Posted in Christianity, Encouragement, life, Own your Story, Uncategorized, Waiting Sucks

The Waiting Place

My husband and I are waiting for a phone call. If we hear a “yes” on the other end of the line, our entire life is going to change. Wild, scary, exciting, growing types of change.

In January, we were told that we would get this phone call on March 8.
On March 8, we found out the date was pushed to April 15.
On April 15, we were told we would have to wait at least another 3 weeks.

So many times we have looked at each other and  sighed, “I feel like our entire life is on hold.”

We’re in the Waiting Place.

I’ve been in the Waiting Place a lot in the past year.

It’s an infuriating place to be.
You feel stuck.
You want to fly out of your skin but you’re forced to stand still.
You want to scream to the the sky, the doctor, the therapist, the school, yourself, God–HURRY UP!!!!

FullSizeRender
From Oh! The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Suess

There are long sleepless nights of “What if…this? What if…that? What if…nothing?”
There are long conversations discussing every scenario under the sun and every response to “this one” or “that one” but you can’t pick any one because you are in the Waiting Place.

I wish I had some big, wise, amazing thing to write about “How to be patient” or “How to Wait Well.”

I don’t.

Right now, I feel like I’m in that quiet place you get to when you’ve cried your eyes out: Your shoulders stop heaving; your breath comes in shaky waves, but it’s slowing.

And you feel still.

I’m spent with the waiting. I was spent last year when we were waiting for answers from the school about Benji’s Child Study, about whether or not he would pass first grade, about the Autism testing.

I’ve reached the still place at the end of all my anticipation, scenarios, worries, and what-ifs.

“Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

I can’t fight my way out of the Waiting Place, like the boy does in Oh! The Places You’ll Go.

It’s too exhausting.

WaitingPlace
From Oh! The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Suess

But, if I’ve learned anything in the last year, waiting doesn’t last forever. It does come to an end.

And in the meantime, while my soul is still in the Waiting Place, life goes on. We may feel like our life is standing still right now but it isn’t.

Our Real Life is happening right now, not three weeks from now, not next month, not in the fall, not next year.

I have dinners to cook, stories to read, homework to check, friends to visit, boo-boos to kiss, a husband to dream with, a house to care for.
I have my family to love.

Love always moves forward. There is so much Good to be done.

Even in the Waiting Place.

Are you in the Waiting Place right now?
How do you cope?
Teach me how you “Wait Well!”

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

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Posted in Encouragement, Mom Confessions, Motherhood, Own your Story, Self Care, Uncategorized

My 30’s suddenly got very Expensive (and why that’s ok)

I’ve always considered myself a pretty low maintenance girl. Except for a brief stint in my teens where I refused to leave the house without curling my bangs (the need for poof was real, folks), I’ve always been pretty comfortable with a minimalist beauty routine.

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“The Bangs” (I think I was 15 here)

My skin was perfect as a teenage (much to the chagrin of some of my girlfriends). I used plain water or makeup wipe to wash my face in the evenings (if I remember to do anything at all).

A pat of Covergirl foundation, a swipe of mascara, and chapstick completed my regular makeup routine. I felt like a million bucks.

Fast forward about 15 years. The bangs are gone, thank goodness (best decision of my entire Senior year in high school).

But my minimalist beauty routine was failing me–mostly because puberty decided to catch up with me in my early 30s.

After my fourth baby was born at the end of 2014, my skin started freaking out: acne, dry patches, oily patches– my face didn’t know what to do. Thank you, postpartum hormones.

I also started noticing that my hair wasn’t as silky and smooth as it used to be.

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Not the bangs, again! Thanks postpartum hair regrowth…

So this is it, I sighed, looking at the small forest of gray hair sprouting from my temples. There were too many to pull out any more. I’m getting old.

I don’t know if it was my postpartum hormones speaking, but I started to feel ugly.
Fatigue probably had a lot to do with it too. Sleep deprivation is not kind to one’s face…or self esteem.

IMG_4917
Photoshop, who?  This is real life, folks.

Are Moms supposed to be beautiful? I wondered. My husband assured me that I was.  I felt mollified but not content. I didn’t know who I was when I looked in the mirror any more. I was doing what I had always done but it wasn’t working anymore.

By the time my baby reached a year old, I was tired of waiting for my “postpartum hormone” to calm down.

I had to realize the truth: my body was changing. Though I am far from “old,” I am getting older.

So, although my frugal ways and pattern of minimal beauty habits screamed against it, I decided to start spending more money on self-care.

I threw out my bottle of $14.95 face lotion (that seemed “too expensive” when I bought it) and, at age 31, I purchased a full skin care regimen–my first ever cleanser, serum, lotion, eye cream, and night cream.

It cost about six times what I had paid for that tube of drug store lotion, and I felt super guilty about the purchase. Am I just being frivolous? I wondered.

But in the days and weeks of consistently taking time to wash and moisturize my face, I saw a huge difference–the dry patches and uneven skin tone were soothed, and the adult acne settled down too.

