If I were to take an honest look at my life as seen from afar on Instagram and Facebook – it would appear that I am happily married with a sunny disposition – laughing my way through each day with my 4 precious children.
Despite the fact that only 1 out of 4 of my kids are able to perform the most simplest of tasks like “go put on your shoes and get in the car”…I am cheerful and take pleasure in the simple things, taking the time to smell the flowers and breathe deeply along the way.
It may seem like I usually look like this (meaning dressed and somewhat presentable)
But I spend most of my days looking like this (wild-mad-scientist hair, no make-up, mis-match of clothes thrown together...sincerely hoping no one unexpected comes to the door and gets a case of PTSD from my unruly appearance)
Judging from my own posts…one would have to concede that I am amazing! I am unstoppable! Even though I have a child with special needs, a two year old and an 8 week old baby – I am at peace with my role as a mother… with my hair blowing freely in the Cape Town breeze… counting my blessings and nary a cross word passing my lips.
In my spare time I start businesses! I help people in Africa!
I have many friends and throw endless parties! I can do this all at the speed of light, while successfully creating copycat Chilli’s Chicken Crisper recipes, eating wheat-grass and doing holiday crafts with my children (even my newborn is able to crank out some Pinterest-worthy Christmas decorations all by himself).
I am not stressed….I am relaxed! I am positively blissful!
I’m not sure who this person is….but I definitely want to know her! And if only she were a real person…and if only that person was me. Seriously!
Of course I don’t want to sound negative or cranky and assume most people realize this is just a small snippet of my reality. But, for the tiny percentage of people out there that may think the 1% of life posted on social media is actual life, let me just say emphatically, “Not so much!”
Oh everything I post is technically true…but as they say at Fresh Start, “More than one thing is true.”
The tension for me is how to be real…without sounding sad and pathetic. No one likes sad…and pathetic is just, well, pathetic.
Does anyone want to hear that most things with Emme is about 100 times the work as a typical child? I think not. Everyone has their problems. We love that girl to pieces….but the fact that she is still in diapers at 6 years old, is honestly a pretty discouraging part of life for me. Not a Facebook worthy rant – but we have changed her diapers for over 2,000 days IN A ROW…that’s right....every day for 2,000 days…nasty, smelly big kid diapers. It makes me think, “Have I utterly failed her as a mother?” Probably. I think that a lot. I spend a certain percentage of my day worrying I am quite possibly the worst mother ever.
Her last two facilitators (that come to our house for afternoon developmental activities) have suddenly quit. Up and quit with virtually no notice! We are having great difficulty finding new ones and feel discouraged about the level of services for her in Cape Town.
I’ve ordered books to “teach your child with Down syndrome to read and do math” but coming up with a plan for this is totally overwhelming. It’s something that nags at the back of my mind every single day! I feel very inadequate and guilty all the time over this.
Take this moment for instance…I’m trying to write this blog while I simultaneously give Jensen spelling words (she just got done crying from utter discouragement). Emme has already watched too much television today so I should probably stop her video and do some puzzles with her and Colton is overdue to be fed. But I just want to finish this blog!! Aaaaaaaa! I need to go make dinner but I have nothing planned.
I tell myself, "Mother is Beautiful! It's beautiful, I tell you!"
And I am tired! Soooo tired!
Adi Rose is an adorable button-of-a-child...that must cry a dozen times every day. No exaggeration. At least a dozen time. The drama is exhausting!
Jensen is turning into an amazing young lady – but my sharp tongue can pierce her heart and my impatience can run rampant. I daily pray for it to be “less of me and more of him”…especially when it comes to Jensen.
Colton is the sweetest, chubbiest boy there is. But he is by far more fussy and demanding than any of his predecessors combined. How can this be? I thought #4 was guaranteed to be the easy one? Lord have mercy!
We do have "boy joy!"
But many times the "boy joy" is more in my head – and not so much in the air around me that is being filled with blood curling screams
We throw many parties and dearly love this incredible community. But there are days when I think…do these people really like me? Do they see my biggest weaknesses and want to run away? Quite possibly!
It’s true that I love Africa with my whole heart. We have started cool businesses with amazing products…hopefully some people have been helped along the way. But it’s also true that there has been heart-break and tears. Some days I wonder if any of this is really helping any one. Team relationships can be strained and misunderstandings are inevitable.
Sometimes my American culture shouts louder than my Jesus culture!
I have cried long and hard over saying the wrong thing - acting too fast or too slow - disappointing and hurting people along the way. Apologies abound from my lips and on most days forgiveness is extended from these amazing African people.
I hear the horrific stories of epidemic rape and abuse and feel my small drop in this huge bucket is indeed very, very small. Big tears fall and big plans are made, but I need to constantly remind myself to keep Jesus first before plunging into my own “solution.”
Even on the lighter side…let me be frank: I did make an amazing copy-cat Chilli’s Chicken Crisper dinner – but nearly burned the kitchen down in a grease fire. I tried wheat-grass…but only once (mostly attempting to counteract the massive amount of Oreos I was eating at the time). We planted a garden but realized we had no idea what we were doing! Some of the vegetables grew in a mangled mess and bugs ate most of it, leaving many vegetables unrecognizable as themselves.
