When Life Poops on Your Party


emotional control during crisis

Adorable guilty dog photo (my dog-nephew, Huckleberry) courtesy of my sister Alexandra, of A Loves J

 

The minivan smells like French fries.

Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome looks at me from the driver’s seat and pulls into our driveway. “Home sweet home! Are you ready to unpack?”

I grunt. (Translation: No. Eight hours of road-tripping have left me too exhausted to unpack. But seeing as our household servants only exist in my Downton Abbey dreams, I have no choice.)

Mr. Positive grins. “If we hurry, we can get them all in bed in an hour, and just… sit on the couch. Doesn’t that sound amazing?”

Yes. Yes it does sound amazing. Amazing and impossible, considering all the unpacking and laundry-ing and removing-of-gas-station-bathroom-grime-from-children’s-bodies that lies ahead. But we can fantasize. I take a deep breath and match his grin. “Let’s do it. You. Me. Vacant expressions on the couch. One hour.”

He punches the button that opens the minivan doors. Four children, eighteen suitcases, and thirty-seven empty Happy Meal containers explode onto our driveway.

A tornado of luggage and flip-flops, we stumble into the garage. The children are giddy: “Let’s go see Cole! He’s missed us so much!” Cole, our graying black Lab, has had fun with dog sitters in our absence, but even so, he hates it when we leave.

The kids sprint ahead of us into the house. Their supersonic shrieks make me smile as I wrestle with suitcases—Aw, they’re so happy to see Cole, how sweet—and Kevin goes in ahead of me. I hear more shrieking, but now it’s Kevin’s voice: “No no no no nooooooo!”

Kevin never shouts. Heart thumping, I drop my bags and race inside. Kevin heads me off in his office, boxing me out, blocking my view. “It’s bad—the dog—it’s so bad. You don’t even want to look.”

Horrible scenes flash though my mind on fast-forward: What’s so awful I can’t even look? Disemboweled couch cushions? Vomit? Gore? Has the dog chewed off his own paw in despair?

For a moment Kevin just stares at me, mouth working, eyes huge, trying to find the words. It’s Avery, the extremely loud and descriptive seven-year-old, who bursts in, shrieking: “Poop! Poooooooooooooooooop! There’s dog poop EVERYWHERE!”

I’ll spare you the details, because Avery has told you all you need (and want) to know. (I’ll just say this: Avery chose the word everywhere for good reason.)

Kevin and I have a longstanding deal: He handles pet poop and vomit; I handle human. I have never been more thankful for that arrangement than right here in this dark moment.

So poor Kevin quietly shuffles to the laundry room for a bucket and rags while I sprint past the Disaster Zone, shielding my eyes, trying not to see. (If I don’t see it, maybe it didn’t happen.) I start unpacking and de-gas-station-germing the children, while he sets about de-poop-ifying the carpet.

An hour later, as I’m in the bathroom scrubbing the youngest child, I hear him announce, “Well that was awful, but it’s done.” I shout an encouraging yay. I hear the door squeak open and the dog gallop back inside. Two point five seconds later—I am not exaggerating even a tiny bit—I hear Kevin shout again: “No no no no stoooooooooop! Coooooooole!”

I don’t ask.

I don’t want to know.

But Kevin calls the update through the house: “Cole just threw up on the carpet I JUST CLEANED! Aaaaaaahhhhhh!”

I shout something sympathetic back at him, close my eyes, and dream of Downton. Where oh where are Bates and Anna when we need them? I wait, expecting more shouting and moaning, but all is quiet from the Disaster Zone. Poor Kevin has shut his mouth and gone back to scrubbing.

Somehow, an hour later, all the kids are in bed and Kevin and I are sitting on the couch as planned. The carpet is hopelessly stained but semi-clean—as clean as carpet can get without professional help (which, by the way, we called the next morning).

As we prop up our feet, Kevin starts chuckling to himself. He is laughing—laughing!—about the absolute horror of the evening. At first I just sit there twitching and trying to breathe only through my mouth—my house’s new aroma, Eau de Bleach with Lingering Hints of Poop, has my head spinning—but then I sit there pondering what an amazing man this is, sitting beside me on the couch.

I learned something from Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome that night. A lesson he’s taught me a thousand times in our marriage, but I still never seem to master as beautifully as he does. What’s the lesson?

