5 Reasons to Spend Time With a Mother and Her Young Children

JCP-8081I had the opportunity to spend part of my morning with my friend Melissa and her two children, Alex (2 years) and Eliana (10 months). I’m so glad I had my camera, because what I captured tells the story better than my words can.

1) Be curious. Wonder. Participate in life from the ground up. Don’t be afraid to mess up. You can always start again.

2) Ask lot’s of questions. (Even if you think they’re silly) Life is about learning and growing, no matter your age.

3) When having a serious conversation, eat chocolate… and laugh… throw your head back and let loose. (Chocolate and laughing make everything better.)

4) Play and Explore (Be resourceful)
Build a drum set from the buckets you just took off your head when you were being a robot. Play hide and seek with the nearest blanket. Sit in the rocking chair backwards.

“Mommy, wanna go look for giants with me?”
This question from Alex diverted me from all other conversation.
“Melissa, did he just ask you to go look for giants?!” I asked.
“Yes. We look for giants at least once a day.” she replied.


5) Take naps. Even if you don’t think you’re tired…
Feeling grumpy? Chances are, ya just need a nap.

Children are the best teachers. And most of them don’t even use words. They use action. It’s not always the right action, but it’s action nonetheless. They don’t sit around, talking about it and wait to see what happens.

When did we (adults) stop learning by doing?
When did we choose to walk away from a challenge and instead immerse ourselves in a Google search or social media for the answer?
When did we stop playing?
Why don’t we laugh with abandon?
When was the last time you sat on the floor, observing your surroundings?
Some of us need to revisit childhood. If you don’t like the one you had, ask someone to take you back with them to theirs.
Come back and tell us about your adventures in the comment section.

Other things I learned on my morning excursion…

A single shoestring can transform a toddler into a giant-slayer.
JCP-8049Egg cartons double as very hungry caterpillars.

Robots get hungry too.

What are you learning from your kids…or friends kids…or nieces and nephews, grandchildren or students in your class? Have any great pictures that tell a story? Email them to me at joycannisphotography(at)gmail(dot)com

Traveling with Boys

JCP-2-2As the boys grow older I am more intrigued with the differences between them and me. It’s incredible how they are created with an innate sense of wildness. They need adventure every day. It doesn’t have to be extravagant adventure, it can be nature. Every time my boys are loose in nature, it’s an adventure.JCP-49

We recently took a trip to the North Carolina mountains. We spent the days hiking, wading through streams, throwing rocks in creeks and using our “outside voices”…a lot.

I am constantly learning and growing from the way they experience life.

While on the trip some things were made very clear to me about “how to” travel (successfully) with boys.
photoThey need to;
Wander off the path
Throw leaves in the river (at the same time so they can watch them race and see who wins)
Skip rocks at the waterfall.
Walk through spider webs and feel the sticky strings tug the little hairs on their face as they pull it free from their skin.
Take their shirts off and flex their adventurer muscles
at the top of their lungs and make funny animal sounds.

They crave excitement and uncertainty.
They want to see how big God is,
how powerful nature can be and
how beautiful wild flowers/weeds grow.

They need to pee on trees and hock a loogie from the bridge.
They need to hear their voice echo through a canyon and laugh at the mystery of how it sounds.
They need to touch every insect they see and hold a salamander.
Stop and look at the trail they’ve left behind.
Plunge their hands into the mud and get dirt under their nails.
Taste the raindrops and feel the sun kiss the tops of their cheeks, leaving behind its warmth and color.
They need to test the limits of “No Trespassing” signs and jump from the highest point they can find.

They need to wade through lakes with sharp rock beds
See how raindrops form on petals and recognize how delicate beauty can be.

They need to balance on railing, no matter how far off the ground.

They need to play checkers on stamped cement by hopping to their next move.
They need to see all the colors infused into life.
They need to stand atop the largest rock they can find and say in their loudest voice, I’M KING OF THE ROCKS!!!

They need to believe they can be whomever they want to be. A hero, a ranger, a rock star, a professional salamander finder.

