Bringing Heaven to Earth

Scientists think they have discovered a key to the secret to living a long life. They studied the lives of dozens of people who had lived to the age of 100 or more. They were trying to find clues linking behavior or lifestyle choices to longevity. Their studies left many surprised. The people in the study weren’t major health fanatics. They weren’t all vegetarians or non-drinkers. Some had smoked cigarettes for periods of their lives. Their parents had died at average ages, so it wasn’t genetics. They weren’t into exercising consistently. But the one thing that almost all of them had in common was a tight circle of friends, a support system throughout their lives. The people in those circles probably changed at various points in their lives, but they always had people to lean on, people who depended on them.
We live in a time when we can still feel lonely despite the presence of social media or the ability to call a person on any part of the globe and be connected to them in a matter of seconds. Now more than ever, we are overwhelmingly aware of what is going on in one another’s lives. We know everything from what our co-worker had for dinner to the gender of a new baby born hours before. So how can this epitomize a world of people who feel depressed and alone?
Because in a world where we constantly have a screen open for all the world to see “our lives”, what we are hiding or not being shown by others is the suffering, the inadequacy, the loneliness that every single one of us feels when we compare our imperfect story to someone else’s highlight reel. We have lost touch with the thing that makes us most beautiful: Our souls.
I’ve said it before but I think it bears repeating: We are not physical beings trying to live a spiritual life. We are spiritual beings living a physical life. Our spirits, or souls, are TRULY who we are. I’m NOT my gray hair, my crow’s feet, my scars, my self-centeredness, my fears, or my failings as a human being. I am impeca5d0e52857814c27524c24146f2e672rfect, but I am so much more than my short-comings. I am a soul, created by the highest power. All of us are. The ugliest, clumsiest, saddest ones of us are all made by the One. We are most greatly affected by the energy of other souls. We thrive on positive energy and are destroyed by negativity. If we surround ourselves with good, if we channel our thoughts toward gratitude and focus on our blessings and not the things we do not have, our lives are full of light, joy, and love.
I heard something not long ago that made me pause. Jesus didn’t come to earth to help us get to heaven. Jesus came here to help us bring heaven to earth. If I’m being honest, humanity is screwing it up badly right now.
Nikolas Cruz is a 19-year-old boy who will live the rest of his days in infamy. He killed seventeen people and injured many others. I keep hearing these stories and always amidst my tears and anger, come back to the simple question of, “Why does this keep happening?” I wanted to learn about Nikolas. People kept saying there were red flags. But when did they start popping up? Was he always a troubled person? I found out he was adopted. His adoptive parents are both now deceased, his mother very recently, in fact. He had been living with a friend when he committed the shootings.
But here is where I am stuck: He was once a child. He probably made animals out of hand prints just like my kids have. He probably passed out paper Valentine cards to his friends in grade school. He probably lived a normal kid’s life at one point. His younger brother lived the same life. Why didn’t he react the way Nikolas did?
What happens for a baby to grow into a killer? How does a person snap? How does a person become so broken that they think taking a life (or lives in this case) will be the answer? Several accounts of people interviewed about Nikolas said he seemed lonely, that it may have been his mother’s death in November that exacerbated the situation. But there is that word again: LONELY. Alone. In this world, how can a person ever feel alone? We can’t escape people if we try! I’m not saying Nikolas couldn’t feel lonely, I’m asking why he did. There are support groups all over social media to help people going through trauma. Why didn’t those help?
Because we have lost the true connection to one another and to ourselves. In our world, people try make that connection with things. Elaborate parties, clothes, food, money, drugs, alcohol, sex, fame, greed, anger, violence, and worse. And when we realize it’s love we need most of all, we don’t know where to look for that because everything is so fake and hollow. Having a real conversation with a compassionate, breathing human being seems far-fetched.
My kids have this book called, “You Are Special,” by Max Lucado. If I could afford to buy every person in this world a copy, I would. It’s a parable about these wooden people, the Wemmicks. They go around sticking dots on each other for their imperfections. They also put stars on the ones who are beautiful or talented. Punchinello is one of the wooden people with many dots. He is ashamed and only spends time with Wemmicks who are flawed like him. One day he meets a Wemmick named Lucia who has no dots or stars stuck to her. Curious, he asks her why and she tells him to go talk to Eli, the one who made them. So Punchinello goes to Eli. He tells Punchinello that the stars and dots don’t stick to Lucia because she has learned and believes that it doesn’t matter what the other Wemmicks think of her. She has faith in Eli’s love alone. She goes to see Eli every day and he reminds her that he loves her and he doesn’t make junk. So she believes in herself. Her faith is a sort of protective armor from the opinions of others. Eli tells Punchinello to do the same and the moment he starts to believe it, one of his dots falls off.
It’s a children’s story. But it speaks to me so much that I am always crying by the last page and my kids are laughing at me. But it’s a moral for all of us: God is here all the time. He’s waiting for us to turn off our screens and to stop passing judgement on ourselves and each other. He’s in our hearts. He’s begging us to listen and to be there for one another.
God is shouting to us from the lonely kid in the cafeteria wanting nothing more than a friend. God is calling to us from the nursing home where our elderly, alone and forgotten, are just waiting to leave this world. God is with the poor man I saw on the side of the road last week, standing in the snow holding a sign that said, “Even a smile will help.” God is begging for us to hear him and see him again, not in a blaze of light or an apocalyptic event, but in simple opportunities for kindness toward each other.
Even if you’re not Catholic, or if you don’t celebrate Lent, I am asking if you would do something for forty days. Maybe it will be a habit that lasts longer. I tell my kids all the time, Lent isn’t only about sacrifice. It can also be adding something positive to your life. Every day, just do one random act of kindness. It doesn’t have to be something big. As the homeless man pointed out, even a smile can help. It all has a ripple effect. And who knows, your smile could literally change the world.