When life hands us a mess, we can choose how we respond. We can choose how we respond.

Me? My first response to mess is not pretty. It usually involves some kind of emotional mess of my own: frustration, anger, self-pity, catastrophizing (What’s catastrophizing, you ask? This poop on the carpet incident is the worst thing that’s ever happened to anyone anywhere. No human has ever suffered like this. Moreover, this moment represents my entire life: all my life, every day of my life, people (and dogs) have been pooping on my party. But wait! It gets worse! It’s not just me! It’s everyone. Whenever any poor soul on this rotten planet tries to be happy, look out, here comes poop! Life stinks. LIFE IS POOP.)

I know. It’s sad, this brain. Probably the worst brain, ever, in the history of—wait, there I go again.

Kevin? Well, he pretty much thinks the opposite of the way I think. Kevin assures me that he feels most of what I feel in any given life crisis, but he chooses not to act or dwell on those feelings. Sure, some of our differences come down to personality, hard wiring, and—ahem—hormones, but most of it is a matter of perspective, attitude, and choice.

Perspective. Attitude. Choice.

Three things we can control, no matter how our brains are wired.

Kevin’s example shows me that when we face a mess, we face a choice. We can freak out, stomp around the house, wail, shout, and abandon our Christianity for a period of temporary insanity. Or we can choose a better way.

When life poops on our party, our initial emotions and thoughts will be all over the place, because we are normal human beings and we hate poop and we feel things. But with practice, we can learn to maintain control even in the middle of a crisis. We might not be able to tame our feelings at first, but even in the heat of the moment, we can tame what we say and what we do.

A simple strategy that helps me mid-crisis is to find one simple truth and repeat it to myself until I calm down. It could be a Bible verse, like Be slow to speak or Love is patient. Sometimes I need something more convicting: Don’t say something you’ll regret. Don’t say something you’ll regret. Or this humdinger: Your children are listening. Your children are listening. (That one always gets me.) Sometimes I choose something that gives me perspective, like, This will be funny later. THIS WILL BE FUNNY LATER.

When it’s all over, we get to choose how long we dwell in darkness, how quickly we start climbing toward light. What perspective will we hang on to? What attitudes will we allow to linger? What will we dwell on when the dust settles?

Maybe one day, if we practice long enough and gain enough big-picture perspective, we can find a happier viewpoint even before the crisis ends. Maybe we can learn to laugh our way through the mess: at the mess, in spite of the mess, in the middle of the mess—even kneeling there on the carpet, up to our elbows in filth.

I don’t think I’ll ever be as even-keeled in a crisis as Kevin is, but I’m working on it. So far, I am learning to shut my mouth when I want to say very un-Jesus-like things. To recognize those moments when I should not take my own roller-coaster feelings seriously. To give all the poor people in the potential blast zone fair warning: Hey, I’m having a MOMENT here. Let me go hide in a corner and get this thing under control.

Kevin makes me laugh when I want to cry. He makes me want to be better, and shows me the way. I’m not all the way there yet—I may never reach his level of self-control—but with his help and God’s help, I’m making progress.

P.S.

The next morning, our wakeup call went like this: four kids storming into our bedroom shrieking, “Cole threw up! AGAIN!”

Which just goes to show you: Do not leave your dog home when you go on vacation. The dog will get the last poop vomit laugh.

Want some scriptures on this topic? Try Philippians 4:4–8, James 3:1–12, and Proverbs 25:28.


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Marriage Advice from a Two-Year-Old


how to stay close to your spouse during the baby phase via @lizzylit

Image courtesy of Pixabay

This post originally appeared on To Love, Honor and Vacuum

My kids blew past me toward the door, an early-morning tornado of jackets, back packs, and lunch boxes.

“Come on,” called Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome, jiggling his keys. “We’re going to be late!”

“Wait! I want kisses!” I said. “That means you! And you! And you!” My three older kids clattered back into the kitchen, planted kisses on my cheeks, and then rushed to follow my husband out to the van.

When the door slammed shut behind them, my two-year-old looked at me in horror. “Mama kiss Dada!” she said.

I blinked at her for a moment, not understanding. I heard the sound of the van pulling out of the driveway.

