Why Dodge Ball Matters

dodgeball-blog-jpg_180529_zps6e2f5270A ball whizzed by my nose. I squealed and jumped out of the way protecting the tiny infant in my arms from the rocking Dodge ball game on my neighbor’s lawn.

Holding my neighbor’s baby in the middle of a pint sized ball war wasn’t safe but it sure was fun.

As both our families fought to gain control of the ball and escape the pounding of hard rubber, my daughter Faith mentions how much fun it is to play the “real” game instead of the watered down version she was forced to play in school.

“What game did you play in Jr. High instead of Dodge ball?” my neighbor and good friend asks.

“Evasion ball.” Faith replied.

(My friend and I subtly give each other the WTF look…)

What’s Evasion Ball?

“It’s like Dodge ball but no one gets out.  Once you get hit you become a goalie.”

We look at each other in disbelief.

Let’s get this straight.

No one gets out.  No one faces the wrath of the ball or the pain of getting picked last.  Everyone wins and no one loses.

Now I certainly don’t like adversity or suffering, no one does at the time, but there are certain rites of passage that help us move into maturity and grow up.  Mastering the rules of the playground and how to survive helps a child navigate the ups and downs of life.

Who doesn’t remember the thump of the red ball on the face?

Why, why, why are we teaching our kids to “evade” reality?

kwdEe4TBy taking away the trials and avoiding the struggles we are raising a generation of kids unprepared for the harsh realities of the world.  When we remove loss and pain and disappointment from our children’s lives we also remove the ability to cope with loss and pain and disappointment.  And when those painful emotions inevitably hit, our kids (overwhelmed and unequipped) turn to drugs and sex and unhealthy self-soothing methods because they can’t process losing and sadness.

As a mom with a senior in high school. One of the recurring themes I hear over and over from colleges is that kids today are not “emotionally prepared” to handle life on their own. 

Well-meaning mama’s, you are not doing your kids any favor by doing all their laundry, dishes and chores.  Stop paying for their speeding tickets, stop doing their homework, and stop rescuing them when they get in trouble.

Be with them when they get their hearts broken.  Don’t call the parent and do an intervention.  Take them to a movie and buy them an ice-cream cone and help them process not avoid the pain.

Ground them when they come in late.  Have the balls to say “no” occasionally.  Also, have the balls to say “yes” even more than “no” and let them screw things up.  It’s far better to let them make a few mistakes under your roof than get hauled off to jail later.

I hear the martyr mom’s brag about their devotion and how spoiled their kids are—as if the mama’s who actually train their kid’s to function as future adults don’t love their kids as much as they do.  I say baloney!

Have we forgotten the goal is to LAUNCH these kids—not enable them to live on our income or sofa?

So I am raising the gauntlet…

Let’s teach our kids how to rebound and get back up after they get smacked by a ball.  Let’s let them suffer a little. (I am not advocating child abuse here, just natural consequences)

Let’s make our kids work for the trophy and for grades and even for relationships. Nothing good ever bloomed from apathy.

A long long time ago in grade school, I got punched by a bully, who then ran away and hid after I smacked him back. It was both traumatic and empowering. Was I scared? Heck yeah!  I cried as I fought back, but, he never messed me with again. Maybe he even respected me?  Gasp!  Thirty-five years later we are friends on Facebook.  That’s the dance of life.  It’s about confrontation and resolution, not evasion.

Sometimes getting whacked by the ball stings.  It hurts our pride and makes us cry.  But finding the courage to get back in the game and play says far more about our kid’s character than avoiding the game altogether.

I think Dodge Ball matters.  Bamm.

—Samantha

Into the Hole of Stage Parent Shame

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Over the tips of skyscrapers and a slight OC haze, little Kolby spots the artificial snow of Matterhorn Mountain, “Mommy, is that Disneyland?”

“Yes, sweetheart,” I reply.

“Mommy, I need, I want, I muuuuuust to go to Disneyland. I’m the only kid in the world who’s never been.”

I look in the rearview mirror at her peaked little face and feel a minor prick of guilt. For a year, I took her older siblings (who are now teens) to the happiest place on earth every single stinking weekend with our mega access passes—which is why I now avoid the place like the plague.

