Every evening, before I go to bed, I imagine that the next day will go something like this:
6:30 Rise and shine! Have a half-hour of intimate Bible study and worship followed by an invigorating workout. Shower, get dressed. Maybe a cute sundress, jewelry, sandals. Do hair. Put on makeup. Take many vitamins.
8:00 Greet children warmly and cheerfully. Take Eli to the potty, dress him in real underwear, confident that it will be the only pair he wears today. Get children dressed.
8:30 Make nutritious breakfast - maybe blueberry pancakes or oatmeal and whole-grain toast. Fresh fruit, of course. Give Eli a cup of plain milk, which he will happily drink. Empty the dishwasher and reload the breakfast dishes. Be thankful that I took the time to clean the kitchen the night before. Marvel at how efficiently my morning is humming along.
9:00 Take completely prepared diaper bag and neatly dressed and groomed children out to the car. Run five or six errands with great efficiency, using coupons and reusable grocery totes. Listen to upbeat Kids' Mix on my ipod and enjoy as Eli sings along to every song. Dispense one - only one - nutritious snack. Make multiple potty stops, and marvel at how Eli is dry at every one of them!
11:30 Make spontaneous stop at the playground. Fountains? No problem! Grab pre-packed "Park Bag" from back of the car, stocked with sunscreen, swim clothes, towels, and snacks. Lazily talk on the phone with sister-in-law while the boys happily play in the fountain and the play gym. Smile proudly as Eli plays nicely with other children, although of course, I'm not surprised. He's raised really well.
12:30 Home for lunch! Whip up a healthy lunch of whole-wheat pita chips, hummus, cucumbers and fresh fruit. Eat with my children, while Eli regales me with joyful tales from the park and tells me about numbers, letters, colors, and shapes. Which he knows. Weave important life lessons into the conversation, which are instantly imprinted into his mind and heart.
1:00 Nap time! Smile approvingly as Eli poops in the potty in two minutes flat. Put children to bed. Clean house (according to well-prepared cleaning schedule), check email, read several chapters of an engrossing novel, and paint toenails. Marvel at how wisely I am using my time.
3:30 Get children up from naps (warmly, again). Engage children in any one of the following enriching activities: Art Time (from the well-stocked Art Time box), Pretend Play, Outdoor Play, Nature Walk, Letters and Sounds, Tumbling and Fitness. Approach impending dinner time with complete calm and ease.
5:00 Time to make dinner! Feel absolutely no panic as I consult my weekly menu, find all necessary (fresh!) ingredients in the refrigerator and pantry, and whip up an innovative and nutritionally dense meal that the whole family will love. Take a few moments to sweep through the living room and put away toys, and touch up hair and makeup in the mirror, in anticipation of hubby's arrival home.
6:00 Welcome husband home with warm smile, inviting hug, and a cold beverage. Sit down together to enjoy delicious meal and stimulating conversation about our day. After dinner, quickly clean the kitchen.
7:30 Bathe children and get them ready for bed. Read a variety of books together, then spend several minutes in prayer, enjoying how much Eli loves to pray on his own. Put children to bed, knowing that they will go to sleep immediately and sleep soundly in their beds.
8:00 Spend an hour with hubby, enjoying our favorite tv show. Eat one single ounce of dark chocolate, and marvel at how much it satisfies me. Glamorously drink a glass of red wine.
9:00 Sweep and mop kitchen floor, start dishwasher, and clean out and repack diaper bag and all "just in case" bags for the next day.
9:30 Wash face thoroughly. Use luxurious eye cream to pamper my tired, puffy eyes. Read in bed for half an hour, turn out the lights, and fall into a deep, restful sleep.
Sounds nice, doesn't it?
Here's how it turns out:
6:30 Through drug-like fog caused by taking a sleeping pill after tossing and turning half the night, hear alarm go off. Hit snooze twice. Turn alarm off and determine to get up early tomorrow.
8:00 Hear Eli pounding on his bedroom door. Stumble into the bathroom, brush teeth, and pull hair into a ponytail. Begin praying for strength.
8:15 Greet Eli with a half-smile and barely-open eyes. Whisper, "Are you poopy?" The answer, of course, is yes. Change poopy diaper while Eli screams for his diaper rash medicine. Drag him, kicking and screaming, into the bathroom to pee in the potty, which, he claims, he cannot do. "My penis is broken, Mommy." Put on his underwear. Make mental note that he is running out of clean underwear. Again. Determine that tomorrow, we will stay home all day, every day, until he finishes potty training. Get Lucas.
8:45 Take kids downstairs. Struggle to open eyes while slicing a banana. Give kids cereal and bananas. Give Eli juice because milk is simply not worth the battle. Determine that starting tomorrow, he will not whine about juice. Eat my cereal in the dark, on the couch, half-comatose. use couch cushion as a shield to hide behind. Continue praying for strength.
9:00 Begin getting ready for the day. Dress in sweats and a tank top. Put on running shoes and hope that people think I was just working out. Try to make bangs work, give up, and pin them back. Put on mascara so that people don't wonder if I have lazy eyes. Listen to Lucas cry downstairs and wonder which type of bodily harm Eli has inflicted upon him. Determine to buy the perfect book about three-year-old aggression and put it into practice. Pray for patience.
9:15 Pick outfits for the kids. Try to make presentable outfits out of what clean clothes I can find. Remind myself to start the laundry before we leave the house. Immediately forget. Get the kids dressed and unruly hair tamed. Spend thirty minutes scurrying around the house, packing the diaper bag, forgetting items to pack into diaper bag, making multiple trips upstairs for things I've forgotten. Sit down halfway through and try to make a shopping list, but keep getting distracted by endless whining, crying, brotherly beatdowns, time-outs, and loving lectures that seem to bounce right off my brick wall of a child. Finally get kids into the car, make two or three trips back inside for things I've forgotten, and hope that no one calls the police while my children wail in the car. Feel like I've already lived six days in one morning. Pray... for everything.
