For today, I am going to love the mess.

This mess is ours.

This mess does not stop at our tree either. Typically this mess would give me quite a bit of actual anxiety and cause me to be rather nasty to everyone I love. But, for some reason, it is different this year.

It is December 27th. I walk through my home and I hear our girls playing together in one of their rooms. I see our son at our dining room table turned Lego central, building what must be his sixth Lego kit. My husband has been grinding our coffee beans and drinking several cups of hot coffee while building with our kids. I finally showered, since..ahem… Christmas Eve. We have really soaked in the days after Christmas to just be together and it has been amazing.

Anyone in the generation one step above mine, with kids grown or who have left the house, have made it clear that Christmases like this are for a very short season in life. Soon the sounds of screams on Christmas morning over the perfect toy, the wonder of how these toys got here, which toy to play with first, will be replaced by Christmas brunches with most of your kids, if you are lucky, as they start spending Christmas with their significant other’s family. Your trees will be perfect and orderly as no one will be touching them. The mess will be cleared as soon as it is made, if it is made. The wonder of it all fades away as your children age.

I am a bit… or rather a lot… particular about our house. If you have ever been to our home, I am particular about making sure things like the toilets are always clean (we can’t let anyone know that we actually poop), the counters are cleaned off, and things are in some order for use to live in an efficient manner. Also, quite honestly, I like when our house looks nice. There I said it. I care a lot about appearances and I want our home to be functional but mostly, look nice.

This makes me super fun to live with. Also, it is hard on my mind to keep up with it all. It exhausts me. So much. The guilt and the struggle, the frustration and the anger I have towards myself for not just letting things be, but also the genuine anxiety I get with clutter and mess. It is just a whole thing in my mind, that the people I love the most get to experience from the front row.

But, right now, things are different. We are on a pause from life and it feels so good. As a teacher married to a teacher, we worked right up until Christmas Eve, in what we can all describe as a very different year. Our family, as with many families have experienced a lot of tragedy this year, life just keeps taking some hits, and we have not had a moment to even process them. Everything just keeps coming at us and life keeps going but this week, right now, in the days between Christmas and New Years…we have no plans because you can’t have plans this year and we are just being here, with each other, in our joyful mess.

We aren’t rushing the moment along. We aren’t yelling at our kids to get their stuff together for school, in whichever learning model they are in. We aren’t meal planning or grocery shopping. We aren’t worried about the laundry because pajamas for tomorrow sounds really nice. We are playing. We are building. We are napping. We are being together.

We can’t do this forever. We will have to return to the world soon. But for right now, I am going to soak in the mess. This is the most rested I have felt in a very long time. The most calm I have felt. The most present. The most loving. We are giving our family this time to just be and to enjoy one another.

I am grateful for the women ahead of me who have spoken such truth into me about enjoying the right now, as the season is fleeting. These women remind me about the loneliness of a clean family space. The heartbreak of sharing your children with another family. The sorrow that comes with the great joy of raising your children to be adults with their own lives.

Therefore, right now, we will enjoy our mess.

We also ran out of trash bags, so that has been a real hangup on the whole cleaning up thing. The tree is raining needles, making it painful to walk by it, and the trash is really piling up outside. We will have to pick up tomorrow so that we can continue to play but have the space to do it well. And…the mess is starting to get to my husband. Maybe he has more of my mind then we thought.

But right now, I am going to soak it all in.

leaving a legacy…carrying a legacy forward

I love black jelly beans…

in a probably more than healthy way. But is it because of their unique flavor or because they remind me so much of my Grandma Peetz? I also love hugs from squishy older women and have a fondness for daytime Oprah because of her.

I love all things Christmas and probably not just because it is clearly the most wonderful time of the year, but because my Grandma Fran lived for everything Christmas. Our girly is named after this woman because of the spunk she had and how much I loved her.

I love history, but is it because I am fascinated by the stories of the past or because my Papa Jim would watch the History Channel on volume 100 every night? Our son is named after both this grandfather and my Papa Warren because of their powerful influence on me.

And my word, do I love calling my oldest child Peanut because my Papa Warren called me Peanut since the moment I entered the world, until the moment he left, telling my Daddy to “Say goodbye to my Peanut for me.”

