What is a “Beauty-Filled” Life?

Lately I’ve had a few people ask, “Meghan, why is your blog named ‘The Beauty-Filled Life’ when you write mainly about boys and dirt and chaos?”

Exactly.

Allow me to explain. Sure, I could have named my blog “Snips and Snails” or “Bless This Mess,” perhaps “Fart Frat” would have been well received … but, see, that doesn’t tell the whole story. “The Beauty-Filled Life” does.

Years ago I read something by one of my favorite authors and thought leaders, Glennon Doyle, and it stuck with me. She said:

Beautiful means ‘full of beauty.’ Beautiful is not about the appearance of your outsides — beautiful is about what you’re made of. Beautiful women are women who spend time discovering what they love — what sings to them — what their idea of beauty on this Earth is. Then they make time each day to fill themselves up with that beauty. They know themselves well enough to know what they love, and they love themselves enough to fill up with a little of their particular kind of beauty each day.

My sons and their antics fill me up. They are my well from which I draw beauty. I don’t want a beautiful life; I want a beauty-filled life. A beauty-filled life has absolutely nothing to do with pretty, organized, controlled, orderly perfection. It’s the guts, the real soil of the human experience. Beautiful things fade, but beauty-filled moments last forever.

A floor covered in laundry, changing wet sheets, potty training, tantrums, messy buns and baggy eyes are not “beautiful” as we have come to know beauty, but these experiences and the love driving them are filled with beauty. A beauty-filled life is one that is rich with authentic beauty, the kind that is a finely woven tapestry of pain and triumph, anger and redemption, dirt and cleansing, growth and forgiveness and unconditional love.

No one except advertising agencies ever said our lives are supposed to beautiful in the sense of pleasing to the eye. They sell that our homes are supposed to be sparkling clean, our bodies fit, tan, and toned, and our little ones well behaved. Between magazines and our newsfeeds, our minds are inundated with images of perfectly styled homes with clean, bright kitchens and minimalist playrooms donning only wooden toys. It’s what we love seeing, otherwise it wouldn’t be everywhere, but it also makes us feel bad.

I used to work for those magazines. During photo shoots, we would enter gorgeous —albeit lived in — homes and spend hours cleaning up, moving furniture and styling shots. We worked hard to remove all the true life from the shots only to turn around and perfectly style an “ideal” life. A glass of orange juice on a veranda next to a vase of flowers and a sun-dappled croissant, a perfect half-moon of wooden trains laying next to a “Curious George” anthology in an otherwise untouched playroom, families enjoying a backyard picnic though they’ve never done that before.

I was fooled by these images for a long time. I still have to remind myself that they are not the truth. I look at my messy home with chipped paint on the walls, and I’m embarrassed that we’re not perfect. How could we possibly have company over when we don’t have an open concept home, our laundry baskets have actual clothes in them, our toys are plastic, and our couch is from Ikea! (These thoughts are even more ridiculous when typed). But then the little voice inside of me that has sprouted thanks to maturity and experience reminds me that perfection is not the end game. What if we saw real homes filled with the beauty of real life? Would we then focus less on curating Insta-worthy shots and more on filling our own rooms with joy and laughter?

I’m tired of “bettering myself” and my life. I’m weary from filling out mindfulness journals, reading self-help books and trying new diets. I’m nostalgic for the levity of childhood. My boys bring me back to that place. They make me roar with laughter, and I love watching them really enjoy their lives with wild abandon. They look at me with love in their eyes, and it has nothing to do with whether or not the laundry is done, where we bought our furniture, or the size of my pants. They just love me. They make me feel beauty-filled.

One day someone is going to tear down the houses we’ve so proudly built, paint over our furniture and laugh at our clothing choices. It just doesn’t matter. “Pretty” doesn’t last … I’m living for a beauty-filled life. And, even if I one day get to travel the whole stunning world, I hope the view from inside this humble home is the one I remember well into my old age. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

 

 

The Cure For Boredom

Lately, I have noticed that children are bored. They are discontented, uncomfortable with free time and unsure what to do with Saturdays that are not filled with sports, Sundays without church and school days without the classroom. A life with no vacations, no parties and no pools has these young ones perplexed. These children do not live in my home.

