Modern Day Princes & Princesses

The munchkins and I visit the library every week to stock up on (free!) books. During a recent trip there, a book’s title jumped out at me from the shelf and I picked up the graphic novel (that’s fancy for comic book) to take a closer look. The title read “Princeless” with a motto of “Save Yourself” underneath it. I wondered what this series was about so I Googled it at home later that day. I found out it’s about a girl who is trapped in a castle and gets tired of waiting for a prince to rescue her (after many failed attempts apparently) and decides to save herself, along with her 5 or 6 sisters who are also trapped (I take it that none of the girls thought about growing out their hair, haha).

Image courtesy of wikipedia

Image courtesy of wikipedia

I’m not sure why, but the idea behind this comic bothered and intrigued me at the same time. Hubby and I had a brief talk about it and he surmised the author of the series was likely a female who had been jaded by relationships and being let down by guys who didn’t fulfill their manly role. Quite possible. So I did a little more Googling about the author and was surprised to find out it’s not a woman, but a man! Hmm! (This got the psychology-lovin’ gears in my brain to start turning.)

While I’m all for the idea that females can be strong and independent creatures without guys (personally, I believe we can survive without men, but not the other way around!), I think there’s also a desire in us to be pampered and adored and yes, to be treated like a princess. And I believe there’s a desire in the male species to be the ones to do the pampering and adoring and yes, to be the prince who saves the day.

If I could, I would tweak this “Princeless” story into one that goes something like this …

Girl who lives in a castle has set up an obstacle course in order to find a guy who has enough guts and passion to overcome those mental and physical challenges in order to “rescue” her. She waits patiently, knowing that not every guy will pass the test, but THE guy who does is worth her heart, mind and body. And meanwhile as she’s waiting for her prince to come along, she is pursuing her dreams and goals in life and having a grand time doing so. She may be princeless, but she does not require a prince to have fun. The reason she desires one is so she can have a companion who will join her on her lifetime adventure, one whom she can talk to, learn with and help out (cause we all know that’s why God created women). 🙂

So the moral of the story is this: For all the princesses out there, whether you are princeless or not on this overly-commercialized day of love, please know you are so very valuable and worth pampering and adoring this day and every day. And for all the princes out there, thank you for opening doors and slaying dragons and treating the women and girls in your life with care and respect. You give us hope that chivalry still exists.

On that note, here’s a modern song about an old-fangled tale, Taylor Swift’s “Love Song.”

How have you seen chivalry at work in your life?

A Letter to My Munchkins from their Spidey-Mama

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Dear Munchkins,

As your parent, I feel a little bit like Spiderman. It’s probably because I have a really strong “Spidey-sense” (aka. Mom-with-eyes-on-the-back-of-her-head-skills), but even more, I am left at times feeling like I have too much power. Power to influence your precious hearts and minds in how you see the world. Power in shaping you to be people who will hopefully not only be good citizens, but know how to live a life worth living. And like Spiderman says, because I have so much power in my hands, I feel a great sense of responsibility, too.

I know it is my responsibility to teach you right from wrong. Since I’m a rule-based, square kind of gal, that comes easily to me. But one thing that’s not in my nature to do is to step out of my comfort zone. However, that is the one thing I hope we can learn to do together.

I want you to know that I like to be comfortable, to hang out with people I am familiar with, to go places I’ve gone before, and to do things I’m used to doing. To do otherwise takes a lot of guts and conviction, two things I don’t have a lot of. (Thankfully, your Baba does.)

As I get older (and a little more wiser), I’ve learned a few things. One, life is a lot more complicated than I wish it was. Two, people (myself included) are a lot more messy than we would like them to be. Three, God loves us all the same, through whatever complicated life circumstance we may be in and despite how messy we are at the moment.

This is why I’m learning to lift up my head, open up my eyes and look outside of my bubble more often. This is why I chose to see the man standing at the side of the freeway exit with a sign that said, “Lost my job. Have 3 daughters. Please help.” And to listen to the woman standing outside the supermarket who told us about the abusive relationship she just got out of and the 4 kids she has to take care of on her own. And to talk to the man sitting outside Panera who so humbly asked, “Could you get me something to eat?”

I’ll be the first to admit that I used to (and sometimes still do) pass people by. But there came a point in my life (probably after I became your mama), when I knew I had to start caring. Because if I don’t show compassion to those in need, you likely won’t either.

What began as a “should” on my part grew (and continues to grow) into a “want”. As I see, listen and talk to the men and women we meet, I am learning that they are people, too. They are someone’s son or daughter, father or mother, brother or sister. They have a name, a heart and a story.

Though you are both little now, you have great big hearts. Hearts that exclaim, “That person’s holding a sign. Give him some money!” whenever we see a person in need. Hearts that are open to helping and caring for others anytime, anywhere. Hearts that impress me and give me hope that the meaningful things I believe and do are rubbing off on you.