“Mama kiss Dada!” she insisted, her voice becoming frantic. She tried to pull me toward the door.

Then I realized: She was right. I hadn’t kissed my husband. I chuckled, trying to justify myself. “You’re right, but Daddy is coming right back, so that’s why I didn’t kiss him.” Even to my own ears, the words fell limp, a lame excuse. Little Miss stared me down, authoritative even in her bare feet and plaid nightie. I was not off the hook. “Mama kiss Dada.

I felt a blush creeping across my cheeks. “You’re right,” I said. “I should have kissed Daddy. I’m sorry.”

Little Miss seemed to accept this. We went back to our oatmeal. Ten minutes later, the door banged open again. My husband was home.

Before he’d even rounded the corner, Little Miss rounded on me. “Mama kiss Dada! Mama kiss Dada!”

Laughing, I stood up. “Okay, okay, you’re right! I’ll kiss him!” I walked over to my husband and planted one, two, three firm kisses on his lips. He kissed me back with a baffled half-smile.

I turned back to my daughter, who stood watching us. Weighing me. “There. Are you happy now? Mama loves Dada, see?” When she still seemed unconvinced, I wrapped my arms around him and snuggled into his chest.

She smiled her approval and toddled off to find her toys.

That day, she reminded me of several truths I had forgotten, lessons I’ll carry with me always.

The secret most kids won’t tell you

Our children have a secret, and it’s this: Kids love it when their parents are in love. Older kids and teens may pretend to be embarrassed by our kisses, but secretly, they love it. It makes them feel safe. Happy. Like they are a part of something special.

When my brother was young, he invited a neighborhood friend over. My parents walked into the room and gave each other a little kiss, and the neighbor boy said, “Ew! Your parents kissed! My parents never kiss!” My brother grinned and bragged, “Well, my parents kiss all the time!” My parents’ affection was a source of confidence and security for him—and for all the kids in our family. I want to give my own children that same gift, that same confidence, through my marriage.

Keeping the home fires burning

But let’s be honest: It’s all too easy, once kids come along, to neglect our spouse. To forget about even the simple things that keep us connected and close. We don’t do it on purpose, of course, but once a baby enters our world, our first and best cuddles and snuggles and kisses start going to the baby. When we walk into a room, our eyes slide right past our husband, hungry for another drooly “Mommy-Is-My-Whole-World” smile from our chubby-cheeked cherub.

And at first, our husband doesn’t mind. For a season, he’ll gladly serve as our Baby Gear Sherpa, the carrier of car seats and diaper bags and Pack-n-Plays. For a time, he’s happy to take a back seat while we figure out the whole new-baby thing . . . but before long—sooner than we think—he needs the front seat again. He needs and deserves our deliberate attention, our devoted affection—not just the leftovers. Not always the afterthoughts. Song of Songs 8:6 describes a passionate romance so beautifully: “Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame.” Every fire needs fuel to keep burning. If it runs out of fuel, even the strongest of blazes will die down to ember and ash. We have to keep stoking the fire of our marriage—nurturing it, coaxing it back to life when it ebbs, feeding it fresh fuel.

I get it: This is easy to write about, and not easy to do. Believe me, I know! As a survivor of four New Baby Adjustment Periods, I totally get it! I can’t tell you how many times my husband has turned to me after a few months of me disappearing into New Baby Land, and gently said, “Come baaaaack to meeeee!” Which of course made the post-baby hyper-hormonal version of me cry and feel terrible (which in turn made Kevin feel terrible and wish he’d never said anything), but also reminded me that I was a wife before I ever became a mother. So please don’t read this and feel guilty . . . It’s hard for EVERYONE. It’s complicated. We all have to figure it out in our own messy way, and give each other jumbo-sized packages of diapers grace. But here are a few strategies Kevin and I have tried over the years—I hope they give you some helpful ideas.

