In defiance of the muffin top


Have you ever deleted a photo of a happy occasion because you didn't like how you looked in it? I have. But I want to defy that...

 

We hosted a barbecue for some friends and co-workers today. It was a festive, delicious, happy affair: the lawn freshly mown, kids jumping on the trampoline, and stories shared over a potluck feast.

My husband and I had been happily hosting: each attending to kids and guests and let-me-show-you-to-the-restroom. We crossed paths while lunch was being served, and I leaned in to hug my partner and love. We stood there a minute, enjoying the scene of people feeling at home and savoring the buzz of happy chatting.

Our son was underfoot: taking his new LEGO creation on a maiden voyage. We scooped him into our arms, asking him if he would like to be the peanut butter in our parent-sandwich. He giggled and told us he couldn’t be peanut butter because he had a rocket in his hand, and my hubby and I joked that maybe we should change to being a roast beef sandwich, because beef goes well with rocket (hardy har har – I’m lame like that). Our boy snuggled and giggled and pressed in close… while unbeknownst to us, a friend saw our montage and snapped a photo, melting over the cuteness of the moment.

She sent it to me later.

muffintop2I nearly deleted it on the spot.

Confession: I was horrified to see what a pronounced muffin top was showing over the top of my jeans. My outfit had passed the once-over test in the mirror this morning, but I had no idea I looked like that in action, and I was ashamed. The ten or so pounds which have been sneaking up on me stared accusingly at my from the photo, and my finger trembled over the delete button.

But then I looked at the photo and saw a glimpse of what my friend had seen: not a photo to shame me, but a moment she was celebrating for its love, joy, and rightness…. and I realized I was missing it: I was blinded by an extra inch of muffin top.

In truth, this photo is all sweetness. My boy will one day be too big to pick up and press into a sandwich, and we will look back on these days with misty eyes and hearts swollen to bursting with remembrance. Of all the things that are significant about this time: surely my waistline should not factor into my reckoning?

I looked at the photo several times during the afternoon; trying hard to quash the accusatory thoughts and to focus on the good ones. It is hard, repetitive work this: this teaching myself to be kind to myself and my body. I struggled with me all afternoon.

The guests were gone and we were chatting with our kids before bed time. Our youngest asked for music (“Pandowa?”), and the eldest quickly rallied: “Dance Party!” I considered the moment. The last thing I felt like doing was shimmying my fat, but  recalling that I was trying to mark the day with mommy-win-moments rather than mommy-shame-moments, I jumped up and joined her as we let Miley and Beyonce and Maroon 5 belt out tune after tune.  We twirled and jumped and kicked our legs high, and then I scooped the boy child into my arms and twirled him until he giggled drunkenly.

Mid jig(gle), I looked up and spotted a dozen or so flies on the ceiling, miscreants who had obviously sneaked during the earlier festivities. “We have to interrupt our dance party and get those flies!” I yelled to the kids. “Yeah! We’re a SWAT TEAM!” shouted my son, and I belly-laughed at the awesomeness of his pun. Armed with fly swatters and rolled up dish towels, our Swat Team of 5 launched a full-scale attack on our little winged enemies.

Our youngest began to get frustrated that he couldn’t reach, so after a while I offered to be his portable crane truck. He swatted haphazardly, chortling with joy all the way. Again, a photo was snapped.

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Again, I noticed the muffin top. But this time, I also noticed the smiles, felt the joy, savored the moment.

I post these photos and write these words in defiance of the muffin top. We moms need to do a better job of staying in the picture, literally. The photos of my children’s childhoods should not just be documenting their joy and smiles, but who they were joyful with (me!) and who they were smiling with (me!) These are photos of triumph, not shame. No one else is looking at my waist. 

I dare you. Post a photo in defiance of the muffin top. Because really, it’s the least important thing in that picture.

