She works with willing hands.

So Sweet + So Fleeting = So Sweeting

Here we are, with the end of another school year staring us in the bella faccia. Yesterday as we drove my eldest to orientation at the elementary school he will attend next fall, I thought of all of those sweet old ladies in the grocery store. “Make sure you enjoy every minute of it. It goes by so fast!” I’ve heard it a quadrillion times. And to be honest, my response has often been silent irritation at their insistence that I must enjoy every.flipping.minute of parenting my three little ones. Surviving on three hours of sleep and living in a uniform of yoga pants and spit-up stained t-shirts is not exactly my idea of enjoyment. While I deeply treasure my children, and I’m thankful to spend so much time with them, parenting them is often really hard work.

In a matter of days, my first born child will graduate from kindergarten and transition out of our beloved church preschool where he has been a student since the age of two. It is a precious little school, committed to the spiritual nurture and overall well-being of the children who roam its halls, and I believe firmly that my son will always carry with him fond memories of his time there. In that school, he spent hours playing with friends, learning about God’s creation, eating snacks, building block towers, and listening to books. He played in the sandbox a thousand times, explored every nook and cranny of the outdoor classroom, and was mesmerized by bubbles as only a preschooler can be. In kindergarten he learned phonics and math, participated in his first science fair, and lost his first tooth.

My son’s preschool years, and his time in kindergarten, has been so sweet, and so fleeting. It’s been so sweeting. My heart could just burst because it’s gone so.flipping.fast…which brings me back to the sweet old ladies.

I’ve always been the mom who did all of her grocery shopping with three wee ones in tow – two kids buckled into the unwieldy car shaped cart, and a baby strapped to my torso. I’m certain that I often looked crazed and absurd trying to manage it all in the grocery store, and I think that most of the time those sweet women were just trying to encourage me. I was a newbie mom, in the thick of the earliest years of motherhood. Maybe what they wanted to say was something like, “I know things seem crazy right now, and you’re hanging by a thread. But you’ll miss this one day…and it won’t be too long from now.”

Today I usually visit the grocery store while my six-year-old and four-year-old are in school, leaving just Baby Girl and I time to do our shopping at a casual pace. On the days when I do bring my boys to the market, they walk with me, often helping along the way. Rarely am I stopped anymore by one of those sweet old ladies, urging me to enjoy the moment. Because that moment – full of babies and toddlers, sleepless night, dirty diapers, and 24/7 yoga pants – is already past us.

I can’t believe we’ve already cleared that frantic stage. It really did happen so fast.

I’m thankful for this new step of the journey – filled with first grade orientations, baseball games, and richer conversations with my children. It’s exciting, and less physically exhausting. Most days I actually wear real pants and my hair is a lot cleaner than it was two years ago.

But as the end of this school year approaches, I can’t help but look back with nostalgia, and consider how sweeting it’s all been. And the next time one of those sweet ladies stops me in the grocery store to remind me to enjoy the time, I’m going to sincerely thank her, and tell her that she’s right.

Mother’s Day

As we head into Mother’s Day weekend, my heart is full of both sadness and joy.  Mother’s Day is a day that is hard for many post-abortive women.  It is also a day that is hard for any woman who has lost a child.  I have two babies who have passed – one of whom I aborted and one of whom I miscarried, and it is my hopeful prayer that I will meet them both one day in heaven.  Mother’s Day can be equally hard for any woman who desires a child, but does not have one.

But Mother’s Day is also a sweet day full of joy.  We celebrate the children we have here on earth, and the fact that they made us mothers.  We celebrate our own mothers, in whose wombs we were knit.

This weekend, we celebrate the beauty and love – the sadness and joy – of motherhood.

Photo by Lindsey Calabretta Clark.

Yes That’s My Kid With The Dirty Face

I see you – staring at my kid like he’s a filthy little street urchin – judgy eyes darting from parent to parent, trying to figure out which one of us to convict.

I don’t know you, but I think you’re a mom yourself.  Don’t you understand?

