No Use Crying Over Shattered Oatmeal

Christmas Eve, my kids were starrrrrrrvvvvvviiiiing and couldn’t possibly wait for the extended family brunch we were hosting in 45 minutes.

Hangry kids make terrible party throwers, so I relented and suggested oatmeal for second breakfast. My 9 year old Scarlett ripped open the package, dusting the floor with oats that looked like snowflakes.

She “cleaned” the mess up herself and poured in another package. Silently, I congratulated myself for not losing my temper and for fostering her independence. I also thought about all those smart moms who kick their kids OUT of the kitchen.

I hear a Smash, BANG. Ding- followed by lots of crying. Scarlett grabbed the oatmeal out of the microwave and put the literal meaning back in drop it like it’s hot.

Shattered glass mixed with steaming hot porridge is spread all over the kitchen floor with the remnants of the dry oats from trial #1. Scarlett’s hangry is unleashed, and she is demanding to make another bowl. The baby finds it fun to walk in, spreading oats to the living room, and 30 people will be in my house in a half hour.

<<<<Deep breaths.>>>>

My sensible six year old places his hot porridge in the freezer for rapid cool-down. As he retrieves it, his bowl comes tumbling out, crashing, and spreading oatmeal all inside the freezer door and on the floor. SERIOUSLY?! His reaction is, “MAKE ME ANOTHER ONE NOW!”

I sweep and scrub the floor hastily. I tell James to put the kids in the car and to come back in thirty. Drive anywhere. I can’t cope with more oatmeal explosions or child outbursts. I’ve lost it at them. How can they spill this much in so little time? Is this a joke?

It was a new twist on the old classic- Goldilocks and the Three Bowls.

Fortunately, I forgot to tell a guest we changed the time of the party. So thankfully, she arrived just as the oatmeal fiasco was relatively under control. She graciously helped me make everything sparkle and shine while my husband drove around in circles until the baby fell asleep, arriving just in time to a prepped house ready for Christmas. The kids hugged me and we all apologised.

And then during the party, a gallon of OJ spilled down the back of the fridge- and it was totally my fault.

Pshhhh . . .

Here’s the moral of the story. The things I get frustrated about in my kids (messy, clumsy, impatient, hangry) are the exact same things that I do.

So many times when I’m shouting at my kids to stop yelling at each other or snapping at them for gross attitudes or sending them to their rooms for eating too much candy– these reflect the very same things I struggle with myself.

I feel the Holy Spirit whisper, inviting me to examine my own heart and transgressions during these moments. Parenting is so beautifully refining, and I’m confident God designed it that way. We are all capable of spilling oatmeal or orange juice, and there is no use crying over (or screaming at your kids over) shattered oatmeal.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:1-5 NIV
Prologue

For real, peaches and cream oatmeal looks a lot like vomit. Frozen puke oatmeal is still plastered inside my freezer door, and I don’t know when I will find time to scrape it off. #momlife

This Christmas, I Believe

If this blog were a living thing, it would be covered in dust and crammed in that junk drawer with all the expired coupons and spare keys. And I can’t guarantee it won’t go back in there for another 12 months after this post. Its been a season of rest, contemplation, and renewal for me. That sounds super fancy, but truthfully, I still don’t pee with the door shut so the house doesn’t burn down, so don’t be jelly.  

School is out for the holidays. I was so excited to spend time with my children.  Not unsurprisingly, the thrill wore off before the garage door opened. I have threatened to send the kids’ presents to an orphanage. And more than once, I was tempted to send the kids there too. 

This Sunday morning, the kids launched mutiny against James and me. My four kids- including the cute little cereal throwing baby, don’t really deserve anything under the tree this year. The baby also shakes his head constantly and runs the opposite direction- which can be forgiven until his diaper is half on, half off, or when he is shaking his head “no” that he wasn’t the one who poured the quart of paint all over the floor- when he clearly and unfortunately did. The kindergardener cut up cash and let the three year old take the rap for him. The third grader has a 2018 version of a Valley Girl going on (this is all my fault), and her little sister is becoming her copycat. Everywhere I turn, someone is complaining it isn’t fair or they are bored or blah blah blah. Please mamas tell me I’m not alone. Or actually, tell me I am, that is far better news for the world.

I was quite glad we don’t really play up the naughty/nice list- because, I mean, where do you even buy coal? Then something struck me- humans play up this Santa thing for Christmas. But actually the divine Christmas story is all about an amazing gift of forgiveness that we don’t deserve at all. God isn’t the one sitting on some royal throne weighting everyone’s sins and passing judgment, that’s the mythical Santa.

So the story goes- the God of heaven came down to earth in the most humble of beginnings to show us grace and redemption, something we totally don’t deserve because he knew we were super lost, up a creek and in a pickle without him.