I have no doubt that you could also list out the things that make you uniquely you, that have been brought on by the people who have loved you and walked ahead of you in life. These memories are their legacy. We honor the time they spent with us by thinking of them and talking about them as they leave us.

Our youngest child is a deep thinker and a processor. She is selective in what she shares and has to toss her thoughts through her own brain before she articulates them. It is a complete honor whenever she opens up and shares with me. She and I got a rare moment alone together as we waited for grocery pick up and she brought up family and I knew her heart was thinking about her grandpa, my father-in-law, who passed away a week ago.

“Do you have a great grandpa?”

“Yes. So do you. We all have ancestors.”

“What is an ancestor?”

“The family that came before us.”

“What was your grandpa like?”

And so began our healing conversation of me sharing with our girly my favorite stories of four of my favorite people, all of which I was very blessed to know, and all of which I have had to say hard goodbyes to.

“How do you remember so much about them?” our girly asked me.

“Because I think about them a lot and I talk about them. It is okay that it makes me sad sometimes, but it also makes me really happy to remember them. I am happy when I think of things that they taught me or showed me or that we did together. Being sad because someone is gone is part of being so happy to have been so loved while they are here. We can keep loving people when they are gone, by remembering them.”

Then my five year old shares how she misses Grandpa. A lot. She says she can still remember him. Of course she can. We will keep on remembering him by talking about him and my husband will share about him.

We will never again eat Tic-Tacs without thinking about him, as he was constantly handing them out to our kids. Once our son even got one stuck up his nose and my husband had to use needle nose pliers to get it out. Thanks Grandpa.

I told our girly how Grandpa is the one who taught me how to shoot a gun. Me, a girl from upstate New York, who had never in her life shot a gun or had the desire to, spent a Father’s Day in northern Minnesota with a folding table covered in guns, target practicing. And..it was amazing.

I thought about how I ate lutefisk (basically fish that has the consistency of Jell-O) in an effort to earn positive favor of my future father-in-law, and I do think it did help me get some bonus points. I would do it again if given the opportunity to do it beside him.

I thought about my incredible husband and brother-in-law, who are amazing, godly, loving, supportive, all the good things- men, who my father-in-law and mother-in-law raised. The way they act in life and treat others continues the legacy of my father-in-law. I am often blown away by the goodness that is my husband and lately I have been feeling very grateful to my father-in-law for the work and sacrifices he made in raising him.

I thought how we can never watch a Vikings game again without someone making a connection to what Terry would have thought about each play. And, my word, I do not want to see the Lindner men if the Vikings ever actually do make it to the Super Bowl. I do not know if Terry would be happier that they made it or upset that he missed it?

I chuckled because my sister-in-law had just shared with me how she is hoarding soap that smells like him.

Smells. Sounds. Experiences. Conversations. Foods. Memories.

I thought about how we have to keep talking about these things and sharing these things because our experiences with those who we love do shape how we view the world. When you have the gift of having someone love into your life, it is so risky because you have a very real chance of losing them one day. But if you do it well, you will be forever shaped by their love and pieces of them will continue on with you as you continue forward.

We have to honor these legacies. We have to feel the feels and share the stories. We have to continue it on. And… our kids, they get it. Invite them in. Let them share. Yes, they have different views of the same memories, but these are their stories and they need to be able to solidify their moments. Otherwise, one day, our girly will grab a pack of Tic-Tacs and think nothing of it…and I don’t want to live in a world where we don’t remember those we love in the simple moments of our lives.

Baby Jail. Life from the inside.

Oh my dear girly and little man…

See this sweet face right here. She is your sister. Your beautiful, sleepy, baby sister.

Collette

One day she will be one of your best friends. You will have a relationship with her that is unlike any other relationship you have. You will have adventures together and be each other’s “person” to turn to when life gets hard or to celebrate when life is wonderful.

