Saturday, December 14, 2013

{Christmastime is Here.}

Hello Friends. It's been awhile.

It's nearly Christmas. I'm not a winter person, but I am definitely a holiday person, so I'm in my glory. I love the carols, I love the warmth of a well-decorated Christmas tree, I love the smells and sights and sounds. I love baking cookies and decorating them with family. I love giving presents to those I love. I love Christmas movies and lights and everything.

More than all of this, though, I love giving. I love giving presents. I love giving joy. I love giving smiles and happiness. All year long, I live to make people happy, but Christmas just feels like my time. It makes me come alive in a way I can't explain. I find the most sacred joy in giving away happiness.

So many people have so much more than they need, and they don't - or can't bear - to give it away. Some people have so much less than they deserve, yet they find reasons and ways to give to others. I have always striven to be that person. I struggle, yet I know that everywhere, there are people who have less than me, and are happier than I am with less. I have been trying to purge from my life, to get down to the bare minimum, because I need so much less than what society tells me I do. In that purging, I've been trying to consciously give to those who have less than me. I'm not doing it to get points. I'm not trying to build myself up. I just want to know that I have exactly as much as I need, and that everyone else has exactly as much as they need, especially if I can help in that goal.

All that to say, this is a call out to all of you. I ask you to look at your life. What do you have that you love? What do you have that you like? What do you have that you like but could do without? What do you have that you really don't care for but hang on to for whatever reason? During this holiday season, I urge you to look around you. Look at the faces on the elevator at your work. Who is tired? Offer them a free coffee. Who is wiping away tears? Offer them a hug and some homemade cookies. Who is hungry? Offer to take them grocery shopping. Who is hurting? Stop and look in their face and listen to their pain. Give them the world, even for 5 minutes. Who is cold? If you can afford to, give them your coat. Where can you help? What can you do?

Writing this, I have a lump in my throat. There are people in my life that I know will suffer this holiday season, whether it be an empty table, an empty Christmas tree, an empty heart. Can I change those things? No, but maybe I can soften the blow of the pain. Maybe you can change those things. Maybe, together, we can help people to find shards of happiness in their lives.

I can't explain to you why the pull on my heart is so strong toward this effort. Maybe it's because I know what it's like to have less than, and I know the unbridled joy of receiving the gift of help. I've been helped in ways that seemed impossibly wonderful. I've fallen to my knees at the perfect timing of specific gifts I've received. It's an unexplainable joy, to receive exactly what you need at exactly the right time. For me, this has morphed into an unexplainable joy to give exactly the right gift, to the perfect person, at exactly the right time.

I hope that, during this Christmas (and forever after), you can find this joy, harness it, then give it away, again and again.

Be blessed, and Merry Christmas.

Brooke + JuneBug

Monday, November 4, 2013

Being Nice.

Everyone has someone in his or her life who they find it extremely difficult to be nice to. It's a daily occurrence. In our culture, your level of sarcasm, anger, and quick wit are deeply valued. Your ability to be cold, turned off, and calculated is considered more important than your ability to feel deep, deep happiness.

Why is this?

The media is one answer. We are bombarded with homicides, bombings, accidents, and negative news every single day. We are given 'heroes' who win fights, triumph over everyone else, and blow stuff up in an effort to fix something.

In that vein, another reason is the people we exalt. They are often murderers, who kill in the name of something self-important. They are sometimes religious leaders, who advertise themselves as modern day Robin Hoods but are really crooks, taking for their own selfish gain.

I think one primary reason is our use of social media. I believe that social media can be a great influence, connecting people, helping introverts find their voice, and bringing unity across states, even countries. However, social media also provides a faceless place for people to hate others. It breeds pain, suffering, bullying, and hatred. You don't have to own up to anything if no one can see you. If you can't be confronted, you're off the hook.

I believe that a combination of these things is what is preventing us from simply being nice.

Now, I don't consider myself to be Mother Theresa or anything. I yell at drivers on the road (who can't hear me.) I gripe about how people talk to me. I complain about what someone said or did to me and how it made me feel. There is, however, one thing I try very hard to do every single day, in every single interaction with others: I try to be nice.

Growing up, one of the things my mother said to me more than anything else was, "Everyone is a soul." I didn't always know what this meant. I began to comprehend it in high school, when I was mistreated by many who didn't understand me. I started to understand more when my parents got divorced and I had to muddle through those feelings. I understood even more when I got divorced and I had to work out custody arrangements with Juniper's dad. Every single day, as I run a preschool, I am reminded of this reality. Every single person that you encounter on a daily basis is a soul, valued by the God of the universe and capable of every emotion you are. Everyone you pass by, smile at, meet, interact with, is fighting a battle that you know nothing about. There is no way for you to know unless you ask, but you shouldn't have to ask. Chances are, if you are having a rough day, someone else who crosses your path today is, too. Before you begin to reply to someone who might be pushing your buttons, think of this: Did they just find out that a parent has terminal cancer? Were they pulled over this morning? Have they just come from a funeral? Could they be having marital problems? Maybe they just received a foreclosure notice or lost their job. Perhaps their child has been missing for a day. Maybe they just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. No, that isn't your fault. However, you have the opportunity to perhaps make their day better just by being nice.

I have found, in my experiences with being nice, that people make one of two assumptions about me. One, they assume that I want something or that I have an ulterior motive. Two, they resort to sarcasm because WHO COULD POSSIBLY CHOOSE TO BE NICE IN THIS DAY AND AGE OMG. My reaction to those assumptions? Be nicer.

I try to teach my daughter many things. I try to teach her respect. I teach her not to stare but to ask questions. I teach her how to say please and thank you. I teach her that sometimes other friends get to go first with the new toy. I teach her that she needs to use her words. Above all of these things, though, I am teaching her to be nice. I want her to know that everyone deserves kindness, dignity, a smile, and a chance to say what they need to say. By the time that she's a teenager, I might be the only person in her life telling her these things, but I don't care. I want to be the squeaky wheel. I want to tell her to be nice so much that she's annoyed by it, but it sticks in her head and she can't help but be nice.  I want her to be the shoulder to cry on, the friend who will always listen, the friend who comes to your rescue, who calls you just to pray for you, who brings you muffins when you're sick, who buys a coffee for the homeless guy, who brings her leftovers to soup kitchens and asks the girl crying on the bench at the grocery store if she's O.K .I want her to know how to be nice, so that maybe, others will be nice to her, too.

Be nice.

Be nice.

Brooke + JuneBug

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

When A Child Cries.

It's been a long time since I've written a blog. I've been incredibly, indescribably busy. I'm starting to think that I may have bitten off more than I can chew, but it's too late now. I usually enjoy being busy, because when I'm not going 100 miles an hour, I feel unproductive. The last few days have been unproductive at best. Yesterday I didn't change out of my pajamas until 4 p.m. I've eaten irregularly, spent a lot of time laying on the couch, and haven't done much of anything. No, I'm not sick. My daughter is. We've seen 3 doctors in 4 days. It's been terribly exhausting, even though we haven't really done anything. The exhaustion comes from the stress of seeing my child sick, crying, and in distress, and being helpless to do anything about it.

