Faith · Family · Parenting · Perspective

The Relaxed Invitation

How do you plan your holiday get-togethers?

  • A) Is it a long-standing set date?
  • B) Perhaps, you belong to a clan of planners, carefully comparing notes and schedules long before the weather gets cold and snowy.
  • C) Or maybe you belong to the third group- last minute, throw it together holiday revelers?

My family fits in groups A and B. My dad’s extended side is so large that we’ve established the first Saturday following Christmas to be the set, annual date for celebrating together. My mom and sisters fit into group B. We checked calendars in October to set dates for December.

My husband’s extended family is all-the-way group C. This year, I started the group text. Someone had to do it. There are multiple nurses on this side of the family. Because of this, we try our best to work around their holiday shifts at the hospital and clinic. There are also family members who have about four hours on the road to come back for festivities. A lot of different facets to consider.

After compiling everyone’s dates, I waited for someone to metaphorically shoot their hand in the air to host. …*crickets*…

Being the organized person I am, the next day I sent out a text that read “December 16 – J&J hosting – lunch at 12:30- meatballs, bread, and drinks provided. Please bring a side, snack, or dessert.”

And that’s that.

Maybe it’s the mid-30’s thing hitting where I’m finally starting to feel like an organized adult? Or it could be the realization that no matter what I do, there’s going to be curve balls and kinks.

Reality says that I don’t have to “Wayfair” my whole house into something it isn’t to host Christmas. My text promised a warm place to gather with some food and drinks. The meatballs will be in a crockpot, rolls in a basket, and drinks in a cooler. A buffet of other snackables and food will be provided by the rest of the family. There won’t be any flourishes of extra décor on the veggie plate like I saw being demonstrated on the Today Show this morning. The bathrooms will be clean and the floor swept, but I can’t promise that every single Nerf dart will be picked up.

How did this relaxed revelation happen? For those who know me personally, this has been an area of personal growth. I was thinking about my grandma Mona. My grandparents constantly had our large extended family in and out and in and out and in… almost every single day. Holidays, we descended on their house like a swarm. There are just that many of us. All the furniture was full and people were relaxed on the floor or against a wall visiting and enjoying our time together.

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The only thing grandma Mona seemed to worry about was making sure we washed the dishes after meals. We’d sing songs – always getting in a couple verses of “You Are My Sunshine”- talk and laugh together while we washed, dried, and put away dishes. She provided a warm place for us all to gather with some food and drinks. The rest was up to us as a family.

It was a relaxed invitation.

Our holiday was and still is based on love for God and each other. This strong foundation is why we still gather today. Although our patriarch and matriarch have both passed away, we still enjoy the Christmas holiday as one, quite large family. Differences of opinion are set aside to laugh together and catch up on our ever-extending group.

This season, it is my turn to extend the relaxed invitation to my husband’s side. Come on over – there will be meatballs!

 

 

 

Faith · Family · Parenting · Perspective

Non-Traditional Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving. All day yesterday, my friends posted pictures of glowing, happy families and people taking naps after overeating. 

This year, none of that happened for us. After an incredibly contentious morning with my children where they fought me on everything from underwear to turning off light switches, we did go to my parents’ house. I had a good cry and told them they were not allowed to talk to me in the car.

Twenty-five minutes into the drive, my son accidentally (maybe?) punched my daughter in the ear. This set off the fireworks in the backseat. Domino-style, it started a sad and angry lecture from me about how when you treat others badly, you end up feeling bad too. 

We arrived at my mom and dad’s to find that my dad has come down with a terrible cold. He is hacking, coughing in fits, sneezing and basically needs quarantined. No hugs for dad. No hugs from papa for the kids.

We didn’t eat a traditional meal. We reheated taco meat. I made quesadillas on the George Foreman grill for my family. Mine was just chili beans, a tortilla and salsa. I sincerely wish manufacturers would hold off on the dairy in everything. It was in my mom’s taco seasoning! They finished it off with a couple of frozen chocolate cupcakes my mom had in her freezer. I had a handful of grapes.

My mother was an angel and took the kids out to explore and play for two hours. I took a much needed hour-long nap. My son had slept walked into my room the night before. It was sleep staccato-style.

Basically, as a summary and stopping the story there, you can see that this was anything but a normal family celebration. My children have been hard this week, to say the least… To top it off, after looking at the weather forecast, it seems highly unlikely that my husband will return this weekend. It just won’t be possible to travel on Sunday if the snow and blizzard conditions move in like the meteorologists are forecasting.