(And just for the record, the measles outbreak gave me another good reason to put it off)

Kolby’s bow shaped mouth turns downward and then tightens into a pout. I tread lightly with my response because she’s not feeling well and EVERYTHING is irritating her.

I think hard. We are on our way up to an audition in LA for a commercial for a kids shoe company. I am doing pulling out every trick in my wheelhouse to transform a grumpy and feverish five-year-old into a friendly and outgoing kid actor/model.

But my lullabies and packed cooler full of organic Cheetos and chocolate almond milk are not cutting it in light of her Mickey Mouse depletion.

“Baby, let’s try and book a job this summer and then maybe we can go to Disneyland. It’s pretty expensive.”

Kolby nods. “Ok, I just have to be happy at the audition, right?”

“Yep, just do your best darling.”

The car goes silent. She leans back in her car seat and closes her eyes. The rest of the drive we play “I Spy” and find letters on license plates.

We drive into West Hollywood and I navigate through the crowded roads to the casting agency. Of course there’s no parking—because I always wanted to make a sick child walk a mile to wait in a crowded room for another hour.

I spot a Starbucks and we head around the corner to prep. Inside the store bathroom I change her into a little white floral dress and brush out her long golden locks. On top of her head I gently place a flower crown and sigh with delight.

Her attitude might be a wee bit sour but she looks like a dream.

I grab a drink and we head back over to the audition.

It’s the usual scene—about 50 kids with nannies and handlers and clueless grandpas juggling headshots, iPads and combs. Kolby starts talking with another little girl and I make a mental note of the room.

They are lining up the kids down a hallway. Some go in with parents and some without.   When Kolby’s name is called the lady in charge says the casting agents want to see the kids alone.

What? ALONE?

Many bad words come to mind.

Kolby’s eyes grow big and teary. She grabs my leg.

“I don’t want to go in there alone, mommy.” Big tears threaten to slide down her face.

She sets off the other kids in line.

It’s a group MELTDOWN worthy of an Oscar.

Now no one wants to go in alone. The lady glares at me.

The door opens and I grab little Kolby’s hand and push past her.

We walk into a mini American Idol type setting. There are three scowling casting directors behind a table. A hip but harried photographer motions for her to stand in front of a backdrop.

I give her a little encouraging pat and she walks over.

“What’s your name?” the lumber-sexual photographer inquires.

(Oh great, he’s got a beard. My kid is terrified of men with beards)

My little lamb looks at the ground and whispers, “Kolby.”

“Kolby, can you smile for me. I’m going to take a few pictures.”

And my dear child who is generally my biggest ham forces a pained grin that looks far more like disgust than joy.

I want to crawl in a hole.

“Can you give me a big smile?” he cajoles.

Kolby tries again. Now she looks constipated.

“Can you jump?” he asks.

Kolby looks at him and lets out an exaggerated sigh. Her body language screams, I don’t feel well and my mommy dragged me here and now you want me to freaking jump.

I can see the future teenager seed rooting.

She gives a half-hearted leap.

I crawl deeper into the hole of stage-parent shame.

The photographer grabs the shoes and asks her to try them on. She slips them onto her feet.

“Do you like the shoes?”

Kolby pauses. “Not really, they are too big.”

Her tone is pure annoyance.

The casting elite illuminati give me the look—the “You’re wasting our time look and I grab her hand and we shuffle out.”

She smiles the second we leave,

“How did I do Mommy? Can I go to Disneyland now?”

“No baby, I said we needed to book the job first remember? Anyway, you weren’t very friendly sweetheart.

And my five year-old turns on me and yells loudly down the street, “Other kids don’t have to get a job and go to work to go to Disneyland. Anyway, you told me not to talk to strangers and they were scary!”

And I am left both ashamed and stumped at her pre-school logic.

The two buff men heading into the gym in front of us choke up and try not to laugh, but I can hear their snickers and eyes on me as I duck into the car.

And I know it’s one of those mom moments. Make it or break it time.

I feel pulled between caring for my kid’s emotional wellbeing and teaching life lessons to a small person who may not have the ability to hear me in this moment.