A phenomenon occurs when our children cry, especially the legitimate "I'm hurt" cries, the cries while in the throes of sickness, and the cries of real fear and confusion. Our bodies respond to their stress. It's a vicarious phenom; an absorption of our child's emotions that are almost totally out of our control. I think it's an epic feeling of helplessness that causes this vicarious pain. Do children know how to cope with their stress? When they are vomiting helplessly, do they know relaxation techniques to help them breathe deeply to postpone the next heave? When they can't stop coughing, do they have the clarity to drink a few sips of water and sit in a room full of steam and try to catch their breaths? Of course not. They are in the throes of the moment. Their tiny bodies, when overcome with sickness, pain, or fear, stop responding to cues and sort of fall apart. Their tears are the only thing they have control over, so they let them fall, usually uncontrollably.

When my daughter cries, I typically have one of two reactions. If I can tell that she is 'faking it' I will gently comfort her, then ignore. If she needs help but wants me to do it for her, I try to encourage her to do it herself, then help her if necessary. I can usually just let it go, offer her a tissue, encourage her, and she's just dandy. However, when she is truly crying, whether it be from pain, sickness, or fear - I totally lose it. It's as if I forget that there is a whole world that is spinning and I just want to make sure that my daughter is alright. I want every tear to dry up and I want all to be right with her world again. This is, of course, impossible, as what she's experiencing is legitimate and this is the only reaction she knows. As I try to comfort her, she continues crying, and the above phenomenon starts to happen. I feel my eyes start to sting and there's that familiar lump in my throat. I forget how to be a grown-up and succumb to crying with my daughter, because I can't fix her and that's one of the most difficult feelings that comes hand-in-hand with parenting. Suddenly her stress is my stress and now we're both total wrecks.

I can't put my finger on why this happens, but I'm thinking it is somehow connected to maternal instinct, although I am sure that there are some fathers who experience this same reaction. I can keep it together in many other circumstances, and I can hold in my own tears, even if I'm having a really hard day. Yet, when it comes to my child and her health and well-being, I just lose it.

That's why the past few days have been so difficult. I haven't been sick, but my daughter has, and I've absorbed all of her stress and all of her pain and all of her fear over what's happening to her body when everything is out of her control. It's a helplessness that parents can't name or fix, so we cling to our babies and take on their stress because we can't go in and take out the sickness and make it our own. We have to do something - we're driven to do something - so we sit and cry with our children to feel like we have some control. We don't. Our children will get sick. Our children will get lost. Our children will get scared. We can't prevent those things from happening, but we can sit and cry with our kids and let them know that they don't have to experience the painful things in life alone.

Brooke + JuneBug

Friday, October 11, 2013

Top 25 Mom Blog Update

I have always loved to write; it's been a passion of mine since grade school. It's a way for me to release negative energy and then absorb the positive energy from the people who find hope in my words and share that with me. When I started this blog, I just wanted a place to 'vent,' to talk about how hard - and how rewarding - it is to be a mom. I've shared some of my greatest fears, hopes, and dreams here, and people are finding their own hope in these words. That's something powerful that I can't name. It's a connection you can't find in many other places. I feel so blessed to have this space to share my feelings and encourage you to challenge and accept yours. All that to say, someone out there in the universe has voted for me to be on the Top 25 Mom Bloggers list, and I am so, so humbled. I've received pageviews from all over the world, and that alone is success for me. I'm going to share my badge with you, so that if you feel so moved, you can vote, too. I really don't care if you vote or not, just as long as you keep reading and keep dialoging with me about your experience as a parent. That's what I find most valuable and that's what I hope to continue, especially if I get on the Top 25 list. That dialogue could spread to the ends of the earth and back, and creating that kind of community of parents - of mothers - is what I aim to do.

Brooke + JuneBug

Vote for me for Circle of Moms Top 25!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Confessions of a Single Mom

This could also be titled "Confessions of a Single Parent" or "Confessions of a Mom."

I eat my daughter's leftovers.
I drink coffee for my sanity. I drink tea for my health. I drink wine for my soul.
I don't have many really close friends anymore.
I say way more of the things that my mom said when I was young that I NEVER thought I would say.
I smile all the time because I'm happy, but also because I'm insane.
I taught my 3-year-old daughter to sew.
Sometimes, I turn on the t.v. for June so I can take a nap.
I love naps, probably more than any child or adult I know.
I could eat my weight in chocolate. Juniper would fight me for it.
Sometimes, when I say to Juniper, "You're beautiful like Mommy," I don't always mean it.
I long for the day when a man will walk into my life, a good, good man, and step up and be there and sweep me off my feet and build us a house and a family, but I also dread that day because then my magic world where just June and I exist will disappear a little.
I dance in public, usually with Juniper, but sometimes by myself.
I really like taking my daughter grocery shopping, because she is excellent and I get complimented a lot and it makes me feel like the perfect mom, even though I'm far from it.
I have worn children's dress up clothes. Proudly.
Sometimes I rock June to sleep because it's easier than wrestling her to bed.
I always want to go out and have a good time, but even if I'm having a great time, I still wish I was home with June. Always.
I can cook really well, but my daughter prefers pizza. Does this bug me? Yes.
I never go to the bathroom alone anymore.
I work two jobs - one full time, one part time.
I never have enough money for anything.
When I go to the store, if I do happen to have a little 'extra cash,' I consistently buy things for Juniper, even if she doesn't need them. I hardly ever buy nice things for myself.
I usually cut and color my own hair because I can't justify paying that much for a haircut/color.
Sometimes, when I can't parent just like the magazines and the perfect moms on t.v. tell me to, and I know that somewhere down the line, what I'm doing is going to manifest itself psychologically in my daughter's brain, I feel like a failure.
I know I'm not.
I'm a great parent because I love my daughter more than anything, and I would do anything for her. I would go to the ends of the earth for her every single day. I want only good things for her, and I'll do anything I can to bring her those good things.
I'm a great parent.

And you are, too.

Brooke + JuneBug

Saturday, September 14, 2013

On Losing Your Child.

Initially, this post was to be about how children grow and how no two children are alike and we should value their differences and not rush them to develop at a particular pace. I even had it half-written in my head. After tonight, I'm writing about something different.

Tonight, my mom, June and I went to a pig roast at my friend's house. June was playing with some older kids in the neighbors yard, and I could see her from where I was standing. My mom and I were talking to an old friend when I saw all the other kids come running back from the neighbors. I glanced around and didn't see June. I looked around the backyard and didn't see her. I started walking around the backyard and calling her name. I didn't see her. I looked back at my mom and she stopped talking and looked around and realized what was happening. We both started scouring the house and backyard. I stopped one of the kids June had been playing with and asked her if she had seen where June went. She said no. I walked toward the end of the yard, where it butted up against a schoolyard. I saw one of the girls that June had been playing with riding her bike down the sidewalk. I started to panic. I thought about how easily June could have tried to follow this girl and gotten turned around in the neighborhood. I feared that someone might have pulled up in front of the house and yanked her into the car and driven away. I walked back into the yard and alerted my friend that June was missing. His son went to the neighbors to see if June had snuck inside. Others started looking around the yard for her. At this point, I was feeling nauseous, just totally sick in my gut. I walked up to another girl that June had been playing with and described June and asked if she had seen where she'd gone. At that moment, I heard my mom yelling for me, and I turned around. She was walking toward me, and she was holding June's hand. I ran up to her, scooped her up, and immediately burst into tears. She knew something was wrong, because she held me just as tightly. A lull sort of fell over everyone as they discovered that June had been located. We just stood there holding each other.

