The 12 Days of Christmas a Mom Really Wants

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The Christmas season is fully upon us, which means I’m streaming my Pandora Christmas stations during all waking hours. My Christmas music streaming is done much to the joy of my husband and children, who especially love that I treat the Christmas music station as my own personal sing-along karaoke.

One of the more amusing Christmas songs that always pops up on my playlist is “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. Everyone knows the song: “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.” As the song progresses we learn about all of the glorious gifts bestowed upon the recipient: Two turtle doves, three french hens, four calling birds, five golden rings, six geese a-laying, seven swans a swimming (So many birds!!)…and all the way up to twelve drummers drumming.

Now, I don’t know about you, but if my true love gave me a boatload of birds to take care of for Christmas, I’d chalk that right up there with receiving a toilet scrub brush and some rubber gloves. No thank you, sir. No, if my true love gave to me what I really wanted, it would look something like this:

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me one whole day off to do whatever I wanted.
I don’t even know where I would start, but it would for sure involve a lot of not-cleaning and not-responding to the needs/wants/whims of , well, anyone not named Me. We could just stop right here with this one and be set for life, but this is the 12 days of Christmas, so we’ll keep going.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me two solid days of your time checking off items from your “Honey Do” list (that I so kindly wrote out for you).
Let’s turn that “Honey Do” list into a “Honey Done” list. I know that a lot of the things on that list don’t bother you because you’re away in an office for 10 hours a day…but my office happens to be our house, and they drive me bonkers! That little patch of the wall that still needs to be painted, the rattling pipe, the drawers that still need pulls (that we already bought) installed. Please and thank you.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me three (proper) massages.
No funny business, just a good ‘ol back rub. And if you’re not up to the task, you’re welcome to send me off to the spa.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me four weekends per month to sleep in.
Sleep is the one thing I dream about when I am awake. You, my friend, could make my wildest dreams come true.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me five opportunities to work out every week.
How amazing would it be to just go to the gym or hit the pavement any time I wanted? No need to shlep along unruly children or push a whiny toddler in the stroller. I would actually have a legitimate purpose for wearing yoga pants and running shoes every day. Yes, this would be bliss.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me six hours of time washing and detailing my minivan.
I’m not sure that 6 hours would be enough time to remove the slop and grime and pulverized goldfish crackers from my kid-mobile, but you have to start somewhere. I would absolutely love to sit down in that car some day and be reminded of the carpet’s natural color and look through windows that are not smeared with sticky handprints.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me seven days off of bedtime duty every week.
Bedtime is perhaps my least favorite part of any given day. The cajoling, the whining, the arguing, the pushing of buttons when my buttons are already worn out from the day. How amazing would it be to just give my kids a hug and a kiss goodnight, then sit down with a book and a cup of tea while the nighttime chaos unfolded out of earshot? SUPER-amazing, that’s how amazing it would be.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eight hours of quality time with our family doing whatever I plan for us.
My true love does not (under normal circumstances) enjoy “adventuring” as I call it. Neither do two out of my three children. They’re much happier staying home working on a project or playing video games with their friends. I, on the other hand, am like a caged bird that needs to spread her wings.

For one solid day I’d like to take the whole family and go to all the places, do all the things, eat at all the restaurants, and enjoy all the time together. Everyone would be happy and well-rested and cooperative and excited to see all of the wonderful things I had planned for us. They would marvel at the beautiful places in nature we would visit and they would appreciate the new culinary journeys I would take them on. At the end of the day they would thank me for opening their eyes to new experiences.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me nine months of carpooling service for our children.
I spend approximately 27 hours a day driving my children to and fro. If someone could just help me drive kids to school and sports and clubs and playdates I would have enough time to do, well, everything. And I’m not even asking for a whole year of driving services. Nine months, from September-May, should do just fine for now. I’m so magnanimous.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ten loads of laundry completed by someone other than myself.
In a family with three young children I do laundry every. Single. Day. Of all my domestic chores, laundry is the most consistent time-suck. I would love to have help every now and then with completing full loads of laundry. And by completing, I mean sorting, washing, drying, ironing/folding, and putting away everything. Not just one step in the process as is occasionally offered, but the whole shebang.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eleven fresh, healthy dinners prepped, served, and cleaned up for our family.
Even though I’ve been an “adult” for quite some time now, the fact that I have to make dinner every day is still surprising to me. Growing up I rarely gave dinner a thought because it always just appeared on our dinner table at 6PM. Now that I’m in charge of the whole dinner rigamarole, however, dinner carries quite a different connotation in my mind. Dinner requires planning, time to prep, time to cook, time to clean, and will power to not lose your cool when nobody eats the meal that you’ve spent all day obsessing over. For a few days I’d love to just revert to my childhood and show up to dinner on the table at 6PM–is that too much to ask?

