How Often do I Complain About Blessings?

 

I had a significant realization recently. About something troubling.

I complain about blessings. ALL THE TIME.

This sounds ridiculous, but it happens to most of us.

There is a beautiful, crazy, destructive, sweet, tiny human that entered my life almost two years ago. He is an ENORMOUS blessing, but sometimes I forget. Sometimes, I think more about the restrictions on my freedom that come with being a mother. The interruptions that happen with every task I try to accomplish. The inability to simply sit on the couch and rest.

What has been gained in exchange for those small inconveniences? The unconditional love of that precious little boy. Sweet smiles, and tender cuddles. The strengthening of love between my husband and I in raising this beautiful soul together. Watching my son explore the world and discover new things every day is indescribable.

I am so amazingly, ridiculously blessed to be able to have carried a child within my body. We had a healthy pregnancy, and a (mostly) healthy baby. Pregnancy is hard, but the alternative (not having the opportunity) is harder. Motherhood is hard, but not being able to be a mother? I can’t even begin to fathom that pain.

I struggle with finding balance between everything in my life.  But how lucky am I to have found so many things in my life that I love that I struggle to juggle them all?

This realization doesn’t fix motherly fatigue and overwhelm. It doesn’t cover the world in rainbows. But recognize your blessings for what they are. Blessings.

The Self-Care Challenge

If you’ve been on Thoughts, Dots, and Tots before, you probably heard me talk about self-care before. And… I’m going to talk about it again. Its something that I absolutely cannot cover enough. It’s not because I’m out of ideas, or I’ve forgotten what I’ve written about before. This topic is simply so important that it bears repeating.

I’m going to give you a simple self-care challenge. It’s super simple. Super quick.

I want you to do one thing. Everyday.

The catch? It can’t be essential. It can’t be something that you HAVE to do.

Cleaning, working, making dinner? As much as you might enjoy them, they don’t count.

It needs to be something JUST FOR YOU.

I don’t know what that is going to look like for you. Self-care is different for everybody. Some of my self-care activities are spending time writing, doing vinyl projects, and coloring with crayons (the last activity is one that I actually got from a comment from a reader a few months ago!). I don’t generally have time to do all of them in a day (And I doubt you do either!), but I try to find time to do at least one every day.

It looks different for everyone. For my husband, some self-care activities are golfing, reading, and making furniture. Yours might look similar or not even a little bit the same.

It is so easy as parents to lose ourselves. To give all that we have. We get so caught up in taking care of those that we love that we forget to take care of ourselves. But you can’t give if you don’t have anything left. Recharge your batteries so that you can continue to give love, care, and support to those who need you.

What does self-care look like for you, and how do you recharge your batteries? Let me know in the comments below!

Daycare isn’t a Curse Word

I’ve written about daycare on the blog before. About why I refuse to apologize for taking my son to daycare, and why I refuse to apologize for my decision to be a working mom. A list of tips for choosing quality daycare. In the broader scope of this topic, I even had someone write into the advice column asking about dealing working when they want to be stay home with their kids.

Why am I so stuck on this topic? Because daycare gets a bad rap. A largely unearned bad reputation.

Another reason is my relationship with the word “daycare”. I find myself trying to avoid saying it in conversation. Sometimes when say it I lower my voice.

It’s silly really. It’s not a curse word. It’s not bleeped out on daytime television. If I say it in the presence of innocent ears they won’t be traumatized. It’s not scrawled in the walls of bathrooms by cheeky teenagers. I won’t be asked to leave a family establishment for saying it.

It’s important to note that when it comes to people other than parents caring for their children, bad things can and do happen. There are bad daycares, bad caregivers, bad everything.

However, my son doesn’t have any of those things. The daycare my son attends has mine and my husband’s paranoid social worker and nurse stamp of approval. I would even go as far as say that the people who work there are his second family.

So what is it about that word that gets me?

That word carries so many insecurities for myself. The fact that I spend 4 days a week away from my son. The fact that he goes to daycare 3 days a week.

Really though, it’s just a word.

A word that doesn’t define me, my family, my relationship with my child, my motherhood, or my merit as an individual.

It simply describes where my son is spends 3 days of his time. Time that he gets to spend with kids and adults that he adores, who adore him in return. Time where he gets a change of scenery, gets to sing songs, read books, eat at a table with a bunch of other kiddos, and play outside (when the Idaho weather allows of course).

I’m going to try to stop being ashamed of that word. It’s just a word. I know my son is taken care of. I am taken care of. Forcing myself to stay home when it isn’t right for my family at this stage of life just doesn’t make sense.