All of this transpired in about 5 minutes.

I haven't had a scare like that with June EVER. She is one to check in with me; I'm home base. She'll go play a little, then come back and hug me or tell me what she's doing, then go back out. She's terrified of people she doesn't know. She'll cling to me and hide behind me and tuck her little head as far into her shoulder as it will go. For her to wander off on her own is extremely rare.

So many emotions arose in me during that 5 minutes. Obviously fear was at the top. I didn't even want to imagine what would have happened if she had been taken. I was also angry with myself for not staring at June every single second to make sure she was right where I thought she was. I was sad because the only thing I could think of was her perfect little hugs and how badly I wanted one at that very moment. However, the strongest emotion I felt was regret. Strangely enough, this trumped all the other emotions.

I regretted all the times I had pushed her to do something so she could meet another developmental milestone. I regretted yelling at her when I was having a rough day and she was pushing all my buttons, though unintentionally. I regretted any and all times I had left her with a sitter, regardless of the plans I had, whether it be work, church, etc. I regretted not hugging her every second and taking every single possible opportunity to tell her I love her. All I wanted at that moment was to hold her and kiss her and whisper 'I love you' over and over and over again, forever. If I find her, I thought, I'll never ever push her to accomplish anything again. I'll never yell again. I'll never stop hugging her. I'll follow her around for the rest of her life telling her I love her.

It's amazing what the absence of your child will do to your heart under duress.

If you're a parent, you know this sinking feeling. You're at the beach, you scan the water....and you don't see your child. You sit up. You glance up and down the shore. Wasn't he just there? You stand. You walk toward the water. You start yelling his name. People are looking at you, then out at the water, wondering if what they think is happening is really happening. You start to feel nauseous, you start to play out the horrid future waiting for you if your child is gone....and then, from behind you, "Momma? I'm here. I was building a castle!"

Our children will never understand the ramifications of their random "disappearances" until they are parents. They can not quite comprehend the panic, the sadness, the anger, the fear, the deep pain of loss already hitting our souls within minutes of losing sight of them. It's impossible to quantify, because the joy of a child is impossible to understand. Your heart turns inside out when you have a child. Something is triggered in a mother's brain that starts rewriting her memories, basically making it impossible to remember a time when that child wasn't her whole world. Your child is your heart, forever walking around outside your body.

Yet, somewhere along the way, our children often turn into trophies, tangible evidence of what great parents we are. It can become a rat race; her child spoke at 10 months - well, my child walked at 10 months - my little one speaks fluent Spanish at age 2 - our little guy can write his full name at just 3 years old - etc etc. We start to use our children to proclaim our achievements rather than letting the child be the achievement. Every single child is an achievement - regardless of developmental difficulties, disabilities, delays, etc. Every child is to be appreciated, no matter their circumstances.

During those 5 minutes of utter uncertainty, all I could think of is how much I love Juniper and how much I love being her mother. I honestly didn't care if she knew her numbers and letters. I didn't care if she learned to write her name in time or participated in dance class or could read by age 5. All I wanted was to hold her and tell her I love her until she fully understood - and that will take my entire lifetime. I plan to utilize every second of it to do exactly that.

Now that I'm a mother, I appreciate my mother for everything she went through, everything she did for me. When my mother became a mother, she had the same deep appreciation for her mother. Now that my grandma is getting older and losing her memory, my mother is clinging to those memories, loving on her mom every chance she gets. That's what being a parent is all about - teaching our children what love is, and loving them as much as we possibly can, as much as our being will allow. Forget about when he/she learns to walk. Don't worry about how soon he/she can talk. Stop worrying about whether or not they'll be successful in kindergarten. LOVE ON YOUR CHILDREN EVERY POSSIBLE MOMENT. It shouldn't have taken losing June for 5 minutes for me to remember that. It should be at the top of my Mommy To-Do List. It should be the only thing on my Mommy To-Do List.

Remember this: Don't be the wind - be the sun. Don't be like the wind, pushing the clouds around, making them go the way you want them to. Don't try to get your kids to behave a certain way, blowing them from accomplishment to achievement. The wind makes us hunker down, put on jackets, and try to get away. Be the sun. Drench them in the rays of your love. Let the warmth of your love open your children up to all the wild, beautiful potential they possess.

Brooke + JuneBug

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Punctuated Thoughts on Joint Custody.

This will be a short little ditty, because I'm reserving mental energy for this week, but it's weighing on my mind. June's dad and I share custody of her. It wasn't an easy decision to come to and took months of adjusting. Some days I hate it, and some days I hate it less. I didn't have her this weekend because I went on a leader's retreat with my church, and I miss her tremendously. More than usual. I think it's because she is really growing up into a tiny human, able to hold conversations and spell her name and say things like, "Momma, I love you. You're the best." Also, having her in Preschool has somehow transformed her. She was always at child care centers with me, where I worked, but true Preschool is new for us. It makes her more grown up and I'm still not sure how I'm coming to terms with that.

Back to joint custody. June's dad and I have come to an arrangement that works with our schedules and serves June the best. We do 2 days on, 2 days off, 5 days on, 5 days off. Seems complicated at the outset, but it's seamless, and really easy to swap days/weekends when it's necessary. While I hate being apart from her, and miss her so, so much, I have grown to appreciate 'me' time and take advantage of extra time for chores, cleaning, writing, and work. Yet, nearly everything I do is marked with little reminders of her, which make me miss her more, so it's somewhat like a pendulum; swinging back and forth between appreciation of my alone time and the acute sensation of little arms hugging my neck.

If you're a joint custody parent - or a parent that shares custody at all - you'll know the feeling. You're dreading letting your little one out of your arms but simultaneously planning your evening. You feel a tinge of sadness and maybe the prick of a tear as you wave good-bye while you mentally check off the list of things you plan to accomplish. Some weekends, I know how busy I'll be, so the time goes by fast, and pretty soon, June's back in my arms. Other weekends, even with the promise of sleeping in and kid-free lunch dates, the minutes tick by and I miss her so acutely I just ache.

It certainly helps that she is excited to see her dad. She still always hugs me, says, "I love you, too" and gives me a kiss. She always waves as they drive away. The minute she sees either one of us coming to pick her up, she runs right into our arms like it's been years. Those are the best greetings.

When people ask me if it's hard to share her, I want to laugh. "Of course not!" I jokingly say. What I really mean is, of course it's hard. Of course I want her all to myself. But would I deprive her of a loving relationship with her father to satisfy my maternal selfishness? Not a chance. That relationship has the potential to be just as enriching as my relationship with her, and I won't take that away simply because I don't like to share. She's not a possession. She's a living, breathing creature who needs both parents to love her and support her. I wouldn't take that away from her. And while I miss her tremendously (I get her back Tuesday morning; I haven't seen her since Thursday morning) I am learning more and more to appreciate my time. It also creates and re-creates a tiny void in me that June so delightfully gets to refill every time we're reunited.

