Best Mom Ever Status????

Something has occurred in my household numerous times over the last….well, I’m not even sure how long…as long as I remember, I guess.  I’ll be snuggling my children on the couch, or at bedtime, or we’ll be sitting down to supper, or we’ll be doing nothing in particular, and my children, my son or my daughter, will look at me and declare, “You’re the best mom ever.”  The statement throws me off every single time.  I usually respond with, “Well I do love you with all of my heart.”  I don’t say thank you, I don’t own that title, I don’t feel deserving…instead, I feel a kind of guilt sweep over me, thinking “No, no I’m the not the best mom ever. I could be so much better.”

Have you ever felt that?  That feeling that you’re being credited with something that just isn’t yours to own…and by the person/people that you love more than anything else on this planet.  Those people that you owe everything to because they bring you the most happiness, the most contentment, the most joy.  A feeling of shame because you can’t or won’t do more for them.  That feeling, that shameful, guilty feeling is the one that sweeps over me, when my beautiful children look to me, thinking that I am someone that I am just not.

That feeling, that shameful, guilty feeling is the one that sweeps over me, when my beautiful children look to me, thinking that I am someone that I am just not.

Here are the things that keep me from owning that “Best Mom” status…these are the things that make me feel guilty and less than:

  1. I don’t listen.  I don’t listen to my children.  I started a tradition a long time ago with my children for them to tell me each day about their high and low moment.  I did this out of fear that they would grow up and not talk to me about their lives, so I thought I would open the communication channels early.  Let me tell you, talking is not a problem in my house.  My children talk all the time, non-stop, every moment…about sports cars, YouTube videos, music, video games, friends, teachers, cell phones, animals…you get the idea.  And some times, more times than I care to admit, I nod my head without listening, because I can’t take it all in…knowing full and well a day will come when their chatter won’t fill every moment of my life.  Knowing I shouldn’t take this for granted, but still, I don’t listen.
  2. I feed them crap.  Not literal crap, but you know…poptarts, cereal, Beefaroni, Ramen Noodles, lunchables.  I know these are not healthy choices…far from organic or natural…definitely not fresh or nutritious.  My children deserve healthy, wholesome, nutritious food, and I try to get those things to them them regularly.  But I also just settle for feeding them the instant, easy junk because, well because…it’s instant and easy.  No other excuses.  Along these same lines, I also don’t fix my kids’ lunch for school.  No fancy, pretty bento lunches for the Hafele children.  My daughter actually asked to bring lunch to school the other day, and I just said “No” for no other reason than I don’t want to fix my kids’ school lunch every single evening…or ever.
  3. I haven’t exercised with my kids for a long time.  In the past, I have had great parenting moments where my kids and I ride bikes,go for runs, walk to the park and do all of these great active things together.  But I’ve not had one of those moments for a long time.  For a while because I was finishing my MBA, and now because I’m pregnant and out of shape, but they deserve to have a mom who gets down and plays with them on their level.  The fact that I can’t and haven’t done that, makes me feel nothing short of horrible.
  4. I love to go to work.  I love my job and my career and working.  Even if I had the option to stay home with my children financially, I don’t think that I would.  I love spending time with my children, but my career is fulfilling for me as an unique human being.  I feel challenged by and excited for my career  in a way that is 100% my own, and I’m not willing to give that up.  I grew up in a household where my mother stayed home from work to raise me, so this is a tough one for me.  Don’t my children deserve that same focus and dedication?  Does it make me a bad mom that I’m not willing to sacrifice my professional aspirations to be a full time mom?
  5. I don’t remind them to brush their teeth every single night, I forget to give my daughter her allergy medicine some mornings, I don’t always remember to clean their ears or trim their nails, my daughter’s finger nails aren’t painted, she doesn’t have ear rings in, I don’t watch my son practice ball in our yard, I don’t craft them homemade items, I don’t scrapbook for them, I never finished either of their baby books, I fail at turning in their paperwork 5/10 times, I watch movies with them that other parents would think are too mature for them, I listen to music with them that has cuss words in it, I feel irritated when I have to stop my podcast in the morning because my bathroom has been overrun by my children, sometimes I just want a break and then I miss them like crazy when they’re gone, some days I don’t want to do tuck-ins at bedtime, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility, and 100,000,000 other things I that do wrong or at least not perfectly.

