Family · Parenting · Perspective

Avalanche!!!

Me. This past weekend.

giphy5Not for exercise. Due to my husband’s work schedule, I managed very little physical running.

I was mentally trying to run away. The past week has been absolutely suffocating- family, marriage, work, home-ownership. You name it.

These situations rarely materialize as an instantaneous big blob. Rather, it is a slow building process, like a snowball. Each snowflake contributes until you have a breaking point and this HUGE ROLLING avalanche comes flowing down and out.

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Ever see anything about an avalanche resolving in a positive manner? Me neither.

I’m usually not an avalanche girl. I usually address it as it comes: good, bad, or ugly. The month of August, it just didn’t seem like there was time to address anything.

  1. Work. Did I mention we are starting to farm on our own now too after normal business hours? (We are incredibly thankful and blessed to have this opportunity!)
  2. Husband gone to see family across the country for a week. This leaves me in charge of all things business and family.
  3. Me to Denver solo for my 6m MS check-in. Out and back in 36hrs. Praise – was moved to a yearly appt with blood and MRI in 6 months locally! Also saw my friend Abby’s new beautiful baby, Miss Sinclair. ❤
  4. Quick trip to KC as a crammed into the last weekend before school getaway. I met my friend Jess’s new little guy, Mr. Kevin, and played with her gorgeous little gingers. We also had dinner with another friend and her husband.
  5. School. Kids needed supplies. New routine that starts two hours earlier than our summer did. Parent’s night #1 with teacher #1. Parent’s night #2 with teacher #2. School is in full force mode now.
  6. Normal family functions – feeding my people, clean clothes, picking up the house, garden produce, playing with my kids (Barbies, farm, catch in the yard, bike rides, sprinklers) – Oh, and did I mention that our hot water heater blew out the top and was steaming our entire mechanical room? Fortunately, the sump pump kept up until we discovered it.
  7. Volunteer Responsibilities- Parent Teacher Organization Family Fun Night, Church Secretary & Children’s Church, Vacation Bible School Day Camp
  8. A nasty head cold and quite possible resurgence of mononucleosis in my exhausted body. I had all the symptoms, but didn’t do the blood test. Nothing they could recommend except rest and fluids anyway.
  9. et cetera et cetera et cetera….

The ball just kept rolling from one thing to the next. Pretty soon, all the little conversations that we needed to have to stay connected had just slipped past. Every turn felt like a new area of neglect.

If I’m cooking dinner, I’m missing out on playing catch. If I’m sitting down with my husband for the evening, I’m not getting the laundry done. If I take 30 minutes for a mind and soul clearing run, I’m skipping time I could be spending with my family.

It was a never-ending, always losing game of catch-up. It ended in a slouched pile of tears in the shower and an honest, raw conversation with my husband.

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I’m a puzzle that’s been missing a piece. Even as my missing piece, he still can’t read my mind. When I’ve managed to get it all done without help or complaint, how is he supposed to know that I need another hand or eye on a situation?

You’d think after 12 years that would be more than obvious. Honestly, I think it gets harder to see the longer you’ve been together. You are so trusting of the other person that everything just falls into that same groove. It sometimes takes a derailment to get back on the same page.

Every supply and note for school has been signed and sent on time. Every phone call at work has been returned promptly. Clean clothes for all. Food for meals done. I handled it all like a boss. Never asking for help or insinuating it wasn’t something I could handle. An exhausted, stressed, increasingly isolated boss.

Suffocating under the avalanche of missed connections wasn’t the way to survive the last month. Living on that lonely island isn’t necessary. Unless you ask for assistance, it isn’t apparent that you need it.

Ask for help. Be honest with yourself and your partner. Do it before the avalanche hits.

Much love,
Jen

 

Perspective

Educate Life.

I am sitting at a crossroads. To teach again someday or not to? To renew my license or let it go?

This is a decision I’ve been kicking down the road for at least two years. Do I take the Master’s hours to renew my teaching license or just let it expire at the end of 2018? I haven’t been in the classroom other than a long-term sub since I turned down a new contract in 2009.

My quitting was complicated, but in retrospect, the correct choice for my physical and mental health. I was offered a contract for the following year. I was promised more administrative disciplinary support for a small, challenging portion of the population I was serving. He said I could have another prep and it would be ok to back off on the clubs and sports I was sponsoring and coaching.