It's taken some time, but that is what I've grown to love.

Brooke + JuneBug

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Baby Talk.

I was recently asked to write a blog on how mothers talk to their children and other mothers. I've been really thinking on it, because there's so much to say about both of these things. I'm going to ping-pong around a little bit, so try to hang on.

I'm a pretty educated person. I consider myself fairly professional and adult. Now, don't get me wrong - I have a silly side. A very silly side. I also like to laugh and have fun. Does that take away from my professionalism? Nope. Do you know what does? When I excuse myself from a situation by saying, "Mommy's gotta go take a pee-pee in the tinkle room!"

I can't tell you how many times I've excused myself to go 'potty.' I work in child care and I'm also a mom, so naturally, I talk like a kid. I've also been in situations where that kind of talk would be considered unprofessional and inappropriate, and I've still caught myself doing it! As parents, and for some reason, especially mothers, we tend to talk like our kids more often than not. Is it because we spend more time with them than with other adults? Is it because it's easier than using 'grown-up words'? Is it force of habit? I honestly don't know, but I want to dissect it a little.

I think that some mothers talk like their kids because they have so many friends that have children, and it just naturally happens. We think, "Oh, this woman has kids, she says 'potty' and 'boo-boo' and 'go bye-bye' so I don't have to talk like a grown-up around her." Maybe we're so sleep-deprived that we truly can't conjure the 'big words.' Have you had your quota of coffee yet? If not, then I don't blame you for talking like your kid. I'd be impressed if you were speaking in full sentences. For whatever reasons, we talk like our kids, even when we're not talking to our kids, and I wonder if this is something that we should think about changing....I'm not saying that I'm doing this perfectly, but I'd like to share what I've done with my own child and how it's changed both of our language patterns.

Since Juniper was a baby, I have spoken to her like an adult. I never talked 'baby talk' to her. Plus, I talk to her A LOT. When she was an infant, and I wore her while I cooked and cleaned and grocery shopped, I explained what I was doing. When she was rocking in her swing or her bouncer, I would read chapter books to her or talk to her about what was happening in the world. As she got older, I would walk her through our schedule. I would tell her all about our day and I would explain everything to her. I always did this in a 'regular' voice using 'grown-up' words. Now that she is 3, she speaks like an adult. She uses words like 'upset,' 'disappointed,' 'fragile,' and 'focus' appropriately in full sentences. I'm pretty proud of her. I'm not saying that her progress is entirely the product of the way I talk to her, but I think it had something to do with it.

Another plus to the way that I've talked to Juniper is that I don't have to 'turn off' my baby talk and remember how to talk to adults. I can't tell you how many times I've been talking to another mom on the phone and we'll be clipping along in a normal conversation and suddenly I'll hear her say, in a high pitched voice, "Oh yes, she's such a big girl, you so sweet! You go potty!" then switch casually back into 'adult' conversation with me as if nothing happened. [Were you talking to your kid or your dog??] Now, I'll be the first one to admit that my voice goes up about 2 octaves when talking to tiny babies and tiny puppies. It's ridiculous. But it's different when I talk to children. These are tiny humans who understand so much more than we give them credit for! If I talk to them like babies, they are going to think that they are babies, and they might not expect as much from themselves as they would have, had I talked to them like adults.

By talking to children like small people, and not babies, we encourage them to use the same words that we're using. We build up their self-esteem and help them to believe in themselves and their potential. They feel empowered that a grown up is speaking to them like an equal. That's an amazing feeling for a child. The benefit for you is that you don't have to worry about being taken seriously by your peers. You don't have to remember when to switch from 'baby talk' to 'grown-up' talk, and you can enter seamlessly from a conversation with your child to a conversation with a friend and vice versa. Plus your kids learn a great deal from you talking to everyone the same way. Our children can sense inflections in our voices, and if they hear trepidation, anxiety, fear, sarcasm, etc, they pick up on it. They will be influenced by the way you speak to them and others.

All that to say....words are powerful. The way you say them might be just as powerful.

Brooke + JuneBug

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Taking Back Time-Out.

I want to talk about something that is pretty important to me: Time-Outs.

But not time-outs for your child. For you.

That's right. Mommy time-outs.

This might seem like a foreign concept for you moms with more than one child. "Time out? Really? Don't you have to have time to have a time out?"

I want to argue that this is one of the most important things you can do for your children. I say this as a teacher, who spends time with many children, all day, every day. About once a week, I need to have a night off to drink some wine, read a book, give myself a pedicure, go shopping....something that doesn't involve children. This allows me to collect myself and prepare for the next round of crying/snot/messy art/etc.

I also say this as a mother, and this might be more important. If you're an exhausted mother reading this, read closely.

Learn to take at least 30 minutes every week that is just for you. Not 30 minutes for a meeting at your church. Not 30 minutes to pay bills online alone, without kids climbing all over you, begging for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (yes, I have been there.) Not even 30 minutes talking to your significant other. 30 minutes for just you. Read a book. Take a hot bath. Go shopping at your favorite store, even if you don't buy anything. Call a friend. Take a nap (my favorite choice.)

Let me just tell you, this is important for you....but it might be even more important for your children. I can say that, from personal experience, when I'm exhausted/stressed, I don't react to June in the best way. I'm more on edge, I give her less time to respond to my requests, and I tend to yell more (I hate yelling.) I'm sure I'm not the only mom who is guilty of this. June can tell when I'm feeling this way, and it effects her behavior, too. She is tense, crabby, and clingy. Then we're both in a foul mood, and it just goes downhill from there.

I've been at the grocery store/library/mall/park and witnessed moms who need a time-out. I want to go up to them and say, "Can I watch your kids for 1/2 hour so you can go take a hot shower and troll Facebook in peace?" That might be a little bit creepy, but I really do want to tell them that they need to give themselves a break. A well-deserved break.

Mothers, you have no idea how much your kids need you to take a break for them. They need you to be well-rested so you can run around with them. They need you to catch up on Facebook and the news so when you're at the park, you can play with them instead of being on your phone. They need you to be relaxed so that you don't get caught up in a battle that won't matter and you won't even remember 4 hours from now.

Maybe this seems unattainable for you. Maybe you have a husband/significant other that works full time and you're a stay-at-home mom. Call your friends, even your single friends. Tell them you need them to come over and watch your kids for 30 minutes. In return, make them dinner. Buy them a groupon. Pass along your secret chili recipe that no one but you and Gramma know. I promise you that your friends (with or without kids) will recognize the desperation in your voice. They will rise to the occasion. Some day in the future, they will call you with the same desperation and you will also rise to the occasion for them. Ask your spouse. Ask for 30 minutes a week that is just for you.