The Riney boys have never made boredom’s acquaintance, and for that I am equally grateful and exhausted. People have often commented about how “busy” they are. Yeah, thanks. This week I decided to follow the boys around, so I, too, could be privy to the goings on of their minds and the activities that fill their days. If your children come to you saying they are bored, here are some options for them:

  • Play NASA by using the seesaw to “launch” your little brother.
  • Play doctor’s office. Pretend you can only talk in zipper sounds, you burp shoes and your dog used to be a human before she was cursed.
  • Play “The Rolling Game” in which you take turns rolling down the bed, trying to knock the youngest child to the floor.
  • Cuddle the dog. Kiss her before you lick her, because licking her before kissing her would be ridiculous and gross. Obviously.
  • Play flu clinic. Give your brothers flu tests by sticking Q-tips up their noses.
  • Clean your room. Wait until it’s past bedtime. Pretend you are a cat and spend a full hour carrying each individual toy in your mouth to the toy bin. Meow.
  • Bark “Jingle Bells.”
  • Wash the car. Use a mop. Drag the mop through the mud each time you bring it to the ground. Put it back on the car. Curse the mystery dirt.
  • Remove brick from the fireplace. (There are clearly too many.)
  • Watch Bob Ross make “happy, little trees.”
  • Put away laundry in your dresser. Insist that you only be given the exact same amount of shirts and shorts. Stuff all nonessential articles of clothing under your bed.
  • Use fabric from Mom’s curtains to make a flag for the tree fort.
  • Practice making Chewbacca noises by gargling with water.
  • Try to flush an entire roll of toilet paper. Watch the bathroom flood. Run around the house while singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”
  • Watch “Mary Poppins.” Convince your brother that if he believes in himself, he can jump into the painting in the living room.
  • Stare at clouds, read in the tree fort, sleep in, watch cartoons and just enjoy these yummy, slow days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Eleventy Hundred

We are adjusting nicely to our “new normal” at the Riney casa, and things have fallen into a doable rhythm during our quarantined days. I’ve discovered the joy of home improvement. After refinishing and painting our old dresser, I discovered I am a genius, a renewer of all things, a gifted phoenix of discarded furniture. My fingertips are transformative, and I breathe new life into antiques. My family now finds me entranced, staring at walls, cabinets, tables and the like, dreaming of what gifts I may bestow upon them. I’ve painted so many things green, my husband has named the color “quarantine green.” I don’t have a problem; you have a problem.

My sons have been surprisingly obedient when it comes to their schoolwork. They are enjoying their Zoom meetings and the freedom found in working from home. They read in the tree fort, create art on the patio, take the computer in the sandbox … yep, they took the computer in the sandbox! It’s crunching as I type this.

My oldest has been very busy. He has spent his days trying to create a robot to rub my back (Go right ahead, son. Of course you can use those batteries and old cords.) and has been collecting treasures in an old shoe box. The other day he found a real dinosaur bone in the side yard and was beside himself with excitement. He made me promise that we will take it to a museum when they reopen. In unrelated news, our neighbors had barbecue ribs the other night.

My middle child has adopted the early-morning routine of a retiree. He wakes early, comes down the stairs, turns off the porch light, turns on the living room lights and makes me a cup of coffee. He’s five. The youngest spends his days outside, and to be honest that’s where he belongs. He’s a man of the woods, untamed and virile. I found him barking at the trash truck yesterday. The other night when we finally got him out of the dirt and into the bathtub, I heard my oldest mutter, “The eagle has landed.”

We’ve been playing lots of board games. It can be challenging at times to play with my middle son, as he has apparently inherited my patience. During game time, he displays the temperament and understanding of a young Archie Bunker. But most of the time, he is just a doll, the most affectionate and loving of all three. He covers me daily in compliments like, “You’re so warm and fluffy” and “Your face is prettier than your leg” (Notice he only said one leg, so I can assume I’m rockin’ one very good-looking gam).

But he’s not the only sweet one, I had another child recently give me a long, loving hug … followed by a flatulent with which he then proceeded to lock me in the room. Before shutting the door, he looked me in the eyes and said, “Smell the love.” Romantic. You’re welcome, future daughter-in-law.

They really are such good boys, and this time at home has brought them even closer together. Last week they went on an intense dinosaur hunt in the backyard, the goal being to catch “just a mid-sized herbivore.” They grabbed their backpacks, filled them with snacks, dinosaur books and tools and headed out on their mission. They dragged a dog crate to the backyard, placed within it a bowl of ham, propped the door open with a broom and waited for the creature to emerge. “Get into position” they all yelled as they climbed into the tree fort to wait. The bushes began to move, and it was like the opening scene in Jurassic Park. They caught a golden retriever.