“If you send them to the office, we won’t send them back during that same class period.”

And yet, I still told them no. I was done at the end of the school year.

I had another opportunity with health insurance, less mileage, more flexibility, and less stress. I took it.

So why is this decision to let my license go so difficult? Why not just cut the cord? Does this mean that all that money and time I spent in college is null and void?

I think this is a decision that many people face when they change careers. Does a change of this proportion negate any type of impact I made previously?

Last Friday, a young man stood at the elementary school with his family. I walked up to him and his wife and started a conversation. In the spring, I visited with another young man at a wedding reception. My son’s kindergarten teacher. The cashier at our local store. The marketing director at a local dealership. The guys who fix tires and do re-alignments.

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These examples speak to me. Successful, intelligent, caring people who I had the privilege to work with. Although I stepped out of the education field after only a few years, I cherish the students I worked with – the successful ones and those who caused me anxiety. Stress not for myself, but that I wasn’t able to reach deep enough in them for their future success as human beings.

What would that look like? Not monetary success as that is fleeting. I wanted them to have contentment, drive, passion, and mercy. To withstand criticism and turn around to use it constructively. To observe life outside the local societal box. To approach people willing to look at the other side of the coin. To forgive and move on.

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You might think “Wow. That’s a lot for a secondary science credit!” My job was to teach physics and freshman science. My mission was to teach life.

To renew or not? I just don’t know. Will I ever go back to education? I guess only time will tell.

Education Quote credits to http://quotesvana.com/quotes-about-education/

 

 

 

Family · Perspective

Thoughts from the Tractor Seat

While raking prairie hay and being launched against my tractor’s seat belt, I cursed how rough the pasture meadow was – pockmarked here and there with a coyote den or other abandoned hole. Then I backtracked. How blessed am I to be in that position?! On land that’s been in my family for over a hundred years, working with my husband, in sturdy steady equipment to get the job done. I felt like I was necessary.

view from tractor

I also thought it humorous that it has been met with incredulity (even by my own children!) that YES, I was driving the tractor. Yes, this sorority girl and cheerleader was the main operator for this rig.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not some version of bad@ss farmer or anything. I’ve done the labor for farming and ranching for the majority of my life on my family’s farm alongside my dad, mom, and sisters. My dad didn’t have any boys.

I guess this is where my own version of feminism comes in. I am perfectly, as is any other woman, capable of most of the tasks on the farm, in the hills, in the pasture, and in the field. For the heavy stuff, you bend your knees, straighten your back and team lift.

It’s actually only been in the last few years since I had children that I haven’t been hands-on farming somewhere. I miss it. It’s in my blood and history. Thankfully, it is also in my future!

Life changes and heat related fatigue (thanks MS) have altered the way I am able to work. If I don’t want to fight numbness and tingling, I have to watch the thermometer. This means I get a tractor or combine with air conditioning. No wheat truck for me this year at harvest. When I get overheated, I’m dragging for a couple of days – like heavy arms and legs – exhausted. Avoidance is key.

I’ll leave you with this beautiful picture of where I worked yesterday evening. Flyover country is truly breathtaking.

God's Country

#farmgirl #independentwoman #hardworkknowsnogender #hayseason

Family · Parenting

Sister Tact

My sisters. Oh the honesty that flows from their mouths. With tact occasionally, but not always, I know that I can trust them for an unbiased commentary. I appreciate that. Always.

Speaking of commentary, they both agreed with my opinion on bodysuits.

Thursday, my younger sis and I declared a road trip day with our kids to see our older sister. She’s only two hours to the south, but throw two jobs/ schedules to juggle and four kids into the car and it makes the trips less frequent than we’d like.

My younger sister has recently added screen printing and shirt design to her resume at a local shop part-time. In honor of her newfound talent, she designed and printed shirts for us. Then she proceeded to make us try them on, model, and take a picture.

IMG_1768‘Herd That.’ Get it? We grew up on a farm. Each of us have husbands in some form of the agriculture industry. Two of us are dipping our feet in as the 6th generation of farming. Pretty cool. It’s a new challenge- one that we are extremely grateful for!

