Saturday, October 25

The Best Laid Plans of Moms with Kids

Friday night the girls were invited to a two hour birthday party at a local bounce house facility.

This meant two things:

1) They would have an opportunity to run, jump, eat cake and pizza, and then shake their sillies out  before settling down for the evening after a long week at school.

2) I would have an opportunity to run some desperately overdue errands, helping me to shake some of the momma sillies out of my head, which is what happens when too many overdue errands start to pile up in my mind (and in the back of my car!).

The party was for the daughter of a family who we know from church and really love and the mom had sent me a text saying, 'Feel free to stay or head out for a bit'.

A note like that is like a free hall pass that sends all sorts of images of sugarplums and freedom dancing through my head. What book could I read? What errands could be done? Where's my journal, the one with the dusty cover? Shall I sit quietly and write some scattered thoughts?

Oh, the opportunities were endless!

While I temporarily labored over whether to stay or leave, (because that's what we moms do-- spend all of our time on the lookout for a moment to take a deep breath or get a few things done and then when the moment presents itself we feel guilty about it) Ava asked if I was staying (Bah!).

I struck a deal with her since, by this time, I had concocted a plan to run some errands.

Hey babe- how about I'll go in with you girls, make sure you're settled and have someone to play with, stay about half an hour and then run out to the store for an hour.  I'll be back for the end of the party. 

For emphasis I added that I needed to run to Wal-Mart for Halloween candy and to look for the white hairspray she was hoping we could find before Friday so that she can spray her hair to match her Elsa costume.

A deal was struck.

Ok Mom. But only because you're going to get candy and hairspray. 

After school we had some snacks, signed the birthday card, wrapped the present, made sure we had our socks on (no bare feet!) and ponytails in (it gets hot in those places!).

Mom had the bag with Dad's too small shirt and my too small sweater to return to Marshalls, the chipped desk organizer to return to TJ Maxx, my coupon for JC Pennies where I needed to pick up a couple of fleece blankets (long story), and the list of things that I needed from Wal-Mart, which mostly consisted of candy and hairspray.

I also threw a book in my purse (because an hour feels like an exponential amount of time in mommy world and I envisioned myself getting all of that done, eating a quick and quiet dinner AND having time to read a page or two in my book!) and we were out the door, feeling completely prepared and ready to go.

I felt completely organized, on top of things and excited about the plan.

We arrived at the party, the girls settled in and connected with some friends and started to bounce away until they could have cared less if I was there or not. I said my goodbyes, checked in with the other mom to make sure it was still ok that I snuck out, and pranced along on my merry way ready to execute my plan.

Oh, the plan.

 I should SO know better by now.

As I drove out of the parking lot a very clear thought presented itself to me, "Your wallet is in the diaper bag that you took to the playdate with Aubrey earlier today. The diaper bag is hanging on a kitchen chair. At home."


I stopped on the side of the road and started fishing through my purse hoping I had been smarter than that.

Nope. Hadn't been smarter than that.

I had all of my returns, receipts, coupons and shopping lists but no wallet.

I sent my husband a text...

                  I left my wallet at home. 

He responded....

                  I feel so sad for you right now. Do you need a hug?

                  Yes. ): 

I did manage to find a very crumpled five dollar bill at the bottom of the purse that I did have. That and my library card and an old used Starbucks card. Neither of which was very helpful at the moment.

I drove to Arby's (the closest fast food restaurant) hoping to find something on their menu for $5 or less since I hadn't eaten dinner and purchased one of the most disgusting salads I had had in a l-o-n-g time.

I took the salad, drove to a parking lot across the street from the bounce house place, and figured since I had the time and had at least packed a book in my purse that I'd eat and read for 20 minutes and then go back into the party.

I turned off the car, but left the keys in the ignition and read a few pages of 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker (a very interesting and convicting read, I might add), while finishing my gross Arby's salad.

I must have turned the car to the almost off position, and my husband forgot to tell me that the battery in the car was almost dead. So, when I went to turn the keys to start the car to head back to the party...