The Fierce, Strong, Wild Heart of God

If my memory was good enough to write a memoir: a story of spiritual significance and coming-of-age, this is the story I would want to write. It has moved me to tears more often than I can think of. I had heard many people say that having children was a blessing… but what I didn’t know was that for me, the greatest blessing of having children would be learning what it meant to be a most beloved child of God myself. 

When my friend Adriel Booker asked me to write for her series on the Motherheart of God, I knew instantly what I wanted to write. I know God as my Father, but Oh! It’s just amazing how becoming a mother has revealed God’s tender heart to me in a way I couldn’t have imagined. Here’s the beginning, and then head over to Adriel’s to read the rest. (And while you’re there, look around. I love Adriel’s blog.)

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I went into motherhood with carefully weighed expectations:  I knew there would be fierce joy, thousands of photos too cute to delete, sleep deprivation, tantrum-taming, and way more contact with bodily fluids than I’d ever had before.  I also expected a few years spiritual lethargy.  With less time and energy for church, bible study and ministry, I expected to change gears for a couple of years: from spiritual ‘drive’ to a humming ‘neutral’.

I could not have been more wrong.

Friends, nothing has revealed God’s heart to me like becoming a mother. Nothing.

***

In the early days, there was the taking of pre-natal vitamins, and watching what I ate, of giving up skiing and wine without complaint as I marveled at the tiny being utterly dependent on my welcome. In the minutes of the first ultrasound, tears spilled down my cheeks as I saw a heartbeat flutter on the screen: life within my life, a soul of another already contained within mine. Oh, how I loved! And I shivered when, in that moment, I felt the words settle in deep: If this is how you love the little one dependent on you and completely unaware of it, how much more do I not love you, dependent and unaware and so utterly precious to me? 

(Click over to read the rest, won’t you?)

48 Tips from the World’s Worst Potty Trainer (A Cautionary Tale)

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Did you know I am the Worst Potty Trainer In The World? With an average toilet training time of 22 months/child, I dare you to challenge my title. I’m a firm believer of learning from others’ mistakes, so as someone who has made every possible mistake in potty training, I thought I’d share them with you as a cautionary tale.

Follow closely. Each step is important.

