Today has been a long day, another day in which I have tried to balance raising children, maintaining a decent home, and pursuing my writing goals. Too often I berate myself for not doing anything full well.

It is very rewarding and aggravating being a mother. I have begun telling my children, "If I ask you several times nicely to do something, and you ignore me, that means you want me to yell. It means you want me to get your attention in a different way."

Yes, I know. They don't want me to yell, but I'm a bit fed up. They know to clear their plates, yet several evenings I find their dinner dishes still residing at table. We have hampers and shoe baskets in this house, but every day you can find footwear and articles of clothing scattered. They know to eat, take a shower, get dressed completely, brush hair and teeth, and pack lunches in the morning, yet every morning I ask them again and again to do what they should be doing. The habitual stress of school mornings can take years off a mother's life.

My kids are good kids. Teachers, coaches and friends regularly come to me and praise my children for their good manners, work ethic and attitudes. And I'm grateful my kids behave so well in public; I just wish they would behave for me! I get to see their unguarded selves, and I am blessed to witness the giggles, silliness and raw emotions. Still, it means I get all the attitude, complaints, and rude responses as well.

As for the house....well, I dream of having help. I'm not lazy, you know. I don't watch TV during the day. I don't lie on the couch eating chocolate and reading mystery novels. I try. I pick up things constantly and return them to their proper places. I sort and clear out school papers, junk mail, old clothes and toys, but my house is still what it is: a cluttered mess. I do dishes and laundry and vacuum and sweep and wipe clean, but this place still look s neglected. It brings me down. I don't mind having a small house (by modern standards); I just wish it looked nicer.

As for my writing? Well, I already covered that in my last post. I'm not lazy there, either. It's hard work for which I do not get paid, and I plug away at it. I'm just not as prolific or savvy as I wish I were.

Anyhow, today I weathered my youngest daughter's tantrum about taking a shower; saw a pile of clothes still on the floor after asking my son to put them up for the third time; examined the dust on my shelves, the disastrous yard, and the wreckage in my laundry room with something like despair; and realized anew that my youngest boy just wants me to entertain him continually despite the work and writing I have to do. So I haven't been feeling grateful. I've been feeling overwhelmed. Again. I don't know how other mothers work a part or full-time job, maintain a garden, indulge their creativity, cook regular meals, still play with the kids, spend time with their husbands, and get plenty of sleep. Is it possible? Sometimes I think it is for them, but not for me. I wasn't given the magic recipe.

Amid all this frustration today, I took my boy Danny to get a birthday present for a friend before picking his siblings up from school. He liked the gift he chose. When we got home he tried to open the gift bag we'd purchased to place the present inside. A few minutes later, he found me in the kitchen, the bag still folded in his hand, ripped down both sides.

"Danny, what happened?" I cried.

"I tried to open it," he answered softly.

I closed my eyes and covered my face with my hands, breathing deeply. More money wasted.

But then? I made a decision.

"It's okay, Danny. It was a mistake. We all make mistakes."

Berto started to scold Danny, but I pointed out that the little guy wasn't being disrespectful. He didn't rip the bag while throwing a fit. It was a mistake, and, as Ella pointed out, he came to me and told the truth.

I went outside to put the bag in recycling, reflecting on the day while having a little conversation with God:

Father, I'm having trouble being grateful today....all the aggravation. I want to be grateful. I me be grateful...

The last part was thought as I came back across the threshold into the house. As I saw my kids' faces, God answered my prayer in a surprising way. I saw an image of Jesus laughing over the ripped bag, over the silly things that happen, laughing with Danny and letting it go. And I let it go. The stress melted.

"It's okay," I told Danny again, this time with a lighter heart and restored attitude. "Jesus loves you."


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