How do I explain to my kid that I’m trying to fund her college tuition with her ridiculous cuteness? How do I teach her the value of a hard work ethic and the beauty of delayed gratification as she saves towards a goal? And most of all, how do I teach her to do hard things even when she feels like quitting?

And I realize while those are all things I want to teach her, this is NOT that moment.

I pick her up and cuddle her. “Today was tough. I’m proud of you for trying even though you were sick. Next time if you smile and act friendly even when you are scared mommy will give you $5 to save for Disney.”

I think some more.

“And if mommy introduces you to the person, then they aren’t strangers and it’s ok to be nice.”

She puts her little arms around me and we both sniffle and cling to one another.

Over the next few weeks Kolby works hard on introductions. She learns to say, “Nice to meet you” and hold out her hand for a firm shake.

She practices smiling and posing. We play the casting director game and take turns asking questions.

A month later Kolby books her first modeling gig.

When I share the news with her she screams, “I can’t believe it! Mommy, we are going to Disneyland!”

And I am humbled. The lesson I tried to force she learned all on her own.

This time I will be proud to wear the Mickey ears because I know how hard we both worked to get them.

 

a little mischeif

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Giggles erupted from the back seat.  My radar went up.

I glanced in my rear view mirror and watched in amusement as four-year-old Kolby placed a small black cauldron on her head.  The little black “pot-of gold” was intended to hold leprechaun bullion—a gift from pre-school on St. Patrick’s Day.

“Hey guys, look at me…I’m a POT-Head!” my little lamb exclaimed.

And the car exploded in raucous laughter.  My teen and tween gave me THE LOOK while Kolby beamed at the great response to her joke.

“Shhhh…guys, I know it’s funny, but she’ll figure out that it will make people laugh and it will be part of her new shtick,” I warned my older kids who were wiping the drool off their laps in hysteria.

“So, bud, I asked my son, trying to change the subject, “How’s the whole drug thing going on at your school?”

My son smirked.  “Mom the kids who want to do it are still finding ways to do it, despite the drug tests.”

“How do you get around that?” I asked. 

“There are ways,” he said. 

“Really, UMMMM, wow!”  I muttered.

I Googled it later and yes this does exist.  I used my work computer (at home) which I thought about later and regretted.  Probably not a good idea to look up “how to pass a drug test” on the work computer. 

So, I found out you can buy synthetic urine at smoke shops.  They come in little pee bags. 

It’s good to know that our youth is always one step ahead of the curve. 

I thought carrying a flask into prom was bad.  How would you like to walk around with a pee bag in your thong, under your mini-dress and heels?

So, my friends who are parents of teens, if you find a small pouch with something yellow in it, please don’t think it’s a drink and give it a whirl.  It might be time for a discussion with your kid about the perils of weed and brain cell development in teenagers.

I also think it might be time for blood tests although that might open a whole new can of worms (or vampires?).

We pulled up to our house and jumped out the car.  A group of neighbor kids and moms was standing in our yard.

I heard Kolby in the distance yelling as I unloaded the groceries out of the back of my SUV, “Hey guys, look at me!  I’m a Pot Head!”

Yep…I knew that one was coming.

AAAHHH! My Son Brought a Girl Home!

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I saw lots of adorable scarecrows costumes this Halloween—dainty Dorothy’s with a Toto peeping from a basket spilling over with candy—and of course, spooky green witches—but not once did I encounter my favorite character—the cowardly lion.

In all honesty, I believe it’s the costume that best represents us all—a fearful people—raging and roaring in image management as we tremble in our boots and hope no one see through us.

We have moments of glory where we roar our terrible roars and knash our terrible teeth, and then reality rears its ugly head and we go back to worrying about the bills and our health, Obamacare and North Korea, our marriages, teenagers, and a million other concerns.

Fear steals our joy and anxiety makes tyrants of all, but courage—glorious courage—when it breaks through—shines like the light of a million stars.

I saw a glimpse of a courageous little lion stepping out of her comfort zone and into bravery the other night.

On Halloween evening, a friend of Kyle’s—a specific Girl friend stopped by the house to meet us.  The beautiful young lady, accompanied by a friend and her mom, walked up to the door and introduced herself.

