I joined the cast of a musical theatre… a children’s musical theatre. I’m 39. Here’s what I learned.

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September 4, 2015 — Leave a comment

How to wear underwear

Raising Independent Thinkers

First Day of School

Second Day of School

Dirt tired.

Dirt tired.

Have you heard of “Wakie”? It’s a new app – and oh it’s a good one.

You register for a wakeup call, and another app user, looking to be of service (maybe?) calls you. Think of it as Uber for people with lots of energy, need for attention or just straight up practical joke delivery.

My brother – who shares nearly the exact sense of humor as me – was probably user #58 and purposely set an alarm three minutes after his download so that a complete stranger could call him and scream “BEEE-DOH-BEEE-DOH-BEEE-DOH” into his ear.

I’ll pause while you Despicable Me fans digest that.

Tonight I got a random phone call from an organization that introduced themselves as “We Care”. It was a three-way call from my husband and my brother after I sent a very vulgar text message clearly spelling out my status of “doneness” before admitting to hurling a sippy cup full of orange juice against the wall.

Why did I commit such atrocities? Because first, I knew it wouldn’t actually break and second, watching it splat everywhere in my white kitchen safely after my kids had been threatened into the garage to the waiting minivan was supremely satisfying.

Satisfying for exactly 3 seconds.

Have you ever tried to get three children into a mini van? If you think it’s easy, I will pay you for lessons. But it doesn’t justify breaking tupperwear.

Let me rephrase that? Have you ever tried to herd three children into a mini-van… one with ALL of her piano books… one who cannot find her sippy cup, no not that sippy cup, the other one with the other milk…. but no not that cup because that cup is yukky, and a third who has to go potty, but by potty he means, “change my pants socks and shoes because I already went while hiding in the third seat of the mini van.”

Now do that roughly ten times a day. Pickup, drop for ballet, grab a meal, errands, speech, gymnastics, gymnastics #2, and church. By time number ten, after they’ve all come home from school and destroyed my house in less than 15 minutes, I’m spent. Every.freaking.cent.

I don’t speak toddler. I don’t reason in toddler. No habla todleros. And I get even angrier when the “big girl” doesn’t have a PhD in empathy for exactly how frustrated I am and brings her own demands to the table. And that’s how the “other” sippycup with the orange juice met it’s demise.

Almost 8 years into this motherhood thing, kid reasoning is my official kryponite. I got NO skills. I have anti-skills, leaving my kids to straight up own me.

It’s not always true. Some days I can get there. We rock it. And some days, days like today, while trying to carve out time to build those sacred endorphins that prop up whatever ‘rock it skils’ are trying to take root, I make it to the side door just in time to find the repair guy unzipping his pants to pee just off my driveway.

And as though the heavens were humbling my outrage, during the estimate my own son appears half naked, ready to relieve himself.

By now it’s 10:30am and I know I have to be at preschool pick up at noon. So to workout-land I go. Vigorously. So vigorously that mid-tricep kick back I impale my boy’s head with a 3 pound weight because he snuck up to tell me his satellite show went down.

We made it to preschool… with wet hair and a nice forehead contusion.

Then comes the after school lunch fight. The after lunch snack fight. Then the drag my littlest through an errand while my middle child does occupational therapy fight. We rush home to greet our big girl who wants hot apple cider. I gladly comply. Little wants cold apple cider AFTER I made it hot.  Did I mention the ice machine had been disconnected by a different workout-interrupting repair guy? Middle wants almond milk… before she doesn’t.

“I want regular milk and maybe some juice”.

I snapped. I screamed. I threatened butts into the van.  And then I threw a sippy cup before hurriedly wiping up the orange juice from my white cabinets like the raging poser that I am.

And do you know, 5 minutes out of our driveway, they crashed? They were more tired than me.

How do I not know this?

