Mommy Magic (another journal written during my small-children stage)

They were younger even than this when I wrote this post--but they were still a lot younger than they are now! I cannot believe I have an 8th grader! (But I sure don't miss pairing up all those teeny-tiny little socks!)

They were younger even than this when I wrote this post–but in this picture they are still a lot younger than they are now! I cannot believe I have an 8th grader! (But I sure don’t miss pairing up all those teeny-tiny little socks!)

Mommy Magic.

I don’t mean the warm, fuzzy feeling I get when my 2 ½ year old twins look adorable in their footy pajamas or the way my heart melts when my 6-year-old sings a solo at the school Mother’s Day program. I’m not referring to the magic in motherhood—no— I’m referring to—

The magic that mothers provide.

In my household it works something like this. My children strip off clothing as they’re running through the house to the bathtub till I could follow the trail like I was a bird behind Hansel and Gretel. No matter how muddy or food-slopped that clothing was, it appears, clean, unstained, and folded, in the dresser drawer a few days after being dripped all across the house. And my children don’t give it a second thought. In fact, sometimes they complain that favorite shirts aren’t in pristine condition and back in the drawer the morning after being worn.

More examples: the last morsel of cereal is poured from the box, and another box gets produced from the storage pantry—or something edible appears. Toothpaste sprouts on toothbrushes on frantic mornings; lunchboxes, forgotten on the kitchen counter, are delivered to the school office by noon; the favorite bowl, plate, and spoon set—with the bunny or truck or princess or superhero on it—appears, filled with food, every dinnertime. Lost shoes and homework and action figures are found, and hats, coats, and gloves pop on just before the plunge into the cold outdoors.

No wonder my children have no trouble believing Cinderella had a fairy godmother and the man in the yellow hat can fix every problem for George the curious monkey. After all, they’ve got a magic to top them both.

Too bad for me that it’s—

Me!

My kids watched Mary Poppins not too long ago. They were most impressed with jumping into chalk drawings and riding carousel horses across animated landscapes. The scene they were least interested in was the one that fascinates me most. Mary Poppins regards the littered nursery with disdain. Click! She snaps her fingers at it, and—presto! The toy soldiers march into the box. Click! The bed makes itself. Click! The clothes fly to their places in the closet. I paused in my search for miniature plastic people under the couch to gaze in awe. “Oh, if only,” I thought, and tried snapping at the dishes by the sink. Nothing happened until I grabbed a sponge and scrubbed at them. And then—it was like…

Magic!

I may not like it, but I understood even before I became a parent that mommy magic is part of the job description. After all, my own mother provided me with plenty of magic while I was growing up. When my brother and I both invited friends to dinner—without phoning ahead—we assumed the meal, prepared for four, would magically stretch to feed six, and it always did. When I needed three costumes for my part in the low-budget school rendition of Cheaper by the Dozen, somehow my mother prepared them—and they looked like they arrived straight from the 1920’s. Mom equaled magician, but I didn’t know until well after I gave birth myself how much work this magic actually was.

What I also didn’t know was that the magic would spread. Several months after my first child Emily was born, the dog began searching the house for me—specifically me—whenever he wanted food or to go out. Often he walked right past the man sitting at the kitchen table or in front of the TV in the living room (the man is my husband, and prior to parenthood he was an equal partner in pet care) to find me in the upstairs bathroom. Suddenly I became the only one privileged enough to freeze my tush waiting for the dog to do his business.

Then I realized other children—not my own—had recognized the mommy magic in me. Before becoming a mom, I could have stood in the middle of a playground all day and been used for little more than a center for ring-around-the-rosie or a base for kickball. Now, however, little kids come up to me. “You’re Emily’s mom, right?”

I hesitate before answering. I’m learning. “Ye-es,” I say.

“Well, my little brother just puked on the slide.”

The expectation, of course, is that I will do something about it.

And I will. “Okay,” I sigh. “I’ll be right over.”

The kid nods, not impressed—I just did what was expected—and then stops, his eyes riveted on my huge purse.

“You got any snacks in there?”

Laundry, snacks, cleaning, organization…

I need some Mommy Magic for ME!

A blast from my past–this one is for all you moms with little ones

This was written Pre-Patrick, so I had to include a picture of all four of them! Such crazy days! (Not that they're less crazy now--just different).

This was written Pre-Patrick, so I had to include a picture of all four of them! Such crazy days! (Not that they’re less crazy now–just different).

I am a mom with 15 month-old twins and a 4 year-old. Much of my day is spent feeding meals, straightening my house, doing laundry, and entertaining children. It sounds simple, but I have never had another job more challenging. Throwing trash away has become an intricate maneuver. The trash can first received a lid, then was moved to the top of a counter, and now is hidden in the pantry where I must perform basketball-worthy faking moves to open the pantry door, toss in the trash (another athletic skill, this one requiring hand-eye coordination—ha!), and close the door—and all this without some wriggly body intervening. The same or similar feat is required when negotiating the bathroom door, the refrigerator, the under-the-sink cabinet, etc. The stereo and computer were another issue entirely until I got smart and enclosed them in an armoire—thus creating another “door” situation. The poor dog’s food has been moved four times until finally being relegated to the basement, and his appetite is now at the mercy of my memory and time (another “ha!”). Our dining room chairs are not where they should be; i.e. they are not at the dining room table. The youngest child figures herself a centerpiece.

When the smaller two collapse into exhausted heaps—and I desire to do the same—the four-year-old beckons. “Read to me, sing with me, let’s play,” she says, and then, “Now it’s Mommy-and-me time.” And the Grand Teton of laundry becomes Mount Everest as I capitulate and remind myself of that old “The house can wait” ditty.