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me twelve months of a housecleaning service.
Can I get an amen?! Admittedly, I am a terrible housekeeper. I love clean, but I despise cleaning. I mean, I’ll do the basic bed-making and vacuuming and putting things away, but I need someone to get into all the nooks and crannies. Someone to come in and mop up the dust bunnies and scrub the baseboards, and rub the fingerprints off our front windows. Someone to make my home presentable, even if it’s just for the 2 hours between elementary school drop-off and preschool pick-up.

So, there’s my twelve days of Christmas list. No partridge in a pear tree or calling birds (They’d just mess up my house and add more noise to the usual cacophony, anyway)–although I really wouldn’t mind the five golden rings.

Now it’s your turn–what’s on your twelve days of Christmas wish list?

Parenting Myths vs. Reality

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There was a time in my life when I was a really fantastic parent. I mean, we’re talking top-notch on the Mommy Scale. My children were always obedient and well-behaved. I had endless patience and the ability to turn any crummy situation into a learning opportunity. It was a glorious time.

The only problem is, this blissful period of my life happened to be before I actually had any actual children.

You see, before I had kids of my own it was easy to see the best way to handle every situation and raise proper children. It was all a myth, though, because real children don’t want to be raised proper. They don’t. In real life, children have a mind and a body of their own, and they don’t care how many parenting books I’ve read or how many mommy podcasts I’ve listened to: They’re going to do things their own way.

The contrast between the myths and the reality of parenting can be quite stark. As a matter of proof, may I present the following evidence:

Myth: My children will be well-dressed
Reality: Children are basically tiny nudists. If you can even get them to wear clothing at all, it will probably just be underwear on their heads. Just sayin’.

Myth: I will sleep train my baby within the first 3 months of his life.
Reality: Your baby refuses to sleep in a supine position. Any time you try to lay him on his back he instantly startles awake and proceeds to scream until either his or your face turns blue, whichever comes first. He prefers to be held at a 72 degree angle with one arm tightly wrapped in a swaddle and the other hand entwined in your hair. Any other position is absolutely unacceptable and will result in fits of rage.
After the 9th straight month of no sleep you move the baby into his crib in the nursery anyway, turn off the baby monitor, put in earplugs, and tell your husband to only wake you if the house is on fire.

Myth: I will potty train my child as soon as they turn 2 so I can send him to preschool
Reality: You tried the 2-day Potty Training Method…which turned into the 2-WEEK Potty Training Method…which turned into the 2-MONTH Potty Training Method…and now you’re still working on the 2-YEAR Potty Training Method. You have gone through approximately 436 pairs of “big-boy undies”, 578 Pull-Ups, and have grown 47 new gray hairs.

Myth: I will only feed my children homemade, organic food. It will be wholesome and delicious and my children will fall at my feet in worship of the labor of love I provide for them at every meal.
Reality: You tried cooking a real dinner for the whole family one time last year. It took 4 hours, 15 dirty pans, and 2 bottles of Chardonnay to get through that meal. 17% of the food ended up on the floor and was eaten by the dog, 53% was thrown in the garbage, and 29% was eaten by you and/or your spouse. Now you think like a smart woman and you cook whatever you want to eat, then feed your children bowls of Cheerios when they refuse to eat it.

Myth: I will set strict limits on screen time.
Reality: Before you go to bed you set iPads and headphones outside of the childrens’ bedrooms in the hopes that this distraction will allow you to sleep in the next morning. What’s a few extra minutes of Paw Patrol in relation to actual SLEEP?! I rest my case.