But today is not that day. Today, she is the reason we are stuck inside. She is the reason we are not building a snowman or sledding. She is why we are home today. Yes, I know that you would love to be outside… But I am just one person and Daddy is not home, so I can’t take a 3 year old and a 1 1/2 year old outside, leaving the baby inside alone. I do not trust you outside alone yet, and our sweet baby is way too little and just getting better from being sick.  It is winter. We live in the tundra. When we go outside in the winter, one of you loses a boot and the other one loses a glove. And I spend more time getting your gear on than we actually spend outside. We are not going outside today.

Daddy calls the stage we are in “baby jail.” Our choices are limited. Things are not quite as easy to do as they once were or how easy they will be again when you all are a bit older. We try to be flexible, but frankly, when you little ones do not get enough sleep or when you are sick, you are bears. We have learned it is best to let you do your sleeping and eating thing rather uninterrupted when you are babies. It makes everything smoother. So , for now, we will stay home, hunkered down, and let your little sister sleep and eat. Sleep and eat.

Daddy struggles with “baby jail” because he does not like leaving things early or not being able to do things during the day because we have you three little ones. I wish we could do more too. But, the reality of all that is that once we get wherever we think would be a great time, one of you goes running around banging things or people, the other has some sort of melt-down, and without a doubt someone will poop their pants. So, we have learned, as monotonous as it may seem, we do better at home. (Remember, we tried an outdoor adventure, that led to us driving home from camping at 1 in the morning?)

It is easy for us to get sad about not being able to be outside playing or going on adventures. But then, I decided that we would change our perspective on this… We can have a lot of fun at home:

We can play with play  with play dough and create things!

 Mr. Man will throw play dough and chase after the big sister with his play dough tools…all while having a piece of play dough in his mouth.

We can paint and explore colors!

  We can also eat the paint… and wander around the house with paint covered hands, while mama feeds the baby.

We can build a fort… and climb under it…but really it is more fun to climb on it.

If it looks like Mr. Man is preparing to jump on the fort, you would be correct.

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We can play with our trucks and drive into mama.

Shortly after I took this picture, the truck became an airborne plane.

During Mr. Man’s nap time, we can have some mama-girly time, making your Valentines for school. We can build them, write your letter A on them, and get them ready for all your friends.

It was fun for the first 10….But you have 16 people in your class to make them for.

We have a lot of things we can do at home to help us grow and learn and enjoy our time together. We are in the “baby jail” stage right now. I know that our moments are not perfect. They are a mess and at times one of us is crying. However, I love my moments with you. Even the chaotic ones. I love watching you grow and explore. I feel guilty that we have you in “baby jail” with us…as if we are hurting your childhood somehow. I have to remind myself that we are trying to make the most of the moments we have together and that one day soon, when all 3 of you are old enough to walk and explore, we will have plenty of adventures outside and in new places. We just are not in that stage yet. Even though I do not love picking up the kitchen for the 15th time today and have put the same toys away more times then I thought possible, our home, our “baby jail”, is filled with enough love and adventure for our family today.

You keep growing and smiling.

And baby sister will keep sleeping…

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(it is better than when she is crying.)

In just a little time, your big, outside adventures will begin. You will be so glad to share the memories with each other and it will be worth the wait.

Mama and Daddy’s adventures began the day your were born.

… A pretty incredible life sentence…

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Finding peace in her eyes

“She feels everything stronger.”

These are the words my wonderful friend used to help me describe our sweet girl and those words are a perfect description.

As our little girl was closing in on turning three, leaving her toddler stage behind her, it was becoming more and more apparent that Lady A’s personality would be just liker her mama’s: emotional and anxious.

Even as I write those words emotional and anxious my heart gets heavy because I have always seen these words in such a negative way. These words have always described me. Sure, sometimes before “anxiety” became a more common term, I would be described as a little girl who worried all the time, but it was anxiety. I have struggled with the negativity of those words and have viewed myself in such a negative light because of those words. My inner voice tells me that I am weak. It tells me to cower, to not feel brave, to not feel proud, to not feel good about myself because I am flawed. There is something wrong with me because I cry and I worry.

Even as I started to see these traits developing in our daughter I felt heavy for her because I did not want her to be like me. I felt that being like me would be bad for her. I could not find the strengths of my own personality, which was now becoming her’s.  I feared it was a flaw. 

