Every Child Matters. My Story.

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Warning. This article may trigger those who are victims of residential boarding schools in Canada and the US, and those who have been affected by all manners of abuse.

“For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.” – Sir Thomas More, Utopia

I have written and rewritten this post over and over. Being a second and third generation of residential school survivors, as the news that broke from Kamloops, BC of the 215 children found in unmarked graves I was overcome with emotion. Grief, anger, sadness, shame and in some respect relief.

The news that Canada and the US had a horrific secret, that they took countless indigenous children forced from the arms into schools that beat them, cut their hair, degraded and verbally abused them, then ultimately sexually abusing them as well. The world was shocked, friends of mine reaching out and saying, “Is this true? We never knew.” The thing is, we knew. We knew all along.

Growing up in an Indigenous family and within the Indigenous communities of Windsor and Six Nations Ontario Canada, we knew. As a people who culturally share a verbal history, we were told of what happened to our family members, why our grandparents could no longer speak their language, why substance abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse and brokenness was prevalent. My father shared a story with us from his youth as we were children. He asked my great grandmother if she could teach him her language (Mohawk of Six Nations) and with tears streaming down her face she shook her head and said “I cannot make the words come from here (pointing to her head) to here (pointing to her mouth).” I can distinctly remember the first time my father shared this story with me, his eyes filled with tears as he remembered how broken his grandmother was. The truth is, they beat children who only knew their language (some as young as 3 or 4) until they spoke English. Heartbreaking.

I remember a story my mother shared of her father, who was in residential school until he was 16. He ran away, joined the US Army having lied and saying he was 18. His intent was to go to war and die, rather than return to residential school where he was abused beyond what my words can share. Let the fact that at 16, being killed in war was the better option, offer some perspective.

These children were then sent home, raised by abusers and not knowing any better themselves as they were “lucky” enough to some back home alive, and they in turn would raise broken generations. Today, our families, our people struggle to overcome this part of our history. Then these 215 beautiful souls cried out from the earth and gave a voice to what we have been carrying for generations.

I cannot speak for all children, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren of residential school survivors, but I can speak from my own personal pain and experience. Intergenerational trauma has manifested in my family in the forms of verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse, alcohol and substance abuse, suicide and mental health issues and shame.

Heart in a bottle
High on a shelf
Fragile, but just out of reach
Cause you build a fortress
With the distance you keep
But when your heart aches
Doesn’t it cut deep?

You don’t have to suffer
Suffer in silence
You don’t have to suffer
Suffer in silence

Don’t you know that your
Heart can feel like an anchor
When you keep it all inside
No no, don’t suffer in silence

Withered in sadness
And hurting inside
But feeling afraid to impose
So you’re an island
But you don’t have to be
Cause if you’re inclined
You can talk to me

But you don’t have to suffer
Suffer in silence

– Susan Aglukark, Suffer in Silence

I remember sitting in the dark in the back of my parent’s car driving to Toronto and watching the headlights pass as I sang this song, Suffer in Silence, we all sang at the top of our lungs. This song echoed through my heart constantly. The burden that was the knowledge of knowing what happened to my family in those schools, the trauma that caused my stomach to flip when I had my first child and praised God that I did not have to face him being taken from me against my will and risk never seeing his round smiling face again. It welled up in me and grew into shame. The shame of the behaviors of my family, the shame from knowing their hurt. The shame from suffering in silence.

Every Child Matters brought light to the shame, and there was a relief that it was illuminated and cast out. The intergenerational shame of feeling like it was our fault, we were the savages and that is why it was kept out of the history books, the shame that anchored to me and pulled me down was released. I cannot fully explain why it is this way, but it is. It was a darkness that was tangible and visceral that was always there.

Today, as Every Child Matters, Orange Shirt Day (Canada) and Truth and Reconciliation (Canada) events will be held, I ache for the loss of generations but honor the voice they have given to this generational shame. It is only by sharing, given a voice to the broken, forgiveness and healing will we see true reconciliation.