I hope you know that superheroes don’t all wear tights or capes or masks. They come in all shapes and sizes, especially pint sizes. I know this is true because you, munchkins, rescue my heart from denial, selfishness and complacency each and every day.

You are my great, big reminders to live a life of love.

xoxo,

Your friendly neighborhood Spidey-Mama

Take a listen to Sara Bareilles’ song, “Bottle It Up”. I like the part of the chorus that says, “The only thing worth trying to be is love.”

Who do you have a hard time showing love to? 

Lasting Love

My kids surprise me with how mature they are at times. They respond to various situations in ways that would put many adults, including myself, to shame. Like the time I forgot it was early pick up day for E and showed up at his school an hour late (!) and he gave me an unexpected, but very sweet, kiss on the lips as a gesture of his forgiveness. And the times I see C treating her old chicky just as well, if not better than its new counterpart, show me signs of her faithfulness.

This latter example with C really got me thinking about its analogy to marriage. Now that hubby and I have been married for about a third of our lives, I think it’s safe to say we don’t look the same as we did when we met. We’re a little more round in the middle and a lot more wrinkled and grey around the edges. We no longer sound the same either; our backs and knees creak a lot more and our voices are less energetic. We’ve become like C’s old chicky, worn down and not so appealing on the outside. If you compared us with our engagement glamour shots taken 14 years ago, you would see a noticeable difference. That’s how it is with C’s two chick toys. When you see them side by side, you can tell right off the bat which one is the new one.

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The old chicky shrunk in size, too!

I had initially assumed C would like the newer, brighter, cleaner chicky more than her old one. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t like to have new things (kids and adults alike)? That’s why we like to buy new clothes, new toys, new gadgets, etc. But for some reason, C still adores her original chicky. She loves it even though its yellow fur is now matted and sparse and its white tummy is not so white. She loves it so much that sometimes she only wants to play or sleep with it. It doesn’t seem logical that she would choose the older toy over the newer one. But love doesn’t always make sense, does it?

Nope. If I have learned anything from my four year old’s love for chicky, it’s these two aspects of love.

First, love is blind. When we love, we choose to look past the external, past the temporary things. Qualities like smooth skin, a full head of hair or flat abs can be attractive, but they are very fleeting. Sooner or (hopefully!) later, we will all walk a little slower and sag a little lower. If our affection for our spouses was based on appearances, our relationships would definitely be on shaky ground after a decade or two.

Second, love remembers. When we love, we choose to remember the lasting things, namely the memories you have made over the years. The amazingly great or stressful day of your wedding. The first place you made into a home. The job offer you both prayed so hard for. The nights you spent deciphering the meaning behind Lost. The moments you waited together for the result of a pregnancy test. The secret smiles you exchanged across the room. The days you held hands in comfortable silence. The times you finished each other’s thoughts. These memories are lasting and the stuff that real life is made of. And the best part is that these shared experiences will not fall out or fade or grow grey with time. In fact, the longer you are married, the more you will build upon your memories and the stronger your bond will be.

So on this Valentine’s Day, may we be reminded to look at our spouses with new eyes (behind the contacts or bifocals you may be wearing). Eyes that focus and see their inner beauty and worth. Eyes that remember the highs and lows you have come through as a couple. Eyes that say, “I’m still into you.” 🙂

The song for this post is Paramore’s “Still Into You“. Take a good listen to the lyrics (when you’re not dancin’!) cause they speak of lasting love.

How do you see your spouse/significant other? 

Measuring Love

Recently, E asked me, “Who do you love more, me or C?”

Not this again! Didn’t C just ask me this question the other day, too? My eyes opened wide in exasperation and I, like any other smart parent in the world, replied, “I love you bloth!” (Bloth is how the kids pronounce “both”, don’t ask me why.)

Why is it that kids like to make us squirm with their probing questions? If it’s not about the birds and the bees, it’s about equality and justice. I for one think the former topic might be easier to address than the latter. It’s easier to remain objective when discussing facts (ie. “Well, God took a part from me and a part from Baba and put them together to make you”), especially when you can still remain vague about the details (whew!), but it’s much more difficult to talk about the ambiguous stuff.

Like stuff you can’t quite measure with a yard stick or a scale. Stuff you never thought you’d have to justify, especially to your kids.

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/freedigitalphotos.net

Stuff like love.

Even though this four letter word can be hard to quantify, I thought I knew the answer to E’s million dollar question (in my head of course, not out loud). My initial response was: The kid I love more is the one who is more cooperative, obedient, easy to manage – really, the one who makes my life easier. Makes sense, right? But then I realized there are several ways to answer his question. Merely giving that first answer only trivializes the true meaning of love.