That was when I knew it was time to find the positives about being emotional and anxious, as both Lady A and I would need to make these words our inner voices. God had created us this way and with perfect intention. I needed to open my eyes and my heart to what His purpose was in making us feel the strong way we feel.

Once I opened my heart to seeing the positives, I was blown away by what beauty there is in feeling the way my sweet girl and I feel. So far, I have noticed these things in her eyes and therefore in myself:

  • We think. A lot. Therefore we are very thoughtful. We try very hard to see everything from all possible perspectives, but are also aware that no matter how hard we try, we are going to forget someone’s point of view and hurt them. This knowledge also saddens us, as we would never intentionally hurt someone.
  • We would never want to let those we care about down, therefore, we make really good friends. It saddens us to see those we care about sad, and it breaks our hearts to know that we might have hurt them. We feel for our friends when they are happy, sad, angry, frustrated, excited, etc. and would try our hardest to make sure our friends feel loved and cared for.
  • We worry we will disappoint someone, therefore, we try really hard to be our best. This makes us very goal driven people who will constantly try to take ourselves to the next level. We want to do our best at all times. As Lady A says with a cheer, “I do it!”
  • We really, really struggle to hide our emotions, therefore, you will always know exactly how we stand on issues. We will be truthful and tell it like it is, because we really do not have any other choice, as our faces tell on us. This makes us very trustworthy and transparent people.
  • We worry about things going badly, so we do not take the good moments for granted. We are so appreciative of all the good in life because we know how quickly it could change. It is actually quite overwhelming with how bad things could be that we have to be very intentional to stay focused on all the good.
  • We feel. We will be those people who are crying “happy tears” at your happy moments and we will be those people who will stand beside you on your worst moment. We will try to put ourselves in your position and bring ourselves to gut wrenching tears because we cannot imagine that pain. We are the definition of empathetic.

I am sure I will find more positives of our emotional and anxious personalities as I keep an open heart to them and watch our sweet girl flourish. I also know that I need to keep telling her these positives, and more, about who she is, as it will become her inner voice.

I have learned so much about her and about myself through her eyes. We are going to have to teach her and myself the tools to deal with the struggles that come with being emotional and anxious. She is still very young, but we already know we have to be very careful and intentional with how we approach our girly.

So far, we have been most successful in bringing out the very best in her and myself by focusing on the following:

  • Be patient. You have to be very patient. I have never been a patient person and I am blown away by the patience that God has given me when He gave us Lady A. In moments that I think I would have gotten very angry and loud, I get calm and quiet. My heart knows that is what she needs in that moment. I know I have to give her space, even if it means sitting with her in silence, until we can talk about the problem and fix it.  Things take us longer because we have to talk everything through, but my heart has been patient with this, as it is what our girly and I need.
  • Be mindful with our words. Both Lady A and I take everything anyone says to heart. We have to be very careful about how and what we say to her. We need to encourage her and lift her up, rather than talk her down.
  • Clapping. We do a ridiculous amount of clapping in our home. However, we know that right now, we our our children’s biggest cheerleaders, and frankly, they are ours too! We celebrate all the small accomplishments because we know they lead to the big ones. We encourage and say “You did it!” giving them the strength to believe in themselves to do it again.
  • We pick our battles. Every day we are given multiple opportunities to fight, yet we choose to pick our battles on the ones that stick to our family values and character. So, today she wants to wear a mismatched, mess of an outfit? Well, as long as it is clean and she is covered, we are okay with that. But, today she wants to use her crabby voice and be mean to her brother, that is a battle we pick because our family is not okay with showing mean character.
  • We talk a lot. We talk about what we did that was a great choice. We talk about how we feel. We talk about how others might feel from a choice we make. We talk about how we could make a better choice next time. We talk about how to let someone know how you feel. We talk about who we can safely talk to. We talk a lot.
  • We take breaks. Sometimes we just need a moment to pull ourselves together and calm down, so we all take breaks. Taking a break is something we can do ourselves in our home. Lady A often will take a break till she is calmed down and then we can talk about it or we just move on. Mommy takes breaks too. This is different than a Time Out in our home. A Time Out is something that mommy or daddy (or another adult) puts you in and you have to wait/think there until the adult who put you there comes and talks to you about why you are in Time Out and how you can fix it.
  • We give a lot of advance notice on what we are going to do and talk about any potential stressful situations before they occur. We prepare her for what we are going to do and help her feel safe and that she can do it.
  • We (adults) share our mistakes with our children and use our mistakes as teaching points for better choices in the future. Mistakes are not condemned or punished, but rather an opportunity for growth.
  • We cuddle a lot. We hold hands a lot. We love a lot.