This list could go on forever.  But the truth is that I love my children deeply and wildly.  I thank God for them every single day, even when I’m tired and overwhelmed.  And for all of my faults, I truly do the best that I can.  My logical side tells me that God made these children just for me, He is all-knowing, and He would never put them in my hands if I wasn’t the best mom for them.

My logical side tells me that God made these children just for me, He is all-knowing, and He would never put them in my hands if I wasn’t the best mom for them.

So certainly, I am not perfect, and the older I get the less I try for perfection.  But maybe through the laughter we share, through the hugs and the kisses, through the silly faces and dances, through the homecooked meals and dinners at the table that I do get accomplished, through setting an example for them of what hard work and passion looks like, through dedication and devotion to their father, through forgiveness and understanding, through real conversations about the joyous and hard things in life, through moments in the garden, through movie nights on the couch, through family fun days…maybe through these moments, I deserve the best mom status.  Best for them, my children, my gift, my greatest accomplishment.  Maybe next time I hear those words, I can feel pride and not shame.  Maybe I can say thank you, smile, and let them know they are the best children too.

Maybe I can say thank you, smile, and let them know they are the best children too.

Maybe we all can do just that…and take pride that our children see us as we actually are, not in the flawed ways that we see ourselves.

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Some Days You Just Have to Say WHATEVER

Some days are better than others. Some days grind at your will to stay a sane, practical human being. Today has been a day (and by today, I mostly mean the last three hours of my life) that has made me want to throw my hands up in the air and say “WHATEVER”. You know what kind of “WHATEVER” I mean…for those of us that don’t use four letter words….”WHATEVER” tends to summarize the effect that this mom is D-O-N-E.

Tonight this is what I made for supper. We have switched to a vegetarian diet (nearly vegan when possible), and I put a lot of energy into trying to feed my family something healthy, fresh and delicious. Tonight’s meal was stuffed sweet potatoes…a mix between sweet and savory. It was good, really good. I know because I ate it. My family however reacted as though I had served them poison. “Sweet potatoes?! I HATE SWEET POTATOES!” they say. Who hates sweet potatoes??? Weirdos.
6000 – 3746 ….this is the math problem that brought not only my son, who was performing the work, to tears, but this piece of arthmitic also had my daughter crying. She can’t be in the vicinity of someone having a bad day and not one-up them. I waited through two melt downs as Jace resisted listening because he just needed to play after a long day at school. I stared at my daughter as she squealed in distress because her brother touched her with his toe. 

Tonight I wanted to say “WHATEVER”….don’t eat….go hungry….don’t learn….who needs subtraction. I wanted to run away (fast!). But I didn’t. We got through every grueling bite of sweet potato. I watched as Jace held his nose, tilted his head back, swallowed hard and then chased his putrid potato with his drink. 

Now I will get up and wash the dishes and I will scrape my husband’s full dinner into the trash (he consoled me for his refusal to eat the food I cooked by apologizing to me that he didn’t like my “yam thing”). 

I can’t help to think back to Sunday morning. I sat in church and listened to my Pastor say that we’re all created in God’s own image. She told us to look at the people sitting next to us and we are actually looking at God’s creation, His creation in His own image. I looked over and saw my children. In that moment I knew without a doubt that she was totally and completely right. These crazy, whiny, emotional, picky-eating children. These loving, caring, funny, sweet, little creations of God. 

They were made by God in His own image just for me. They’re all mine. Every day. On the good days. On the not-so-good days. Every single day they are my gift. So I’ll get up and do my dishes, we’ll read bedtime stories, I’ll tuck them in and I’ll be thankful. I’ll be thankful that I didn’t say “WHATEVER”. I’ll remember that they need me to guide them. They are my responsibility, but even more than that, they are my gift. I am incredibly and bountifully blessed. And instead of saying “WHATEVER”, I’ll say “Whatever He asks of me.” That’s the trade. My children are a gift and it’s not supposed to be easy. So even on the bad days, I’ll do whatever I’m called to do….because I get to be called “Mom”.

Room for Doubt

My faith has become a center for my life.  My marriage, the way I raise my children, my friendships and even my career are heavily shaped by my faith and where I feel I fit into God’s world.  I have talked friends through times of crisis.  I have pushed myself and my family through times of grief all on the back of my sturdy and solid faith.  But I have to share that I’ve had moments where my faith fell.

I hesitate to write on this because it feels a bit taboo as a Christian. Is it okay to say I have moments of doubt? Is it okay to admit that in my life’s darkest moments, I have felt the terror of wondering if I am alone? Does this make me a bad Christian?   

