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Kelly Harrel, Author at Global Women Network

Inland SoCal Moms | Encouragement For Moms – Over The Hill

My first born, Noah, was a dream child. Load him in the car and not only would he sleep the entire ride, but he would stay asleep for hours in his baby carrier. All our trips were planned around his nap and sleep schedule, so we figured it wouldn’t be a big deal to travel ten hours north when he was three months old.

 

Inland SoCal Moms

We traveled during the day as we headed up north. I sat in the back with Noah, read him books, fed him, and played with him; however, on the way home, we decided to travel during his bedtime, knowing he would sleep the entire way home (did I mention he slept twelve hours at night?).

Suitcases filled the trunk of our little hybrid car, so Christmas presents had spilled over into every part of the back seat that Noah didn’t occupy.

“I think it’s too cramped,” I argued with my husband, Jeff, the expert packer.

“It’s fine.” Jeff smiled. “He’ll sleep the whole way and you’ll sit in the front with me.”

Sure enough, we had only been on the freeway fifteen minutes when I saw Noah’s little head bob. He fought it for a while, but soon he was in a sound sleep.

My husband and I enjoyed adult conversation and listening to “our” music. The minutes turned into hours. One stop for gas and Noah slept on. As we began up the Grapevine, I was thankful he was sound asleep…

It started as a whimper. Jeff’s reassurance that Noah would fall back to sleep was interrupted by screams from our little guy.

“It’s okay, Noah.” I turned around in my seat to reach the top of his head. “It’s okay, Baby.”

The screaming intensified.

“You’ve got to pull over!” I told Jeff.

“I can’t pull over.” His voice was calm despite the chaos.  “We’re on the Grapevine. There’s no where to pull off.”

Noah’s face grew bright red, his pajamas now damp from tears. As soon as I placed a pacifier in his mouth, he spit it out.

“It’s probably just his ears popping,” Jeff said, as if knowing why my son was so upset would make it better.

I stared at the stack of presents in the back seat. There was absolutely no room next to him, but there was space on the floor beside his seat…

“What are you doing?” Jeff turned as I unbuckled my seat belt and made my way toward the back seat.

“Just drive.” I was in no mood to argue. My baby was hurting and I needed to be next to him.

Somehow I squeeze my bottom above the floor between Noah’s infant seat and the mound of presents. I kissed his tears away and held his little hand, singing Hush Little Baby, Jesus Loves Me, and other songs I knew he loved. It took several songs to calm him down, but when he did, he squeezed my finger. He sighed, sucking on his pacifier, and stared into my eyes. He wasn’t happy, but I could tell he knew everything would be okay because Mommy was there.

That’s our job as moms, to be there in the tough times. I was there when he needed his forehead glued at 18 months and when he had an awful throat infection at two. I carried him into the doctor’s office when he had the flu at five because he was too weak to walk. When the doctor told me he would either be well in 24 hours or in the hospital, I took him home, fed him ice chips, and prayed that this too would pass. And it did. I’ve been there for all the wins and loses for soccer and Bible quizzing. I’ve held him as he cried when one of his best friends moved across the country.

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Of course, I could never forget the times my baby girl, Becca, needed me. At 15 months she fell off the back of the couch (which she loved to stand on). I held the ice on the goose egg in the middle of her forehead. My heart broke when she received second degree burns on her hands from pushing on the burning hot front door one summer, but I held her and kissed her as we waited for the burn medication to work. When she broke her toe at nine years old, she kept a stiff upper lip when she chose me over her father to take her to urgent care. I was also beside her the next day, a smile on my face though fear filled my heart while she got a blood test because the doctor was afraid of an infection entering her blood stream. When the girls next door teased her, I hugged her and told her all the wonderful things about her. On her first week long trip to see Grandma and Grandpa up north, I called her every night so she could tell me about her day. By the third night she was happy instead of homesick.

