Sunday, August 20, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

"Mothers decide to stay home not just because they are tired of juggling family and career; not just because they want to "be there" for the first word and the first step; not just because they have found that a rich home life requires persistent personal investment.

They want to be home because in some quiet moment caring for their children, they have suddenly experienced the vastness, the intricacies the delicate nature of this work. While performing some entirely routine act of nurturing they have unexpectedly stumbled on a moment of insight so luminous as to reveal with imposing clarity that the greatest opportunity for success they might ever have is nestled right there in their arms.

And in the midst of a thousand previous assumptions about life and love, in an instant that no one else can measure or see, they decided that this uncertain business of trying to guide childish innocent into adult wisdom is an art worthy of extraordinary exertion and time."

Linda Burton

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Golden Rules of Volunteering and A Call To Arms-A Timely Back-To-School Post

(Andrew going to kindergarten, he is now in 8th grade. In a blink of an eye.)

Here is a timely repost for August, originally posted here, with a little extra at the bottom.

A couple weeks ago I had to go to a quick meeting after school for a first grade activity that involved a family feast.  I was assigned to make a part of a meal and we volunteers all met with the teacher for a quick "go over".  I sent my older kids home on the bus, just for routine sake, and because they are old enough to be home for a few minutes.  Of course I had my trusty helper Patrick by my side.

One of the moms there had a little baby in a car seat, 2 little ones, and was picking up her first grader.    The baby had been peacefully sleeping, and some of the other kids (like kids do) woke him up to "see the baby".  Her little toddlers were being little toddlers and she tried to keep track of them and attend the meeting at the same time.  She look frazzled, tired and overwhelmed.

It brought back SO many memories, because that was once me.

I remember the amount of work it took to organize naps and nursing times, to show up for a meeting at school or someone's house, or to drop off a snack that I was signed up for, or to show up in a classroom.  It hardly ever seemed to go smoothly for me and never as easy as I thought it would be.

It often meant that the entire nap/nursing/snack/dinner schedule was thrown off for the rest of the day, or sometimes even days.  It meant I had to find something decent to wear, and find the time somewhere to put on some makeup and brush my hair.  It meant that I had to make sure each child had a snack in him/her, to prevent breakdowns. It meant I had to look at my watch all morning long.  It meant that I usually ended up sweating buckets carrying a 40 pound car seat, and a toddler who refused to walk, into a stuffy classroom, or drive across town to someone's house. 

I always felt very obligated to do all I could to help...I didn't want anyone to say, "Oh she never does anything."  I felt like my kids would have this huge gap in their childhood if I wasn't participating regularly at their in-school activities. 

As I added my 4th and 5th child to the family, I let ALL of that go.  I gave myself permission to NOT sign up for things, I gave myself permission to be OK with letting school be school, and not a parent participation contest, I gave myself permission to know myself, and know my babies, and know my family...what I can't handle, what is too disruptive for our little thriving schedule, what I just don't want to's all OK. 

Here's what I want to tell my younger self, and all of you who may be experiencing the same struggles I did:

1. Whether you have one child, or two, or five, remember that their are times and seasons of your life, where you are "allowed" to step back and just survive day to day without adding more to your plate. 

2. Be confident in having the knowledge that only you and you alone can decide when your family can handle any extra committments. 

3. Learn to say no without guilt.  Offer to do what you can do easily...that means with no stress.

4. Don't compare yourself with others.  What one person seems to handle with ease (notice the "seems" part), is maybe not what you can handle.  We all have different talents, and we all have different stresses and thresholds.  We also all have different support systems behind the scenes.

5. Be kind to yourself and in spite of what the world tells us all today, do not underestimate how much work it is to be a mom, just by itself, without all the extra things we feel pressured to do today.  

A few additions:

School has become very different from what I remember growing up.  Rare was it to see a parent at school.  Celebrations were very simple, far and few between, and not all day events.  The school was very learning-centered and teacher-centered.  I am not knocking at all the 'school community'-building and supporting parents getting to know parents, parenting helping in classrooms and supporting teachers (as the teachers see fit) and parents supporting the school with educational pursuits, etc.