  1. Read widely before you begin. Create a Pinterest board and title it “Potty Training Tips”. Knowledge of the options is crucial for success.  
  2. Start when they are infants – practice ‘elimination communication’, whereby you learn to read (and anticipate) your kid’s body cues. (I was dead in the water on this one, since I never even managed to tell the difference between a tired cry or a hungry cry. It all just sounded like crying to me.)
  3. Start with they are 18 months: walking, communicating, and showing an interest in imitating you. Do not wait: it will be harder later.
  4. Start with they are 2 1/2, when they have better language and body awareness. Do not start before this: you will stress them out.
  5. Start with they are 3 1/2, when they can remove their own shorts and the threat of never being able to go to preschool forces you into panic. Do not start before this: you will stress them out.
  6. Take your cue from your child. They will tell you when they are ready.
  7. Post your decision on when to potty train on Facebook. Solicit dozens of unwanted opinions.
  8. You can potty train in one day if you do it right (notice: it’s all on you.) Prepare for the day with books, training DVDs and lots of exaggerated facial movements about the thrills of going potty. Have them train their teddy bear first. Then, on one day: banish the underwear and hold potty boot camp. Be persistent. They’ll get it by the end of the day…. if you did it right.
  9. Potty train in three days. Choose a weekend when you are not distracted and have your kiddo be nakey nakey all weekend. Involve all the stuffed animals and siblings in the Great Weekend of Potty Training. Be persistent. They’ll get it by the end of the weekend… if you did it right.
  10. Potty train when they’re ready. You’ll know when they’re ready because it will work. This makes complete sense… if you read the literature right.
  11. Let them run wild and free while training.
  12. Have them wear pull-ups while training.
  13. Let the diapers continue while training.
  14. Big-kid underwear from the get-go! The pride of getting it right as a “big kid” is a powerful motivator!
  15. Don’t be afraid to let them go back into diapers: what’s another couple hundred of trees in the landfill?
  16. Be persistent! Once you’re doing this, you’re doing this! If you communicate that regression is an option, your kid will turn it into power play.
  17. Be flexible! If your kid isn’t ready, listen and try again later.
  18. Bribery is brilliant: offer a treat for each successful tinkle. If you’re feeling extra motivated, offer two treats for number twos. The logic is lost on kids, but makes total sense to the one who has to wash out soiled underwear.
  19. Avoid bribery: it will be hard to undo the sugar-reward habit later.
  20. Use stickers instead.
  21. Don’t use stickers – they stick them on furniture.
  22. Star charts are awesome motivators.
  23. Except when they aren’t. For us, this is about day 3.
  24. Do whatever it takes: read books or sing songs or let them play with the iPad to keep them on there long enough for a “win” while they’re busy.
  25. Beware: kids are smart. All of mine figured out how to turn “I need to go potty” into a gratuitous story-reading time, without ever producing the “deliverables”.
  26. Let them watch potty training DVD’s. This does not count as ‘screen time’ because #educational.
  27. Make up a potty cheer. “Happy pee on the potty to you” (to the tone of ‘Happy Birthday’) is good in a pinch.
  28. Be prepared to have to sing your cheer of choice, at volume, in public places. Prepare to have to sing it more than once.
  29. Post your decisions on how to potty train to Facebook. Solicit dozens of unwanted opinions. As an Imgurian over 30 this is how I feel when I read
  30. Start potty training in the summer, so they can practice outside.
  31. Start potty training in the winter, when you’re cooped up anyway.
  32. Important: start potty training when YOU are ready to tackle it.
  33. MOST important: start potty training when your CHILD is ready to tackle it.
  34. Invest in a potty chair, and think carefully about what kind of ceremonial ritual you will devise to celebrate its arrival in1B5548278-tdy-130116-ipotty-1.blocks_desktop_smallto your house. If the literature is to be believed, the success of potty training is causally related to how much hoopla you can raise about a kid getting their VERY OWN mini-throne. If you get one with a built in DVD, all the more power to you (see #26).
  35. Don’t bother with a potty chair: invest in a step stool and have them sit on the main throne. They will feel more grown-up and it will make it easier to transition to public restrooms.
  36. Teach boys to pee sitting down: so much less mess.
  37. Teach boys to pee standing up: aiming for cheerios is such a great incentive.
  38. Figure out as a couple whether you are going for sitting-down or standing-up before you engage in Operation Potty Train. In my experience, those who have to clean the bathroom usually opt for #36. Dads usually opt for #37. (Because it’s so much fun to demo. And apparently some things never get old.)
  39. Make potty training fun! Hype it up as a coming of age thing!
  40. Make potty training just “one of the things you learn to do” – the less hype there is, the less pressure there is on the kid to perform, and the less power play leverage you give them.
  41. If things aren’t going well: keep reading widely and pinning madly to research other best methods. Pin this. You may need it if all the other advice from those who succeeded doesnt pan out and you need to know that you weren’t the worst potty trainer in the world.
  42. If someone says their method worked for them, it must have some merit to it. Keep a tally of how guilty you feel each time there’s an accident: that accident probably means you were doing it wrong.
  43. Try not to feel guilty, though. It’s not about you.
  44. If your plan isn’t working: try something new, or try some other time.
  45. But WHATEVER YOU DO: be consistent!
  46. No matter what kind of diapers you chose, for potty training make sure you invest in 3-fold cloth diapers: they are by FAR the most absorbent cloths for cleaning up spills. There is no paper towel which is worthy for this trial. None. Bounty, be gone.
  47. Ask for hugs. For you, not your kid. Potty training is hard and demoralizing and sometimes makes you feel you have an angry, panicked, crazy person living in your head.
  48. Ignore all this advice, except for #46 and #47.

Trust me.

