What I needed to hear

The photos in this post were from a recent trip to Joshua Tree National Park

Mother’s Day is quickly approaching and in light of that I wanted to share with you a few lessons I would have loved to hear when my three babes still had fingers that looked like little sausages.

Even if you don’t have small ones I think there are lessons here that are still very applicable. And really, the truth is, I’m out of those very intense days of the younger years and yet I remind myself of these truths on a daily basis.

If you don’t have kids and are just simply trying to adult, there’s truth in here for you too. Because I get it.  Gabe and I are so tired of “adulting” lately. So many times we’ve looked at each other with drooping eyes and said, “how do other people do it?” The more I talk to other adults I realize we are all in the same place; we’re all just trying to figure it out and so often we feel like we aren’t doing it right. So in my pursuit to share some truth in this perfection-seeking, social media driven world let’s get real! Adulting is hard. Truth. Parenting is ridiculously tough. There is no right way to do either. We do the best we can in a way that feels right to us, we make mistakes and own up to them and we celebrate our wins. And I hope that the more truth and honesty we share the more we can move away from competition and into celebration. We can all do hard things!

 

The following is adapted from a little talk I’ve been giving to mom groups around Seattle. I’ll break the talk down into three posts and I’m hoping that perhaps by posting these on Sundays you’ll have a bit of time to tuck into the words. Wishful thinking? Perhaps.

 

I’m sitting in heap of laundry. The teetering tower of clothes threaten to defeat me while one toddler is running through the house wearing cowboy boots, cowboy hat and nothing else and the other lays on his play mat attempting to roll over in order to get his sausage-like fingers on the herd of dust bunnies lying next to him.

Looking over at the sink I see the mess from breakfast lying dormant as I have to start thinking about lunch. I’m lost in the mess, lost in this new reality. Alone. Tired. Depressed. Tears stream from my exhausted eyes as I sink into my current reality. I always wanted kids but really? Is this what I signed up for? I was lost, had no perspective, was trying to do it alone and in a way that wasn’t me.

My shoulders slumped and I curled into a small ball – my physical body matching how I felt on the inside. I closed my eyes while the tears slipped down my cheeks. I took a deep breath and whispered to God. “When this is all over.” I began. “No more diapers, bibs, highchairs and potty training, use me.” I didn’t even know what I was saying. Why that was my prayer in the midst of such darkness? But I started to think, what if other women felt the way that I’m feeling right now? And that was too much.

God doesn’t forget – even when I do. This year I’ve been asked a number of times to talk to a groups of young moms. This is what I’ve said God in response to these invitations. “Cool. I totally meant it when I said I wanted to be an encouragement and a voice to women raising young children but surely you don’t mean now. I’m not ready. I’ve not ‘arrived’ as a mother yet. I still feel inadequate in my parenting, the house is still constantly a mess even though now I make the kids do the laundry and my parenting skills have yet to be proven. Who am I to stand up in front of these women of little ones and say anything?”

When I finally force myself to dig into the reality that I was indeed going to have to say something coherent to these women I frantically started to Google Jen Hatmaker and Glennon Doyle Melton hoping and praying that they had some sort of a transcript for me. One that I could you know just do a little copy and pasting to form the ULTIMATE-destined-to-go-viral Mega- mom- encouragement speech. Until a soft voice whispers, “but what do YOU want to say?”

So you to you young mama’s out there I want to say to you the things that I needed to hear. I want to be the voice that I needed as I lay in a puddle of tears with three little ones running amid a scene of chaos. I want to say that you’re okay, you’re doing a great job and even when you’re not it’s still okay.

 

Throw away the idea that ‘savoring every moment’ is actually possible.

 

Regardless of how frazzled I looked in the grocery store there was always some lovely well-intentioned women with silvery hair and creases around her eyes from years of life. Her eyes never left the soft, rounded skin of my baby’s face and I saw the light her eyes brighten as she caught the gaze of my child. “It just goes so fast.” She would say like clockwork. “Savor every moment.”

I knew it was coming and yet every time I heard those words I felt the punch of guilt in the gut. Was I savoring this time enough? Will I be wrecked with regret because I sat my kids in front of the tv in a moment of weakness (there were so many of those moments. Who am I kidding? Still are). Will I loathe that aching feeling to escape when there were endless tears and sleepless nights? Can I really possibly savor the changing of diapers, lack of sleep, dried up food on every surface, laundry piles that never shrink?

Somewhere along the way I realized that those ladies probably just forgot the drudgery of the day to day. What they meant to say – and what I now say to mother’s of babies is savor what you can. Inhale their heads as often. Commit that smell to memory. Believe me when I tell you that they won’t always smell so sweet.

Take pictures, videos, sound clips, etc. You’ll return to them again and again and yes, there will be a bit of an ache for those days but we aren’t meant to exist in one place forever so you preserve what you can and live in the present with as much mindfulness as we can muster.

Keep a little journal handy and write down a few of the day to day mundane because one day your mundane will look different and those little notes – like what words they pronounce in an adorably wrong way, or how their hair looks in the morning, or what their sweet mannerisms are as they drift off to sleep or in an attempt to ward off a nap. Those little notes will trigger a flood of memories when you otherwise thought you’ve forgotten it all.

