The Benefits of Crying

When the munchkins were younger, there was a lot of crying in our house. Actually, there was a lot of crying outside the house and in the car, too. Let’s just say that if we had collected all those tears they shed (as well as the ones I shed during their tantrums and meltdowns!), we could’ve helped out our drought-stricken state of California. 😉 Thankfully, we’ve had a lot of rain in the past weeks to fill up those reservoirs and the kids are able to process their emotions a little more calmly these days.

I personally have a hard time staying calm when E or C gets upset, but hubby has the patience of a saint. Not only will he look at their red, open-mouthed faces with adoration, he’ll also tell them, “It’s okay, just cry!”

Just cry?! (Does that include me, too? LOL!)

But if there’s anything I’ve learned over the years as a parent, it’s that one, kids cry a lot, and two, crying can be helpful.

Having been raised by my strict, no-funny-business grandma, however, I learned not to cry. I learned it was safer to stuff my emotions inside rather than show them. Which is why I struggle so much when the kids need to cry. And I use the word need because sometimes we just need to cry.

If you Google “benefits of crying”, you’ll find countless articles (here’s one) touting the physical and emotional benefits of tears. Crying releases toxins, helps you deal with stress, and makes you more mindful of your emotions and experiences. Moreover, shedding tears in front of people you feel safe with helps build your connection with them. So it’s a good thing to cry by yourself and with others! Crazy idea, huh?

But boy, does it feel good to turn on the waterworks once in a while, especially if you tend to be more of an uptight and anxious person (if you are, welcome! you’re in good company here). 😉 The thing with crying though is that if you don’t allow yourself to do it regularly, you can get out of practice. And no amount of sheer willpower can force the tears to fall (unless maybe you’re an actor). What do you do then? Watch a sad movie or TV show or read a sad story or listen to a sad song. I stumbled upon this solution recently when I started watching NBC’s This Is Us. If you haven’t heard of this show, you need to check it out. I guarantee you will shed a few (or more) tears each and every episode. Just make sure you don’t watch it right before you have to pick up the kiddos from school—I learned this lesson the hard way! 😉 This show is now my regular “therapy session” where I tell myself, “It’s okay, just cry!”

Because it is so okay to cry. Crying is good for our body, mind and soul. So give it a go sometime soon. And take comfort in the fact that your tears do not go unnoticed. As it says in Psalm 56:8,

You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.

This song gets me every time. Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Heaven is the Face” is a song about the passing of his daughter, but it also speaks of our hope in God to one day be with Him in a place where we’ll no longer have a need to cry.

What were you taught about crying? What do you believe about it now?

Monday Mentionables: Quinoa, Eyelid Artwork & Love Songs

Hola! Happy cinco de mayo and happy monday to you all. I hope you had a good weekend. I’m happy to announce that we finally took down our Christmas tree yesterday – it was a few months overdue, but better late than never, right? 😉

Here are today’s mentionables:

1. Quinoa. Okay, so the first thing you need to know about this word is that it’s pronounced “keen-wa”. And it’s a type of grain with edible seeds that is closely related to spinach and tumbleweeds. Doesn’t sound too appetizing? Think again. 🙂 It’s actually pretty tasty and also easy to cook. I just stick it in the rice cooker and add water (or you can try chicken broth); the ratio of quinoa to water is 1:2. Then you can either eat it straight like that in place of rice or pasta or you can mix it into a salad.

The other week we were at Sweet Tomatoes (E’s most favorite restaurant on earth) and they had a new quinoa salad. Hubby and I both liked it, so I took a picture of it and gave it a try at home. It turned out pretty well and has made it onto our regular “menu”. If you’ve never had quinoa before, I’d encourage you to give it a try. It’s super nutritious and high in antioxidant phytonutrients (try saying that fast!), which help with inflammation. You can find out more info about quinoa here.

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Courtesy of Sweet Tomatoes

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By moi 😉

2. Eyelid Artwork. I saw this article online about a makeup artist who uses eyeliner and eye shadow to create beautiful masterpieces on eyelids. Sounds strange, but take a look and see how cool it is. Let me know if you try it out yourself. 🙂

3. Love Songs. In light of today’s “holiday” – hubby and my 13th anniversary, I’m including a few of my favorite love songs. Take a listen to these if you’re in the mood for some romance. 😉

I Will Be Here by Steven Curtis Chapman

Right Here Waiting by Richard Marx

Not a Bad Thing by Justin Timberlake

Okie, that’s all for today. Have a wonderful day! 🙂

Parenting Lessons: Words vs. Actions

Whoever said, “Actions speak louder than words” obviously had children. How do I know this? Because the two little people who showed up on our doorstep one day and call me “MO-OM!” have made me painfully aware of every little thing I do.