When I’m really honest, I don’t deserve the tree, let alone the gifts under it.  How beautiful, how mysterious is it that this strange virgin birth with a star and angels and shepherds and kings  changed civilisation for thousands of years? What is it about this story that makes it so transformative, indestructible, and believable?

Santa and Jesus both have in common the promise of gifts for those who believe.  Even if you think the Jesus thing is totally silly, wouldn’t you want it to be true?  Our family wishes you the gift of faith and forgiveness this year. Grace and peace to you whether you are near to us or far away.  

Happy Christmas!

PS. What a beautiful imagery of getting gifts instead of coal because of forgiveness. 

Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

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The Stained Glass People

To have a birthday where so many people reach out to you with significant feedback about your love and value is a priceless gift. To everyone who sent affirmations, it was so encouraging. Thank you from my core. You are the best gift.

I just hit 31. And if the first year is anything to go by, I love life in the third decade.

When I turned 29, I started living life without fear and it changed everything. Because I consciously stopped letting prejudice rule, I am so satisfied with the direction and quality of my life. I have material blessings,  but they do not compare with the beauty of the people around me. They are eclectic, energetic, and engaged.

Perhaps the most beautiful people are the ones like me: broken and fragmented in places.

So Un-British!

What if the parts of us we were most afraid to show people were the parts of us that made us uniquely beautiful? If you crave meaningful relationships, authenticity is essential. Stop hiding. Share your story in spaces designed for sharing. You will find connection- with yourself, God and others.  It’s the most loving and intimate experience when someone lets you really see them. Intimacy after all is being fully known and fully loved.

In the past nine months, my husband James has completely transformed. He discovered the power of revealing the unpolished places in his life to others. It is so un-British, but being vulnerable with others has produced the most personal growth in our nine years of marriage and put him on a trajectory of life fulfilment.

I’ve bought several people the book that served as a catalyst- Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. We both cannot recommend it enough. Watch Brene Brown’s Ted Talk here.

So here is to the broken people that have allowed the jagged pieces of their lives and their pain to create beauty in their life. Rearranged with light shining through, you are the stain glass window people-

Broken and beautiful. 

James and my collective dream is to create spaces where broken and beautiful people can receive healing, support and community on a journey of faith. We are apart of The Table Dallas because it is developing us into people who lean into mystery and uncertainty- creating space for the kinds of conversations where authenticity thrives and all people belong.

You are invited to join us.

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The Right Brained Mama

I had questions like:

  • Why is an international move easier for me than sticking to a meal plan?
  • How come every time I vacuum, I rearrange the furniture?
  • Why do I re-invent my kids’ bedtime schedule so frequently?
  • What makes me claustrophobic about tradition?
  • Why do I love hosting on-the-spot parties instead of advance planning?
  • How is it that when I intend to do the laundry, I end up cleaning the car out?
  • Why do I race myself to complete chores?

I wondered if I had ADD, procrastination, or a spirit of rebellion. Maybe I’m just a rubbish housekeeper, forgetful, or lazy–?

I couldn’t figure it out. The fly-by-the seat of your pants Laura got grounded with the birth of baby #4. I love living with lots of moving pieces, but this was hectic.

Plus-

1.)  Boundaries, rules, and consistency help kids feel safe. In child development, we talk about the balance of consistency and novelty. My kids deserve more structure.

2.) I can’t get help with the house or train babysitters effectively because I am always reinventing wheels that aren’t even broken.

3.)  James suggested the constant creativity feels disrespectful at times.

After percolating these ideas in my head for about a month while simultaneously developing goals for the New Year, I had an epiphany. I realised that the issues I’m dealing with aren’t signs of illness, slothfulness, or negligence. I’m just right brained.

Cue sigh of relief. I’m not mentally ill, slothful, or negligent.

I’m just right-brained.

I’m right brained– I love the big picture, colouring-outside-the-lines, being holistic, creative thinking, doing things randomly, feeling spontaneous, and seeking adventure. So if something is typically a routine task, like household chores, cooking, laundry, or child rearing, I like to turn it into something I can succeed at by using my strengths and putting a dash of sparkle in it.

My left brained friends are ordered, logical, routine, strategic, planners, cautious and safe. They have schedules for everything and take unstructured activities and make them less flexible by adding rules or scripts in order to gain more control.

Conceptualising moms as primarily left or right brained thinkers has given me an interesting insight into the patterns of parents’ strengths.

I need adventure.

Now that my family is out of major life transitions, I am starting to itch for excitement. The mundane is so underwhelming. I polled moms, “What do you do for adventure?” 

One friend said, “I clean out the garage or organise a closet.”  Many moms admitted they don’t have adventure– nor do they crave it.  I realise that the moms who have days devoted to specific household chores, grocery store lists, buy the same brands, cook the same dinners, and thrive on order are more than likely lefties.

