My daughter thinks she has a boyfriend.

We were driving home from getting her cast removed. Emery’s stick-figure arm looked even more scrawny without the hunk of purple fiberglass that we’d grown so accustomed to seeing – and smelling. It was approaching lunch time so I asked her if she wanted to just skip school that day or if she wanted to try and go in for the afternoon. She insisted that I drop her off at school. And then it happened.

“Hey mama, sometimes – at school – we pretend that (so-and-so) is my boyfriend. Isn’t that just crazy?”

By the goofy smile I spotted in my rearview mirror, I could tell she didn’t think it was crazy. She thought it was pretty awesome.

I’m gripping the steering wheel as my child waiting expectantly for my answer. She still cares about my responses – not just my words but my level of excitement.

I really wanted a pause button so I could Google, “Biblical, supportive, female-empowering response for when you’re 5 year old tells you she has a boyfriend.”

Note: surprise, Google doesn’t have a good result for this query. 

Instead, I smiled and said, “Really? Wow, honey. That’s neat. Is he a nice boy?”

She nodded, smiled and went back to fidgeting with her newly freed arm.

My daughter has a boyfriend.

No.

My daughter thinks she has a boyfriend.

Emery is 5 and also thinks that unicorns are real and have chocolate syrup coursing through their veins. So, she isn’t exactly up on what’s what. But they sit together at lunch and hold hands in the hallway. He brings her gifts of apples and presented her with a camouflaged-printed woven bracelet. Look mama, it even has a clip. 

He’s a nice boy, I’m sure.

This isn’t just about stealing playground kisses (which she has been clearly instructed not to do) or setting perimeters around hand holding (it’s flu season, you know). As a mother to daughters, I worry more about the way she views herself in relation to how others – especially boys – perceive her.

My daughter is beautiful and hilarious and a free spirit. She has no concept of negative body talk or feeling insecure about her appearance. She can’t fully grasp the weight of words from the opposite sex. Because she’s 5 and she shouldn’t.

This boy may be a nice kid. But he doesn’t know just how awesome my daughter is. I don’t care who he is – he simply isn’t good enough for her. No one will be. But soon enough, she’ll be 16 and wanting to ride in cars with boys. And then she’ll be heading off to college with thousands of boys who will want to be her study partner. In her 20s, some well-intentioned, God-fearing boy will want to marry her.

I’ll want to say no every time but won’t because she will be experiencing these things in life for the first time. And parenting is about celebrating those things which give our children joy and nursing their crushed spirits back to life when they experience sorrow.

So I tread lightly. We discuss romantic relationships and their importance for adults. I tell her that her body is her own and that she is beautiful and valued as she is, regardless of what attention she receives. I remind her that it’s her daddy’s job to keep her safe and protected. And I look wide-eyed and impressed at her new piece of fabric jewelry.

Little girl, stop growing up. This mama doesn’t have all the answers yet.

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Why parenting never gets easier – and why it’s amazing.

The countless diaper changes, sleepless nights and dirty dishes create a blur of beautiful chaos those early years of parenthood. Add in siblings close in age and you lay your head every night thankful everyone survived another day. The kids get older, you become a bit wiser until eventually one day goes by unnoticed as anything other than unremarkable. And it becomes two and soon a few weeks and then you realize that without the pomp and circumstance that celebrated your entry to parenthood, you’ve entered an entirely new phase that involves noticeably fewer tears from everyone.

I am never so naive to think that I’ve got this parenting thing down. But we seem to have travelled through the survival phase known as babydom and toddlerhood and arrived at the other side: school-aged.

And things become markedly calmer and you think, “This is easy! We could totally have six kids.”

Then you’re kid does something awesome like break her arm in such a way that it’ll require surgery, pins and a full arm cast. Because, you know, God is hilarious and has awesome ways of gently reminding me when I’ve become too big for my britches.

The kids get bigger and so do the problems. I’m not talking strictly about physical injuries. While I’m no longer concerned with the perils of potty training, I’m now facing the challenge of raising two young girls with healthy body images and leading them through the maze of mean girls and self esteem. While this chapter of parenting is typically less physically demanding – although the shuttle service between school carpool and ballet classes and traffic is exhausting – it is a race of emotional and mental endurance. I’ve shifted my energy away from the day-to-day and toward the long task of character-building and emotional development.

They ask Big Life Questions that I usually feel wholly ill-equipped to answer. You must formulate a concise, spur-of-the-moment response when your five year old explains that sometimes she feels like God isn’t close and wonders if I’m sure He really thinks she’s special enough. Or when she confides that she isn’t sure she’s pretty enough. Or if I’m sure there isn’t even one thing that would ever make me stop loving her – what if she steals a rainbow? Because to a five year old, there is nothing worse than stealing a rainbow.