I’m finding this week that I’m leaning in on my faith more than ever. The prayers are constantly streaming from my thoughts- both praising in good and tough and petitioning for safe travel and patience.

Although I’m struggling to enjoy my children, I am thankful for them. Thanksgiving was missing both my sisters and their families due to other commitments, but I am grateful for their companionship this week via text messages. My husband, mom, and dad are always on my list of reasons to be grateful. The window may be foggy right now, but my view of my world can still be bright and positive.

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Happy Thanksgiving to you, however you celebrated. Truly, it is about gratefulness. The food is just a perk.

Family · Parenting · Perspective

Struggle Bus

Well…. I’m so glad that I had such a great perspective on parenting a few days ago. Put me on the struggle bus. My husband is gone for nine days, three states away, with limited phone service. So there’s that.

Let me brag a minute about how fantastic my 8 year old son has been. He helped unload the dishwasher, cleaned up our frozen and sagging pumpkins in the yard, and did his homework with absolutely no complaints or second guessing. I’m genuinely enjoying his company.

Nugget – age 6- was put to bed sobbing last night after being downright nasty and without remorse for it. Following prayers, she had the option of continuing to sob in her bed or reading books. She did them both, respectively. She lost her chance at getting to invite a friend over to play after school today because she launched a marker at her brother’s head as hard as she could yesterday. Again, without remorse. The previous day, she accused me of never making any food- EVER- that she wants to eat. Well honey, we don’t all want to survive on bologna and mac’n’cheese… Then my precious girl followed her refusal to eat the chicken, stuffing, corn, and fruit with an epic meltdown where she was unable to make nice words come out of her mouth. “Mom, I just CAN’T make those words come out of my mouth.” *sob* These are all just samples of the overall behavior and attitude.

I’d say this is related to her dad being gone, but we’ve been on this ride for well over five weeks.

Where is Mary Poppins when you need her? Super Nanny Jo? Bueller? Anybody?

Creativity · Family · Parenting · Perspective

Thursday Thoughts

Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.

John Barrymore

This is what writing is to me. It’s happiness. I love to write with paper and pencil. The feel of the pencil gliding over the paper soothes my busy mind. Every two weeks, I try to utilize 30 minutes of early morning devotional time to write. Words flow freely from my mind through my hand. Pieces of my soul marked in my handwriting. My middle of the night insomnia sessions are where my best thoughts flow. Will I ever write that book I’ve been dreaming of authoring since elementary school?

The journey is never ending. There’s always gonna be growth, improvement, adversity; you just gotta take it all in and do what’s right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment.

Antonio Brown

Marriage – When I took my wedding vows, full of excitement and passion, I vowed to love him until death do us part in good and bad. I still do. I’m still promising that. It’s deeper and stronger than I could have ever imagined. What I don’t think either of us realized at that point is that we vowed to love – deeply, strongly, confidently, and with covenant – is that we might not always like each other. It is completely unreasonable to vow to like someone all the time. Sometimes, we don’t even like ourselves. The majority of the time, the real issue is with yourself. Your partner’s job, promise, and covenant is to love you thru that. Those valleys are where you grow. Look up. Valleys only happen between mountains. Start climbing.

Loving a child doesn’t mean giving in to all his whims; to love him is to bring out the best in him, to teach him to love what is difficult. 

Nadia Boulanger

Parenting – “My child is having a hard time. She is not giving me a hard time.” These words were on repeat this morning in my head starting at 4:32am. Our 6yr old woke up and needed to use the bathroom. Sleep did not find her again… and after two hours of cuddling, it was time to get dressed for school. Cue the sobs. Cue the stomps, whines, pointing, and tantrum. Deep breaths. She is not non-verbal. Her biggest character downfall is her inability to use her words to ask for help or admit when she is incorrect. It’s easier to stomp and sob. Going the tough route with her doesn’t help. She is stubborn and has to make the decision herself. When she threw her twisted sweatshirt at my feet, I refused to help her pull the sleeves out until she verbally asked for help. Her father did the same thing when she furiously swung her brush at him instead of just asking him to help her brush her hair. It was a doozy of a morning. 90% of them are nothing like this. I set a timer and told her she needed to have her fit turned off by the time it went off or she was destined for bed immediately when she arrived home with me this evening. Miraculously (tongue-in-cheek) her tantrum was over about 10 seconds before the timer dinged. Hugs all around before she ran out the door to the bus. Then her father and I considered Mimosas or Bloody Mary’s for breakfast… not really, but we both had to take our own frazzled nerves and anxiety down a couple notches before we came to work. Parenting is not for the weak-willed or faint of heart.