Using a quality product for my changing skin was actually a good thing (Imagine that).

A few months later, I crossed another boundary and bought shampoo and conditioner for $10 a bottle–each. I KNOW! Talk about guilt! Especially when I normally spent $3-4 on hair care products.

I justified the purchase by telling myself, “It’s okay. You only wash your hair every other day.”
I am a busy  mom of 4, after all.

And do you know what? The expensive stuff was amazing!  My hair wasn’t losing it’s luster! I had just been using crappy shampoo for years.

I’ve slowly branched out a bit more. I bought makeup that cost more than $5.95.

I’ve decided to invest in clothes that I love and are well-made, instead of talking myself into liking a garment just because it was on sale.

IMG_4919
A new haircut always helps (my baby was 9 months old before I “splurged” for this chop). See my silver? I’m embracing it!

All of these changes may seem kind of shallow.

But feeling bad about myself because my skin and hair were unhealthy just made me self-conscious, and ultimately made me feel shallow because I was thinking about looks all the time.

But when I decided to embrace that my 30s are going to require a bit more money and self-care, and started using products that help my body feel its best, I actually think about myself less because I’m not so self-conscious.

Beyond even the money issue though, I had to let go of my perceptions of what it means to get older, as well as what it means to be both a mom and a woman. I had to embrace these truths:

It’s okay to take care of your face and hair.
It’s okay to spend money on yourself.
It’s okay to want to feel beautiful.
You matter.

You are a woman first, not “just a mom.”

Taking care of myself is important. I’m glad that I feel like “me” again–older yes, but when I started take the time and money to care for myself, I feel more vibrant, confident, and beautiful.

What about you?
Did your 30s get really expensive?
How has self-care changed your self-esteem?
Share your story below!

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Encouragement, Expectations, Mom Confessions, Own your Story, Self Care, Special Needs, WAHM

7 Signs that you’re doing Too Much (and what to do about it)

So, how DO you know if you are doing too much? Sometimes it’s hard to tell where the line is between “I got this!” and “I’m going to have a mental breakdown.”

I am the Queen of “Doing Too Much.”

I have four sons, two of which are 3 and under, and two with special needs.

I have a husband and a house to care for.
11539035_10102113386324218_888264570455143371_oI also love to help people, volunteer, get together with friends, host parties, mentor college girls, and sew, read, write, and cook. Until very recently, I was a work at home mom (adjunct professor).

However, in the past six months, I have experienced major burnout and have had to cut back on non-essentials–and even some essentials–in order to regain some mental sanity, emotional peace, and physical health in my life.

If you’re flirting with that line, here are 7 signs you can look for to determine whether or not you are doing TOO MUCH in your life right now:

1. You start to forget things

We all forget things, especially as we get older…and especially when we add 1-2-3-4 (or more!) kids to the mix. For me, the tipping point was when I was was using my calendar to write down activities and appointments… and I was still forgetting them.

My brain was so full that it could not store any more information. I literally felt like I was losing my mind.

2. Little tasks feel overwhelming

For me, it’s the little things that put me over the edge. When my boys tell me that all their pants are in the laundry, something inside me just boils over. I am furious with myself–usually because we are already in a rush to get out the door, but mostly because I haven’t kept up with the laundry.

But on the jam-packed days, when I was juggling therapy appointments, grading papers, and evening volunteering, the sight of an overflowing laundry basket was just too much to tackle.
IMG_37813. You yell all the time

Our pastor once said during a sermon, “There’s always anger in hurry.” The truth of that statement has played out time and time again in my life.

When I’m too busy, I am constantly in this panicked state of “HURRY UP!” Doing too much caused me to slip into the habit of hurried anger.

4. You don’t have time to be kind

My “hurry up!” attitude was causing me to be unkind to my children on a regular basis. But even more than that, I was too exhausted and busy to be the loving person I wanted to be.

I love to cook for others, but my schedule was so full that I found myself saying “I just can’t” when I wanted to take a meal to a mom with a new baby, or have friends over for dinner.

5. You don’t have time to take care of yourself

In the blur of my busyness, I struggled to take care of myself on a basic level–remembering to drink water, brush my teeth twice a day,  wash my face in the evening, eat regular, healthy snacks.

Forget exercising and scheduling doctor’s appointments for myself!

6. You can’t rest when you’re tired

Well, to amend #6 a bit–I wouldn’t rest when I was tired because I had too much to do! The papers HAD to be graded. The laundry HAD to be washed (remember? no pants!). Dinner HAD to be made. Homework HAD to be supervised.
IMG_4854And if I wanted to spend very-needed time with my husband or friends, or fulfill my volunteering obligations (“I told them I would do it and I will!”), then there really was no time to rest or even go to bed at a decent hour.

7. You don’t have time to do the things that make you feel like “you”

Doing things for myself, like sewing, blogging, shopping, or reading always felt like a guilty luxury, one that I probably shouldn’t indulge in because, really, there was no time for that. But when I didn’t take time to do the things that brought me joy, I felt myself slipping into depression.