I want to blame the influence of peers and society but truthfully, I’m confident most women struggle with the same questions regardless of our age, social circle or upbringing. The lessons that we instill now – or don’t – will have a lasting effect far into adulthood. Nurturing a sense of value and self-worth, cultivating grace and generosity and taming arrogance and superiority. Are we ever good enough? Interesting enough? Thin enough? Strong enough? That stuff is hard.

When Josh and I decided to have kids, it was a pretty short conversation and a sudden shift from my career-oriented life goals. And my view of parenting was very short-sited and I, embarrassingly, didn’t think what it meant to be a parent past the first year. I never entertained the idea that God may bless us with daughters instead of the enviably less dramatic male option. Instead, He gave us and one then another incredible little female human with tender hearts that need guarded and guided and given a safe place to flourish.

I want them to grow strong – physically and emotionally. I will teach them to shine brightly and boldly. I will show them that vulnerability is not weakness. I will encourage them to embrace difficulties and remain joyous through the challenges.

I miss the simpler days of parenting when snuggles and Momma milk made everything better. But how fortunate am I to be tasked as steward of such precious gifts?

Please, please don’t let me screw them up.

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All quiet. Unless it’s not.

As you’ve noticed, things have been pretty silent here on the southern front. Actually, that’s rather presumptuous of me to assume you’ve missed my random ramblings but, hey, we’re all a bit narcissistic in these parts. Regardless, I haven’t had much to say the past few weeks. And I’d rather not say something just for the sake of it, you know?

Things are good. Just busy in that no school/holiday sprinkled/too hot-buggy-muggy to go outside/is it Monday already way that summertime seems to pass by.  I’ve been meaning to stop in to say hello, so, that should count for something.

Even now as I’m trying to type this, I have a cranky, post-nap 2-year-old angrily shoving finger puppets on my fingers. Which is really making me want to hit “save draft” and never come back to finish it. Instead, I named the post which makes it all feel more substantial, thus committing me to its completion.

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So, what’s new? Lets see.

Courtesy of the four-day weekend, we finally had some time to hit up the Forsyth Farmer’s Market after our CSA pickup at Urbanna Farms. We’ve been getting loads of tasty squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and other goodies from our farmers but I’ve been missing the market’s fresh eggs and our freezer’s is getting low on good, local meat. So after an early CSA pick up, we ventured downtown to join the sweaty masses.

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We arrived at the market shortly after it opened so there was a good variety to choose from. I scored some peaches, an incredible canary melon from Walker Farms, some beef from Savannah River, two homemade peach popsicles for my overheated girls and two dozen of my ever so desired fresh eggs.

After some shopping, basketball watching and twirling – by the girls, not me – we needed to head home. I know, I know, I’ve said it a million times. But Savannah is really hot and humid this time of year. I’m not exaggerating when I say I avoid all absolutely vital outside time from June 15 – September 15 (at least). The heat paired with a 4-year-old who was really, really tired after spending the night wandering the house and checking out the stray animals out our front window is a really bad combination. Were done with this family outing.

We walked the short distance to the car and it dawned on Em that we were, in fact, leaving the market. Despite warnings. A popsicle. Sing-songy voices.

There is no rationalizing with an exhausted, overheated child.

As I wrestled to get her in the car and out of the busy, traffic congested street, I dropped my eggs. My 24 beautiful, multi-colored, rather expensive eggs toppled to the cobbled street.

I may have said some not-Jesus-approved words in a not-positive-parenting fashion and perhaps shut the car door a bit too hard and went slightly overboard as I “explained” to Emery why that behavior is unacceptable and a perfect example of why she needs to stayinherbedallnightlongandSLEEPinsteadofwanderingthehouse. Because a child cannot thrive on 7 hours of sleep.

It was my frustration over the eggs and not so much the tantrum that fueled my tirade. I’ll admit that.

When we visited Em’s new pediatrician for her 4-year-old visit, we discussed Em’s less than stellar sleep habits. The doc agreed that her mid-night shenanigans, although often normal, aren’t acceptable and gave us a few suggestions. Although we have already tried many of her ideas without success, we decided to revisit the reward chart system.

Let me tell you, there is very little I can convince this child to do. But throw a little bribery – nay, rewarding – into it and she’ll be obedient forever. Or at least until she gets the promised ice cream.

I sincerely apologize to my high school art teacher. Once upon a time, I actually knew how to make things that didn't look like an 8-year-old girl got bored in math class.