I laughed out loud. The entire last hour had been so comical that there was nothing left to do but laugh.

I called Scott who was going to strap the baby into one of the girls big car seats and come to my rescue, but fortunately one of the dads at the party had jumper cables and I learned how to jump our truck (Score! I might need the information at some point in the future, right!).

I finally ran back into the party telling the girls that the car was outside and still running and that we better go before (with my luck) someone got in and drove it away!

My sweet friend Sarah (who was throwing the party) told me that maybe I should stop blogging because it is as if all of this ridiculousness keeps presenting itself on purpose as material for my blog posts.

I swear sometimes I wonder if she's right.

But, I probably won't stop blogging because what fun would that be? Foiled plans keep me on my toes and keep reminding me that motherhood is about adjusting, and readjusting and readjusting again.

We continually recalibrate our lives to love more, serve more and stretch ourselves in places we didn't even know we needed stretching...

It's as if God keeps dropping life lessons my way...

Need more patience? How about some lost library books, extra whining,  a burnt dinner and kids who have no desire to go to bed?

More stamina? A very busy day followed by a night with a teething toddler.

More grace? Spilled milk, crushed crackers and an gymnastics leotard that always seems to be MIA 15 minutes before we leave the house.

More flexibility? A night with plans to run errands foiled by a forgotten wallet and a dead car battery.

At the end of the day I realize these are such small problems given the scary state of affairs all over the world.   We are blessed beyond measure and have much to be grateful for.  I also know that  God is growing me into someone stronger, better and more able to cope with a greater capacity to live the life He intends me to live.  One day and one lesson at a time. 

So, in the meantime I will quote Robert Burns, "The best laid plans of mice and men aft (often) go awry" only I think it needs a slight alteration to suit this season of life...

The best laid plans of moms with kids always go awry!

That's the motto I'm learning to live by (: 

Wednesday, October 15

Having Fun With Fall

Tis the season for pumpkins, apples, cinnamon and cider, all of which have entered our house in unabashed surplus. We go through almost a gallon of cider a week (my husband is one of the biggest culprits), sprinkle extra cinnamon on our french toast and into our pancakes, and pumpkins big and small seem to be making an appearance all over the house.

     While the girls know Halloween is not one of my favorite days of the year, I can’t fault them for the growing anticipation over trick or treating. Their cousins come over, we order pizza and eat chili and usually layer jackets over carefully chosen costumes because the evening is often cold, windy or rainy in our neck of the woods.

  Autumn is a favorite season for most of us up here in the Northeast and I am no exception.
 A-u-t-u-m-n was one of Ava’s bonus spelling words last week. She nailed it, making momma proud.

We’ve been decorating and nature walking and making simple fall crafts (i.e. painting pictures of pumpkins, accessorizing orange and yellow foam leaves and painting paper plates to look like happy pumpkin faces).

There are a LOT of pumpkins, scarecrows, leaves and a few silly spiders around the house.  These are all on the list of “mommy acceptable fall/Halloween decorations and fit my rules, “If its happy it can be in our home—if it’s dreary or scary…forget about it!”

The weather has been cooperating thus far, and so we are still running around in flip-flops and sandals on some days, and haven’t had to dig the hats out of the basement yet (though I should probably get on that sooner rather than later).

Just yesterday the girls and I recreated one of their favorite fall crafts, leaf lanterns, as we’ll call them. I did this with them two years ago and Ava enjoyed it so much that she’s been asking to do it again. I’ll include the simple instructions below so that you can make your own at home. They are perfect tabletop decorations for this time of year. I even lit ours and set them on the counter before the girls came down for breakfast this morning and enjoyed watching their faces light up when they saw they handiwork at use (it’s always a bonus when the morning starts with a moment of unexpected joy, rather than the groggy tired nitpicking that can often pervade before breakfast).

So, without further adieu, a few of our fall photos from the last couple of weeks an easy craft idea for you to do with your kids. 