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Good Old Sparkie’s

Last night we ate at a restaurant the kids have never been to before, Sparkie’s.  We rarely go out to dinner but Scott and I are trying to bolster our kids’ confidence and one simple way that was suggested to us is by allowing them to order their own food when we go out to eat. Plus, I was not in the mood to cook after being away from home most of the day. Scott suggested Sparkie’s because we were all a little burnt out on our usual spots. The kids loved it and were so excited to be somewhere new. They were commenting on the nice booths and Grace even let us know “The bathrooms are really cool!” We might need to get out more…

We were drawing pictures on the backs of the kids’ place mats, waiting for our food when Noah announced, “Someday  I will move out and live in an apartment. Probably when I go to college.” I honestly couldn’t reconstruct the details of the conversation that lead to that declaration of independence, but I saw Scott’s head snap in Noah’s direction right along with mine. Noah is nine. How in the world he’s already thinking about such things is beyond me.

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The three amigos during a recent visit to Florida. Grace’s diva pose is something new.

Grace weighed in on Noah’s plans with “You can get a puppy and I will come visit you!” as if this was obviously the sort of dinner conversation people have with their elementary-school-aged kids.

“Whoa! Whoa! Pump the breaks!” I looked at Noah who was smiling broadly back at me.

“What?” he asked feigning innocence as he pushed his glasses back on his nose by wrinkling his face to one side. Scott and I looked at each other both thinly suppressing laughter.

Scott said, “Let’s just get you through grade school first.”

“Won’t you miss us?” I asked playing along. I felt a nudge from my left side where Luke had all but melted under the table, his round eyes swimming with tears peeking over the edge.

“Luke what’s the matter?” I asked him. But I already knew. Luke, my sensitive kid, was fast-forwarding to how it would be when they grow up and move away. “Luke, you can stay with Dad and me as long as you want. Is that what’s bothering you?”

He managed a small nod, determined not to let those tears fall past his eyes. “And I’ll miss Noah,” he whispered. And there was the simple truth. Our kids really do love each other. Despite all their bickering and squabbles, they are best friends.

Anyway, it all got me thinking about our kids on a much deeper level. The fact that Noah has these kinds of aspirations shows me that they are becoming themselves, not just our children, but the people who they are intended to be. So often I think of the kids as being “ours.” But they really aren’t, at least not in a sense of ownership. We care for them and make sure we meet their needs as well as providing a framework for living a moral life. But the fact is, they belong to God. We are just taking care of them until they can take care of themselves.