The only given in motherhood is your child will suffer at some point. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. In my thirteen years as a mom, I have suffered a lot of physical pain myself; however, I would rather suffer any day of the week than see my kids suffer. Why do moms feel this way? Because we can’t take their pain away. That cold December night when I squeezed in a spot much smaller than my backside, I didn’t take my son’s pain away. I couldn’t. But I showed him I cared. I was there, holding his hand, wiping his tears. It didn’t feel like enough, but it was all I could give. The truth is, when we pour out all our love on our kids, it is enough.

We made it over the hill. Once again Noah was sound asleep and I joined my husband in the front seat.

Jeff shook his head. “I don’t know how you fit back there. I packed it so good, there wasn’t any extra room.”

“My baby needed me, so I figured out a way.” I relaxed in my seat. “That’s what moms do.”

Inland SoCal Moms | Encouragement for Moms – Chauffeur

I used to feel bad for those moms who were their kids’ personal chauffeur. I could never understand why someone would do that to themselves…until it happened to me.

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For years I avoided having my kids on any elite or travel team for sports. In fact, when my son was going to try out a few years ago, I broke down and cried to my husband at the thought of weekly travel games and practice three times a week. I could handle taking him five minutes down the street for practice and games, but 30 minutes to an hour away, forget about it. Besides, he had his heart set on Teen Bible Quizzing and that was only a monthly commitment. Of course it seemed the wiser choice.

Little did I know the weekly practices for quizzing would be an hour away and quiz meets would range from San Diego to Fresno to Prescott, AZ. Add to this my daughter’s monthly Children’s Bible Quizzing and her new found passion for being in dance productions which requires practice on Saturdays. Did I mention my husband works retail so he can’t get Saturdays off? I had become that chauffeur I never wanted to be.

By Friday I had already dreaded the trip to San Diego at 7 a.m. the next day, leaving Noah’s Quiz meet at lunch to rush Becca home for dance, go to a dinner social, and then driving to the other side of town to pick up my son from my brother’s house because luckily he works in San Diego and could bring Noah back up north since I had to leave the meet early. I thought of the back pain I’d have to endure, how exhausted I would be, and how cranky the kids would be after a busy day.
“What have I gotten myself into?” I sighed as I fell asleep Friday night.

My negative thoughts began again when the alarm went off at 5:45 a.m.

“I’m too tired for this!” I thought, rubbing my eyes. But then I remembered, I went to bed at 8:45 p.m. Even with frequent bathroom trips in the night, I had gotten over eight hours sleep.

I put off waking up the girl as long as possible. I dreaded the thought of her crankiness, so I made her breakfast and woke her fifteen minutes before we had to leave. By the time we walked out the door, she was giddy about her brother’s offer to read to her in the car.

“This is going well,” I thought, sipping my coffee on the drive down. “It’s going too well.” Disaster was undoubtedly around the corner.

Amazingly enough, the day continued without a disaster. In fact, when I got over myself and my busy schedule, it turned out to be a blessed day. I had the opportunity to watch my son put to use all he had learned, as well as display a good attitude when he answered questions incorrectly. To see him smile whether he was right or wrong blessed my heart as we have been working on that for years.

Then the blessing of singing along with my daughter on our ride home came, along with watching her in her first “real” dance role. It wasn’t a dozen young girls running aimlessly around the room, but six young ladies working on a choreographed dance. All I could think of as she danced was how fast she is growing up – and I almost missed it. Not because I wasn’t there, but because of my attitude.

It seems like yesterday that they were just babies, yet in four short years my son will be driving. Then the pressure will be off me, but I will be missing out. I’ll miss out on them telling me about their day on the way home from class, I’ll miss watching them excel in their activities, and frankly, miss just being with them.

I never wanted to be that mom that complains of driving her kids everywhere, so I’ve decided I will no longer complain. I’ll continue to rack up 100 miles in one day, 300 over a weekend. I’ll plan and arrange drop off, pick up, and call on extra support from my family and friends to make it work. I’ll cherish the talks and activities, the silliness and the craziness. And at the end of a long Saturday, I’ll ice my back, put up my feet, and be grateful for the time I have with my kiddos, even when it’s in the car driving from here to there.