10:00 Leave to run errands. Get coffee and marvel at how utterly addicted I am. Wait expectantly for caffeine to kick in (will still be waiting for this hours later). Run three of seven planned errands, due to whining, meltdowns, lack of planning, and total lack of energy. Know that I should stop at the grocery store now, even though I feel like I'm going to drop dead of exhaustion, but make the wholly unwise choice to "just go after naptime."
12:00 Make spontaneous stop at the park. Spend half an hour chasing Lucas, playing referee, giving firm-but-gentle reminders not to hit, giving firm-and-not-so-gentle reminders not to hit, wishing I'd brought snacks, wishing I had more patience, praying for more patience. Realize after half an hour that I forgot to put sunscreen on the kids. Watch as kids get soaked in their clothes because I forgot to put their swim clothes back in the Park Bag. Marvel at how Eli cannot seem to relate to other children on the playground, and swear under my breath at the woman who tells me that I have an adorable baby and a beautiful daughter. Consider tattooing "I AM A BOY" on Eli's chest.
1:00 Drive two naked children home for lunch. Feel hours of mounting frustration settling into my neck as Eli yells, "MOM WHAT IS THAT YOU HAVE TO TURN YOUR HEAD MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM!" for the tenth time in five minutes. Yell at him. Feel terrible for yelling. Pray for a guard over my mouth. Get home and briefly consider leaving them in the car while I take a nap. Throw together any food-like substances I can find that require less than three minutes of preparation, while Lucas cries in his high chair and Eli finds new ways to hurt him. Send Eli to time-out three times in the course of a ten-minute lunch. Sit on the couch, hide from my children, and scarf down a bowl of cereal so that my stomach won't growl during my nap.
1:30 Dump Lucas in his crib and shut the door on his crying. Argue with Eli over using the potty before nap time. Marvel at how he can sit for twenty minutes or more without pooping. Give up and put him to bed. Think about all of the things on my to-do list while I crawl under the covers and pull them over my head.
2:00-4:00 Nap, putter, half-heartedly clean something, watch tv, read trash on the internet. Think about working out. Think about reading my Bible. Think about reading something from the giant stack of overdue library books. Do none of the above. Stare into space. Begin to panic about dinner.
4:00 Get children up, clean up more poop, and spend the next hour playing cars, chasing, wrestling, blowing bubbles, and stare off into space in a daze. Lose my patience with Eli five or six times. Pray for more patience. Marvel at how I can feel so mind-numbingly tired, day after day.
5:30 Realize that it's five-thirty and I have absolutely no plan for dinner. Haul tired, cranky, hungry kids to the grocery store, rack my empty brain to come up with something edible. Spend too much money on one meal because I didn't plan ahead, again. Think about carefully organized coupons, sitting at home on the counter.
6:30 Feed kids frozen corn dogs or chicken nuggets while I start dinner for Ben and me. Eat my dinner alone because Ben has to work late. Take kids for a walk to kill the time before bed because I think if I try to sit down and play with them that I will fall asleep. Or cry.
8:00 Get kids ready for bed. Try to read to Lucas and give up because he won't sit still for two seconds. Let him crawl around Eli's room while I read to Eli and hope that he's getting some of the benefit. Continually remind myself to treasure these days while I try to keep my eyes open. Say a one-minute prayer and marvel at how Eli still refuses to pray on his own. Put Luke to bed. Put Eli to bed, knowing that he will be out of it again in a heartbeat, and will be crying at the door within an hour with a poopy diaper.
8:45 Watch TV in our bedroom while Ben works out in the living room (a good thing, really). Sit and talk with him for a few minutes while he eats his dinner. Get ready for bed, skip washing my face because I'm too tired. Read for five minutes before I can barely stay awake. Attempt to fall asleep without any medication. Feel a migraine coming on, take medication, and fall asleep knowing that I will still feel exhausted in the morning.
This is, generally speaking, how my days unfold. I am amazed at how often and how spectacularly I fall short of my own expectations. Some days are better than others, of course. Most days I accomplish something; every once in awhile I accomplish a lot. I do spend a lot of time with my kids, and I do engage with them - I actually love to play with them, read to them, take walks with them. I know I'm a good mommy, and a good wife, and a "good" Christian. It just feels like I always fall short - a little or a lot. I'm never as organized as I want to be. Never as prepared as I want to be. I never have enough energy - or anywhere near enough. I am always tired. I have headaches every day. I have joint pain and back pain and neck pain, and I feel weary and old. I struggle with my three-year-old's mood swings, battles of the will, aggression toward his brother, and constant - constant - noise - questions, commentary, whining, demands. I struggle with my one-year-old's neediness and dependence. I long for moments to myself, but when I get them, I don't use them well enough. I feel like I waste an enormous amount of time. I know moms with with young children who seem to use every day so productively - they homeschool, they make huge batches of meals, they freeze enough fruit for an army and still make time to put together scrapbooks. I know moms who tackle big projects and see them through to the finish. I never finish a project. I am a serial project-abandoner.
Some days, I feel like an absolute loser. I look at my flabby belly, my messy house, my kid throwing a fit on the floor and think, "Why can't you just get it together?" But I am gently reminded of a God who loves me, and accepts me, in all of my miserable states. In my weaknesses, my shortcomings, my failures - as overwhelming as they may sometimes feel - even when I feel totally worthless, He sings over me. The God of the universe looks at my pitiful self and delights in me. Best of all, He gives me permission to try again. Tomorrow.