And this is why I am so glad they have each other. I know siblings don’t always stay close, but even if they drift in life, they will at least have Scott and me in common. Their memories will have us in the background and that is something that only they will share.

It amazes me because there was a brief moment after Noah was born when I thought I would not want to have other kids. I was not one of those pregnant women who basked in the glow of pregnancy bliss. I was sick and gray well past the twenty-week mark and even my birth plan had gone awry resulting in an emergency c-section. I remember thinking it was probably a mistake for me to become a mother. I was too selfish, after all. I thought the worst thing I could do was have another.

But Luke had other plans for me, announcing his existence one early-September day when Noah was about ten months old and I was wondering why I felt so tired and nauseous. I am ashamed to say, my initial reaction wasn’t one so much of joy, but more of annoyance. I had just been through this! How could it be happening again? Well, of course I knew how, but I didn’t understand why. Hadn’t God and I sorted this out? I was a mediocre mom at best. I hadn’t quite stopped lamenting my inability to sleep an uninterrupted seven hours of sleep a night or go to concerts on weeknights as I did pre-children. I didn’t live for play-dates and the thought of quitting my job gave me a minor panic attack since we wouldn’t be able to afford daycare for two kids.

But Luke came right on schedule in May of the following year. And even though those early days of having two children are a fog of delirium (I literally hallucinated Batman was coming in through the nursery window one night in June after Luke was born), I know Noah and Luke were best friends from the second they met each other. They even coordinated a plan to help me lose my mind entirely by plotting to have Luke take his first steps the same day I was determined to potty-train Noah. So I chased them around for three days, trying to throw the potty chair under Noah while preventing Luke from getting a concussion on walls and furniture.

And then, I thought having such a tidy, two-child family was far too “normal,” so we threw everything off balance by trying for a third kid and wound up with Grace. In truth, the boys couldn’t have gotten a better little sister. She is down for anything that they throw at her. I still remember her humming the Imperial March song from Star Wars over the baby monitor when the boys were at the height of their Star Wars obsession and she was about two years old.

So last night I looked around our table at my family with a tender heart. This Saturday night was one I never would have pictured ten years ago when Scott and I used to go there as a newly married couple; Noah gushing praise over Sparkie’s exquisite mac n’ cheese recipe, Luke wiping ketchup from his mouth with the back of his hand, and Grace stabbing her bun-less hamburger with a fork while smiling about something Scott had just said. I felt humbled and undeserving of so much good fortune.

I read a theory a while back that we actually choose who we get to spend life with before we come here. We choose each other to learn from, truths about our souls, that sort of thing. It’s as if Earth is one giant classroom. Every person in our lives is a lesson to be learned. And how deeply blessed I am that these souls chose me to be a part of their journey.

The Illusion of Control

Luke was playing a game on iPad recently called “Temple Run.” This animated character dressed like a little Indiana Jones sprints through this temple/maze/obstacle course, careening through the labyrinth, twisting around hairpin turns, vaulting over broken bridges leading to eventual and certain death. As he makes his way through the course, he collects coins in his bottomless adventure sack with infinite amounts of space while a massive gorilla with the head of a vulture is on his heels, waiting for him to trip so he can devour him. Luke is a machine at this game. He breaks every record that anyone has set. It’s actually amazing to watch a his brain work to respond that quickly. He doesn’t blink. I wonder if he’s even breathing.

Around this time of the year, I feel a little like that Indiana Jones guy. Life is like the obstacle course with all the items on the daily checklist because we have the everyday things that need to be done; make the beds, brush the teeth, clothe the tiny people, feed the tiny people, keep the tiny people alive…

…But then we have these added challenges with all the holiday hoops to jump through. Every Christmas card, batch of cookies, present checked off  the list, party attended, is a bridge to jump. And I was like Luke playing the game this year. I was impressing even myself by beginning my Christmas shopping in July, having three batches of cookies in the freezer the first week of December, making it to not one, but two of my kids’ Christmas parties at school today–bonus coins!

