Monday, November 5

When Your Morning Doesn't Quite Go As Planned...

"Everything is falling's all just going B...A...D!" 

Those were the words of my 9-year-old as we struggled to pull our things together to get out the door by 7:15 a.m. this morning.

I must admit, part of me agreed. A lot of the varying pieces of the morning felt a little ragged, all over the place, and just plain BAD to use E's words. It was just one of those ramble shamble, can't quite get out the door on time mornings.

Kids have a way of speaking the plain old truth sometimes, don't they? I mean, I know they can be dramatic (believe me, I have 3 girls, I KNOW they can be dramatic!), but sometimes truth is truth.

This morning truth was truth.

This is what our morning was supposed to look like: 

5:30 a.m. Mom gets up, fixes a cup of coffee, reads her Bible and journals for a few minutes. This is supposed to help me start my day on a positive note!

6:15 a.m. Mom starts to make lunches and pack her own bags because she is heading out of the house for the day to work on some freelance and writing projects at our office space (a temporary space that we've been renting, but are giving up at the end of this month).

6:30 a.m. A and E (my 11 and 9 year old) and Dad wake up.

6:30-7:15: We make lunches, pack bags, make breakfast, get dressed, take vitamins, get out the door.

7:15: A, E and mom get in the car, drive to school. Usually they take the bus at 7:13 a.m., but A had a morning meeting and it was leaf raking day at the school, so she needed to take a rake, which obviously requires a ride in the mini van because bus drivers aren't so keen on rakes on the bus.

7:30-8:30: Scott finishes getting Aubs ready for school and on the bus.

I should point out that this isn't our everyday routine. I do try to get out of the house before 8 a.m. one day a week to work on my writing/freelance projects so that I can put a whole day of work in and be available for the girls when they all get home at 3:45. My needing to get out of the house early with the big girls did add some extra stress this morning, but the reality is  that many of the hiccups this morning are issues we often deal with whether I'm trying to get out of the house early or not.

As it turns out, we actually hit most of our time markers... the breakdown was in the in-between, and our lack of preparation the night before.

The breakdown is always in the in-between, isn't it? 

It's like looking at a family photo with everyone smiling. That's what is supposed to happen... in theory.

But, what actually happened in the moments before and even the time in-between each photo? I bet you ALL have a story about that.

The in-between is always where the real story is.

In the end,  the morning actually looked like this (read the in-between in parentheses)...

5:30 a.m. Mom gets up, makes some coffee, reads her Bible and journals for a few minutes.

(I do wake up around 5:30, but I am not feeling ready and chipper to start the day. Aubs, our youngest,  had a pee accident in the middle of the night and ended up in our bed, which made for restless sleep. I also felt anxious about the day at hand- nothing in particular, just the many pieces I knew were about to unfold, and about some personal issues I have been working through in regards to dreams, goals, intentions for the house and the know, all of that "light" morning stuff. Unfortunately, mornings can be the most anxious time of day for me. I don't know why, I just know that getting up, journaling and praying seems to be the only antidote for it.)

6:15 a.m. Mom starts to make lunches, and pack her own bags because she is heading out of the house for the day.

(I don't start  to making lunches until 6:30, which I know is not enough time. I was tired and needed a little more coffee, and the couch and fleece blanket felt nice. Plus, it was still dark outside!)

6:30 a.m. A and E (my 11 and 9 year old) wake up.

(The Alexa alarm goes off in both girl's bedrooms, they groggily make their way down the stairs. I become overwhelmed by needing to get out of the house in 45 minutes-- My lack of preparation, and what that means for the morning, leads to some edginess on my part. We all start chipping away at our tasks, but nothing seems to be easy on this particular morning...)

6:30-7:15: We make lunches, pack bags, make breakfast, find socks, pack backpacks...

(All of this happens, but not without stress.  It's about 7:07 a.m. when E starts to lament that nothing is going quite right...she can't find matching socks, she can't find a warm fleece (because it's now Fall and she needs something warm to wear for leaf raking day), her backpack isn't completely packed...I totally understand how she feels, I'm kind of feeling that way myself.