Myth: I will never drive one of those minivans.
Reality: You’re fine with one kid. Then you have another kid, and you still make it work. But when you have the third kid, forget it. The minivan is your friend. The minivan is your spirit animal. Embrace it. Love it. Because the minivan? The minivan is here to stay.

Myth: My children will behave in public.
Reality: There is a 3-ring circus: You are the circus master and your children are your dancing bears. Everywhere you go, you bring the circus with you. Just call it like it is and buy yourself some peanuts and popcorn anytime you leave the house.

Myth: When my kids go to school I’ll finally get time to myself!
Reality:
9:00  Drop your child off at school
9:15-10:00  PTA meeting planning for the school auction
10:00-12:00  Volunteer in your child’s classroom during Literacy Centers
12:00-12:20  Scarf down whatever leftovers you can find in your fridge for lunch
12:20-2:20  Clean the house, do the dishes, fold the laundry, prep dinner, run a quick errand
2:25 Drive to the school so you can secure your spot in the school pick-up line
2:35  Reply to a few emails on your phone while you wait for school to be dismissed
2:45  Kids are back in the car.
The end.

Myth: Raising kids will be so much work
Realtiy: Raising kids is so much work. So much difficult, rewarding, challenging, enriching, beautiful work. Life will be more full than you ever imagined, and your heart will hold more love than you ever thought possible. You will have days of struggle and tears and anger and anxiety. But you will have many more days of joy and love and learning and fulfillment. And at the end of the day, you will know: this is the best work of your life.

Thank You Notes

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A couple of weeks ago in MOPS we had a fantastic speaker come and talk to our group about something I have totally not mastered: jealousy. And along with jealousy, comparison. I know that it’s hard to fathom, but from time to time I find myself longing for the green grass on the other side (Shoot, I would even settle for the grown children who can wipe their own bums on the other side of the bathroom stall.).

In her talk, however, the speaker gave us the solution to this particular problem of jealousy. Do you want to know what it is? What one quick fix will get you out of the comparison game faster than anything else? Drumroll, please…

Gratefulness!

Being thankful for what you have is the opposite reaction to comparison, and it really does work. So, in an attitude of true repentance and gratefulness, I have decided to pen my own thank you notes* to celebrate the many blessings of motherhood (*credit to Jimmy Fallon, Jen Hatmaker, and every other funny person who has already done this and who I am blatantly plagiarizing with this post).

They go something like this:

Thank you, playground sand, for staying with my children long after they leave the playground. My children had so much fun jumping off the swings into you and digging in you with their sand toys in you that we just couldn’t stand to leave that party. I count it all as joy when I walk into my living room and step into a pile of freshly-dumped-from-shoes playground sand. It’s such a fun reminder of the good times we had at that park and it does not stress me out at all. I love it when I’m about to get into bed at night, but I have to spend 20 minutes vacuuming the floor around my bed first because there is a fine sprinkling of playground sand scattered around my entire bedroom–it’s like camping at the beach!

Thank you, Moms Night Out, for an excuse to get out of dealing with BEDTIME. The friends and the night out are nice, too, but we all know the real reason we scheduled this little shin-dig from 7-9:00.

Thank you, Costco, for allowing me to still feel like a got a bargain at the end of the day because my hot dog + soda still only costs $1.50. I may have spent $400 on “essential” items, but you still know how to please the penny pinchers in all of us.

Thank you, doctors’ office stickers. You made my child feel proud and brave after he got his flu shot (even though he screamed like an attacking mountain lion and left claw marks in my arms from his attempted escape during the procedure). Not only do you change my child’s outlook on his day, but you also change his wardrobe. Thank you for sticking to his shirt all day and never falling off like a decent cheap sticker, so that I forget about you and throw his shirt-with-sticker in the washing machine the next morning. The sticky residue that you leave on his shirt is such a nice addition to the clothing–that shirt was so boring, so normal, before you left your gobs of goo permanently glued to the front right breast of that shirt.

Thank you, weekend mornings with children, for being exactly like every other morning of the week. I never really liked quiet or sleep or brunch anyway.

