Ten tips for busy moms

Confession: I forgot what it was like to be a really busy mommy. I had four kids this week instead of three—the fourth a precious boy we got to parent for a week and a half. I’m probably not allowed to say more than that, and I can’t post any pictures of him here even though he was such a darling and I would love to show him off to you…

These days, with my kids aged 9, almost 7, and 4, mothering moves in comfortable cycles, through the summer birthday parties into the back to school sales, holiday celebrations, winter doldrums, and spring delights. And around again.

I don’t have to deal with body fluids very much anymore. Everyone is potty trained and reasonably tidy. They eat with their mouths closed and help clean up the kitchen. They’re still a whole lot of work, and joy, but mothering is one of the things I play in. I almost forgot what motherhood immersion felt like.

When you can’t wash a sinkfull of dishes without leaving two or three times (five times? six times?) to care for a child.

When you have one ear open, always, and both eyes as often as you can spare them.

When the laundry hampers fill faster than you can empty them.

When small chatty voices sound to you like fingernails on chalkboard because you’re so crazy tired and don’t think you could answer another question to save your life.

When the endless afternoon stretches out before you, and it’s raining, and you honestly think you might drown in work and boredom.

I LOVED this week. It was an answer to prayer, a sign that God has not forgotten us. But I had to learn a few things in order to stay sane and here they are, just for you, if you are in the crazy stage as well…

To some of you, four children would be a piece of cake and I thank you for your grace to me as I hold forth on busy motherhood. To you and all the rest, I say–

1. Drink coffee.

My favorite pastor’s wife swears by this. Except she doesn’t actually swear, because she is the pastor’s wife and I keep her on a very tight tether. I don’t even let her eat open-toed cupcakes. She reluctantly affirmed instead: Coffee alone is the secret to her success with five children. That and regular church attendance. I drink decaf and it still works wonders: something warm in the hand and strong in the stomach.

2. Use paper plates.

I hate to joke about it, but all I know is that when I use glass plates three times a day, the environment in our home goes downhill fast. Saving mother’s sanity, one tree at a time.

3. Say yes a lot.

This prevents many battles, and even more negotiating.

“Can I do A?”

“No.”

“Well can I do B then?”

“No.”

“When can I do A? Soon? Next year? In fifteen minutes?”

“Ummm….”

“Can I do A if I use the little brushes and clean up after myself?”

Much is simplified if you just say YES, the first time, unless it’s a moral issue or dangerous to the wellbeing of siblings, pets, and houseplants. Hey, they found something they want to do! Just say yes; and then deal with the fallout.

4. Do laundry often.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t deal with a Mt. Fuji of soiled socks and sweaty jeans. One day at a time, sweet Jesus…

5. Get out of your mind.

A quiet life of the mind, like time with your spouse, is divided roughly in half with the addition of each subsequent kid. I promise it’s true. So stop trying to think it all through, give up for a while on the memories and the quiet meditations and the inscrutable depths, and just get those hotdogs in the skillet. You won’t be allowed the luxury of silence; come out of your meditations and into what’s now. Laugh. Sing. Talk to your kids.

6. Ask for help.

You weren’t made to do it alone. After three or four or five, you can’t do it alone. Let your mom buy groceries for you. Let your husband ride herd while you take a ten-minute bathroom break. Swap services with another busy mom. Whatever it takes. There are a whole lot of people cheering you on, even though in the wee hours of the night you may wonder where they got to.

7. Make a tight schedule and follow it loosely.*

*This is not my phrase. I cannot remember the name of the lady who said it… one of the Funk sisters.

A schedule is your friend. If you know that snack is at 10:00 and lunch is at 12:00, it makes it so much easier to know when everyone’s blood sugar is at a low ebb and whether or not starvation is as imminent as they claim. Knowing that you’ll sweep that floor on Friday makes it okay to wink at the dirt on Wednesday and Thursday.

But then—take a chill pill. A schedule is just something to shoot for. If you marry yourself to it, you’ll go crazy.

8. Know when your next break is.

It may sound silly and selfish, but knowing you can run errands ALONE for one hour on Saturday, or sip a quiet cup of coffee after they’re tucked in bed tonight, makes all the difference. You can hang in there till then, right?

9. Stop listening to how everyone else does it.

The day you really bomb as a mother (drill sergeant/crackdown/getyourbuttsinhereNOW and lookatmewhenI’mtalkintoyou) will be the day that every blog and facebook post you read will be a mommy-mommy one about how sweet kids are and how fast they’ll grow up and how you should let everything else go and just love them. You’ll have only one thought: I blew it all.

You didn’t blow it all, honey. You’re a very human mother who had a terrible day.

You will make it through. You can learn from anyone, but the ones you need to listen to are Jesus and the people He placed close to you. Enough with facebook already.

10. Give grace to others. It opens your heart to receive it too.

Keep your eyes open for the mothers with babies climbing all over them. Every one of them could say these words to you: “Please notice me. Please give me grace. Please see beyond my wrinkled outfit, my fussy child, my frazzled face. I know my house is a mess; it’s only clean on Fridays. I know what my hair looks like; it’s only nice on Sundays. My waist disappeared in 2002 and I still can’t find it. I’m lost in here. Be nice to me.”

Let me tell you something about Jesus: following Him doesn’t make life easy. But He is always there. Wipe the tears and snot on His shoulder and let Him rock you a while. He’s soooo good with crying children.