At this point I'm also feeling like I should get a bad mom award for not having gotten everyone's cold weather stuff out of the basement sooner, not sorting the socks over the weekend, and not making more effort to make the morning run more smoothly.

We do get into the car at 7:15 (though honestly we should have left 5 minutes sooner to make it to school for Ava's 7:30 meeting on time).

Even though I'm feeling a little frayed from the last 45 minutes, and I'm also rushing through traffic, I know I need to say something positive. 

We all exhale.

I gaze over at the girls, my big one next to me in the front seat, E behind us in the back. I let out a  laugh/smile/what the heck just happened look. 

Listen girls,"  I say, "Being upset over how crazy our morning was isn't going to help anything. Let's talk about the things we could have done differently and make a plan for them."

I tell them I like to think about things in terms of "Problem" and "Solution"...

"So, I ask, "What were some of the problems?"

I don't really give them time to answer...Mom is on a mission to sort this out verbally.

"E, your socks... Could we make sure we have matching socks the night before?"


"And your lunches. I love making your lunches, but could use some help. If you guys could pack your chips and snacks the night before, that would help as well, right?"

"Yes!" They both agree.

"My stuff...I know. I could have prepared my own bags sooner and had them by the door."

We all agree.

"The rake," Ave chimes in. "I could have gotten that out last night."

We all nod in unison.

We go through a list of other things that would be helpful; making sure to sign permission slips at night, filling water bottles (which we usually do), knowing which shoes they need, making sure they have their gym clothes, library books, etc.

"Girls, I'm sorry. I've tried to start these routines before, but I haven't done a good job following through either. Here's the thing. I could use your help following through. Can we all try this together for the rest of the week?"

We all agree. We feel hopeful. 

Phew...It's hard to believe that so much commotion and emotion can happen within the first hour of the day sometimes, isn't it?! 

Mornings can be crazy, plain and simple...

Honestly, our crew, we're not always the most disciplined bunch, we know routines are good for us, but struggle to implement them. Then you throw in the variables-- Aubs waking up in the middle of the night, the leaf raking episode, the mis-matched socks-- the next thing you know, molehills have become mountains to our morning.

About 5 minutes before we approach the school parking lot, I offer to pray for our day...

Dear Lord, Thank you for this day. This IS the day that YOU have made and we WILL rejoice and be glad in it. I pray that you would go before us, be with us, and behind us in all that we do today. I pray that you would bless the girl's day and the work of their hands. Give them focus and wisdom. Help them to be a light to all they come into contact with. In Jesus Name We Pray, Amen. 

After I dropped them off I still felt a bit flustered about the events of the morning. Mom life is tough stuff in the most mundane ways sometimes  (Dad life too!). There are a lot of moving pieces, and as Scott has often said, it's like we're trying to hit a moving target some days.

Despite all of that, there is action that can be taken to make things easier and more manageable, and I need to be more consistent in doing those things. I'm feeling a renewed sense of determination to establish a rhythm for the family that works for all of us-- sometimes that means implementing new systems, sometimes that means letting go of old ways of thinking and bad habits.

I'm ready to do both.

 I also realized that the most important part of what had happened this morning was not the "bad" stuff, but the conversation in the car-- the part where we came together, offered conclusions, and prayed for the rest of the day.

We all needed to remember that while our morning hadn't gone as planned, today was still the day that the LORD had made-- that there was beauty to be found in the ashes of our morning shenanigans.  That it gave us an opportunity to discuss how we could make things better and that there was SO much of the day left to unfold.

By letting the distraction of a less than ideal morning keep us from seeing what else the Lord might have in store for the day is undermining the gifts and lessons that God may want to bestow on us for the rest of the day.

We needed to remember, and even declare, that He has made this day, that He is going to fill it with blessing, and that He wants us to invite Him into our family routines, our comings and goings, and even our shortcomings.

Let's declare it one more time, "This IS the day that the Lord has made. We WILL rejoice and be glad in it." 

Amen, right?