Who knows what the future holds for us, but I’m going to do my best to stop treating daycare like a curse word. Whatever your situation with working or staying home, daycare or other arrangements, own it. You are doing what your family needs. That is what matters, and that rocks!

When You Feel Worthless

It’s one of those times. I have an almost completed post that I’m just about ready to hit publish on, and I knew in my heart I needed to talk about something else. That post is important as well, but it can wait.

I’ve been feeling down this weekend. Super duper below the crust of the earth down, and just plain worthless. After every interaction I’ve had this weekend I was convinced that I was a conversational drag. That every choice I made was a dud. That I’m a failure of a mother, a failure of a wife, a failure of a writer, and a failure of a professional. I’ve already made it known on the blog that I struggle with seasonal affective disorder, but this was something more than just my usual winter blues.

 

I tearfully brought it up to my husband, (who’s not an idiot, and so he knew that something was up), and he brought up an incredibly important insight. He told me, after very sweetly disputing my negative comments about myself: “Did you ever think about where those thoughts are coming from?”

 

Whether you are religious or not, I’m sure you can agree that negative thoughts about ourselves don’t come from good places. From our own insecurities, from comparing ourselves to others, maybe even from satan.

 

There’s a sweet little toddler who keeps climbing on my lap for cuddles and interrupting my typing. He doesn’t think I’m a failure. I’m his favorite human in the entire world.

 

I have a husband who loves me and has stuck by me through some excruciatingly tough times. We’ve had way more awesome times, but the tough ones are what solidify and prove our relationship.

 

You know what I realized? I must be worth something to have the love of those two amazing people.

 

If you can’t find positive thoughts about yourself, borrow them from someone who loves you for a little while. Look through their eyes for a minute.

 

Don’t ever say things to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone that you love. Cut off that negative self-talk RIGHT NOW. Kick those negative thoughts about yourself to the curb, because guess what? You control what gets to stay in your brain. You can’t always choose what appears in your mind, but you choose whether to entertain those thoughts. And since you have control, why on earth would you allow negative thoughts to live in your soul and drag you down?

 

The way I’ve been feeling today? This isn’t the way I’m going to ring in the new year. I’m going to finish typing this post, and I’m going to put my laptop away and I’m going to spend time with my family. Take your negative stuff, throw it away.  Stop your days of feeling worthless. This journey takes practice, but it has to start sometime. If you want to change, you’re the only one who can do it.

 

Now is as good of a time as any.

This is Your “Hard” (Lessons in Grieving)

“You just need to get over it.”

“Stop wallowing.”

“Snap out it.”

“It could always be worse.”

A few weeks ago, I was talking with someone who was experiencing some significant struggles in their life, and they told me that someone close to them told them they just needed to “get over it”.

That ranks in my personal top 5 of worst advice to give someone. It’s not helpful, it’s not compassionate, and it does not portray understanding. Someone who really cares about you will allow you to grieve. They won’t force you to move quicker than is right for you. They probably mean well, they just want to see you happy again, but it’s simply not what you need.

Yes, it absolutely could be worse. It’s important to remember that things can almost always get worse. There will always be someone who has it tougher than you do. However, that understanding doesn’t magically vanish all of your complex negative emotions. You’re here now. You are experiencing something devastating, sad, and crappy. And it flat out sucks.

You’re allowed to be sad. You’re allowed to grieve your loss. And you’re allowed to be disappointed when life doesn’t go the way you expected. When life doesn’t seem to take into account how much work you have put into something. How the timing isn’t right. How you just weren’t ready.

Remember, we’re all living our own lives. Our own individual stories. This is yours, and only you determine what is hard for you. It won’t be the same as what is hard for your spouse, your sister, your mom, or your neighbor. There is no such thing as normal. “Normal” looks different for everyone. You know yourself, trust your gut and loved ones to tell you the difference between grieving and depression. (And don’t feel bad about only doing the basics for a while).

You can grieve, and you can be sad. You can allow yourself to experience that emotion. It doesn’t diminish your worth, your strength, or who you are as a person.

After you finish grieving, dry your puffy eyes. Throw the tissues away. Pick up, move on, and you put it behind you and learn from your experience. But do it when YOU ARE READY. Don’t let anyone but you dictate the “appropriate amount of time” for your respective set back, tragedy, or hardship.

Are You New Here?

“Are you new? I don’t know you.”

There I was, sitting waiting for the last hour of church to start, and I look up to see a woman that I knew by name. Two of her kids were in the Sunday school class that I taught every Sunday. I had spoken to her at least 3 separate times. I did my best to keep my reply polite, even though I was hurt. “I moved in about 2 years ago”.

