The White Flags of Motherhood  

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Like the myriad of women who marched into motherhood before me, I was wholly and completely unprepared for the top-to-bottom, inside-to-out undoing that is mothering another soul.

That tiny voice that pierced the early morning hours of a late-April morning all those years ago, pierced every last fiber of my being, too. Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.

I would never be the same. Nothing would ever be the same (certainly not my hormones or my hips).

In a raw and unfiltered moment of humility, I might confess to you that, had I glimpsed the vastness of motherhood—the soaring joy and haunting sorrow, the to-the-marrow exhaustion and moment-by-moment dying to self, the all-consuming delight and constantly gnawing doubt, the swells of pride and gaping holes of disappointment, the glorious ordinary and the crippling monotony, the beauty and mystery and magic, the messiness and noisiness and sameness— I’m not at all certain that I would have been brave enough to choose it. Scratch that. I’m quite certain that I would not have been brave enough to choose it.

Fortunately, marvelously hard things have a way of swallowing us right up before we really even know what’s happening. To think of all that could have been lost…

I had a lot of ideas about motherhood. Most of them were wrong.  

Those first three months barreled in to me like a runaway train and I crawled from the wreckage a sleep-deprived, emotionally-disheveled, manically vigilant crazy person with a choice to make.

The First Great Reckoning.

I could succumb to a lifetime of worry-induced misery, watching my fears grow-up right alongside my child—Is she still breathing? Is she eating enough? Is this normal?  

Those anxiety ridden questions would never go away…not completely; they would spill over into new stages of life; they would morph into concerns about middle school and driving and dating, oh my, and on and on and on until, eventually, I would fret my way right into an empty nest and an early grave—or I could accept the truth that I had brought an infinitely precious gift into a terribly broken world and that to protect this child, and all the ones who would follow after her, from any heartache or harm, through sheer want and willpower was beyond the reach of my control and the boundary of my assignment.

Imagining a limitless amount of make-believe catastrophes couldn’t prevent a single one from actually taking place, but it sure could make for a treacherous journey. Before my child could even roll over, she’d already drowned, been kidnapped, sustained a concussion, and developed an eating disorder.

Listen, Friend, real life is hard enough. You and I do not have the grace or strength or energy to walk through the turmoil of fictional circumstances and the tragedy of made-up scenarios.

The relentless fear that blindsided me in those newborn days of mothering brought me to my knees more quickly than I’d care to admit and hurled me face-to-face with the reality that if I held any hope at all of being a somewhat peaceful, relatively resilient, occasionally joyful mother, then I’d better figure out my next move STAT, because I may have come out swinging, but I was about to get knocked out in the first round.

And so, as a fledging and already haggard young mother, I pried open my fingers, one white knuckle at a time, and let go of the notion that if I just tried hard enough, worked hard enough, prayed hard enough, cared hard enough, if I read the right books and cooked the right food and chose the right schools, if I didn’t raise my voice or lower my guard or lose my patience, then I could keep my children totally safe and perfectly healthy and entirely happy, that if I could just do all the right things, at all the right times, in all the right ways, then everything would turn out…well…right.

I waved my first white flag.

Surrender: not defeat, but progress; not an apathetic, cowardly giving-up, but a resolute, courageous giving-in; not an admission that something is right or good or fair, but an acknowledgment that something simply…is; not a finale, but a start—to grieving or celebrating or changing or accepting or coping or moving on or walking through; an end to fighting with reality and a staunch decision to look it squarely in the face.    

Children get hurt. They get cancer. They die in car wrecks and housefires and freak accidents. This child, whom I loved with more than my whole heart, could be gone from me in one dreadful, shocking instant.

Even mothers who love their children fiercely fail them in countless ways through the growing up years, because even mothers who love their children fiercely are flawed and broken and imperfect, just like me, just like life.

I went there. I said it out loud. I sat with it.

I dragged my heaviest fears, kicking and screaming, right out into the light of day and they loosened their suffocating grip just enough for me to take one big, long, deep breath for the first time since becoming a mother. Freedom, the great paradox of surrender.        

In many ways, the song of each new season—adoption, homeschooling, miscarrying, fostering, moving, changing/leaving/losing/loving/hating jobs—has mimicked the rhythm of those maiden days of mothering.

Nearly a decade in to this parenting gig and my white flags could stretch to the moon and back. Ten (thousand) times.

Wrestle, surrender, embrace, wrestle, surrender, embrace…the ebb and flow of motherhood.