As I started to watch myself through her eyes, I also realized that God in his perfection, had placed the perfect people in our lives to help us to recognize the gift of our emotions and anxiousness. God gave Lady A and I the most patient man in her daddy, my husband. I never truly appreciated his patience and his approach with me, until I really started to watch his interactions with our sweet girl. When she is really struggling, he is patient with her. He knows that yelling at her and talking down to her will just make the situation worse. Instead, he is calm, patient, loving, while also being strong and firm. I noticed that this is exactly how he approaches me when we are having a disagreement. He is the exact man for our family.

God also gave me our sweet girl. She has taught me to love and to accept myself, just as I love and accept her. I have struggled with this for so long and it took for a sweet, little girl to show me to love myself. She has shown me it is wonderful to feel things stronger because I feel love for her stronger. I am learning through her how to embrace being me, so that each day I can teach her to do the same. I have such a bond with this little lady because I see and feel me. She is the person in my life who feels like me. We will hold each others’ hands and hearts. Right now it is time for me to be the mama and help her through each hard stage, but she does not realize how much she is helping me.

I am so grateful to have found peace in her eyes and peace in knowing it is beautiful to feel everything stronger.

Related Posts:

Hold my hand, sweet girl. I will love you through it all.

You will never be this loved again

Table for Chaos… Party of 4.

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Going out to eat used to be a special treat for my husband and I… a date. a get-away. a moment to connect without having to do the dishes.

and then we had children.

Going out to eat with a 2 and a half year old and a soon to be 1 year old is anything but relaxing or easy. It is a rarity for us to go out to eat and often times I wonder why don’t we go out? The logical answer is that we are trying to save up some money and we live in a small town with limited choices… but the reality is, we do not go out because when we do, it goes like this:

Upon arrival, we have to be seated in booth where we can trap our daughter and we need a high chair for our son. Our daughter then externally deals with her internal struggle about sitting with mom or in a high chair like her brother. We also have to shuffle around our bag of distractions and our mammoth amount of layers to help us survive the sub-zero temperatures that we live in.

After we have our seating arrangements taken care of, we begin to look at the menu. Little Man has already licked the menu twice and thrown it on the floor. Now, he is after the knife and fork that is rolled up innocently into a napkin. Little Miss is  standing on the booth and attempting to open each sugar packet. We redirect her to a conversation on what she should get to eat. This begins a lengthy discussion on the difference between grilled cheese and the other options. It normally ends with us deciding on grilled cheese, as this is likely to make the least amount of mess.

As soon as the waitress comes over Little Miss asks for milk, to which the waitstaff always brings chocolate milk and Little Miss gives a look of disgust to this other milk. We then have to ask for “white milk please.” The milk always comes with a straw, which Little Miss  has not fully mastered when she is sitting lower than the table, so by the time we have had a chance to decide what we are going to order, she is covered in milk and Little Man has eaten half of the paper placement. <we go to high-end restaurants>

Drinks have been received and spilled. Orders have been placed. Now the hard work begins: keeping the littles occupied until food comes. We frantically pull out each toy from our gigantic bag of distractions, eager to make each one the most exciting thing our children have ever seen. This is always a fail. It is about this time that Little Miss kicks off her boots and begins to shake salt onto the table. We cannot remember the last time we went out when Little Miss kept her boots on for the entire meal. We have fought the fight and lost the battle. Realistically, these winter boots hardly stay on at all.

Little Man begins screaming like a fierce dinosaur chasing innocent prey. We frantically search for anything we can safely put in his mouth to calm the screaming. He is not screaming out of anger. He just enjoys making sounds. Loud, screeching, gastly sounds.

Enter the adorable couple who horrifyingly sees that the hostess is leading them directly into our doom and they politely (urgently) ask to be seated elsewhere. Well played, adorable couple. Well played.