It would have been much less hurtful if it had been the first time it had happened.

I left early shortly after that interaction because I felt discouraged, hurt, and alone. I wasn’t able to focus on what was being taught anyway. On my way down the hall out of the building I ran into someone, who greeted me…by the wrong name.

I felt alone, unnoticed, and unimportant.

I love people. Both of my degrees are in social work for goodness sake. But as an introvert, people wear me out. Interactions like that leave me puzzled, and my brain reeling on what I had done wrong, why people hadn’t remembered me, if I hadn’t done enough to make myself known, and what on earth was going on.

It’s been at least 2 years since anyone has mistaken me for new at church. However, it happened to my husband this past Sunday. How long have we lived in our current home and attended with this particular congregation, you might ask? Oh we just barely moved in…just a little over 4 years ago. He’s much tougher than I am, but it still rubbed him the wrong way.

Look, I get that we can’t avoid offending everyone all the time. And we shouldn’t try. That’s impossible, and unnecessary. And I’m not in the business of telling people what they shouldn’t say. It’s also important to note that our main purpose in attending church isn’t to socialize. The people we attend with isn’t what church is about. But when someone is already feeling unnoticed and alone, it can really drag them down to feel like no one has even taken note of their existence. It might even discourage them enough to stay home next Sunday.

So what am I proposing? Please still reach out to people that you don’t recognize. Just avoid the dreaded “are you new?” question.

Some alternatives when you see an unfamiliar face at church:

“I don’t think I’ve met you yet”

“I’m still pretty new, and working on getting to know everyone’s name, what’s yours?”

“I’ve forgotten your name, remind me?”

“How long have you lived in this area?”

There are endless possibilities, but you get the idea.

The bottom line is: You don’t know what someone is going through. You don’t know if they have lived in the area for a long time, but haven’t been consistent in their church attendance due to some life complication. Some examples could be health problems, family issues, or work schedules. It’s even possible that their faith has been shaken and that has kept them from attending. They might be self-conscious about their lack of attendance, so there is no need to call them out on it. The overall message we should be communicating to others is love and acceptance.

To the Mom with Young Kids at Church: It’s Worth it

I see you. Carrying a baby in one arm, and a heavy diaper bag in the other. Maybe a toddler running around too, pulling on your skirt. It took a lot of work to get here, but you still have a tough few hours ahead of you.

You get everyone dressed, put socks on everyone (bonus points if they match), and somehow find shoes for everybody. Maybe one last minute diaper change. You put shoes back on at least one kid who managed to pull them off in the 5 minutes it took you to get the diaper bag put together.

It doesn’t feel worth it to go to church. You feel like you are a distraction, like your kids are annoying everyone and taking away from what is being taught. And if your tights or skirt get out of place, good luck having a free hand to adjust your clothes or even have the opportunity to sneak off to the bathroom to fix them.

You used to leave church feeling fulfilled, happy, and ready for a nap but in a nice and peaceful way.

Now you leave church absolutely exhausted and drained, and also ready for a nap, but more like a samurai does after fighting for 3 straight days with no rest. (Which is pretty comparable to wrangling children at church. Except it’s harder because you are keeping them alive. And quiet).

Know that I see you. I know what you are going through.

Lately Sundays have been SO INCREDIBLY EXHAUSTING for me. My hubby is a nurse, and so he is gone every other Sunday. So every other Sunday it’s just me and my cute little chunk monster. He is currently 15 months old. Super mobile, super loud, and seems to know exactly what he shouldn’t be doing at church and does exactly that. There’s a beautiful lace table cloth? Let’s pull on it! There’s a dangerous metal music stand? Let’s go play with it! He wants to do everything except for what we are there to do, which is sit and listen.

I can’t fault him for that, he’s just a toddler after all, but the point is that trying to go to church feels pointless. So why on earth do we even bother going?

We go because it’s important. It is essential.

It is important, even if you only soak in one or two insights to take home with you in between taking a screaming kid into the hall. That one insight might be what you need to make it through the week. We want our kids to know that church is important. That it doesn’t become any less important because it’s inconvenient.

We want them to learn about Christ, to learn primary songs that they can have ready when evils of the world try to infiltrate their minds.

We want them to gain positive role models, and to be involved in wholesome activities.

There will always be a reason not to go, but there will always be even more reasons to go. So to you, the mom with young kids at church, know that I see you and I admire what you are doing for your children. I understand that it’s hard, and we can do this.

If I Could Have Just One Day to Myself…

How many times as parents do we think: “If I could have just one day to myself….that’s all that I need”.

