Monday, October 7, 2013

Josiah's Alone

It was a two-word text.  And I was driving so I could not read it until I found a red light.

If it wasn't for the rain, I would have been sitting on metal bleachers, screaming and whistling for my freshman on the field.  But, though most of the day was clear, the skies filled in and flooded over just in time to cancel my second born's game.

As soon as the game was called, my daughter and I ran through the deluge with hopes of watching Josiah play in a nearby town.  I could have made a lot of choices that day but knowing that I need to pay attention to my girl, especially when we are out and about alone, I stopped at a nearby Starbucks to splurge on a tasty treat.  We were not there long.  But long enough.

As we drove, I called my husband to find out if that game, like Benjamin's, would be canceled.  Only 8 miles from where we were, it was sunny.  The game was on and we were late.  Because Mark is also Josiah's coach, I relaxed a bit knowing he has dad nearby and invested my energy in the girly chit-chat that filled our family van.

Then my phone made a noise.

Then the light turned red.

Then I read the text.

"Josiah scored!"

Instantly my eyes welled with tears. Because this moment has been coming for so long.  Because I know that I was never promised a child who could do what this child just did and the reality of that washed over me in brand new ways.

I cried because, when this child was still inside, the doctor had to look at us and express his concerns.  And we had to hear words like "connective tissue" and "markers for Down's Syndrome".   And tears came quickly because when the time came for this child to be born, he took so long and was born so blue, and he took a long time to cry.  And while this child was not born with Down's Syndrome, he was born with an arm that did not work and muscles that were low-tone, but with a demeanor that made so many smile.  This child, for all his struggles as a tiny boy, was easy and happy and smart and faithful.  This child, found a path that we did not know existed... different from his brothers' and fully his own.  This peaceful child learned to sing before he could speak and to listen to what is said and also what is not.  And while he was a blessing all his own, we did not know what the future would hold, if he would be able to play soccer, much less score.

And now, over a decade after his difficult birth, with two miraculous arms that work and play piano, dulcimer and cello, this sweet boy took the field and for the first time ever, scored with a beautiful shot high in the far corner of the net.  He did it.  He did it.

And I missed it.

It breaks my heart that I could not see it happen the way it did.  But, in our family, the boys always score at the games I miss.  So in a strange twist of events, it was perfectly played because when the time came for Josiah to kick that ball, he did it in his own way but also in the way his brothers have always done.

And while I wish had been there to see it play out, here is what I did not miss.

Having made it in time to watch over half of his game, I was there when the final whistle blew.  I was there when Josiah walked off the field with a spring in his step and a smile on his face, looking just a bit taller than before.  I was there when he giggled about scoring when I was not there and compared himself to his two big brothers.  I was there when he ran to me joyfully and wrapped his arms, two good arms, around my waist and leaned his head in for a kiss.   I was there when he talked throughout the whole ride home, telling and retelling, the wonder of his tale.  All of that I have. To store up and remember and hold on to forever.  A little glimpse at what a miracle looks like lived in ordinary ways.

The goal itself?  I missed that part.  But it is not mine to have.

That moment, that glory, that powerful kick, that is Josiah's alone.

Blessings on your day.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Clearer Vision on an Ordinary Night

I did not expect it to happen this way.  And to be honest, I am a little embarrassed.  Maybe being a mom may offer me some sort of pass but that's no excuse for finding myself overwhelmed by a sudden realization that literally brought me to tears.  In public.

Thank goodness for sunglasses.

It began as an ordinary day.  The kids were all at school while I spent the day writing and answering speaker requests.  I made dinner early and packed snacks to bring to the high school soccer game I would attend that afternoon and evening.

Normal. Normal. Normal.

I made it to the games with plenty of time to settle in and chat with the other soccer parents who had gotten there before me.  The JV team took the field and battled through a great game.  It was a gorgeous day. Seriously.  We are in the midst of a week or two of perfect weather.  Warm days, cool nights.  Perfect.  In the stands, we commented on the beautiful sunset that was to come and talked about how glad we were that the sun was about to dip beneath the trees.