He’s four.  And he loves to play outside – fingers in the dirt, torn kneed pants emblazoned with grass stains, wild blonde curls and pale white nose brown from the earth he’s transferred there.  I love this about my boy.  Right before we left to come to this soccer practice he was rolling down a steep hill, gleefully landing at the bottom with his face in the mud.  It was the first warm day of spring, and his joy was palpable.

No, I didn’t wipe his face or wash his hands before I piled him in the car with his toddler sister and 6-year-old brother, rushing, so that we could enjoy the last bits of this afternoon outside and still make it to soccer on time.  He doesn’t know that his beautiful little face is dirty, or that there is mud caked under his nails.  And he doesn’t care.  He’s 4-years-old.

As you stare down your nose at my precious child, I want to draw your gaze and explain, “He’s actually quite clean.  We bathe him every night.  He just loves to get dirty.”  But you don’t know me, and based on your countenance, I’m pretty sure the conversation wouldn’t go well.

You see, my child is not my trophy.  I don’t shine him up to impress other people, and I don’t expect him to look fancy every day when all the kid wants to wear is “comfy pants – pleeeeease mommy?”  He is 4-years-old and he happily wears his brother’s hand-me-downs “as long as the tags aren’t itchy.”  Sure, I make him put on jeans for preschool and on Sunday he wears church clothes, but I don’t expect my kid to avoid the dirt and forgo the thrill of rolling down grassy hills because he might look unkempt.

After childhood, never again in life is it acceptable to hurl your body down an incline for the rush of it, squish mud between your fingers hoping to catch a worm, and show up to soccer practice with dirt on your nose.

Kids get dirty.  This is good.  This is right.  This is as it should be.

So no, my child does not need your pity (or your disgust) as he sits on the ground, criss-cross apple sauce, laughing with his 2-year-old sister (who is also sporting dirt on her knees).  He’s joyfully engaged in the work of childhood, playing as hard and as fully as he can.

And if I didn’t have better manners or some degree of self-control, I would walk straight up to your judgy face and proclaim, “Yes, that’s my kid with the dirty face.  Isn’t he beautiful?”

Full-On Tantrum Mode

Friday night Baby Girl was fighting me.  She was overtired from a busy week that included too many late nights for a two-year-old.  She was exhausted, and in full-on tantrum mode.  As she screamed maniacally and stiffened her tiny little body into a board-like state, Jersey Boy and I wrestled on her pink polka-dotted jammies.  She clenched her wee fists, face ablaze in a crimson hue, and pushed away our tender hands as we attempted to dress and soothe her.

Through her wild thrashing, we firmly held her close, gently reassuring her, “You’re just super sleepy, sweet girl.  Let Mommy and Daddy put on your PJ’s and you’ll feel better in the morning.  We love you so much.  Don’t cry.  Shhhhhhhh…”

I gently pushed back her hair.  It was wet and sticky with hot tears and snot, and looked terribly uncomfortable plastered to her sweet little face.  But just as soon as I removed the caked tendrils, she angrily reached for her hair, and pulled it right back over her eyes.  Stubborn and angry, she resisted even my best attempts to soothe her.

In that moment, as her parents, Jersey Boy and I knew what she needed – pajamas, comfort, and her bed.  She was just too upset to understand.

There in her darkened baby girl room, with glittery turquoise butterflies floating above our heads, and favorite baby dolls already asleep in their beds, I couldn’t help but think about how often I fight God in the exact same way.

How often am I like an exhausted toddler, angrily thrashing, snot in my hair, pulling away from the very hands from which I receive comfort?

How often do I scream and kick, clenching my hands into fists, rather than extending my fingers to the one who made them?

If God is my Father, and I am his child (as the Scriptures tell me is so), how often does he firmly hold me close, showing me love and tenderness, even as I resist his embrace, and stubbornly rail against that which is best for me?

When I find myself close to full-on tantrum mode…tired and angry, and sick of being pummeled by the storms of life (which will invariably batter us all), I am reminded of a great truth.

God is sovereign.

This means that the God of the Bible (three persons in one – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) has supreme power and authority over everything.  He brought this world and all that is in it into being.  It is all his handiwork, and his will reigns supreme in all ways, big and small.