You deserve to be well-rested. You deserve to sit on the deck and have a cup of coffee without worrying about getting 2nd degree burns on your hands from toddlers mistaking you for a jungle gym. You deserve to sit in the bathtub without getting a note slid under the door that says "PLEASE OPEN THE DOOR SO I CAN ASK YOU FOR 5 GAZILLION SWEETIES AND TURN YOUR TUB INTO AN ENCHANTED OCEAN." You deserve to troll Facebook without posting an accidental status update of "djaslrueoaijfklsadfj77777777777." You deserve some time for yourself. Your kids deserve you to take some time for yourself.

So go ahead. Give yourself a time-out. You can thank me later.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Raising Daughters.

The other day, June was watching me put on makeup. I normally wear very little makeup. Foundation/powder/cover-up has never agreed with my skin, so normally I wear just a little blush or bronzer and mascara. Watching her watch me, I had flashbacks to when I was younger and I would stare in awe as my mother "put on her face," as she would say. I loved how one tiny little pencil could make her eyes look so blue, and how that red crayon made her lips pucker out like rose petals.

Suddenly, June broke me out of my nostalgia and said, "Mommy, I need makeup."

"Oh, honey, you don't need makeup. You're so beautiful."

"No, I need makeup. Can I have some? Can you put some on me?"

With those 3 sentences, I realized that I am already teaching my daughter what it's like to be a woman, and I'm starting in the worst way - her physical appearance.

I come from a long line of beautiful women. Strong British jawlines, bright blue German eyes, high Czechoslovakian cheekbones and olive skin, almond shaped eyes, and feisty red hair. June was blessed with all this and more. She has Native American blood from her father and the deepest brown eyes, like dark chocolate. Her skin is flawless, her nose the sweetest little button, and she has perfect rosebud lips. She is going to grow into a beautiful young woman, and not just on the outside. Her full name is Juniper, which means resilience. She's also named after 2 of my grandmothers, strong names full of history and purpose. She is funny, intelligent, compassionate, and above all, she is fiercely loving.

So when she says, "Mommy, I need makeup," my natural inclination is to tell her all of the above, which of course she doesn't understand. She just wants to do what I'm doing. She thinks that, if Mommy does it, I should be doing it, too.

Where does that leave me? Do I stop wearing makeup? Do I hide in the bathroom or quickly apply it when she isn't looking? I don't think this is the answer.

I wear makeup because I'm very comfortable in my physical appearance, and I want to accent the features I appreciate. I am at an age where I can look in the mirror and see all the things I like, versus all the things I don't like. Sure, I have days when I grumble at a pimple or two, or my hair just isn't doing what I want it to do, but for the most part, I'm confident in how I look.

So when she says, "Mommy, I need makeup," I take out my chapstick and put some on her lips. Then we look in the mirror together. I say, "June, you're beautiful, just like Mommy, just the way you are." I say this to her often throughout the day. It's starting to become a mantra. I say it to her in the car, or before bedtime, or at the grocery store. I say it because I want her to believe it, but also because I want to believe it, too.

There are so many things in this world that will lead our daughters astray. Victoria's Secret will whisper to them that their breasts aren't buxom enough. Hollywood will shout to them that they aren't talented enough. Fashion shows will scream to them that they aren't skinny enough. Men will make them think twice about what they're wearing, thinking, eating, saying. Why should they also have a conflicting message from their mothers? Tell your daughter that you are beautiful, even when you don't feel at it all. Tell your daughter that you are strong, even when you feel hopeless. If you can confidently claim pride in your outward appearance and your character, your daughter will feel empowered to do the same. I know, because I have a confident mother, and I am a confident woman.

Let me just tell you about my mother. She wears her heart on her sleeve. She taught me that everyone is a soul, worthy of love and recognition. She is compassion incarnate. She is intelligent, even if she didn't go to college. She has an infectious laugh. She is beautiful, inside and out, with or without makeup. I watched her when I was growing up, and I still watch her. I want Juniper to look at me with that kind of adoration, that kind of admiration, and think, 'I'm beautiful like Mommy.'

I know there will be times when the message of the world will drown out my message to her. I hope that those times are few and far between. I plan to write it on the walls of her room, in every card she ever receives, and on her heart. Every event I help her prepare for, I will reassure her that she is beautiful and capable of anything. Before every date, I will hug her and whisper, "You're beautiful, just like Mommy." On her wedding day, as I help her put on her dress, I hope she turns to me and whispers, "Mom, I'm beautiful, just like you." And when she has her own daughter, my prayer is that the first thing she will say is, "You're so beautiful, just like Mommy."

Brooke + JuneBug

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Children, or How I've Made a Career out of Playing.

I'm a Preschool Director. I'm also a Preschool teacher. I've been working with the tiny humans for almost 9 years. Believe it or not, starting and running my very own Preschool is something that I have daydreams about. I love being around kids. I love their snotty noses and their cheeks and their sparkly eyes and the way they can't pronounce their 'r's or their 'th's and the way they don't care if your hair is dirty or your socks don't match. I love the way they hug you and the way they listen when you talk as if they have never heard anything quite as magical as what you've just said. I love their innocence and their earnestness and their purity and their perfect smiles.

I love all kids, because I believe all children have something to teach us.

Now, most moms give me this strange look when I tell them that I love teaching every single day. And not just teaching. Teaching toddlers and preschoolers. Let me just tell you, that is not always a pleasant age. So when I testify (hallelujah) that I absolutely love teaching and I adore children, I get this somewhat suspicious look. It's as if other moms are thinking, "This one is batty. I can't even handle my own kids half the time. How can she say that she loves hanging out with other peoples' kids all day??"

I have a somewhat ambiguous answer for this and then I have a very pointed answer.

Children are amazing. They see things in a way that adults simply CANNOT see them. They see a leaf as a vessel for fairies to fly from one tree to another, unnoticed. They see a rock as a toad in disguise, hiding from the evil snake king. They see glitter as magic dust. They see a popsicle stick as a princess wand or a sword. Their imaginations are totally unbridled and it's beautiful. They are completely immune to hatred or greed or sadness or guilt or shame or disappointment or bigotry or resentment. They are delightful little creatures with the biggest hearts, the brightest brains, and the best hugs imaginable.

Here is the more pointed answer, which I have spent years studying and why I have dedicated the rest of my life to working with kids and working within the child care/Preschool system to ensure that ALL CHILDREN receive quality education from an early age.

Kids have reached exponential brain development by age 3. By age 5, they've pretty much developed their personalities, and by age 8, they have basically become the tiny versions of their future selves. So much incredible development takes place between birth and 8, it's unbelievable. Scientists and researchers and educators haven't even made all the connections yet. There are things about behavior in children that we are still learning. Children are still very much a mystery, and why they do the things that they do can be chalked up to two things: nature and nurture. Nature is what they're born with: genetics, traumatic birth, family history, etc. Nurture is what's taught to them; the values instilled on them, discipline, language, integrity, etc.

There is a very, very small window in which we get the opportunity to teach children all about the world, including how they should treat themselves and others. Many people believe that if we do this wrong, we do irreversible damage. Telling a child repeatedly that she is stupid is going to yield one result: that child will believe that she is stupid. However, telling a child repeatedly that she is a beautiful, worthwhile creature will yield one result: that child will believe that she can change the world.

