In case you’ve ever (mistakenly) believed that I have “it all” together…

Last week was a doozy, y’all. And yet it was full of grace. And lots of opportunities for me to learn humility. Yippee.

Want to hear about it?

Okay, well then grab a cup of coffee and find a comfy chair because we’re going to be here a while.

Yesterday, we stayed home from church because of a stomach bug. (And yes, I realize that yesterday was actually the beginning of this week. But I don’t want to think about that right now).

Four days ago, a (large) cup of water got knocked over (yes, a kid was involved) and poured directly into my husband’s computer case (he’s a software developer, and his computer is his livelihood; this was very, very bad), soaking the motherboard, CPU, sound card, video card, and many other important things that I know less than nothing about.

There was a flash, an explosion, the smell of frying electrical components, and the whole machine just. quit. working. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Shaun so close to completely losing it. I hustled the kids off to the library, while he took everything apart in some sort of wildly optimistic (yet, surely futile) effort to salvage something. And the whole way, I prayed pretty much nonstop for mercy. I begged God to let on that sad, fricasseed machine work again.

And you know what? He did. As I was fixing dinner, Shaun came down with a flummoxed expression on his face, shaking his head and saying, “It shouldn’t work. At all. But it does. Praise the Lord.”

A day later, I lost a pouch containing a rather substantial wad of cash + a check from the sale of quite a few furniture items (I’m in de-clutter mode). I spent hours scouring my house/garage/car + calling everywhere I’d been in the last 48 hours, and I couldn’t help but feel some sympathy (empathy?) pangs for Uncle Billy from It’s a Wonderful Life (WHO loses a pouch full of cash?).

Just when I had lost all hope and become convinced that it had fallen out of my purse or been stolen, Shaun walked into the living room, and dropped it in my lap, declaring that it had been hiding out under a pair of jeans–the one thing I hadn’t looked under–on our “dining room table” (code for: landing strip for all paraphernalia that comes into and leaves our house). So! I hadn’t lost a bunch of money! Just buried it under the laundry. Yay.

Last Tuesday, though. THAT was the day that got this whole crazy ball rolling in a major way.

The twins and Della apparently all got the same memo that their mission was to break each others’ records for shriekiest, most skin-crawlingly ear-piercing scream evvvver.

And they were succeeding. At least in my mind, every scream was a little shriller and more nerve-shredding than the last.

Theo didn’t seem to be taking his naps as well as usual (see above description of my daughters’ vocal gymnastics).

The older boys were hyper.

I was trying to blog, answer FB questions about some furniture I was selling, coordinate pick-up/meet times for other items I was selling/buying, study BODYCOMBAT choreography notes, dole out snacks, clean up messes, do laundry, nurse a baby, and try not to forget the 13 things I needed to bring with me.

Nola didn’t nap, and to top it all, my living room was in total chaos (see above about selling furniture), and the visual mess was majorly messing with my head.

Somehow, we managed to get out the door “on time” (read: 15 minutes later than I wanted but technically still early enough to cram everything in), and we spent the next 30 minutes racing around from one errand to the next. When I glanced in my rear-view mirror and saw that Nola had fallen asleep 10 minutes before we got to the gym, I knew I was in for it.

Nola is my all-or-nothing girl, and she doesn’t wake up easily or happily unless it’s on her own terms.

But, as I hauled her out of the car, she seemed docile enough, and I hoped against hope sound reason that she would cooperate. Halfway across the parking lot, though, she started to stomp her feet and whimper and insist that I hold her–no small feat when I’d forgotten the stroller (of course) and was already schlepping 18.7-lb.-Theo in his car seat plus my purse/diaper/mom bag (which weighs only slightly less than a baby elephant).

By the time we got to the nursery, I was sweating, (more) stressed, and five minutes late. Not only that, but the woman who had been supposed to meet me in the gym parking lot to pick up a sale…forgot. And was planning on jumping in the car to run up there in “10 minutes” (she had to load kids, so I was guessing that meant more like 20, but it was impossible to tell).

I dropped my kids off, and Nola dropped any pretense at civility and began wailing like some sort of emergency siren. Feeling like a deadbeat parent, I gave the nursery worker an apologetic look and raced to Studio A, now 8 minutes late to practice.