Grace and Kyle—while not officially dating—have a strong fondness for each other.  I can see the sparkle in her eyes when she looks at my son.  At the Varsity football games, when they call his name over the loud-speaker for a tackle, she squeals with delight.  She wears his number #34 proudly on her cheek and she even dressed in one of old jerseys for Halloween. 

They are sweet together—it’s high emotion and furious texting and the blood racing tingles of high school romance. 

And to their benefit, these two are trying to navigate the space of family, church, age-appropriateness and really liking each other in a God honoring way

So what was so scary to Grace?  Apparently us. 

Meeting the parent’s—the scary dating experts—the pastor and the blogger—the mom of her crush—were all just terrifying to the poor girl.

I can’t imagine how awkward it was for her.  I was dressed as a saloon girl and Tim was a cowboy.  Our porch was covered in candles, strobe lights, pumpkins, bats and thumping ghoulie tunes.  Kids and neighbors poured over our walkway. 

It was funny way to meet the first girl he’s ever brought home—strangely formal, bizarre, and so endearing.

But I knew if Kyle was making the effort to include us we’d better pay attention.

And so little Grace—the competitive gymnast with the strawberry blond hair—bucked up, put on her big girl pants and braved the parents. 

Although I don’t know her very well and I’m not sure I’m ready for dating, I like how Grace operates. 

Fear does not define her.  She moved at the scary ‘meet the parents “moment with quaking feet and a fluttering heart, (our son told us this all later) but the point is she moved.  She planted those feet on our porch and stuck out her hand with a smile.

Grace defined her circumstances instead of letting her fear (or circumstances) define her.

The cowardly lion ends up learning courage because there is something MORE important enough in his life than the fear to make it worth the frightening journey.

And it makes this mama smile to think my son was the important thing that motivated her to be brave. 

Is there something scary or overwhelming in your life where you need an extra dose of courage?

The Awkward Baby Daddy

Once a month or so I head over to Mission Hills Church and teach a class to a group of unwed pregnant young women and the occasional baby daddy supporting them. I run into a cast of characters at Birthchoice but this week might have been the most memorable EVER.

In the front row sat a very pregnant and lovely young gal. Beside her was an older gentleman who resembled Santa Claus. The age gap between the two was close to forty years.

I almost asked if the man rubbing her shoulders and cooing support in her ear was her grandpa or father but I felt prompted to hold my tongue.

As I started the class I bantered with the girls and asked a few questions. When I got to these two, it didn’t take long before the story poured out.

Santa was the baby daddy.

And it wasn’t pretty.

The girl clearly had some mental disabilities attributed to an accident during her teen years where she had lingered in a coma for weeks. Although still able to comprehend, there was dullness behind her beautiful brown eyes. She struggled with social filters and boundaries.

And from a distance (without perspective) it looked like this man had taken advantage of a young mentally disabled girl.

My stomach dropped and I choked back the rising waves off revulsion behind my tongue.

But as I talked, I secretly watched the two and how he interacted with her. Surprisingly he was gentle and patient and kind. I saw true delight and care behind his eyes.

Huh?

And then all of a sudden Jacob came to mind –Jacob, the biblical patriarch who dealt a shady hand all his days. This is the man who stole a birthright from his brother Esau, finagled the best livestock from his father in law and took his wives and kids and hitched the first camel train out of town.

But then one night it all came crashing down and Jacob was forced to confront his brother and the past.

He spent a night near the river Jabbock (which means wrestle in Hebrew) and Jacob did exactly that –he wrestled with God. He came clean. He owned his past and persistently dealt with his junk until God allowed him to pass through. He came out on the other side wounded (with a lingering blow to the hip) but able to move into his future unencumbered.

And here was this man before me -a man with kids my age who had impregnated a young girl, who didn’t run for the hills.

He didn’t abandon her.

He didn’t encourage her to abort the baby.

I imagine he had to face some ANGRY parents and possibly law enforcement.

Instead he owned it.

He accompanied her to parenting classes, assembled a team of friends and family to assist her and stayed close by her side.

I saw a man wrestling with God.

His sin was painfully obvious. It was the eye-sore in the room. Even the young knocked up sixteen year old girls felt justified that their mistake certainly wasn’t as heinous as his.