I hope sharing this story encourages someone today-- to be ok with what isn't, to be ok with what is, to look forward with expectation to what can we ask, seek, and pray over all of it. 

Hugs to you all.

Monday, October 29

Hello, again! A Summary of My Last Two Months of Life...

Oh Friends-- those of you who still stop by to read this space despite my lack of consistency...thank you...I love you...that is so kind of you...

(I couldn't resist this meme when I found it online--it's for you-- my favorite people!).

I'm hoping, one of these days, that I will be more consistent in many things-- blogging, making my bed, sticking with a meal plan that works for my family, and washing my girl's socks, underwear and gym clothes every Friday so that when Monday rolls around I don't start the week with this,  "Oh shoot-- no one has clean socks or underwear again?  And where ARE your gym clothes....Wait I'm supposed to know? You gave them to ME?! They're probably at the bottom of the laundry pile in the deep recesses of the basement. I promise I'll find the end of the day...or month...or year." 

Um. Yeah. Sorry, kiddos.

Isn't it funny how as adults our lives become this huge conglomeration of details that we are supposed to manage and keep up with-- disparate details that feel like they have nothing to do with each other and yet they're all part of this one big, full life.

My brain has been swimming in details lately--

And so, even though I hoped to write a post in September right after Aubrey (my littlest!) started kindergarten...somehow it's almost November and that post never got written.

So here, in lieu of a lovely, organized, well-thought out post about how life has changed now that my littlest has started school, I'm offering a random smattering of photos from the last two months because it seems that my I-phone is about the only place I remember to capture life on a daily basis.

Honestly, as I sat down to write this I started thinking "Where have the last two months gone? What in the world have we been doing?"

As I scrolled through the over  6,198 photos on my phone, I was reminded that while life has been busy, it has also been blessed! And busy. Busy and blessed!

Thank you I-Phone for that reminder.

My photo capturing reminded me that since September 1st we have:

  • Shopped for sneakers, back to school supplies and backpacks. All of which was eventually taken to school for supply drop off and set up with smiles. 
  • We successfully started the school year- Ava in 6th grade, Ella in 4th (Ella switched schools, so we have two kids at Christian Central Academy this year) and Aubrey in kindergarten!! (Bah! that's a whole other blog post all together!). 
  • We navigated getting up early again, (Ella getting up an hour earlier!), new bus numbers, new bus schedules and some separation anxiety from my sweet-faced 5 year old. 
  • We re-started our moms group at church (yay!), which I'm facilitating. We've enjoyed re-connecting after a busy summer, and have welcomed 3 newborns already!! 
  • I attended two retreats- one local church women's retreat in Sept., and one day of a 2-day writing conference in Michigan in Oct. (I drove 7 hours to the retreat on a Friday morning, slept at a friend's house and drove 7 hours back the next day to have dinner with my husband to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary! WooHoo!). 
  • We've navigated the crazy, costume collecting days of Sprit Week at the big girl's school (with  more than one late night trip to Rite-Aid or Target!)
  • I managed to write one freelance article for a local magazine (it is about urban living as a family and highlights my friend Heather's journey to move her family from the suburbs to the city, and how fun and crazy that can be sometimes!). It will be featured in the HOME section of Buffalo Spree at the end of November. 
  • We had a new roof put on our house! Yay. Who knew that picking out shingles could be so complicated. I've never looked at so many roofs in such a short period of time. 
  • I've been on several field trips already-- one to the farm with Aubrey and one to see a play with Ella, both of which were delightful. 
  • We traveled to Columbus, Ohio one weekend to visit Scott's mom and to see the puppies that his sister and brother-in-law just helped to deliver (they had been fostering a pregnant dog all summer, and then delivered, took care of and found homes for the pups! Isn't that amazing?!)
  • We celebrated our 15th year anniversary with cookie cake- and each bought each other cards, which we haven't actually signed yet!! Oops! 
  • We've picked pumpkins and apples, have eaten cinnamon donuts and have watched the weather turn cold and rainy. The leaves are bright and the gloves are slowly being trudged out of the basement--  Fall is in full swing, and cold weather is upon us...

