Thursday, October 13, 2016

Unpacking Motherhood

“When we have kids, I hope they answer adults when they speak to them.”
“Me, too.” I nodded.
And I silently believed we would have complete control over this.

I thought we would have well-behaved children. After all, we had been well-behaved children, ourselves. Hadn’t we? I would teach our children to pick up after themselves, to use good manners, to never eat the icing right from the birthday cake. They would have a healthy diet and a regular bedtime. Our kids could never become the loud, wild hooligans I’d observed in other families.

The journey begins . . .
What’s more, when I became a mother, I wouldn’t yell at my kids. Of course I’d raise my voice at times. If they ran towards the street, I’d have to yell, “Stop!” I’d have moments of frustration. But the uncontrolled rage I’d seen? The way some parents seemed to forget what a gift their children were? That wouldn’t be me.

To be fair to my pre-motherhood self, I did recognize that children had to make their own choices at some point. I knew the fate of their souls was not something parents could control. I just thought the individuation would happen much closer to adulthood. Having five younger siblings and a plethora of foster siblings, you would think I might have observed enough childish behavior to realize people come into the world with a will of their own.

But I had it all figured out.
And I was horribly judgmental.

If we just had a healthy atmosphere in our home, I thought. If we started out right from day one, we’d have the happy, sweet, clean children I imagined.

I think I began realizing the error in my thinking as the birth of our first child approached. Why else would I have devoured Baby Wise as though it would save me? I remember being so stressed out one day as I was running errands towards the end of my pregnancy. I wondered how on earth I was going to handle these stressors when I had the unpredictability of children added to them. But it wasn’t until my baby was older, when she showed me her inherent strong will, that I began to realize motherhood was not what I thought it was going to be.

I write to you now as an enlightened woman. A decade into this adventure.

Marriage was not what I thought it would be. Motherhood is not at all what I thought it would be. And I’ll bet you money the next stage of life will not be what I imagine with my rose-colored lenses firmly in place.

I never knew how much I would love these kids. And I never knew how that love would wring out my heart. I never imagined how dirty my house could get, how achy bone-tired this body could be, how many times I would repeat the same request.

The dirt. The lost sleep. The bodily fluids. The constant interruptions.

The fear. The worry. The on-my-knees knowing deep in my soul I can’t do this on my own.

The resentment. The surrender. The hugs. The snuggles. The kisses.

The rage that comes from nowhere and shakes me to the core. The guilt.

The peace when I see their sleeping faces and ask God to please help me do better tomorrow.

The knowing that I could really screw this up and God would still love me. And He’d still love them and pursue them in spite of my failures.

That is motherhood for me. It’s second-guessing and a balancing act. It’s almost never black and white. I love it and I hate it. It’s the highest calling and the hardest job. It’s never-ending. 

And it’s breathtaking.

I saw myself with quiet, well-behaved children. 
I got wild hooligans. 
Highly creative and imaginative little people.

Quite often, they do not answer adults, especially when I really want them to.
The little one destroyed the icing on her brother's cake before it was cut.
They are extremely loud.
They are the pickiest eaters I’ve ever met.

Motherhood has broken me. And it is refining me.
I’m unbelievably proud of the children I’m privileged to mother.
Sometimes they embarrass me. Yes. 

I pray all the time that in spite of my utter inadequacy, they will grow up to love God and their fellow man. That they’ll be fulfilled in this crazy world. That they’ll find their niche and be successful at life. That they’ll learn the most important things before it’s too late.

I am not up to this task. It is too big for me. 
Every day I’m grateful to be held by strong hands.

The same hands that pick up the pieces of my broken soul, will pick up the pieces of my frail attempts and make something beautiful. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

What I’m Into: September 2016

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer today to share September happenings in the Treat family!

What we’ve been doing . . .

