Friday, June 30, 2017

As a mom, it’s easy to allow yourself to be swallowed by that one label. So much of our days are spent as caretakers, fixing plates and filling cups, changing diapers and, sadly, wiping bottoms long after the last box of diapers is gone. It’s hard to find time to remember the self you were before these tiny humans captured your heart and practically all your time.

As my kids grow, I find myself growing as well. Farther away from the individual I once was. Where is that fierce girl, striking out on her own without knowing anyone in a new state? Where is the woman who planned on naming her daughter Audrey to honor the great Hepburn who taught her that style and class go hand in hand with kindness and heart? Gone are the days of curling up to watch a black and white movie at 9 p.m., worrying about no one’s bedtime but her own. Or taking a bubble bath with a new book, without fear of the sound of the faucet waking the baby. Or just sitting on the porch, listening to crickets and watching the stars, without the ever present, slight whine of the baby monitor (or the toddler you just can’t shake). 

These days, I look for that fierce girl while debating whether to try and venture out on my own, with two kids, in a place where I don’t know the parking situation. Street parking is terrifying when the four year old has to stand by my side as I unbuckle the two year old. Trying new things has gotten scarier, as I don’t know how one kid or the other may react. Simply going to a new park can be frightening, as one child has a tendency to wander off while the other deliberately runs away.

I try to salvage pieces of the person who I was once that feels so much stronger than the one I am now. I’ve always been an avid reader, but these past few years reading has taken on a feverish intensity. It feels like the last shred of something the child-free me loved, and I cling to it. Each year, I challenge myself to read more than the last. Last year, I topped out at 54 books. This year, it’s June and I’m on book 41. It’s a desperate attempt at remembering I’m not just a mom; I’m still an adventurous spirit, tethered by the desire to put down roots for my babes while also stretching my limbs to experience as much of life as I can. Reading takes me to places I can’t physically go, to people who don’t exist but often feel like friends nonetheless.

It’s hard to find balance. The person I used to be seems glamorous now, but she struggled too. The grass is truly always greener, and looking back allows me to choose personality traits I’d like to rediscover. A love for classic movies? Absolutely. I hope my kids grow up knowing who Audrey and Humphrey are, and I think they will, if only because one day I’ll get to sit down with them and show them Sabrina. My love of books and porch sitting are already being imparted. My adventurous side, previously explored through circus arts and travel, are a little out of reach right now. I can't stride recklessly into new scenarios without research and preparation, as these little pieces of my heart walking around need me unbroken and present. These parts of me aren’t truly gone; they're simply on a shelf, waiting for the day I can help these smallish people discover the same things I once loved. 

The reality is, I am still strong. I’ve handled midnight illnesses with a strong stomach I didn’t know I possessed, and childbirth, for heaven’s sakes. I’ve overcome a fear of appearing impolite in order to advocate for my children’s healthcare. This strength is different than the bravery the old me had; this comes from a deep well of love resultant of caring for other people, and giving them parts of yourself along the way. 

New parks and situations may give me a fleeting pit of panic in my stomach, but that doesn’t make me weak. It means that in this stage, new situations with tiny kids can be scary and that’s just something I have to deal with. The grocery store before lunch is equally scary, and that’s well tread ground. Different seasons hold different combinations of the me I used to be and the mom I am becoming, and that’s where I find the balance. Thankfully, years of tight wire walking have made me an expert at balance. In the meantime, I’ll be driving to the same old park while singing “Yellow Submarine” with my four year old (and the two year old, because this park is fully fenced so there is no escape). Maybe one day I'll even get to teach this precious cargo of mine to leap into a chasm, holding onto a metal bar and, for just a moment, fly without a plane.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

To win Father's Day this year, I created a special breakfast for my husband that I knew would make his day. He loves bacon, and he loves cinnamon rolls, so instead of making some of each, I combined them. I present to you: Bacon wrapped cinnamon rolls!