“I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).

Scripture teaches us that God’s supreme authority is interwoven with his character.  He is a holy God, full of love, mercy, goodness, righteousness and faithfulness.

“The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’” (Exodus 34:6).

He is a good God, and his sovereignty can be relied upon and trusted.  He has a plan for all of eternity, and that includes a plan for me.  As his child, he intends good for me.  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

So I find great comfort in God’s sovereignty.  It means that when I’m overtired from a week of service to my family, or a storm of life gets the best of me, and I want to clench my fists and scream like an angry two-year-old railing against her parent, God is not surprised by my tantrum.  When I resist God’s plan, and angrily pull my hair back over my eyes like a stubborn toddler, he knows what I’m feeling.  And as my Father, he knows what I need, even when I’m too upset to understand.

Father God,

Thank you for your sovereignty over all things in my life.  Thank you for loving me and comforting me like a patient parent tenderly soothes an exhausted toddler.  You are a good God, and you want good for me, even when I’m too upset to understand.  I am so thankful that I am yours.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

The Pull of Busyness

Back when I was practicing law (and before I had children), one of my female colleagues had a friend who was a stay-at-home mom.  From time to time this stay-at-home mom would exclaim to my colleague, “I’m just so busy!  I have so much going on!”

I can vividly recall standing in an office with a few other female lawyers and mocking that woman.

“What on earth is possibly making her so busy?!” we jeered, contemplating our own brutal sixty-plus hour work week.  “What is she doing?  Playing tennis and volunteering at her kid’s preschool?  She needs a reality check.”

Her claims seemed patently absurd to a group of young overworked attorneys.  But today, as I stare at my old fashioned paper planner, covered in ink scribbles marking play dates, doctor visits, soccer practices, exercise classes, science fairs, lunch dates, supper clubs, AWANA club, teaching Sunday school, leading bible study, and preschool volunteer obligations (all in this week alone), I find myself in the peculiar position of being the very woman I mocked.

Busyness has a powerful pull.  And if I’m not careful, my life will pass me by in a hyper-scheduled, distracted blur.  It doesn’t matter if it’s due to a demanding career or my life as a stay-at-home mom.  I will fill up my time.

But consider the story of the sisters Mary and Martha from Luke 10:38-42:

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village.  And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.  But Martha was distracted with much serving.  And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Tell her then to help me.”  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.

This passage of Scripture contains a warning about busyness.  Martha was busy.  And the things she was busy doing were good things.  She was “distracted with much serving,” attending to the needs of the people visiting her home.

When I was a young lawyer, I had a good job doing sophisticated work.  And now as a stay-at-home mom, it’s good things like volunteering and teaching that keep me busy.  But what is the cost of my busyness?

For Martha, the cost was missing the opportunity to sit at the very feet of Jesus and learn from his teaching.  God in flesh was in her living room and she was too distracted preparing the antipasta tray to be bothered.  In fact, she complained to Jesus that Mary wasn’t busy along with her!

But how often am I like Martha?  How often do I deceive myself – believing I am serving others, when in fact I am so often serving myself through my own prideful works?  How often am I distracted by my own busyness when Jesus wants me to choose the good portion.  Yes, God wants me to serve – but he wants me to serve him – by being transfixed by Christ.

Father God,

I want to choose the good portion.  Please help me stop when you want me to stop, rest when you want me to rest, and sit at your feet daily, immersed in your Word, submitting my heart to your will.  I don’t want my life to pass me by in a hyper-scheduled blur.  Please give me a listening, worshipful spirit.  Please help me resist the pull of busyness.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

When Worry Creeps In…

I am a worrier.  I’ve always been this way.

I can remember being a child and remaining awake late into the night, snug in my bed – just worrying.

At times in the past, I’ve even mistaken worry as my friend – a constant, familiar companion.  I’ve sought comfort in turning a thought over and over again in my head – the same way a thumb works a worry stone.

But as an adult I’ve come to see worry for what it is…

A burden.

A joy thief.

An enemy.

No friend of mine.