“I always loved running…it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.” 

Jesse Owens

I’m signed up for a spring 2019 half marathon. I didn’t run one in 2018, although I did take on a hill-filled 10K (actually 6.7miles). Half Marathon Number Five. I ran my first 13.1mi organized race a couple of months before my MS diagnosis. Now I need a goal to get my consistency back. After swearing I wouldn’t run another unless I was trained well enough to knock 10 minutes off my previous finish time, my focus has shifted. Many months of just drifting along… I’m ready to get back in the current and head for something. What it is, I’m not sure. The steady beat of my feet and breathing in and out assist my brain in sorting thoughts. We shall see… we shall see.

As you attempt to make big differences, remember to appreciate the small differences.  And remember that you don’t always have to reach the goal you set in order to make a difference.

Win Borden

Be kind today friends. Find a way to lift someone else up. Even if you are dwelling in the valley right now, reach up and out. Be gracious.

Wear the fancy dress. Tell the joke and laugh at it. Do that cannon ball into the pool. Dance in your kitchen. 


Much love — Jen

Faith · Family · Love · Parenting · Perspective

Progress not Perfection

As you are perusing Pinterest or Instagram or any sort of social media today, just remember this:

For every picture of charm and happy, clean nicely fluffed pillows on a couch in front of a picture window where the snowflakes are gently falling……

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There is a drawer or a corner or a counter or maybe even an entire room that looks more like this….

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Don’t beat yourself up trying to be perfect. Trust me on this one – it doesn’t lead to happiness, joy, or peace.

Keep moving forward. Keep it real. Set your Priorities.

Progress not Perfection.

Perspective

Midterms

15D79179-458D-4508-8B7E-CB1D9AA67E8AToday are the midterm elections in the USA. I voted.

I always vote. If I don’t vote, I don’t feel like my political and moral opinions are valued or heard. What right do I have to discuss and debate if I don’t take advantage of the privilege of voting?

I won’t reveal who I voted for – simply because I don’t have to. However, I will say that I didn’t vote straight party lines. My conscience did not allow that.

Given how tight our gubernatorial race is, I don’t know which direction the results will fall. Regardless of the outcome, I did my part.

Research, pray, and then just do it. That was my process.

Now, if you are a citizen of the USA – go out and put your voice to the polls!

 

 

Faith · Family · Parenting · Perspective

Both Sides of the Coin

As we drove to Parent-Teacher conferences this morning, I gave my husband the run-down of activities and meetings for the next two days. If you remember my post from earlier this fall, you’ll recall that we took a “not at this time” stance to almost ALL extracurricular activities so we could regroup as a family – no flag football, no dance classes, no tumbling…

The list isn’t long – Parent Teacher Conferences 8:20-9am, an orthodontist appointment at noon, customers who scheduled ahead, and an awards ceremony Friday evening that should last only an hour.

I was struck by irony when he looks at me and says “Ugh… could we have anything else on the schedule!”

 Backstory: A couple times a month since July, I’ve reminded my husband gently clearly that I need his emotional support and leadership as a parent and as a spouse to make all-the-little-things work in our family. One of his love languages is to love us by providing at which he is amazing. *Take the time to do that study (5 Love Languages) if you are in a relationship!*

As a woman with only two hands and 24 hours in the day, I am incapable of doing it all without feeling completely depleted, beat down, and depressed. There – I said it – depressed. Out of routine and unable to juggle everybody’s everything, I’ve entertained the idea of simply running away. I know, it’s a super grown-up, mature thought (sarcasm).

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Fortunately, I know I’m loved and love myself too much to do this. We have to work together to balance both of us working full-time, two full-of-life children, a marriage relationship, and minimal hobbies that keep us sane. On top of that, we both need alone time to recharge.

Last week, we hit these topics with force. (Read that as “the ship was going down…”) Since that meltdown conversation, we’ve been quite in-sync and actually offering to help each other with daily tasks that make life easier.

I can’t help think that his reaction to my short list for the next two days is somewhat attached to that previous conversation. He’s been putting in so much effort that he’s seeing the other side of the coin. Marriage and kids take both sides of the coin to function. 13 years of marriage… still learning!

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