And I was reminded that in God’s economy nothing is ever black or white. And grace and forgiveness and sacrificial love trump righteousness every time.

God gave me new eyes that night. I saw myself in this man and my own struggles with failure and brokenness. The Jabbock nights flashed before my eyes where I have confronted the past and wrested with my soul.

The nights where I have ripped open the shiny facades I hide behind to expose the real me within and acknowledge the deep crevices and prickly darkness to the one who knows my most secret sins.

I saw a man who courageously faced his grimy soul and sat before me humbled and refreshed.

Not many sixty-five year old men get to be new daddies. There was humor and pain as he shared his unfortunate tale.

And it made me smile.

I believe God brings families together in the most bizarre ways.

I believe he can restore relationship out of ashes.

And I believe he can build something new and wonderful out of a contrite grandpa/baby daddy holding the hand of his greatest source of brokenness and future blessing.

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The Real Neighbors of Ladera

Ladera Post

“Mom, you and dad do what? What’s this “crazy” business all about?”

My son stares me down as his eyes peep over the newspaper in his hands.

Weak Smile and Change the SUBJECT

**Note to self** Remember the words you write before you let your kids read it in the newspaper.

Here’s my last article from 4/19/2013.  I actually wrote this a while back but it just got published. Fortunately, I am out of the diaper stage, but I remember those days all too well!

THE REAL NEIGHBORS OF LADERA
By SAMANTHA KELLER

FOR THE OC REGISTER/LADERA POST

I bumped into a cast member from “The Real Housewives of Orange County” at the Pavilions in Ladera Ranch the other day.

This lovely lass from Bravo’s hit reality show is my neighbor, if you count her living in the tract across the street as living in part of my hood, and I do, because somehow that makes me cooler.

We both had three kids trailing at our heels and our eyes met in a moment of “Lord have mercy on me,” or at least that’s what I was thinking with a crying baby, my son begging for coconut water that costs $5 per eight ounces and my daughter trying to assemble the perfect cake-making materials to create an atomic particle (will somebody please tell me how the heck to make positive ions out of frosting?).

Right about then it hit me who she was.

Trying not to be too obvious, I snuck glances. She was dressed in fancy workout clothes and her long blonde extended tresses were flowing around her shoulders. She had gobs of makeup on and was a perfect shade of bronze.

I, on the other hand, am proud to say I did not have snot or poop or baby barf on me.

It was a good day.

After checking out she walked up to a white BMW in the parking lot and then realized
it wasn’t hers.

She started mumbling cuss words under her breath and for the first time I saw a
“real” woman. The scenario was funny and dumb and something I would do.

And for a moment, I connected with a normal chick who struggles to remember where
she parked the car.

I loved it! I loved the messiness!

What I really want is a REALITY show where moms act like real moms -not dance moms
or cheer moms or duck moms -just moms.

I want to see a show where real women drive the 3 p.m. carpool in pink monkey
pajamas with bold panache.

How about a show that depicts the parents pretending to be asleep and then calling
each other names in the middle of the night as they fight over who will get up for
the third time with baby?

A show where parents turn on “Yo Gabba Gabba” and park their baby in front of the TV
and get crazy in the bathroom for five minutes because it’s the only time they have
to be intimate.

I want to see the show where real Ladera Ranch neighbors bawl and hug because it’s
been a bad day and we pull out the Skinny Girl margarita mix and encourage each
other to forgive and forget.

Where real mommies and daddies fight and make up and laugh at each other’s jokes,
because mommy thinks daddy is hysterical and adorable and the best thing that has
ever happened to her.

Real housewives do live in Ladera and our unscripted lives are infinitely more
interesting than a reality show that strives to capture our mommy “mojo” and falls
so far from the mark.

–Samantha Keller is a Southern California native, freelance writer, blogger, JSerra
High School football mom and local speaker on dating and relationships. She lives in
Ladera Ranch with her husband, Pastor Tim Keller, and their three children. Visit
her blog at scrappysam.com.

Little Things

rope swing 

I heard the roar before I opened the door –a posse of kids and moms in my front yard. 

A line had formed around the rope swing and our tree was groaning with the weight of toddlers furiously pushing to and fro.  On my steps sat two of my neighbors cuddling infants and relaxing in the sun.

