The Mess in the Middle

In any big change in life, the mess in the middle is a tough place to be. It is where there is no going back but the thought of moving forward is just generally overwhelming. It is where the hidden problems underneath are revealed and cleaned out. It can be painful. It is where the hard work happens that leads to new things, growth.

Don’t overlook this middle part. It is important.

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There is so much ugliness in the mess that you might have to look harder to find beauty and hope. But it is always there whether we choose to see it or not. Don’t miss it.

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Today, I am choosing to see the good. Choosing hope. Choosing trust. Choosing faith.

The middle is not the end.





Please Don't Judge Me

Raising five girls, I am learning a lot about myself and about females in general. I guess that it is making me more aware, and I have to admit- I don't like what I see. My 6yo fancy girl who loved tutus and regularly wore THIS over-the-top ensemble to school now wears the same activewear outfit that I bought for gym days as soon as it is washed. She wore it Monday and she is wearing it again today (Wednesday). Gym class is tomorrow. If she was outgrowing the phase, it would be one thing, but I asked her about it and she said, "No one at school dresses fancy." She just wants to fit in.

It made me sad to think of her giving up her sense of style just to blend in with the crowd, but my response to her wearing the same outfit yet again was to worry about what people might think about my parenting. I am no better.

What I am realizing is that girls so often want to fit in, to be accepted by their peers. Their peers can be mean.

Some never outgrow it and adult women can get caught up in tearing others down to build themselves up or measuring themselves against others' social media displays of perfection.

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I think maybe it is harder for mothers. The stakes are high and it can feel like you have no idea what you are doing. The stages, the challenges, the solutions are constantly changing. And we all make so many mistakes. It is hard to tell if you are doing it "right" and no one even agrees on that definition. We look around and compare, looking for validation in some way. This is where it can get ugly.

We all have different priorities when it comes to running our homes. We also have different challenges and different blessings. Yet, we never see the whole picture in anyone else's story...

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Keeping up on the laundry in this house is H A R D. There are at least 10 socks in each load of laundry that don't have mates. I do at least 3 big loads of laundry every day, not including towels or bedding. If you come to my house and the sock basket is overflowing and the furniture is covered in folded and unfolded laundry, please don't judge me.

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I like to sew but I hate to do mending. I messed up when I hemmed my bathroom curtains and have left them hanging lopsided for months. It just isn't a priority for me to fix them anytime soon, so please don't judge me.

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My desk was clean a few days ago but it is the prime spot in the house for everyone to dump random things. It is clean again now because I couldn't find my media card reader to transfer these pictures. (I actually found that under the dining room table.) Lots of people live here and make messes, including myself, so please don't judge me.

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Every now and then I try to get the kids to make their beds, but it I have learned to choose my battles. That one is not usually worth fighting before 7am. Things might have looked great when I took pics for the blog (HERE) but their beautiful bedroom is normally a mess. My children's training is still a work in progress, so please don't judge me.

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I haven't finished my fall decorating yet. I was not feeling so great and I have been busy with other priorities. The kids stuffed some weeds in my milk can and there is a soccer ball where I plan on putting a pumpkin. Use your imagination. I am not a fabulous home decorator, even if I am crafty in some ways, so please don't judge me.

Please don't think that I am some crafty genius who does homemade everything and has an amazingly decorated house. Also, when you see my shortcomings, please don't judge me for having different priorities and struggles than you do.

Kindness and grace for myself and for others is something that I want to focus on more intentionally and try to instill in my daughters. I can tell you from experience that people at school barely notice what your kid is wearing. I am still going to hide that outfit because I am sick of seeing it and want her to get some wear out of her other clothes but I want to be mindful of reinforcing the concept of petty, social judgement.

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Getting My Act Together

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At the beginning of the year I was challenged to come up with a word to focus on this year. I couldn't really come up with a specific word, but I had the general idea that I wanted to "get my act together."

I bought a cute planner and decided I was going to be organized. I love my planner and it is a great start, but sometimes it gets lost on the mess of my desk. I wanted to get the entire house decluttered, but stalled out before tackling the bedrooms. I had all of these grand ideas that if I could get the house organized and cleaned, if I could tackle the laundry pile I call Mount Washmore, if I could send out birthday cards on time, if I could finish all of my half-completed craft projects, if I could be on time for everything, if I could get a healthy supper on the table at a reasonable time each night, if, if, if... And guess what? It isn't happening. That is not real life. We have 6 kids and a little wanna-be farm. I try, but something will always be a mess and I can't get everything done.

Just because everything isn't Pinterest-perfect doesn't mean that I am failing. I am such a perfectionist about certain things, as I have confessed before, and I am slowly chipping away, learning to let go. I get to a point where I completely run myself into the ground. So, really, "getting my act together" is more about getting my attitude together and prioritizing.