The raising up of little humans, who will one day charge out into the world as light-bearers and difference-makers is the mightiest, most extraordinary work that we will ever put our hands to.

It’s unspeakably terrible and unimaginably wonderful and, mostly, it’s just plain ordinary.

It’s dirty feet and crooked haircuts and endless questions.

It’s Sharpie-ed walls and broken China and wet beds.

It’s pinworms and ringworm and pink eye (we really should get medals for some of this stuff).

It’s music lessons and permission slips and ER visits.

It’s phonics and manners and errands.

It’s all the things you never imagined yourself saying, like, “Don’t eat donuts off the street,”

“No, I promise you won’t get bitten by a shark in the lake,”

and, for those of us lucky enough to be bringing up boys, it’s 1001 variations of “Don’t use your you-know-what for THAT!”

Motherhood is never (like, never, ever, ever) quite what I expect it to be, but I’ve squandered too many days wandering through the wilderness of what-ifs, if-onlys, why-mes, how comes, and why-nots, so I’m reaching for those white flags a little more quickly these days.

I’m learning to fight better battles—not the circumstances or moments themselves, but my response and reaction to them.

I’m learning to accept each moment for what it is—to sit with the sadness, the boredom, the happiness, the anger, the loneliness; to lay aside my idea of what the day…the week…my life…should be like and to embrace it, wholeheartedly, for what it actually is.

Sometimes it’s gut-wrenching work, like grieving the loss of a dear old friend, and sometimes it’s as effortless as breathing, but we can never be truly content with or grateful for what is until we make some sort of peace with what is not.

Here’s the thing, I’ve nearly worn my soul right through trying to force myself and motherhood to be what I thought they should be (read: control everything and be perfect). I’m done. No more half-life living. I don’t always often get it right, but I’m learning to embrace that, too.

The truth is, Sister, on my best day, you’ll find me holding on for dear life to the end of a very frayed rope, in yesterday’s leggings and a dry-shampooed ponytail, second (okay, fine…third) cold cup of coffee in hand, because, even on its most uncomplicated day, motherhood simply demands more than I have to give.

I need Jesus and my mama. I need my partner and my friends. I need you, the women beside me in the trenches, tirelessly wiping sticky faces, doggedly stewarding little hearts, faithfully feeding hungry mouths and minds. I need Netflix and a hot bath. I need Google to help me understand the words that are coming out of my teenager’s mouth.

Some days I need a bottle of red and a good, old-fashioned, honest cry. I need to bring store bought cookies to the potluck, because, Patty PTA, I can only bring my A-Game to so many things and this ain’t one of them, thank you very much. I need five minutes of alone time every now and again.

I need my people to remind me of the finish-line, when my feelings get too weighty. I need wrinkle cream and a really, really good chiropractor. I need help navigating tantrums and diagnoses and allergies and attachment disorders and Algebra-I homework. I need to have a little chat with the brains behind Baby Shark and Daylight Saving Time.

I need to be forgiven and reassured and taught and encouraged and loved-in-spite-of…         

I’m an imperfect mother, raising (lots of) imperfect children, in an imperfect world and I’m finally okay(ish) with that.

How about you? Can we practice:

  • Surrendering our perfection to embrace showing up, day-after-day, to mother our children with as much wisdom and grace as we can muster          

  • Surrendering our guilt to embrace growth     

  • Surrendering our pride to embrace our need for community (bring on the casseroles, ladies!)

  • Surrendering saying yes to e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g to embrace saying yes to the best things—the things that leverage our stories, our time, and our abilities for the greatest good of others

  • Surrendering the urgency of our agendas to embrace opportunities to honor our children as real people, with real feelings and needs, instead of managing them like inconvenient interruptions (let’s be real; children are terribly inconvenient…like weeping and gnashing of teeth over crumpled socks inconvenient…but they are not inconveniences…see the difference?)

  • Surrendering our ideal spouses and children and homes to embrace, as gifts, the ones we’ve actually been given

  • Surrendering our fear to embrace defiant hope that we will be equipped and empowered to walk through whatever the future holds   

  • Surrendering what should have been to embrace what is

Let’s lock arms, Mama, wave those white flags high, and march on with strength (but not in Mom Jeans…for the love of everything, let’s never surrender to those).

Kelsey Harrison is a former counselor, turned sometimes speaker/writer and all the time mom. She and her husband are living in functional chaos, with their four forever kiddos and one foster love, in the foothills of the North Georgia mountains.