Y’all. There’s nothing elegant about this mess. There’s nothing easy about this mess. And there’s NOTHING perfect about this mess for the naked eye to see. Because when I dare to lift my perfect list of daily ‘to do’s’ against the dust storm that is motherhood, it doesn’t blow away, instead it’s just kind of mockingly weatherbeaten by the sand of the everyday, waving in the wind, intermittently leaving ragingly annoying papercuts.  All against the backdrop of lessons learned about as well as groundhog day.

It’s kind of like having the carpet ripped out from under you while all of your good intentions, love for your family, love for your community and plans for attic hand-me-downs to finally pay off in consignment fly through the air.

My sister/friend Jenni – brave mother of 5 – writes “the irony of having 5 kids in 7 years is that there wasn’t any way to achieve my way out of it. There was no “perfect”…” http://jennispuler.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/im-straight-up-deficient-at-painting-pumpkins/ Go read every bit of this. Because it’s true.

God sets us up to unlearn what we think we know, to stop relying on what we think are our best points. He strips us of our crutches of self so that we learn to rely on Him. And I have to believe that at the crux of that learning is how much we need each other. A perfectly imperfect committee of people who may not rock the room-mom thing, or totally do, but wish like hell that someone would help them pick out paint colors. Or folks who have found their total balance in career/motherhood, and would love to wrap their arms around those of us who still believe that Pinterest is an assignment, not an resource. Or those amazing homeschool moms who have the peace and breadmaking skills that pass all understanding, but who can look at us in the eye, recognize that’s not how we were built and say something incredibly nourishing to our souls.

Dare I add a “to do” actually create the “We Care” app? Cause today I really needed those jokesters to pick up the phone and tell me that even though I’m drowning in the pettiest of drivel because I choose to drop to the floor and smear my nose in it, I’m not really drowning at all ’cause they’ve got me. And I need the buoy of someone else who’s been here, or is here, or just has love overflowing enough to help me laugh.

And I need that phone call that begins with “holy crap I can’t do this another day” so I can take inventory of my battle wounds and remember that I’ve got one that has survived this story and that hope transfused to you will totally be worth the rooting for.

Cause we really are all that each other’s got.

If you’re reading this, you’re in my sphere, and I’m apologetically in yours And I need to know that you’re honest and available in all of your struggles. And that I’ll be honest and available in all of mine.

This isn’t just toddlerhood. Or motherhood. Or daddyhood. Or infertility. Or sicknesss. Or divorce. Or bankruptcy. Or scandal. Or stagnation. Or cancer. Or addiction. Or loneliness. Or bad manners. Or boredom.

It’s honest humanity.

It’s saying… “Hey, I’ve got a kid with some issues and this stuff is hard and scary and demanding, yet I will drain the marrow from my bones so that she will get what she needs to start her life on their best foot, so I’m sorry if I’m not available for playdates.”

It’s saying… “Hey I’m suffering really really hard with an anxiety disorder and the everyday things that are hard can really make me hide and I need people who will make sure that I’m not hiding.” (You know who you are and I love you)

It’s saying…”Here I am. I’m not perfect. I’m not going to even try to make you think I’m perfect. Except on the days where I totally overcompensate. And then I’ll be obnoxious. But I’ll smile at you and maybe you’ll smile back and be kind.”

Those are just three of my true stories.

We need each other. Because the whole goal is giving these little ones the light that we possess so they can run out and share their own flame.

I wish there was more time in the day to really get to spend together, to know if, like me, you feel one day your flame might accidentally burn out too. I can’t promise I won’t be in between ballet and gymnastics, but leave me a message and I promise, I’ll do the same too. Even if it’s a silent hurried emoticon. I’ll listen. I’ll laugh. I’ll might give overly specific or possibly indulgent advice. But I’ll respect you, try to encourage you and as soon as we’re done, I’ll pray for you.


Now, off to make that app so we can all do it together. Whatever, I’m just going to sleep – tomorrow I’ve got to clean that damn van.


Today, my kids met a dog.