Love the shirts. However, when trying them on my sisters noticed something…

Have you ever seen Bridget Jones Diary (1st one)? As I switched into my new blue customized shirt, my sisters burst out laughing. It was like that big tan panty scene.

This is a direct quote: “Where did that bra come from? You look like someone who’s been locked in the woodshed since the 1800’s. That’s awful. Literally like “hey honey, are you in the mood?” – lifts shirt – “Ummmm not now” – mood killer bad. Did you pay money for that?!”

giphyWe laughed until at least one of us snorted and there were tears all around. I tried to defend said one-size fits all, nude, sports, uni-boob bra, but to no avail. They were correct.

Sometimes as moms, we let ourselves go. It is so much easier to just grab something, throw it on, and put something nicer on the top. I mean seriously, how often does ANYONE see the underlayers? But then, sometimes you have to swap shirts in front of your sisters… and you get snapped back to reality- back to the days when you wore pretty underlayers just because it made you feel upbeat even though no one else saw them – back before you’d visited the Mommy & Me store for something that snapped easily for nursing.

giphy1Fine. You got me. I’ll buy something that actually fits and isn’t my same shade of pale.

Family · Love · Parenting · Perspective

Pink Sequins

Pink sequins. That’s what my daughter chose to wear this morning for school.

pink sequins2We could have argued about it. The pink sequins adorn her dance recital costume – a pink sequined sleeveless leotard with a pink glittered tulle skirt. She chose to pair it with a pair of faux-denim jeggings, her favorite Minnie Mouse sandals, and a mint colored bow. She asked for a “ballerina bun” in her hair. Glowing with happiness, she was pretty proud of the fashion statement she put together .

There was no argument this morning. The outfit covers everything it needs to. It fits our 3 rules about dressing for school:

  1. Covers all the necessary body parts.
  2. At least close to seasonally appropriate.
  3. No major holes or stains.

It’s not just that I’m tired and nursing a migraine for the second day. It isn’t just that this is the end of the line for this year’s school. “Pick your battles” doesn’t completely cover it. Although she is absolutely adorable and made her dad melt when she pranced out in it, that’s also not it.

This is about trust. Yes, you read that right. How could letting her kid wear a pink sequined dance costume to school be about trust?

It occurred to me a few days ago that I’m constantly asking begging my children to make good choices about things that we, as adults, care about. Her father and I have high expectations for both children’s decision making skills. This situation was something that SHE has strong feelings about.

My little fashionista followed our rules about how to dress appropriately. She picked out the outfit herself. She dressed herself. These are big things for a four year old! This was her saying “Look mom! TRUST me! I’m listening!”

This was a BIG deal in her little world.

Pink Sequins

One of the most eye-opening moments as a parent comes when you realize that this little child is, in fact, a little person with unique opinions, big feelings, and an original personality. Inquisitive, stubborn children grow into complex, intelligent adults who make millions of choices. As a parent, it is my job to guide and trust her on these small glittery choices. By doing so, someday she will make larger decisions with faith in herself.

Moment by moment, she’s growing up.

Faith · Fitness · Perspective

Psalm 19 with a Sprinkle of Science

Do you ever feel like you are just missing the point? Like with the current excitement over fanny packs and high-waisted jeans (which I experienced the first time a few decades ago), some things just leave me clueless.

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Yep, that’s me! The last few weeks have been a quest to “get it.” Once you realize you are missing something, you want to find it.

With my husband gone for a trip and then the transition time back into normal rhythm, I slipped out of my habits. I stopped running because where was the time? I stopped doing my devotional in the morning because I wasn’t getting more than a few hours of sleep. My stress level was thru the roof. My kids were fighting constantly. Sugar and bread cravings were all I could think about at meal times.

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Appreciate what’s around me? Struggling to…

Pay attention to the people and places I went? Just enough to keep us all alive…

In the words of Nemo, I was trying to “just keep swimming.”

That is not what this life is about! Sometimes, well… most of the time, God puts something in front of me like that rumble strip on the sides of the highway. The one that signals “CAUTION” and to make a correction. (side note- it is also good at distracting screaming babies on long car trips – not sure how we would have ever made it to Austin, TX with a very angry 5 month old without that rumble strip)

The first day of May, I set a goal of 90 miles of running this month (max 10/90 on bike). I’ve run basically every day. Running is part of my worship. It is impossible to not appreciate nature and all of Creation when running outdoors. It is extremely hard to demean yourself on the treadmill if you are aware how all the intricate cells in your body are working together to make that happen.