*****

I’m sorry this got long. It’s a good thing I wrote it before our fourth kiddo left because afterwards I didn’t feel like laughing anymore. I miss him too much.

What have you learned in mothering? I’d love to hear your tips, your pieces of the story.

High heeled shoe cupcakes

My little girl just turned four years old. This sends cold shivers through me. I wonder if it’s the beginning of the end, and if we will ever again be as close as we are now, and what I should be teaching her about femininity that I haven’t learned yet myself.

kelly

So because I do not know how to raise a teenager, in the meantime I bake cupcakes for a little girl. {And after the guests have gone, I sit beside her in the darkness and sing.}

pink in front

This was one of the most fun cake ideas I’ve played with. I will say this once, loud and clear: IT’S NOT MY IDEA. As far as I can tell, high-heeled shoe cupcakes originated at Grandma’s Bakery. This site supplied additional ideas. I copied shamelessly.

green in front

The sole is a Milano cookie, and the heel a Pirouette. They are sturdier than they look… The only one that collapsed on me did so under the weight of another cupcake, which I dropped right on top of it. So. Not that it had a lot of choice in the matter. You can even move them (carefully) to a plate.

cupcake on plate

whole set

I enjoyed the endless options for color and design, everything from girly to suave. I think they’d be fun at a ladies’ tea or a bridal shower. What style is “you”?

A brief emotive lexicon

Bewildered: (adj.) The feeling I get when listening to this conversation.

“Hey Kelly, can you see my head?”

“No.”

“Can you see my finguhs?”

“No.”

“Can you see my feet?”

“No. Now let me ask you some questions. Can you see my arms?”

“No.”

“Can you see my face?”

“No.”

“Can you see my toes?”

“No.”

hiding

Ohhhhhhhhhh.

Nonjealous: (n.) The feeling I have for Matt Walsh today.

Aghast: (adj.) The feeling of dropping a bit of eggshell into the breakfast casserole I’m cooking for my mother-in-law.*

Atonement: (n.) The feeling of holding a crying child against my chest until the ouchie enters my heart and the healing, his.

Bizzy: (adj.) The feeling that this blog post is long enough. If I do not publish quickly it will be swallowed up in the green beans and laundry stacks, the evening plans and the clamoring kids, the headache and the task list. Adios, friends.

*****

*This one comes from a couple of weeks ago. The memory lingers.

Your turn! What feelings capture pieces of your day? I’d love to hear…

The hair of his chin

Dear Fire Hall,

ryan's face

You take my husband’s time, and I can share that with you.

You capture my husband’s interest, and I can share that too.

You divide my husband’s energy, priorities, finances, and obligations, and all this I am willing to share.

But now

(so that his air mask fits during this month of training)

you want to take his facial hair

and I am more upset about this than I can say.

ryan's beard

You are a t-rd, and I am not signing off with love.

Shari

Does God notice?

“Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I am running away from my mistress,” she said.

Then the angel of the Lord said, “Return to your mistress and submit to her authority. I will give you more descendants than you can count. You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (God hears), for the Lord has heard about your misery.”

Thereafter Hager referred to the Lord, who had spoken to her, as El-Roi, “the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have seen the One who sees me!”

Genesis 16

*****

“Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from?”

I am running, running away from my mistress. I can answer you this, for it runs in my mind like a wheel. I am running, I am running away.

“Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where are you going?”

Do not ask me where I am going, oh shining one. I cannot answer. I am only running and I do not know where. Far away, far away, far away.

“Return—

Surely you do not mean it?

To your mistress—

Oh shining one I cannot, I cannot. To the proud mistress who treated me harshly, to the jealous mistress I supplanted, to the barren mistress before whom I tossed my shining hair and paraded my growing belly and rolled my sated eyes? I am filled with hatred for myself and for her.

And submit to her authority.”

In my mouth the bitter tastes of desert thirst and hard obedience are mingled. I do not ask you why, for there is righteousness in your command to me, but I ask you—how? This thing you are asking will be death to me and my child and I ask you this question—how can I?

“I will give you more descendants than you can count.”

The fragile life of my baby flutters against me, so frail, so helpless. This is not the end?

“You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son.”

A son! I feared I could not carry him to completion, a penalty for my pride. I feared that, born, he would fall prey to my jealous mistress. A thousand things could snuff out this tiny life, and she will never give me the chance to win another. You say he will live? He will prosper?

“You are to name him Ishmael (God hears), for the Lord has heard about your misery.”

Can it be? Here in the desert with a frail life fluttering and a heart sick crying, you heard and you saw. There in his tent you saw her hand raised against me, you heard her cruel words of shame. Not one tear, one task, one flinch escaped your view. You noticed.

Shining one, you have answered. I will give my son this name Ishmael and when I speak it, I will remember we are not forgotten. We are not lost in a void. We are not a cosmic mistake.

Your eyes are on us forever. And mine, at last, have looked up and met them.

Come, darling. Come, most precious unborn son. Mama has a long walk to take…

*****

When I speak of my faith being shaken, I mean this question most of all: Does God notice? My husband and I have walked in a long eight months of silence, waiting for God’s next move. Like every good chess player, He spends much time in thought and I am tempted to believe His mind is elsewhere. Hagar named him The God Who Sees, and it was my mentor who first spoke this sentence to me: His eyes are on you forever. Somehow, then, I know I can bear it…

If you are by chance walking in a similar time of doubt and silence, I pray He will meet you as El-Roi.