As a parent charged with raising three little ones, an ocean of perils and matters over which to worry stretches before me, deep and wide.  And at times, the tide threatens to pull me in.  Worry laps at my toes, and I feel as if I’m in an often-present battle to avoid drowning.  But I know that the maker of the sea doesn’t want me to worry.  He tells me so in Philippians 4:6-7:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

In this passage, the Apostle Paul commands the opposite of worry – he tells me to have peace.  But he is not referring to a peace that I can muster by myself.  No matter how many coping mechanisms I learn and no matter how many insightful devotionals I read, the peace spoken of here does not come from my own knowledge or efforts, for this is the very peace of God.

And how do I find this remarkable peace?  How do I remain immovable and firm, resolutely avoiding not just the tide, but weathering even the force of a storm?  How do I cling to the shore like a craggy rock that has been beaten for centuries but remains steadfast?  How do I shun worry, and treat it not as a friend, but as the enemy it is?

By praying to God.

With a heart of thanks for the things that God has already done for me, I am commanded to make my requests known to God.  Because he wants to help me.  He wants to give me his amazing peace that is so complete that I’m unable to fully comprehend it.

So when I am fearful, and worry creeps in like a joy thief in the night, I pray to the Lord.  I tell him my fears, hand him my worry, and thank him for sending Jesus to die on a cross for me.  This is a pattern I will repeat for the rest of my life, because I can’t do it on my own.

Thank you, Father God, for Jesus.  Thank you for saving me and for giving me your peace, which surpasses human understanding.  Thank you for helping me see that worry is no friend of mine.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Protecting My Children From Pornography

My little ones are six, four and two, so some of you may ask, “Why is it necessary to protect such young children from pornography?  Are they really going to come into contact with it?  Shouldn’t they be playing on swings and watching Curious George?  Shouldn’t you wait until they are teenagers to discuss the ugly topic of porn?”

Look, I understand those questions.  They are important questions to ask.  They are also questions that Jersey Boy and I have deeply and thoughtfully considered, and here is our conclusion:

Yes – in the year 2016 it is necessary to actively work to protect even our preschoolers from pornography.  Here is why:

1.  Pornography is everywhere.

Formerly relegated to seedy porn shops, the underside of teenage boys’ mattresses and secret hiding spots in marriage bedrooms, porn now exists everywhere, all the time.

Do you have a smart phone in your hand?  Well so does the person next to you.  And anywhere a portable device with internet access exists, so too may porn.

As a parent of young children, you must not be naive to the real possibility that your little ones could be exposed to porn while playing a video game on a friend’s iPad or watching YouTube videos on a parent’s cell phone.  All it takes is one wrong click…one suggestion by a friend who wants to show your child something “really weird” or “cool”…and just like that your baby could be exposed to graphic images that they’ll never un-see.  And the internet porn of today is far more disturbing than what was widely available back in the 80’s and 90’s.  This is not your father’s Playboy.

Research indicates that most children first view pornography before the age of twelve, with some sources stating that the average age of first exposure to graphic porn is eight.  Yes, eight-years-old.  You can do the research yourself, and if you’re a parent you probably should.  But get ready to be disgusted, because the facts and figures are bleak.

2.  Porn is dangerous.

A mountain of mainstream, secular research tells us what anyone with a true devotion to the Christian faith already knows – porn is dangerous.

I can anticipate the eye rolls.  Yes, there is also a mountain of hypocrisy in this area among the Church and Christian leaders.  Christians are not “above” the lure of pornography, and many Christians have experienced the humiliation that comes when their career, marriage and reputation are destroyed by the wicked pull of pornography.  Countless Christian leaders have learned the hard way that pornography is not an innocent, victimless and private diversion.

If you think that your pornography use is a private struggle, you are wrong.  Porn is affecting your romantic relationships or marriage, whether or not you admit it.  It is also affecting you personally in profound ways.

Porn is bad for your mind.  Studies show that viewing pornography causes dopamine spikes in the brain, and over time the brains of regular porn users respond like that of drug addicts.  Repeated porn exposure also dulls the brain’s reward network and response to pleasure.  This results in the need for harder core and more deviant images to illicit the same mental and physical arousal.