My husband is really wonderful about encouraging imaginative play. He’s such a sweet man. When he noticed that they were digging for dinosaur bones, he saw it as the perfect opportunity to make a lasting memory by letting our boys borrow a tool that belonged to his grandfather. This tool just also happened to be large and sharp and every mother’s nightmare. After he returned to his desk, proud of the special moment he shared with his sons, I spent the afternoon running interference. I’m happy to say we only lost one tree branch, everyone’s digits are still in place, and I only saw actual sparks once.

All in all, we’re doing great. We’re so encouraged by the good we see in the world, and we’re really enjoying this time at home. The house is a mess, things are “off,” and we certainly don’t look our best. But, we’re healthy, we’re together, and, for that, we’re filled with joy. These crazy boys of mine are growing up way too fast, and we won’t always have dino hunts in the backyard. I’m going to soak up every last smelly, messy moment of this. I hope you’re doing the same.

God Bless,

Meghan

 

The Bachelorette: Quarantine Home Edition

It’s been five weeks now that I’ve been living under the same roof with these three young bachelors, and I still can’t decide which is my favorite. Tonight, they are treating me to a very special date, and hopefully my preference will be made clear.

The towheaded one is a sophisticated fellow, and he has asked that I wear my hot pink blouse with my leopard skirt. He thinks I would look fancy with a pink scarf donning my neck like a Hitchcock Grace Kelly. Who am I to disappoint? The eldest of the three gentlemen has suggested I wear red lipstick, diamond earrings and a fancy updo to complement my outfit. The purple eye shadow he has chosen completes the look, and I’m now ready for my big date.

It’s 6’oclock on the dot, and the doorbell has rung. Very punctual … I like that. They each greet me at the door with a pink rose — a nice touch — and they are dressed impeccably. (I learn later that the youngest one almost came in the buff, a bold and confident move). The eldest seems to be wearing his sweater backwards, a unique style that says “I don’t care about the rules of this world.” The towheaded one tells me I look beautiful, and my heart skips a beat. The youngest gentleman saunters in last and asks, “What happened to your hair?” He doesn’t care for the updo, and I appreciate his honesty. I admire a man who knows what he likes.

The waiter, who is mighty cute, seats us at his best table, and the towheaded bachelor pulls out my chair, a gesture that does not go unnoticed. The dinner begins with a reading of the wine list, while the sounds of jazz standards coast through the air and the glow from the candlelight illuminates the three handsome gentlemen before me. The waiter brings us baguettes and butter, and the youngest grabs the whole stick of butter off the plate and takes a bite. His savage ways intrigue me.

We all order steaks, medium well, with mashed potatoes and asparagus. The youngest drinks his milk with wild abandon, letting it splash on his face. His entire, uncut steak hangs from his mouth like a hockey puck. His caveman soul sets him apart.

The eldest entertains us with knock knock jokes throughout the meal, and the towheaded one keeps his cash on the table as if to signal to everyone, “I’ve got this.” Now it is time to pay, and the three gentlemen play a fun trick on the waiter by hiding in the curtains and jumping out with the money. What a gas! The towheaded one announces, “I’ll pay for dinner,” to which the eldest replies, “I’ll pee for dinner.” Oh, he is a hoot!

Now, off to the movies; it’s just down the galley kitchen. When we arrive, the theater employee — also very cute — informs us that the show will begin in 10 minutes. He points us to the arcade where we play the crane game and skee ball. My dates are all so competitive, and the youngest will throw a downright fit if he loses. He doesn’t care who’s watching; I admire his intensity. The gentlemen buy me Junior Mints — they prefer Skittles — and we head to our seats in preparation for the feature presentation, “Father of the Bride.” How did they know my favorite movie? How thoughtful!

As the feature begins, the towheaded one crawls in my lap; what a dear! He kisses me up the arm like I’m Morticia Adams and, at one point, sucks on my elbow. But who am I to question how someone shows affection? The eldest must be getting jealous. He has made his way to my lap, as well. He has asked that I rub his tummy … must have been the candy. Since, we’re getting more casual, I decide to get more comfortable and take down my hair. The youngest looks over at me, puzzled, and mutters, “Your hair doesn’t look stupid anymore.” Playing hard to get, eh?

We end the evening with one rousing game of “Is It Chocolate or Dog Poop on the Blanket”? Good for such laughs! What a wonderful evening. In conclusion, I’m sorry to say my choice has not been made any clearer. They each possess admirable qualities, and I’m equally enamored with them all. I like being their best girl, and I’ve decided to keep them all to myself for a little bit longer.