Kelsey Harrison is a former counselor, turned sometimes speaker/writer and all the time mom. She and her husband are living in functional chaos, with their four forever kiddos and one foster love, in the foothills of the North Georgia mountains.

Fat, Stretch Marks, and Hope

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I am 5’11. When I was 16 years old, I weighed 130 pounds. I realize now this is a perfectly healthy weight, but at the time I felt like a cow. My friends were much smaller, and much slimmer. No matter how hard I tried, my size 8 body never fit into their size 2 clothes.

I always felt so fat. So unworthy.

Sloppy. Lazy. Gross.

Like the size of my body meant that I was less than them. Less pretty. Less important. Less loved.

Now, my body has carried 3 babies. I have a stretched out stomach and cellulite on my thighs. I would give my left boob to go back and be how “fat” I thought I was as a teenager.

My size 14 jeans make me long for the days when I thought 130 pounds was “huge.”

As an adult, I have gained weight. I have birthed children, but I skipped the whole “body bouncing back” part. I have red and white stretch marks, saggy skin, and a weird fat fold around my c-section scar.

My butt is huge, but not in a fun Kardashian way. I have more of a “deep and wide” situation going on with my rear. My metabolism has slowed way down. My thighs jiggle and wiggle. And I refuse to wear underwear that doesn’t almost touch my belly button.

Oh, if teenage me could see the future, she would have gladly embraced a life of celibacy, salads, and all-day cardio.

My body has changed a lot. But my thoughts on my body have not. I’m still just as harsh. Just as judgmental of myself. Sometimes downright hateful.

I still stand in the mirror when I get out of the shower, and take a mental inventory of my flaws.

If I don’t stand-up straight, I appear three months pregnant. Which, unless God has a big joke in the works, I am most certainly not.

I make plans to change, to workout and give up carbs, to fit into my old jeans. I feel guilt every time I inevitably fail.

Most days, I still don’t love my body, and by extension- sometimes I don’t really love myself.

This has to stop. I can’t pass this on to my daughters. I can’t have them looking at their bodies in search of flaws. I don’t want them to put all of their worth in what they see in the mirror.

I hope with all my heart they don’t compare themselves to their friends, or the women in magazines. I need them to know that if they have a period in life where they gain weight, that it does not define them.

I want them to know, what I still am trying to convince myself.

I may have some cellulite, but I am not cellulite.

You may have stretch marks, but you are not stretch marks.

We might have fat, but we are not fat.

This is not WHO we are.

We are women.

We are life-givers.

We are encouragers and creatives.

We are helpers.

We are bosses and leaders.

We are all the things, almost none of which depend on how we look.

We have to let it go. I have to let it go. I don’t have the space in my life to let my imperfections keep consuming me.

My stretch marks are a reminder that my children grew inside me.

My flabby skin is proof my body housed life.

My saggy belly button is badge of honor.

It is an absolute miracle that I get to hold the same sweet hands that were knit together in my womb. My child grew from a microscopic dot, to a baby- right within me! I would feel my son’s kicks, hiccups, and stretches from inside. Now, he clings to my body when he is cold or scared. My back is used for playing horses, and my chest is the perfect napping place.

My body is a temple of security and safety for my children. My son will crawl into my arms when he’s are hurt or confused. He doesn’t care about my fat rolls or the saggy skin under my arms. I am enough for him. I am enough for all of my children. What more proof do I need that my body is to meant be loved and respected, instead of hated and picked apart?

I will probably lose weight, and gain weight, and lose weight again at different points in my life. I will keep being active, and trying my best to be healthy. Some days I will eat all my veggies and workout, and some days I will eat junk food and enjoy a movie marathon from my couch. But through it all, I will be more than a number on a scale or a size on my jeans.

I am a woman, who is too busy with life and love to be consumed by loose skin, a little extra fat, or the fact that I will never have a gap between my thighs. I have friends and family who love me. I have new people to meet and places to see. I have more important things to worry about than the flaws in the mirror.

Let’s celebrate all our bodies can do, instead of obsessing over how our bodies look. We women really are amazing!

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Seven Simple Rules to Keep Your Child Safe on the Internet

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This year, my daughter asked for a laptop for Christmas. I did research on filters and considered how to best safeguard my family from the scary stories I have heard about children and the internet.