I was a big, hot mess. Something had to give.

In the past few months, I have taken several very important steps to regain my sanity, health, and happiness–because, do you know what? It really matters that I am a happy and healthy person.

Here are the steps I took when I felt like I was going to lose my ever-lovin’ mind.

1. Admit it

Saying the words, “I’m doing too much” can be life-changing.

2. Reduce (if you can)

Some seasons of life are just overwhelming, like when you have a new baby, or a family member has a health crisis and you are the primary caregiver. Sometimes you can’t reduce–you just have to ride it out (or see #3 below).

But sometimes, you can and should say “no”. It isn’t easy, but it’s needed. Last summer, I stepped down from an volunteer position that I loved. I didn’t want to, but I needed to let something go.

3. Ask for help

When I was in grad school, I had two college girls watch my twins and clean my house. It felt like a huge, guilty luxury but I really needed that help while I finished my master’s degree.

Lately, asking for help has looked like like enrolling my 3 year old in preschool last fall, teaching my older boys to load and unload the dishwasher, and coordinating with  my husband on busy grading weeks to let him know that I just couldn’t “do it all” when I had 50 papers to grade.
IMG_4619I hate asking for help (I think we all do) But admitting that I can’t do it all by myself lifts such a burden, even if I feel guilty at the time.

4. Ask yourself: Is this activity/responsibility helping me to be or become the best version of myself?

Recently, I’ve had to cut back even more, especially as Benji, my son with Autism, has started weekly therapy.

The stress of balancing marriage, four kids, house work, 4 appointments a week, and grading was starting to affect my mental, emotional, and physical health. So, I made the choice to stop teaching online so that I could focus more on being the type of mother that I wanted to be, instead of a yelling, stressed, “hurry-up,” angry, half-version of myself.

It’s been a few weeks since I wrote my resignation, and the other day, I asked my husband, “So, how has it been? Different?”

He nodded, “Yeah, it’s been better. You don’t seem as overwhelmed by little things. I mean, you weren’t bad before but…I can tell a difference. You’re getting better.”
DoingTooMuchI hate saying no to things I really want to do in my life, but at this unique season of small children with big needs, recognizing my own limitations has put me on the better path, one that leads to less stress and more rest.

Even more so, I’ve had the time do focus on the things that make me happy–like reading, blogging, making meals for people,  visiting with friends, and actually resting when I’m tired.

I’m getting better. I feel like I am becoming more “me.”

PS. When you can’t do it all, ask for help
Why you need to say “yes” more often
I quit my job (because I can’t do it all)

What is the “sign” that you are doing too much?
What are you actively doing (or not doing) in order to become the best version of yourself?

Share your story below!

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Autism, Autism and Church, Benji's Story, Christianity, Encouragement, Mom Confessions, Uncategorized

God, Autism, and the Fruit of the Gospel

When I was growing up, verses like Matthew 7: 18-19 both baffled and scared me:

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 

I wanted to be a good tree: But how did I know if I was bearing fruit? And, furthermore, how did I know I was bearing GOOD fruit?

It was all very metaphorical and confusing.

Of course, the fruit that I wanted was the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self control (Gal. 5:22).

Those were Good Fruits. They had names and actions attached to them. Easy, right?

But I fell into self-doubt over and over again. How did I know if the fruit I was bearing was actually  Good Fruit? What if my efforts at love, peace, and patience were just my human attempts to muscle my way towards Good Moral Character?

If I took a deep breath and didn’t yell at my kids when they spilled their milk on my freshly mopped floors, was I producing Patience?

How could I know if I was actually bearing fruit?

I believe the answer lies within the very nature of fruit itself.
FullSizeRender[1]The defining characteristic of fruit is that it has seeds.* You can’t grow fruit without planting seeds, and all fruit has the ability to reproduce itself because it contains seeds within.

With this foundational nature of fruit in mind, my questions shifted:
Am I planting seeds?
Is the fruit that is growing reproducing itself?

The first question is a bit easier for me to answer. Yes, I am trying to plant seeds. In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot about seeds lately since it’s been a year since I published this post about planting seeds.

When I published this post, I had no idea that a little over a month later, we would be sitting in the kitchen eating breakfast and Micah would ask me, “What does it mean to believe in Jesus?”

So I talked to him about about what it means to make Jesus your king and follow him with your life.
“Do you want to follow Jesus with your life?”
“Yes, I do!”

And Micah made a decision to follow Jesus on May 15, 2015.

I think, for Christian parents, we rejoice in our child’s decision to follow Christ, but we still wonder, “Is this real? Does he really get it?” (Am I alone in my doubts?).

I wondered how I could know that my son’s faith was genuine and not just a child’s attempt to please his parents or go through some sort of religious ritual.

But looking back at this first year of Micah’s faith, I don’t wonder if it was real or not. I know it was real because I’ve seen growth.

He is sprouting all over the place!