It’s a life so full of blessings it can feel like a nightmare keeping up with them, the nightmare of the overwhelmed, under-equipped heroine faced with three ultra-endowed foes. But when this is at its worst, I sometimes indulge in the horror’s anti-equivalent, my fantasy. In this I am equipped, with x-ray vision, super strength, lightning-fast speed, night vision, a stretch arm, you name it, and I can endure a chaotic afternoon imagining myself as Super-Mom.

With x-ray vision I could locate that missing shoe, stray lunchbox, roving child, etc. Two minutes prior to the we-must-leave-now-or-we-will-be-late moment, x-ray vision would be exceptionally handy. It could also avoid many trips to the doctor or emergency room: “Nope, that arm’s not broken, just badly bruised.” Of course, it could also prove when a trip is needed! “So that’s where my diamond ring is!”

Super strength sounded particularly good the day I forgot the stroller and had to carry both twins the long hike from the parking lot to the library, but I’ll be honest; most often this figures in the nightmares every mom really has, the “What do I do if my car plunges into water with me and my children in it?” terrors.

More helpful, though, in the day-to-day routine would be lightning-fast speed. I could clean my house in ten minutes, run my daily five miles in four, fix breakfast in two, and all this before seven in the morning. I could catch my fearless child mid-trip between treetop and ground, run the kids to Grandma in Alabama after lunch and be back in time for a date with my husband, and bring in some extra cash as a professional marathoner.

044Night vision would enable me to locate that stray pacifier at two in the morning and not kill my shin on my son’s ready-steady indoor tricycle on the trip back to my own room. Even better, a stretch arm would allow me to locate said pacifier and soothe its owner without leaving my bed at all. Supermom’s choices are endless.

Always, however, at the zenith of my imagined glory, the wax melts and reveals to me exactly what and who I really am, just a regular mom with three energetic kids. Just a mom, like all others, who is trying to develop real super mom powers: X-ray vision to see into my kids’ hearts and read their minds, super strength to carry or push or pull, lightning-fast speed to be there when I’m needed and give space when I’m not, night vision to soothe the tears and fears away, arms that can stretch long enough to hug all three every minute of every day, and—the most important supertrait of all—protecting, trusting, hoping, persevering love.

Embracing service–really?

NOTE: In this entry, I’m using motherhood to show how I’m learning to serve; however, I’m not claiming it’s harder than other kinds of servant hood. Whenever I’m tempted to think that my call to serve is more difficult than others, God sets me straight by letting me encounter someone who’s REALLY learning it! Blessings to all of you who have been given extraordinarily difficult servanthood roles.

Here are five out of the six: only Nina missing.

Is it possible to embrace a life of servanthood? Really embrace it?

I think I would have said yes before I became a mom. I never knew what a selfish person I was until Em came along—and then three others. Before that I had my areas of service—to students, players, youth group kids—but all of them had end points. The school day was over at 3; track/volleyball/play practices by 5:30; even ferrying youth group kids home didn’t take past 10, and I returned to a quiet, peaceful home with only myself and a very capable husband to care for. And even when the stress really built, I knew summer was coming—eventually.

But motherhood is 24-7, 365-days-a-year, with no sick days.

And I don’t think I’m particularly gifted for it. I still resent (I generally hide it well) getting up in the middle of the night for sickness or fear of the monster under the bed. Some mealtimes come, and I think, “Again? I just fed them! When are they going to start doing this for themselves?” The other day I told Dave, “Next year I will not be a MOP (mother of a preschooler) for the first time in 12 years!” and I said it like I’d earned a badge—till I realized it’s not exactly an accomplishment; it’s pretty normal.

But how do I embrace the nitty-gritty of servanthood, the stuff I do that nobody ever notices or thanks me for?

Thinking of it as service to others doesn’t help me much, even though Romans 13:8 says for us to think of ourselves as being in debt to others, continually paying it out in love.

I pervert that idea way too easily.

I begin to think—“Really, it’s them who owe something to me! Look at all I’m doing for them—and getting nothing in return! The least they could do it act grateful.” I get grumpy and bitter.

I’ve also tried the no-emotion approach. “I’ll just do it and try not to think about it, simply think of it as a job that has to be done, laundry as something to be checked off the list.”

But that doesn’t work either. Because it still turns to a bad attitude, and because I’m called to do everything “heartily!” Like I’m doing it for the Lord. With joy! With a sense of purpose!

The only solution I can think of is the one that Paul and Peter and Mary used. They called themselves “servants of God.” I’ve often thought of that in the context of BIG tasks (like Mary’s: she was about to bear the Son of God, and Paul’s: evangelism to an empire and martyrdom—pretty big deals!) But what if I think of all my “little” tasks as direct acts of service to God? What if I could do them FOR Him and WITH Him, enjoying communion with Him in the simplest acts of washing the dishes or turning socks right side out.

Would that transform my attitude toward them? If I could say, “Yes, I am wiping down my little-boys-have-been-using-it toilet and I am doing this because it pleases God.”

That sounds a little hokey, but it sure beats the alternatives.

There’s still a problem.

I can see this is the best way. I WANT to be a servant of God and see all things, even the small ones, as acts of service for Him. I DESIRE to do it all heartily.

But I can’t.

I can’t force myself into it or cheerlead my emotions into getting excited about housework or another trip to the grocery. All I can dois acknowledge that I can’t and say, “But that’s what I want, God!”

And THAT place of need is where God comes through. He already helped me to see more correctly than I was; He gave me the desire to serve Him; now He will also provide the energy and the joy.

I can do ALL things THROUGH Him who strengthens me.

Even the small things.