They need to know we support their adventures, endeavors and conquers.JCP-30
They need to know we believe in their dreams, no matter how grandiose.

They need to know, because one day when they face decisions about their future and we are not standing beside them, our voice will echo in their mind just like theirs did in the canyon years before. What they hear is crucial to the men they are becoming.

So, moms of boys, the next time he hands you a rock that looks like the last 23 rocks he’s said he “has to take home”, put it in your pocket to add to the collection.

JCP-47When he picks those weeds that look so much like flowers and brings you a handful with a big grin on his face, I beg you, take them, exclaiming in your most excited voice how incredibly beautiful they are and how thoughtful he is for choosing you to give them to.

Take a picture of his finds in his little hand realizing that one day his hands will be big and he will no longer be interested in showing you the petals of the flower he found on the ground.JCP-59So, do you “Have boys will travel?” Where do you like to go? What are you most looking forward to experiencing with them this Summer? Or maybe you want to add to the list about traveling with boys. Go for it, the comment section is yours.

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I turned around and he was gone

JCP-8406We had just enjoyed a delicious dinner on the most beautiful day you’ve ever seen.

Realizing we needed a few things at the store, Chris said that he would go and I could take the boys to the car. I gladly accepted as the grocery store triggers my OCD like nothing else.

One minute both boys were with me and the next, I turned around and didn’t see my oldest son anywhere.

He loves to hide and scare me when I walk by so thinking that’s what he was doing, I handed everything to my sister-in-law and walked a few steps down the sidewalk expecting to see him behind the big column.

Saying his name as I turned the corner, I braced myself for the “BOO!” I was in for, but he wasn’t there. I said his name again, only this time with more emotion. I looked down the alley to the right and in front of me. I scanned the parking lot for creepy vans with no windows and scary looking people.

My heart was pounding as I headed towards the grocery store entrance, it was crowded and I pushed my way through mumbling, “I’m looking for my son. Please…excuse me…I can’t find my son. What the hell is wrong with everyone? Get out of my way!

The thoughts flooded my mind. You know, the horrible thoughts that no mother ever wants to think could happen to her child. The ones that make your stomach twist into knots and send the acid up into your throat until you taste it on the back of your tongue.

Just then I looked to my right and saw Chris standing in the check out line. As I moved a step closer, there he was. He turned and met my eyes and I was furious and scared. I leaned down, holding onto his shoulder and in a not so loving way I said, “Don’t you EVER do that to me again! You scared me! You. scared. me! Don’t you see what a nervous wreck I am?!” (At this point, now that I knew he was safe, it became all about me.) Then came the tears…for both of us.

Chris knew not to say I was overreacting. Instead he was consoling our son saying, “It’s okay. Mommy was scared. She didn’t know where you were.” I responded with, “He should cry! He scared me!”

The adrenaline was pumping and I wasn’t calming down anytime soon. The lady in front of us was now looking at our son with concern in her eyes. I wanted to tell her to mind her own business. She didn’t understand the torment endured over the course of the last 3 minutes.

The three of us walked out of the store together and climbed into the car.

I was relieved and angry, sad and grateful all at the same time.

The car ride home was quiet. When we got back to the house, unloaded the car and walked to the front door, my little boy turned around to me and said, “I’m sorry I scared you mom. I didn’t mean to.”
“I know you didn’t darling. I’m sorry I made you cry.”

And that was that. I think I will have calmed down by tomorrow. Sheesh.

Talk to me. Tell me you would overreact if this happened to you. Or has it happened to you? How did you handle it? Did you use your meanest mommy voice like I did?

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The Monster in my Mouth

This is how my day started…Breakfastbecause there were blueberries in the bread.

Really?!” was my response. I began mumbling under my breath about all the children, right here in our city, who would love to have bread with blueberries in it…

I always told myself that I would never guilt my children into eating with the phrase, “There are starving children in… (you fill in the blank)” (Did you happen to catch the two key words in the sentence before last? Always and Never) These two words will make a liar out of you quicker than anything else.