But I will also say that many things I see today encompass a whole different level of commitment from all involved and often I end up feeling like the teachers, who today have enough stress in the classroom, bear the brunt of a lot of parents "good ideas".  (I often picture a well-meaning parent dropping off a huge tray of fluorescent frosted cupcakes, soaking in the 'hero' moment, and then heading out the class room door while a teacher is left to deal with a bunch of kids (literally) bouncing off the walls filled with high fructose corn syrup and Red Dye #40.)  A very smart education consultant that I happen to know was once approached by a group of teachers she was counseling, begging for help (with tears involved!) with "taking back their school"-all these extra "good ideas" were just really wearing on them, and taking away from the purpose of school.  They were majorly stressed!

I also know that "good ideas" by one parent can cause many other parents to do a lot of work-it's like a train gaining steam and parents being pulled onto this crazy train that sometimes can run for years and decades before someone says, "Why are we doing this again?" Maybe it's time to step back-I don't think much will be missed-and I've heard from so many parents at all different schools, that the last thing our kids need in their life is another celebration-by the time we get to the holiday itself, the kids have burn-out!

One day I was listening to an awesome speech by a favorite author, Meg Meeker.  She referenced this "crazy train" and said it takes some courage to jump off but the more parents who see others being brave, they too question and reject the pressure and the fast paced 'busy' that is natural to these extra commitments, and ease off that train themselves.

When time does open up for us in our lives to have outside commitments we can choose carefully, paying attention to the right fit for our strengths and weaknesses and season of life-but there is no rush (see above.)  How will it help our children if we are snappy and tired from doing too much elsewhere outside the home in the "name" of their education?  How will any activity help our children if dinners together are constantly compromised or we stress our marriages by always running out in the evenings, or being exhausted or distracted when our husbands are home?  There is little if anything that can be beneficial to our children's growth besides these things-a good marriage, dinners together, calm parents, a "rested" educational environment, and a dependable protected home routine.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

Spend time with those you love.
One of these days you will either say
I wish I had
I'm glad I did.
Zig Ziglar

Friday, August 11, 2017

There Is A Season Turn Turn Turn

That song came up on my Pandora and I thought it perfectly described my funky feelings this week. I am so glad I have friends who I can talk to about all this-friends who are going through the same feelings-hormonal angst, in addition to end of summer sentimental feelings, and back to school anticipation and college move-ins and goodbyes and just kids growing up in general-new grades, new ages, new beginnings.  It's not all smooth sailing, except when it is?

I feel like I could do a better job at all of this recording if I waited till my days aren't so full, but then with the memory I have, I know I will have nothing to write about-all of it will be evaporated from my head.  So I'll give it my best shot, wishing I could write the deeper thoughts that run through my head about it all.

This little girl.  
That's a baby in her stomach by the way.  She will try preschool again this year after her 5th birthday in the afternoons.  I think it will go wonderfully.  Waiting a year has made a big difference I think. I THINK, I don't know...we'll see in two weeks.  She has played so hard all summer long.  And she has shared a whole bunch of attention-a few times she said, "Mom can we just go 'talk quiet' in the other room?"  Craving that time with just me.  She'll have it soon and I know she needs it and I do too.

For Jeff's 51rst birthday we all went up to a climbing gym.  I took pics, didn't climb. Isaac had a friend visiting and another one who came later and they were the nicest kids (adults) ever. 

No one was born with a fear of heights apparently. 

Sisterly love.

Lots of racing went on.  
Matt won everything all the time. He just throws himself up there magically.
He's not in this video-that's Jeff that wins who is where these kids get their love of climbing from-certainly not me.

I thought this was funny.  Maybe I need a wall with that sign-once you put it like that problems don't feel like "real" problems right?

Pet turtles that are going to be reintroduced back into their environment this week.  Love the names-Patrick sure adores that Red Fern book.

Back to school donut tradition.