Don’t for a moment live in a puddle of guilt fearing that you aren’t savoring it all enough. The work you are doing is incredibly hard, exhausting and with little immediate reward. Wander through your days with the perspective that it will pass, and yes, much quicker than you can imagine. Forgive the unsavory moments and somehow cement into memory a few things that you hope to not forget when this season has passed. And then promise me and all the future young mothers that you too won’t heap the impossible task of savoring every moment on to them.
Next week let’s talk about how we all need be a better boss.

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Sarah’s Slow Cooker Greek Chicken Gyros

I get it now. I’m now in the mix with all the rest of the parents who are bustling children to and from activities and attempting to make dinner time possible. In the last week I’ve tried serving dinner around 4:30 in order to sit at the table before a 5:30 practice and I’ve also left dinner linger on the table for Baron to come home to around 8:00. Neither of which felt particularly natural but we got the job done.

While the kids were still babes I naively told Gabe, “We’ll never be like that.” I meant the sort who rushes from place to place just moving each child from point a to point b. Just like all the other “we’ll never” statements this one quickly became, “ohhhhh now I get it.” Our ideals and “we’ll nevers” are no match for reality. And I don’t mean that in a self-defeating way, there is simply no way of knowing what reality looks like or feels like until we are living in it. Then when you are in it you adjust the plan and reconfigure to what makes sense for you and your family.

The truth is that reality is often so much better once you relieve yourself of the “we’ll never”. When I said “we’ll never be like that” to Gabe in reference to the families who raced their kids from place to place I couldn’t see the sweet moments. Like the times in the car where conversation can flutter more freely than it often does in our home where we all get tied up in our own activities. I also never knew how much I adore being a baseball mom. I’m reworking my schedule, moving things around and saying no to otherwise very much “yes!” opportunities just to watch my boys stand tall on that pitcher’s mound. Seriously you guys I have zero cool at these games. I scream and holler, roll my eyes in the direction of the ump and pace back and forth when my boys are up to bat. I embarrass myself and love every moment of it.

I’m a very stubborn person so I don’t take my “I’ll never” statements lightly but I’m continually taught that reality and relationship are far more important than what I once deemed my ideals.

In light of this new season it’s no surprise then the the first recipe that caught my eye in Sarah Waldman’s new book, Feeding a Family, was one that required the use of a slow cooker. A recipe that practically takes care of itself with a bit of chopping on your part; Slow Cooker Greek Chicken Gyros. But here’s the thing. I don’t have a slow cooker what I do have is an Instant Pot which works better for my lack of planning abilities. You see this recipe would have required me to know what I wanted to have for dinner at the start of the day. I didn’t and very rarely do. But with my Instant Pot I went from frozen chicken to tender shredded chicken in about thirty minutes. As much as this sounds like an infomercial it’s really not, I just think we can all benefit from sharing with one another the real practical tips that we’ve found to make life a bit easier. The point here is a speedy, no fuss dinner with a good bit of health and one with very few complaints. My family really loves the sort of dinner where they can custom make their plate. Ivy now asks at dinner “can I serve myself? because she knows that mama likes to really pile on those vegetables. So here she can add extra olives, a few green things and a good bit of chicken.

For those who do have and use a slow cooker I’ll write the recipe as Sarah intended and I’ll give some instructions for those who are like me and need the use of a pressure cooker to get things really moving.

Now to all the parents out there where my judgmental “I nevers” were directed I am so sorry and also, why didn’t you tell me that baseball games were so stressful? We are all better off if we are in this together and I’ll never, excuse me, I will try do my best to go and judge no more.

Slow Cooker Greek Chicken Gyro

Yield 8 gyros

I've added the recipe here just as Sarah wrote it with a brief mention of my cooking time using the Instant Pot. I also served mine with hummus and leftovers were combined with more arugula to make a lovely salad. I have quite a bit of chicken leftover and for that I am very thankful. 

Ingredients

CHICKEN

2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces

Juice of 2 lemons

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

LEMON YOGURT SAUCE

1 cup plain full-fat Greek yogurt

Juice of 1 lemon

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

TO ASSEMBLE

Lavash or pita bread, warmed (1 per person)

Chopped tomatoes

Chopped cucumber

Minced yellow onion

Pitted Kalamata olives

Baby arugula

Lemon slices, for serving (optional)

Instructions

In a 6-quart slow cooker, combine the onions, chicken, lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, dill, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours, until chicken can be easily shredded with a fork. Before serving taste and add more salt, pepper, fresh dill, or lemon juice as needed.

In an Insta-pot combine all the same ingredients, hit poultry then up the time to 30 minutes.

To make the sauce, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Sauce can be made ahead and kept, covered in the fridge, for up to 3 days.

To assemble the gyros, spread some of the lemon-yogurt sauce onto each piece of lavash or pita, add a few forkfuls of chicken, and top with chopped tomatoes, cucumber, onion olives, and baby arugula. Squirt with more lemon juice if you like.

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