It was the friendliest little beauty, a young, blue-eyed shepherd with a terrific coat of salt and pepper mixed with brown. He was laying underfoot of his young owners – a terrific duo, adorably lunching together, devices in tow, their smiles giving off a palpable sense that they were on the launchpad of life. I didn’t even notice the dog – he was so chill, relaxed and obedient under the table… right until one of my children yelled  “Puppy!”

It was the 82nd time in the space of 10 minutes that my kids had escaped the lunch table, either as acrobats, rock slingers or gingerbread sprinters, but this time they all ran towards the dog, potato chips in various states between their mouths and hands.

And what a great dog he was… he gladly greeted them, though not wildly so. He wasn’t meek, per se, just the perfect blend of friendly and calm with sincere affections minus the wiggly hips that send kids flying backwards through outer space. So when I found out he was only 9 or 10 months old, I fell in love with him.

“Therapy dog.  We’re trying to socialize him as much as possible.”

Now I was totally in love with his owners.  I caught myself wondering if I could hire them to harness my offspring and create noble service beings out of them.

“What an affectionate and calm two-year-old you have there!” strangers would beam.

“Why yes, he’s trained to comfort my anxiety.  Works wonders really.”

“And that little one over there, she’s so funny, always cracking appropriate jokes while remaining in her seat.”

“Yes, yes, we keep her around in place of anti-depressants.”

Just then big sister would arrive from the restaurant with a tray full of drinks and a smile.
“Stella, Jon Powell, place your napkins in your laps.  Here’s your hand sanitizer.  And mom, I brought honey for your tea.”

At this point the onlookers, speechless, awkwardly excuse themselves. I’m not at all embarrassed by the attention, I’m busy nourishing myself one quiet bite at a time, noticing the complex flavors in my grain bowl and taking the time to journal the ingredients into Evernote.

Cue the record scratch.

My daydream came to an abrupt halt on the way back to the car as I grounded the seven-year-old for taking off towards the road, but not before dolling out bonus attention-getting spankings to the two and three-year-old who broke free from my hands to chase their big sister into the street.

Not to mention… NO ONE ATE THEIR LUNCH. I take that back, I shoveled in a few bites, but I don’t remember much about how it tasted – I was busy apologizing to the owners of the dog with the belly full of Zapps potato chips. So by the time I buckled my kids’ whiny butts into the car seats and they asked for ice cream, I might have let out the scream of a raging cow.

There were ridiculous amounts of failures and frustrations that added up to the bad movie that was this day, but events like a two-year-old with a poop diaper weaving laps through the racks of a 200-sq foot ballet store to the whiny rhythm of a seven-year-old (who doesn’t take ballet) singing that she NEEEEEDS a prima ballerina costume while I was stuck in a poorly-ventilated dressing room peeling leotards off a naked three year old is just such motherhood cliche that I won’t waste the space to share. The internet is full of these anecdotes… everyone gets it… this shiz ain’t easy.

But on a day like today, when I’m particularly weary, I catch myself being honest. So honest that I scare myself.

It’s not that I have really bad kids. Or abnormally active kids. It’s just that I am a mom. And seven-plus years into this gig, it still surprises me that complete trampling of my needs as a person – things like civility and quiet – still have the power to knock the wind out of me. Shockingly so.

What happens to the hope that I start out with in the morning? What happens to the reserves of love that I know have got to be in there somewhere? What happens to the God that I know and love whose grace is supposed to be sufficient but has left me kneeling on the side of my van just off of Main Street Daphne, Alabama wondering if today is going to be that day that I can’t hold it together?

It’s hard not to fall into the pit and begin to throw the party of “oh no no no no no silly me, my job from here until literal Kingdom Come is to plug the dam of my family one tired finger, one un-pedicured toe, one boo-boo kiss, one martyrous sleepless night and ipad grounding at a time until I collapse from exhaustion… exhaustion that’s sometimes physical, but mostly mentally and emotionally so.

On days like this, the rotten, real truth is that it’s hard to see the fun in this whole arrangement.

And then that damn dog and his perfect parents reminded me of something…

My kids were not born to meet my needs. His grace is.