Inland SoCal Moms | Encouragement for Moms – Super Mom

I stared at the bag of potatoes, wishing they were self-peeling. Only three hours before on the way home from our work meeting my best friend complained about the mess she was destined to return home to. I thought about what a wonderful homecoming I was bound to have since my husband was off from work today. Somehow she walked into a clean house, dinner cooking, and a dozen roses. I returned home to chaos, disagreements, and pork chops and potatoes that wouldn’t cook themselves.

Shape of the heart

The house phone rang. I hoped it was my husband, apologizing again for the mistake he made and wanting to proclaim his love to me. Instead, it was my mother-in-law. I sighed. They’d be in town tomorrow. What was so urgent that she needed to call in the middle of my already horrible day?

“We’re in town!” my mother-in-law chimed.

“A day early?!” The moment the words left my mouth I realized how horrible they sounded.

“Are we?” She laughed. “Oh well. We’re here.”

“Great.” I plastered a smile on my face to attempt to feel happy. “You can come over for dinner. How about 6?”

I glanced at the three pork chops defrosting. Hopefully they had a big lunch and weren’t hungry.

I hung up and took a quick inventory of the house. I had wisely told the children they could put off their chores until tomorrow morning so everything would be clean when Grandma and Grandpa arrive, but, of course, the children were out with their father and not due home for close to an hour.

I became a whirlwind of activity. In the midst of peeling potatoes, I called my husband.

“Your parents are here.”

“A day early?”

I ran down the groceries I needed him to get. “And see if they have a Macy’s gift card. You still need to get your mom a present.”

With my music blaring, I kicked myself into Superwoman mode. In one hour I vacuumed, swept, decluttered the dining room and kitchen tables, washed all the dishes in the sink, cleaned the kitchen counters, and had the pork chops and potatoes cooking.

“Wow,” my husband exclaimed when he walked in. “Impressive.”

Fifteen minutes later when the in-laws arrived, the children had the table beautifully set and dinner was on it.

“You feel hot!” my mother-in-law said when I hugged her. “Are you sick?”

“Just been running around all day.” I smiled.

But, of course, the work wasn’t done. Once everyone sat down, the serving began. I was up and down to fetch salt and pepper, more napkins, and butter. As the other adults enjoyed their meals, I helped the kids serve themselves. I wanted to relax and enjoy the conversation after I finished eating, but just as potatoes don’t peel themselves, neither do dishes wash themselves. It’s true – a mother’s work is never done.

“You owe me.” I plopped down beside my husband on the couch after his parents had left.

“I do. The house looks amazing. Dinner was great. Thank you.”

I sighed, leaning against him. I had been so mad at him earlier, but then I didn’t have time to remain angry. It was definitely for the best.

On days that I feel more like a maid than a mother, a disciplinarian instead of a homeschool mom, and laundry service rather than a devoted wife, I need to remember that all of these undesirable tasks are my way of showing love to my family. Sometimes my reward is flowers and “thank you”, but other times the reward comes in their laughter and smiles. The reward comes when my kids help one another rather than lash out at each other. It comes in knowing that my labor, though overwhelming at times, is making life better for them. After an evening of serving my joy came from the joy in my kids’ hearts and conversations with Grandma and Grandpa. Sometimes the biggest blessing comes in being the blessing.
Take time to look past the dishes and remember the great dinner conversations. As you scrub the kitchen floor yet again to remove the mud, jelly, or who-knows-what-that-is from the tile, be grateful for the little hands and feet that left the mess. Your work for them is your gift of love, even if they don’t realize it. That’s what being a mom is all about.

Encouragement for Moms – Productive Relaxation

Around the age of 30 I took a serious inventory of my life. I was married to the man I loved, had a wonderful two-year-old son, a beautiful newborn daughter, and I made a difference daily in the lives of the children I taught.