Karl eventually said to me, "When you said you wanted to plant a garden...I should have realized you wanted me to plant it and water it every day and pick all the vegetables"
Yes....that is exactly what I meant! "We" is obviously code for "you."
You get the idea! I could go on and on…and pretty much have.
To close out…here are a few of my social media posts…and then what the “behind-the-scenes” description should be.
Posted Description: Milestone day for us...first time ever that Emme saw us all in aprons and went to the cupboard to get an apron for herself. I love that she wants to make pancakes too.
Behind-the-Scenes Description: I do love that Emme wants to make pancakes too…but let’s face it – our three girls in the kitchen trying to cook pancakes is a recipe for whining, crying, gnashing of teeth, and lots of pancake batter on body parts and many unsanitary surfaces. It was a "Christmas Miracle" they posed for the 3 seconds it took to take this photo – but moments after that shot was snapped, massive meltdowns ensued. It looks like a happy memory, but in reality it was pure chaos that I don’t want to repeat EVER in my lifetime. We may just have to pick up all our pancakes from the McDonalds drive-through and hang on to what’s left of our sanity for dear life.
THE NO-SHOW PARTY:
Posted Description: Living in the same neighborhood as good friends = home-made muffins I don't have to bake
Behind-the-Scenes Description: Seriously People?!? We wanted to meet our neighbors so a few of us friends handed out invitations to 40 near-by homes, inviting them to a “Christmas Open House.” We baked muffins and bought desserts….but NO ONE CAME! Ok that’s not true, I exaggerate - one very sweet old lady came. But I was so disappointed! I don’t think South Africans do the “holiday open house thing” and probably thought that the idea sounded a little nuts. I wanted to shout “We really are very nice people…despite our Americanness and strong tendency to want to shake your hand when you are trying to kiss our cheek. It may take us a few years of living in your country to know we should always walk you to your car after a dinner-party (instead of just waving to you from our seated position on the couch thinking you will just show yourself out the door). But we can learn, people! WE CAN LEARN!”
My friends are such good sports and even contributed some honesty about the chaos of their life...
BARE FEET BLISS (BY COURTNEY):
Posted Description: Isn't this how your feet look when you are walking the streets of town, in and out of shops, cars, toilets?!
Behind-the-Scenes Description: Looks so chill, huh? Truth is...I have given up! I have no idea where you left your shoes! I am in charge of 7 people and I cannot keep up with 14 shoes. I got so tired of searching and, since sanity is important, I gave up on shoes…because how many times can one ask a kid, “Where are your shoes?!?” And hey…when in Rome…
SUNDAY AFTERNOON AT A VINEYARD (BY BETHANY):
Posted Description: Couldn't ask for better friends...
Behind-the-Scenes Description: Out with our best friends for the first time in months together because I'm normally in bed with pain and rarely have time out at all...
GOOD TIMES AT THE BEACH (LAURAL):
Posted Description: Beach Babies
Behind-the-Scenes Description: Looks super fun and it was. But the reality was that this was basically the only 5 min span of time that Jack wanted to be on the beach. The rest of the time he was crying and wanting to go to the play ground. Or trying to grab the sand bucket from Lucy. And he didn't like the water, ran in the other direction, but who can blame him...it feels like ice!!
NEW YORK OVER NEW YEARS (BY JOY):
Posted Description: In New York without our daughters. They would be jealous that they missed Olaf!
Behind-the-Scenes Description: Who doesn't think it would be amazing to be in Times Square over New Years' Eve? Me, that's who! I had to attend a conference that weekend in NYC, but I chose to fly out on New Years' Day to avoid the chaos of the night before. In this picture Marc and I had just arrived at our hotel and decided to walk down Broadway. It was still crazy with people and very irritating. I wanted a picture of Olaf for my girls, but Mario jumped in uninvited. What you don't see is Olaf asking me for money.
SPECIAL TIME WITH KIDS (BY SARAH):
Posted Description: "My morning view! We take our little buddy Seth to school in the am and spend a LONG commute reading, drawing, chatting, worshiping, and having fun.
Behind-the-Scenes Description: These are serious cuties but serious drama queen and kings as well. Our rides mostly are filled with complaining, hitting, whining, sneezing, snot flying, and asking "ARE WE THERE YET" more times than my soul can bear. "JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL"
Just remember the next time you see someone’s amazing vacation photos, happy-perfectly-dressed children or pictures of parties you did not attend – all is not as it seems.
We might wish our actual lives resembled our Facebook lives a little more - but honestly...no one wants to think you or your amazing life is perfect. We all need to know we are not alone in our pancake chaos, never-ending search for children's shoes, insecurities, or encounters with a Needy Money Scrounging Olaf on New Year's Day.
So let's have some fun! Join me this week in posting a photo with it's real "Behind-the-Scenes Description" of your actual, very messy but incredible life.