Thank You Notes

thank-you-letter

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.

 

Lessons From The Laundry Pile

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172. That’s how many individual items composed the mountain of laundry. 172 shirts and pants and socks and towels and sheets and pairs of under-oos that needed folding and ironing and put-away-ing. Every time I looked at the massive pile I did a double-take to make sure the clothes weren’t actually multiplying before my eyes. I mean, seriously. There was so. Much. Laundry.

I wasn’t quite sure how to begin tackling Mt. Laundry, so I just sat and stared at it for a moment before digging in. I needed to formulate a game plan. As I contemplated the massive chore that lay before me, though, a funny thing happened. Not “haha funny”, but ironic funny. As I sat there trying to avoid the tedious task that lay before me, I felt an overwhelming surge of gratefulness. Let me explain.

You see, that pile of laundry was sitting there because I have laundry to do.

Each shirt, each pair of pants, each mismatched sock represents clothing that my family owns and wears every day. We have beautiful clothes that fit us properly. We have warm clothes for when it is cold outside, we have swimsuits for when we play in the water, we have rain gear to wear out in a storm. We chose our clothes from a store or received them as gifts or were given them as hand-me-downs (sorry, little brother, but this is your destiny for all eternity…or until you can start buying your own clothes). We have so many clothes that we regularly have to sort through our dressers and our closets to pick out clothes we no longer wear so we can make room for new clothes. We have so much, and I am grateful.

The sheets and towels in the pile represented extra beds that were filled in our house the last couple of weeks. Guests that traveled from faraway, exotic places (like Seattle) to visit us. Friends and family that went out of their way to spend time with us. Adventures that we shared together while they were here. We have amazing friends and family, and I am grateful.

The dress shirts I got to iron (I’m going to say “got to” instead of “had to” here because I’m on a roll. But don’t get me wrong. I despise ironing with a fiery passion.) were so my husband can look presentable at his job. His job that he loves and, I am convinced, was created to do. His job that provides so fully for our family that I do not have to work outside of our home. His job that allows me to wear yoga pants every day instead of dress shirts (can I get an Amen?). Our needs are provided for, and I am grateful.

The fact that I have clean, dry laundry points to the fact that I have a washing machine and a dryer. IN MY HOUSE. Does that not boggle your mind? I have my very own machines that do all the hard work for me. I don’t have to walk down to a river or draw water from a well, scrub clothes on a board with soap that I made with my own two hands, or even wait for my clothes to dry in nature’s time. It’s not even like my college days when I had to walk down to the basement in my dorm to put quarters in a machine or my Ireland-days when I had to walk through the rain and the mud to get laundry out of our garden shed. I have every convenience at my fingertips, and I am grateful.

But here’s the real kicker. 172 pieces of laundry means that there are people in this house that I get to love and care for each day. There are children who call me Mom and a husband who calls me Helper. And I GET to serve them every time I do a seemingly tedious task…like the laundry.

And even though meaningless tasks consume most of my days, I will be grateful. The pile of laundry that needs folding or the floor that needs vacuuming or the toilet that needs scrubbing or those mouths that need feeding represent more than the task at hand: they represent the people and the privilege behind them. Some day I may not have meaningless tasks to do or people to do them for so, in this moment, I choose to be grateful.

Exhausted, perhaps, but grateful.

The Thankful Project

photo (25)Parenting is not always glamorous or cute or even fun. The other day I was sitting on the couch watching both of my kids cry at me, for what felt like the hundredth time that day. These sweet, crazy, LOUD children were crying at me again. And in this moment I had a choice: I could succumb to the anger and frustration that were starting to boil up inside me, or I could be thankful. Yes, thankful.

Thankful for these sweet, crazy, LOUD children who I had desperately longed for and prayed for. Thankful that the reason I get to witness a hundred fits each day is because I am able to stay home to help raise them. Thankful that they have lungs that are strong and work well–really well. Thankful that I could comfort them in their time of need. Thankful–just thankful.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought it would be appropriate to document some of these ordinary moments of thankfulness–perform a little thankful project, if you will. For the last couple of weeks I’ve kept a notebook on my kitchen counter and, every time I’ve noticed them, I’ve written down the things that I’m thankful for. What I’ve found during this little experiment is that I’m looking for more reasons to be thankful–and, as a result, I am feeling more thankful. Some of the things that I wouldn’t typically pay any notice to are becoming fuel for my thankful heart. Things like:

  1. The sound of Jacob’s sweet little toddler/man voice
  2. The feel of David’s long body curled up on my lap
  3. Morning snuggles with my boys in my bed
  4. The smell and feel of Jacob’s hair
  5. That I kept my cool during David’s hour-long tantrum
  6. Hearing the sputter-breath at the end of a tantrum that signals the screaming is over
  7. Having a BBQ outside in November
  8. Meeting my friends’ kids and seeing my kids befriend these kids
  9. Having a washing machine in my house so I can easily wash things any time I need to
  10. That I have choices of schools for my children–even if, for the life of me, I can not make up my mind on which choice to choose
  11. Solo runs to clear my head
  12. Making my kids laugh
  13. Getting the best parking spot in the lot
  14. Friends who point me to Jesus
  15. Building sandcastles with my boys
  16. Bedtime.
  17. Meeting new babysitters who can help us
  18. Patient teachers who pray for my son
  19. Getting out of my comfort zone and meeting new people. It’s always worth it.
  20. Feeling transported back to Ireland every time I sip Barry’s tea
  21. Working with an honest mechanic
  22. Salted caramel cupcakes. Oh my yum.
  23. Being the first shopper to walk in the door at Costco on a weekday morning
  24. Reminiscing with old photos
  25. Disposable diapers and rubber gloves
  26. My handyman husband who fixed our stuck door–I probably would have just dealt with it forever, and been annoyed every single time I used it.
  27. That I can turn on a cartoon for the kids and get a 20 minute break
  28. Neighbors that have welcomed us to our new neighborhood and made us feel like family
  29. Reading books with my boys
  30. Hearing leaves crunch underfoot
  31. Seeing David and Jacob give each other hugs on their own, just because
  32. Amazon Prime
  33. Baking muffins with my boy and hearing him squeal with delight when he cracks the eggs
  34. The opportunity to pray with my boys when things aren’t going well and we need some help
  35. Our weekly gardening service
  36. David and Jacob signing their prayer song at dinner time
  37. Jon’s dedication and passion for his job–that he works hard for our family so I can “work from home”
  38. Watching Jon and the boys wrestle on the bed at night
  39. Throwing marshmallows for the boys (it’s a Peterson thing…)
  40. A full fridge and pantry that are only ever empty because of neglect, not need for resources
  41. Stealing a few minutes to read a magazine
  42. Welcoming visitors into our home
  43. Baking cookies for the old man that reminds me of my grandpa who lives down the street
  44. The boys eating carrots like they’re little rabbits while we walk through the farmer’s market
  45. Parks that we can walk to
  46. A garage that keeps my car toasty on a frosty morning
  47. Watching our dog, Bota, watching the squirrels in our yard
  48. Giant cardboard boxes that can be turned into hours of imaginative entertainment
  49. Planning surprises for my boys
  50. The smell of the earth after it rains
  51. Splashing in puddles
  52. Fresh flowers on my mantle
  53. Spending one-on-one time with each of my boys every day
  54. Organizing things in my house
  55. The feel of Play-Doh squishing through my fingers
  56. Drinking hot chocolate with my boys
  57. Jacob doing “upside downs” (somersaults)
  58. David getting dressed by himself
  59. Talking to my mom and sisters on the phone
  60. Hearing babies cry in church
  61. Being able to find my way around with less and less help from GPS
  62. Studying and learning at BSF
  63. Hearing that David and Jacob wanted to sit together and hold hands during the large group time at church
  64. Little notes from my cousins
  65. Having a camera on my phone to capture life’s little moments
  66. Feeling Jacob play with my hair in his tiny toddler hands
  67. Playing at library story time with Jacob
  68. Rest
  69. Finding the perfect gift for someone I love
  70. Listening to David playing Toy Story and using all the voices for the different characters
  71. Yoga pants
  72. Shopping for deals
  73. Fresh, clean sheets on my bed
  74. Kissing boo-boos better
  75. The way Jacob snarls his nose
  76. Receiving letters from our sponsor child at World Vision
  77. Time to write
  78. Jacob’s curly hair when he wakes up from a nap
  79. Writing our annual Christmas letter and reflecting on the past year
  80. Hearing my favorite songs pop up on Pandora
  81. Listening to the conversations of my kids and their friends
  82. Teeny tiny socks
  83. Wearing pretty jewelry
  84. Making blanket forts
  85. The way Jacob calls DVD’s and CD’s “ABCD’s”
  86. Stroking soft little baby ears
  87. The way David sticks out his tongue a bit when he’s concentrating really hard on something.
  88. The appearance of red cups at Starbucks
  89. Rainbows on my drive home
  90. Unexpectedly running into someone I know
  91. Wearing flip flops
  92. Jon bringing home dinner so I don’t have to cook
  93. Watching the boys playing nicely together…for a moment
  94. Hearing my kids say what they are thankful for
  95. Friends around the world
  96. The smell of coffee brewing–even though I don’t drink it, I love the smell
  97. Jon making me chai tea before he leaves for work
  98. That my kids are still little–this stage of life
  99. David asking me, “Can I keep you forever?”
  100. The clicking sound David makes with his tongue when he’s falling asleep
  101. The sight of two sleeping babes curled up in their beds

…and the list goes on. My new goal in this busy time of motherhood is to continue this Thankful Project, to look for new ways to appreciate each moment. And to you, Friend, may you find many moments of gratefulness in your own life.

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!