Granted, I took some shortcuts. I didn't make my own cinnamon rolls, but you could. You'd need to bake them for a bit, then add the bacon, then finish baking them. It's quite a bit easier with store-bought rolls, since all you do is wrap, bake, and blow someone's mind.

Take your ingredients. Crack open that pressurized can, set each individual roll in the prepped and sprayed (I use Kirkland olive oil spray to guarantee some non-stick action) pan, and then open your bacon.

Wrap one slice of bacon around the outside of each cinnamon roll. You can do some lovely tucking and scrunching to make it prettier; it's entirely up to you. I made one extra special one that had bacon wrapped from the spiral inside, all the way around the outside. I had to unroll the cinnamon roll, lay the bacon inside it, and re-roll it. I don't know that it made a big difference though.

Bake at 400 F for 15 minutes. Check bacon. You may have to compromise on how crunchy you like it if the cinnamon roll tops are browning too fast. I recommend using a lower shelf in the oven to delay the cinnamon rolls and make both items be complete simultaneously.

Let cool and enjoy!

Have you tried these? What did you think?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Once upon a time, I was a punctual person.

Then I had kids.

I hate being late. I hate being perpetually late even more. Yet any time I'm not going to work or dropping the kids at school, I'm running behind.

I've tried prepping things the night before. Arranging shoes in a neat line. Getting up extra early. But most of the time, right before we're meant to leave, someone has to go potty or needs another diaper change (even if I just changed him!). Shoes that were on nine seconds ago have gone missing, cups are misplaced, the dogs are let out when moments before, I called them in. Something inevitably delays us.

I cringe when we sneak into church several songs in. I sigh when everyone is loaded in the car, only to be told someone has to pee right now! I bury my face in my hands when we have to go back inside for a forgotten bag, phone, or beloved toy.

It's easy to get frustrated by these moments. Regardless of organization hacks and task efficiency and planning and prepping, something always pops up. It's easy to get mad, to be irritated we're late yet again.

I was having one of those days yesterday. It seemed like the boys' ears were just closed to me. They adore going to church, and we recently started a Wednesday evening study for the summer, so they get to go an extra day. They love their teachers and their playtime and just getting out of the house. Yet each time I asked them to put on shoes, I'd walk back by the playroom to find them still engrossed in their playtime. They were slow to walk out the door, painstakingly sluggish to get in the car, and the youngest literally crawled when I asked him to hurry. Most days, he'd give famed runner Usain Bolt a run for his money.

I was not feeling benevolent. I was grumpy that they'd been ignoring me all. day. long. I was seeing red that they were so blatantly disregarding my sense of urgency about going somewhere they adore. I was so, so frustrated.

No matter how late I am, I make sure to drive the same as I would if I were early. Better late than dead, right? So I'm driving my typical, reasonable pace while the radio is on scan, trying to drown out the negative thoughts in my brain. I stop on the NPR traffic report, because I'm already late and don't want to be later. That's when I hear that there was an accident along our route, right where we would've been had we left on time.

How many accidents have I not been in, simply because circumstances caused me to be late? I think in most of these instances, God has a reason for it. Last night, the reason was that I simply wasn't meant to be there at that time. He protected me, driving my two young boys, and kept us safe. Were their ears closed to my pleas to put on shoes? Yes. Did I have to drag-carry my heavy two-year-old because he insisted on crawling to the car? Did they dawdle during  dinner, further delaying our departure? Typically one of these delays occurs, but not all of them. We don't usually leave twenty minutes later than I planned.

I often feel too small for God. I'm not a pastor, a worship leader, or even a Christian writer of any notability. I'm just a freelance writer, mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend. But God doesn't see me as just anything. He isn't inconvenienced by me. He has a plan for my life.  I have value to Him. So do you.

So if you're stressing over running late, or feeling inconsequential, just remember: you are loved and valuable. God has you right where you're meant to be.