“Poop! Poop!” Little Miss screams while holding her bottom. Thus begins the fun game of “so bored, I should explore the potty.” My husband and I take turns taking her to the bathroom. Often times she runs ahead of us, boots still under the table, grabbing her bottom, screaming “poop!” Very appetizing to all who are around. We have the struggle of deciding whether to keep taking her to the bathroom or risk the chance she might actually poop her pants. Often times the thought of her pooping her pants in public is enough to keep taking her back to the bathroom. (We do live in a small town.)

Finally, our food arrives. We scramble to cut up the grilled cheese so that we can stop the dinosaur screeches and calm the “poop” talk. Little Man eats like a champ and I can hardly keep up cutting. Little Miss takes one bite and then decides if she is going to eat it or not. This is hit or miss for us. Sometimes, she eats beautifully, other times she takes one bite, screams “yucky!” and then points to everyone who is “eat too?”

My husband and I try to eat our meal, while it is still hot, because we are paying for it. Sometimes, when both children are eating amazingly, this is a success. Other times, when children aren’t eating amazingly (looking at you Little Miss), one of us ends up with a toddler on our lap, trying to distract, while the other eats and then we switch. Again, we pay for this. 

Once we finish eating, we have to wait for the waitress to bring our bill or to take our payment. During this wait period the dinosaur screams start up again and Little Miss now stands up in the booth and is trying to touch the people who unfortunately were seated behind us. One of us tries to keep the children reigned in, while the other picks up the pieces of grilled cheese and other food objects from the floor.

We hastily pack up our items, our children, and leave an extra tip for our mess. We make our way out of the restaurant, one caring the baby, the other caring the thrashing toddler and having a conversation on the importance of listening and being kind.

Everyone is buckled and we pull out of the restaurant. We take a deep breath, look at each other and say, we pay for this?

So maybe there is a reason we do not go out much.

We can just make grilled cheese at home.

Fear…. Irrationally, rational fear

Well hello there again, fear. I feel you sneaking up to remind me that you are still here, still with me, still trying to control me.

But I am fighting back. Instead of letting my mind spin out of control over the what ifs, I am pausing to think about the root of the fear and to put it in it’s place.

See, my mind keeps coming back to something I read, which I am just now remembering what it was, about someone who knew someone who lost their 2 year old in their sleep and something tragic happened to their 7 year old. This might not even had been the premise of the article, and as I am thinking of it now, I am almost certain I am getting it wrong. But what did stick and what I am reminded of randomly as my babies are sleeping in their rooms, is that someone’s 2 year old died in their sleep. I do not know how or why, but it happened. Which therefore means it could happen to my two year old or my ten month old or my husband or myself.

I’ve checked their rooms four times now. This is two more than my normal night checks. They are still breathing, peacefully, and beautifully.

Whoa, fear. Settle down.

See what I initially thought was that it could happen to me. Meaning, my child could die in their sleep and that this tragedy would hit me. The fear goes to the fear of experiencing something so tragic that I truly do not even want to give it words. The fear is of something so gigantic and represents more than just a tragic…but also life after it and so many unknowns that I pray every day, literally, that it is something my children or I never have to face. Every night when I lay them in their crib or bed, I thank God for them and for the day we have had together. I pray they grow strong and happy. And I pray that they will grow to know their grand-babies.

See, this is all we can do about fear, is give it up to our faith, because bad things do happen. Tragedy does happen. It might not happen immediately to your family, but it surrounds us. We also do not and will not understand why it happens. We cannot imagine the person we would become if it were to happen to us.

When I hit these moments of fear I have to remember that my children and my spouse are with me for a short time in existence on Earth and that they have been a gift, not a right. It is not my will to control our path together and it is my choice to enjoy the moments that are given.

I also have to remember that this irrationally strong fear of rational events, only has power when I allow myself to obsess over it. Instead I need to be aware of rational dangers, keep them in check, and give the rest up to faith so that my current moments are not stolen from me.

See that, fear, I just talked myself out of obsessing over you for tonight.

Plus, I just heard my daughter move around in her bed from across the hall, so I am feeling reassured.