What is Orange Shirt Day, Residential Schooling, Every Child Matters, and Truth and Reconciliation? See links below.

https://www.orangeshirtday.org/

https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/national-day-truth-reconciliation.html

https://boardingschoolhealing.org/education/us-indian-boarding-school-history/

https://www.nicwa.org/boarding-schools/

Rate My Park – Summer Series Part 2

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An Earnest Experience in Erie County Pennsylvania

All summer long, Fridays will be designated to exploring parks in Erie County PA and rating them!  The Earnest Littles and I are having a blast park hopping and seeing what is out there!  Each post will give a final rating out of 10 for the overall park and then we will break down the categories.  For each park we are looking at equipment, cleanliness, bathroom options, parent spots and picnic facilities.

Please note, the opinions given in this post/rating are our opinions alone and do not speak for the parks, the townships or anyone else.  Our intent is to give a glimpse of our experience and how much we, as a family liked the park.

Greene Township Playground, 9333 Tate Road, Erie PA 16509

Overall Rating 9.75/10.  Wow!! This playground is amazing.  The play structures are huge and numerous, there is a side designed for children 5-12 years old, and 3-5 years old – perfect for our kiddos who range from 4-12 years – and it was mainly all fenced in.  There was so much to do we felt like if we left too soon, we would miss out on all the fun.  The running, laughter and joyous screams were aplenty as many families had made use of this incredible playground while we were there.  There is a massive amount of green space offering gorgeous panoramic views of baseball diamonds, football fields and what appears to be wooded/forested areas.  There is also the Paradise trail that is a ½ mile paved path which goes out to the vast green space behind the playground.  This park we HIGHLY recommend, if you go to any parks this summer, make sure you make it here!

Equipment:  The playground is massive.  I am not sure that I can fully describe it and ensure I have included all the adventure that is available.  On the 5–12-year-old side there is a massive climb structure/climber complete with a walking bridge (that lead to another climber that resembled a gazebo/playhouse), wall climbing, monkey bars, four slides (large covered twirling slide that what the height of the structure, one small one at the first level; and three slides side by side about halfway up the structure, that offered different textures/shapes for sliding experiences).  This is where we lose the 0.25 in the rating, the three slides are bumpy and all three of my kids said they did not enjoy 2/3 slides that are side by side since the ride down was slightly rough.  The ground cover on this side was wooden mulch/wood chips.  The swings were plentiful with six belt swings, one large swinging saucer and an inclusive swing on the 12-5-year-old side, then there were three bucket swings including one that was a parent-child swing on the 3–5-year-old side.

The 3-5-year-old side had a mini merry-go-round, and numerous play/climbing structures that resembled playhouses, a boat (which has an appropriately sized slide), a tractor, and a train.  There was so much to keep little feet busy and to discover from a percussion stand to large displays of braille letters (lower and upper case) and numbers.  The ground cover on this side was the manufactured rubber intact flooring (not the rubber pieces). 

All in all – this park was fully enjoyed from the 4-year-old to the 12-year-old.  In the picture of them, my 7-year-old gave a sideways thumb for the rough slide experience.

Cleanliness:  The park was very clean, there are plenty of trash cans located all over the park that allows for easy access and helps to keep it clean.  The equipment itself is kept up well, with natural wear from use it was pleasantly clean as well.

Bathrooms:  There is a decent bathroom building available for use (it was open when we were at the park).  It was fully stocked with toilet paper and soap at the sinks.  They appear to have at least two toilets per restroom (Men’s or Women’s) both equipped with a handicap option.  However, we did not see a change table option for itty bitty ones.

Parent Spots: There are numerous of benches located right by the playground, a few even had shade from some nearby trees.  The benches were located all around the playground equipment as well, lots of options – some had natural tree shade and on the 3–5-year-old side, there were benches with pergolas above them.

Picnic Facilities: Two large pavilions (one was smaller) with many wooden picnic tables fully.

Stay tuned for our next review.  Live in Erie County?  Have you been to this park?  What are your thoughts?

How We Plan Our Summer as a Homeschool Family

Anyone else hit summer and look for ways to have some structure but not over-structure? Me. I am anyone else. Homeschool ends, and then I feel overwhelmed – “What do I do for summer?!” I want my children to feel like they are more relaxed, and to be able to differentiate from homeschool. We will not do any formal full lessons and I will give them time to be bored because boredom is not a bad thing. I do not want the summer to pass and also feel like we have done nothing.