I teach because I know that, even in small doses, the things a child learns in school teaches him or her that what they do matters. By telling a child that I like his art project will instill a faith in himself and his abilities, and he will believe that he can do great things. By snuggling a child while reading a book and asking her to tell me what she thinks is happening, I am teaching her that what she thinks matters, and that she can change the story if she wants to, if she believes in herself.

I hope that, by teaching, I am telling children that they matter. I hope that's the case, because in 20 or 30 years, if those same children feel like they matter, they will turn around and help others feel like they matter, too. They will use their feelings of being worthwhile to help someone else feel worthwhile, too. If I can do this for even one child, then I have succeeded.

I am in the business of building children. Not raising children - building them. Building their character, building their confidence, building their strengths, building their future.

Brooke + JuneBug

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"Here, sweetie, let Mommy do it for you."

I read an incredible quote in Parenting magazine the other day and it's been rolling around in my head the past few days. Part of me wants to keep it and treasure it and use it to make myself a perfect mother (HA) but the rest of me wants to share it. So I will!

"Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child."

Read it over a few times. Let it get into your brain. If you're a mom, and you're reading this when your kids are around, wait until they are napping/outside playing/asleep so you can fully absorb these words.

I think this is something every parent needs to hear, at least once a day.

Every day, I struggle with the urge to prepare the path for my child in the mundane tasks. I pick out her clothes. I usually dress her, not because she can't dress herself, but because it's faster if I do it. When she's eating breakfast, if she's not "doing it right" I will "help" her. Read: Do it for her. Sometimes this goes as far as putting stickers on her art for her or coming up with exactly what she is going to imagine while playing. Am I proud of this? No. I am constantly reminding myself to let her do it, let her do it, let her do it.

I often hear parents saying, "Here, sweetie, let Mommy/Daddy do it for you." Sometimes help is legitimately needed. An object that's just too heavy, a climber that looked a little easier from the ground, or putting on shoes in the middle of a busy park can pose a problem. However, most of the time, it's O.K. to let your child struggle with something. It's O.K. to let her cry while putting her shoes on because she "can't do it." (My answer to this is always, "Don't say 'I can't,' say, 'I'll try.'") It's O.K. to let your kid put his sweater on backwards. It's O.K. to let the twins carry the watering can and spill more of it on them than on the plants.

All of this is O.K. for 2 main reasons.
1. Our kids need to learn to do things for themselves.
2. Our kids need to learn that their parents aren't going to do everything for them.

Let me tell you, I am just as guilty of this as any parent. I want to make life easy for my daughter. I don't want her to experience failure because I know how much it aches to look at myself and see what I've done wrong. I don't want her to get hurt. I don't want her to get dirty. I don't want her to take longer than the amount of time that I've allotted for that particular task. All of this is WRONG.

Our children need to experience failure. They need to fall while they're running down the sidewalk. They need to learn that, not only can they pick themselves up again, they can do it gracefully. They can sit and cry about it or get back up and play some more. If they need help, they can ask for it. Knowing when and how to ask for help is an essential part of social-emotional development, and if that's stunted, we're raising a generation of users.

As much as I want to protect JuneBug from life, I know that I can't, because that means protecting her from failure and that's not possible. FAIL, daughter of mine. Fail the test. Get in a fender-bender. Break up with the best guy you ever dated. Make a financial mistake. Do all of those things, sweet one, because I did. And I turned out fine. I know what I'm capable of. I know what I mess I can make, but I also know how well I can clean it up and make it right.

I want my daughter to learn how to make it right again. All by her big-girl-self. As silly as it seems, letting her pick out her own clothes and get dressed backward and spill oatmeal all over herself and take 1/2 hour to put on her shoes will equip her to do that. So let your kid fail. It might be painful, but guess what? By letting them fail, we're preparing them for the path of life, and not the other way around.

Brooke + JuneBug.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Zucchini Ricotta Bites [yum]

So, sometimes I cook. Sometimes I use a recipe, but most of the time, I just throw stuff together and think good thoughts about it and it turns out O.K. Tonight, I had some ingredients, and I tried that website where you enter what you have and it gives you recipes. That thing sucks. Sorry if you love it. It doesn't include more obscure things like ricotta cheese, which I really wanted to use. So I searched for ricotta cheese recipes. I found this one that used fried eggplant with ricotta cheese, but it was more of a casserole. I didn't have eggplant, but I did have zucchini. The wheels started churning, as they often do when food is involved, and I got down to business. I'm sharing this with you because THIS TURNED OUT AMAZING AND I WANT EVERYONE TO ENJOY IT. Unless zucchini's not your thing. Then just take a 'no-thank-you-bite' and move on.

You will need:
1 medium/large zucchini, thinly sliced.
1 small container of ricotta cheese. Soft mozzarella would also probably be enjoyable and quite tasty.
At least 2 large tomatoes, diced. (I had 1 med and 1 small tomato and it wasn't enough.)
Shredded mozzarella.
Italian seasoning or fresh basil & oregano.
About a cup of bread crumbs.
3-4 eggs, beaten.
About 1/2 cup of flour.

Preheat your oven to 350.

After you slice the zucchini, set it aside and prepare the breading. Beat the eggs in one bowl, put the flour in another bowl and the bread crumbs in a shallow dish for dipping. Prepare a pan with olive oil. Once it's heated, take your zucchini, push it around in the flour, dip in the eggs, and then coat with bread crumbs. Put it in the pan. Let it get brown and crispy (take 3-4 minutes each side.) Put them on a cookie sheet. Spread about a teaspoon of ricotta on each slice. Scoop some tomatoes on top of the ricotta. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Italian seasoning/basil/oregano. Bake for 5 or 6 minutes or until the cheese is melted.


If you actually make this, and like it, please let me know! I love feedback almost as much as I love ice cream. Almost.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Wedding vs Marriage.

Hello friends. First of all, excitement! I have reached and surpassed 500 page views! Thank you! I feel loved, and a little less obscure.

On to the things that are heavy.
[Disclaimer: I am divorced. I am not an expert on marriage. It terrifies me. These are just the thoughts I have collected after witnessing many beautiful weddings become beautiful marriages.]

Tonight, I witnessed the wedding of a childhood friend, who I have watched grow up. She is a beautiful creature, and she just has the biggest heart and the most creative mind. Her wedding was lovely. It was perfectly her. I don't know her (now)husband, but he seems quite genuine and is absolutely in love with her. The setting was wonderful and the energy was amazing and God was there. The space was completely filled with God's presence, and it was written on everyone's face and etched on everyone's heart.

Based on their wedding, their energies toward each other, the support from their family and friends, and the look on their faces when they spoke their vows to each other, I truly believe they will have a wonderful marriage. They have been together a long time and they seem to have a jive that fits. Their beautiful wedding will lead to a beautiful marriage.

That's not always the case.

My ex-husband and I had a beautiful wedding. We were surrounded by people who loved us, everything looked amazing, and I do believe that God was there. Was he trying to weave a new story in our hearts? Maybe. Was I letting him? No. I already knew that our beautiful wedding wasn't going to lead to a beautiful marriage, because I was allowing the wedding to be more important than the marriage. I was blinded by the wedding. I hadn't even crossed over into marriage territory, because I knew it was doomed.