I have and I do tell my children about the child who doesn’t eat dinner before bed and only has breakfast when he’s able to eat in the cafeteria before school. I think it’s important that they know right outside our door is a world of struggle unparalleled by anything their minds can conceive.

However, maybe breakfast after dragging said child out of the warm bed he was, only moments ago, fast asleep in, isn’t the time to lecture him. Maybe if I considered that this is my child whom;
A. Likes to sleep in. (he’s like waking a hibernating bear)
B. Avoids change at all cost. (the never before served blueberry bread)
C. Has no problem skipping breakfast all together if he doesn’t feel like eating. (why put an empty stomach in front of taking a stand?)
I would have been wiser in my approach.

In the same way that I don’t want to nag my husband, I don’t want to nag my children. I want to respect and appreciate their different temperaments without catering to their outbursts.

Jud Wilhite said something in a recent message that struck me right in the heart. So much so that I made it into a pretty little instagram saying.
patienceMy lack of patience has always been a glaring character defect and I know better than to pray for patience! But when I view it as the difference between my grace and my wrath it takes on a whole new meaning.

More times than I want to admit, my children are met by the monster in my mouth. My words are harsh and my temper short. I can say with all truth, 99% of the time it’s not the boys who provoked the monster, it’s my lack of time management or lack of sleep or lack of coffee.

It’s an area where I am lacking (and I know it) rising to the surface and lashing out at the nearest target. Even so, I am learning because of all the grace that has been shown me, that “a bad moment does not a bad mama make.” I cannot press this upon your heart enough. Children are quick to forgive. We must be quick to admit fault.

I’m not justifying rants or misdirected anger. I’m saying that when I unleash my untamed words on my children, there is always room for an, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

The days when I am able to catch and reel in my spoken thoughts before they are released for others to hear are evidence of my progress. Some days I fail and in those moments I will recognize them for what they are, moments.

So…there it is…just one shade of my ugly. It’s all about progress (attainable), not perfection (unattainable).

How important to you are the times right after waking and right before sleeping?


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10 Things I’ve learned being a Mom of Boys

Silly faced boys

  1. They have one level of volume LOUD.
  2. They eat… constantly.
  3. They will find dirt where no dirt has ever been found.
  4. They wear cleats in the house.
  5. They run everywhere they go.
  6. They have an inhuman burst of energy around 7:30 p.m. and it’s best to let them get it out before attempting bedtime.
  7. They are surprisingly sensitive.
  8. They laugh at anything that involves “potty words.”
  9. They are incredibly curious, making everything an adventure.
  10. They love their mama.
  11. They potty train successfully when allowed to hit a target (preferably outside… like on a tree or off the deck. Yep, I’m that mom)
  12. They will wake up on the weekend an hour before the sun comes up, but you will not be able to drag them out of bed for school.
  13. They have to be reminded multiple times a day to, lift the toilet seat, put the toilet seat down, flush the toilet, wash their hands…with soap, and to keep their pants on.
  14. They smell like wet puppies after playing outside. Whether it be for 5 minutes or 2 hours.
  15. They consider anytime a good time to get dirty.
  16. They don’t understand why I would ever want to have privacy.
  17. They give real hugs. Not the ones where you barely connect. The ones that squeeze all your breath out.
  18. They use any opportunity to be naked. The less clothes, the better.
  19. They take everything apart (including jewelry, lingerie drawers and large purses) in order to put it back together so they understand how it works (even if it doesn’t go back together.)
  20. They crave love, affection, encouragement, admiration and security as much as any of us girls do, they just don’t show it or need it expressed in the same way.
  21. They need the freedom to be boys.

Y’all, I grew up with sisters. We had curling irons and a different brush for every hairstyle, rollers and special conditioner. We had makeup and purses, dresses and patent leather mary janes (only to be worn on Sunday.)