And even worse, porn is bad for your soul.  And I am not just talking about men’s souls.  I am talking to women…to housewives…to my peers.  Any Christian who repeatedly struggles with and then returns to pornography has every reason to fear for the condition of her soul.  Does an unwillingness to resist the pull of pornography reflect a regenerate heart?

As Tim Challies puts it in this excellent article, “If you have no sorrow for sin, if you have no real desire for victory, if time and again you recklessly choose your sin over your Savior, you need to ask yourself this: Do I love pornography enough to go to hell for it?”

As a parent, I want to do all that I can to protect my children from the mind and soul damaging affects of porn.  And that starts by never viewing pornography myself.

3.  Young children are capable of understanding that viewing certain images will hurt their heart.

You may be thinking, “Okay, porn is bad for my kid and they are likely to see it when they’re young, but how am I supposed to “protect” them from the inevitable?  Is it appropriate to explain pornography to a young child?  How could I possibly find the words to do that?”

No, I do not think that it is appropriate to graphically explain pornography to a young child.  However, in addition to obvious things like not permitting them to use the internet alone and installing good filters, there are ways to teach little ones to resist the urge to look at images that may “hurt their heart.”  These are the words that Jersey Boy and I use with our kids.

We teach our children that God gave them private spots that are not for other people to look at or touch.  They also understand that they should not look at or touch friends’ private spots.  They know the proper names for their private areas, and understand that they can always ask mommy and daddy questions about their bodies.

We discuss internet safety with our kids, and explain that they are not permitted to use the internet alone because there are pictures and videos on the internet that could hurt their hearts.  We explain that Jesus wants us to protect our hearts and minds, and be careful about the things we look at.  We explain that some of these online pictures show other people’s private spots, and that viewing those pictures is bad for our hearts.

These are basic conversations.  My children have no true grasp of what pornography actually is and what it does to people.  But Jersey Boy and I are starting the conversation now, while they are little and are apt to listen intently.

4.  We have an opportunity to lay the foundation now.

When it comes to the topics of sex and pornography, Jersey Boy and I want to be the authority in our children’s lives.  We desire to have the opportunity to point them to God’s design for sex and his warnings throughout Scripture about guarding our hearts and minds.  We want our littles to know that they can talk to mommy and daddy about anything, and we will tell them the truth.  So we don’t shy away from difficult conversations, we embrace them.  They are opportunities to point our kids to Christ!

5.  Above all, look to God.

As much as I want them, I don’t have all of the answers, and I don’t know what the future holds for my children.  I don’t know what they may unwittingly be exposed to in the future, or what sin issues they will struggle with as teens and young adults.  But while they are little, I’ll do the best I can to protect my children from pornography, and I’ll teach them about its dangers in age-appropriate ways.  And of course, I’ll look to God.

Father God, thank you for being above all things.  I know that I can look to you for my hope and refuge when the facts of this world seem bleak.  Lord, I pray that your will be done in my children’s hearts.  Please protect them from the dangers of pornography.  Please shield their young eyes from the sin and bondage that it brings.  Thank you for loving them even more than I do.  To you be the glory forever.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

What’s wrong with being a princess?

The other day, my Baby Girl was in the arms of her grandfather (who goes by the moniker “Big E”), when he lovingly referred to her as “sweetheart.”  She immediately placed her slender little hands on either side of his face, and drawing his gaze directly to hers, she proclaimed:

“No.  Me princess.”

Before I had a daughter, I was anti-princess.  Not in an aggressive and vocal way – but I had a strong distaste for the little girl princess culture.  Shirts emblazoned with phrases such as “I’m the princess,” or “Daddy’s little princess,” or even worse “I didn’t ask to be a princess…but if the crown fits…” received eye rolls from me, and I silently judged the parents whose little girls donned said shirts.

As a lawyer who understood the challenges that professional women still face, I determined that if I ever had a girl, she would know that she was valuable, but not in a delicate fairy princess sort of way.  My daughter would wear a shirt that said something like “I’m not a princess – I’m a boss,” or “Why be a princess when you can be a president?”