It was nearly a month ago that I found myself in this dark place. It hit me like a ton of bricks. My happy, peaceful little life was turned on its head. My plans were interrupted. The things that had been important the day before, suddenly had no significance. And with this swift turn of events, I felt incredibly weak in my faith.

I struggled in my pain and confusion and I wondered, is my God real? This idea of a soul, is it more than an elaborate, hard-wiring in our brains? Are we nothing more than the most amazing computer that biology ever evolved? The feelings I had in those moments with my thoughts are hard to describe. I don’t think I can find a way to write the emptiness of doubt.

I have heard of people hearing an answer from God. I mean actually hearing. There are Biblical stories and those experiences my friends have shared. But those have always been just stories. Something that happened for someone else, but not me. I have cried out in loss to God and felt resentful at the return of silence. But this time, in the silence of my doubt, I could hear for the first time.

I received an answer.  I heard a clear, calm voice and it told me, 

“No. This life is not it.  You are more than your personality.  You are more than your intelligence. You are more than the way you feel about one another.  There is more to you than the way the world perceives you.  You. Are. More. Than. The. World. Can. See.”  

I was astounded in my heartbreak.  How did I never understand this?  I had thought the soul was so simple. I have explained it to my children time and time again saying, “Our soul makes us who we are…why Jace is funny…why Jera is stubborn…why we feel and cry and think.”

But suddenly I knew with absolute certainty that that isn’t it at all. We can change the way the world sees us.  We can mimic another’s behavior.  We can pretend to be someone we’re not.  We can fool the world. We can make the world love us. We can make the world hate us.  But only God sees who we truly are…only God has access to our souls.  Only God knows us, the deep down, secret parts of us.  The parts that we don’t show our lovers and our friends.  The parts that our family never knows.  The part that we might not even recognize.  The part that is tucked away and is only for God, our Creator.  

This part of us knows only God. Our soul doesn’t create a persona. It doesn’t design an interesting human being.  Our personality is certainly a gift to us. It is a tool that can be used to do God’s work.  And our relationships and the way we relate to one another, again, are separate from our soul. These bonds are again, a way for us to show God’s love to one another in this life.  But our personality and our relationships are not US.  They do not determine who we are and without them, we are still us.  

If tomorrow something happens in this life, my memories are taken from me and you can’t recognize me as the often bubbly, sometimes overly serious, too guilible and always passionate person, wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend that I have always been….God will still know me. He can see past all of the qualities that the world uses to define me. He can see what I’m made of. 

This is my answer. This was my experience. My gift in my time of doubt. I’ve never felt so certain of anything in my life.  In my darkest moment, in my doubt, God was listening and he provided my answer.

I still went to sleep that night with a troubled and heavy heart.  But I knew I was not alone.  Difficult times are not over for my family. Over the past month, God has shown himself to my family and to me…little, undeserving, doubting me…again and again.  I hope to tell the world about God’s work in my life.  It is my greatest responsibility to share it with you. 

I hope you read this and know that if you doubt, it’s okay. We are only human. I never thought I would react with doubt in a time of desperation…but I did. And my faith grew in leaps and bounds from this experience. Our faith can grow from our human experience. It should. I’m starting to realize, that’s the whole point. And when you doubt, God will love you anyway.

Case Closed

I finally returned to work on Wednesday morning. After my son’s tonsillectomy and finding a lump in my breast over the previous seven days, it felt like I had been gone from the office for forever. But it wasn’t forever…it was five business days. Which goes to show you just how quickly life can turn. The morning dragged on and on as I anticipated whether my results would come in from my biopsy the previous day.

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Around 10:30 that morning my phone rang and I immediately recognized the number. It was the hospital! I jumped up from my seat and grabbed my phone heading for a more private setting. I answered to a cheery voice that shared that I would be able to come in that day anytime before 2:30. I asked if noon or 1:00 would work and the voice answered, “I’ll put you in for a biopsy check at 1:00.” Anxiously I asked, “Will I get my results then too?” “Yes, you will” she answered. I had secretly hoped she would just reveal my results over the phone but I’m sure that is outside of protocol…so I silently retreated to the fact that I’d have to wait until my appointment.

While the minutes dragged by, I was surprisingly calm. I realized the woman from the hospital had not suggested that I bring someone with me. That had to be a good sign. I felt very optimistic but tried to hold back. It’s an errie feeling to be so close to the answer but still not know.