I sincerely apologize to my high school art teacher. Once upon a time, I actually knew how to make things that didn’t look like an 8-year-old girl got bored in math class.

I have no problem dangling the proverbial carrot in front of the horse. The key is in how long you make the stick. We tried a “good morning”  chart a few months ago but promised the reward after 10 nights of good sleep. No bueno. Too long and the girl lost interest. Anyway, four nights may seem to be too lax but Momma is tired and we all want sleep and ice cream. Win-win.

How are you? What’s new? Are you surviving the summer? 

Becoming a mother.

Four years ago, I sat in a rocking chair in my unborn daughter’s nursery and cried. Hysterically. Josh stood in the doorway and stared at his very pregnant wife, unsure of exactly what to say or do and uncertain if perhaps something he had already said or done was what had spurred such an incredible display of emotions from his typically poker-faced wife.

Although the pregnancy was planned, it wasn’t very well thought out.

“Maybe we should have a baby.”

“Okay.”

I’m certain we’ve had lengthier and more serious discussions about shower curtains and tire tread.

Four weeks and four pregnancy tests later, we were pregnant. Pregnant.

I was just 24 when Emery was born. I had been playing grown up longer than most other women my age and after 3 years of marriage, it felt like Josh and I had been married for ages. Now, after 7 years of marriage, I can’t believe we were so naive to think we had this marriage thing mastered so quickly.

Cooking for two, clean laundry and balancing a budget. Check! Next up – Babies!

By the time that June evening rolled around, it all seemed like a very, very bad idea.

About 18 hours after my rocking chair meltdown, Emery was born on a rainy June afternoon to two utterly clueless parents. I had no idea of what was ahead. Honestly, I didn’t think much past wee babes wrapped snuggly around my chest and tiny bits of lace on bloomers.

Was I going to co-sleep? Maybe? Breastfeed? I think so…? Did I research car seats? Pediatricians? Vaccinations? Bottles? Daycare? Diapers?

Most people misunderstood my approach to parenting as laid-back or flexible. In reality, I just had no freaking clue parenting involved so many decisions. I didn’t realize there were choices on how to discipline, educate, interact. And even if I made a decision, I failed to recognize that there would be this other little person with a mind and personality of her own who didn’t care I rushed my hugely pregnant booty to Target and spent an hour choosing the best BPA-free, latex-free, orthodontist approved pacifier. She hated those $12 pacifiers and insisted on the latex, tooth-snaggling variety. Pick your battles.

Throughout the past four years, this girl has changed me. Her fiery spirit is rivaled only by the size of her heart and learning how to raise her has forced me to study the deepest parts of myself to find and understand those things that I buried years ago. Doing this breaks me down to the humblest and most vulnerable of positions because the only way I can attempt to understand her is if I understand myself. This child is more like me than I care to admit. It’s the most awesome and terrifying responsibility to nurture such an amazing little being who carries such incredible talents and traits. Because I am most certain that this child will move mountains and defeat giants once she sets her mind to it.

The flip-side of such a strong personality is taming such an innate defiance toward authority and those silly things called rules (again, like me. Sorry, Josh). Some days, all I can do is throw my hands in the air and pray with every fiber of my being that above all else, I don’t screw this up.

First Birthday.

First Birthday.

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Third Birthday.

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Fourth Birthday.

Apparently Em’s second birthday was as rough as I remember because we have zero pictures together and only a few blurred snapshots of her running laps around our backyard in a tutu. Followed by many, many tears when she blew out her candles.  I’m so glad those days are behind us.

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SONY DSCI can say with great sincerity that I cannot wait to see what this year brings. I have high hopes that “four” is our year. She’s coming into her own and watching her grow and blossom is a pleasure and honestly, rather hilarious. Happy Fourth Birthday, sweet girl.

 

Back to life, back to reality.

I’ve spent the past week sweating, battling crowds, staying up late, waking up early, calming screaming children, whining, groaning and standing in impossibly long lines.

But.

I’ve also spent the past week laughing, smiling, oohing and aahing, watching wonder on my children’s faces, tickling, dining with princess, hand-holding and memory-making at the Happiest Place on Earth.

I’d call it a fair trade-off.

Last Tuesday, we were sauntering south on I-95 toward Orlando for a much anticipated trip to Disney World. We invited Josh’s parents to come along and we couldn’t have done it without them. Well, we probably could have but I’d probably still be lamenting on how tired and cranky I am. Disney is like a PG version of Vegas. It’s an alternate universe. Days roll together, every one is on a mission, and the only way to discern day from night is by the lighting. It’s safe to say I have a Disney hangover. 