When the JV game ended, we settled in for what would be another 2 hours of soccer, this time watching the Varsity players.  My oldest plays for this team and is a junior at the high school.  The team warmed up.  Just before standing for the national anthem, the starting line-up was introduced.  The team, gathered near their bench, huddled together to cheer on each player being called to the center of the field.  I have seen this done a hundred times.  Except, this time was different.  My son's name was called and I saw his blond head running through his team.  He began his run out to meet up with his teammates on the field and in a split second, it happened.  And I never saw it coming.

As he ran forward, the whole of his life passed right before me.  I am not kidding or exaggerating or being dramatic.  I didn't plan it or even think it or know it was coming.  It was an ordinary day and all of a sudden I am crying, in public, because I could see it all.  I could see him starting preschool in his yellow jacket, learning to play soccer with his skinny little legs, pouring over a book with his furrowed brow, laughing in the backyard while our dog licked his face, biking down the street with his hair in the wind, walking confidently across the middle school graduation stage, and heading tentatively into high school on that very first day.  I could see his infant face and his now-grown face and all the ways those faces are exactly the same.  And then, I could feel that it is almost done. I knew, in some deep visceral way, that the number of times I get to do this is getting smaller and that for all the days that raising children feels like a job that I will have forever, this moment was clarifying the truth.  There is an end-game.  And I am standing way too close.

I sat in the stands, choking back tears (as I am doing right now), and praying that no one would see.  I talked myself off the ledge and reasoned that my boy is only a JUNIOR.  I have another whole year on top of the one we just began!  I practiced my Lamaze breathing and dabbed casually at my eyes but I could not look away.  Because there he stood.  Taller than me and standing proudly in the center of a field he knows as well as our own backyard.  There he stood, closer to leaving than staying, far more adult than boy.  How does anyone not cry when you suddenly see the truth?  And when the truth holds so much depth and beauty and history and love, how are we not moved to tears?

On that nearly perfect night, I realized in brand new ways how blessed I am to parent this one good boy.  I realized that it is a gift beyond measure to find yourself sharing your life with teenager that you genuinely love and cannot bear to lose.  I realized that it matters that I pay attention to the absolutely ordinary days because, really, that is what makes up our lives.  And someday, I do not think I will be trying to recall all the big events we lived together as a family as much as I will be holding tight to the wonder that is found on a soccer field in September in the dusk of an ordinary night.

Blessings on your day.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Blog Rewind: 9/11-- The Way It Happened For Us

:::Each year, I post our experiences from September 11.  This is the day, as I remember it, twelve years ago:::

Noah was four. Benjamin was almost three. I had MOMs Group that morning and was trying desperately to get ready for the opening meeting of our season. The boys were watching Blue's Clues and I was trying to run a brush through my tangled tresses while answering the phone ringing with requests from freshman college students for keys and ideas and notes about classes. We were living at Trinity Christian College then, our family of four, as residence directors of South Hall.

I was later than I should have been and needed to get to church. I almost didn't answer the phone but thinking better of ignoring a call, I grabbed it and ran to the back to find shoes for my day. It was Mark.

"Is the TV on?" he asked.

"The boys are watching Blue's Clues..."

He said, "Nadia, we have been attacked. You have to turn on the news. Something bad is happening."

I don't remember hanging up but I remember turning the channel and looking at my boys... those little blond heads... those bright, wide eyes. I saw it then. So did they. The look on Diane Sawyer's face. The tone of Peter Jennings voice. The buildings. The airplanes. We stood still, the three of us and I suddenly thought that I needed to protect my boys.

I took them by the hands and led them to their toys. I turned off the sound on the TV and read through the captions instead. I tried to process it all, tried to think, tried to figure out what you do when this happens. I had no idea.

Working on a college campus is a complicated thing. I had a responsibility that morning to my babies playing with blocks and to the 250 freshmen students who lived in my building. Our building did not have cable and they were in class. Somehow they would have to be told what had happened to their country and without knowing exactly what to say, I typed a sign that we would hang in the building to help them to know that something had changed... that something had happened... that what we thought we were, where we thought we lived, how safe we felt, had all become something incredibly different. I did not save that document on my computer. I wish I would have. I know that I typed something about a terrorist attack in New York. I know that I tried to be calm and clear and follow Peter Jennings lead of giving only the information we actually knew. It suddenly felt like we knew nothing at all.