I came into this journey of mothering boys with no prior knowledge of how often they were going to use the word poop and think it’s the funniest thing they’ve ever heard. I entered into this commitment of motherhood never realizing that I would be considered the one with odd body parts.

Bella was my only one for 8 years and I have to be honest, nothing could have prepared My Bellame for the reality that is raising two boys to be productive members of society.

It is incredibly challenging, always an adventure, hours of laughter, many conversations that I don’t know the answers to, lot’s of prayer, goodnight kisses on the forehead, holding little hands while walking down the stairs, several, “I’m sorry for yellingconfessions, stock in Costco sized clorox wipes, a much larger grocery budget and a constant sense of wonder.Dahlias as big asIt now makes perfect sense to me why Chris has 2 first aid kits in our house and 1 in each car. I didn’t understand it at first, now I am so grateful for his prior knowledge of skinned knees, bumped heads and random cuts laden with dirt. I’m thankful for his preparedness for the unexpected.

I’m okay saying, “Go ask your dad.” when the boys come to me with questions about body parts I don’t have. Father and Sons

I’m okay letting them know that I don’t have all the answers.

As long as they know they are loved.
As long as they know they are enough.
As long as they know their Creator.

The days when they pull their hand from mine when walking down the sidewalk because they need to run, will be okay.

The afternoons they come in from soccer practice, cleats packed with mud and track it on my hardwood floor, will be worth it. (That’s what the vacuum is for… and swiffer… and mops.)

When I’m doing my daily round of toilet cleaning, I thank God for these little men that He is trusting me to raise.

Pure JoyI love being a mom to boys.

It’s never a dull moment. (Which is great! I bore easily.)
It’s always an adventure. (Who wants to sit around not living life anyway?)
It’s incredibly challenging. (I. Love. A. Challenge.)
It’s simple. (Have snacks EVERYWHERE you go.)
It’s immeasurably rewarding.

Okay moms of boys, sisters of brothers, wives who had no prior exposure to behind the scenes with boys, what did I leave out?

To my Beautiful Children

My Loves

It’s no secret that I have wrestled demons in the past. One of them being body image. As I read posts on social media raising awareness this week about eating disorders (ED), I cannot help but be grateful. It wasn’t too long ago that I was in the depths of my illness. In an effort to help others and avoid ever going back to that place, I cannot forget what that desperation and skewed sense of self felt like.

My body put up with 12 long years of abuse. Starvation, binging, purging, excessive use of diuretics, substances…many things that would cause bewilderment one day when looking back.

My relationship with food is still not one to be envied. It’s rather dysfunctional and requires much work on a daily basis. As with everything in my life, it’s about progress, not perfection. Someone once told me, “Even if everyday you take two steps forward and one step back, you’re still one step further than you would be.”

If you remember nothing else from these writings, please remember this, “Let go of perfection. It will ruin you.”

I bring you into this conversation to acknowledge the times when I will say silly things like,
“I wish my thighs still fit in those jeans.”
“I remember when my stomach was flat and toned…before babies”
“I don’t even tan the same after having children.”
And any number of other things that are disrespectful to this body that has housed me for over 30 years.

It’s true that I am a mere version of my former self. It’s true that my thighs are thicker, my belly softer, my arms looser, my backside…well, let’s just say, things don’t sit where they used to. It’s also true that pregnancy, nursing, lack of sleep, unnecessary worry, baby carriers, and bending over cribs as slowly as possibly in an effort not to wake you after finally rocking you to sleep, had something to do with it. Those are the beautiful reasons for my transformation. The not so beautiful and less mentioned reasons are the results of my lack of discipline in the areas of exercise, eating junk food, staying up too late, not enough water, and various other things.

My Darlings, when I look at you I know that you are my greatest investment.