To love someone means more than just accepting them on their good days. To love your child means not giving up on them when they are having their fourth meltdown in a day; deciding to stay calm when their whiny voices grate on your nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard; choosing to not yell when your child screams that the parking space you chose at the library was too sunny and the next space you chose was too far away (true story, by the way). If you are talking about that kind of love, then my answer would be: The kid I love more is the one who teaches me to be more patient, forgiving, unselfish – in essence, the one who pushes me to my limits and deepens my understanding of love.

However the more I thought about E’s question, the more I realized neither of these answers were true. Who do I love more, E or C? Well, to be honest, I love myself more.

How do I know this? Because often times I value my needs more than theirs. I love myself more when I’d rather check Facebook than play with them; when I don’t accept them for who they are and want to change them; when I choose not to empathize and understand the reason behind their actions; when I hold them to standards they cannot meet.

Yikes.

This realization has been very humbling and challenging for me. I know there is no perfect parent, but I still struggle with guilt over how far I fall short in loving my children. There’s the perfectionist side of me that keeps count of the number of times I sigh in annoyance or speak harshly to them. I even find myself hesitant to say “I love you” to E and C because I feel like my actions don’t match up to those three weighty words.

But I’m trying not to get stuck in the negatives because guilt is the last thing I need yelling at me on the sidelines of this marathon I’m running (which is what parenting feels like at times). So I remind myself to focus on progress, not perfection. To put my phone down more often than pick it up. To make eye contact and listen, really listen to my kids when they talk. To put myself in their place and imagine how scary it must be to have someone twice their size yelling at them. To appreciate their unique personalities, including the strong willed parts. To enjoy their presence each and every day because they are growing up so fast.

The bottom line is this: I’m learning to love myself less in order to love them more because they are so precious and worth it.

The song for this post is Katy Perry’s, “Unconditionally”. I like this lyric: “I’ll take your bad days along with the good.”

In what ways have you learned to love yourself less for the sake of loving your loved ones better?

Hamster Wheels

Image courtesy of James Barker/freedigitalphotos.net

“I wish I was a hamster.”

We were at Petsmart getting some dog food and we had just walked past the aisle with the hamster cages. E saw the little wheels inside those cages and wished he could be a hamster so he could run on one of them.

While I’m sure there is some element of fun to running in place and not going anywhere, I can’t imagine that the fun would last for very long.

How do I know this?

Well, sometimes I feel like I’m running on a hamster wheel. I wake up, make breakfast, do the dishes, entertain C, prepare lunch, pick up E from school, eat lunch, entertain both kids, get them ready for a nap, prepare a snack for them, make dinner, eat dinner, clean up, get the kids ready for bed, go to bed … and start the whole process over again the next day. It’s kind of like being in the movie “Groundhog Day“, where the main character wakes up on the same day over and over again. Hmm, there seems to be a trend going on here with small rodents.

Thinking about rodents has made me a little philosophical. I was wondering today, What is the meaning of life? (I might be on the brink of a mid-life crisis, so bear with me!) Is the whole point of life to just run on this hamster wheel and keep it moving? Because sometimes I would like to get off and rest. But if I can’t get off, I would like to at least feel like I’m going somewhere.

The reality though is that the sun rises and sets each day and there isn’t a pause button to press to make it stop. And a lot of what makes up one’s life is the routine and seemingly mundane stuff that happens on a daily basis.

I realized that’s why I like distractions – whether it’s in the form of eating good food, shopping for new clothes, watching my favorite TV show or going on vacations – because they bring some excitement to the ordinary. Distractions make my time running on the hamster wheel more enjoyable. I considered for a brief moment how hedonism could be an attractive philosophy to live by.

But then my sense of reality (and frugality – cause pleasure usually equals big bucks!) woke me up from this daydream. Sure, God wants me to enjoy all the things He’s given me, but hopefully there’s more to life than making myself happy. I spent many years as an only child, so I know all about focusing on myself (there can be too much of a good thing)!

I started thinking that as a parent, I totally want my kids to be happy and to enjoy life. I want them to find pleasure in running on their hamster wheels. But I also want them to look outside themselves and spend their time and energy on what is meaningful and long lasting in life.

So, what is the meaning of life? I finally came to the conclusion that it is to love. To love God and to love our neighbor (other people). To value people over things. To make someone’s day with a smile or listening ear or helping hand. To know you had a positive impact on someone’s life. It doesn’t get better or more meaningful than this!

I may be like a hamster running on my little wheel, feeling stuck in my cage, but I can move my furry feet with purpose. And that purpose, for the time being, is to care for my family the best I can. So, here I go, taking it one day at a time, all with the hope that each step will bring me closer to what I was made for … to love.

Here’s a great song by Mat Kearney, “Closer To Love“.

What do you do to make your time running on the hamster wheel more meaningful?