I wish I had more pics of Abbey's move-in day but we were hard at work.  I woke up at 5:30 am to go for a walk/run.  On the way back I spotted a lamp (not the one above) on the curb that someone was throwing away. I grabbed it and it worked great, and seemed brand new.  Earlier that week we had a big stupid argument that started out with an issue of a lamp.  We both said things we regretted. 

I was mad for a good long day. Sometimes I have to stew for awhile, because usually what seems like one little thing to the kids, as a parent feels like a whole bunch of worries.  Am I doing this right?  Am I raising grateful hard working kids?  Do they understand the differences between the generations-ie. what my husband and I had growing up vs what they have now?  Is there an appreciation for that difference? Do they get that I don't really care "what everyone else does or what everyone else has"?  (And then I stew even more about how the culture in general right now makes it harder for us that do care about these things raise good kids who appreciate the work money takes to earn and occasionally it does feel pretty lonely.)  Sometimes, I guess, I throw all that in there, and the argument was just about a STUPID LAMP between two tired, slightly stressed adults the day before a huge transition. I make it worse throwing WAY too much into that pot of stew.

Well, what do you know, that very next morning, on this early morning run an hour before we were to leave, here is this thrown away lamp sitting right in front of me.  I chose to see it as a message from God.  "Trust, and believe and keep chugging away and keep working things out and keep parenting and keep learning lessons and loving and working and trusting trusting trusting and I've got your back.  Oh, and here's your dumb lamp by the way, so there to both of you."

I was going to leave Janey at home with the boys, but that morning she woke up and begged to go and I said yes-I thought this really has become a yearly tradition with Janey-college move-in days. And if I had time I'd go back through my pics and post all the college move in days, including the one when she was hours away from being born, but that is not going to happen. 

The headboard was left in the room-we recovered it with a cheap gray linen tablecloth we found at Home Goods.  The mattress was coordinated to be delivered that day (I did NOT want to rent a Uhaul for anything-my goal is to never have to do that actually!) We looked for a desk and dresser on Craigslist and the ones we drove to see were not what we wanted, but when pulling out of the neighborhood I saw a few things at the curb (I know I'm getting really lucky with curb shopping!) and grabbed this table.  Abbey wasn't sure about it but when we discovered it was an old metal school desk and it worked and fit perfectly as a bedside table we were both thrilled.  I don't even think it needs to be painted.  Janey cleaned it up for us. She was honestly such a help.  She carried so much up a big flight of stairs for us.

I wish I had taken a pic of all of us in the room (I will next time we visit and when it is all complete-so cute!) but we were busy cleaning windows and tubs and floors (yuck!) and getting some last minutes items.

Oh, the worry of dropping kids off at a huge state university.  In a not-great area of the city in their first off-campus experience.  It goes against every parental instinct I've had. I've given all the talks over and over again and what is left is a ton of prayer.  And some texting that says, "Are you still alive?"  I've sent two of those already.

I came home to a late night pool party we had planned for Andrew.  I don't ever really do kid's parties (we just have family ones), but this one just happened to come together very simply and seemed like a perfect opportunity to get everyone together before school started.  It was late because that is when the city pool is open for parties.  Andrew was thrilled and so so happy.

It was a full day for me.

Because everything around here happens all at the same time.  Does every mother of many children feel like that?  I hope it's just not me.  I want to enjoy it but one thing finishes and then it's on to the next with hardly a moment to catch our breath.  And I love love love and plan for breath-catching moments, so I can really immerse myself in the special times, but even with the best plans, it just doesn't always happen with so many little lives going on here.

I love these two so much.  (That's Isaac and Matt in case you didn't recognize the MEN in my life.)

Most of Andrew's classmates who are the greatest kids ever. OH I LOVE the junior high at our school.  Kids this age just still want to be kids and have good innocent fun-if they are "allowed" to just be kids still, and I know all these parents of these kids are fighting for that. 

Up next week-Isaac moving to a new city after a nice year of living here and saving some hard-earned money, (two moving out in one week!), and Matt starting senior year (which is busy with all that college app and testing) and the three little ones starting school.  Right now I'm heading to the grocery store, because food and laundry-those are always where I must begin. :)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Ordinary Days

"How did you get down here?  Are there like, TWO of you or something?"