I have three children, 12, 7 and 4. I included them in the planning and set specific goals for each day. Now these goals will not rule our whole schedule as vacations, summer camps and other events will definitely happen but we will have a loose plan for each day. I am not sure about you but by breakfast each day my kids are asking “what are we doing today?” and they are typically not satisfied with “nothing.”

Here is what our summer schedule looks like for the months of July and August. Mondays are zoo mornings (we get a membership to the local one each year), Tuesdays are pool afternoons (we have a small pop up one otherwise it would be dedicated water play outside). Wednesdays are mornings the the museum (again we have a membership to the local children’s museum but we will also explore our other museums as well). Thursdays we will visit the library and a park nearby hosts picnics in the park with family entertainment for free. Fridays are our adventure day, we will be checking a new local park or two (we will also blog and rate our experience for those local to Erie County Pennsylvania).

Using the Notability app on my iPhone I created these fun color coded calendars (I also use similar ones for our homeschool year), I then took advantage of the $0.99 magnet deal on the Shutterfly app to create magnets as a reminder for the fridge.

This helps us have an intentional and focused summer not being limited by what we plan, but if we feel like we have nothing to do it helps to have a plan already! Let me know your tricks to keep summer fun and easy for your kiddos.

x. earnest mom

Rate My Park – Summer Series

An Earnest Experience in Erie County Pennsylvania

All summer long, Fridays will be designated to exploring parks in Erie County PA and rating them!  The Earnest Littles and I are having a blast park hopping and seeing what is out there!  Each post will give a final rating out of 10 for the overall park and then we will break down the categories.  For each park we are looking at equipment, cleanliness, bathroom options, parent spots and picnic facilities.

Please note, the opinions given in this post/rating are our opinions alone and do not speak for the parks, the townships or anyone else.  Our intent is to give a glimpse of our experience and how much we, as a family liked the park.

McKean Community Recreational Park, 8798 Main St, McKean PA 16426

Overall Rating 8/10.  This park is large, it has a nice sized parking lot, baseball diamonds, other large sporting fields and a walking track.  It is a lovely, open green space with a nice breeze and a lovely Veteran Memorial.  All in all, we really liked this park, while we were there the kids were quick to make friends with a family who frequents, and they were so kind to invite us back to play.  We recommend checking out this park for some free fun in Erie County PA this summer!

Equipment:  The playground has a decent size climber complete with three slides, monkey bars, a crawl tube, bridge, a sliding pole and fun climbing options.  The ground cover appears to be older mulch so there was a complaint from the seven-year-old (and contributed to her rating of one thumb up and one thumb down) that she kept getting dirt in her crocs.  There is a swing section that has both belt swings and full bucket baby swings.  Ground cover also appeared to be older wooden mulch. The equipment is slightly dated in our opinion, but that did not stop is from being a fun place to play.

Cleanliness:  The park was very clean.  There was a little bit of litter from recent visitors who left their trash Juice boxes and napkins) after it got blown away from them, however there are plenty of trash cans located all over the park that allows for easy access and helps to keep it clean.  The equipment itself is kept up well, with natural wear from use it was pleasantly clean as well.

Bathrooms:  There is a decent bathroom building available for use (it was open when we were at the park).  It was fully stocked with toilet paper and soap at the sinks.  They appear to have at least two toilets per restroom (Men’s or Women’s) both equipped with a handicap option. 

Parent Spots: There are PLENTY of benches located right by the playground, a few even had shade from some nearby trees.  The benches were located all around the playground equipment as well, lots of options!

Picnic Facilities: There are so many picnic options here.  Two large pavilions (one with kitchen facilities and a ton of seating) with many wooden picnic tables fully shaded and had grills (both decently close enough to the playground) and one small one that has one wooden picnic table with handicap access.

Stay tuned for our next review.  Live in Erie County?  Have you been to this park?  What are your thoughts?

We Mix the Play Dough.

I will admit. I was not the mixing of the play dough colors kind of girl. I like things just so. Order, proper places, and keeping things neat and tidy. I like to know that when I go looking for something in it’s rightful place, it will be there. Then I had kids.