1:00 finally rolled around. My sister had planned to come with me already and I was glad to have her there. My pastor met us at the hospital as well. I entered the Women’s Center and didn’t wait more than three minutes before my name was called. The nurse asked me to have a seat in a small office. Her name was Kelly and she had a sweet, friendly demeanor that immediately put me at ease. She removed my bandaging and checked my incision. She asked if I was having pain and I answered that the pain was very mild. Nurse Kelly reported that everything looked good on my incision and I should expect the tape to start to peel away over the next five to seven days as my wound heals. She then took a step back from me and said “Oh, and your results came back fine so you’re good!”

And that was it. I was a little in shock. Thankful. But in shock. It was so simple. Nurse Kelly explained that I had a fibroadenoma (non-cancerous tumor) and it would require no further intervention. I had about a billion questions running through my mind. I asked if the tumor could continue to grow but she was unsure. She gave me an information sheet with some basic information on fibroadenomas and let me know if I had any problems going forward to contact my doctor.

I stepped out of the hospital into a beautiful March day. I was relieved. I was thankful. I was also a little numb. The influx of emotion over the last two days was catching up with me and it would take some time to fully digest that I was okay.

I shared the good news with my friends and family and I went back to work. Back to my normal life. Back to routine. Back to being a normal, regular 31-year old, healthy mom of two.

That evening I visited my uncle who is in his final stages of life. He has battled cancer for the past eight months. He is on his journey to heaven and hospice is telling us that he is down to days. I don’t know my uncle as well as I wish I would have. What I do know about him is that he is a Vietnam vet who fought for our country, he is a fisherman and he loves the outdoors, and most of all he is a kind man. He is sleeping a lot at this point but we were lucky to find him quite alert. He was however in severe pain. When I went to hug him, he winced at my touch…but he still wanted a hug. When I told him that I wished there was something I could do for him, he said I already was doing something for him by just being there. He talked about an eagle he saw from his window in the past few days, told a fisherman’s story and spoke of relatives that have passed on many, many years ago.

As we left, I was sure of one thing…God is with Charlie now as he continues to make his journey. I had told my sister earlier in the day, after we got the good news on my biopsy, that the one thing that resonates with me about the previous 48 hours…the thing that I come back to when I ask why I just went through this…I cannot shake the feeling from that first day, Day One. When I came home from the doctor who had confirmed that there was something growing inside of me that needed further testing, after I had learned that there was a chance that I could have breast cancer, I prayed to God and asked for his help to be strong and I truly felt him surround me. I felt closer to God in that moment than anytime I can remember. So that feeling, that knowledge, that God is closest to us when we need him the most…that he carries us when we’re too weak to carry ourselves…that he is standing beside and carrying the weak, the sick, the poor and broken-hearted…that’s the greatest promise I can imagine.

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I’m back to life as usual…mad-rush around in the morning, work, mad-dash for dinner and bedtime in the evening and then do it all over again the next day. I feel so blessed to be given the grace to continue on and I will try to hold on to the memory of that “Day One Prayer” but I know it will fade as I get lost in the hustle and bustle of life. But I take peace in knowing that when life throws me my next curve, there is nothing I will ever have to face on my own.

Grace Carried Me Here, and by Grace, I Shall Carry On

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I awoke this morning in a bit of a fog.  The last week of my life has been consumed by my seven-year old’s tonsillectomy.  The surgery went very well but day two was extraordinarily rough with him throwing up and having a temperature that topped out at 104 degrees.  He would improve and then take two steps back.  I had planned to return to work today, but after Jace had another rough morning yesterday, I decided it would be in his best interest to not be forced to wake up at six in the morning and be carted around so I can make it in to the office by eight.

Anyhow, I awoke this morning with a tiny little body curled up into mine and I have never been so comfortable in my life.  I wasn’t sure at first if it was my son or daughter who had snuck into my bed, but then I found her little toes and felt her hair in the dark and figured out that, yes…yes, it was definitely my daughter.  Why is she so cuddly???  I can never get out of bed when she is around….that is unless she is pulling me out of bed by the arm demanding strawberry milk and/or pancakes.  We definitely have those mornings as well.  But this morning was different.  Her eyes fluttered open and we laid in bed just soaking in the day.  She chatted and I listened and felt calm and happy.  The house was quiet which meant my son was still sleeping and I silently patted myself on the back for deciding to stay home to let him get some much needed rest.  Then I stretched out my arms for a good morning stretch and as my fingertips grazed the top of my chest, I noticed a lump in the top left-hand side of my chest.

