What I Want My Children to See When the World Comes Together

For the last week, we’ve piled together –too many bodies on too small a sofa– to watch the Winter Olympics.

We’ve become fans of sports we didn’t know existed last week.

We’ve tried curling on the kitchen floor.

We’ve ice-skated in our socks.

We’ve sighed at losses and fist bumped at victories.

We’ve held our breath in nervous anticipation.

The Olympics are so much more than a worldwide sporting event. They are about unity, about the world coming together. They are about endurance and hard work. They are about the defeat of champions and victory of underdogs. They are about finishing what you started.

More than 20 years ago, I sat in my USA leotard in my living room and watched a girl a couple of years older win gold in gymnastics. I never made it to a platform and gold never hung around my neck, but I’ve never stopped dreaming or doing the impossible. I traded a leotard for a laptop and now I watch my son practice archery for hours with Olympic rings in his  dreams.

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[Mom brag moment: this past weekend my son won his division for the state of Texas in Junior Olympic Archery for recurve. Here he is with Olympic Archery team member, Vick Wunderle, who autographed his winning target]

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I want my kids to dream to do the impossible. I want them to feel the spirit of the Olympics rise up within them. I want them to find their purpose and accomplish what they are called to do.

I’m proud to be an American.

But sometimes I’m embarrassed by our actions.

We’ve turned social media into a forum to complain about first world problems and mock others–even at the Olympics. I understand this is mostly fueled by ignorance. Not everyone has been exposed to extreme poverty, but I quickly tired of hearing about the missing doorknobs and unfinished hotel rooms in Sochi, in a country that has spent more money in the history of the Olympics to present perfection on the backs of a broken people. I want my kids to look past the complaints about the color of the drinking water in an oppressed country and remember the millions of people who will still have undrinkable water weeks after the venues are empty.

Russia spent 51 billion dollars on the Olympics.

51 billion.

1500 families were kicked out of there homes (some at gunpoint) to make room for infrastructure.

“As journalists and athletes began to check in, social media site Twitter exploded with “#Sochi” tweets sharing traveler woes such as hotels without lobbies, water outages, guests trapped in malfunctioning elevators, faulty plumbing, missing manhole covers, unfinished sidewalks, and showers without shower curtains. A Twitter account dedicated to sharing these tweets quickly gained 325,000 followers, while the official account of the Winter Olympics has only recently cleared 200,000 followers.”  source

This isn’t the first or last time a country will overspend to showcase an over-the-top show. Fences separated poor slum conditions from athletes in Bejing, too.

I know this is a global issue. I love my country. I am proud to be an American, but I’m more proud to be human.

And when the world comes together, I want to my kids to see what really matters.

It’s not winning. It’s not a medal. It’s not victory. It’s not building something beautiful on top of something broken. It’s laying down the flags and color and language that divides us and it’s having compassion for others, even if they live and believe differently than we do, especially then. It’s lending a competitor a ski when his breaks in the middle of the race; it’s speeding down a mountain for your down syndrome brother who can’t.

This is the Olympic spirit.

More than winning, I want my children to value the beauty of helping those behind us in the race. I want them to be the one to come along the injured runner, the limping skier, and lend a hand.

I want them to finish this race well, not necessarily first, but with dignity and integrity.


What to Do With The Bad Days

I gave into temptation and colored my hair. In my own home.

And then at 10 o’clock in the P.M. I washed my hair 37 times because hair color called Espresso is named that for a reason.

I fell into bed with my damaged vanity and slept fitfully. When the alarm sounded the next morning for church, I was still in a bad hair mood with a tingly scalp, a stiff neck and a-gone-to-bed-too-late hangover. I went back to sleep.

The house was sluggish until after noon, our regular routine turned on its side.

What started out as a simple “don’t do that” to one of my kids ended up in a full blown tantrum (I call that the bonus level). We generally handle these in stride. Because three kids and 19 years of marriage.

Take a deep breath. It's just a bad day, not a bad life.

But I was cranky and we let our child’s behavior turn a rocky parenting moment into marital strife because we disagreed on how to handle the blowout.  Please tell me you’ve been there. 

Just like that, our day went from lazy Sunday to the END TIMES if you know what I mean. While my husband and I retreated to our bedroom to try and get on the same page, I could hear my kids arguing in the other room.

The tension in our house was thick. And these are the moments, I am weakest. I feel most inadequate in every area of my life when I feel most human. And in those moments, I feel like one big failure. I tried to tell myself that this was normal.

But even that reminder can fall short on the bad days.

We said our “sorry’s.” Again.  Because it’s still the only way to start over even as the sun is setting. But we just couldn’t seem to get along or get it right.

I wanted the day to end because sometimes it feels like you can’t wait for those new mercies in the morning. I just needed them now.

Everyone was scattered-reading and doing their own thing and I longed to have a do-over and I’m not just talking about my hair.