I specifically remember one day where he was furious at Benji, mostly because of some of Benji’s Autistic tendencies.
“Benji is such a selfish JERK!” Micah cried.
We had had “a day.” I couldn’t disagree. But what could I say? I dug down deep and found the truth, growing in my heart.
“Honey, sometimes it’s hard to love people, ever brothers. But Benji needs love–he needs you.”
“I don’t want to love him!”
“I know. And I can’t make you love him. But I would like you to think about it and pray about it. Pray for him and ask God to help you know how to love him. Can you do that?”
Micah shrugged and gave a half-way nod.

The next morning he came into the kitchen and said, “Mom, I’m feeling a lot better. And I did! I prayed for Benji! I prayed and asked God to help me love him and understand him. And I do love him. I do!”

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One loved Benji

And there it was: Fruit. Luscious, juicy, ripe, wonderful, delicious fruit that was full of seeds.
It was fruit from my life, seeds of love that I asked God to give me for Benji that I then planted in Micah’s life.
The seeds germinated and grew in his little fertile heart, a heart that said yes to Jesus and yes to growth.

Micah’s faith is real. It’s growing and producing fruit, with lots and lots of seeds.

I’ve seen his tenderness toward Benji in other ways too.

In January, we joined Awana. Micah has soared (In fact, he just finished his first Sparks book–in 3 months!!)
Benji has struggled.

But there are so many weeks that I hear my twins earnestly conversing in the back seat of the car on the way to Awana: Micah patiently helping Benji with his verses.
“Ok, Benji: Repeat after me.” And they practice together, over and over again.

Week after week, Micah celebrates Benji’s small victories, even accepting less praise over his impressive scripture memorization in the light that “Benji said one verse tonight!”

Last night, as we drove to Awana, the boys practiced again in the back of the car. But the conversation shifted away from the verses Micah was helping Benji memorize to seed scattering.
“Benji, if you believe in God, you will have life with Jesus!” Micah said.
“I do believe in God, Micah!”

I listened intently. I was amazed at Benji’s confession. His Autistic mind is so fixed on the concrete; I honestly wondered if he would ever grasp the abstract concept of an invisible God who loves and cares for him. Coupling his lack of abstract thinking with his hatred of church, I seriously doubted if he would ever come to know and love God.

But for months I have prayed, “God, you made my son. You know how his mind works. I know you can reach him. Help him to come to know you.”

“You do, Benji?” I asked, looking at him in the rear view mirror at a stop light.
“Yes, and I believe in Jesus too! I want to tell God I believe in him and I want to follow Jesus with my life.”
And he did.

I asked him a lot of questions, my heart overflowing, but still tinged with doubt: “Is this real? Does he really get it?”
FruitI have faith that it is.

Benji received new life yesterday. God answered my prayers–I don’t know exactly how but I kept trying, I kept talking, I kept listening, I kept accepting him as he is, and I kept praying. And now? A seed has sprouted and I am going do to my best to cultivate this new growth with love and faith.

Every seed starts with faith. We put it in the ground and bury it, having faith that something will happen if we do. Sometimes seeds grow. Sometimes they don’t. But we have to keep trying because it is only by planting a seed that the fruit has a chance to grow, and in growing, multiplying in others to produce a good, good harvest.

*As opposed to a vegetable, where we eat the root (carrot), leaves (lettuce) or flowers (broccoli).

PS. Some other fruit stories:
The Other Side of Despair
Searching for Beauty
When Holy Desire and Motherhood Collide

I hope that our story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow!
Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?

If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Autism, Christianity, Encouragement, grief, miscarriage, Mom Confessions, Own your Story, Uncategorized

The other side of despair

You know that part in the Anne of Green Gables movie where Anne dyes her hair green and hides in her bed?
“Go away!” she sobs to Marilla. “I’m in the depths of despair!”

“I’m in the depths of despair” became a tongue-in-cheek catch-phrase for my sisters and me as we navigated our teenage years.

Like Anne, most of our woes were trite and worthy of eye-rolling, not sympathy. I really had no idea what despair was until I became an adult.

When I had my miscarriage, I was baptized in grief for the first time.
I learned what hopelessness feels like.

My motherhood journey has looked wildly different than I thought it would be.
On many occasions, especially in the last year, I have literally thrown up my hands, saying “I’ve got nothing. I have no idea what to do.”

And all I can do is ride the wave of that moment, or day, or month, and pray we all come out intact on the other side.

Sometimes I’ve stood on the edge of that deep, black pit, wondering if I am going to fall in. Other times, it’s only when I look back, far removed from the experience, that I realize how close I was to collapsing.

I probably overshare on my blog–I know it’s one of my faults when I teach in the classroom. When the semester ends, all my students know WAY more about me (and my husband, kids, and first crush) than I do about them.

But sometimes I think that if I didn‘t share–blogging or otherwise–I’d step over the edge, into all that blackness, and tumble down, down, down.