On my rational days, I know that my daughter is responsible and that she will learn to use technology safely with our help. On my more dramatic days, I think that she will immediately open her first laptop to see nasty computer porn, and that Chris Hansen from “To Catch a Predator” will surely be in my living room next week.

After hours of research, it seemed like there was no real way to both protect my child and to allow her to have a computer. I know that technology will be a big part of her life, and I want to help her build a healthy relationship with that technology. I also know that the threats of predators and disturbing content is real.

I was at a loss. So, I reached out to a friend who is a an expert in this area.

Bobbi Lynne Starr, is the Executive Director of Micah’s Promise, an organization that fights child sex trafficking and provides resources and healing to minors who have been rescued from this devastating reality. She has been studying the issue for 10 years and has made the mission on Micah’s Promise her life’s work. She is a warrior for justice and a wealth of knowledge on how technology and interactive toys can make our children vulnerable to predators. The stories I have heard about the battles they fight within the child sex industry and the relationship technology plays in it all, terrifies me as a mother.

Children from our own communities are being plucked away from innocence and safety, and this is more likely to happen from a false relationship online than being randomly kidnapped from a store or home.

Any advice she can offer to guard our family, I will implement without pause.

Here is some of what Ms. Starr and her Executive Administrator, Raven Henderson shared.

Bobbi lynne starr- Executive director of Micah’s Promise - Photo by Shannon B. Whittington photography

Bobbi lynne starr- Executive director of Micah’s Promise - Photo by Shannon B. Whittington photography

We all want to protect our children and provide them the wonderful opportunities that technology seems to offer. Our kids see the cool gadgets and games that their friends have, and they want in. We want to give them all of these things, while also keeping them safe. The conundrum of being a fun mom or an overbearing mom can feel like a tough balance.

You need to know that any interactive toy can put your children at risk. There are toys and gifts we give children that allow them to connect to the internet, that you may not consider a threat:

  • smart phones

  • laptops and iPads

  • gaming systems

  • smart TV’s

  • ANYTHING that allows wifi - even some stuffed animals

If your child has access to any of the above items, they are at risk.  A toy or device that connects with the internet can allow predators access to your child.

Predators go where the prey is, and unfortunately they see our children as that prey. A paycheck. An opportunity. A predator can easily camouflage themselves in the sea of young people online by pretending to be one of them.

This is much more of an issue than most may realize.

  • Human trafficking is the second largest criminal enterprise and quickly surpassing the drug trade.

  • The multi-billion-dollar industry is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world.

  • In the U.S. there are an estimated 300,000 American children vulnerable to trafficking or currently being sexually exploited.

  • The average age of victims of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking is 11-14.  

  • 3,600 children are sold for sex each year in Georgia alone. (statistic provided by streetgrace.org)

Even your seemingly tech-savvy kid can be fooled by an evil person behind a screen that knows and has studied how to mimic a child. These predators have learned to mirror your child’s interests in an effort to become their new best friend.

Also, parent’s need to consider the content their children will be consuming, and how this will effect them. I am sure you are aware of the prevalence and accessibility of pornography.

The current research shows that the average age in which a child is first exposed to porn is nine.

It is important to have conversations with your children about what to do if, or rather when, they see pornographic images. Keep the lines of communication open, and let them know they can always come to you. Pornography can be extremely addicting, and these images are hard to get out of a child’s mind.

This is all enough to scare a mom to move their family into the basement and shield them from this scary world forever, but obviously this isn’t the answer.

Know the risks and dangers, but don’t live in fear. With the right tools, techniques, and communication, we can keep our children safe.

Here are seven tips that I believe will help keep your children safe on the internet-

  1. Set-up technology rules and procedures early.

    Set the expectation before they get a new computer or game. Make the rules clear. In an age-appropriate way, share with your child the dangers that come with the internet.

  2. Keep the computer in a communal location.

    As a mom, you know when things are quiet -- someone might be up to something. Eliminate this by keeping the computer/tablet in plain sight. We know kids are more likely to follow the rules when everyone can see them.

  3. Keep volume audible when your child has an interactive game.

    Popular games like Fortnite allow children to speak with other players.  A predator may retreat when they can tell your child has a parent nearby. Some predators will notice when a parent is near and lure a child to another website or platform. With audible gaming you can help your child resist the pressure and temptation to follow bad guys to other parts of the internet. Make your mama bear presence clear, and predators will back off.

  4. Ask questions.

    When your child leaves the house, they ask your permission to go somewhere and then you ask lots of questions about who will be there and what they will be doing. You then make a decision, and give stipulations of how long they can stay.