Monday, I picked my devotion time back up as well. Psalm 18. Psalm 19 Tuesday. Talk about a swift swoop into my world!

Psalm 19 (NIV).

1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 
2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 
3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. 
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 
6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth. 

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 
8The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 
9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the LORD are firm, and all of them are righteous. 
10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. 
11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 
12 But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. 
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. 

14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Verses 1-6 refer to the beauty of creation, created by God in intricate interwoven detail. “Verse 3 – they have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.” It doesn’t have to be! Beauty and majesty speaks for itself. There are no words in any human language that does it justice. “Yet their voice goes out to all the earth, their words to the ends of the world…”

How sad that I was so wrapped up in man-made chaos, that I completely missed all the miraculous things going on around me!

As a lover of science, I understand the desire to know all the inner workings. I want to know too! But much like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, I have to pick which part I’m sure of to make calculations. I choose God and will leave the other part to be less certain. In doing so, I’m able to enjoy and appreciate life around me with both my faith and my questioning, scientific mind.

In doing the study commentary on verses 7-13 this morning, I realized that I had completely misunderstood much of the intent of the Bible!

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In my naivety, I’ve thought that many of the teachings were extremely limiting and harsh. What about my self-expression? my self-interests? my hopes, wishes and dreams?

Notice a trend here? Consider MY ears opened this morning.

Back to basic science – Newton – Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Why do I think MY actions, hopes, dreams, expressions, and interests won’t have a ripple effect on others? #selfish

The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The harder I push against God’s guidance, the harder or more awry life goes for me and those around me. Our world is doing its darndest to muddle things up. Again *raises hand*, guilty… Those guiding principles are not there to punish us, but to walk us towards a deeper joy, the kind only possible when you’ve made humble peace in your soul. Consider this me working towards being wise.

Verses 11 to 13. Who hasn’t told a child “Don’t touch that! It’ll burn your hand!” Then the seeking fingers touch it, burn, and tears ensue. *raises hand* Who has been that child thinking that he/she knew what was best? *raises hand*

These lines illustrate how God is trying, so so hard, to guide us away from troubles. It is frequently MY choice which path I choose – walking away without blemish or needing a salve and a bandage.

Hidden faults. We all have them. A very difficult step in maturing is recognizing those faults and rectifying them. I’m feeling fairly confident that I’ll never master all of mine. Thank goodness for the grace, forgiveness, and mercy of my husband, family, friends, and the One who made it all possible with His sacrifice!

Willful sins? I think by this, my study means vices and things we do on purpose. What is your vice? Put simply, I like my pants to fit, so fitness is probably one of mine. Pride seeps into fitness like sweat into a t-shirt after a good workout.

About a month ago, I ran a little over 10K for a team half marathon event that benefitted local scholarships. I struggled physically and thus was not happy with my time. I completely missed a chance to be thankful that my body will move how I want it to. With MS, this is not something to overlook! Alas, my pride got in the way. To exercise with the desire to only be proud of myself or for the attention of others is willful.

After this eye and heart-opening study, I can honestly say I’ve hit the rumble strip. This is my modern day application of Psalm 19. I appreciate the wake up.

Family · Parenting · Perspective

Mother’s Day – What is the perfect day?

Cheers to the Mothers out there! We are coming up on a Hallmark-induced holiday. Research shows that it was started with a noble meaning, and I guess, it still sort ANNA JARVISof rings – or maybe at least twinkles – with that sentiment.

I don’t mean to come off as bitter or brisk, but seriously… Let’s get real here people! Let’s look at the realities of what a Mother’s Day when you are ‘in the weeds’ is actually like with small children. Then, we’ll talk.

(This does not relate to how I shower my own mother with love on Mother’s Day. She’s already survived these years. Bless her.)