Here are a few photos of some of the shenanigans....

Have you ever accidentally started a favorite tradition? Um,  yeah. So, now the kids always hope for cake on the first day of school because one year, like 4 years ago, it seemed like a good idea to buy one from the grocery store bakery while I was there. This year we got an ice cream cake-- Yummy!

I could NOT pass the balloon up. I mean who doesn't want a massive helium unicorn to greet them after a long, hard, first day of kindergarten?! 

The Kissing Hand. Need I say more?! (: 

First day! 

So, maybe I went a little crazy and also picked up some little $1 Store gifts on the first day of school as well...

And, made a sign for Ava and Ella (Aubrey helped me with this- her first day was the next day! She got a sign too, but I can't find the picture...)

And found these cookies at Wegmans...I was all a little over the top! But, it was fun and sweet, and in my defense the treats were spread over two "first-days"- the big girls first day and Aubrey's first day. 

Ahhh...the bus stop in September. When t-shirts are all you need...that doesn't happen again until May in these parts! 

I ACTUALLY stopped to smell (and take a few photos) of these wildflowers the first week that all of the girls were in school...just because I could! 

I bought myself some sunflower because they're my favorite. 

More "stopping to smell the flowers" photos...

This is the way you say "Happy Anniversary" when you've been married 15 years and knows your husband loves cookie cake! 

One of many spirit day photos! 

My 24 hour trip to Michigan- and the picture of the mini camper that I dream of owning to do my writing in some day (I'm not kidding! haha!)

LOVED every minute of the 8 hours I was at the Breathe Writer's Conference.

This photo of our trip to Columbus really needs no explanation....Ava's face says it ALLLLL!

So, there you have it friends. Several months ago I set a goal to write 40 blog posts in my 40th year...I haven't given up on the 40 blog posts, though at this rate it might take me more than a year to get them all down (this is #6/40).

We'll see.

Besides all of the busy family stuff I have been doing a LOT of journaling, praying, and seeking wisdom about where God might want to use me in this new season of life.

 It's a season that I thought would be quieter than it actually is so far...a season that has left me with a lot of deep questions  about who I am, how God can use my gifts to bless others, and where my dreams to write more consistently and perhaps even professionally fit into all of THIS-- from the car trips to mis-matched socks and everything in between.

Hugs to you all. I'm working on a piece about what life is like now that all of my girls are in school and hope to post it next week..

Until then may God bless you abundantly, may we see His abundant blessings (even when life feels like a never-ending ride on a Tilt-a-Whirl) in our daily lives and may we be all find a way to be light and life  to those around us, because heaven knows this world needs a little more light!

Monday, August 6

Lessons From My Garden, Part 1

      They're looming large and tall from the confines of the raised bed garden at the edge of our yard-- three 8-foot sunflowers, reaching up towards the sky, with their yellow and brown heads finally unfurling towards the sun. We've been watching them grow for weeks-- those crazy tall flowers, with their strong stems and big leaves, climbing higher and higher into the air each day.

"They're like something from "Jack and the Beanstalk," Ava said earlier this week.

Ella nodded enthusiastically, "Yes! Totally!"

Their conversation made me made me remember the days when I was not quite grown myself and life, in general, seemed more magical and like a lot more fun. "You're absolutely right babe! They do look like something from "Jack and the Beanstalk."

We all  looked up towards the top of the flowers, momentarily imagining what it might be like to climb those strong stalks all the way up to the clouds where we might find a new adventure and a hopefully friendlier giant than the one in the original story!

As beautiful as they are, the flowers almost look out of place in our little back yard. We have what some might call a "postage stamp" of a yard-- it's fenced in, and hosts a now weathered  swing-set, a stamped concrete patio,  and even a trampoline, but there isn't much room to spread out beyond that.  We often wish it were bigger-- we wish there were more space to run, to put a pool in, or play a game of soccer or bocce if the mood were to strike. But this is where our family has grown and while we often dream of bigger places and spaces we feel content here for now.

Sunflowers though...they strike me as seeming most at home in open and rolling fields where their natural, rough, and wild beauty seem to make more sense.