“Can we just pray together?” I asked my husband with tears right on the edge of spilling over. And what I really meant was can my family just pray with me, for me?

We piled up on our bed, too many legs and arms and too little space and we held hands. It was an awkward Little House on the Prairie moment for sure. But no one pulled away or complained. Our kids could feel the tension and they wanted a do-over as much as we did.

Our youngest asked if she could pray first. Bless her. And then my husband led us in a simple prayer. I couldn’t hold my tears then because this is what I needed. Just knowing we are in this together and although we fight together, we love together.

My teen daughter rubbed my hand when she saw my tears and whispered, “It’s okay, Mom.” I nodded.

Because now it was.

So, what do we do with those bad days? We let them go. And we start new, not with perfection in mind, but forgiveness and love.

And we decide the color Espresso isn’t so bad after all.


What We Teach Our Kids When We Don’t Know They Are Watching

I started this terrible wonderful habit last year.

All three of my kids started a new school and there were some bumpy days in the beginning.

So on the first Friday of the first week, I took my kids to a darling little hometown bakery near our house. And we celebrated with a cookie.

The next week it was a brownie.

A few weeks after that it was a cake pop.

It became a sweet tradition.

And well, many Fridays later and my pants won’t button. It’s a weighty problem.

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So a few Friday’s ago, I was backing out of my spot and looking behind me and not at the lovely Mercedes next to me and I scratched the whole side of the car.

That is a bad feeling.

I slowly pulled into my spot (straighter this time) and told my kids to follow me to look for the owner. The car was parked in front of Massage Envy, next to the bakery. So, yeah, I immediately felt worse, of course.

I was about to stress out someone who was having a massage. 

I told the gals behind the desk what happened and described the car. They said, yes, the owner was having a massage and I wrote my name and number on a piece of paper. And then the receptionist said, “I can’t believe you came in to find her. You know you could have left. She would have never know.”

The other girls nodded their heads and encouraged me to throw away the paper.

I looked at my kids looking at us, listening and watching what I would say.  “I would know. My kids would know.”

They were impressed with how “good” I was.

Really? This is what it’s come to in our world? Being honest about hitting someone’s car when they aren’t looking makes me a good person. Huh.

We left and I told my kids it would have been wrong for me to drive away without telling the truth. I fear there is an entire generation of kids who don’t take responsibility for their actions and wave the “it wasn’t my fault” banner.

Say what you need to say. And do what you say you’ll do. It’s called integrity.

Friends of mine from another country, who are now new Americans made this observation to me, “We’ve noticed that when you mention a new idea or cause, many Americans are so excited! They think it’s a wonderful idea and they want to do everything to help! and share! and give! But many do nothing. All the excitement ends when it’s time to show up. In our country, not many people are interested in new ideas, but at least you know where they stand.

I was embarrassed because they spoke the truth.

Sure things come up and plans change. That’s life. But when we make a habit of hiding the truth or not following through with what we’ve said we will do, we are teaching our children to do the same.

Integrity is something we teach our kids when we don’t know they are watching.

Sometimes we use words.


The 3 Words That Can Revolutionize Motherhood

It was one of those early school mornings that started out with Cap’n Crunch cereal for breakfast. Just a regular Thursday, the same kind we have most every week. The details don’t matter, but a simple request quickly escalated into an argument between parent and child.

It was over nothing, really. But then why did it hurt so much? Small things can still temporarily turn a home into chaos.

And while I packed lunches and wiped up spilled milk and tried not to cry over it, I wondered for the 100th time in the last month if I’m doing this parenting thing right.

My husband and I are constantly learning on our kids and just when we get the hang of one phase, a new stage leaves us reeling, wondering what just happened.We try to look past our children’s behavior and see their heart. Why are they so angry right now? Why are they so defensive? What is really going on in their heart? 

Before my husband left for work, we talked about it for a minute.  “We have amazing kids. Some days though, I wonder how we should handle things. Maybe we need help or something?” I could hear his frustration because I felt it, too.

And with each new parenting phase, I wonder Is this normal? Are we normal? Are we doing this wrong? Do other parents deal with this kind of thing? I wish I could ask someone who’s been here before.

I thought about digging into the parenting books on my shelves and googling for answers. I thought about the hard morning and whispered a prayer for help.

An hour later, my doorbell rang. It was a friend coming over to volunteer to send out packages for the Mercy Shop (in the building in our backyard). We started off just chatting and she said something about her four daughters, all but one grown and out of the house.

I sort of jokingly said that I could use a parenting mentor and then I did something I wasn’t planning on:  I poured out my heart standing right there in my kitchen.

And she let me.

I told her how inadequate I felt, how one day I was mom of the year and the next day I was mom getting kicked in the rear. I told her how I hurt for my kids and how some days we hurt each other. I told her that my children were going to change the world, but some days they rocked mine.