It was Saturday morning, and although I rose early to write and clean and prepare a large breakfast for the family, it was now pushing noon and I still had yet to dress.  I slowly ventured out in my fuzzy pink chenille bathrobe –knowing it was inappropriate for the hour and yet not really caring either.

I chatted with my friends, got razzed by a few male neighbors (who seemed to be concerned our property values might drop by my wanton appearance) and watched our kids frolic. 

A few minutes later, my husband popped out the door with champagne flutes for all the moms and filled our glasses to celebrate our wedding anniversary. 

I felt a little decadent.  Champagne and jammies in the afternoon is vacation-land not my reality.

Suddenly, the kids bolted across the street to jump on my neighbor’s bounce house.   So, I followed (still in my bathrobe) with ten kids in tow and clutching my flute.  And there we sat for an hour (or two) and reveled in the day.

It was magical.

The kids shrieked and bounced and got boo-boos –as all kids do in a jump house, the mom’s all added orange juice to the champagne to make mimosas (more because we all light-weights than for taste purposes), and life seemed to stand still. 

And I didn’t have to think about anything other than being present and celebrating the little things. 

And I thought about the rope-swing –borrowed from our neighbors and now permantly planted in our front yard. 

And it’s a silly “little thing” that helps me to remember the important stuff -my neighbors, relationships and our children who are small for such a brief moment in time.  

The rope swing helps me to recognize the best parties are impromptu, start on the front porch, and the only invitation is a smile, a little champagne and time to share.

That evening my husband and I donned our fanciest attire and stood out on the lawn taking pictures to commemorate the day.  We posed on our front porch with kids and dogs and the rope swing in full motion.

And although I didn’t take a picture with my camera of our little mommy soiree –I have it locked in my mental scrapbook of “best days  ever.”

Do you have a “little thing” that helps you to remember what’s truly important?

Finding Peace in a Mother’s Chaos

Christmas 2012

Almost a year ago I made the jump from working at the office full-time to freelancing. 

One day a week, I pull out my old work clothes and attempt to de-Momify.  One day a week I am a professional.  The rest of the week I wear yoga pants.

Here is what I learned about working mostly from home –it’s (insert bad word) hard. 

There are no boundaries between work and home, just blurry lines and lot’s and lot’s of compromise.

I erroneously thought it would be easier to be at home more.

Even though I used to be a stay at home (for the first six years with Kyle and Faith), I forgot how managing a home and toddlers and teens will suck a woman dry. 

Kind of like the Dementer’s from Harry Potter. SWWWOOOOOSSSHHHH.  Can you picture it?

Sometimes I feel like I have an identity crisis.  I work outside the home and inside the home.  It’s like two-full time jobs competing for my attention.

I still have to clock in the 20-30 hours of paid work so we don’t starve.  But now I have no housekeeper to take the edge off.  I still have to cook meals and make lunches and drive 21 trips to or from the kids schools a week.  I have to maintain sports schedules and wash stinky football clothes and bring snacks.  I am still a team mom-although I really shouldn’t because I am so NOT that mom)

Some weeks I manage it all and sometimes I want to sit on my dirty floor and cry.

As I sit down to write I see dust bunnies floating by –taunting me as only a dust bunny can do.  My bathroom is messy and the laundry piles up and out the door. 

No guest is allowed to enter the upper chambers.  I can keep the downstairs immaculate but I’ve pretty much given up on the upstairs.  It’s a disaster in progress.

I have friends that joke about how I can do it all.  I just shake my head and drool.

A mother of a large family simply survives.

Mom’s simply work and work and work until they fall down from exhaustion and then they watch HGTV or the History Channel (because their husband has canceled all the good channels to save money) and they lie like a zombie on the sofa until their kids throw things at them and demand to be fed and taxied to the next event.

Every day I am forced to choose between keeping up with the house or making enough money to have a house. 

I read the other day that although work equality has “come a long way baby,” (since the 1960’s) household management has not seen any change.  This means most women now work and carry the full load of housework and kids.  Dads might help more with baby and kid’s activities but guys feel completely entitled to park their butts in front of a football game and let mom serve them.