Five simple ways to stoke the marital flame, even with little ones in the house

These five simple tricks can help you connect with your spouse, even on chaotic days with babies and young children underfoot:

  • Remember simple acts of daily physical affection. Don’t underestimate the power of hugs and kisses to keep you feeling connected and close.
  • Use timers to set aside “Mommy and Daddy Time.” Tell the kids you need a few minutes to talk uninterrupted, and set a timer. The kids can’t come back into the room with you until the timer goes off.
  • Schedule sex. I know, this does not sound romantic in the least, but IT HELPS, especially when kids are young and life is crazy. We have found that if we wait for the stars to align—kids in bed early, house clean enough for me to relax, me not wearing exercise clothes covered in spit-up, both of us rested enough to be willing to stay up a little later, both of us “in the mood” at the same time—um, they will never align. But if we both agree ahead of time that on such-and-such a day, we will work together to put the kids in bed on time, get the dishes done and the house put back together so I can stop cleaning, shut down all the computer and phone dings, and meet up for an interlude in the bedroom—then as long as one of the kids doesn’t start vomiting, we actually stand a chance! We might go really wild and light candles and play mood music.
  • Build sacred Mommy-Daddy time into your schedule at a set time each day, so your children get used to it. (This idea comes from John Rosemond’s book New Parent Power.) Kids know, “This fifteen minutes always belongs to Mommy and Daddy, not to me.” You could try early-morning coffee together, before work and school. If mornings are too hectic at your house (like they are at mine), try setting aside a time slot right after you get home from work, or right after dinner. (When kids get older, we can even let them clean the dinner dishes while Mom and Dad catch up on the day! Let’s all take a moment to daydream about how fabulous that’s going to be . . . )
  • Buy yourself an extra half-hour on evenings when you need time to connect. How? Put kids to bed early with a book and a flashlight. They’ll think it’s a treat to read in bed—it’s kind of like they’re getting away with something—and you can start some early couch-cuddling before you turn into a pumpkin.

Strategies like this are especially helpful for the time of life when we have small kids in the house. But this isn’t just a new-baby issue. The older my children get, the more I realize that this is an ongoing struggle. Older kids mean a busy life and crazy schedule packed with homework, sports, friends, and activities. We will all have to re-learn how to put our marriage first in the preschool years, the elementary years, the preteen years, the teenage years, the empty-nester years. At every stage, it takes a conscious effort to give our marriage the attention it deserves—to give our husbands the attention they deserve.

My wise two-year-old saw what I didn’t see. My husband comes first, not last. No matter how late we are or how busy life is, everybody deserves a good-morning kiss . . . and every kiss counts.


If you liked this article, you might also enjoy:

These Days of Small Things

On Pinkeye, Lice, and Love

Signs a Man Is Not a First-Time Dad

Prevent Parenting Burnout, Step 3: Make Time for US


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Have Yourself a Merry Married Christmas


how to have a merry married Christmas

This month in Lizzy Life, we’re talking about having happy, holy holidays! We’ve already talked about 10 questions to ask yourself NOW to help you have your best Christmas ever. So today let’s talk about setting our marriages up to win.

If you’ve been married for even a single Christmas season, then you’ve already learned this: Spouses can envision very different things for holidays, without even realizing it. One of you wants to relax and keep it simple and never ever get out of their pajamas; the other wants to be Clark Griswold, and invite Cousin Eddie and every other relative to spend weeks partying at your house!

On our first few Christmases together, Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome and I ran into unexpected conflict over stupid things: should we invite 50 friends over for Ugly Sweater parties every other night, or go hibernate alone in a mountain cabin with no Internet or phone service or Ugly Sweaters (or clothing of any kind); should we drive thousands of miles cross-country to visit every possible relative, or stay home snuggling by the fire; should we invite friends over for Christmas dinner, or have a quiet meal with just our family…and the list went on. Plus, we both had our own list of like 36 Things We Absolutely Had to Do in December Or Else Our Whole Holiday Season Would Be Ruined. 

We quickly learned that we had to talk through ALL THE DETAILS of our expectations and calendar if we wanted to have a merry married Christmas. At first I, being rather a free spirit when it comes to holidays, ran away screaming when Kevin came at me waving a calendar and throwing out terrifying words like “schedule” and “plan ahead,” but I quickly realized how wise he was. And now that we have four kids and all of our family lives out of town, there’s no choice. We have to plan.

Kevin and I have learned that several weeks before Christmas (if you haven’t noticed, that’s NOW!), we need to have a little meeting together. We put the kids to bed and sit down in front of the tree (the calming presence of the tree helps me not hyperventilate). We grab our family calendar, pour glasses of wine (again with the hyperventilation prevention), and map out everything we both want to do over the holidays. First we talk about expectations and talk through our answers to the 10 holiday questions I posted last week—how we want our holiday to feel, what we are both hoping for.