This is it, I thought, I have accomplished all my goals. I was still patting myself on the back for a life well-lived when a thought entered my mind. What about my book?

Ah, yes, the book I started my last year in college. The Christian romance that I promised myself I would finish every year, usually before my birthday. The story that had been rolling around in my head for a decade. What about that book?

I enjoyed writing even as a child. I spent hours thinking of stories and then writing them. I considered it my hobby before I had kids.

I sighed. Would this be one more thing I sacrificed for my kids? I had scrapbooks unfinished and drawers of stamps I had no time to use. Would this story that had developed over a decade go untold as well? That night I decided I would accomplish this goal as well.

Twenty minutes a day, that’s where I started. After dinner when the dishes were done, I would sneak into the office and type away. My husband, Jeff, supported my efforts, but at first there were many interruptions – a screaming baby, a demanding toddler, and something really important always ended up missing as soon as I went into hiding. Some days I wrote only a few sentences. Rather than giving up, I grew more persistent because, as I used my gift, I found peace. I could feel the stress of the day literally melt away as I entered my fictional world. I craved more. And then one day about three months into my pursuit, the most awesome thing happened. I was in the midst of making dinner after coming home from a stressful day of work. My head hurt and the kids were whining. I thought I was going to lose it any minute.

“Why don’t you go write?” Jeff removed the spoon I was stirring the spaghetti sauce with from my hand. “I’ve got this. Go write so you can relax.”

My mouth opened, ready to argue with him, until I realized what he had done. He had granted me freedom to unwind.

My husband hasn’t always been around to help me achieve my balance of writing time, especially when he started working nights; however, making sure the kids had a strict bedtime gave me hours to write while waiting for him to come home. Even now my ten and twelve year old know Mom is off the clock at 8:30 p.m. That’s my time to sit with my laptop and get lost in my writing. I have found doing something I love provides me more joy and peace than any amount of time watching TV or doing other mindless activities.

I know what you’re thinking. “You don’t know how exhausted I am at night. It takes all my energy to make it through the day. I can’t be productive.”

I do understand, because I’ve been there. I literally spent an entire summer on the couch, in pain, watching TV and playing games on my phone trying to avoid my pathetic reality. Where did it get me? More pathetic than when I began. The next summer was just as painful and I finished one book and started another, both of which have been published.

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What if writing isn’t your gift? I have a friend who loves to crochet. She sits at night after the kids have gone to bed and has made baby blankets and hats to give to birthing centers. Another friend loves cooking, so she blesses sick moms and new moms with meals. Another loves crafting and is always coming up with creative ways to bless people. I use the trivets she recently made me daily. My friend that loves exercising started a free weekly exercise class for women. She inspired many ladies on to good health and habits.

I still go on Facebook for about fifteen minutes a day. My husband and I enjoy watching TV together occasionally, but I know from experience there is such a thing as productive relaxation. The trick is finding the passion you have and using it to enrich the lives of others. The coolest part? Not only will you be using your gifts to bless others, but your kids will see it. My daughter loves art. Once a week she does some kind of project and often gives it away to someone else. My son has a passion for reptiles. While other people rescue cats and dogs, he rescued bearded dragons this year. You may think reptiles don’t have feelings, but I do believe our four beasts know my son’s love for them.

I think it’s time we stop resorting to mindless entertainment in what little free time we have as mothers. Make the best use of your child’s nap time or that fifteen minutes you sit waiting for your kids to get out of school by doing an activity you enjoy that will benefit others. My writing? It started out as something I did for myself, to release all those stories that were stuck in my head. Today it has turned into a way to encourage and inspire others. One hundred years from now it won’t matter how many candies you crushed or if you knew the latest dirt on the popular movie stars. Take what little free time you have and pour it into something you can truly be proud of. Trust me, it will be worth the effort and you will find the peace and relaxation you are looking for.