We got home Sunday evening and spent yesterday celebrating my birthday. For the first time in 10 years, Josh took the day off from work so we could spend the day together. Best. Birthday. Ever. Hands down. More on that later. 

I’ll post a full Disney recap in a few days once I go through our 900+ photos (I’m a little snap-happy) but I wanted to stop in and say hello and happy belated Mother’s Day to you wonderful mommas and soon-to-be mommas. Josh has declared next Sunday a Mother’s Day do-over since the real one was spent in the car with cranky children and loads of laundry and unpacking. I love that man.

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SONY DSCHow has life been outside of Disney? Business as usual? Did you have a nice Mother’s Day?

 

Don’t look under the bed.

The girls and I were homebound this morning because after 5 and a half years and over 80,000 miles, it was due time to get some new tread on the Vdub. Although I’m a stay-at-home-mom, I’m not really a stay-at-home-mom. I kind of really hate being stuck in the house. Barring illness, we get out of the house pretty much every day for a few minutes. The girls learned this behavior from me and, in turn, wake up every morning asking where we’re going that day and who we’re going to see.

Since we had no choice but to chill at home, I decided to make the most of it and check a few of the more time consuming items off my cleaning list.

Photo Credit: MadPhotos1 via Compfight cc

Not me. But pretty close.       |       Photo Credit: MadPhotos1 via Compfight cc

There more than 200,000 things I would rather do before clean. Especially deep clean. You know, the pull-the-couch-away-from-the-wall, clean-on-top-of-the-cupboards kind of cleaning.

But there has been this slight… odor… coming from Emery’s room. I’ve mopped her floor, checked the closet, washed the windows, changed her sheets, wiped the walls, washed the bedding, checked shoes and washed the rug. And yet, this slight smell remains.

So with today’s extra “free time,” I turned on a movie and spent an hour beneath and behind her dresser and bed.

Ladies (and gentlemen, if there are any of you lurking – although I doubt it), please heed my warning:

Do not look under the bed. Do not clean under the bed. Under no circumstances. Ever.

Apparently beneath Emery’s bed is where all the spiders in our house go to die.

So many spiders. Of all sizes. Dead, thankfully.

We’ve had a few run-ins with spiders since moving to Georgia. I remember most vividly the night I woke Josh around midnight after I saw a Georgia-sized spider saunter across our living room. Yes, it was big enough to saunter – it’s a Georgia spider, after all. So, my half-sleeping husband killed the big momma spider that was – unbeknownst to us – carrying baby spiders on her back. Those baby spiders survived the squishing and spread like the tide across our living room. We slept soundly that night and dreamt of baby spiders crawling in our bed to snuggle.

Anyway.

We’ve lived in this house for over three years. In that time, I can’t say I’ve ever given Emery’s room a good, solid scrubbing. And now that I’m doing the math, I’m pretty embarrassed to say I think it’s been nearly 2 years since I peeked beneath the bed frame.

And now that I know it’s a spider graveyard, I promise it will be at least another 2 years before I do.

Because cleaning beneath beds, couches and dressers is now going on Josh’s ever-growing list of man chores.

This momma doesn’t do spiders.

And that faint smell? Still there. I think it may just be the smell of a dirt-loving, tutu-wearning, roly-poly-collecting, almost-4-year-old girl.

What household task do you pass along to your spouse? 

 

I don’t want to.

We’re on day three of pink eye.

“But,” you say, “it’s not contagious after 24 hours of antibiotic eye drops!”

Ah, yes. Assuming it doesn’t spread from child-to-child or eye-to-eye.

Any mother with a common sense than I would treat both eyes even if only one eye appeared infected. Apparently I’m lacking common sense and good judgement because those drops are expensive and getting them in the eye is a feat of strength and will. So I only treated Blair’s right eye. And today we have a left eye that’s nice and red.

I LOVE BEING A MOTHER.

Really, I do.

I’m just feeling selfish today.

I’m so, so tired of being stuck at home. The girls are climbing the walls and getting into every sort of mischief imaginable. Blair’s new favorite play spot in the bathroom closet (hello, razor blades and mouth wash) and Emery is playing dress up with the dog.

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Thanks for taking one for the team, Lu.

I haven’t had a run since last week. It’s not an excuse for my short temper but, goodness. I just want 30 minutes to run with my headphones blaring and no one crying. Except me. But it’s really hard to cry and run at the same time. I don’t know how they make it look so easy in the movies.

I don’t want to pick up another toy. I don’t want to wash another dish. I don’t want to fold another sheet. I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I don’t want to.

I wish I could throw a tantrum like my daughters.

But instead, I hold my breath and my tongue. And start by brushing my teeth..

One more day. It’ll be over soon.