And now, I’m going to print out my list and study it closely (see tip #1), because it seems to me my third kid is about ready to jump onto the potty training wagon, which means I’m bracing myself for another 22 months of insanity…

If you’re needy and you know it, clap your hands

Perhaps it’s just the mini-van-driving and wheels-of-the-bus-singing stage of life I’m in, but when I read the opening words of Psalm 86: “Hear me, LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy” – the first thing that came to my mind was this:

If you’re needy and you know it, clap your hands.

Friends, I clapped. I have been reading through Caryn Rivedeneira’s lovely little book for weary moms:  Known and Loved: 52 Devotionals from the Psalms, and I settled into the pages one morning and thought about this neediness that I feel almost constantly as a mom. And I’m wondering: maybe one of the hidden blessings of motherhood is becoming aware of this neediness, and learning how to ask for help.

We come into this world utterly dependent on others. Babies rely on their parents for everything. Childhood is the long process of slowly learning independence: beginning with the toddler’s first insistence “me do it!”

Little Mr Independent doesn't want anyone to hold his hands while we walk.

Little Mr Independent doesn’t want anyone to hold his hands while we walk.

Later, they learn to dress themselves, feed themselves, wipe their own butts (oh thank you God!), read to themselves, bathe themselves… and later yet, transport themselves, organize themselves, and to decide for themselves. Our goal as parents is to transition them from dependence to healthy independence. This is maturity.

But maybe there is a second ‘turning’ which marks a new phase of maturity: the transition from independence to learning healthy interdependence. Motherhood, more than anything else, has taught me that. Before I had kids, I felt competent at what I did. I didn’t know everything, but I knew enough to do my job. I had particular skills suited to my particular vocation, and it felt good to be a person skilled enough an independent enough to be the one offering help where help was needed.

But then came a bundle of crying baby: and I couldn’t get her to sleep or to stop crying. I couldn’t make enough milk to feed her, and didn’t even know enough to discern that that was the problem. Taking care of her was my full-time job, and it was a job I felt utterly incompetent to do. I had gone from feeling useful to feeling completely useless, and through sobs confessed to my husband one night, “All I’m supposed to do is the very basics: feed her and get her to sleep… and I can’t even do that!”

It was there, in my sobbing heap of uselessness, that I got a fresh glimpse of God’s grace: his tender love for me even when I had nothing to offer. The neediness of motherhood pulled a new prayer out of me: “Help! I’m drowning!” I learned the old hymn’s words afresh: “nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.”

I was needy, and I knew it.

God brought me comfort in the way that 2 Corinthians 1 promised he would: directly with his presence, and indirectly with his love and comfort expressed through others. Having kids taught me that grace didn’t just mean being someone able to offer help, it meant being someone able to ask for, and receive help.

Yes, please hold my baby?

Yes, please would you bring us a meal?

Yes, would you substitute this class for me?

Yes, I’d love it if you could watch them for an hour so I can take a shower.

From dependence to independence. From independence to interdependence. This is maturity.

Yesterday I took my overtired, hangry kids to the grocery store, since we had an Old Mother Hubbard situation in our kitchen. It was a disaster. In the hour it took to locate the contents of a skeleton grocery list, my middle kid needed to use the potty twice and the youngest had a Vesuvian diaper explosion. I wrangled my kids through the store and arrived rather breathlessly at the check-out counter. I paid for our goods and, in the customary way of store clerks, our checker asked politely, “and would you like any help out today?”

I didn’t even hesitate. “Yes, I would. Please. Thank you. Yes, I would.”

All together now: If you’re needy and you know it, clap your hands.

(Clap, Clap)

 

 

 

“Mommy, what’s autistic?”

Wow, my child. That is a great question, and it’s a hard one for Mommy to answer. Even doctors don’t always know how to answer that question, but we need to try.

Sweetheart, autistic means that someone has autism, and autism means that their brains work a little bit differently to yours and mine. Some things are much easier for them: they can be really good at seeing patterns or building things or solving math problems. Sometimes it’s easier for them to not get jealous when they don’t get the same things as other kids. Sometimes they are extra good at remembering the words to songs and stories. Their brains find that kind of stuff really easy.