After posting the signs on every door in South Hall, I left quickly for church and the MOMs Group I helped to run. It was our opening morning. The boys were uncharacteristically quiet on the drive and I put the radio on only in the front of our truck. As I drove, a building fell. On the radio, they announced that several other airplanes were still "missing" and that they had no idea what to expect. I called Mark from the truck. He works downtown Chicago in a building that is part of our skyline.

"Come home." I said.

He told me that he was not sure he would be allowed to leave and I pleaded with him explaining that he really might not be safe. He talked about job security. He could not see the TV. He had NO idea what it looked like. The video was very motivating.

"If they fire you for leaving on a day like today, so be it. COME HOME."

He agreed and made plans to leave the city.

By the time I got to MOMs Group, the second building had fallen. Into church came moms, at least three with multiples, juggling their children and questioning the day. We had quads, triplets and twins in the nursery, tired mommas drinking coffee and a ministry to run.

Auto-pilot. Two and a half hours of auto-pilot. Welcome. Pray. Wonder. Chat. Wonder. Worry. Chat. Pray.

My cell phone rang as the moms were leaving. Mark was out of the city. We live 30 minutes from downtown and the commute had taken him nearly three hours. By the time he had gotten to the train to come home there were thousands of people downtown, crammed underground, fleeing Chicago in hopes of getting safely home to their families. He said it was scary seeing so many people in one place... knowing we could be attacked and thinking how they sat, waiting for trains, like sitting ducks.

We met at a restaurant and I don't know if I have ever been so happy to see him. Our city was never hit... but thinking that it might be was overwhelming to me. I could not begin to imagine the loss and heartbreak New York was experiencing... they were people just like me... but I had my husband home. I had him in front of me having a burger and thinking through this experience in discussion and exchanged glances and deep silences filled with words we would never be able to say.

By the time I got back to campus, the students were absorbing the news and were overflowing with questions and worries and feelings none of us knew how to process. The other residence directors and I met together quickly while Mark kept the boys away from any media sources. We had to do something but what do you do? No RD training that we had ever gotten had prepared us for helping the students to understand a terrorist attack on our country. We thought through the possible needs and planned to offer a live feed of the president's address that evening available in the college chapel. We called therapists, pastors and history professors to be on hand that night to meet the students where they were.

That evening after the president spoke, we let the students ask questions and I remember trying to answer them... knowing almost nothing myself. Everything about that day was outside my comfort zone. After the gathering, Mark and I sat in our South Hall apartment while students met with someone who could help them more than we could. Some were in prayer groups. Some were with therapists. Some were with pastors. Some were pondering the historical pieces with professors who could shed light on what this all might mean. I sat stunned in my apartment. Then, there was a student at the door... she was weeping. I invited her to come in.

I knew this young woman well and loved her positive outlook and example to students. It was so early in the year that there were more students we DID NOT know than those we did. But this one, I knew. She rushed into my apartment and sat on the couch. She cried and Mark and I waited for feelings to flow to thoughts to flow to words. I cried too.

"I don't know what's wrong with me... " she began, "but I just keep thinking about how sad I am for THEM... for the terrorists who were SO LOST that they would participate in such total evil."

Tears again.

We talked for a while about how she felt bad about feeling bad for them... about how her friends did not understand... about how there is no way to know how we will feel about something like this because we never saw it coming and have no way yet to process it at all.

We cried and prayed and then, with fewer tears, she left the calm of our apartment for the chaos of the residence hall. Mark and I talked about how hard it was for them... for the students who had just graduated from high school, just left for college, just been handed their world, only to find it laying in pieces at their flip-flopped feet.

Over time, the words ran out. The campus quieted. Around midnight, we closed our apartment door. And that was it... the end of the day.

For weeks after that day, I begged Mark to stay home again. I did not know how I would ever trust him to be safe in the city again. If they got New York, they could get Chicago, too. For months I could not go to the city I love so well.... and when I did, I got teary just thinking about the what ifs...

Most people have memories of that time in their lives. We have something more concrete. Because Mark shot video of all campus happenings throughout each school year, we have video taken on campus on September 10. That night we had run a program for roommates to get to know on another better. "Something to Chew On" was a laugh-out-loud list of questions intended to spark conversation between women who were just getting to know each other as friends. The students had come in pajamas and giggled like school girls and eaten cookies with hot chocolate just 12 hours before the whole world changed. It is strange to watch it now... knowing what the morning would bring, knowing what would follow on Mark's videotape next. A presidential address. Prayer groups. Professors discussing. Students embracing. September 11, 2001 in the lower right corner of the shot.