I have been saving cute quotes from the kids on my Iphone but this is the perfect one to sum up summer over here.  I was up in the boy's room with Patrick, asked him to do something, and than before he knew it I ran down to the basement to change the laundry, where we met up a few minutes later.  I answered him back, "Wouldn't that be great buddy?"  He probably thought, "No that would be two of you asking me to do things."  He knew better to say that though.

Summer is winding down (although it shouldn't be-we all know how I feel about that) and we are entering my two favorite months of all, August and September (September is the front runner) as August can be a little hectic with three birthdays, 500 back to school meetings, and sports schedules starting.

On a side note, I have to get back to using my nice camera, because half of these pics are dark and/or blurry.

Teaching this little girl to swim-she's been my latest swimmer so far but it's because she's so cautious and sensitive and sweet, so we are working on it slowly, and surely, and she's so so proud when she succeeds.  


We won the championship, and the kids were so excited and I have to say the coaches were amazing-college and high school kids and just so positive and nice every day-and hard working.

One night I said I wasn't up for cooking dinner, and Abbey asked if she could-and then Isaac chimed in and I said, go ahead, don't go crazy and don't make too much of a mess.  Jeff went with them to the store, with a loose plan and we had delicious steak, with blue cheese butter, and hush puppies, and roasted vegetables and I'm forgetting something else, but it was very very good (doesn't everything taste the best when us moms don't have to make it?).  Isaac set the table complete with candle light and table mats.  I wonder why I don't make this a weekly tradition or bi-weekly, or tri-weekly :) and it's probably because just the coordination of them all being home to help would be impossible.

I have my little routine where I walk in the morning.  The morning sun is so pretty and our little town is so peaceful then.

A letter!  I teased Abbey about this enough that she is probably going to roll her eyes when she reads this (I can see you Abbey!) but someone sent her a letter-you know on paper with pen in the MAILBOX, I was so shocked when I got it and then OMG she wrote back.  Heavens to Betsy, they can still write!  I asked her if I could now buy her special cute stationary like I had in the 80's with rainbows on it and she said no.  

I had the same reaction (but contained myself somewhat) when I saw a pre-teen reading a book in a waiting room. Not watching TV, not on an IPad or a phone, but a book!  My heart leapt with joy.

My mom bought Janey these sweet little fairies and I had promised her we would make a garden-one morning we went out to do so, and she was so excited, she was practically talking in gibberish.  Which I think is the cutest thing ever-just so so excited.  And it's not anything special (I don't think it would make Pinterest?:) but she adores it and our sweet neighbor has helped me add to it.

My frozen banana ice cream helper.

We had a wonderful opportunity to travel up to Traverse City with Jeff's work, for a short trip and it was so beautiful-very peaceful.  The kid's all had a blast-wish I had more pictures of the canoeing and swimming and boating we did but I didn't want to be tethered to my phone.

We visited my aunt on Walloon Lake (incredibly beautiful) and the kids had a blast tubing and playing with my cousin's kids who couldn't be cuter if they tried-an absolute joy to be around.


Cool pic at the sand dunes.  We met up here with my sister and her son who ran up and down the sand dunes like it was nothing special. 

I'm burning out a little.  It is starting to feel hopeless. :)  I'm gearing up for the last few days before school where I go through the house with a black garbage bag and a my new vacuum and a few dust cloths and lots of energy.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Ordinary Days

Uniform clean-out.  I hate to do this to them so early :) but the one thing I have learned is that uniform shorts/pants go fast in stores and if I wait until August I can never find the right size. I have load and loads of hand-me-downs, but pants usually don't make it far with the boys.  We had a lot of laughs as Andrew tried to make some pants work-NO they are floods! I'd say, or they would fall right off of him.  

We are still going strong on our summer reading program-Andrew is flying through Harry Potter and Patrick and I are really liking these books he chose.  It makes such a difference when kids can read what they like.  It makes ALL the difference actually.  

Here's what he chose:

We've finished:
 All were excellent-we both really enjoyed them. 

