is wandering around the dollar store, trying to guesstimate the sizes and depths of various plastic bins while talking to me on the phone (he’s awesome like that). Today, we made our first type of dough. Cloud dough. It’s just flour and vegetable oil and I didn’t even color it, so to me it looked kinda boring, but she did have fun stirring and pouring to make it. I took one of the bins, dumped in the contents of what looked like sand, and put it on the floor with some various spoons, scoops, little plastic storage containers, and invited her to sit with me. And I watched her LOVE it! She made a mess. She spilled it on the floor and walked through it and had to take off her socks. She wanted my help molding it and loved to squish it with her fingers and stab what we’d molded with a spoon until it looked like sand again. My teenage son acted like it was the greatest thing ever when she offered him a messy plastic spoon and he played with her too. My pants and shirt were smudged with little girl excitement, and it was good! When her big brother came into the room with pizza 30 minutes later and offered to share, she reluctantly washed her hands to eat, but kept going back to the bin signing “more”. She took a nap, read books, did some puzzles, ate a snack…all the while taking breaks to point at the bin and sign “more”.  All afternoon and evening.

My plan was to get some kind of drop cloth before I let her play again, because the morning mess was MESSY! However, she looked up at me and said, “Mama”, and pointed at the bin and signed “more” one more time. I asked if she wanted to play in her bin and her whole face lit up. Her smile was huge, her enthusiastic nodding could’ve caused whiplash, and she made a mess that made the earlier mess look clean. She played, we played, for 30 minutes more. And when I asked if she was ready to take a bath because her whole sweet self was covered in cloud dough, she shook her head no and pointed and signed. More.

 

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Beware! Cloud dough-covered hair in your eyes makes it hard to keep them open!

When my husband got home from work today, the dishes weren’t finished and the towels were still in the dryer. I looked down at my clothes and realized cloud dough was crusted over at random places where my child’s hands had reached for me. Our baby girl’s hair was sticking up like Einstein because she’d just gotten out of the bathtub where the water was cloudy from cloud dough. Today, cloud dough with my toddler was the right thing to do as a mommy. The best thing. Because she won’t always want to play with simple things we make together. Because she won’t always delight in time spent with her mama making a huge mess. Because she won’t always prefer playing to the rest of life. Because she’s little.  And little doesn’t last nearly long enough.

It Looks Like Love

About a decade ago, I read an article that told men they should be students of their wives. That they should focus on learning about them as a kid in a classroom tunes into his teacher, asks questions to better understand what the teacher is trying to explain, and does further study to really grasp the concept. The article talked about how a man’s wife should be his most fascinating topic, that he should seek to always grow in knowledge of her, and then put what he learns into practice.

I never have talked to my husband about that article, but I’ve thought of it many times since we got married. Because he knows me. Knows me because he makes knowing me his life’s lesson. Every. single. day. He knows what I’ll order off a menu and what I would never touch, even if we’ve never been to that restaurant. He knows what I would choose given any “Would you rather…” question in existence. He brings me stuff that he knows I want at the grocery store even if I don’t put it on the list, because he also knows that in my tired state of mind I forget things and lists are challenging with a toddler trying to “help” me type. He knows what to say to make me laugh when I’m crying, even if what I’m crying about is hurting somewhere deep down. He knows when I need a hug, a kiss on the forehead, to hold his hand…and whether I need one or a combination of the three, or a warning that the pissed off look on my face is gonna be apparent to everyone in about five seconds. He knows what mushy things will make me cry and he waits for it, with his finger ready to wipe the first tear that falls. He knows when to buy me chocolate, and that not just any chocolate will do. He does stuff for me, not because he doesn’t think I can do it or because he is trying to take over, but because he really, truly doesn’t want me to have to do more than I absolutely have to do. He knows when I’ve dealt with a sleep-resistant, fussy toddler just long enough, and he takes her without a word, lets me regroup, then hands her back without acting like I’m a bad parent for being short-tempered or frustrated.  He pays attention to what I say so closely that I only have to voice a “want” once and it shows up, and he even tries to get a good deal because he also knows I will be overwhelmed with guilt if he spends money on me. He captures moments — a couple of minutes to look at Orion, going outside at 2 a.m. because it starts to snow, flipping the calendar together at midnight when it’s a new month (even when it’s a day late like it is this month and we only remember to change it because our child woke up right before midnight and projectile vomited all over the floor, her pjs, and both of us), saving new varieties of any kind of food he finds so we can try it as a family. So many ways he has figured me out because he cares enough to want to really know me.

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The other night I was falling asleep sitting up, leaning against him (which is typical because I’m so exhausted from the pregnancy/baby/toddler years). He took my tablet out of my hands (yes, also typical), and put away my laptop that was at the foot of the bed (yep, also happens every night). Then, I felt him climb back into bed, adjust my pillow so I could be more comfy and pull the blanket his mom knitted me up a little higher so I wouldn’t get cold at night while he’s sweating because the thermostat in the house is set for my comfort, not his. Then he said what he says every night and lives out every day, even though he didn’t even know if I’d be aware he said it.  And when he realized I was awake enough to know what he’d done the last few minutes, he reached around and swiped a finger down my cheek to catch the tear.

It’s what love looks like. Love looks like being a student.

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