Thank you, “screen time”, giver of daily mini-vacations to moms everywhere.

Thank you, minivan. You are so much more than a vehicle. You are a storage closet, a kitchenette, a baby-changing station and a super-cush place to sneak in a nap between kindergarten drop-off and preschool pick-up. You have so many cubbies and cup holders that I hardly even notice the garbage my kids hoard in your dark recesses. I’m sorry I gave you so much crap before I had you–I was a different person then, and I just didn’t know you. Can we please be BFF’s now? xoxox

…and I could go on and on with these, but my baby just woke up from her nap. I’ve got to leave it here for now because real life is calling. There is a baby downstairs who needs me a and a house that (definitely) needs cleaning. There is a whole pile of people for me to love and who love me.

And for that, I truly am thankful.

 

Dear Kindergartener

  
Dear Son (Who Is Now A Kindergartener),

For the past 5 1/2 years I have alternated between dreading this day and pleading for it to arrive: your first day of kindergarten. And now it is here. The day I had been anticipating and wondering about and preparing you for and praying over is actually really truly happening. Tomorrow is the big day. In the morning you will wake up a new person, a Big Kid Kindergartener. Not my baby or my toddler or my preschooler, but my school kid. And I couldn’t be more proud.

You are an amazing person. Did you know that? God has created you to be uniquely you, and you are utterly and perfectly who He wants you to be. He made you to be loving and passionate and feisty and strong. He made you with Big Feelings. He gave you a deep desire to fiercely protect the underdog. He made you to be curious and creative. He made you to run and jump and climb like an American Ninja Warrior. He made you silly. There is no other you, and you are wonderful.

The world is full of incredible people and incredible moments, but it can also be harsh. So, when the world starts to tell you that you isn’t good or isn’t good enough, remember how amazing you are. Keep your head up like the warrior that you are, and be confident in the you that God has created. Up until now you’ve been under the shelter of my wing, but now it’s time for you to spread your own wings. As you venture out into the world, you will become more and more independent each day. Carry on strong as you make your own mark in the world, because I can’t wait to see what that mark will look like!

So when you wake up tomorrow morning (probably tired) and you refuse to eat your breakfast (because you hate eating in the morning), I hope you are at least a little bit excited. Excited to meet your teacher and classmates and new friends on the playground. Excited to find your seat at the table and sit in circle time (it will be a lot of sitting…just try to enjoy the rest).  Excited to play in the science corner and the art table and the dramatic play center. Excited to learn more about reading and numbers and telling your own stories. Excited to listen respectfully and take turns and be a good sport. Excited, most of all, for the grand adventure you’re about to begin. Because this year? This year is the beginning of one of the greatest journeys of your life.

Enjoy the ride, my not-so-little boy.  I am so very proud of you and I am 100% for you. Be kind, be happy, be attentive. Sometimes (if the teacher isn’t looking) be really super silly. Be you. Because you is amazing, and

I.

Love.

You.

XOXOXOX,
Mommy

P.S. If you see me tomorrow morning and my face is extra watery, just know that it’s a common condition that all kindergarten mommies undergo on the first day of school. It’s a love leak. It will likely reoccur during many of your milestones, including but not limited to: Any and every graduation (kindergarten, High School, College, Masters Degree, PhD, Doctorate, etc.), losing your first tooth, winning a participation trophy in Little League, every time you give me flowers,  getting your drivers’ license, seeing you in a tux on prom night, whenever those dang Facebook Memories pop up and I see you as a baby, and your wedding.

 

Buh-Bye, Bump

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I have been pregnant for just over 2 of the last 5 1/2 years, which means I’ve had loads of time with my bump (my bump, of course, being the human child/ren growing inside my womb). It’s surreal for me to think, then, that this stage of my life is nearly over. Forever. In just a few days our last child will be born and I will never again have a bump (flabby trophy tummy excepted, of course). It’s a bitter-sweet realization.

My first pregnancy bump was highly anticipated. I expected my belly to start growing exponentially the moment that pee stick turned positive. I couldn’t wait to have that pregnancy glow and not be able to see my toes. Seriously, this is the stuff dreams my dreams were made of. Each day I would examine my still-flat tummy in the mirror and disappointedly wonder why it still looked so toned (back in those days I was a marathon runner, not a multigravida).