Of course I’m talking about national averages here.  My husband is the exception.  When he is home he always pitches in.  Unfortunately, until he finishes graduate school and juggling a million pastoral duties…well you get the drift.

But even though I still feel overwhelmed with motherhood, being at home more is well worth the struggle.

Because there is a place in my heart now that used to ache and now the ache is gone.

A year ago, I missed my kids desperately and day after day being gone for ten hours at a time was killing me.  (Along with the commute)

I really don’t think you can put a price tag on peace.  And a mother’s peace is different from a man’s.  There are certain desire’s of the heart only a woman understands. 

For the first time in ages, I am home when my big kids get home from school.  I am home with my toddler more often than not.  I get to go to the park and the pool and take bubble baths and read books and watch Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas four hundred times. 

I get to be present with my kids. And even though it’s really HARD it’s good. 

So…although my house is dirty and I have to squeeze in work and writing assignments during nap time and at zero dark thirty, I know I am not missing a thing.

And for a modern mother it doesn’t get much better than this –identity crisis and all.  (Although if anyone knows a free housekeeper…it could be a teeny-tiny bit better)

What things in your life do you need to change to find peace?

Killing Superwoman

 

Growing up in the eighties, I vividly remember a perfume commercial with a gorgeous gal clad in a chic suit prancing home from work in sky-high heels to assemble a gourmet dinner for her adoring family.  The catchy tune playing in the background “I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan…,” became the mantra of a generation of women trying to do it all.  Just being a stay-at-home mom lost its glamour and allure as women flocked into the corporate world.

This pseudo super-woman was beautiful and fit (despite feasting on bacon), a doting mother, sexual tiger to her man, room mom, CEO and host of a weekly wine group.  Mattel even made Dr. Barbie in a white coat and gave the doll a more professional ensemble to match her new identity.  Barbie pushed her twins in a double-stroller and then drove to work in her pink corvette smiling and waving at the nanny.

And a whole generation of young women bought into the lie we could be all things and do all things well, forgetting the natural limitations of energy and balance and sanity. 

Clearly the song forgot to mention how super-woman started having heart palpitations and chronic fatigue before she hit forty.  It failed to acknowledge super-woman’s love/hate relationship with her job, the guilt of constantly dumping car-pool on her neighbor, and the anxiety of slipping out of work early every Thursday to watch her son play t-ball.  The song didn’t address sleepless nights with baby, shouting curses at her husband over who would get up for the four a.m. feeding, playing dead from sheer exhaustion when her husband begs for sex, and stapling badges on her little girl scouts sash in a last minute desperation because she hasn’t a clue where a needle and thread might be hiding.

The song left out all the unspoken but necessary intangibles that go along with a real life of balancing work and children and hubby.  When I recently saw the movie, “How Does She do it all?” I laughed bitterly.  Not only could I have written the script –my life was even more hectic with three kids, a full-time job and a freelance career on the side.  But something in me identified with this compulsion to master motherhood and family despite the toll it was taking on my body.   I wasn’t ready to give up anything, choosing instead to scurry and race along on an endless hamster wheel of busyness, always on the edge of hurtling off into the abyss and a nervous breakdown.

I really thought I could pull it off.  I was the exception.  Sure, my eating habits were getting a little processed and I exercised less often than more; but I was holding up and playing the martyr mommy role with gusto until my heart literally stopped me. 

The details are a little fuzzy, but I recall running on a scorching hot Sunday morning with my baby daughter tucked in her bright orange jogging stroller.  Overly ambitious, thanks to a Venti Americano buzz from Starbucks, I rashly determined to sprint up a monstrous hill near my home at top speed and go for the burn.  I arrived home winded and panting, and headed straight for a hot shower with the baby in my arms.  I lathered up, rinsed and then bent over to pick up my adorable daughter.  As I started to raise her in the air, a slippery soft cherub covered in bubbles, a white light ricocheted through my skull and blackness enveloped me.

I don’t know how long I lost consciousness that morning.  I awoke slumped in a heap on the shower floor over my howling and terrified baby with icy cold streams of water prickling my back.  There were hospitals and endless tests and then the results I never expected to hear. 