I have always loved the light coming in our living room window in the morning-it seems so peaceful before everyone is up. This room is never perfectly arranged (usually a basketball hoop in obstructing the view slightly) but the light is always beautiful.  I'm so grateful for my lovely house-whenever I pull in the driveway I just feel that great feeling of "home-ahhhh".  I hope my kids feel the same. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ordinary Days

I don't even remember where I left off blogging, time has flown so quickly we are mid-summer already and just counted the weeks till school started and it's 4 1/2 which is terribly sad, we all agreed.  Why do we have to change everything?  Why can't summer break be what it used to be?  I remember getting out around the 5th or 6th of June and going back the last few days of August or even after Labor Day.  Now the kids start mid August!  I am not a conspiracy theorist but I feel like it's creeping slowly purposely to where there will be no summer break anymore by the time my grandkids go to school. Sigh. And I love summer, and no one wants to be sitting in a classroom I don't think during these sunny bright days.

I have been once again awful at taking photos, but it's not a priority right now.

Abbey is back from Europe and loved it but the first thing she said when she walked in the kitchen was "I am so happy to be home, I love this country and I never want to live anywhere else."  That was not what I expected (and after 24 hours of delayed and cancelled flights home) but I loved hearing it, I have to say.  That does not mean she didn't love her traveling just that we take a lot for granted here I think mainly the convenience of what we are used to.  She WILL miss the food in Italy, Greece, France, and Spain for sure, and was amazed at the beautiful museums and building and art everywhere.
But there's no place like home.   

This kid found a new barber, which is probably one of his top priorities in life.  Kidding, but he is picky and it's funny to me.  He is having the summer of his life, biking everywhere with friends and is a very enjoyable happy kid-busy busy busy but always has a plan and is always willing to help at home.  

These two are cuter than ever and best buddies, if they aren't mad at each other which happens occasionally. 

Patrick has been working on basketball plays, and explains them to me every time he makes a new one.

Some pictures from Bethany Beach DE-went over the 4th and it was so so so crowded.  (Sadly Isaac is in the "real world" now so couldn't go with us.) The kids had a blast in the waves, but I think I am going to write down on my things to remember forever page "don't go anywhere over the 4th of July" just to avoid the crowds and traffic.  

Selfies on my phone.

We ate four buckets of caramel corn.  (I probably ate 80% of that honestly.)

Janey saw fireworks for the first time and didn't like them because they were too loud.

Huge waves were really the most fun for everyone-you can't find that everywhere!

One day they were even to big for this fellow who will brave pretty much anything the older kids can handle.

It was nice to get organized again-back to being more scheduled and sleep in our own beds, and all have a little space from each other too. :)  

And sunflowers are out!  My favorite.

I am almost finished with this book and LOVE it.  I've read a few books this summer that I wouldn't put on my recommend list but this is one for sure.  In fact, I ordered all of Paulette Jiles' books with a plan to go on a little binge the rest of summer.
It is a Dust Bowl-Texas-cowboy-western-romance and her writing is wonderful, and so are her characters.  

I feel like time is moving full throttle and life is so busy with just every day things as it is.  There are so many changes as the kids get older-new plans for the future, and angst and excitement and worry, new relationships, changing friendships, so so many unknowns and what-ifs. (And lots of avocado toast-which is a symbol to me that living with soon-to-be or already-adult children isn't always easy for them or for us I think at times.)  I laugh at their "millennial ways", knowing that they are pretty mild ways (or I wouldn't be laughing), and that I was just like them in so many ways when I was that age, whether I had a tag to my generation or not-since the beginning of existence I'm sure this was the same.  And finding time for everyone is hard as a mom. I feel torn sometimes with everyone home, helping the big ones do "big" things-job apps, and college apps, and just listening-and emotional energy on my part-and then just doing the normal-and yes, EASY things with the little three-driving, and fixing lunch and reading a book here or there to them.  And then there's laundry and cleaning the kitchen 10x a day, (EVERYONE NEEDS TO STOP EATING! I've said that a few times) which I better get to now.