Keeping up the house, having dinner on time, kids in line, making all my own “homemade” everything, keeping all the crayons sorted and NOT mixing the play dough colors. That is how my parenting style looked, before I had actual real, brilliant, wild, breathing, crying, incredibly full of life children. I could leave a list here of all the things my imaginary kids were NOT going to do, then give the perfect counter as to how my real life children have done or are currently doing all those things.

Rigidity in motherhood for me was a fallacy. It took a while to learn that being flexible, honest with my emotions and not ‘keeping everything together always,’ was what would be best. Early on as a mom to one, I was one of the few in my group of friends and family to have children. My son was adored by my siblings, grandparents, parents, and friends; he was so loved. He grew up enjoying one on one with his father and I, and excelled in language skills holding conversations with adults by the time he was 4. He was amazing, and he is still a rock star at 11, in my honest and totally unbiased opinion but I digress. Then we had our daughter. Life changed, for the better but not in ease.

Overnight, our daughter was born and I went from a full-time working mom of one to a stay at home mom of two. Talk about learning a new way of life, I am not afraid to admit that I was wholly unprepared for the challenges as a stay at home mom but we survived. In the midst of recovery and getting settled with a new little person, we moved states. A move that took me away from my family, friends, and village; then opened wounds and showed vulnerabilities I did not know I had. Relocating is not easy, reestablishing and making a home somewhere other than the only home I knew was a bit traumatic. It was tear-filled, fear-filled and over all a learning experience. Did I mention that I like things to be just so?

Then there were three. Three years of getting settled into a new state, we were a family of five. I always heard how three changes everything, and much to my chagrin it proved to be true. Our loveable, strong, honest, loud, happy, snuggly, kind-hearted Wreck-it-Ralph came barreling into our lives. Our family dynamic changed. Breakables were placed high, but when climbing began most were eventually stored for safety. Church service is exhausting as I chase, play, distract and feed our busy little man. He is so full of life it literally bursts over everyone we come into contact with. He mixes the play dough, he mixes all the colors; then he mixes it with sand, water, food, or anything else that brings playful joy to his big old heart. Toys are dumped and thoroughly played with; passion roars from him like a lion and love comes out gentle as a bunny. He is the wild to my quiet, the chaos to my perfection, the love and life that my heart never knew it needed.

After three kids, homeschooling, a pandemic and the change to rules/opinions daily we find refuge in our home. Here it is safe, here we have order among the wild things, and we are learning to love deeper, respect more and most of all, learning to become the people God has designed us to be. When I started out in motherhood I would cry in frustration when things were not just so, when my plans would get muddled and mixed and I felt like things were out of control. Now, the phrase I often heard “blessed are the flexible for they shall not break” rings true every single day. Here, we mix the play dough colors; which is still hard for my first born as he was raised with more of a rigid mom who taught him we had to keep things the ‘right’ way, a mom who was quick to react and slow to listen. Now he has a more flexible, albeit less stressed (well sort of) mom and we are learning the power bending and not breaking together in life. In the flexibility we have found happiness, we have found resilience and now we are growing together. It is not always easy and there are fractures from past rigid moments that can make things stressful, but slowly the as we stretch old wounds they begin to flex and not hurt so much.

“When the milk is splattered all over the floor, and those little eyes are looking at your for your reaction, remember what really matters. It takes 5 minutes to clean up spilled milk. It takes much longer to clean up a broken spirit.”

Rebecca Eanes, The Gift of a Happy Mother.

I saw this truth just this week. My children love balloons, and I love to have them for fun occasions. Recently we surprised them with 22 inch balloons for a homeschool celebration. I made the rules clear, the balloons are for floating and leaving alone today and tomorrow they could have at them. Half way through the day, my youngest wild one who is 4, was sprawled out facedown on the floor crying, I sat down next to him and said “It sounds like you are feeling upset. Did something happen you want to share?” As he sobbed he cried out “I popped one of the balloons!” Immediately my heart broke, I thought ‘Oh no, is he crying because he is afraid of getting in trouble?’ So I responded, “Ok, the balloon broke. Can you tell me why you are crying?” He responded “I broke the rules and I am so sorry. Do you forgive me?” Could I have disciplined him? Sure, he did not listen and the balloon broke, but I realized his heart was already sore because he chose to break the rules and he knew it was wrong. Lesson learned.

