Creativity · Family · Parenting · Perspective

Dodgeball and Our Village

Life has me on a bit of a writing hiatus. Here’s a few “Good News” highlights:

Family dodgeball at Christmas. My dad’s extended side is large- about 60 strong. Every year, Christmas dodgeballhosting rotates among the original siblings. Since we are too large to host in a home, we tend to meet in a community center. 2018 ushered us into a celebration in the middle school’s all purpose room and gymnasium where both my aunt and uncle work. If you haven’t played dodgeball since you were a child, you are missing out! We played kids vs. adults, boys vs. girls (all ages), and then split two siblings and families vs. the other two siblings and families. Ages 2 to 69 played. Of course, there was also a buffet of food, a kids’ gift exchange, an adult gift game.

 

The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” rang true again this past weekend. I came down with a respiratory virus complete with fever. This particular weekend, I was supposed to make 16 half-birthday treats with my daughter for her first grade classroom. (This is done for kids with summer birthdays.) A dear friend- our adopted grandparent- answered my text plea to make treats. She picked both my children up, dropped the older one off at basketball practice, and proceeded to make vanilla cupcakes with chocolate chips AND a custom purple frosting with butterflies. My kids used their decorating talents to make the butterflies out of pretzels, candy hearts, and licorice. This amazing woman then fed my children lunch and brought them back out to the house.

Yes, my daughter has her own sense of style. We aren’t squelching it at this point. It doesn’t make the top 40 of battles we need to fight.

Best wishes — Jen

Faith · Perspective

No Resolutions

I am diving into 2019 with no resolutions. This whole situation puzzles me. Planning and setting goals is my thing. However, one lesson 2018 events taught me and continues to teach me each day is the best laid plans typically end up being altered or scrapped altogether.

The study I did with my local women’s group this fall helped me to shift my thinking to being content in my current moment. Content does not always equal happy. Content means I’m not looking forward past my current situation thinking that I’m missing something and better things are ahead. The task is to find the best in the present and rest in that. It’s the difference between flailing or trying not to drown and rolling over onto my back and floating with the current.

I may choose a word to help me focus in the coming year, but that will wait until the dust settles a bit from the holiday season. End of year at work coupled with an entire month of family gatherings discards itself as a mental fog.

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Best wishes for 2019 and much love,

Jen

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.

Faith · Family · Parenting · Perspective

Part 3: The Flaming Yam

I am gloriously human. I heard that phrase at the women’s faith conference I attended. To be gloriously human, you must accept both the high points and the low.

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Photo by Markus Spiske temporausch.com on Pexels.com

Being uniquely knit together by God makes you glorious- even if you don’t think so. You are made for something amazing. Maybe you haven’t found it yet or pieced together that puzzle , but there is a purpose for your existence.

The human part is where the lows come in. We are so fallible. Making mistakes a fair amount of the time. Honestly? That’s ok. There’s this thing called grace. It’s hard to comprehend, but it’s part of the puzzle too.

With that in mind, here is a glimpse of my day of the flaming yam…. a day when an incredible amount of grace and humility and humor was necessary…

  1. Spilled glass of red juice in light grey couch while doing early morning devotions. Stain stick and steam cleaned couch before the sun rose.
  2. Daughter cried for 10 minutes about getting out of bed (day3 of school. This bodes well for the year…)
  3. Found spelling homework in child’s backpack 10 minutes before bus.
  4. Filling in my tooth at dentist. I just LOVE the dentist. (Feel the sarcasm?) I ate my pre-packed salad for lunch with half numb upper jaw. Note to self- next time pack soup.
  5. Worked all day with exception to dentist appt.
  6. Child #1 got off bus and melted down about reading homework. Metaphoric nuclear meltdown on the office floor.
  7. Rushed to make dinner after work because family was LOSING it (American slang of ‘hangry’ fits this) Grilled cheese sandwiches, fruit, and baked potatoes
  8. And the finale- while trying to appease everyone’s personal tastes, I caught a sweet potato ON FIRE in the microwave. Not just a smolder, full on flames and smoke.
  9. Apparently there is science to this- lower moisture content and higher sugar plus high heat equals carbonized sugar. Sizzle, smoke, fully engulfed in flames…
  10. I know we have a working, charged fire extinguisher in the kitchen, but I can’t find it!
  11. When running the flaming yam pinched in a set of metal tongs out the door to toss in a puddle (it rained that day), I forgot about the grilled cheeses on the hot griddle. Those were also burning when I returned to the kitchen.
  12. After the smoke cleared – literally- I threw in the towel. Eat up people.
  13. I’m called it a night. I didn’t even eat.