I was feeling so good, sure I was having a type of runner’s high. I was in a euphoric hysteria laughing at the ease with which I was getting it all done. Tonight, we got the kids to bed in record time. I knew I could breathe easy from here on out. I looked back over my shoulder at that proverbial gorilla-vulture and flipped it the bird. “I’ve got this!” I turned back to continue the race, overly-confident, scooping up a laundry basket at the top of the stairs (Multi-tasking is my middle name!) and started hopping down the staircase.

Then something happened about four steps from the bottom. The damn gorilla must have hooked my foot and I thudded down the stairs on my butt, each step in quick succession,  while my arm scraped down the molding on the banister beside me. I lie in a heap at the bottom of the steps wondering what had just happened.

Scott poked his head out into the hall, obviously suppressing laughter at the sound of his wife getting spanked by the stairs. “You ok?” he managed as I shakily got to my feet.

“Yes.” I whimpered. I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or maybe I actually wanted to cry. My arm was stinging and I looked down at it to find a long scratch from elbow to wrist. I realized suddenly how strung tight I was. I started both laughing and crying as I limped to our bedroom. It was unclear in that moment of what was actually in the middle of those emotions. But I decided quickly that whatever it was, there was definitely humor in it.

So many times I think I am in control and  quickly (and painfully) learn I am not. And the best part is, it’s all a part of the game we sign up to play. It’s a game in which we’re willing participants. We log in to run the obstacle course the minute we open our eyes and our feet hit the floor in the morning.

527ddde837b7e-zoomEven though I’m a little afraid to leave my room right now, I know I will have to go move the Elf and fill the water bottles so we can do it all over again tomorrow.

In a strange way, I am kind of grateful for falling down the stairs tonight. It was a rude awakening but humor and humility are two things we need to get through life every day.

Living in a Story

“It feels like we’re living in a story.” I turned to look at Grace. She was standing in her pajamas, her hair hanging in a wild mess around her face. We had just gotten home from Dairy Queen, our car ride spent rocking out to Tom Petty as I held back tears over the events of the day. She still had chocolate smeared around her mouth.

“What did you say, sweet girl?” I’d heard her perfectly well, but I wanted to make sure my own subconscious wasn’t having selective hearing.

“I said, ‘It feels like we’re living in a story,’ ” she repeated.

“What do you mean by that?” I smiled at her and held out my hand. She took it and said, “Sometimes it seems like we’re watching ourselves on a show.” Then she nestled her whole body into my arms and just stared into my eyes. “But my heart is still beating and I’m still alive.” I think she was channeling something very divine. This response still has me marveling at its profundity.

Today. One for the history books, to be sure. A mass shooting in Las Vegas. The souls of dozens of people taken from senseless violence. And this on the heels of weeks of natural disasters devastating countless lives. I haven’t found the right words to tell my kids about some of this, but I think they intuitively know. It’s not a pretty story we’re living in at the moment.

If it is possible, one thing I find even more disappointing than these events themselves, is how awful people can be toward one another in their depths of despair. The ugly, hateful words people are flinging around in an attempt to find some “reason” for any of these things happening. Evil doesn’t care what color your skin is. It doesn’t care if you voted Democrat or Republican. Evil preys on fear. Evil just wants us all to be against one another because that is the only way it can thrive.

The people of our world are tearing it apart with blame, fear, and hatred. So what can we do- what can I do– to make a change? Well, here we are still breathing. Or as my four-year-old put it, our hearts are still beating. We are still alive. There is still a purpose for us to be in this story. Will your character be a light in this darkness? Evil cannot exist where there is love. And love is the brightest light there is.

We are still here because our mission isn’t done. Our story is still unfolding. So use that breath in your lungs to breathe good into the world. FORGIVE those who have wronged you. Demonstrate COMPASSION to those who need it, not just who you feel deserves it. LOVE one another. Jesus, Buddah, Lao-tzu all talked about these principles. It doesn’t matter what religion you are. If you have a pulse, you are here to grow in understanding of these things. Sometimes it’s not easy. If it were, our journey here would be very brief.