    The same applies to going online. Ask them what they will be doing. Make stipulations on their screen time. Don’t give your children the illusion of privacy on the internet. Know exactly what is going on.

  5. Make sure your child’s accounts are private.

    Children should only accept friend requests from people they know in real life. Predators can gain access to your child's friend lists by becoming friends of friends. Counteract this measure by not allowing them to build new friendships with people they meet online.

  6. Be honest with your child about the risks of letting strangers in.

    Remind your children that predators are out there. It is ok for your children to have a healthy fear that will hopefully lead to safe behavior. Tell them that predators are looking for them to let their guard down.  When they express being lonely, angry, or feeling down a predator can see that as a time to press in.  A popular technique used by predators, is to take advantage of a moment a child is mad at their parents and build a wedge between them. Predators are patient and may be hiding in your child’s large list of online friends for years

  7. Only allow apps that are age appropriate.

    I would argue that any app that allows adults unrestricted access to your child is not age appropriate. Messaging apps are particularly dangerous.

    Some popular apps be extremely cautious of or avoid all together:

    1. Snapchat

    2. Musical.ly

    3. Omegle

    4. Kik

As moms, we are tasked with growing and protecting our kids into life changing adults. While the risks and dangers of technology are a lot to take in, it’s the only way to protect our children. It may be awkward and uncomfortable to have these conversations, but our children’s safety and innocence are worth it.

I encourage you to visit Micah’s Promise to learn more about their work and how you can get involved in safeguarding your children and the children in our community.

Bobbi Lynne Starr - Executive Director of Micah’s Promise

Raven Henderson - Executive Administrator

For more information on Micah’s Promise visit  www.micahpromise.org  or  www.instagram.com/micahspromise_official/

For more information on Micah’s Promise visit www.micahpromise.org or www.instagram.com/micahspromise_official/

Dear Husband, It's Time You Know the Truth About Christmas

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Dear Husband,

You may have noticed that I’ve been a little stressed out lately. This is the most demanding time of the year, and I am barely holding it together.

Some of this may come as a surprise to you, because even explaining all of the unchecked boxes on my to-do list sparks anxiety. So, I keep it to myself, probably leaving you completely oblivious that my already ginormous workload is tripled in the month of December.

You may even think Santa is responsible for all the Christmas magic, but it’s time you know the truth.

I am Santa.

I am the one bringing the heap of Christmas cheer to our lives. I’m making a list and checking it more than twice. Only I don’t have elves, reindeer, a magic workshop, or a jolly Misses at home to help me out. It’s just me making Christmas bright, year after year.

But this year, things are about to change.

It’s 2018, and men are sharing the workload at home. You help me clean the kitchen. You help with the kid’s bedtime routine. You are a great partner! So, in the spirit of equality and progress, I would now like to share with you an exhaustive list of my Christmas duties in hopes that you might be able to help me out.

  1. Around November, I start thinking of what we want our holiday to look like. What Christmas means to our family, and how we express that through our celebrations. Less presents with more meaning. More experiences. Treasured traditions worthy of being passed down to the next generation.

  2. I hang lights and decorate the tree. I put out angels and Santas. I hang garland and stockings.

  3. I get advent calendars. The countdown to Christmas is a fun and practical tradition, because without a display they will ask 82 times a day, “How many more days until Christmas?!?”

  4. I gather teacher gifts. This is a big one, because we have some...high maintenance children and some truly amazing teachers. They need thoughtful gifts that convey how much we appreciate them and that we understand that they have the hardest job on the planet. Something they will actually want, not another mug or piece of apple decor. Something practical and thoughtful and significant. Also, we have sixteen teachers between all of our children, so we need these gifts to be budget friendly.

  5. I buy presents for the kids. I am careful to research which toys will last. I read reviews. I look at STEAM toys and consider educational benefits. I have to balance this with the plastic crap they ask for because of some dumb commercial. (The marketing on the Disney Channel could convince them to join a children’s cult in 30 seconds.) These toys that “they have to have” are expensive and will definitely break almost immediately. Also, I need to buy these must-have toys before Thanksgiving, or they will be impossible to find, unless I’m willing to drop $300 on Ebay for the Toy of the Year. I am not.

  6. I shop for your presents, sweet husband.

  7. I buy gifts for dirty santa parties, the babysitter, and coaches. I buy gifts for family. All the grandparents, aunts, uncles,and cousins.