Of course I know this in the sense that I’m not trying to put tiaras on my toddlers or hot house the next Hanna Mon-tanning bed.  But where the rubber meets the road, every single day, these little people were not put here to make make my life easy. It’s not going to be easy… if it were easy, I wouldn’t need grace. Or rather, it wouldn’t be real to me.

And while we’re comparing kids to our therapy dog… in all of his wonderful blue-eyed obedience, our friend the therapy dog was trained in a matter of months, to serve a single purpose.

My children are being trained, with my help, to find and chase their purpose.  And that could take a lifetime.

It’s why they were born unhinged, ready to push every boundary, explore every avenue, look at the world through their unique eyes so that they could become the very creatures that can someday contribute, shape and change the world. And it’s my job… as freaking exhausting, confusing, confounding, dumbfounding, defiling, demoralizing and dimwitting as it can be… to find the goods to pour into them so that they can rise to the occasion of their lives. To point them over and over again to the power that will be perfect in their weakness.  Ideally, if I do it modeling grace and consistency, they will have enough left over to pour into other lives around them.

His power is made perfect in my weakness.

Every day I have to accept – in between questions about His sense of humor and the occasional tequila drink – that God gave me, woefully inadequate me, my kids to raise because He believes that I’m the right person to raise them.  And even on the days that it’s so hard to believe that I’m remotely qualified for this gig, it’s not one that I’m allowed to outsource.

So, today, I cope by comparing the training of therapy dogs to the raising of my children. These are the dumb analogies that speak to me and pull me off of my knees and successfully back into traffic so I can get them home safely, squirt them with hoses and bribe them with popsicles. I didn’t promise the profound. And I did quote scripture.

But tomorrow, who knows. After all it is only day 7 of summer.

It’s the end of Mothers day, and as I crawl back into bed, untangle the sheets and sort the pillows, I get a shuddering feeling.   Surely it was just 10 seconds ago that I got “the wake up.”  The coffee in bed, three eager monkeys, clumsily scurrying their pointy parts across all of the sleepy muscles of this groggy bear who hasn’t yet opened more than one eye simultaneously.

I was treated to some cards – some clearly picked out by the kids for their lighting and noise effects – and some picked out by daddy for their inside joke-ness.  A presentation from my oldest with a handmade paper stage along with custom “my singing monsters” colored and cut out for each member of our family.  She, of course, the most colorful and elaborate.  I was delighted that, in the sense of art psychology, I was bigger than daddy.

My husband played through two of my childrens’ first birthday videos which become more special with each passing year as I match the wonder of my memories with the twinkle and awe of self-discovery in their eyes.

We went to church.

We dropped a card for Mimi.

We chased a swing for my front porch that no longer exists.

We had a lovely meal with family.

And now, here I sit pulling the covers over me again to rest for another cycle.   It doesn’t seem fair.

How is it that the days get faster and busier, while the memories get blurrier and time gets more slippery?  Why is it that sometimes I feel like I’ve tried to drink in the most precious and mundane of moments, but I feel like in the hurry of it all, I’ve misplaced the mug somewhere silly – like an upstairs closet. Why is it that my mind and my spirit can no longer keep up with all of the wonder and so often get trampled by frustration.

And then I remember… be grateful.  Grateful for three children that live with everything they have, even when they end up borrowing everything I have.  Be grateful that each passing day isn’t a measure of how much I am or am not, but whether or not I show up and the heart I show up with. Be grateful that even when I am not enough, I have a faith that is.

I stare at the clock and wonder how it’s already past 10 0’clock and listen to my husband protest that it’s time for me to get my sleep so that I can be enough all the way through tomorrow’s ride.

So that when I pull the covers up tomorrow, I can be grateful again.


It was the picture that shot my drink through my nose. I followed the link sent by one of our team moms with photos from our very first competitive gymnastics meet. And there was Sydney, in all of her Sydney-ness, basking in the glory of the podium. The medal, the grin, the salute… the child was completely transported to another world, lost in the blinding beams of the spotlight…

Of 3rd place.

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