Apple picking shenanigans...

Our paper plate pumpkins...

An example of our foam leaf art... 

Easy Instructions for Leaf Lanterns

1. Save a couple of old glass jars (these were from roasted red peppers and salsa). Any clear glass jar you have around the house will do. 

2. Collect leaves from your backyard, or while you're out on a nature walk.

3. Flatten the leaves between papers (I then put the paper under a book) for a couple of hours, or over night if you have the time. It helps make the leaves easier to work with. 

4. We started with glue sticks (last time we used modge podge for the entire craft and it was incredibly messy!). We put glue on the back of the leaves and gently placed them on the glass jar, flattening them out as much as possible and moving them into position. 

5. Once you have them attached via glue from the glue stick then bring in the modge podge. Simply us an old paint brush and brush the modge podge right over the leaves. It can be goopy and thick (it will dry clear!)-- smooth it out with your finger if necessary.

6. Pop two votive candles into the jars after they dry and you have a beautiful centerpiece created by your kiddos. 

This has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with fall, but it was so hilarious I had to include it. Aubrey is a bit of a funny girl these days, experimenting with whatever is on hand. You'll notice she's stripped down to her diaper as she sits in her high chair- there is a very good reason for that!

Friday, October 10

My Love/Hate Relationship with Being a Woman

The Woes and Wows of Womanhood

“Ugh! I hate being a woman!” I declared boldly as I flung yet another ill-fitting shirt into the heap of clothing piled at the end of my bed.

            My husband sat by watching as I continued fingering through the hangers in my closet. I was meeting two girlfriends at a local restaurant in less than half an hour and had nothing to wear.

            “You know,” I continued on my rant, “men have it so much easier. Your hair is short, you never have to shave your legs and, if you had them, your clothes from high school would still fit!”

            Scott, my husband, nodded in agreement and laughed out loud, “I don’t know if it’s easier to be a man,” he quickly retorted. “We have to support our wives and that’s a hard job.”

            I cracked a smile in response to his aptly truthful statement. He always found a way to make me laugh.

            In all honestly there are many days when I believe it would be easier to be male than female. When it would be easier to not shave my legs, or paint my nails, or (gasp!) color my persistently graying hairs. Definitely days when I think it would be easier to not face the hormonal fluctuations that can wreak havoc on our moods.

            Then there is the issue of the closet. Mine is currently a testament to my persistently changing body over the last seven years while I have been pregnant, nursing and chasing after three children. Clothing ranging in sizes from 2 to 10 hang haphazardly and always ignite frustration when a date with my husband or an outing with friends requires more than jeans, t-shirts or sweats. Not only does it seem like nothing fits, but who has time to actually get to the mall to buy something that does?

            Quite frankly, all of this female powdering and prepping can often seem like a nuisance. One, that as the mother of three children, I do not have time for.
            And yet.

            God made me a woman and sometimes I have to remember to be thankful for that.

            “Babe, you’re beautiful,” Scott added gently and compassionately. “You always look great.”

            When I am not angry with my clothing and graying roots I will concede to try to believe him for a moment and then thank God for the gift of my husband’s kind words. Words that remind me that God created us purposefully different and then intentionally brought us together.

            Words that remind me that there is a beauty inherent in being a woman that I must work to appreciate and that I should find ways to be thankful for, regardless of how mysterious it feels even to me.

            I guess, if I’m honest, there are some things I rather enjoy about being a woman. I do like painting my toenails bubble gum pink in the summer and now my girls ask me to paint theirs as well. I’m a sucker for a cute pair of earrings, especially when needed to add interest to my boring jeans and solid color tees. I do actually enjoy shaving my legs, when I have the time and, if I must confess, visits to the salon do offer a chance to sit quietly and read a magazine. What momma doesn’t enjoy that?

            While many of these things seem superficial, they are a part of being the feminine me—the me that is also softer emotionally, more intuitive about some things and that allows a perspective on life that is very different and yet complementary to that of my husbands—a very good thing for our children indeed.