I see my own actions in the way they talk to each other, in the words they use and more importantly, in the tone of voice they speak with. If they are more whiny or harsh than usual, it’s a good sign that I’m being more whiny and harsh than usual. Also, if they are being extra considerate and kind, it’s likely because hubby is home and treating them with consideration and kindness (and I am out doing some retail therapy, haha).

But something C said to me the other day really stopped me in my tracks. E and hubby were playing Mario downstairs and she had asked me to go upstairs with her to get a toy. As we were walking up the steps, I heard her sweet, innocent voice ask, “Do you want to do some work, Mom? I won’t bother you.”

I turned to her and immediately replied, “You don’t bother me! No, I don’t want to do work. We can snuggle!”

Her whole face lit up as if someone had turned on a fountain inside her body. Joy bubbled up and brightened her big brown eyes and her voice climbed up an octave. “Snuggle?! Okay!”

She grabbed my hand and soon after we sat on the couch with our arms wrapped around each other. No words, just a sweet time of being together.

That conversation with C made me think of just how much of what I say and do gets ingrained into her thoughts and beliefs. I cringe right now as I wonder how she got the notion in her head that she could be a bother to me. I don’t want my kids to ever think they burden, annoy or inconvenience me. But if you were to peek inside my heart during any given day, you would see the impatience and resentment I harbor there. And how those emotions spill out sometimes when I’m tired or frustrated. Which explains why C assumed I would rather spend time with a computer screen than with her.

Yikes. What a good wake up call.

There’s a verse from Proverbs that says:

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It occurred to me that training up a child involves as much what we say as what we do. Do we emphasize the importance of listening, but pay more attention to our phones than our kids? Do we want our kids to understand grace and forgiveness, but criticize them when they do wrong? Do we tell kids to love each other, but neglect to spend time with them?

I am so guilty of all this and more! But I am also thankful for the chances I have to be made aware of my shortcomings. And to keep trying and growing into a better, more loving and gracious parent. A parent that E and C need and deserve.

This song by Steven Curtis Chapman, “One Little Heartbeat at a Time” is just what a tired mom needs to hear. 🙂

How do you use your words and actions to influence the kids in your life?

A Funny Thing Called Grief

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/freedigitalphotos.net

Grief is a funny thing. It has a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it and bowls you over with its crushing weight. It remembers too much and with more details than you can bear to swallow. It fades away too slowly even though days, months and years have passed.

Grief taps me on the shoulder each time my eyes glance upon a cranberry colored dress hanging in the closet; it reminds me of happier times during my last pregnancy. Grief grips my heart when I see a black and white ultrasound picture saved on my desktop, which shows the image of two babies in my womb. Grief knocked the breath out of my lungs today when I remembered this was the month, five years ago, when we lost one of our twins.

During these five years, there have been periods of sorrow, anger and guilt. I have gone through all the what-ifs and why’s. I have racked my brain wondering if there was anything I could have done differently. There have been attempts to fix things and then the stark realization that some things just can’t be fixed.

Grief has been present every step of the way. It is a constant companion, one I have never welcomed, but which has become like an old friend. Over time, I have come to understand its purpose better. It does not stay around to haunt me, but to remind me of a previous time and place, of something beautiful and pure. It exists solely because of love.

Because of love, I had been overjoyed to see two little hearts pulsing on the ultrasound monitor when we had only expected to see one. I had dreamed big dreams for both of our babies, my heart expanding with joy once the initial shock wore off. I couldn’t wait to meet and hold them.

Because of love, I researched and bookmarked countless websites about twin pregnancies. I focused on eating for three and getting enough rest. I worried when I found out about the statistics for Vanishing Twin Syndrome, but I also hoped for the best.

Because of love, I went to the following prenatal appointment with a pounding heart. I scanned the monitor for signs of life as feelings of desperation grew in me with each passing second. I wept in my car for an hour after the doctor confirmed my worst fears.