But I shouldn’t make laundry the adventure.

Right brained-ness has served me well, but my little left hemisphere is so atrophied. I feel like I’ve gone back to motherhood preschool to learn basics: routine, tradition, self-discipline, housekeeping and consistency.

So here I am meal planning (just barely), sticking to a bedtime routine for the kids, teaching them consistent chores, making the bed everyday, putting things back in the same place every time. Gradually it’s feeling less like this-

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Now I am getting back in touch with my right brain for things that require it- blogging, poetry, photography, and figuring out if there is something else for me in this season. Theoretically if I can automate the household routines and organisation, I can have more time for the things I’m passionate about. Right?

Media & Me

My husband and I have always been cautious about media consumption with our children- or so I told myself.

We don’t like the way media makes our children act frequently. We don’t like how screens decrease their joy in other activities or how much time we spend figuring out and enforcing boundaries.

Previously, we set 30 minute limits of technology for the kids. Recently, however, we eliminated their media consumption almost entirely. It has been so, so good for our family.

I saw the negative impact of screen time with my kids, but never studied my own behaviour after technology use. So not only did I take it away from the kids, I took it away from me.

In my significantly less Internet, and Facebook life, I realised I wasn’t honest with myself about how I spent my time and energy as it related to social media.

LIE #1: Media is Bad for My Kids, but OK for Me.

My eight year old threw an enormous fit because I interrupted her 30 minutes of media time to take her to the splash park. She was totally ticked off- and I was furious about her spoiled brat attitude.

I thought this was exclusively a kid problem, but I sat on Facebook at the Splash Park that day instead of exercising, enjoying nature or talking to another human- so how was that different? Essentially, I pulled her off media, so I could escape on mine.

Occasionally, I’ll be reading something  interesting and my kid needs something. I get irritated that I have to go parent and have to halt my media to interact with these precious ones I birthed. I don’t like the message that sends my kids. I don’t want real people to feel second to electronic people.

I’m no different than the kids. My relationship with technology is unhealthy. Since I quit, I have enjoyed 6+ books. I forgot how much I loved reading. I studied ants for twenty minutes the other day, and found myself doing it again the next day. Finding wonder in and experiencing the natural world is something technology robs us of.  We play football with our thumbs instead of our bodies and watch cats on TV instead of stroking them on our sofas. I want to experience being alive, not be some person hooked up to a virtual Matrix.

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I potty trained my kid by letting him watch shows. I can’t believe I encouraged a two year old to bring a phone in the toilet. No wonder ADHD has increased so significantly. Our kids are never switched off- they are being stimulated constantly, and I’m apart of the problem. Wake up, Laura!

Lie #2: Facebook Keeps Me Connected to People

Facebook keeps me connected to people undoubtedly, but I forgot to ask myself an important question: Which people?

I ran into a Facebook friend that I had not seen in over a decade. It was kind of awkward because I already knew she got married, had two children, who she hangs out with and what restaurants she frequents. There wasn’t much to ask, and I felt really creepy.

The truth is I’m connected to a lot of people with Social Media, but I need to seriously evaluate this “friends” idea much more carefully.

What weird curiosity am I satisfying by looking at photos of people I don’t really know? What is this guys? Digital stalkers? What is the point? I still don’t know my motivation entirely for why I was on social media so frequently.

Escape? Distraction? Competition? Encouraging others? Celebrating with others? Connection? Compulsion? Effective communication? Spreading ideas? Listening? Understanding people? Boredom? Self-promotion?

I’m not really sure.

LIE #3:  I Am Immune From Social Media’s Pitfalls

Research correlates time on social media with increased anxiety and depression.

I don’t feel depressed, and I’m not an anxious person, so I didn’t think those statistics applied to me. I believed I was immune, an outlier, someone that wasn’t impacted by my Facebook participation.

Then I had a lightbulb moment. One study emphasized that it wasn’t being on social media that makes people anxious- it was being away from it.  Of course I wasn’t feeling anxious.  By continually checking Facebook, I was keeping the anxiety at bay.

I reduced my Facebook participation to 1-2 times per week rather than multiple times per day. I don’t feel like I have to reply to someone’s comment or follow-up with a question or rebuttal an opinion that caused conflict.

Sometimes Facebook can be a big headache. How do I show support to someone without necessarily agreeing with their opinion?

How do you give your opinion in a way that promotes relationship and conversation? I spent a lot of time figuring that out.

It can be a minefield.

It can make me feel inadequate.

It can make me sad or angry.

I just removed myself from the situation, and my spirit feels lighter.

How does your spirit feel after social media?

Are we neglecting self-discipline with our own media consumption?

What are we modelling for our children?