I cried.

And then my friend said three words that were better than anything I could read in a parenting book written by a PHD. and more relevant than a counselor’s couch or a magazine article.

“This is normal, Kristen,” I breathed in deeply.

This is Normal - 3 words that can revolutionize motherhood

“You are normal to feel this way. Your kids are growing up and this struggle is normal, too.  I’ve been through it with my kids and it will get better. Keep loving them. Keep being consistent,” she encouraged me. She told me her own crazy stories when her kids were at home and with each one, I felt more relieved. She told me how beautiful and strong her daughters were today and how they could laugh about the hard days. And with every word, I let my heart believe This is normal. We are normal. It’s going to be okay.

And maybe my normal isn’t really all that normal? What is normal anyway? But that’s not really the point.  She could have easily said I have no idea what you’re talking about or my kids never acted that way.

She could have made me feel worse by saying nothing at all.

Instead this older mom who was further down the road listened to my struggles and patted me on the arm and her simple response encouraged me not to give up. This is normal was another way of saying you’re not alone. This is normal is saying this too shall pass. 

Because it really will.

And you know what? What you are facing today –those sleepless nights, that baby that wakes up every hour, the flailing tantrums, the angry foot-stamping, the smelly socks, the lost homework, the food battles, the bad attitudes, the drama, the really awful family fight you had yesterday on the Lord’s Day (ahem) –that’s all normal, too.

Even your child who refuses to wear clothes and runs down the street naked, likely normal (and if not, doesn’t it make you feel better to think it might be just a phase? Or knowing that it will be okay and you’re not alone?)

These three words can revolutionize motherhood.

When we see another mom struggling with something we’ve already endured, conquered, survived, we can change their day by whispering these three words in their ear. I said it to a lady at Target the other day and I watched her sigh at her mismatched child lying in the middle of the school supply aisle.

Because it’s not a mother war we need to fight.

We don’t need more competition; we need collaboration.

We can encourage and empower our sisters with the gift of our words. Look for a mom behind you in this parenting journey and instead of quietly judging her misbehaving children running through the store or staring at her head-banging toddler, or saying nothing at all–smile with her and let her know it’s going to be okay.

Because this is normal.


It Turns Out We are Crazy Cat People and Other Half Truths

1. So, if you follow me an Instagram, you know we got a kitten a couple of days after Christmas.

2. For the kids, or course.

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3. To which, someone responded, you really are THAT family.

4. Let me explain: We had to put our 7 year old dog to sleep a couple of months ago, which left our one year old cat, Tinkerbell, and our youngest child completely distraught because they were the 3 amigos. My daughter cried like the baby of the family that she is and looked at me with such sad puppy dog eyes that I was completely manipulated into a replacement pet.

5. Replacement pets are never a good idea, neither are pet-altering decisions the day you are helping your dog  die. Oh, hindsight. My child reminded me everyday, practically every hour afterwards, tapping my arm over and over “Mom, remember what you said. Mom. Mom? MOM!?!” Until I screamed DON’T TOUCH ME AGAIN. OKAY? Ok. Let’s get a cat.” What can I say? She’s totally the boss of me.

6. We rescued a cat from a home we found on Craigslist that also needed rescuing if you know what I mean. It was overwhelmed with more than a dozen people and enough stuff for three dozen. But that’s a story for the anonymous blog I don’t have.

7. The kitten was free. So there’s that.

8. But it had flees, so after kitten flee treatment, please disregard #7.

9. We (and by we, I really mean the 7 year old child of the family) named the precious 8 week old kitten Periwinkle  (sister of Tinkerbell for all Disney Fairy Fans) and presented her to our one year old cat and she sniffed her head and then slapped her across the face twice with an angry paw.

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10. So, that went well. And then they fought like cats and cats for two weeks.

11. During this time, we discovered the kitten was a thief. Two mornings in a row while I was making lunches, my kids entire sandwiches disappeared. I found empty bags with claw marks and the crusts of the bread (just like my daughter) in a corner of the house. LOVELY, huh?

12. What we have here is a Cat Burglar.

13. Bam.

14. And then one day, the cats were friends. And lived happily ever after. But not really. Tinkerbell is in charge and lets us all know that.

15. Sidenote: Did you know research proves that cats who live with  you think you’re just one big cat? My husband shared that tidbit he read online the other day. Warning: cute sleepy kitten photo ahead

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16. The day after my husband shared that fact, he reached down to pet Tinkerbell and she slapped him across the face and actually drew blood. It was ugly. I tried not to giggle when I said, “You know, she does see you as a big cat. And you just had your first cat fight.”

17. He was not amused and she is currently in a bag.

18. Just kidding. I really just wanted to say he finally let the cat out of the bag.

19. I’m here all week, friends.

20. Is it just me, or does she kind of remind you of Darla from Nemo?? (Don’t shake the bag)

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