Our manicured, suburban lawn yard is certainly no wide open space, but the sunflowers don't seem to mind-- they seem quite happy being squeezed in next to the tomatoes, the yellow squash, the beets, green beans and marigolds.  They seem to be saying, "We are happy to grow right where we were planted, thank you very much."

The funniest thing about those sunflowers, the tallest plants in my garden, the ones every neighbor can see, is that I never intended to plant them in the garden this year.

Nope. Not one. Certainly not three. Not at all.

Friends, I've been planting vegetable gardens for 12 years...While I still have a lot to learn, I know my plants and seeds pretty well. I swear. The mistake originated when the small sprouted green plants were brought home from a community garden that I have do some volunteering with. I was told that they were green bean plants and thought they certainly looked like green beans-- so we dug three holes, stuck them in the dirt, and waited for them to grow!

Around mid-June we started realizing that those were the tallest darned green bean plants we ever did see...and then they got taller, and taller, and taller!

"Those aren't green beans," I confidently declared one June evening, "They're sunflowers girls!"

Everyday I walk out into my yard and laugh at the folly of it all, but honestly can't help thinking that  God knew all along what I was bringing home in that black plastic tray full of dirt and seedlings. 

God KNEW I was planting big, crazy sunflowers, three of them to be exact-- one to remind me of each of my three sweet girls. He knew, at this season of my life, I needed a big, bright, cheery, daily reminder that there is beauty in the unexpected. That I needed a reminder to take that cliched sentiment to heart-- to grow where I'm planted, even while wishing more space (physical and mental) were an option at this season of life.

God knows that for the last few years Scott and I have both felt, more often than not, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of demands, details, noise, busyness and level of responsibility necessary to run a house and raise children. He knows that at times we both feel like our capacity to do this adult, parenting thing  feels smaller than we'd like it to feel-- kind of like the long wooden boxes that my vegetables are planted in-- confining and limiting.

He knows that we feel like we're squeezing more into this little space of life than we ever thought possible, and sometimes we're not so sure about it all.

Don't we need more capacity to do this well, Lord? More space? Don't we need more energy, more patience, maybe some more sleep (please!). Don't we need more wisdom, knowledge, and know-how? 

Nope, God seems to be saying. I've given you everything you need, and provide in every place you feel like you're lacking. Just be content. Trust me. Keep growing where I've planted you. 

 Our girls, with their bright personalities, ideas, dreams, compassion and love shared with others, their ingenuity and uniqueness-- they're all sprouting up before us, right in front of our eyes. It's wild and crazy and beautiful, and even though much of it is unexpected (I mean, who really knows what they're getting themselves into when they sign up for this parenting gig?!), it all somehow seems just as is should be. We're all growing  as a family, right where we were planted. We're growing upwards, with roots stretched downwards right into the soil of life.

So, as I continue to watch those sunflowers grow taller towards the sky, with giant green leaves stretched out as if they're singing praises to heaven, I find myself reminded to grow right where I'm planted and to relish in the glory and blessing of it all. That it's ok to shake my head in wonder at the wildness of it at times, but with a smile on my face I realize that sometimes the unexpected is just what God intended.

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Monday, July 9

40 Things I'm Grateful For!

         Since we've been the midst of long and unstructured summer days, which often don't leave me much time for writing (because I'm either trying to be intentional with the girls, cleaning up the hurricane mess that seems to sweep through the house every day, or putting out fights between my dear, sweet children (who sure like to bicker!), I thought I'd keep this post simple...

        Honestly, I don't think we spend enough time considering all that we have to be grateful for-- all of the incredible gifts God has given us--from relationships, to the glory that abounds in nature, to the overabundance of 1st world luxuries that we tend to take for granted--air-conditioning, clean water, the ease of electricity, massive grocery stores filled to the brim with more options than most of us know what to do with...the list goes on and on.
       So, over the course of this last week, I kept a list by my desk...just a lined piece of notebook paper, numbered 1-40, and I started to jot things down.