Talk about unpacking some personal trauma – I decided to be the adult I needed when I was too scared to tell my parents my mistakes, and I often hid from them. I asked him for a hug, and as we sat on the floor, cheek to cheek, heart to heart I thanked him for his honesty, and even though he knew it was wrong he chose truth, and told him that I forgave him. I reminded him (even though he is only 4) that I am always here for him and no matter what I love him. This child who has ran naked through the middle aisle of the church, who mixes all the play dough colors has caused a great work to come upon my heart.

I am not perfect, no way do I get this parenting thing right every time but moments like that remind me how far I have grown. A decade ago, when I preferred things ‘just so’ I subconsciously placed unfair expectations on my children. I judged my mothering success by their behaviors, but slowly as we have mixed the crayons, spilled the milk, been too loud, ran too hard and broke the mold that I was placing us in – I have taken that unfair pressure off of all of us and started enjoying the ‘new’ that we create when we mix the play dough. To this day, I organize the kids books in my living room according to color. Yep. I place them in order ROYGBIV and when I sit down to relax after a stay at home/homeschool day, that sight relaxes me. No one sees it but me, and a few days later I am left to sort them again – the way I like it because I like the way it feels. In this small way, my ‘just so’ attitude gets satiated. I was not one to mix the playdough colors but I love how motherhood is molding me into something new, different and dare I say…better.

I Am THAT Mom.

I am also human, and working on myself one step at a time.

As I prepare to write this, I earnestly feel gutted. Today, I was THAT mom. The mom that I have seen a million times; trying to keep it together as she can feel the entire façade of “everything is perfect” start to crumble and slip away. At first it was hard, but as I realized that I am human I was forced to give myself some grace.

Let’s set the stage for you. Thunderstorms kept us indoors. So movie and popcorn it is, until the popcorn maker got knocked over spilling popcorn every where and cracking the side panel. It was an accident, stay chill mama – accidents happen and its just a popcorn machine. Then children kept climbing the counter, literally I was taking children down from the countertops. Things started to calm until the hall closet upstairs was completely dissected from its contents while I was cleaning the popcorn machine. By then, the window to prepare dinner was closed, my oldest needed to go to karate and this mama was waving her white flag. It was enough.

My vehicle was parked across the street at my mother in laws and since my youngest two usually refuse pants and shoes, I needed to move the car to my driveway to save them from crossing the street shoeless (I have learned to pick my battles, shoes make it to the car in case they’re needed but I do not fight them on – in these cases I prefer peace to the fight). I called all three to the kitchen and said “get your shoes ready and stay RIGHT HERE, I am bring the car over.” They get busy putting their shoes on and I hot footed it across the street. All of the sudden, as I open the driver door there is my middle little. She startled me, then I realized she had ran across the street unassisted and that her 3 year old brother is likely right behind her. In my fear, my frustration I yelled at her. Ouch, it hurts my heart to even write that as I have been really working on my volume and tone with my children, but I was scared. Scared she could have been hurt, scared my youngest would soon be doing the same or is elsewhere outside completely unsupervised. I yelled, right at her “you scared me, and what about brother?! IS he safe?! I told you to stay in the house as I ran across the street!! Why didn’t you stay???” Ugh. We ran back to the house, and my oldest and youngest were standing right where I had asked them to stay only three minutes before.

Now I tell you, I have seen this mom around, so many times. Tired, worried, stressed, overwhelmed, scared, angry, frustrated, and yelling at her kid. Until this moment, I had always viewed the “yelling” mom as such a villain – and to all the moms I have judged before, I earnestly apologize. This is so HARD. Not that I condone yelling at children, however when I was scared, overwhelmed and worried for the safety of my children, that panic kicked in and naturally my voice elevated.

As soon as I saw all three of my children safe (my oldest is 11, so legally he can stay 3 minutes with his siblings as I drive up to get them, in case you are worried lol); I knelt down, cried and apologized instantly for yelling. I asked for my middle little’s forgiveness, I explained how scared I was but that yelling was not appropriate and I am working hard not to yell anymore. Then something surprising happened, she apologized for not listening and saw how scary that was for me. I was taken aback. I did not expect her to mirror my actions, to recognize and acknowledge her mistake and my feelings. It was messy, it was hard, but even in my mama-meltdown epic failure moments, these brilliant amazing little humans are still learning forgiveness, empathy and owning their own mistakes.