But like so many matters in parenting, I found my theoretical pre-daughter anti-princess ideology evolving after Baby Girl’s arrival.  And it began when, to my dismay, Jersey Boy started calling our daughter “Princess.”

Understanding the importance of cultivating their father-daughter relationship and desiring that Jersey Boy feel connected with Baby Girl, I chose not to discourage him by voicing my distaste for the pseudo-royalty nickname.  He was her daddy after all, and he could call her whatever darling little name he chose.  I had to admit, it was a little sweet.  And she seemed to love it.

With two older brothers and a house full of trains, trucks and soldiers, Baby Girl has spent much of her two years playing with “boy toys.”  But the truth is – she is fascinated by princesses.  She adores the sweet pastel pink and violet dresses, the flowing hair and sparkly tiaras.  And despite my reluctance, many of her Christmas gifts this year were princess related.  I suppose, as a family, we are finding ourselves firmly immersed in the little girl princess culture.

And you know what?  I think I’m okay with it.

If Baby Girl feels like she is daddy’s princess, is that really a bad thing?  If Jersey Boy makes her feel beautiful, delicate, valuable and royal, is it wrong?  Soon enough, the world will give her a host of perverted messages about her value and worth, and if she spends the first several years of her life being told that she is precious and cared for, I think I’m okay with it.

So sure, Jersey Boy and I will also teach her that she’s smart…and tough…and capable.  But can’t she be those things while wearing a lacy dress and a tiara?  What’s wrong with being a princess?

All is calm…all is bright.

Ahhh…now I can breathe.  This Christmas season was a true whirlwind.  And a true joy.  Surrounded by people who love us, my littles, Jersey Boy and I delighted in celebrating the birth of our Savior.  We hosted our first Christmas Eve open house (with lots of guests), and then we traveled to visit family on Christmas day.  It was a lot of work – and a lot of fun – all wrapped up in one big Christmas package.

And then today we did nothing.

Well…nothing except this:

potty training V

Today we potty trained our third (and probably last) child.

I’m not sure how I feel about being a diaper-free house, but it marks a new chapter of sorts for our family.  No more babies.  I don’t know whether to cheer or cry.

So instead of doing either, I cracked open this bottle of wine:

good jersey wine

And boy, is it good.

A Christmas gift from a friend with good taste, it’s a blend of Riesling, Pinot Grigio, and Gewurtzraminer.  I looked it up online and it has won some fancy pants awards.

And look where it’s from.  Try as I might to deny it, I have a thing for Jersey.

So tonight Jersey Boy and I toast (with our lovely fancy pants wine) to the calm of our post-Christmas whirlwind, to the bright joy of celebrating Jesus’s birth with loved ones…and to no more diapers.

Merry post-Christmas to you and yours.

xo,

Unbored Housewife

Board Book Obsession – Pride and Prejudice

Baby Girl and I stumbled upon this board book at the library, and let’s just say I’m obsessed.

board book

Let me preface this by saying that I may or may not spend the occasional Saturday night watching the 2005 film adaptation of this classic novel (starring Keira Knightly) on repeat.

I said may or may not.  You’ll never know for sure, so don’t judge me.

This board book is the epitome of adorable.  I kind of want to kiss it…or at least cuddle it a bit.

It is a counting book by Jennifer Adams, with precious illustrations by Alison Oliver, and given its board book-ish nature, it’s probably best suited for the three-and-under crowd.

Here are a few of my favorite pages.

Mr. Darcy is looking quite dapper, no?

page 2

The page featuring “4 marriage proposals” kills me.

page 4

That Lizzy was quite the lady to be desired.  Immense were her charms.

And what girl wouldn’t love 9 fancy ball gowns?

page 9

I’m partial to number 6 myself.  It would show just the right amount of shoulder, without being scandalous.  The floral embellishments keep it looking demure.

If you’re on the hunt for a Christmas gift for a toddler girl, look no further.  Little Miss Austen: Pride & Prejudice is the sweetest version of Jane Austen’s classic tale that I ever did see, and is certain to captivate that wee one.

[For the avoidance of doubt, I received no compensation or freebies for this review.  I just loved the book!]