And it’s not just the act writing, though that’s cathartic.
It’s the sharing.
It’s a way of saying, ” I have a burden. Will you help me carry it?”
_mg_2860_1We all need a good friend to listen to us vent about our bad day. The sharing helps us carry the burden. In those really dark moments, it helps us back away from the edge.

But sharing is a two-way street. Every good friend knows that you can’t just vent about your own bad day–you have to make space to listen too.

And, for me, this act of “making space” has been key to me not succumbing to despair in some of my darkest moments.

I read an amazing blog post last week by Rachel at Hands Free Mama. In her article, “Your Role in a Loved One’s Struggle” she wrote,

On the other side of despair is connection—connection that comes from recognizing a familiar look of pain in someone else’s eyes and reaching out your hand.

The greatest gift I have been given as a result of sharing about my life on my blog is that on a weekly basis, I have friends (and even strangers!) send me private messages saying, “me too.” The other night I sat chatting with three women on facebook, in awe of the gift I have been given.

They share their stories with me, stories of their grief, their waiting, their adjustment of their expectations, and always their overwhelming love for their children.

I share.
They share.
We carry each others’ burdens.
We back away from the edge, hand in hand, walking towards light, in hope, together.
_mg_2809Everybody has something. But you aren’t alone in your pain.
Take the first step–share.

You never know how God will use your story to bring hope to another person.

 

What’s your story? If you shared it, what would happen?
What COULD happen?

I hope that this story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Encouragement, grief, Mom Confessions, Own your Story, Self Care, WAHM

I quit my job (because I can’t do it all)

I quit my job on Monday.

It was the right decision, but it didn’t make it an easy one.

I’ve been working from home, teaching University level English courses online, for the last three and a half years.
Since the day I started, I’ve had two babies, a grand total of four little men.

And I’ve kept plugging away at my work, at times teaching up to 4 classes in an 8 week term (usually 2). While some online professors have an easy (or easier) job, teaching English online is brutal. The University I worked for has a one-week turn around policy for grading papers. On the “off” weeks, I was giving copious notes on outlines and thesis statements. Add in answering hundreds of emails, grading discussion boards (on top of papers), and dealing with plagiarism on nearly every paper, let’s just say I didn’t have a lot of down time as a WAHM.
IMG_4619I felt like I was handling it all pretty well though…until last year, and especially last fall after Benji got his ASD diagnosis.

We added therapy to our weekly schedule and suddenly I was spending hours per week at the Autism Center, driving, scrambling to find babysitters, or on the phone with the insurance company.

The stress was overwhelming. It even started affecting my health, both physically and mentally.

I’d thought about quitting in December but still I wavered: I was so fortunate to be a mom who can work from home when there are so many women who are dying to be in my position. Didn’t I owe it to them to keep the “dream” alive, the dream that says, “Yes, 21st century modern woman: You may not be able to have the whole pie, but you can have a little slice of whatever you are determined to put on your plate!”
IMG_5028But here’s the conversation that put a knife in that “dream” and sealed my decision to quit.

I had just finished grading for B term and told my 8 year old twins, “Guess what, boys? No more papers! I’m all done!”
“Yea!” They cheered. “Now you can spend time with us!”

Ouch.

That was it. I knew I needed a change. I had been praying a lot, asking God to give me truth about the reality of my life, and here’s what He revealed:

I wasn’t being the mom or wife I wanted or needed to be.
I wasn’t even being a nice person.
I didn’t even like myself.

I was a mean person who was strung out, exhausted, and who yelled all the time. Plus if I graded just one more paper about “The Road Less Traveled,” I might just lose my mind (or what was left of it).

And as fortunate as I was to be working from home, it just wasn’t worth it anymore.

I can’t do it all. In fact, I didn’t want to do it all any more. I’m kind of over it.
IMG_4878
Yet, knowing myself, it feels weird to admit that.

I’ve eagerly been in school and/or working since my twins were 7 months old (they are 8.5 now).

I invested years of my life into my Masters degree and into teaching, both on campus and online. And I was a darn-good professor too.

But the truth is, I need to invest my life where my love is.

I love English, and I love helping students become better writers, but it’s hard to  keep loving something that doesn’t love you back. And honestly, as much as I tried to be a personable, relateable, likeable, genuine, caring online professor,  the thousands of students I’ve taught aren’t going to remember my name next week, much less 20 years from now.
I am a blip on their life-radar, and let’s be real: I will easily be replaced at the University I worked for.

But my kids only get one mom. I am not a blip to them; I am their whole world. And I need to move them back into the center of my world. I know this the right decision.

But not all good decisions are easy. Can I be really honest? I got a lot of warm fuzzies telling people that I taught at a University. I felt validated by raised eyebrows and the impressed tone of voice. It made me feel like I was more than “just a mom,” like I was an intelligent human being who was making a difference in the world.

So, as much as I am saying “Good riddance” to the horrific stress of being a WAHM, it comes with a bit of mourning too, a saying “goodbye” to that prideful little corner of my heart (not to mention the lost income. God will provide, right?).