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how to have a merry married Christmas

Then out comes the Evil Calendar. This is where we figure out how our expectations translate into life in the real world, with the limits of 24-hour days and the need to eat and sleep and bathe children. This is where expectations meet reality. This is where we figure out how to make our expectations actually happen. We are VERY specific—we pencil in everything we want to do over the holidays:

  • all the gajillion fun family outings we want to pack in
  • date nights
  • who we are going to invite over, and when
  • Christmas decorating and wrapping
  • shopping excursions
  • community service
  • church events
  • all 537 Christmas and birthday and New Year’s parties we need to attend
  • we even reserve certain nights for relaxing at home, watching favorite movies and wrapping presents 

These plans are not set in stone or signed with a blood pact or anything—we can always change them later. But they give us a roadmap to start from—and they make sure we’re working from the SAME map, trying to get to the same destination.

And you know what’s the best part about doing this? It doesn’t just unite us and prevent conflict and confusion, it also helps me to feel less overwhelmed. For example, your spouse might help you realize: Hey, I’m being unrealistic in my Big Holiday Pinterest Plans. If I’m going to decorate my yard with snowmen made from snow flown in directly from the North Pole, and carve an ice sculpture for a Christmas dinner centerpiece, then I’m either going to need my spouse to kick in and help me, or consider scaling back my decorating plans a little. This is especially helpful for me as a woman who wants to do ALL OF THE THINGS, but forgets that she does not have a body double, personal shopper, or house elf to help her. Kevin, wonderful husband that he is, usually offers to take a few Christmasy jobs off my plate when he sees how much I *think* I can accomplish in December—some years he has offered to do the wrapping for me; other years he’s suggested we get babysitters so we can go finish Christmas shopping together; other years he tells me to schedule in exercise and naps. (Really.)

But seriously. When you map out HOW and WHEN you’re going to accomplish all the different fun things the holiday entails, and when you come up with a plan for working together with your spouse to make them all possible, I promise: you’ll feel happy and free. Holly-jolly, even. All your Scroogey “Bah-Humbug-I’m-too-overwhelmed-to-enjoy-Christmas” feelings will vanish. This puts you and your spouse on the same holiday team, working toward a merry married Christmas!

Want to share this post? Thank you! Share buttons are at the bottom of the post.


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10 Questions to Ask NOW to Have Your Best December Ever


how to have a stress-free Christmas

Image courtesy of Pixabay

It’s December, y’all. December!

(Let’s all take a moment to breathe into a paper bag.)

Seriously, though, I don’t know how this happened. I just got all the summer sand vacuumed out of the minivan! But ready or not, the mailbox is crammed with holiday catalogues, the Hallmark Christmas movies are marrying off princesses in disguise every night, and if your kids are like mine, they already have sugar plums dancing in their heads to the point of near insanity. Ready or not, it’s time to get ready.

So let’s talk about having a happy family life all December long… all holiday season long.

The trouble with the holidays is expectations. Your spouse or children expect one thing; you expect something entirely different—and the kicker is, you didn’t even know you expected it until it was too late. And before you know it, you’re all shouting “Fa-la-la-la-LAAAAA” at each other.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Not this year.

With a little thought and planning and discussion ahead of time—yep, that means now, before December runs away with us—our holiday season can be every bit as holly-jolly as we want it to be. Yes really. It can. This year we can have less ho-hum, more ho-ho-ho. Less stress, more peace. Less Grinch-iness, more godliness. We just have to be proactive. Intentional. Thoughtful. How do we do this? Here’s a simple way to start: Grab a cup of egg nog, set aside half an hour to think through these questions about your holiday expectations and plans, and then sit back and reap the rewards all throughout the season.

Got your egg nog? Okay, here we go.