At the tender age of thirty-nine –under order of a cardiologist, I was forced to pick between juggling two jobs or find myself with a pacemaker within six months.    As a mother of three beloved children, the decision wasn’t too tough.  It was time to kill super-woman. 

My kids and I put Dr. Barbie into a boat and we launched her with glee into the ocean as an act of surrender and a celebration of the beginning of a new season.  (I thought burning Dr. Barbie might be a tad too traumatic for the two-year-old) 

Then I changed every facet of my life starting with work and moving outward circle by circle.  Now when I take a jog, it’s not to fit into a bikini, it’s to keep my ticker going strong for my kids.  Things like nap-time and nutrition have reemerged and rest has taken on a whole new meaning since caffeine isn’t my go-to pick-me-up anymore. 

But the biggest lifestyle modification was changing my broken thinking.   I started to accept I can’t do it all and I certainly can’t do it all well.  Super-woman is a myth which has deceived us all.  Working mothers carry tremendous guilt and stay-at-home mothers struggle with their identity thanks to her.  No one tells a young woman she might someday have to choose between a big family and a successful career –because the personal compromise she will make to do both might eventually destroy either her health or sanity.

Fortunately, I recognized I was getting a second chance to pick what is most important and move towards that which resonates in my soul and gives me life –relationships, family, writing, and a story lived well.  Surprisingly, my list of non-negotiable items was much shorter than I anticipated after I cut off all the good I was doing to make room for the best.

Is it time you killed super-woman?

Photo Source: 500px.com via Alexandria on Pinterest

The Face Plant

It was one of those perfect winter days masquerading as spring.  The sun warmed my toes and a soft breeze tickled my ears.  The trees overhead swayed back and forth and in the distance I heard Kolby’s high pitched giggle as her little legs pumped high on the big kid swing. 

We were at one of our favorite parks in Old Town San Juan Capistrano.  We stopped for a glass of wine and a yummy appetizer at Sundried Tomato, picked up a latte at Hidden House Coffee, petted a few stinky llamas and alpacas at Zoomars and then headed to the park.

Daddy laughed along with Kolby’s screams of glee and pushed her higher and higher on the swing while I lounged on a wooden park bench in the sun.  My eyes got heavy and finally closed as I listened to the happy sounds of kids playing and the train off in the distance. 

Until I heard a high-pitched scream that woke me up fast.

I jumped up from the park bench and raced to the swings where little Kolby lay face down in the wood chips.  Her feet had dragged and with a violent smack she face-planted. 

I gently picked her up and blood poured out of her tiny nose.  It was her first big Boo-Boo.

Daddy and I cleaned up her face, checked for a broken nose and tried to cheer her up with a promise of ice cream.

Kolby’s blood and tears dried fast but daddy’s cheeks remained ashen. 

This little girl means the world to him. 

It reminded me of the first time my son Kyle took a spill, face planted and ripped open his lip after I encouraged him to try a big slide.  I felt like a tool for pushing my 12 month old to go big and take a risk before he was mature enough to tackle it.

But years later I recognize it was those very risks and  encouragement that allow my son to dream big.  Kyle might eat it when he tries new things and he might occasionally even fail but he believes in himself and fear does not define him.

Kolby  told us later on that night she would “never go on the big swing again.” 

Tim looked crushed.

Then I reminded my three-year old of how great she did on the big kid swing and how maybe in a few months when she grew a little bit bigger that it would be fun to try again.

She considered my words carefully and sighed big.  “Ok, mommy.  I will try again soon, but I need to eat more vegetables and grow before I try that scary swing again.”

Daddy and I nodded in agreement and affirmed her willingness to get back in the swing.

I love how with just a little encouragement Kolby turned her fear into a challenge to grow. 

(And I’m really thrilled how my eating vegetables brain-washing is sinking in)

I know there will be many more scrapes and bumps along the road for my youngest girl.  And I know my husband will have his heart wrenched a thousand more times as he watches his first (biological) daughter grow up.  

Their daddy/daughter love story reminds me of my own journey with God–a loving father and a scared little girl who sometimes winds up face down and bloodied in the wood chips.

But she gets back up because she is loved.  And next time she will swing even higher.

Have you taken any big risks lately? 

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