But I’m ready to say “hello” to lots of Good Things too:
more “come in” and less “go away”
more “now” and less “later”
more self-care instead of self-denial
more energy and less exhaustion
more kindness and less irritation
more patience and less yelling

And more love, much more Love. 11539035_10102113386324218_888264570455143371_oBeing “just a mom” may wound my pride, but making the choice to be the mom that I want and need to be is the best decision I’ve made in a long time.

Did you quit your job to be more available to your kids (special needs or not)?
Was it a hard decision? Why or why not? (or both)
Share your story below!

I hope that our story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you.
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If so, please share! Thank you! 

You might also like: STOP saying “I don’t know how you do it!” and say this instead

Posted in boys, Encouragement, Mom Confessions, Parenting Ideas, twins, Uncategorized

Sour and Sweet: The Power of a Stranger’s Words

This past week, I’ve had two different interactions with two different strangers concerning my four boys. Both women made short, passing comments to me about my sons. Both comments altered my attitude about sons and my day–if only for a moment–but not the the same way.

On Saturday afternoon, we went on a walk/bike ride in our neighborhood . Benji was riding his bike, Silas was on his trike, and I was pushing Eli in the stroller. Micah decided to walk/run. It was more fun for Micah to chase his twin down on his bike, yelling, “You’re under arrest!” while hitting him with a plastic sword.

At one point, the “you’re under arrest” game was getting a little too serious: Micah had caught Benji and was trying to throw him off his bike.

“Boys! BOYS!” I hollered down the sidewalk. “You need to SETTLE DOWN!!”

Right then, we passed the mail lady doing her daily route. She smiled and shook her head. I caught her eye, hoping to share a smile about the shenanigans of raising crazy kids.

“It only gets worse!” She quipped, walking briskly to the next mailbox. “I have a 12 and 13 year old…mmm hmm! I know! It only gets worse from here.”

My heart sank, and as much as I tried to shake off her words, they sank into me, like little burrs, irritating me with every step on the rest of our walk. I was in a foul mood when I got home (it didn’t help that my twins tried to throw themselves and the bike into the street–while cars were coming–at one point).

She didn’t have to say that. I’m not sure why she did. But it affected me.

This morning I took all four boys to the Dollar Tree. It’s the first day of Spring Break and we were in dire need of some Essential Items.

We loaded up with sidewalk chalk, jump ropes, bubbles, water guns, and other plastic crap, and made our way to the check out.

Bags in hand, I made an attempt to herd my little kittens out the door when a clerk caught my eye. “Are they all yours?”

11539035_10102113386324218_888264570455143371_oI always smile when people say this, hoping that my smile will make them think Happy Thoughts! towards me, but I braced myself for her response. “Yes! They are!” I said, a little too cheerfully.

“You were blessed with four boys! That’s amazing!”

I smiled again, this time genuinely. “Yes, and four adorable ones at that!”

“That’s the truth!”

We started toward the door but suddenly, I turned back to her. “Thanks for saying something encouraging. So often people…don’t.”

She didn’t have to say that. I’m not sure why she did. But it affected me.

It takes the same amount of energy to say something sour as it does to say something sweet.
Words have power and encouragement is a powerful thing.

Let’s use our words and power for good. You never know how your words will affect someone.

Has a stranger ever said something sour to you that ruined your day?
Has a stranger ever turned around your day with a kind word?
Share your story below!


I hope that our story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you.
TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?

If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Autism, Benji's Story, Christianity, Encouragement, life, Mom Confessions, Special Needs, Uncategorized

Amazing Grace in the McDonald’s Drive-Thru

I was already on shaky emotional ground when I left to take Benji to therapy. It’s never a good sign when you break down and cry on the phone with your Health Insurance agent.

Why is insurance so freakin’ hard to understand?
Can you please explain what you are saying in plain English?
Why are they not covering these therapies for my son?
Why am I having to choose between helping my son and paying our bills?

My thoughts ran ragged but I tried to be polite on the phone, “I’m not annoyed at you…it’s just this situation…” I told the agent.

I found a roll of toilet paper on my night stand, tore off a wad and swiped my cheeks and nose.

Crap. It is 10:37. I have to pick up Benji at 10:40.

I rushed out the door.

When I got to school, I realized that I forgot to pack him lunch and because his appointment is over the lunch hour, he would miss school lunch by the time he got back.

I texted my husband: #failfailfail

He tried to bolster my spirits: Try not to stress. Just pick up food on the way home.

Armed with a stack of papers bills and insurance statements, I sent my 8 year old to therapy while I waited my turn to talk to the billing woman at the Autism Center.

She was kind and encouraging but I didn’t get any answers today. Soon. (the story of my life. This saga needs to end soon).

A misunderstanding when Benji came out of therapy sent him bolting outside. I had to chase him down the sidewalk; I didn’t even get a chance to hear  how his appointment went from his therapist.

“How about we get lunch out? McDonalds?”