As you know if you follow the blog, we had a very hectic summer. Right after we got back into town from Orlando, which was right after traveling home from California, I had to head over to Boise for another work conference. It was informative, and interesting, and I got a full nights sleep for 3 nights in a row. That’s like a parents dream come true, right? Wrong!

I hated it. I missed my baby. I would wake up to the sound of a baby crying, only to realize that I was imagining it. I was able to walk around downtown Boise all by myself on a whim, no diaper bag. I only had to get myself dressed, no one else.

I felt like getting a bagel for breakfast, and I was able to just walk down the road and get it with no preparation. My clothes stayed clean all day, no sticky baby fingers (or worse!) caused me to have to change outfits before the day was up.

I went out to eat with out having to share with the baby, or keep him entertained at the restaurant, or having to scoot all of the contents of the table away from him,  or having to ask for a high chair. But I missed his sweet cuddles. I missed the loving look he gives me with those beautiful big brown eyes. I missed his little giggle.

Now when I get overwhelmed those thoughts still come, that I need one day to myself, I remember those three lonely days. It doesn’t stop me from wanting time to myself, but it can pull me out of feeling sorry for myself at least.

So as parents, what the heck do we even want?

Who knows! We love our families more than anything else, and sometimes being a parent makes absolutely no sense. Soak in every moment, every sticky finger, every cuddle. It won’t last forever, but neither will those moments when you are absolutely overwhelmed.

All You Have to do is Survive

Life is full of joy, tragedy, and everything in between. We’ve all had so many different experiences in the course of our lives, and we somehow survive through all of them. It’s interesting to me what rises to the surface in our mind sometimes, and a very old memory decided to make an appearance recently for me. (The picture featured below is the work of my very talented friend Davina).

The Memory…

My senior year of high school, one of our classmates took her own life. I am not going to pretend that she was my best friend, (we had only spoken a few times), but I did have one class with her and the day we found out what had happened was an experience that really impacted my life. Because of this experience I realized how fragile life was, and how someone could be going through something really dark even when they look fine on the outside. I remember texting both of my parents the day we found out and telling them that I loved them, and it was an introspective day for me in many ways.

My English teacher that year, Ms. Scully, before class took a few minutes to talk to us about the events of the day. She told us, “All you have to do is survive”. Ms. Scully repeated that statement several times, and told us that we didn’t have to make straight A’s, or do anything spectacular, but as long as we made it through, and stayed alive, it would all be ok. She talked to us about how much we had ahead of us in our lives, and how much there was to live for.

The Take-Away…

Maybe it’s funny that this off topic English lesson is what stuck with me most from that entire year. But she had a good point. It really is ok to go through the motions, and do the basics for a while when we get on our feet again. There is no need to take on more than you can handle and cause yourself more stress. When you’re ready to step up again, you can. Do it at your own pace, it will be ok. All you have to do is survive. Everything else is optional, and icing on the cake.

Life is a Roller Coaster…

You may have noticed the blog and my social media channels have been quiet. I’m still here, don’t worry! Life simply hasn’t slowed down for me. These recent experiences have triggered dozens of thoughts on what to write, but I have had little to no energy or time to write them down.

My grandfather passed away, and I traveled home to California for his funeral services. I am currently very far away from home in Orlando for work. My sweet little boy also turned one, and has become increasingly mobile and curious about the world around him. I know there’s more but my tired brain just can’t retrieve that information right now.

Today my husband and I had the opportunity to visit one of Orlando’s many theme parks after I was out of my conference for the day. On one of the rides there was a little boy behind us. He was about 9 years old. As ride started, he yelled “I’m not ready! I’m not ready!” He would yell that every time we approached an incline, or anything remotely scary. For the really intense parts, he would add “I’m gonna die!” It was absolutely hysterical, and internally I was torn between giggling and telling him we were all going to be just fine.

With how crazy life has been for me, I started thinking more about that cute little boys panicked statements. How often are we not ready for something to happen, but life moves along anyway no matter what? (Let’s get real for a second, are we ever truly ready for big life changes?).

I wasn’t ready to be a wife, and I wasn’t ready to be a mother. I sure wasn’t ready to lose my grandfather last week. But all of these big life changes happened anyway. Life keeps moving. Yelling and screaming that we aren’t ready doesn’t do anything to stop it. All we can do is throw our hands in the air and enjoy it. And you know what? It’s perfectly acceptable to scream if you need to.

As we learned on the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: “Sometimes you just wanna scream your head off, and a rollercoaster’s the only place no-one looks at you weird.” Wise words for all of us.