            I’m learning to embrace all of me, just the way God created me. Not only for myself, but because a healthy perspective on my part is necessary as I try to shape healthy perspectives in the minds of the three little women God has entrusted to my care. Being a woman and raising women adds a lot of extra color to my life, literally and figuratively, but I’m realizing that color, after all, is a very good thing.

Tuesday, September 30

Connecting in the Chaos, Part 2

      Last week I wrote a post about my struggle to connect with my girls, in a meaningful way, in the midst of what often feels like utter chaos around the house on weeknights. If you missed that first post you can click to read it here.

     For those of you who are in the middle of young family life, you know what I mean. The girls get off the bus around 4 p.m.  and the next 4 1/2 hours are filled with a non-stop string of  high-energy activities that include after school snacks, homework, dinner, ballet/gymnastics on the nights the girls have them, baths every 6-8 days, but only if the kids start to stink (I'm joking here...kind of! We usually try to squeeze a bath in every other day, but sometimes it doesn't always happen!) and then the bedtime routine.

     We try, try, TRY to squeeze something fun in there...a craft, a bike ride, some enjoyable reading, coloring or playtime outside, but it's really a challenge most nights.

     I'm guessing many of you can attest to a similar version of evening events, especially if you have multiple children. It's hard to connect, but so very important. I feel like we have to grab our kid's hearts now, while they still look up to us, so that later when they have so many distractions vying for their attention, we'll still be one of the first places they look for answers, support and encouragement.

     It is my deep hope that building bridges now is creating lasting gateways to their hearts for years to come.  

     But that is easier said than done on the fast-track of parenting life, which is why I really liked the quote above when I found it this week. Family time must be viewed as sacred and important.  In order to make it such we must be  super, duper INTENTIONAL about connecting with our kids on a regular basis, or life will just keep flying by one carpool, soccer game and rushed mealtime at a time, leaving us to feel like we're doing so much, but are we doing enough to connect?

      I decided to float the question out on Facebook to find out what other families are doing and promised I'd compile all of the answers into one blog post. Here is a round-up of the answers I received (Thank you all for your feedback!).

7 Ways To Connect in the Middle of the Weeknight Chaos

1. Dinner table conversation. 
Particularly the high/low game where every person at the table (parents included!) shares their favorite and least favorite parts of the day (Jennifer Seiler, Leslie Stewart)
We have tried this at our house and have enjoyed it. Scott prefers to avoid the "low" part and keep the conversation more upbeat (though I can see how this would have relevance as the girls get older). We have also purchased these cool little dinner conversation cards, which the girls have loved- each card has a question on it for everyone at the table to answer. On some nights we all answer the same question, and on others we will each blindly choose our own question to answer. It's a ton of fun!

2. Making an effort to listen, even when it's not convenient. And I mean REALLY listen. 
            "Listening. REALLY listening, even for just a couple minutes, or even when the talking is incessant and you just want a moment to yourself. It validates them as individuals and builds a trusting relationship. They'll know that they can talk to you about anything down the road"(Karyn O'Connor, mom to 4) 

            "Also, sometimes I want them to tell me about "life" or the day when it's convenient for my schedule. Sometimes they (especially my 3rd grade boy) are ready to talk when I'm busy with something else. That's the time I've got to stop and listen." (Karen Davis Jones, local mom and creator of the fantastic site Fun 4 Kids in Buffalo)

3. Making the Most of Bed Time.   
            How often are we tempted to rush through bedtime? I know I've been guilty because I'm so tired myself! That said, I appreciated these moms sharing how special bedtime can be when we make space for extra snuggles and offer our listening ear. 
            "Both of my girls beg to be taken up to bed early so we have extra time to snuggle and talk, one on one. It's very relaxed and great to hear about all the parts of their day that I missed."
 (Tina Keller Fronden, mom to 2, with one more on the way!)