Yes, I am THAT mom. I am the mom that struggles with keeping my temper, sometimes doesn’t get food to the table on time (by the way we ordered in tonight), allows too much screen time, gives in to some demands to avoid the fight, and yells when I do not mean to. I am also THAT mom who forgives quickly, loves fully, asks for forgiveness and apologizes to show them I make mistakes too, and would protect my children at all costs. I cry in the bathroom, laugh at the dinner table and hug with everything I have got. I am 100% that mom and proud.

x. earnest mom.

Did Disney Give us Frozen 2 to Help Cope with COVID-19?! Maybe Not, But There Are Ways We Can Cope Together.

IMAGE COURTESY OF MOVIES.DISNEY.COM

God bless Disney+, they released Frozen 2 this past Sunday – a whopping three months early just so we could have some extra entertainment during our quarantined situations. As I sat through the movie for the 14th time by Wednesday, I actually started listening to the lyrics that I had been singing for the past few days. Then I noticed something, were these songs Disney was preparing us for the current state we would be in? Whether you are in complete lock down, shelter in place or have simply been urged to stay home; social distancing is now the new normal.

Is something coming? I’m not sure I want things to change at all. These days are precious, can’t let them slip away I can’t freeze this moment, but I can still go out and seize this day…

Some things never change
Turn around, and the time has flown
Some things stay the same
Though the future remains unknown

Music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

This will all make sense when I am older
Someday I will see that this makes sense
One day, when I’m old and wise
I’ll think back and realize
That these were all completely normal events

I’ll have all the answers when I’m older
Like why we’re in this dark, enchanted wood
I know in a couple years these will seem like childish fears
And so I know this isn’t bad; it’s good

Music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

Every day’s a little harder, as I feel my power grow
Don’t you know there’s part of me that longs to go

Into the unknown
Into the unknown
Into the unknown

Music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

I won’t look too far ahead
It’s too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath, this next step
This next choice is one that I can make

So I’ll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing
And with the dawn what comes then?
When it’s clear that everything will never be the same again
Then I’ll make the choice to hear that voice
And do the next right thing

Music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

So maybe I am just seeking comfort and reason in the everyday things around me (like a Disney movie that plays several times daily), I will give you that. I feel like that is an okay place to be. I earnestly want to slow the roar of the news reports, the re-sharing of the under reporting, and quiet the worry monsters that build daily. I have chosen to scroll minimally, not read the news or listen to every single live update and keep my husband my news giver – unless it is urgent and pressing I want a small debrief once or twice a day.

Some ways of focus and redirection that has helped me are praying/finding moments of quiet and focused breathing; Alexa is a great DJ and she plays my favorite worship songs that we can belt out and dance to. I have also found that getting outside in our yard or a brisk walk AWAY from people can revive my worried and tired soul. This morning we slowly drove through our neighborhood with our windows down, our favorite Rend Co Kids songs on full blast as we belted them out at the top of our lungs.

Mamas (and papas too because this stress is real for all of us), we are entering uncharted territory, all of us together into the unknown. Knowing that we are together, this connection can help in the tough times too. Reach out to those you have not heard from in a while and if you need to talk, reach out even more. Community will be so important right now, even if it is online. Find an online moms group, or community group (Erie currently has a Facebook group called We’re In This Together, where they focus on uplifting and sharing kindness), or even starting a messenger thread with some of your closest friends where the goal is to share inspiring and uplifting quotes daily. Any little bit will help.

Know this, we truly are in this together and focusing on the things we can control like what our children read or watch online, what we can eat for meals, whether or not we can walk or drive to get out of the house can help. Making a point to look at those things or other things that we can actually control will help to move the focus on the great big unknown that is changing hourly. And if that is still too much, put on the Frozen 2 soundtrack and sing along, there is some comfort in singing about just doing the “next right thing.” Hang in there mamas, and stay safe!

x. earnest mom.