10 questions to ask yourself, to help you have the Christmas season you WANT to have: 

1. What is most important to you over the holidays? What are your priorities?
2. What do you want your holiday to FEEL like? (Think about words like fun, peaceful, unhurried, active, silly, relaxing, selfless, joyful, family-oriented, private, social.) Ask your spouse this question to find out if you both want the same thing—you might be surprised.
3. Who do you want to BE over the holidays? What kind of parent? Spouse? Friend? What kind of mood do you want to be in?
4. What things do you MOST want to do? Be as specific as you can. Think through all the big events and small activities. Do you want to throw a party? Go on a date with your spouse? Go shopping alone? Go out with girlfriends? Take the whole family somewhere special? Start a new tradition? Spend individual time with each of your kids?
5. What have been your favorite past holidays, and why? Is there anything you can learn from or repeat from those years to help to make this season great?
6. What are your specific hopes for your family time? Do you have certain expectations or an agenda that you didn’t realize you had?
7. What do you want your marriage to be like during the holidays?
8. What do you want your walk with God to be like over the holidays?
9. Is there anything you want to do differently than last year or previous years?
10. Okay, now get practical: What specific things do you need to do or plan or coordinate with your spouse/family in order to make these things happen?

I have used this list for the last few years to help me think and pray through my holiday season, and it makes a huge difference, all season long. I feel better prepared mentally, emotionally, maritally, maternally, and calendarily (no, that’s not a word, but it should be!). (Also, I should add that nothing can prepare you for battling lice over Christmas…NOTHING. Sighhhhhhh.) Anyway, besides the Bug Incident that Shall Not Be Named, this list has helped me to be more intentional about everything, all December long. To stress less and play more. To be purposeful in how I spend my time, and to make time for the things (ahem, the people!) that mattered most. I hope these 10 holiday questions help you as much as they helped me, and here’s to our best Christmas season ever!

Read this post next: Have Yourself a Merry Married Christmas: The conversation to have with your spouse before the holidays run away with you! 

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Want more parenting tips and devotion ideas? Sign up for my quarterly newsletter, and you’ll receive a free download with seven two-minute devotions to do around the breakfast table with kids!


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These days of small things


how to enjoy childhood via @lizzylit

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

We’re at the North Carolina State Fair on a perfect October night. The sky is cloudless, speckled with stars. The air is crisp, cool but not cold. It’s a night for pumpkins and bonfires, sweatshirts and cider. It’s also a Saturday night, which means that the entire population of North Carolina has been inspired by our same not-so-brilliant idea: “Let’s spend two hundred dollars buying deep-fried candy bars wrapped in bacon, and then get on rides that simulate standing inside a blender, and try not to throw up!”

But the October sky will not be ignored, so now here we are, fighting our way through a heaving river of humanity to find the kiddie area. Kevin is muscling our double stroller through gaps in the mass of people, parting the crowd like Moses with the Red Sea, only with more shouting and carnage. I’m right behind him, clutching fistfuls of the two older kids’ sweatshirts in my hands, praying we don’t lose any of our four struggling, goggle-eyed children in the swarm. Over the crowd, Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome and I keep flashing each other this forced, crazy-eyed smile that means something along the lines of: “Maybe if we keep fake-smiling we’ll trick ourselves into believing we’re having fun, even though we’re terrified—and for the love of all that is good and holy how did we talk each other in to spending our kids’ college fund on rigged games and fried candy?—and by the way, we are never doing this again!”

Finally the wave of people dumps us out into the kiddie area—along the way we’ve mowed down twelve love-struck teenagers and one giant stuffed banana wearing dreadlocks, in between dropping sixty bucks on kettle corn, elephant ears, and a Lebanese dish we can’t pronounce but that tasted like glory—and by some miracle, all four kids are still with us, and no one has thrown up (yet).

I convince the three older kids to ride the giant swings with me, and all through the line they do a dance of delighted terror. You’d think they’ve never been on a ride before, the way they’re gaping at the swings, hugging each other and hiding their eyes. I’m worried they might chicken out. But the minute the ride starts and our feet leave the ground, my six-year-old throws both arms in the air and laughs like an experienced roller coaster rider, like she was born for this. (Recalling her habit of flinging her body from terrifying heights in an apparent desire to become BFFs with the local emergency room staff, I suspect she was.) We stumble off two minutes later, giddy and giggling. I’m starting to feel like the fair wasn’t such a terrible idea after all.