            "Finally at bedtime is when he wants to divulge everything I've been dying to know from the second he gets off that bus. Lol!"  (Danielle Macaulay, mom to 2)

            "Yes to bed a little earlier so we can unwind and talk about their day. It's also a time for me to pray with them, encourage them and make sure they know how special they are to me - even if it was a day of frustrations and tears.
" (Amy Kinda, mom to 2)
            "Bedtime and dinnertime. Colby tends to tell me more when things are quiet, calm and less distractions (tv, phone, noise)." (Jess Fancher, mom to 2)

4. Making the Most of Homework Time

When I do homework with the older two, I do it one at a time, make a special snack or tea/hot coco and we sit together and do it and have conversation then and it's individualized with no distraction (hopefully!)" (Erin Pankow, mom to 4)

            I love Erin's idea and definitely plan to try to implement this one at home. I would add our version of special homework time, which I started with Ava occasionally last year...

            Tim Horton's homework time!  Because the house always feels full of distractions, she and I would pack up her homework and whatever books she was currently reading (from home or the library) and go the the closest Tim Hortons (5 minutes away for us). She and I would order lemon tea, and usually split a muffin or a bagel. I would help her with her homework, read with her and sometimes we'd even both bring our journals and jot down some thoughts on a page or two! The few times we did this last year were some of my very favorite evening moments with her. I plan to start this again this that I have two in school we might shoot for 1x per child one on one and then maybe another evening where either Scott or I take both girls and leave the baby at home. 
5. Making the Most of the Everyday Moments

Car rides, snack times, or finding the kids playing in their rooms. While it can be easy to shrug some of these times off as unimportant, these moms have found ways to maximize them for connecting potential! 
            "Mine is often in the car conversations or around the dinner table. Right off the bus with our after school snack "porch talk" or when they are in their rooms putting their clean laundry away I will sit and chat. When I'm fixing my daughters hair I can get one on one.( maybe I'm connecting more than I thought I was!)
" (LJ Anderson, mom to 4)
           "I find the kids are totally engaged when we spend time in "their world" , we often do this by hanging out in their room with them, doing things they enjoy. I find it helpful to be intentional about this time after discipline, it helps tie strings between our hearts to each other . We also enjoy baking together, and making little gifts for people together." (Laurie Gworek Henderson, mom to 2)
6. Extra Hugs and Kisses
            "Hugs. Even if I don't get to have heart to hearts, hugs throughout the day changes EVERYONE's attitudes (Brigitte Holbert, mom to 2)"

Thank you for the super fantastic reminder Brigitte! We do hug a lot in our house, but there are NEVER enough hugs. Never, ever, ever. Ever since I read Brigitte's comment last week I've been keeping this in the back of my mind and when things are feeling extra nutty, busy and chaotic, I go up to the girls and give them an extra big squeeze before I keep going on with the to-dos, or dinner, or whatever. 

7. Be Silly and Have Fun. Whatever that looks like for you!
Turn on music loud in family room after dinner ... dance, hug, snuggle... turns everybody into goodmoods!.... doesn't always allow for conversation but often leads to it.."  (Jennifer Jackson, mom to 3) 
Another fantastic reminder!! I so often get into "serious, get things done" mom mode. Sometimes it's hard to turn that off and just be silly, but it's incredibly important to the vitality of the house. It infuses the house with joy, and at the end of the day, isn't that the feeling we want our kids to grow up with when they think about their childhood years?!!!

Thank you all for your fantastic suggestions. What I found so encouraging about reading all of your answers was that connecting with our kids is sometimes as simple as making the most of the everyday moments. Bringing meaning to the stuff that is already going on; meal time, car rides, snack time, bedtime, etc.

What is so beautiful about this is that most of us don't have time to consistently add one more thing to our days, but we can all make the most of the moments and things that are already there.

So, here's to making meaning out of the sometimes mundane moments and creating memories that will last a lifetime for our children! 

Hope this was helpful!!