As the months progressed, however, my bump (finally) started to grow.

pregnancy 010And grow (Note the moving boxes. Why do we always move when I’m pregnant?)…

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And grow…

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And grow!

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That baby we’d been waiting for was making his presence known, and I adored my bump. We spent months planning obsessing over every aspect of our baby’s birth and arrival. We painted the baby’s room and I posed with my bump in the baby’s new nursery. I wanted everything to be perfect.

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As holidays approached, I even decorated my bump in celebration. Pregnancy was so much fun!

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I had grown quite attached to my bump, but when my baby’s due date came and went…and 10 more days passed…I gave my bump an official eviction notice. It worked, and on October 27, 2010 our first child entered the world.

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Exactly one year after I said goodbye to Bump #1, I started growing Bump #2. This time around we got to share our baby joy with…our baby. Looking back at some of these photos makes me wonder what we were thinking–seriously, we had TWO BABIES!

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Bump #2 progressed through the natural progression of fruit growth, from the size of a poppyseed, to an orange, to a fully ripe watermelon.15 weeks baby 2 - 0006

It was so much fun sharing Bump #2 with Big Brother and joining him in his wonder and curiosity about the baby that was growing in Mommy’s tummy.
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And although we knew all our lives were about to change, we knew with certainty that it would be a change for the better.IMG_2228

A few years passed, and there was no bump. In those bump-less years our family learned what it was like to raise little boys–to splash in puddles and collect sticks weapons of mass destruction and wrestle before bed. They were sweet years that I will always hold dear.

After we got good and settled into our little life and our routines and our not-needing-diaper-ness, we decided to mix things up again. Enter Bump #3.

I was elated to be pregnant again–and, if I’m totally honest–absolutely terrified. We had a long road getting to Bump #3 and I just wanted everything to go smoothly. That, paired with the fact that I knew this would be our last baby, made me cherish this bump more than I might have otherwise.

From the very beginning, I was in love with Bump #3.
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When we found out that Bump #3 was a she, I absolutely did not believe it. After all, we were a boy family and I had gotten so good at puddles and sticks and wrestles. Once I got past the shock of the whole girl thing, though, I fully embraced it. I’m thrilled that I will get to introduce dolls and dancing and sweet cuddles to our usual routine of puddles and sticks and wrestles.IMG_7946

As this baby (and my belly grew) I got to experience the sheer joy of anticipation with our big boys. This was probably the greatest difference with Bump #3–the fact that we had two older children who totally understood what was happening and absolutely adored their baby. The questions and the cuddles and the doting words and the shirt-lifting-belly-revealing-in-public never end with these two.IMG_8086

And even though each of my bumps has been its own unique experience, each has brought our family one step closer to completeness. I’ll be a bit sad to say goodbye to my bump for the last time–to say goodbye to the excitement and expectation that it has always brought. In the end, though, I know that something even better is coming.

In a few days I will meet my daughter and the wait will finally be over. My bump will be gone forever, but it will signal the start of our next grand adventure. And I’m ready–ready for the goodbye, and even more ready for the

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Mother Runner

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This morning after I dropped Big Guy off at preschool and Daddy off at work, Little Guy and I headed out for a run. It was a beautiful, crisp Fall morning and the tail was beckoning us (Okay, the trail was beckoning me. As you can tell by the photo above, the trail was doing little more than lulling Jacob to sleep).

I love running. I love running so much that I actually do it for sheer enjoyment, not just because I’m being chased (which, in a house with two little boys, is also a common occurrence). I started running in elementary school when I joined our school’s Track team (cute, right?)–and I’ve just been going ever since. I run for the pure joy of running.

Just me, my shoes, and the open road.  And a jogging stroller. Can’t forget the jogging stroller.

Now that I have two young children attached (quite literally) to my hip, they get to accompany me on most of my runs. My sons have become my trusty running companions–my training partners, if you will. They motivate me to run faster (Are we done yet, Mommy? I have to go potty.), they increase my stamina (Have you ever felt how heavy those dang strollers loaded down with children weigh?), and they give me purpose for my training (Just try keeping up with two boys all day. I swear they produce enough energy to power a third world country). Plus, it’s actually a lot of fun running with them.