Whew. There's that.

I think that, more often than not, people bank on weddings, both figuratively and literally. They imagine that, if they have a beautiful wedding with lots of friends, food, and fun, they will have a beautiful marriage. If there is something lacking in the relationship, they create this big, gorgeous band aid, made of ribbons and lace and frosting and cards and well-wishes. "That'll do the trick," they say. "People will say, 'What a beautiful wedding!' and we can feel good about this huge mess, because a beautiful wedding means a beautiful marriage!"

This is not entirely incorrect.

In every relationship, there is bound to be some glaring flaw/problem/disagreement/issue. Maybe you and your significant other come back to it every now and then and it's never really resolved, just discussed. Maybe you had a huge fight about it and it just slid under the surface, like a sliver that you can't see but that hurts tremendously. Maybe you don't fight about anything, because you never scratch the surface of the "hard things" like politics, religion, children, etc.

None of these things are all bad. It's good to have things you disagree about, because it means that you're human and you have your own opinions and thoughts and you're willing to SHARE THEM with your S.O. (significant other). It's good to disagree and fight, because sometimes hearing the opinion of someone else causes you re-think how you were looking at an issue in the first place. It's good to not have a "perfect" relationship, because we all know that's bound to boil over into a hot mess someday, probably at the most inconvenient of times.

What IS bad is allowing yourself to ignore these flaws/problems/disagreements/issues and cover them with a big, beautiful, wedding. What you're screaming to the world is, "OUR RELATIONSHIP ISN'T DOING SO HOT BUT IF WE LOOK GOOD TO OTHER PEOPLE WE SHOULD BE OK!"

These were exactly my thoughts on the day I got married. Look where it got me.

On the other hand, sometimes a beautiful wedding does lead to a beautiful marriage, like the one I attended tonight. I'm sure there have been disagreements, big upsets, arguments and fights and slammed doors and tears.That's where the beauty is. Once you see someone flawed, broken, and imperfect, you begin to love them more. You see the pain they feel and you begin to love that pain because it's made your soon-to-be-spouse exactly who he or she is. This is when your love begins to mimic God's love for us.

God saw our brokenness. He saw our tears and our under-the-skin slivers and what a hot mess we've made of ourselves, and he looks on that with compassion. Some people would use another person's pain to their own advantage, or to victimize them, make them feel unworthy, unloved, etc. God doesn't do that. He looks on us with mercy, not pity, and then applies his own band-aid. This one isn't made of lace and frosting and cards and bells and whistles. It's made of grace.

The beautiful wedding becomes a beautiful marriage when the two people can look at each other's flaws and imperfections with mercy and not pity, compassion and not vindication. When our love resembles God's love, that is when the beautiful marriage begins.

This is one of the things that I love to discuss, because you can never talk too much about what a good marriage looks like, so if you have thoughts to add or even contradictions to make, please feel free to do so. Good discussions lead to new ideas.

Brooke + JuneBug

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Short one tonight.

"Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be open. For whoever asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. To the one who knocks, the door will be open."
Matthew 7:7

This verse was REAL for me today. In a tangible way that I simply don't have words for.

Grace, my friends, is a real, live creature. Living and breathing, in your world and mine.

I'll leave you with this delightful voice, these beautiful words, that are ringing so true in my life right now it hurts.

Brooke + JuneBug

Monday, August 12, 2013

Hostage Negotiations, or What It's Like to Talk to my Daughter.

My daughter is going to grow up to be a hostage negotiator for the FBI. How do I know this? Spend 5 minutes talking to her, and make sure that you ask her to do something - pick up her toys, go inside, wash her hands, etc. This is how the conversation will go:

"June, can you go wash your hands please?"
"Um, I can wash them after I play with my toys."
"I'd like you wash them now. You just went potty. You have potty germs on your hands."
"No? The potty germs decided to go away."
"I'm pretty sure that only soap and water will make them go away. Please go wash."
"I will just play with my babies, and then wash my hands."
"June, please go wash your hands - now."
"Alright, alright, I will....after I play with my babies."


This is how most of our conversations end up. If she can't negotiate her way out of something, she will sweet talk you.

"June, I don't like how you're talking to me right now. Please try again."
"I WANT to open the FRIDGE MOMMA"
"June, if you can't choose kind words, you'll have to go to your room and think about how to speak nicely."
She throws her head back in disgust and grunts.
*Suddenly she leans right into you and snuggles right up*
"I just love you, momma. You're such a sweet girl. You're my best girl."


She doesn't throw tantrums. She's shockingly calm and wordy for a 3-year-old. She'll just talk you up and down all day long until you're so confused/frustrated/loved up, you don't even remember what the problem was in the first place.

She also enjoys "If/then" statements. Maybe I've said too many of these, but for whatever reason, she has decided to start giving them back to me:

*Standing at the toilet before she goes potty*
"Momma, if you don't help me to button my pants, then I will pee on you. If you try to button my pants, and I don't let you, and you go out into the yard, then I will still pee on you. If you don't button your own pants, then I will pee on you." At this point, I was just dying trying not to burst out laughing.

*At night, before I put her in bed*
"Momma, if you wake up in the night, and get in my bed, then I will not spank you. But if I get up in the night, and knock on my door, and be loud, then I will spank you. If you can't whisper in the morning when everyone is sleeping, then I will give you one spank."

It sure is confusing. That's her trick, see? She ever so sweetly worms her way into your brain then melts you with backwards word power. Just like SuperWhy.

Brooke + JuneBug

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I am Myself.

"Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks -- we will also find our path of authentic service in the world."~Parker Palmer

Did you read that? I mean, really read it? There are so many words in there....words that contain whole universes of meaning. You can read just 3-5 words of that quote at a time, and it should shake you to your core. 

I'm still not sure what "authentic self-hood" really is. Maybe it's becoming the best version of myself. Maybe it's knowing who I am despite living in a world of chameleons. 

Maybe, it's just knowing that I am myself. I'm not you. I'm not that girl in that magazine. I'm not even who I see in the mirror. My desperate insides, clamoring around in the space beneath my skin, shout to be KNOWN. Not simply acknowledged, but deeply and truly known. Can I look inside myself and know that what I feel there is me? How can I be sure that I'm outside the influence of everything around me?

And what is the 'joy that every human being seeks'? Is that to be loved? Is it to feel belonging? Is it to feel truly rested, or fulfilled, or substantiated by someone/something?  After staring at the computer screen, looking at this quote for some 30 minutes, I think the 'joy' here is knowing our 'authentic self-hood.' (The quote answers its own question....I will save you a seat at therapy.) Does knowing yourself give you the ultimate joy? Does having a true and complete picture of your self-hood make you whole? 

This last part is killing me. I'm half-laughing about it and half-ruminating. 'We will also find our path of authentic service in the world.' This whole quote, about finding ourselves and finding joy, leads up to using those revelations to SERVE OTHERS AND THE WORLD. Were you longing for an absurd line of thinking today? You were? Terrific. Thanks for hanging on this long - you'll probably need a nap after this. 