And he was all smiles; his bad mood floated away. If only the pressures of motherhood could melt away so easily.

The clock was ticking down. I had 23 minutes to get food for Benji, then drive to the other side of town to pick up my 3 year old from preschool by noon. It was going to be tight.

I quickly ordered a Big Kids chicken nugget meal from the drive through, breathing a sigh of relief that there was only one car in front of us in line.

Then I reached in my purse for my wallet…

…and remembered that it was on my bed at home, my insurance cards strewn about on the bedspread.

No. no no no no. Wait! Checkbook. Please, please take checks!

I pulled up to the window. “Do you take checks?” My voice was shaking, falsely cheerful.

“No, we don’t.”

And everything crumpled: my shoulders, my head, my whole body sagged and I burst into tears.

“Oh, oh! Don’t be upset!” The young woman in the drive-thru window exclaimed.

“I don’t have any money!” I sobbed. “I don’t have lunch for my son! I left my wallet at home…it was the insurance…I was on the phone with them and…and this is just the worst day ever!”

I was blabbering like an idiot, tears streaming down my face.

“Hold on, hold on!” She dashed away from the window.

All I could do was hold my temples between my thumb and forefinger and cry.

She was back. “I got this. We got this. Don’t worry about paying today.”

Oh….

The tears fell harder. “Oh…no…! No! Please, you don’t have to do that…! I–”

“Now, then! You are going to make me cry! I have kids too. It’s ok. You’re going to be ok. Today is going to get better, you’ll see.”

I pulled forward and my wet, streaming eyes were met by another women’s, whose face held compassion and tenderness as she handing me a Happy Meal box and a bottle of chocolate milk for my baby.
FullSizeRenderThank you,” I gulped, my voice cracking. “Thank you.”

I pulled out of the parking lot, my eyes still blurred with tears as I turned my heart-gaze heavenward:

Thank you.

It was a gift of amazing, unmerited, overflowing grace in the McDonald’s Drive-Thru.

Posted in Christianity, Encouragement, grief, Kelly Clarkson, miscarriage, Mom Confessions, Motherhood, Own your Story, Piece by Piece, Self Care, Uncategorized

Ladies, let’s stop aplogizing for our tears

I loved watching Kelly Clarkson sing “Piece by Piece” on American Idol earlier this month. It was a moving, emotional ballad; Kelly struggled with tears through the whole song, at times even losing her voice to tears as she pushed through to the end.

The audience—and America—wept with her, as she sang about how her father abandoned her as a child, but now that she is a mother, she knows that her children’s father will never leave their children…or her. Piece by piece, her husband’s love slowly put her heart and hope back together.

When Ryan came up to conclude the show with her, she apologized for crying over and over. “I’m really pregnant!” she laughed.

There was something profoundly familiar about her tears and her response. So often, our knee-jerk reaction as women to our own sudden tears is to say, “I’m sorry! I don’t know why I am so emotional!”
Our second response is to look for a scapegoat, usually a hormonal one:
“Stupid PMS!”
“Pregnancy hormones! They get you every time!”
We even use the hormonal excuse when there is no hormonal excuse:
“I don’t know why I am so emotional. It isn’t even that time of the month!”

We believe that our tears, sudden and uncomfortable, always need to be explained away. And if they can’t be easily excused, we make jokes about the emotional weakness of being a woman.

100_4647
I am smiling in this picture I vividly remember this day. I was going through a miscarriage and tears came unexpectedly and often.

The thing is, emotions or tears aren’t right or wrong. They simply are. It’s how we act in response to our feelings that is right or wrong.*

We shouldn’t have to apologize for feeling.
But so often, as women, we do.
I have a friend who is a passionate and vibrant person. She also cries very easily—about seeing her daughter learn and grow, about her passion to help women in our community, about the beauty in the world. Her tears and apologies flow freely.
Though I know she often is embarrassed by her strong emotions, I find her tears refreshing and honest.
Crying often expresses emotions in a way that words cannot.
It can reveal truth about our deeply felt experiences.
So instead of apologizing for our emotions,** what if we looked a little deeper and asked “Why am I crying?”

Hormones may be an easy answer but, the thing is, hormones don’t give us emotions; they simply highlight or emphasize emotions that are already there.  

Kelly’s song was deeply emotional on its own. It would have been difficult to sing even if she had not been pregnant and it had not been the final season of American Idol. Adding all that together made her performance even more impressive.  The reality is, her tears were what made the song even more beautiful, raw and relateable to listeners.

I wish she didn’t feel like she had to apologize for crying.

But if I were in her shoes, I would have done the same thing. Somehow it’s the socially acceptable thing to do as women.

It is a lot harder to simply let our tears be, without explaining them away (
It really is easier to blame our hormones, isn’t it?).

But owning our emotions is a part of embracing what it means to be a woman, a women who was created with God-given emotions, God-given hormones, and yes, even God-honored tears (Psalm 56:8).