The advertisers say:

**”Treat your mother to a spa day!” — ummm….. does that come child-free? Does wanting a Mother’s Day gift that doesn’t involve the child that made me a mother make me a selfish monster? Hmmm…

**”Surprise her with a beautiful bouquet of flowers!” — Flowers are a nice sentiment. They look bright and zingy while my children are screeching at each other about a ball or iPad time.

**”Chocolate.” — While I am always 100% game for chocolate (non-dairy, so fake chocolate), this does not a smooth day make. If my child gives it to me as a special item, I’ll treasure the thoughtfulness behind it for a few moments. But me secretly eating mini-chips by the handful out of the bag in my freezer, not quite so meaningful.

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**Lunch or dinner out – so my young kids can groan about food in public instead of at home. It is a joy of the highest order to ask the waiter for something hot-dog based at a nice restaurant because the nicer, garnished, plated version of the similar foods we eat family-style at home are now unpalatable. This too shall pass…

You know, I’m just not good at gifts. This all sounds snarky and unappreciative. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate gifts or love being with my crew, it is just that I feel so ‘in the weeds’ ‘UNDER the weeds’ tunneling through life that if I was able to choose, I’d never CHOOSE any of these things!

As I sit here listening to a podcast about how to be a good parent, typing about Mother’s Day, and frankly, taking a break from the accounting project on my desk, I think my ideal Mother’s Day would look like this:

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Jammies.

Normal morning – 6ish wake time. Quick couple of miles on the run. When I get home, my sleepy people either aren’t awake or are just waking up. I LOVE to stroke their hair and face and wake them up slowly. I LOVE to see them run the house in their jammies. I LOVE to be greeted by their morning hugs. Breakfast is low-key. I could either make waffles or we go with the solid stand-by of cereal or granola bars. No fights, whines, or on the floor tantrums about anything up to this point.

 

Church is on Sunday – Mother’s Day. Everybody gets dressed without tears about clothing or shoes. I swear the shoe situation is just all-around cursed. Why? Whyyyyyyy?  Just put two shoes on without contemplating which dinosaur had the longest toes or which baby we should name “Vivian Laila S” for ten minutes! We get through the whole service without any dirty looks (from my son to me- when did 7 become the new 13?) or fights about who is sitting on Grandpa’s lap.

Lunch – We could eat out somewhere simple, where the hot dog that will inevitably get ordered is standard fare. Or we could have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grapes, and chips at home. I’m good with that.

Afternoon – everybody rests or reads books quietly in their rooms. After rest time, we do something as a family preferably outdoors. If the weather doesn’t permit it, everybody

mothers day
A portrait by my 7yr old of himself and mom. He’s not really an alien and I do actually have feet…

plays a game or a puzzle. Then as the day goes on, people chime in to be helpful with anything that catches their eye. I honestly mean ANYTHING. That towel that he/she picks up off the bathroom floor is better than a 1,000,000 fragrant bouquets.

Evening – we like to grill. I’d be happy to throw something on. The hubs and T will have baseball practice. Maybe I don’t go because M and I are doing something special, just us girls.

Any way around it, there has been no tattling to this point. No throw downs or intentionally, slyly sticking his foot out. No hair pulling just to get her attention. She hasn’t screamed at him. Family time without the feuding.

Night- bedtime. Baths. Snuggles. Sleep.

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One of my reasons for Mother’s Day

That would be my perfect day to celebrate being a mother. I don’t want a gift or some token. Upon reflection, it seems that I don’t want to spend my day away from my loves to relax. I want to be with them the entire time. I want to smile and laugh with them. I just want a break from the work as referee.

To the other moms who are tunneling through the weeds with your littles, my heart goes out to you. Don’t let Hallmark’s projected view of the foofy, lalalala, rainbow riding unicorn, glitter and confetti, relaxing Mother’s Day get you down. We know that stuff isn’t always real. The LOVE is what’s real.

As cliche as it sounds, I think we have to soak in these moments. Here in the weeds these small people think the world revolves around us. That’s pretty amazing. They want to walk, talk, and BE just like us when they get older. They only focus on our shiny side.

weeds
Throwback a few years. 

Good and bad alike, this too shall pass. Someday we’ll be sitting at home hoping for that text, phone call or Hallmark card that acknowledges that we are still important to them. We will hope that they still see only our shiny side.

Right now, we are their whole world. Moms, we have to try not to wish it away.

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