Finding out our 'authentic self-hood' and finding the 'joy that every human being seeks' simply equips us to 'authentic service.' To my family? Nope. To my neighborhood? My school? My church? Nope. 

THE WORLD. As in, our entire planet.

After you've picked your brain up and placed it somewhat firmly back inside your skull, listen to this. Knowing ourselves and finding true joy are excellent, worthy endeavors. It will make you feel complete and whole and wonderful and refreshed. But it's not just for you. It's for everyone. Once I wrapped my head around it, I saw it this way: I wouldn't give a used, half-broken toy to someone's child. The child wouldn't have much toy to play with. It would be fun initially, but the child would soon realize that the toy wasn't functioning at its full potential. If he/she were a particularly destructive child, they might notice the weakest spots on the toy and use those weak spots to break the toy. In all, it would probably be a negative experience overall.

If we don't know who we are, if we haven't grasped our full potential and unlocked the joy made available in this revelation, how can we possibly think we are capable of serving others in the world? Why offer a broken, locked-up, joyless version of yourself to the world? Knowing yourself, your capabilities, your faults, your faith - these make you whole. Being whole gives you joy. Give that joy to the world.


P.S. Yesterday, I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth. June was at the kitchen table. She said, "Mom, where are you?" I said, "In the bathroom." *Looooong pause* June finally says, "Are you shaving your face?"
[I shared that with you because I promised this post would be funny. It really wasn't. So there's that.]

Saturday, August 10, 2013

On Road Blocks and Training Wheels

Today, two spectacular things happened. I had lunch with an old friend and it was like finding an oasis in the desert after months of wandering. And Juniper learned how to pedal her bike without me pushing her along - sort of.

The friend I had lunch with is in her 60s. She is spry - she reminds me that lifetime learning is invaluable. NEVER STOP LEARNING. (I'm serious, son.) She is up to date on politics and the state of the world but she can also tell you if J Lo is still dating Casper Smart and what exactly is wrong with Amanda Bynes. She is the "Real Thing." I admire her terribly. I'll say things to her like, "I'll let you revel in that knowledge" and she'll wink at me and say, "Don't use big words like that around me, I don't get it." *LOVE*

Today, she was talking about how amazing her life is right now. She was talking about meeting someone, and losing weight, and volunteering at a local television station and how she just realized that life is so good for her right now. Then she said something else.

"I just don't have any road blocks right now. And if I did, do you know what? It was me that put them there. I just don't let anyone put road blocks in my life. If they're there, I put them there, for some terrible reason."

OH MY GOSH. That's around the time my brain exploded. As if it wasn't bad enough, she then said,

"You know what? Life is actually really simple. We just mess with it and make it difficult."

By now, I was a mental puddle on the floor.

I AM MY OWN ROAD BLOCK. Mind blown. I could have kissed her for putting into words what has been plaguing me the last 4 years. (I actually did kiss her, and that's when mall security kicked us out.) How often do you get in your own way? How often do you mentally finagle yourself out of a situation that could grow and change you and propel you to the next phase??I do this ALL THE TIME. She spoke to my soul. I just lost it. In the best way.

Fast forward to this afternoon.

June was on her bike. She goes through these spurts where she pedals great, but then just stops and is done. Today was different. She was determined. So she started pedaling around the neighborhood, and I was following her, cheering her on. She lost momentum, looked back at me, and said, "Push me, Momma!" So I did. She pedaled, stalled, looked back, and I pushed. This went on 5 or 6 times, and finally I realized that she wasn't even trying anymore. I told her to keep trying, keep pedaling, you're doing great, but she completely stopped pedaling. She would let the force of my push take her a little ways then look back at me and wait for me to push her again. So I stopped pushing her.

I desperately want someone to follow me around and give me a push when I lose momentum. It would be great to have a constant cheerleader, pulling me up after I fall down, yelling at me to keep going, giving me that oomph that I need to propel myself forward. As an adult, I realize that's not possible. We make our own success. We need to be able to self-talk ourselves into forward motion.

Juniper was really sad that I stopped pushing her, to the point of tears. I had to walk away, because I don't want to teach her that I will do everything for her. I don't want her to let me propel her through the stages of life, pausing at each transition and waiting for me to push her through it. I want her to learn that she can face a challenge, try it one way, maybe fail, then try again - at her OWN pace. In fact, I WANT HER TO FAIL. I want her to fail because it will force her to try again. She has to know that she is fully capable of falling down, without shame, without guilt, without fear, going back to the beginning, and starting fresh.

Maybe these two things intersect somehow, maybe they don't. They totally did for me today. Good night.

Brooke + JuneBug

Friday, August 9, 2013

On Failing, or 'How I Pretend to Keep it Together'

This is my first blog post, and I'm going to talk about my shortcomings. Before you crack a joke about me being a short girl, quit your yappin'. I'm about to do some serious things.

Today was the first day in a long time that I felt incapable. Well, not a long time. I feel incapable often, but in smaller quantities. This was serious. I felt like an infant being asked to run a marathon. All jokes aside, it was really hard to feel so helpless, so incapable, so lost at sea. I just accepted a new job (in May) and I have kind of been coasting through this summer. I'm a preschool teacher/director, and we have the summer off, and I might have taken some more liberties than I should have. I got stuff done, but apparently not enough stuff. Because today made me feel like I had fallen off a ship and was rapidly floating away in stormy waters, my cries for help unheard by the crew.

Being confronted with such smallness is tremendously difficult. It's days like today that remind me that I'm sort of a hot mess. I don't have it all together. Sometimes I drag myself out of bed, pull my hair into a ponytail, throw on the nearest clothes and call it good. I don't always look my best. Most of the time, I feel like I barely make it through the days.

It's incredibly easy to focus on the things we're bad at, to look in the mirror and see the blemishes, to only recognize the ways in which we fail. On a day-to-day basis, the number of negative things I say to and about myself far outnumber the positives. I was focused on my physical/mental/emotional capabilities, but it really got me to often do we do this as Christians? How often do we say, "I'm not good enough. How could God love me? How could God call me his child? I'm a mess. I dislike my body, and I don't treat my neighbor with respect, and I don't love myself. What is loveable about THIS?!"

God hears that. All of it. God shakes his head and says, "Come to me. You have a tremendous burden and you seriously need to rest in my arms. Just fall into me. I'll do the rest."

"But...but, but NO!" we say. "Let me have a shower first. Let me pray a little, let me go do a good deed, let me just brush my hair and wash my neighbor's feet....then I'll be good," we say. "Then I'll be O.K. in your sight. You don't want me like this," we say.

"Stop." God says. "I want you just as you are. I'm asking you to let me hold you. Just let me."

So I did. As Brennan Manning so eloquently states, “Lord, when I feel that what I'm doing is insignificant and unimportant, help me to remember that everything I do is significant and important in your eyes, because you love me and you put me here, and no one else can do what I am doing in exactly the way I do it.”

Do what you do. It may be exhausting. You may feel entirely incompetent. But it's yours to do, with the power of the universe and the God of glory holding you up. Then, at the end of the day, fall into the arms of a Savior who doesn't care when you did laundry or how dirty your hair is or whether or not your socks match or if you turned in that report on time.

Brooke + JuneBug