Enjoy the Wow, Earnest Advice from Daniel Tiger

I am not sure about you but two main shows watched in the earnest home are Mister Roger’s Neighborhood and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, at least once a day. I have to admit, watching Mister Rogers with my children strikes such a nostalgic cord especially when our family values line up so perfectly with his. Needless to say, we are big big fans. A current song that is sung here is “Groo-own ups come back,” since separation anxiety is alive and well with our littlest one. If you watch Daniel Tiger, you know the tune. 🙂 Matter of fact, you may have sung it out loud just now – no worries, I did too. I get it.

Well this weekend came to a chaotic end with the craziness that is caused by the dreaded Spring Forward time change. The earnest littles did not fall asleep until 1.5 hours passed their normal bedtime, which is something we rarely have to deal with. Our kids are typically in bed by 8 and sleeping by 8:30, I truly cannot complain about my children and their sleep since they go down and stay down from 10-11 hours…”hashtag blessed,” and I know it!

This weekend was something different, something we were not quite prepared for. The struggle, the exhaustion only amplified by the time change. Earnest Dad and I have this unspoken agreement where we alternate who gets up with kids while the other gets to snooze a little longer. This Sunday morning was my day and 5:04 am my alarm clock toddler came-a-calling. (Which was actually 4:04 am real time lol). I was exhausted, but somehow we pulled them together and made it to church with ten minutes to spare! It was intense and busy – but it worked out.

Before church, I sat on the couch in the dark at 5:30 am hoping my little guy and I could nap a little before church; when he started singing and calling out “Mama, Dada” just to hear his voice echo, I knew we were up for good. Trying to keep us from waking the whole household I turned on the trusty show that is, Daniel Tiger. As I am snuggled up with my squishy little guy and wishing he would take a snooze so I could catch some Z’s Daniel Tiger threw this song at me. “Enjoy the wow that’s happening now.” Instantly my mama heart was convicted – it was true, I needed to enjoy the wow that was happening now. In comparison, Daniel Tiger’s ice treat was melting while he was wishing he could try all the other ice flavors and he was missing the chance to enjoy the flavor he currently had. Where, here I was sitting with my precious last baby whilst wishing for a moment of extra rest.

It is all about perspective mamas, it makes all the difference and I hear that all the time but it is in these moments when I need to hear it again and again. Trying to see the day is so imperative versus trying to seize the day, or wishing and hoping for different days ahead. I do not want to miss one single delicious moment with my children especially while I still have one home with me. Our last few hours of the day when all of us have eaten dinner together in the crazy tailspin that happens from full little bellies; the early dark hours of the morning that give way to the coziest snuggles; the laughter that comes when I catch splashes from the bathtub; the songs being sung in our loudest voices as we drive; and the sleepy prayers we say together before we say goodnight…please Lord let me hold on to these moments just a little bit longer.

Maybe take a moment today to breathe and then look at the small blessings before you; I am slowly learning that not everything has to be perfect before I can enjoy it!

x. earnest mom.

Earnestly Seeing the Moment. The Overwhelming Moments of a SAHM.

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Let me set the scene, it is after dinner and usually the dishes wait until after the kids go to bed…or sometimes until the following morning. Anyway, it is after dinner, we have full bellies, family conversations have ended and next we watch a show or two then start bedtime routines. We head into the TV room, earnest dad kicks up his feet the in recliner and I am in my usual corner of the sectional. All of the sudden I cannot breathe – all three earnest littles are on top of me. Literally two on my lap and another snuggled so close next to me it almost hurts! To be honest, I get overwhelmed.

I am the type of person who likes her own space, I am a snuggler but after being home with the kids all day while earnest dad works – my love tank is full. I am ready for the littles to be all over daddy and let this mama breathe. I look over to earnest dad, reclined, relaxed and maybe even dozing a bit and I get overwhelmed.

There are times in the day, when the kids are running and screaming, fighting and crying, trying to pull me away from cooking dinner to “watch this” or they are too quiet and in a massive panic I rush in to see what is going on. In these moments I am desperate for earnest dad to walk through the door so I can pee alone or at least without children crying and banging down the door. Again, I find myself feeling overwhelmed.

That chaotic hour between home from school and dinner time, when I have to focus of chopping, boiling, tossing and cooking (food not my kids lol) are sometimes the craziest moments of the day. I have to be mom, tutor, playmate, personal chef, or heaven forbid the business phone rings and I have to toss all my hats off to wear the self employed secretary and scheduling hat. I am trying to keep it all together and sound professional, I get overwhelmed.

