On Muffin Tops and Big Mouths

On Saturday night I was dolled up, feeling snazzy, and excited for a late night dinner at Pen & Quill in the city.  One teenager was off and away, the other studying, the littlest down, and my first grader and I were chatting in the kitchen as I tidied up, waiting for my husband/hot date.  I was half-listening to the disconnected ramblings of the boy as I puttered, completing menial tasks that make my future self smile.  The arc of the conversation is lost for the ages, because as I crouched down to examine one of that sweet little cherub’s many injuries/aches/pains, two questions came out of his tiny little mouth that will loom large in my consciousness forevermore:

Mommy!  What is this?  

muffin top two.jpeg

He gently strokes my middle-aged side, right above my pants, the part that inflates when I put on my favorite “going out on the town” jeans, the ones that I *think* make me look hip and slim and not AS MOM-ISH.  HA.  (Listen, if I’m brutally honest, this part of me inflates when I wear any article of clothing with a respectable waistband.  But I digress).   

A look of utter and complete concern clouds his sweet face.  In the midst of my horror at his outing of my SITUATION, his tenderness is indeed touching.    

I attempt a stuttered, incoherent, jumbled explanation of the concept of MUFFIN TOP, middle-aged spread, the Trump Twelve, and birthing FOUR BABIES with he interrupts, clearly alarmed.  

But MOM. . .  DOES IT HURT?   


I explain to him that it is, in fact, simply a part of my body, and that no, it does not PHYSICALLY hurt.  

I stand up and he, satisfied by my explanation, changes the subject to his intense, newfound love of soda.

Ah, the oblivion of youth.  He shatters my vibe and blithely moves on to dissect the pros and cons of Dr. Pepper and Orange Crush. 


So much for the HIP, SLIM, "out on the town" illusion I had going on.

My wounded pride and I have a quick conference, and we decide and that this muffin-top problem is squarely the fault of pants designers everywhere who have the nerve to insist on unforgiving waistbands.  The problem is not me and pastries.  Or me and cake.  Or me and brownies.  Or me and the fried chicken sandwich I'm about to order at Pen & Quill.

No siree!

This problem can be easily solved.

High-waisted yoga pants FOREVER and EVER.  


Let's Go on a Journey, Shall We?

Let’s talk about prayer. 

Now, I don’t mean right before meals or quick prayers throughout the day.  I mean, really praying.  Actually TALKING to God.  But here's how it goes for me:  when I begin praying and speaking to God, earnestly and wholeheartedly, with gratitude and intention and for a specific, dedicated time of stillness. . . .something inevitably occurs. . .


In the midst of (attempting) to pray, I start thinking about groceries.  Or phone calls and errands.  Or switching the laundry.  Or an essay that I’m writing.  Or a problem I am having with a student.  Or a son.  Or the chickens.  Or what I want for a snack.  Or what I should bake RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE.

Then, I remember that I am praying.  WHOOPS

I get annoyed with myself and feel my cheeks redden.  Chastened, I try again.  

If it goes in the usual way, I will repeat this process several times before I have sufficiently “prayed.”

Anyone with me on this?

Over the course of the past few years, I have been concentrating on prayer.  I have adopted several new practices, including breath prayer, to help combat the monkey brain.  

These practices have helped.  It has been good. It has been healing.

But I still want more.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent on the Christian liturgical calendar, a season of forty days of repentance, reflection, and preparation prior to Easter.  The perfect season to start a new practice.

Enter the Ignatian Examen.

The Examen is a reflective prayer discipline that follows the same structure at the close of each day.  It invites the Holy Spirit into your time of prayer in a way that feels tangible and present.  It allows for you to gently examine the day you have lived, express gratitude for the good gifts from God found within the day, reflect on where you went wrong, and earnestly recommit to choosing life and love tomorrow.  It is a gentle prayer practice WITH A STRUCTURE, which greatly helps my MONKEY BRAIN.

Two of my friends and I have decided to practice the Examen for the forty days of Lent.  To aid us in this discipline, we are using Reimagining the Ignition Examen:  Fresh Ways to Pray from Your Day by Mark Thibodeaux, SJ.  Thibodeaux’s book explains the general premise of the Examen, guides the reader through individualizing the practice, and provides 34 specific prayer guides to follow.  
Here is the basic structure of the Examen practice of prayer (from Thibodeaux, 2015, xi):

Relish the moments that went well and all of the gifts I have today.
Request the Spirit to lead me through my review of the day
Review the day
Repent of any mistakes or failures and ask for forgiveness and healing
Resolve, in concrete ways, to live tomorrow well.

I invite you to try this for yourself.  Will you join me?  I look forward to sharing with you what I’ve learned. . . and to see if I can be rid of monkey brain once and for all.

Want a FREE PRINTABLE DOWNLOAD with steps to pray the EXAMEN?  Subscribe here and I will email you a pretty little printable to guide your through the Examen practice.