When we stop apologizing and dismissing our tears, and start asking “Why?” about our emotional experiences, it helps us to build self-awareness. Owning our tears helps us to realize that our stories are real, valuable, and worth telling.

And when we can own our stories, we can more readily empathize with the emotional experiences of others.
We are able to “ Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep”  (Romans 12:15).
Tears
Our tears don’t need an apology or a hormonal explanation. Embracing our emotions and our tears is actually an act of love and respect. When we embrace our emotions as part of being a woman, we can more freely respect our own tears as healthy and normal.

And in loving and respecting ourselves, we can also more freely respond to the emotional needs of others with love and respect as well.

*Sadly, I often respond to my emotions with negative actions. When I choose to hurt others because I am angry or upset (or whatever), an apology is needed in order restore my relationships.

** I’ll admit, saying “I’m sorry!” is my first response when I cry unexpectedly! Instead of apologizing, here are a few suggestions for an alternative way to respond to our tears:

“Thank you for listening. I feel really emotional right now.”
“As you can see by my tears, I’m really passionate about this.”
“This always make me cry.”
“Hang on. I need a minute to collect myself.”
“I am so overwhelmingly happy!”
“This reminds me of my grandma. I miss her.”
“This makes me really sad/angry/upset/overwhelmed.”
“Darn you, Hallmark!”

Why do you think we feel the need to say “I’m sorry!” when we cry?

Why it is hard to accept our emotions, even our tearful ones?
What would we gain by accepting our tears as normal and part of “our story”?

TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know? If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Encouragement, I don't know how you do it, Mom Confessions, Motherhood, Uncategorized

STOP saying “I don’t know how you do it” …and say this instead.

I know it is supposed to be a compliment but it never fails to make me cringe. I mean, honestly, there is no good answer to this phrase, usually thrown out by older women to younger women.

It was Sunday. No matter how many time we try to prepare Benji for communion Sunday, a once a month event when the order of service changes, it always catches him off guard. Despite all our preparations, he was in a Mood from the moment we walked in the door.*

Silas did not want to go to class. He cried and clung to Aaron’s neck. Daddy sang the praises of Sunday School but our 3 year old was not buying what Daddy was selling.

I sighed, fighting the wave of anxiety that was threatening to knock me off my feet. Tears seem to hover under the surface of my emotional armor  these days.

I needed to get a pager for Eli so he could go to the nursery so I handed our sticker to the check in lady.

“Good morning!” She said cheerfully. “How are you?”
“I’m uh…pretty good.” Darn it. I probably shouldn’t lie on Sunday.
She saw me looking around at my husband, wrangling my unwilling children.
Don’t say it. I thought. Don’t say–

“I don’t know how you do it!”

She said it.

I sucked a bunch of air in my cheeks, blew it out in a huge sigh and said, “….yeeeeaaahhh.”

I usually say something cute like, “Me either!” and laugh a fake laugh, but at that moment, I had nothing.
I should have quipped, “I drink a lot” but I really didn’t have the energy for clever zingers either.

She looked up. “Are you ok?”

Yeah, I was being kind of rude. But I left my cape at home that morning and pretending I have it all together when I don’t is exhausting.
“Umm, well…two of my four kids are melting down right now and it is just really stressful.”

Honesty. Sometimes that’s “how you do it.”

I thanked her for my pager, dropped Eli off in the nursery, willed my tears to stay put, and sank thankfully into the pew for the service. *Amazingly, Benji ending up having a great Sunday!

I know that when people say “I don’t know how you do it” they mean it as a compliment.

But, really, it’s not a compliment. If it was, I would know how to respond, right?

But saying “thank you” would be weird.

Saying, “Yeah, my life is really hard” is awkward and then I would feel even more discouraged.
If I disagreed by stating “Oh, anyone could do what I do!” I’m Humble Bragging.

But the real reason I hate “I don’t know how you do it” is because it makes me feel alone.

When I hear this phrase from women whose kids are grown up I think, “It must have been easier back then. She can’t relate to my experience. My life/situation/kids are a whole new brand of Hard.”

I don’t think this is what people mean to say but that is how I feel. I don’t want to be held up on a false pedestal of Misery, or awarded a prize for “Your life is so hard I don’t even know how to relate to you.”

What I wish people would say is this:

If you want to give praise, say something praiseworthy: “You got all your kids to church this morning. I think that’s great! You are doing a wonderful job.”

If you want give encouragement, say something encouraging: “I remember when my kids were little. It’s hard. You’re going through a trying age. Keep hanging in there. I made it and so will you, dear.”

If you are in awe of the mother, say something awesome: “You rock, girl! I think you are amazing!”

If you think she needs help, tell her you are bringing over a casserole on Thursday night.

And a bottle of wine.
I don't know how you do itBecause you may not know how she’s doing it, but chances are, she probably needs a friendly word of praise, encouragement, and help, not an empty cliche.

Does “I don’t know how you do it” drive you nuts?
How do you respond?
What do you wish people would say instead?

TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Would this post encourage someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