3 minutes into practice (during which my brain felt like absolute mush as I tried to scrap together the fragmented choreography study sessions I’d slipped into the day’s cracks), the gym’s assistant manager came in and informed me that Nola’s temper tantrum had escalated into a full-blown atomic meltdown.

I apologized to Israel (my practice partner…who doesn’t have kids, by the way) and raced back to the nursery, where I discovered the gym’s manager sitting on the floor trying to talk a hysterical Nola down from her oh-so-high-and-mighty crazy cliff.

(Two grown men + one hysterical toddler is not good math).

Nothing was working. Not even the suggestion of snacks, which–let me tell you–means that Nola was deeeep down the rabbit hole (because that girl loves to eat).

Fast-forward through much screaming, an absolute insistence that I (and no one else) take her potty, and (OF COURSE!) a sudden need to sit on said potty and wait to see if maybe, possibly, she miiiiight need to poop, and I was feeling a bit frantic.

I knew that Israel was waiting for me, the gym managers were probably drawing up my resignation letter (not fair, since they were both incredibly gracious and even got snacks from the vending machine for my children free of charge), and the lady was probably texting me wondering why I’d dropped the face of the earth.

Sure enough, by the time Nola was finally even approaching a return to her right mind, and I finally checked my phone, I had a text saying, “I’m here!” from twelve minutes before, and then another (very politely) asking if she was in the right place.

I ran back into Studio A, apologized to Israel again, then sprinted out of the gym to meet the lady outside. She was nice as she could be and apologized to me for forgetting. I tried to smile and nod, but mostly I just snatched her money, shoved the table at her, and then careened back inside.

After Combat practice, I hustled all the kids to the car so we could make our next appointment, checking my phone for the text I was sure would be waiting for me since, yet again, we were running a bit behind.

Only my phone wasn’t in my purse.

Oh, for the love.

There was no way in 103 heat-index East Texas (which is, quite possibly, a little hotter than the word that people usually use to complete that phrase) I was hauling 6 children back inside to wander the gym halls searching for my phone, so I parked in the handicap spot (that counts for “mentally” too, right?) near the gym entrance, turned on Loony Tunes, cranked the air-conditioner, and instructed Ezra to lock the doors and open them for no one but a crazy lady with a wild look in her eyes that resembled his mother.

After a lightning fast but fruitless search of every room (nursery! studio A! studio B! the upstairs bathroom! the downstairs bathroom…oh wait, I never went in there) that I could think of, I started to wonder if pressing the “quit life” button was truly an option. Or maybe, at least, the “pause so I can sit down and sob without more time passing, thus making me even later to the next thing” button. Yeah, that would work too.

You better believe I was offering up some pretty fervent/incoherent prayers like, “Lord, please. Help. Where’s my phone. Please, clear my brain and help me remember. Phone. Where IS it??!”

And then it came to me: I must have put it down in the back of my van when I met the lady to exchange items/money. I must have.

And so I pelted past the front desk yet again (pretty sure they thought I was staging my own indoor race at this point), hurtled down the stairs, and threw open my van hatch to discover…

My phone.

HALLELUJAH!

But, of course, the lady had sent me a text at 5:13 saying she was waiting (I was supposed to meet her at 5:45, and it was now 5:55; I have no idea why she texted so early) and then another asking if I was still coming.

Arrrrrrgh!

After meeting her, I drove to Chick-fil-a, where I had promised to buy dinner for my children.

Or, more accurately, be given free food for my children. You see, it was Cow Appreciation Day (you dress up like a cow, they give you free food; it’s the perfect combination of humiliation and charity), and one of the many things I had thrown in my car as we left the house were–don’t laugh–supplies to “make” cow costumes.  Because it just hadn’t happened earlier, despite my best intentions. We’re talking scissors, my travel sewing kit, construction paper, face paint…the works.

But, as I saw family after family skipping happily inside wearing their already-done (of course; what kind of insane person tries to craft cow outfits in the car???) costumes, I could feel the ball of tension in my belly unraveling and spreading along my limbs until even my fingernails felt taut as an over-tuned piano wire.

Still, I persevered (code for: stubbornly refused to acknowledge obvious defeat) and doggedly cut out cow spots and sewed them onto the girls’ (non-white) shirts, one at a time. And then made the boys smear black paint on everybody’s noses. Because, yes, Abbie, the defining feature of a cow’s face is its black nose. Huge eye-roll.