I focused in on the spot in disbelief but yes, it was there, a round, hard ball in the top left-hand side of my breast.  I wish I could say that I am a responsible adult female and regularly do self-examinations to check for this sort of thing, but I don’t.  I often forget that I’m now 31 and I’m really not as young as I used to be.  My daughter was still chattering away but my world ceased to move for the moment.  The logical side of my brain said “Don’t panic, Melissa.  This could be anything.  It’s nothing to worry about. Don’t panic.”  The emotional side of my brain flashed the unthinkable…my children growing up without me there, the worst possible scenario, the pain and suffering that comes with the dreaded “c-word.”  I decided to call the doctor.

I had thought that they may tell me to give it a couple of weeks to see if it would go away…maybe it was hormonal.  But that’s not what the nurse practitioner said.  Instead, she asked if I could make it in at 11:15 today.  I thought about my son and his health but knew I had to go.  So I said I would be there and phoned my mom to see if she minded to watch the kids for an hour.  Thankfully, Jace woke up feeling better than he has over the past week and he was excited to go to grandma’s.  I went to the doctor and again, I thought that maybe she wouldn’t notice the lump during the examination…that maybe it’s my imagination.  But no, she immediately found it and agreed that it was there and it is not normal.  

It’s odd…the feeling that I got at that moment.   I try to be very logical in life but that is not my natural place.  Naturally I’m more emotional, artistic and passionate.  But those skills don’t serve me well in times like these.  So when the doctor explained that my lack of family history in breast cancer and my age are good indicators that the lump could be non-cancerous, I just sat and listened trying to not react in one way or the other.  She told me it could be a number of things and that she wouldn’t jump to cancer.  It could be hormones, caffeine, a cyst, a non-cancerous tumor….or it could be cancer.  She said we would schedule an appointment for a mammogram (I didn’t think I had that coming for some time yet…bummer) and an ultrasound.  As she left the room so I could dress, I felt total and complete shock.  This is not what I expected today.  As I worked with the receptionist, I held back tears and tried to act normal.  Thankfully, the hospital can fit me in tomorrow, so my wait will not be long.

My husband called as I was leaving the office and I broke down.  This is scary.  There’s no other way to lay it out there.  I think I’m going to be fine.  But knowing ALL of the possibilities, how can a person in this position not be scared?  I went home to an empty house and sat down in my living room on the steps.  I put my hands together and I prayed.  I pray everyday, but today, in this moment of helplessness, I felt closer to God than I have in a long time.  I prayed that God is with me over the next day, that He helps me to be strong.  I prayed that He helps me to do His will and accept His will, whatever that may be.  And I prayed that if it is His will, that my tests tomorrow turn out a positive result.  And if His will is the opposite, if I get bad news tomorrow, that He is with me to help me take the next steps.

The truth is that whatever is in my body is already there.  Good, bad or indifferent, it is there.  It is only by God’s grace that I’m even here now to write this.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed.  I have been so blessed in my life with more than I deserve.  I pray that I’m given the grace to grow old with my husband and my children but I don’t know if that is my path.  My blog is named “No Luck Necessary.”  Have you wondered why?  It’s not because I think I’m so great that I don’t need luck.  It’s because I don’t believe in luck at all.  Everything I have and everything I am is a product of God’s grace.  I have tested this theory throughout my life, pushing my limits.  I am living proof of His grace for us.  Now, today, I pray that He has a little more left for me.

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I’m not sure if I should be sharing this.  The only people I’ve even spoken about this to are my husband, my mom, and my mother-in-law.  I hesitate to share this with all of you.  It is so deeply personal.  I started this blog three months ago because I had an overwhelming calling to write.  Something inside me kept saying that I needed to write.  I don’t know why or if it will ever develop into anything more than a past-time, a hobby, a therapeutic outlet. But if one person reads this and relates, one person goes home and does that self-examination tonight, one person has hope and strength when they’re in the same position in the years to come, then I’ll be happy with my decision to put it all out there.  If you are reading this, please add me to your prayer list tonight, along with all of those people in the world awaiting test results or those who have gotten the test results back and are battling for their lives.  There are so many who need prayers and I believe in the power of prayer. By God’s grace, I’ll look back on this day in the weeks, months, and years to come and it will be a passing memory, a false alarm.  But only by God’s grace, there is no other way.