      At first, I wondered, will I be able to fill those 40 lines? I knew I should be able to, but what if I couldn't? I read Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts several years ago now-- I admired her ability to capture moments as simple as the glimmer of soap bubbles in her kitchen sink, to the grandeur of a breathtaking moonlit sky, and everything in between.
      But, would I be able to be still enough to notice even just 40 things in my life? I sure hoped so.

     As it turns out, it was easy to come up with a list of 40 things. So easy I wanted to keep going (maybe I'll make myself another list this week!). It was so easy that I would suggest that you give it a try-- the truth is gratitude begets gratitude. The more I wrote down, the easier the process became.

      So many of us have SO much to be thankful for. We are blessed beyond measure, and it wold do us all a whole lot of good to be intentional about remembering the blessings we have, and turning that praise back to God-- the creator of every good and perfect gift.

     So, without further adieu, here is a list of 40 things I'm grateful for: 

1. My Bible, and the God breathed inspiration and wisdom that it fills my soul with daily. I know this might sound cliche, but when your faith permeates everything you do, it's ALWAYS the first thing you're abundantly grateful for, and it's one "cliche" I'll NEVER apologize for! 

2. Friendships, new and old, and the sweet blessings they bring.

3. Air-conditioning. I didn't grow up with it, know it's a luxury, and am over the moon thankful for it!

4. Our home, and everything in it.

5. Our minivan (I NEVER thought I'd say this, but I LOVE our minivan!).

6. Our vegetable garden; beets, tomatoes, green beans, radishes, swiss chard, yellow squash,  the sunflowers,  and herbs, all growing big and lush and green! 

7. Local running races, and the menagerie of people (the slice of life) that comes together for such events.

8. A cool breeze on hot days.

9. A clear, starry night anywhere, but particularly from a lake or the mountains! 

10. Strong legs for running (it's the best natural antidepressant in the world!).

11. Rain, especially when it means I don't have to water the garden! 

12. Hydrangeas, peonies, daises (I could probably crate a 40 item list for the pieces of God's natural creation that I love!), but I'll just start with a few flowers. 

13. Farmer's Markets

14. Family Vacations (well, for the most part!).

15. Crafts with my kids.

16. The freedom to go to church each week.

17. The friendships and supportive fellowship cultivated through our church relationships and small group.

18. My marriage (that Scott puts up with me! Lol!).

19. Blueberry picking, and the blueberry pie a la mode afterwards. 

20. Good counselors, the kind you pay for and the kind that comes through friendship and fellowship.

21. Art Museums

22. Mountains, and hiking in them.

23. Fruit! (Cheeries, pineapple, blueberries, mango...the list goes on and on!).

24. Words, phrases and jokes made up by my children and the laughter that ensues.

25. Good movies.

26. Vacuum cleaners. I mean really, when you have kids, they're kind of miraculous and necessary! 

27. Ava

28. Ella

29. Aubrey

30. Coffee (need I say more?!).

31. Natural Bliss Vanilla Coffee Creamer 

32. Lots and lots and LOTS of ice cream cones with my kids during the summer.

33. Good Books

34. PaperMate colored flair markers for journaling! 

35. Blank Journals in all different shapes, colors, textures and sizes.

36. Office supply stores and the billion ways they promise to keep all of my ideas organized!

37. My I-phone.  

Did I really just say that? 

Honestly, I'm not the most tech-y person in the world, and could probably do without it (if I really, really had to), but truly, it makes a LOT of things super convenient! From GPS, to grocery lists, to the timer, the little flashlight and being able to call my husband from the grocery store to tell him I forgot my credit card! 

38. Campfires in the summer.

39. A good Broadway play that inspires and leave me in tears all at the same time.

40. Skiing in the winter...and, while I don't like snow in March, I do like the first snowfall and white Christmases (: 

I could go on and on, but for simplicity sake I'll stop there for this week. 
I encourage you to take up this challenge for yourself. Pull out a piece of loose leaf paper, pick a number (using your age is an easy way to start!), and start jotting down your own gratitude list. I promise it will lift your spirits and change your perspective. 

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