Every thought we have, every word we speak, everything we do, has an effect on everything in this world. We are all made up of energy. Atoms vibrating so fast it becomes matter. I’m not a scientist but I have read this quite a few times from reputable sources and I have it on good authority that at our most basic level, we are made up of the same “stuff.”

**Warning: I completely geek out over these things.** Ekhart Tolle wrote about this in A New Earth: Awakening Your Life’s Purpose: “Physicists have discovered that the apparent solidity of matter is an illusion created by our senses. This includes the physical body which we think of as form but 99.9% is actually empty space. This is how vast the space is between the atoms compared to their size, and there is as much space again within each atom. The physical body is a misconception of who you are…So your physical body, which is form, reveals itself as essentially formless when you go deeper into deeper into it…That empty space is life in its fullness, the unmanifested Source out of which all manifestation flows. The traditional word for that Source is God.” (p. 250-251) 

We can use our energy to channel love and compassion or we can channel fear and hate. That energy is what binds our bodies, minds, and souls together and what connects us (or repels us) to each other. And unbelievably we have freedom to choose what will define what we are made of. Think about it like this, we have it in our power to change the world on a sub-molecular level just by choosing what energy we will allow to flow through us.

I love that Mother Theresa quote so much, I have it on a wall in my house, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Well to take that a step further, what if we treated the whole world like our family? Can you imagine how beautiful that story could be? That would be one I’d be proud to share with my children. 

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Hasty Good-bye (The Reason Why)

I know what you might have been thinking. “Why is Mom in such a hurry to leave me here on my first full day of preschool?” There isn’t an easy answer for that, at least not one that won’t leave me in a puddle of tears. But I rushed home so I could try to give you some explanation for my unceremonious exit in the best way I know how; by writing it down.

You’re embarking on your adventure into the big world and unexpected things will make a forever impression on you. After orientation last week, you told me about how you used “paste.” I understand, there is really nothing very exciting about paste. But I remember hearing you say that word as you explained to me that you “pasted marshmallows onto paper leaves.” You’d never used paste before and you were so excited about the project and wanted to tell me everything. And seeing your tiny face light up just from something so simple showed me how ready you are to leave the nest, our home, and begin growing up.

My last baby is ready. You only fit in my arms when you want to and it only lasts for a few seconds at best. Now I know those days are numbered. Today marks the day when the appeal of snuggling with your mom starts waning. You will begin to see how little you need me. Ironically, I prayed for days like this when the monotony and frustrations of motherhood consumed me, but now that grandmotherly advice of, “You’ll pray for those days to come G Bdayback,” is ringing in my ears.

I know you’ll still need me for many things,  but the little things are always the first to go and happen to be my favorites. Kissing your boo-boos, singing you songs before bedtime, and having our tea parties (Please love having tea parties to an inappropriate old age)… you will eventually look at me sideways when I ask if you want to do those things.

Holding your hand to the door today, I noticed for the millionth time how your fingers feel like satiny flower petals. When you were a baby, I always marveled at how long your fingers are and I would kiss them a dozen times a day–I still don’t think I kissed them enough. And now those sweet fingers are going to hold crayons and pencils every day. Eventually they are going to write words and all of your amazing thoughts and ideas.

Today, you looked so small walking to the big double doors. Your blonde ponytail was bobbing in the sun as you bounced into school, your butterfly backpack hanging from your shoulders. unnamedWasn’t it just five minutes ago that your little blonde head peeked over the back of your baby swing, your feet barely reaching the edge of the seat? Now I’m standing here saying, “I love you. I’ll see you at 3:00.”

So that, my sweet girl, is why I walked quickly away after kissing your cheek. All of those thoughts were threatening to come raining out of my eyes and I couldn’t bear to upset you on a day that is so happy for you; the day you take your first independent steps in becoming all that you are destined to be. But please forgive me if I still sometimes see you as my baby girl because really, you will always be.

G 10 Months 2

 

 

A Tribute to Dads

He’s the man without a plan. He’s winging it through life. He’s usually got a sunburn, covered head-to-toe with dirt but wearing a giant grin. He’s got a kid or three hanging off each limb when he’s outside playing. He’s undaunted by events that require the use of port-a-potties. His culinary specialties usually involve something from a box and a microwave. He knows how to fix anything with duct/electrical/hockey tape. He’s always got a pocket knife handy.