September began with adjusting to the new school year. I expected my middle child to have a hard time with this. Since he happened to have an eye appointment scheduled for the third day of school and I had to pick him up early for it, I took him out for some mommy-time, too. Look what we found on our date! I was so excited!
A Little Library!
Labor Day weekend was filled to the brim. We visited our county fair, had friends over for a bon fire, and spent time at the lake with my parents.
On the Carousel at the Fair
The next weekend, my friend Amy turned 40! I am not far behind her, folks. 1976 was a good year to be born. We had a wonderful time celebrating her birthday! 
Forty and Fabulous!
The next day we headed out for an overnight trip to Kalahari with our church family. My anxiety kicked in a little bit when the kids were going on water rides, but I kept reminding myself I didn’t want to let fear control me. They had such a great time, I was glad I stuck to my guns.

It was a little bittersweet for me, though, remembering times with Pastor Laurie. I think indoor waterparks will always remind me of her, as she organized the trips we took to Great Wolf Lodge with our young adults group. It’s still hard to believe she’s gone.

On September 15th my baby turned three! We celebrated with family. My parents gave her a Bitty Baby and her reaction was priceless! I wish I had it on video. She hugged it and said, “It’s a . . . it’s a Baby Bitty!”
Photo Credit: April Roskos
I got my hair chopped! I like it! It had been so long since I’d had my hair cut, I think I would have liked anything!

Lee Sebastiani, of Avventura Press, sent me copies of One Traveler with the new cover design by Jeff Gerke! Yay!

I went with Camilla’s class to see Sampson at Sight andSound. What a great time!

And Camilla had a sleepover party for her birthday! She’s ten. I've been a mother for a decade. I'm still processing this. I’m also still recovering from the sleepover.
An American Girl Party!

What We’ve Been Reading . . .

This month was so cram-packed with doing that I haven’t spent enough time reading. I finished Cutting for Stone, finally! It was so good. A beautiful, beautiful book. Well worth the time.

I read a book by Roseanna M. White. I met her briefly at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference and I wish I’d had more time to get to know her. I felt like our interests were similar. So, I chose to read her book set during the Civil War—Circle of Spies. I failed to begin with the first two books in the series, but it was good enough on its own that I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Now I’ve started reading a book by a friend in my local writing community. Sarah Lynn Phillips writes about a terrible car accident and the journey of recovery in Penned WithoutInk: Trusting God to Write Your Story. I’m finding this book encouraging and inspiring. Sarah uses her experience to show the reader how to trust God’s omniscient point of view in our lives, even when we don’t understand what He’s doing.

The kids and I still haven’t finished reading Mustang. I’m sorry to say, Adrian and I have become bored with it. Homework and reading for school has taken over our evenings a little bit in the past few weeks. It’s going to be challenging to read with the big kids during the school year. That may be the only thing I miss about homeschooling. Sigh.

What I’ve Been Listening To . . .

I listened to an episode of What Should I Read Next in which Anne Bogel interviewed Erik Fisher. That led me to Erik Fisher’s podcast, Beyond the To-Do List. I listened to the episode with Rob Bell and loved it! Awesome show, though I was a little taken aback that Rob Bell is able to offer his novel to the world free of charge. Yeah. That would be nice. Not bitter, here—we all have a different path and I’m okay with that. I just find it interesting, that’s all.

I also listened to another Hope Writers podcast, but felt a little condemned by it. They said if I’m not writing enough, maybe it’s because I don’t actually want to! We make time for the things that are important to us . . .

Okay, I get the point. While there’s certainly a place for tough love, I think I prefer Julia Cameron’s take on this. Fear is often what keeps me from writing and I need to lead my inner child to the page to play. I usually get a lot further when I treat myself kindly instead of beating myself up for my failures.

I’ve also been listening to my Praise & Worship station on Pandora. Especially when I need a good dose of peace in the house.

Things I Love . . .


Daddy Time 

Working at my favorite coffee shop

What are you into?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Why We Don’t Homeschool (Right Now)

I’ve come a long way in my schooling journey. Almost full circle. Years ago, when my oldest child was younger than school age, I fully intended to send her to school when the time came. I had a lot of reasons for this, but a big one was my desire to write for a living. I didn’t know how I could do that and homeschool. The parents I knew who successfully homeschooled treated it as a full-time job. I questioned whether we could be the close family I wanted us to be if the kids went to school, but I just didn’t feel like I could homeschool well and be a writer. Some people can. I just doubted that I could.
Camilla's first day of Kindergarten so many years ago!
If you’ve been reading this blog long, you know why we started homeschooling halfway through Camilla’s Kindergarten year.