Assuming I don’t end up with pink eyes.

Either way, I’ll do all those things that need to be done because someone needs to do it.

There are 100 other things I could do to pass the time and make the day enjoyable.

Instead I sit here having a pity party and scratching Emery’s back with my foot. And she’s enjoying it.

So there’s always that.

The worst sickness, ever.

I don’t know how this happened.

Emery has been on “spring break” (why do preschoolers need spring break?!) since last Monday. And yet yesterday, the girl developed a rip-roaring case of double pink eye.

We haven’t even had enough excitement to warrant such a miserable illness.

There were no bounce houses or playgrounds or tea parties or even shopping cart handles handled.

But apparently this pesky conjunctivitis can arise from the rather non-eventful gathering with friends for an early Easter celebration. Or the overwhelmingly cheerful and plastic Easter egg hunt with strangers. Or the crowded preschooler room at church on Easter morning.

Pink eye is the worst.

She doesn’t feel sick. She doesn’t act sick. But she’s contagious.

And so we’re homebound.

Have you ever tried giving a 40 pound, strong-willed child eye drops that burn like the dickens? It’s amazing. Twice a day. But without it, she’ll continue to be contagious. And homebound.

And because it’s so contagious, there’s a good chance the pink eye will be working it’s merry little way on to Blair, next.

Which means we will be homebound, again.

I thought spring break was about relaxation and fruity drinks with little paper umbrellas.

Unless anyone has a fruity drink to spare. I’ll take it off your hands.

**edited: Oh, those sweet sisters share everything, don’t they? I now have TWO kiddos with pink eye. I wrote this before Blair was woken by an older sister who has no concept of playing quietly before dawn. Thankfully I can manage to pin down her body by myself to administer drops while her sister cries waiting her turn. Ah, the joys! Cheers to another two days at home!**

Girls just wanna have fun.

As I mentioned yesterday, last weekend was a hectic one. It was also a monumental one.

Emery hosted her very first sleep over.

Her best friend came to our house with her pillow, stuffed bunny and impossibly small suitcase to catch some shut eye.

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Only there wasn’t much shut eye.

Josh and I were exhausted from the go-go-go of a long week and we couldn’t even muster to energy to clean up from the morning’s birthday party. So being excellent parents and hosts, the girls dined on take out and watched a Minnie Mouse movie on the floor while Josh and I collapsed on the couch. That’s fun, right?

The girls thought so.

It’s pretty ironic that they are called sleepovers. Because I assure you, there wasn’t much sleep happening.

But there was a lot of giggles, bouncing around and general mischief. At 3 a.m. And 4 a.m. and 5 a.m.

And isn’t that what it’s really about, anyway?

Adding to the madness, that night also held one of the loudest and brightest thunderstorms  in recent memory. So even when we did manage to quiet the giggles for a few minutes, the girls were right to shrieking and bouncing with each roll of thunder.

When I woke them at 7 a.m., it was a flash back to college.

IMG_5415Those girls partied hard.

But really, for being just shy of 4 years old, I think they did wonderfully. No tears for momma from our sweet guest and Emery didn’t ask me to send her friend home (which according to my mother, I did quite often when I had friends over).

But next time?

The sleepover is at someone else’s house.

One becomes Two.

On Friday, my sweet little one year old became a spicy little two year old.

She’s still sweet with her never ending kisses and hand holding.

SONY DSCPractically overnight she developed a borderline unhealthy independent streak. In addition to the typical amount of times a 2-year-old shouts, “NO! I do it” in one day, Miss Bossy also wants to do everything her older and more capable sister can despite just not being physically able. Last week, we managed to fall not once, but twice and land squarely on our forehead. Once after going potty (my fault) and again after insisting she climb into her car seat unassisted (still my fault). Matching bruises, left and right. As if she was sprouting little bruised horns.

With some purple shading and a little road rash, we celebrated my little one turning the big dos with a party of balloons, lollipops and everything yellow. The perfect Blair approved trifecta. A party isn’t really a party without guests but, you see, sweet Blair isn’t really one for crowds. In fact, she isn’t really a fan of people with the exception of a few privileged folks. She’d rather hang out with the big girls (an entire year older) than other toddlers her size. So really, Emery enjoyed a party and shared it with two of the four toddlers who’s presence Blair will acknowledge.

SONY DSCIn all sincerity, despite all of her weird allergies, intolerances and the personality quirks, I wouldn’t change a thing about this girl. She is my sunshine. She’s my laugh. She’s the right amount of sweet and spicy.

She loves princesses and makeup. She can count to 12 and sing you a song. She’ll steal your nose and heart.

Welcome to the wild world of being 2.

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