With the help of my tiny running partners we’ve discovered new places…

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..and rediscovered the past.

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While running, we have bonded as a family…

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…and met many new friends

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We’ve explored beautiful landscapes…

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…and icy frontiers.

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I hope that as my boys get older they will remember our runs together as happy times. Times when we explored our world and grew stronger together. Who knows, maybe some day they’ll even run with me, and they can show me new wonders that they’ve discovered. No matter what, though, I am a Mother Runner.

Just try to keep up, boys.

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iPhone Controls I’d Like To Use On My Kids

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I love my iPhone. Maybe a bit too much. It is always with me, waking or sleeping, handy and ready should I need it. Now that we are living in a different time zone from many of our family and friends, however, I have discovered that this wonderful little device can be quite a nuisance if not properly controlled. It took me a few weeks of midnight Facebook updates popping up on my screen and 2 AM phone calls ringing through before I discovered the “Do Not Disturb” icon (genius, whoever came up with that one). All I have to do is set up the hours that I don’t want to be bothered with beeps or buzzes or rings and I get to sleep through the night with my (dark and silent) phone beside my pillow. And that got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be great if I could transfer some of those iPhone controls onto my kids and my life? For instance…

IMG_3471Do Not Disturb:

I would love to have a button I could push that would keep my kids from bothering me between certain hours. It’s bed time, NO DISTURBING MOMMY. No whines, cries, or shouts allowed. No “I have to go potty” or “I want another drink” may be uttered. No baby in the process of “sleep training” (sheesh, is sleep training supposed to last 13 months???) who screeches from 4:30-5:30 every morning. No dog who barks at 3 AM when a cat runs through the back yard. Just silence. Sweet, sweet silence.

IMG_3470Privacy:

I have a 1-year old and a nearly 3-year old. I haven’t known privacy since the moment I went into labor with my first child. Sometimes I find myself dreaming about taking a shower or going to the bathroom by myself. With the door shut. And nobody crying and banging on the door trying to get in. Just me, alone, experiencing privacy. I want an icon on my life that says “Do not look. Do not touch. Leave me alone. I will contact you when I am darn well ready.”

IMG_3472Settings:

How awesome would it be to program your life to your exact specifications? I would check off boxes in my settings like no temper tantrums, no arguing, no complaining, no brother-hitting, no floor-licking, and no poop on the floor. I would set the day to include lots of fun and laughter and good food and good attitudes. Words like “I love you”, “please”, “thank you”, and “this broccoli is delicious, Mom” would be thrown around freely. I would schedule nap times–and the kids would actually sleep. I would set up my to-do list and everything would be crossed off by the end of the day.

IMG_3467Airplane Mode:

I would change this one slightly to be “transportation mode”, rather than just “airplane mode”. Transportation mode would allow me to control my kids’ behavior while we’re in transit. They would play happily in their seats, sing songs with me, and enjoy watching cloud animals out their windows. They would come up with creative ways to pass the time in the car or the shopping cart that did not involve kicking me. They would fall asleep in their car seats if it was naptime instead of becoming manic-depressive lunatics. They would not throw shoes at the windshield. They would respect the driver’s need to, you know, drive.

IMG_3474Navigation:

Sometimes, as a mother, I would just like some guidance. Someone to come alongside me and show me the way. And if I get lost (which I often do), to redirect me and get me back on the right path. Being a mom is one of the best parts of my life (despite the rants in this post)–but it is also, far and away, the most difficult (again, see the rants in this post). It would be amazing to–in a what-should-I-do parenting moment–to click a button and see the best solution. Or (and this happens, too), to see the best way to fix a problem I’ve already created.

If two kids have taught me anything, it’s that I can’t parent them (effectively) alone. I need guidance. Thankfully, I have my own parenting “navigation tool” of sorts–and it’s even closer to me than my iPhone. I have Jesus and God’s Word, ready and handy at all times.

And, if I get really desperate, there’s an app for that, too.