How many of you are like me? I question every decision interminably. For years afterward, I wonder what would have happened if I’d made a different choice. Maybe I should have taken the blue pill.
Photo By W.carter (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0
via Wikimedia Commons
If I hadn’t had a miscarriage four years ago, I probably would never have chosen to have a third baby. I also probably would not have started homeschooling. I don’t want to imagine my life without Eva. But I do wonder sometimes what would have happened if I’d never homeschooled. Was I subconsciously avoiding publishing success by putting too much on my plate? (This is the type of self-analysis that consumes me at times. Yes, I know it’s crazy!) I don’t regret homeschooling for those 3 ½ years, but once in a while I wonder what would have happened had I chosen a different path.

But life is not a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, is it? We can’t go back and see what the other ending would have been. And when I really consider it, I believe the ending will be the same. We just get a different view depending on which route we take. I don’t subscribe to the idea that God always has just one right choice for each person.

Many times He says, “You can choose path A or path B. Take your pick and enjoy the road!”

We had a good run. I loved the time I had at home with my kids (most of the time). Camilla might have really missed time with her baby sister if she’d been at school most of the day when Eva was a newborn. Or it might have been fine. I have a twinge of longing every now and then when Camilla and Adrian are at school. I wish we could just sit around and read together all day, but the truth is that’s not what homeschooling actually looks like. It was hard sometimes. It was stressful. And ultimately I tried it and discovered that I was right.

I can’t homeschool well and be a writer.

Don’t worry! When push comes to shove, mothering comes before writing. But I also feel called to the page. In the early mornings, when the sunlight just begins to edge itself over the horizon, when the characters dance their way from my fingertips, I know it deep in my soul. Nobody else can write these stories. I’m called to share them. I have to make space for that.

For now, this works for our family. We love the kids' school and we are so grateful to have an option we feel good about. So far I haven’t been agonizing and second guessing myself. I’m choosing this path for this time with joy.  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

On Birthdays, Blogs, and Books

The big kids started school two weeks ago and I have been neck-deep in computer world ever since. Okay, maybe that’s not completely accurate.

I partied hard over the last two weekends, even squeezing in a trip to Kalahari.

The kids at Kalahari!

And today is Evangeline’s third birthday, so I’m baking a cake and doing other fun birthday preparation!
Three years old. I do not have a baby anymore. I’m feeling a little melancholy about that today . . . but also looking forward to never buying diapers again.

I hope.

But MOST of my work time (which is limited, due to aforementioned three-year-old) has been spent neck-deep in computer world.

Several years ago, I considered having my website designed by a professional. I wanted it to be aesthetically appealing and user-friendly. I ultimately decided to stick with Blogger, using my own domain name. Blogger was familiar. It was free. It was good enough for my purposes at the time.

Now Blogger has failed me. 

Since January, I have not been able to reply to comments on my posts. Ridiculous. I can’t find a solution and I’m succumbing to the temptation to make my website look pretty. I’ve seen some beautiful sites, so I have decided to make the switch. I bought hosting. I installed Wordpress. And I began pulling my hair out! 

I am a writer! I don’t want to spend hours figuring out how to customize a theme for my blog. I thought Wordpress was supposed to be easy to use, but I am struggling! I’m sure this has something to do with that saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!” Well, I contend that you can, but it’s not easy. This old dog is used to Blogger and the new tricks are going to take some time to learn. In addition to figuring out Wordpress, I’ve been reading or listening to tutorials on migrating my blog from Blogger. This is what I love to do with my time.

Did you catch the sarcasm in that?

I want to spend my time writing my new book! I think I mentioned my current Work-in-Progress briefly in another post. I’m going back to the 19th century again.

Not to Sidney. Not yet. Patience, my friends. The sequel will come.

I am writing a prequel about one of the other characters from One Traveler. Only a select few know who my protagonist is in this book. I’m going to run a giveaway soon for those of you want to take a guess!

In my spare time, I will be working on a new website design. Which I will unveil . . . eventually.