  8. I spend time considering if we should get something for people we only see a few times a year. The office staff, your work friends, and my carpool partners. I pick out generic gifts and wrap them, just in case I missed someone. I usually forget what/where this gift is when I actually need it.

  9. I buy matching Christmas pajamas.

  10. I plan pictures with Santa.

  11. I schedule time for us to drive around and look at lights.

  12. I make sure we have hot cocoa and popcorn for movie night.

  13. I make costumes for the Christmas play.

  14. I lay out our nicest church clothes for the Christmas Eve church service.

  15. I make sure we have a recent family picture, and order Christmas cards to send out to all of our friends and family. Actually, I usually fail at this one. But other families are really good about it, and we should be more like them.

  16. I plan holiday baking. Goodies for neighbors, the mailman, and friends.

  17. I plan and shop for gingerbread houses and make cookies for the kids to decorate, that nobody but those gross kids would ever dream of eating.

  18. I plan Christmas Eve Dinner, party appetizers, potluck side dishes, and a fun and nostalgic Christmas morning breakfast.

  19. I read family devotions and set up nativities. I do my best to make sure our children understand the true meaning of Christmas. I try to foster a spirit of giving. I set-up volunteer opportunities. I encourage the children to donate toys to those less fortunate. I try to convey why we celebrate Christmas in this family. This is not an easy task. I’m preaching my heart out about love and hope and redemption. But no matter what I do, it seems almost impossible to compete with Santa and presents and parties and sugar. Now is usually when I have a mini-breakdown and wonder if I’m raising bratty children who will surely become selfish entitled adults.

  20. I make countless trips to the store for extra batteries and chocolate chips and whatever else I forgot until the last minute. I buy wrapping paper and rolls of tape.

  21. I lose and find every pair of scissors we own while wrapping gifts. I stuff the stockings.

  22. I stuff my face and gain around seven pounds. I would like to find a way to stop, but Christmas treats are bomb.

  23. I stay up late with you on Christmas Eve. This is your time to shine, and you do a great job putting together the four-foot magical dream castle!  In only three and a half hours. You make sure everyone of the parts are put together perfectly. And you do it all while completely ignoring the step-by-step instructions included in the box.

  24. On Christmas Morning, I make sure everything is perfect. I take pictures. I do my best to make memories that will last a lifetime. I usually cry because I am overcome with gratitude. We are so lucky, and our children are so beautiful. But this overwhelming feeling of love lasts only a short while, and I soon start yelling for everyone to clean up this MESS or all the toys are going to be given to children to actually appreciate their things and listen to their mother!

  25. I get the kids to write thank you cards for their gifts. Before the new year, I clean-up and put everything away.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it. I wouldn’t change a thing about our traditions, except maybe the me gaining weight and screaming part.

I love Christmas, and I’m thankful that we have the means and resources that allow us to do so much. I am grateful that we have such wonderful family and friends to celebrate with. But it’s a lot to carry by myself.

I must admit, this is partly my fault. I haven’t made my needs clear. I haven’t let you know how you can help. But that stops now. Here’s what I need from you.

I need you to check in with me a couple times a week. See what I have going on and how you can lighten my load. Or, even better, if you see something that needs to be done, just do it! If I can delegate some of the shopping or planning to you, that would give me time to breathe and enjoy the season.

I need you to encourage me. Remind me that I’m not alone.

I need you to tell the children to stop being monsters. They get so high on sugar and entitlement, that they can start acting like evil little elves. You are great at calming them down and centering them. Do more of that.

I need you to stuff my stocking. That sounds perverted, but get your mind out of the gutter. I mean it in the most literal sense. On Christmas morning, I would love to see a stocking full of surprises and goodies that I didn’t buy. You may wonder what I want. Literally, anything!  Candles, lip gloss, hair stuff, make-up, perfume, ponytail holders, pens, gift cards, and the fancy $6 chocolate they sell at Target. Women love little things that they wouldn’t normally buy themselves. So fill that stocking up, my love!

I want a gift on Christmas morning. Sometimes I say I don’t, but I really do!  I want something to open that I didn’t put in the Amazon cart or that I didn’t buy and wrap myself. I want to be surprised. I want you to listen to me all year when I drop hints about the things I want/need/would like to have. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but I would love for it to be thoughtful.

I want a thank you from you and the kids. I want to know that all I do means something.

I want to keep doing all we do around the holidays, but I want to do it with a little less stress and a little more help.

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