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That was an actual day in my life. I accept that I am gloriously human. I accept that this day was humbling and ludicrous. It was also humorous. Days like this will drive you to drink if you don’t have a sense of humor.

Lessons of this day: Stay humble. Rejoice in being gloriously human. Keep your sense of humor.

Faith · Family · Love · Parenting · Perspective

Tempo

Life here is slowly returning to a more normal pace. Lentando.

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Photo by Pixabay

The kids and I fell asleep on our couch last night. We read Llama Llama Red Pajama. That Llama sounds an awful lot like my 6yr old.

We prayed together. Each of us took turns praising for something we are thankful for and praying for someone who might be sick, sad, hungry or mad. May our eyes be opened and our hands ready to humbly serve those around us.

I woke an hour later and carried my children to their beds. I’m still able to lug my 75 pounder, but I’m not sure how much longer. I’ve got him by about 60 pounds and 12 inches. He’ll outgrow me in the coming 5 years.

Two hours later my husband walked in, finally home from a work trip. Sleepily I told him how nice it was to have him home. I don’t communicate exceptionally well at midnight.

Today will bring about the hustle and bustle of shuttling between swim lessons, basketball camp, a trip to the dentist and work responsibilities. Even this isn’t consistent with our lives 6 weeks ago, but we are getting closer.

Our cadence is slowing from affrettando. Too vigorous. Too chaotic. Like that flurry in the middle of a song, we are over the peak of summer.

We are falling into a new, more comfortable rhythm.

Faith · Family · Parenting · Perspective

The Value of Time

June is over. At the end of every month I think to myself “Wow, now I can take a breath.” All the while, we are living our ups and downs, celebrating and mourning, thriving and struggling thru weeks, months, days, and moments.

June was full of all of the above descriptions. Big commitments included baseball for both kids, wheat harvest, baling straw, and (as always) work. The smaller moments category encompassed watching the sunsets and stars, sighting lightning bugs, digging our first couple hills of new potatoes, and putting together puzzles. Sprinkled in between are cousin-exchange days, quick trips to the pool and lake, church activities and way more fast-food than we should have consumed in a 30 day period.

It was a whirlwind. I must say though… I don’t think I have any moments (except that one complete mommy meltdown) that I regret spending my time on.

All this twirling and whirling causes me to be introspective. What is the actual value of my time? Is it monetary? Is it emotional? Is it in physical toll?

Truly, I’ve been mulling this over for quite awhile. I have friends that will drive a hour one way (60+miles) to go to a discount grocery store and suggest that I do the same. “Oh the savings are HUGE! I bought eggs for $0.39! Then we grabbed a meal (or shopped elsewhere) and drove home.”

This frustrates me.

Upon suggesting I do the same, I let them know politely that I do not have 3 hours in my daily, weekly, or monthly schedule to dedicate to groceries. I’d rather use my coupon app at our local grocery store, shop my list and the markdowns, and get it done in the 15 minutes I have before I pick my kids up from daycare after a day of work. #shoplocal

(Honestly, I’m not sure how much you’re really saving by the time you add in 120+ miles of gas and wear on your vehicle and a meal at a restaurant. But hey, if that’s how you roll – good for you!)

The way I look at it, I’ve just banked 2hrs and 45 minutes to spend doing things like riding bikes, gardening, or hosting a playdate.

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Princess dresses and manicures

It’s taken effort to place a value on time. I’ve said “no” or “today is not the day” to more things than I thought I would this summer. Furthermore, I’ve cleared an entire week in July and said we are scheduling NOTHING during those 7 days.

The value isn’t just monetary. It is physical and emotional. Running in a thousand different directions to shuttle this child to this event and to make sure I’ve picked that item up from that location is exhausting. It makes my whole body weary. My mind gets foggy. Anxiety grips my heart. Emotionally I’m a bear. Instead of easily seeing the joy, I have to remind myself it’s okay to smile and laugh. Overall, it’s daunting when there is no value placed on time.

This must be fate that I am writing this today. I saw a quote from Handmade by Heroes just before I attempted to finish this entry. “Time is like a river. You cannot touch the same water twice because that flow has passed and will never pass again.”

I don’t want to miss moments like this because I’ve undervalued my time.

Unplanned. Unscheduled. These moments are full of worth to me.

 

blog 7-2 KS Sunset
Harvest Sunset 2018, Kansas, USA