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I didn't sew the rest of the Easter dresses on time again this year. I ordered some fabric that came a few days ago and I didn't want to stress myself out to get them done. So I didn't. Instead, we made a ton of peanut butter eggs and did a lot of cleaning, both of which were very necessary.  We didn't get to any egg hunts besides the ones at family gatherings because of vehicle problems. Instead, the girls played outside and we painted our toenails on the sidewalk.  Probably the most shocking... I didn't give my kids anything in their Easter baskets. It was a personal decision to combat a materialistic attitude some of them have been displaying.  (When did Easter become the spring version of Christmas?)  Instead, we opened resurrection eggs on Easter morning as a family and took turns reading from the Bible.

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This Easter I think I found a little more peace. I realized that I can't get everything done, so I have to choose what is important to me. I can let go of some traditions that aren't working, postpone them, or even just take a break from them. I am pretty sure that my kids aren't going to be scarred for life because they missed out on a chocolate bunny. A few years ago I would have been up all night sewing to get dresses finished and baskets filled. This year, I curled up on the couch with a book waiting to shower and relaxed! I can see that part of getting my act together isn't doing more, but learning to be OK with doing less.

An Imperfectly Merry Christmas

It has been awhile. I know. I have been super busy, so I have a lot to update here on the blog. If you are looking for something crafty, there is not so much of that in this post. However, I feel the need to do more writing about real life.

In November, I was asked to be a part of a MOPS panel on Holiday traditions and encouraging thankfulness and kindness in our children. I did mention some of the things that our family does, but I also confessed many of the ways I have messed up over the years struggling to keep up with traditions that weren't working and striving for Pinterest-worthy Christmas perfection. I have come to realize that I need to simplify many areas of my life.

A few weeks later, a last-minute, long term subbing position came up at the elementary school. I thought it sounded like fun and a good challenge for me! I love staying home with my youngest, but this was only for a few weeks leading up until Christmas and it helped our family financially.

There were so many things that I never saw coming...

First, I remembered how much I miss teaching!

Second, I am now a coffee drinker.

Third, there were some extra challenges for our family. I knew it would be hard and that we would all have to pitch in to make it work. Oh, but we faced trials that left me scratching my head and wondering why I ever thought I should take this position. Seriously. It was the worst possible timing. I was broken and humbled, stressed out and reduced to tears. But, I had to put it aside and put on a smile for my class because that is what they needed.

On my last day, I mentioned my pefectionistic tendencies and someone was surprised that I still had any of that left with having six children. It dawned on me that with so many of the things I had been going through, I had no other choice but to let go of some of my perfectionism over the past few weeks. I can see that more and more of it has been chipping away over time, with a larger chunk knocked off more recently.

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christmas mess

For our school's Christmas Around the World, we presented the country of Italy. One of the things that we taught the students was about the legend of La Befana. Here is the gist of it... La Befana was an old woman who was very dedicated to cleaning her house. The three wise men stopped to ask directions to Bethlehem and invited her to come with them to see the Christ Child. She was too busy sweeping her house, so she declined. However, that night when she saw the great light in the sky she realized her mistake. She grabbed a bag with some toys that had belonged to her own child and ran to catch up with the wise men. She ran so fast that she began to fly on her broomstick. She never could find the Christ Child, so instead she leaves gifts in the stockings of the children of Italy each year.

This really made me think. I may not be consumed with having a perfectly clean house (a great housekeeper I am not!), but I do get wrapped up in my tasks and my quest for perfection in other areas instead of seeking Christ.

Last year, I ruined Christmas Eve for my family with a meltdown/tantrum that involved my failure to sew new stockings, a poor movie choice by others, an attempted new tradition of Christmas pajamas that were opened without me, complete flipping out, tears, and apologies. It was MY FAULT, MY PERFECTIONISM, MY SELFISHNESS. I promised myself that this year would be better.

But, to do that, I had to let go and simplify.

Instead of stockings, which I still haven't made, I stuffed everything in gift bags. I even let the kids help wrap each others' gifts (although they were threatened to maintain secrecy). It was a way for the girls and I to get some one-on-one time together on Christmas Eve Eve and they loved being in on the Christmas secrets. We had a Merry Christmas!

gift bag stockings

gift bag stockings

How to wrap earmuffs!

How to wrap earmuffs!

I hardly did any decorating. I let the kids put things wherever they wanted. Less hassle for me. More fun for them. My pumpkins and mums were still on the porch up until Christmas Day, when the boys took the pumpkins away... to use them for target practice. My poinsettia lost all of its leaves, but the girls liked seeing the new growth on it and won't let me throw it out. Even without fabulous decorations, we STILL had a Merry Christmas!

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leaves fell off of the ponsettia

I hand delivered a lot of our Christmas cards and the rest were last-minute or late. I am sure the recipients did not love them any less and I bet they still had a Merry Christmas!

I started decorating our tree with colored lights and changed my mind halfway through. Then, the white lights stopped working on half of the strand. I planned to fix it later, but while I was upstairs, the girls decorated it. The ribbon was perfectly spaced, but the few ornaments they put on did not match. I never had time to fix it, so we were left with a very original tree that made people smile. It was still a MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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half colored lights and half white lights on the tree

So, things might be a hot mess around here, but letting go of my own ridiculous ideas and perfectionism feels so freeing. I am so grateful for even those awful trials that helped me to simplify this year!

Merry Christmas!