Let’s Go Over Some Rules

Dearest Sons,

Since it seems we are going to be contained in this house together for the foreseeable future—and because I think I may have actually roared today—I have decided it is time to, once again, review some rules of civility. By civility I simply mean if you would like to see more than the back of your bedroom doors, you will need to do this.

1. Don’t eat, lick, or mouth anything other than the food I serve you. I should not have to utter things like, “Quit eating my blanket,” “Don’t lick the dog,” and “We don’t eat out of the trash.”

2. Immediately following my hours-long cleaning, vacuuming, dusting, and floor-polishing is probably not the best time to attempt to eat popcorn using a chip clip. Why I still have hair chip clips is beside the point. I was a teenager of the ‘90s, and some things are harder to shake than others.

3. I understand that you may not always like what I cook, but that does not give you an excuse to eat chips all day and then tell me you aren’t full at meal times. Yes, my own cooking is making me physically ill, as well, and I believe my body is starting to reject it, however it is what we have. Do not make me tell you about starving children one more time. There are buzzards circling our house because my spirit is dying.

4. I should never walk into the room and see you drinking out of a wine glass. I don’t care if it’s just La Croix. It’s weird, wrong, dangerous, and just visually disturbing.

5. We, as humans, brush our teeth regardless of what we are doing that day. That is all.

6. I don’t care if you found a balloon in the closet; we do not play with balloons, EVER! They are the devil’s playthings. They lead to nothing but fighting, crying, loud noises, and potential choking. Years ago, y’all got a balloon with a string wrapped around the ceiling fan in our bedroom. Now, if we would like some extra air in our room, dad and I have to give the fan a running start like we’re hand-starting a prop plane.

7. Dragging your little brother around the house by his feet is not “playing train.” I don’t care if you call it the “Baby Express.”

8. FLUSH

9. When I’m in my room and you ask me if I would like my door shut, I will assume you need to talk to Jesus about what you are about to do.

10. When I’m working out in the living room, I don’t need your help. If I had wanted to do goat yoga, I would have signed up for it years ago.

Finally, know that dad and I love you with our whole hearts. When all of this is over, we will know each other even better, treasure these moments together, praise God for his grace and immediately order a deep cleaning.

Love,

Mom

Coronavirus Lessons: Who Really Needs Pants?

In this time of uncertainty and fear, one thing has become abundantly clear in the Riney household and that is the complete indispensability of pants. The comfort of being properly covered is seemingly lost on these three sons of mine, and the result is a lot of flesh. While I am appropriately suppressing my Carona-induced stress through a combination of baking, praying, and soft pants, my children have embraced their “new normal” as their “new nudist colony.” I’ve seen things … things I can’t unsee.

When you live with four boys—I’m including my husband in that count—your gauge of what is socially acceptable changes. Your judgment is clouded by your primal need to survive, and you begin to allow things that haunt your dreams. These three young boys who emerged from my womb are bound and determined to destroy everything in their sight. These are the loves of my life and also the reason I will never own a black light.

I’ve grown very accustomed to spills, unnamed fluids and mystery stains. Water has become like air to me. My youngest son can pour out an entire bottle of water onto the rug in front of me, and my pulse does not change. I confess that I have actually convinced myself that a sloshed-around La Croix is akin to deep cleaning with club soda.

Due to our Coronavirus quarantine, we’re living in the backyard these days. Our neighbors wake to the sweet sound of me shrieking, “Quit licking your brother!”, “Dog poop is NOT a toy!”, “Is it bleeding?” and “Cover up your bits!” If you’re lucky enough to be one of our neighbors, please don’t call CPS. I assure you they’re perfectly safe. I’m the one at risk.

Growing up an only child, I would dream about my certain future … a family of one—maybe two—girls. We would giggle while we baked in matching red gingham aprons while listening to classical music and musing about our favorite parts of “Anne of Green Gables”. Let’s just note that while I’m typing this, all three of my boys are making flatulent noises on my body. It’s a glamorous life, folks.

My oldest is seven now, and with time comes wisdom. I’ve learned how to handle even the most trying situations with threats and bribes grace. Though I still find myself fantasizing about the pioneer times when you could tie little Ezekiel to a tree while you finished the laundry, I am growing accustomed to this boy life. At this point I’m only a loud whistle, a poisonous dart, and an industrial-strength carpet cleaner away from having this whole parenting this figured out.

So, to all those moms who are in the same boat during this crazy time, just know you’re not alone. We’re going to make it, and we’re doing the best we can. Don’t forget to laugh … and lose the pants.