We see this man all the time assuming various forms but he exists for almost all of us in some way that is unique to us. I saw a few of them yesterday, splashing around a lake with children on a paddle board, a canoe, and a speed boat. I covered my eyes and prayed that the flotation devices I’d strapped around them would be enough to prevent them from meeting their likely demise or that one of the giant man-eating perch that dwell in the murky lake bottom wouldn’t unhinge its voracious jaws and swallow my babies whole. But even through my neuroses, I was unable to deny the adorable situation and had to snap a few pictures of them getting the kids to throw caution to the wind and helping them to create forever memories.

Of course I’m talking about dads. These are the guys with a devil-may-care attitude who rarely, if ever, bother with things like diaper bags, snacks, or even hand sanitizer. Those are obviously unnecessary things made popular by mothers. Dads are the spontaneous element of the best childhood memories. They might humor us moms by putting helmets or elbow pads on the kids, but they don’t really believe anyone needs that stuff (until they’re grandfathers). When Dad shows up to play, you can only expect the unexpected to happen.

My own father often came home with items that I am sure my mom would have quickly vetoed had she ever been seriously consulted. There was the go-kart that we used to perfect our 360s on the gravel at the corner of our yard and then the enormous batting cage that took up a significant part of our property, where my brothers learned to blast baseballs like cannons. But those are some priceless memories!

My own husband, usually the pragmatic voice of reason, also continues this legacy of spontaneity in surprising ways. Many times I have been told to adhere to a household budget, but there is not a price tag when it comes to an exorbitant amount of Nerf guns and foam ammunition; in these adventurous endeavors usually requiring the use of plastic goggles, money is no object.

My warnings of caution are usually brushed off when curiosity collides with inspiration and my suggestions for safety are met with such extreme disdain, that he will even go a step further to create a situation more daring than the original just to make the point that, “It’s a great idea! The kids will love it!” In his defense, sometimes I am eating my words and everyone has fun without injury. But other times, I’m applying an ice pack to a crying child within ten minutes and he’s suddenly very quiet, washing and vacuuming my car.

He’s had to learn to roll with some situations that I never thought he would. His own snot grosses him out, but I’ve watched him, countless times, hold a tissue up to our children’s faces and tell them to blow out as much nastiness as they can. He also gagged every, single time he had to change a poopy diaper; I think Grace’s last diaper change was the happiest day of his life. But watching how much love and care he has when brushing Grace’s hair or listening to him read Captain Underpants to the boys before bedtime, I can forgive all the times he refuses to reapply sunscreen or lets them eat McDonald’s fries for an afternoon snack. He is a dad, after all, the guy who keeps things real.

Sometimes he has the unenviable job having to be the “bad guy,” the disciplinarian. It can mean having to hear those fated words, “I don’t love you anymore,” but unnamedsticking to his guns no matter how much it hurts because he knows in his heart it’s the right thing to do. And at the end of the day, only his hugs can squeeze away the hurt and the disappointment, or the fear and anxiety and can make everything all right again.

It has been an incredible journey watching my husband become a father. When our son was born, I saw pure panic in his eyes in the hospital. “I have no idea what to do!” he had said. Neither of us had ever known such consuming fatigue. We didn’t know what we’d gotten ourselves into, but together, we figured it out. I remember seeing his hands cup around each of our children’s tiny newborn heads as he looked into their faces humbled with disbelief that together, we’d made these lives and were responsible for keeping them alive.

Sounds simple in theory, but in practice, it’s the hardest job there is. I get it now. I understand how my dad struggled between being a fun dad and being a real dad. I see my husband carefully balancing on the same line. My greatest hope is that someday, if we’ve done everything we could to prove to our kids that we loved them the best that we could, maybe they’ll want to be the kind of parents we were, only doing it better while understanding how tough it really is.  scott and grace unnamed

So with all of this on my mind and Father’s Day fast approaching, I’d like to take a moment to say, Happy Father’s Day to all dads out there! May there always be an abundance of duct tape, band-aids, and Nerf foam ammunition.