When I stand naked and vulnerable in front of the mirror, surveying my body, familiarizing myself with the curves, lines and dimples that have claimed permanent residence on my frame, I run my finger along my cesarean scar reminding myself that just beneath the surface of this scar is a womb that cradled you until my arms would. Just below that layer is a vessel for life. How could I ever regret that?! When I turn sideways and see the pooch that has become a constant companion, I stand up a little straighter and remember how far my belly skin stretched as you grew into a living, breathing, human being. When shopping for the “perfect” fitting bra that eludes me, I am reminded that these breasts sustained three lives! How can I be upset by the inconvenience that I feel they sometimes cause me?

Depending on when you’re reading this, that last paragraph might make you cringe. I get it! I almost didn’t type it! But I’m not going to be a host for shame anymore. I’m not going to sit quietly while other women feel isolated in their thinking. I’m not going to allow anyone to tell me that I’m not okay the way I am.

The truth is my loves, I am more than okay. I’m fantastic. I’m better than I have ever been. This beautiful body has done more good than I ever would have given it credit for. After years of mistreatment by its tenant, it has been very forgiving.

If there was only one thing that I could tell you about body image it would be this, “When looking, thinking about and caring for your physique, remember to be grateful for its functions. There will always be something you wish you could change. Always. Why not focus on the miracle that is life? I think you will discover that you have everything you need to be an exceptional version of yourself.

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To my Son’s Wife

3F9B1096Dear Daughter-in-law,

I have been thinking about you a lot lately. I know that sounds strange since my boys are only 5 and 7, but I can’t help thinking about their future. After all, I am the one who has been with them from the moment their past began.

I hear horror stories about mother-in-laws. It’s easy for me to say, “That’s ridiculous! She’s crazy! I’ll never act like that!” Truth be told, I don’t know how I will act when he falls head over heels for you. I would hope I will be supportive and not overbearing, loving and not smothering, wise counsel and not unsolicited advice.

Here’s the thing…I think I understand a little better why mother-in-laws get the “Crazy Lady” label. Some of us have trouble letting go of being the primary girl in his life. Some of us aren’t sure how to transition from being the last to wish him sweet dreams before sleep and the first to greet him in the morning, to the one you have to remind him to call.

There’s just something about a mother and son that is too precious to wrap words around. There is something about the space in a mother’s heart for the baby she raises into a man. There is a meshing of sorts that cannot be undone. And I’m not so sure it should have to be.

Please understand, I do not, nor have I ever, lived for my boys. I believe that to live is Christ. Everything else is a futile attempt at purpose. I’m not going to tell you that I gave up everything and sacrificed my life for them. We all make sacrifices. It comes down to what we are willing to sacrifice for. That looks different for everyone. Honestly, my life is so much fuller, richer and exciting because of my children. I cannot imagine what I would be doing were I not their mother.

I want to ask that you see one thing very clearly. That is, I have made every effort to instill in my children that there is only one opinion that matters. God’s. He is the great Creator. He chose exactly how they would be put together and how their mind, heart and spirit would work together and sometimes against each other. No one knows them better than He. Not me, not their earthly father, not even you, though I know that’s hard to hear.

So I have begun praying. For you, for him, for me…I’m praying that nothing will ever come between him and his relationship with the one who knows him best. I’m praying that you will encourage him to grow his relationship with Christ and always place it as highest priority. It may not seem like it now, but if that relationship is healthy, your relationship stands a much better chance of being strong and wildly fulfilling.

I could make a list of all the things I wish for you and him. All the things I want in a wife for my son. Honestly darling, I want nothing but God’s will. All else is fleeting and empty.

Please believe me when I say that I do not want to be regarded, by you or anyone, a monster-in-law. I am working on me. I have much to work on. I am also praying that God will guard my son’s heart, mind and spirit against confusion. That he will not mistake lust for love, manipulation for sincerity, ultimatums for resolution, insecurity for confidence, or persuasion for honesty.

I do, at times wonder if I have already met you. If I have looked into your eyes and seen your smile. Only time will tell. Just know that I do not take the responsibility of “Mother” lightly and I am doing the best I can to raise men of integrity. I hope that you will rest in the assurance that I am covering you with love and light, while praying God’s protection over your heart, soul, mind and body.

Gratefully Yours,