After 15 minutes of this circus act, I gave up. We looked a hot mess y’all. Literally. Remember the part about the 103 heat index? Yeah. The van’s idling air-conditioning can only kick it for so long before it’s like, “Ah’ight. I’m out.”

NOT ONE of us looked even remotely like a cow. And as I got the last spot sewed onto Evy’s shirt, I turned around to discover that Nola had pulled every last one of hers off.

{Beat head against car window; pause to glare at perfect family in perfect cow costume; REPEAT}

I just kept telling myself, “These are first world problems, Abbie. You are not a persecuted believer in China whose husband has been thrown in prison and doesn’t know where her next meal will come from. You can go inside Chick-fil-a and buy food.” But I was feeling pretty persecuted, y’all. And tired. And ridiculous. And like an utter failure at mamahood and life in general.

Desperately hoping not to encounter anyone I knew (unlikely since I’d seen at least 2 families I recognized head inside already), I herded (ha. ha.) my motley black-nosed crew inside and joined the hordes of appropriately black and white clad free-food-seekers.

week1

{Here we are at Chick-fil-a the week before Cow Appreciation Day; because there was zero photo-documentation of our costume fail on the day of}

When it was our turn, I could barely meet the teenage clerk’s eyes as I mumbled, “Um, this one has spots and a black nose. Does that get us anything?”

And he smiled at me and said, “Sure, how about a kids’ meal?”

I nodded numbly, and he said, “How many will you need?”

I met his eyes in surprise and realized that he meant all of them–aaaaall of my many, sadly inappropriately dressed children.

I could barely get the words out: “Um, five?”

“Okay, ma’am. My pleasure. What would you like to drink?”

By this point, I was fighting tears so hard, and only the prospect of that poor boy’s distress at the sweaty, stressed-looking mama’s breaking into heaving sobs while her crowd of children looked on in confusion empowered me to keep it together.

He didn’t know about my “day.” He didn’t know how badly I just wanted to give up and drive home and scrounge in the fridge for leftovers. He didn’t know how his timid little smile and total lack of judgment were spreading healing balm over what felt like gaping wounds in my pride and patience and pathetic resolve to keepittogetherfor5moreminutesdangit.

If ever a fast-food checkout dude was Jesus to me, it was that guy, that day.

So, why do I tell you this?

Because I need you to know that the girl who writes posts giving you tips about how to have a successful vacation with kids and how to sleep-train babies is the very same one who spent 4 days in a row feeling like she was two over-scheduled hours away from the loony bin.

I love having the opportunity to share the things that do work (because I wasn’t lying; that vacation was awesome,and so are sleeping babies) in hopes that they help somebody out. But if you met me in real life, then you would know just how much I don’t  have it together all the time (most days are not like that Tuesday, but neither are they completely smooth sailing) and how much I don’t claim to.

It’s just so easy to see people after they’ve showered and had a chance to compose the crazy and think that that’s how they roll all the time.

A friend told me that I seemed to be “graced with patience for motherhood,” on a day when I’d spent the morning snapping at my kids.

A nursery worker heard me humming along to “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” when I was picking my kids up from the daycare and said, “What? You sing too? What don’t you do?”

And I thought: “What don’t I do? Oh my word. SO, so much.”

I am so very flattered and appreciative when people share kind words, but I also need you to know how human I am. How flawed. How desperately in need of Jesus. All day. Every day.

And how I cling to these words: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Most days, we do all right. But even on the “easy” days, that verse is what I’m banking on–the promise, sure and true, that if I just keep swimming, keep apologizing when I blow it, keep doing the next thing I know is right, keep reading my Bible, keep dying to myself and growing in grace…that I will reap a reward–not in ease and comfort and wealth–but in character growth and better relationships with my children and more empathy for others who are struggling with their humanity too (because isn’t that everybody?).

So, yeah. Just in case you ever (mistakenly) thought that I have “it all” together…just reread this post. I’m so grateful for the simple days when everything just falls into place. But I’m even more appreciative (of them) when every little last thing is just a bit (or a lot) off because it reminds me exactly Who does have “it all” together right in the palms of His hands.

week

{What a relief!}

I sure won’t complain, though, if we don’t have a do-over of last week starting today. Nope. Not one bit.