But autism also means that their brains find some things much harder than you and I do. It is harder for them to make friends and to talk about their feelings. It can be harder to look friends in the eye or to know how to share or take turns. Sometimes kids with autism need a lot of help to do things that you find really easy: like going on a surprise adventure or to a party full of new people.

They aren’t better or worse kids, sweetheart, their brains are just different. They have different strengths and weaknesses to you.

I know it can be really frustrating for you. I know it is hard when we play with little Daniel that he takes your trucks and screams if you want to have a turn. I know you feel like you ask him for a turn, but he doesn’t listen. But sweetheart, it’s not that he isn’t listening. Kids with autism get different listening messages to their brain.

When you are playing, you hear maybe one or two sounds: the sound of your truck, and the sound of the voices around you. But when Daniel plays, he hears LOTS of different sounds: he hears the sound of the wind in the trees and the traffic on the street and the crunching of steps on the gravel and the sounds of the truck and the music playing next door… and also the voices around him. We need to try and be patient when we are playing with our autistic friends because they have a lot more sounds in their heads than you, sometimes, and it can be hard for them to focus on your voice.

I appreciate that you share your toys and your life with Daniel, my boy. He needs friends, even though it seems like he wants to be alone. I know it can be hard, but showing love to him is important, and it will make your life and his better for it.

Maybe that’s too long an answer, love, but as I said – Mommy’s not sure how to explain it. I just know we need to be patient and to be loving, because we need the kids with autism in our lives, just as much as they need us.

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Photo credit: autismlink.com, “Puzzle” from Andreanna Moya (Copyright from Flickr Creative Commons)

You know you’re a mom if…

You know you’re a mom if….

1… You know that two arms is less than half the number you actually need.

2… You have used a public restroom, zippers and all, while holding a baby.

3… You sing nursery rhymes in the car, even when you’re alone.

4… Sandra Boynton is the best poetry you’ve read in years.

5… You have had to restrain yourself from slapping someone who said they slept in til 9am.

6… Laughter and tears are everyday occurrences at the breakfast table.

7… You have answered the front door dressed up as a princess or fireman and it is not Halloween.

8… Bodily fluids, schmodily fluids.

9… You say utterly ridiculous things like “please don’t lick the dog”, and “no you may not look down my throat with that slipper.”

10… You sometimes wear flip flops indoors for fear of stepping on yet another cheerio, grape or Lego.

11… Your wallet is buried under any of the following: lollipops, restaurant crayons, hot wheels, disney band aids, wipes.

12… Also, you cannot remember how you lived without wipes.

13… You completely understand how shaken baby syndrome happens. There, but for the grace of God, go I.

14… You have a newfound awe for your body, which has nothing to do with how it looks.

15… You have discovered the genius and comic relief of mommy blogs. Honest toddler, I’m talking about you. And you, Jen Hatmaker.

16… Bench pressing toddlers totally counts as upper body exercise.

17… After yet another sleep deprived night, you throw your used Kleenex in the laundry basket and cannot find the dirty shirt you were just carrying a moment ago.

18… Your lunch too often consists of PBJ crusts and half-eaten apples.

19… Going grocery shopping alone with your husband feels like a date. Because it is.

20… You have spent 24 hours wearing the same yoga pants and hooded jacket.

21… The smell of a newborn baby’s head makes you ache with joy and wonder.

22… You have 5237 blurry photos of your kids that you can’t bear to delete, even though you know you’ll never print them. Each one is precious, even though there are 43 other blurry ones just like it.

23… Wearing blue glitter nail polish makes you an object of fascination rather than an object of ridicule, even though you’re in your thirties.

24… You have to restrain yourself from counting loudly to three when your spouse doesn’t respond immediately.

25… You’ve never felt more stretched, more humbled, more clueless, more frustrated, and yet,

… You’ve never felt more blessed.