And now it’s the two-year-old’s turn to ride something her speed. We ease back into the torrent of people, searching until we spot a merry-go-round of glittery miniature cars. At first we hesitate, hands pressed against our ears, because the ride’s designer, who has clearly never met a child, thought it would be clever to equip the cars with ear-splitting horns, which the happy toddlers are honking as aggressively as their fat fists can manage. But Sawyer’s eyes light up, and we all sigh: She must ride this ride. She must honk a horn. We must sacrifice our hearing for her happiness. As the girls and I get in line, Kevin pantomimes a message over the relentless horns: he and Blake are going to save their eardrums and go pay a fortune to throw weighted darts at unpoppable balloons. I stick my tongue out at them, because they’re totally getting the better end of the arrangement. Besides, they might win a stuffed banana.


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When it’s finally our turn, I stand behind the Parent Fence as my nine-year-old, Cassidy, helps buckle Sawyer in, and then folds her own long legs into their tiny car. Cassidy’s knees are bent almost up to her ears, and she throws me a dimpled, self-deprecating grin—a grin that says nineteen, not nine. Sawyer attacks the horn with gusto. Avery, my six-year-old adrenaline junkie, scrambles into the car in front of them.

Lights flash. Music blares. Horns crescendo. The ride jolts forward, and Sawyer squeals her delight. Cassidy leans in close, showing Sawyer how to turn the steering wheel. For a moment, their twin grins are all I can see, but then I notice Avery. She’s still young enough that she should be swept up in her own ride—spinning her own wheel, honking her own horn—but instead she is twisted backwards, shining brown eyes locked on Sawyer. She is ignoring her own ride so she can watch her baby sister experience hers. Avery beams at Sawyer, a proud, knowing smile. The same maternal smile I feel lighting my own face.

The simple, honest sweetness steals my breath. For a few seconds my ears forget to hurt. I stand there, blinking tears, drinking in the beautiful sight of my three girls, adoring each other in this small moment.

I’m reminded of a scripture I’ve just rediscovered, a new-old favorite, Zechariah 4:10: “Who dares despise the day of small things?” The passage is a celebration of a quiet but significant event in Israel’s history, as God’s people are rebuilding the temple. The temple is still years from completion, but the plumb line—the guiding marker that will assure the building is constructed properly—rests in the designer’s hand. The building has only just begun, but it has begun the right way.

I think to myself, This may seem like a small moment, but it is not small. Not to God, not to me. My girls, here in this fleeting moment, are all that sisters should be. For these few seconds, the older ones care more about their baby sister than about themselves. They may have squabbled a dozen times on the way to the fair today, they may have begged too insistently for cotton candy and cheap stuffed animals, but right here, right now, in these sparkling seconds, they are loving each other, and how lovely it is. This is no small victory, no insignificant thing. It is the promise of things to come, the foundation of all we are trying to build in our family.

I put the night on pause: I will not despise this moment, this small thing. I will not let it pass by unnoticed, unappreciated. I will make it holy, sending a prayer of thanks up into the starry October sky. I will write it down and make it last. Like Mary, I will treasure this memory in my heart, storing it deep inside so I can bring it out and relive it again and again for the rest of my days (Luke 2:51).

And I will look for more moments like this, small blessings I might miss if I’m not paying attention. I will savor these too-short childhood years, this endless stream of simple joys:

Happy shrieks on scary rides, ice cream stains on brand-new shirts.

A night with no tantrums, a day with dry diapers.

A thousand silly but splendid firsts: the first time they whistle a note, tie a shoe, blow a gum-bubble.

I will not despise these chaotic days in my marriage—this stage of sleepless nights and zombie days, of stolen romance and secret smiles—these years that demand so much, yet make us better.

Family is a happy mess, life a hectic whirlwind. One minute is a disaster, the next a delight. But countless gifts glisten, hidden inside each roller-coaster day, if only we’ll pause long enough to notice. To open. To savor. And in noticing and opening and savoring, we sanctify these small wonders, these insignificant things.

Perhaps we find that small things are not so small after all.

That fleeting moments are not fleeting, not momentary, after all.

That simple days of small things are the best days—the biggest things—after all.


If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy: 

When Life Poops on Your Party

On Pinkeye, Lice, and Love

A Letter to My Child About Your Unfinished Baby Book

“I’m a Big Kid, No Wait, I’m a Baby” Syndrome

13 Confidence-Building Scriptures for Kids and Teens


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