Because of love, I grieved. For not being able to protect my child and prevent the miscarriage. For all the what-could-have-beens. For the day we will need to tell C about her other half.

Over time, grief and normality become intertwined in the day to day course of life. I suppose that’s when they say you have entered the fifth and last stage of grief: acceptance. This has to be my least favorite stage; it is not nearly as idyllic as denial or as empowering as bargaining. Acceptance means looking reality in the eyes and not turning away from its honest stare. To surrender what your heart has been holding onto with every ounce of passion and despair. Not because I love any less, but because love tells me it’s time to start living again.

I miss our baby, someone I have never met, but who is as real to me as the little girl with my oval shaped face and my husband’s spunky personality whom we joyfully welcomed into our family four years ago. Her presence at times reminds me of what we have lost, but more importantly, she constantly reminds me of all that we have been so blessed to have gained.

That is where I am this day, five years later. A little less sad, a little less wistful and a lot more thankful. Surprisingly, I find myself in a better place, one that is tinged with subtle hues of grief, but also coated with vibrant shades of love.

Listen to the beautiful words of this song, “Heaven is the Face“, by Steven Curtis Chapman.

Please share your own experiences with grief. I would be honored and encouraged to hear your story. 

In Memory of Sparkle

Our doggie pal, Sparkle, went to doggie heaven today.  After a decade of living with us, he is now resting peacefully and pain free.  The past year was a hard one on him with several recurring infections that just wouldn’t go away even with multiple rounds of antibiotics.  Despite his illnesses, he kept amazing us with his energy level.  He was one tough dog.

He was a loyal friend who had a rough start in life when we met him at a cocker spaniel rescue home.  He was looking for a family and didn’t hesitate one bit when we opened the car door that day; he jumped right on in and came home with us.  He loved flipping over on his back for tummy rubs and dragging us on walks (we never could train him to heel).

He survived the addition of two kids to the household and treated them well, except for the occasional times he managed to snatch a waffle or cracker out of their hands when they were toddlers (the kids have since grown taller and smarter).  He was our first pet, the eldest “grandchild” as my mom liked to call him, as well as, our first “guinea pig” for parenting practice.  I’m thankful for all the lessons he taught us and how he got me accustomed to cleaning up pee and poop long before the kids came along.

E and Sparkle a few years ago…

I’m most thankful for the conversation he sparked tonight between the kids and me after we told them he had passed.  I was dreading telling them, but fortunately hubby graciously did the job and did it well.  The kids’ initial reaction when they heard the news was summed up in E’s question, “Can we get another pet?”  I was partly relieved and surprised that they seemed to take the news so well, but chalked it up to their young age.  Little did I know, this was just the calm before the storm.

While hubby took Sparkle’s body to the vet’s, I got the kids ready for bed.  About 20 minutes later, the bigger questions started coming.  And boy, was I not ready for them.

“Can we bring our toys to heaven?”
“Will our body become a skeleton when we are buried?”
“How big is God?”
“What will we do in heaven?”
“Do kids and babies die?  Will I die?”
“What will happen to us when you guys die?”

I had the hardest time hearing C ask the last question and seeing her on the verge of tears.  What are you supposed to say to a three year old to calm her fears about losing her parents?  All I could do was scoop her up in my arms and reassure her that we are still here and she doesn’t need to worry about that.

Sigh.  If only it was that simple.  The reality of life is that it is temporary; everything living will eventually die.

There was a time when I thought I would live forever (and believed turning 20 would be the end of the world).  But now that I am nearing 40, and perhaps mid-life, I see that life is in fact very short and totally out of my control.  And having to explain these facts to my kids throws me completely off balance.

The only thing I have that keeps me grounded is hope.  Hope in a loving and forgiving God.  Hope in a place where there is no death or fear or tears or pain or itching due to eczema (which E had been wondering about).

And the best thing I know to do is to pass on this hope to my kids.  So that when the hard stuff of life hits them (and after we are no longer around), they will be able to stay anchored and hopeful.  Cause hope is the thing that keeps us going through each and every day that brings us that much closer to eternity.

In thinking about eternity, here’s a song by Steven Curtis Chapman that talks about the “Long Way Home”.

How have you (or would you) talk to your kids about death?