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

26 thoughts on “In case you’ve ever (mistakenly) believed that I have “it all” together…

  1. What a beautiful story- Wow. I am crying!! haha. I am so glad that Chick-fil-A trains up their employees to be incredible leaders who love people!!! I work in marketing at chick-fil-a in MN and I love the photo of your kids outside the store with all their balloons!! Would it be ok if I used that photo for Kids Club promotions at the store over here? It would be on social media with all credit to you of course! Thanks Abbie. You are such a talented writer and I can’t wait to read more of your stuff!

  2. Thank you so very much for this pots! I could so relate to you – I have these kinds of days more often than I’d care to admit! And when I’m in it, it feels like I’m the only mom in the world who doesn’t have her stuff together. I mean, what kind of mom leaves the house so late that one ill-timed traffic light and slightly-heavier-than-usual traffic throws the whole day off? (Me!)

  3. Loved this and can absolutely identify especially the phone, the blasted phone! Thank you for your fresh and honest writing. And thank you kind Chickfila employees for being so Christlike!

  4. What an encouragement you are! This post had me crying more then laughing because that has been my summer. So thankful that His mercy is new every morning. Praying this week is one of those good ones!

  5. Beautifully written. I laughed, I got teary eyed, I identified with the frazzeled Mama who does her best yet many times doesn’t hit the mark – or even come close! Just what I needed this morning, a good reminder that I need to not grow weary or give up – He has the whole world (including mine) in His Hands! Thank you Abbie :)

  6. Oh, sister. I just want to hug you. Since I’m on the other end of motherhood now (my kids are all teenagers), I can tell you that those crazy days happen to all of us. And they make us all feel the same frazzled, crazy way. You are doing a fabulous job and you are exactly the mama your sweet babies need. :) I hope we get to meet one day!

  7. I don’t know you but read your blog, as it is written so well. Let me tell you, I have not laughed like that in weeks. Thanks for the uplift. You truly area one of a kind woman. God bless you and your family…

  8. I so needed this post today! Being a mama is hard and I am so in awe of you all the time with how well you seem to handle your little gaggle! It’s such a nice reminder that we all have those days, no matter how many kids we have or whats going on. I constantly struggle with keeping my focus on God rather than the horrible crappy day I am having, it is so easy to just be filled with self pity and want to give up. Thank you for this <3

  9. Omg, that is totally me, so overbooked and overscheduled yet I will have the cow costume materials with us in the car! Lol! I feel your pain sister. Not only that you used a needle and thread? Mad props! I do loops of masking tape and felt, hehe.

  10. I could feel your stress while reading it, as I know I would have been bawling my eyes out if I’d been in your shoes! You are a great mama and a great woman. Thank you for sharing

  11. Thank you so much for sharing… Refreshing to hear that even you have hard days and struggle. In a world where everyone tries so hard to look picture perfect, it’s easy to feel alone when life and motherhood gets messy. I actually got teary-eyed realizing that it’s not just me… :)

  12. If ever a fast-food checkout dude was Jesus to me, it was that guy, that day.

    This made me snort my Coke, but it was so worth it.

  13. Thank you! Those days happen so frequently. After the crazy wears off though, isn’t it wonderful to see how much grace God gives out, in spite of our panic and grouches and pouts.
    Also…this is why we love Chikfila:)

  14. I’m so sorry you had such a bad run…these days always seem to come on repeat when they hit. Being from this same area/gym, I am picturing the manager in the floor and well Nola’s tantrum has me laughing.
    Hoping the stomach bug spares the rest of you and that this week goes better than last!

  15. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I can’t even imagine doing all that with all your kids! Fantastic job!

  16. if it makes you feel a bit better, I am believing there was something in the atmosphere in the last couple of weeks. my husbands smoothies for breakfast all over the counter,cabinet doors, floor and in the process of cleaning up a mug of coffee skittering onto the opposite side of the kitchen and hours on the phone with Microsoft,pinhole leak in a waterpipe that resultd in a major repair job for my husband and other items that I am happily forgetting details about for the purpose of proving my empathy and belief about the atmospheric influence.

I love comments so much I'd actually consider making them my seventh kid if I could. Seriously. Love. And I read every single one and will do my darndest to respond, especially if you have a question. So, yeah. Comment away! I'm listening!