A few nights ago, kiddos all tucked up in bed and earnest dad working on his reports I was able to sit with my book and some tea, then I started reflecting on my day. It is such an incredible, blessed, exhausting, confidence testing, love never ending, over the top kind of ride, this wild ride that is motherhood. As I sat in my peace, my quiet, my still I start to already miss those squishy little feet tucked under my thigh, the warmth of the toddler and preschool bodies resting heavily on my lap and the arms of love intertwined on my arm as my nine year old lays his head on my shoulder. I got overwhelmed, I missed them and my love for then made me want to cry. My perspective shifted and I remembered the line from the brilliant Lisa Jo Baker’s latest book The Middle Matters,

“I am not asking you to seize the day, just to make sure you actually see it.” – The Middle Matters

So many times I allow the sense of overwhelm take over and I cannot wait to get out of the moments I am in. I cannot wait until, the kids are settled, sleeping, older, quieter or even gone to school. I realize I waste so much of my current moments getting sucked into wishing for different times and I completely forget to see the precious and delicious moments I am currently in.

As we get older we look back on the ‘good ol’times’ with nostalgia and desire to go back. Right now, today I am in the good old days I will look back on, (Hopefully when I am surrounded by my grandchildren and reminding myself they get to go home with their parents, lol). Nonetheless I needed to get out of the rut of longing for a different time and see the moments I am in, before I miss them altogether.

I have the amazing privilege to stay home with my little ones and I have started to make that effort to start earnestly seeing the moments laid before me. It is okay to feel a bit overwhelmed from time to time, but I am working diligently to stop wishing for something different and start finding joy in the moment I am in. Being present is one of the best gifts I can give my children and I know I have a lot more I can give.

x. earnest mom.

No Matter What. An Earnest Effort.

“You, I love you no matter what.” I say to my 9 year old who has come home with his first ever detention for laughing and being silly in class. And it is true, I love him no matter what.

It is hard to explain sometimes, this love that I have had the blessed opportunity to know, the love of a mother. I honestly had no idea how much my mother loved me until my first born filled a place in my heart that I did not know existed. That oldest child is 9 now and I am earnestly pressed to remind him as much as I can, that my love comes without limits. I want all my earnest littles to learn this now while they are young, when it comes to their mama, her love is literally to infinity and beyond.

I decided a few years back to earnestly pay attention to my language with my children, knowing that when they are older I will be that inner voice that they hear. When they fail I do not want them hearing me chastise but uplift them and encourage them to try again. Finding a way to use my parenting language as a way to prevent shame and encourage resilience.

Proverbs 15:4 says “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.” There is so much power in the things that we say, especially to our children or in front of them. I feel that as their earnest mom, I have the power to create a safe language environment for them. When they were little the focus was manners, pleases and thank yous which is a great place to start. I never thought of the language lessons for my children as they got older.

We have the opportunity to lead by example, especially in today’s online environment where language is put out there with little or no thought to consequence. I feel with my children, expressing love is an opportunity to begin to establish a safe language space. When they are teens and struggling with the hard to talk about topics, I want them to hear in their heart “you know, I love you no matter what.” Knowing that what ever they come to me with, my love will not change or lessen.

“I love you no matter what” includes the times they fail or succeed, the times they hurt or have a hard time controlling their emotions, the times they try and try and feel they may want to give up, or even the times they make a mistake…my love is infinite. In their own biggest messy and complicated struggles, I will love them no matter what. Like my heavenly father loves me, when I have not only created the hole I am in, but leaped in willingly with both feet. He sees me in my failure and my shame and says to me, as he cradles my tear stained cheeks in his hands, “I love you no matter what.” What a gift, and now I have the honor to pass it on to my children.

In this effort, a funny consequence has emerged. The more I say “I love you no matter what” to my children, the more I hear it…myself. I hear myself becoming my inner voice reminding my that I love me too, no matter what. Today, there is so much demand and pressure put on us mamas, from how we sleep to how we feed our children. When I hear this phrase repeated back to myself, I find grace – grace that I feel we all could us a little extra of. Mamas, this may not be the place for you to start but I would encourage, give yourself some grace and find the opportunities to feel and express love, no matter what.

x. earnest mom.