Wrath of the Three-nager: A Story of Redemption

Many days lately, I have been ending by limping into the shower feeling like I’ve run ten miles or that I’m coming down with the flu. My legs ache and a tension headache brews behind my eyebrows. I am relieved to say that the cause is nothing unusual; I have a “three-nager” and she’s doing her job by testing me at mine.

Meltdowns over the smallest things have become the new norm. Frequently, she’ll ask for a bowl of cereal for breakfast. I’ll pour it, sure to include her beloved blue handled spoon. She comes to the table presumably to eat, but deems the offering unworthy by slinking under the table as if her bones have suddenly dissolved from her body. And there she lies…waiting.

I take a deep breath, while I am bracing myself to be calm and collected for the battle. And maybe this is my mistake; I’m giving her a head start because here is where she slams on the gas and begins yelling, “I DIDN’T SAY I WANTED CHEERIOS!” [Unintelligible wailing as her face becomes slick with angry tears and snot]. I sit there dumbfounded, wondering where I have been in the last thirty seconds. Surely, this isn’t a deserved reaction for making her breakfast!

Last week, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. My hands shook as I tried to pull her limbs into her bathing suit before swim class. She fought me as though I were forcing her off a cliff. Finally, I realized if I forced any harder, I could hurt her. I had to close her in her bedroom and called Scott to try to describe the depth of my frustration so that if for some reason CPS was called by the neighbors who could hear her screaming as though I was beating her (when in reality I hadn’t even touched her other than to take her clothes and set them aside), it will have been somehow documented that I tried–God, did I try–not to lose my ever-loving mind; that she was not even in the same room as me while she carried on at the top of her lungs.

When did someone flip the switch on my sweet girl? We were so happy, once upon a time! We would wake up, eat our toast and yogurt as the sun streamed through the windows. We’d do her lessons together then snuggle or run to the grocery store depending on the day, and I knew without a doubt, that my daughter loved me. Now I am not so sure.

So, of course I do the self-blame thing. “Maybe she watches too much T.V… Maybe we should have enrolled her in preschool this year…I am losing steam in my mid-thirties…I am inconsistent in my discipline…I expect too much…” On and on.

But today, I saw a glimpse of my sweet girl again. She was with me smiling from the minute her blonde head peeked into my bedroom at 6:45 a.m. until I turned off the light in hers at 8:15 p.m. Today was a much-needed, hope-giving gift. I am sure that all of this wretched behavior is just a phase and will pass sooner or later.

My favorite moment today happened when I was in the kitchen making dinner. Luke was afraid to go up to his room to get a book to read after school. There was a storm rumbling outside and he is always nervous by the booms of thunder. I was in a critical point of making gravy and couldn’t step away from the stove but I had an idea. “Grace!” I called, “Can you go upstairs with Luke to go get a book?” I was expecting her to say no, that she was too tired but instead I heard her tiny voice from the next room say, “Sure!” I didn’t react. I just waited.

As she bounced past Luke, she tossed her hair over her shoulder like, it was no big deal. “Luke, I’m really brave,” she said, “because Mom gave me a piece of her heart and I keep it in my heart and I know I don’t have to be afraid of anything.”

Everything got a little soft around the edges as my eyes filled with tears. My tiny warrior accompanied her big brother upstairs to get his book and reassured him the whole way that everything would be fine.
G and Me
About a month ago. Grace was having some anxiety before bedtime. She’d hold my arm and beg me not to leave her room as I kissed her goodnight every night for about two weeks. So one night, I pretended to pull a piece of my heart from my chest and I pressed it to her heart and said, “There. Now you don’t have to be afraid. My heart is in your heart and you can always be brave because I’ll be with you.”

She seemed to like that and fell asleep shortly after. The nighttime drama also eased up from then on.

So, while the temper tantrums are at an all time high and I’m obviously not going to let her off the hook every time she pitches one, at least she believes she is brave. It has become my belief that if I can take that strong-willed nature and help her to channel it constructively, it will only serve her well later in life. Maybe the mood swings are her three-year-old way of warning the world to be prepared. In the words of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich , “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”