It has been twelve years. My boys, now 16 and almost 15 still remember that morning. They called it "the day the airplanes knocked over the buildings" for years, though they now know what it all really was. Our lives are different than they were then and I cannot claim they are not. For months following September 11 people said that if we changed anything about our day to day lives, the terrorists won. Such a strange request... to NOT change after having been through such a significant experience. I am changed. Maybe this is their victory but maybe, just maybe, it is mine.

Since September 11:

-I never take my skyline for granted. I love my city deeper and better than ever before and pray for those who lost loved ones in New York every time I drive into Chicago. I am raising my kids to know that we are exceedingly blessed to live where we live and love the city we call home.

-I value my family in a way I never knew to value them before. Finding out that the world can change first thing in the morning on a clear September day gave me perspective that makes me hug them tighter and hold them longer than I might have otherwise done.

-I understand bravery and sacrifice in a way that I never did before. How does a fire fighter rush into a building that will surely fall? How do you help when you know it may cost you everything? Sacrifice no longer means writing a check to help feed the hungry. It means giving it all. Offering it all. And I still stand AMAZED at those who did just that on the morning of 9/11.

-I know now that I cannot shelter my kids in the way I may have thought necessary before. Instead, I have to teach them... to see, to think, to feel, to learn and to build bridges... and yes, to be careful. Sheltering is nice but preparing is essential. I am careful in how this happens but I am also careful to be sure that it does.

Since September 11, truth be told, I am sometimes fearful, sometimes worried, sometimes unsure about what is happening in this world. But, hope is built as I see life go forward, as I watch my children grow up, as I enjoy a clear day in Chicago. We, as a country, were not destroyed. We did not become something dark and sad and broken. We, as a country, as a family, moved on to what was new for us. A new way to live and to love and to trust and to grow. There is hope in that. Can you see it, too?

Twelve years have gone by. It is hard to believe. The names are being read. The president is speaking. We all promise to remember and in doing so, honor the lives of those who were lost on that dark day. And as I sit here now, the faces of so many beloved students flash through my mind... those who walked with us as we found a path we never knew we would need... All of us, the students, MOMs Group, my two blond babies now grown taller, we all are connected in a way that is deeper and more profound than we otherwise would have felt. I am grateful for that because in my confusion and sadness and loss and anger, I did not walk alone. We did not walk alone. God granted us community.  He spoke in human voices.  He reached out through hands that were cloaked in flesh and blood. Through friends and family and acquaintances and community, God granted comfort to us in our grief.  No, we were not then and are not now alone.  And in that small but powerful way, the victory, the blessing, is ours.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

It's Okay to Need a Break...

The house is quiet.  I am grateful.

My older boys are away this week and we are missing them already.  The little ones are reading and while I can hear lawn mowers outdoors and the clicking of my keys as I type, there is otherwise no sound to take up the space in my brain.

Yes, grateful.

The summer months have a way of filling up and getting loud and demanding attention and activity.  But sometimes, I need to sit and be still and breathe deeply in a calm and quiet space.

You, too?

It's okay, you know, to take a minute and step outside and let the chaos continue away from you while you soak up the silence that can refresh your self.  It's okay to need it and okay to seek it and okay to know that your day is better if you can just find a break.

You are not the only momma who has locked the bathroom door, who has sat in the van while parked in the driveway, who has put on the TV and then walked away.  You are not the only momma who looks at the calendar filled with 80+ summer days and wondered what to do with all that time.  You are not the only one.

So, if it is getting kinda loud and your nerves are fried and you are finding yourself answering in a terse, tight tone, give yourself a minute and find a quiet space and take some intentional deep breaths.  Watch the leaves on the trees dance in the breeze and let yourself unwind just a little, tiny bit.  Or better yet, open that same door and send the kids outside and make a quick cup of coffee to sip while you sit still in the house doing absolutely, positively nothing at all.

Because sometimes you need a break.

We all do.

And, it's okay.

Blessings on your day.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Who Gets to Choose?

:::A blog post about Mommas that could be about Daddy's too:::

Cookies or chicken for dinner?

Play video games all night or rest well?

Play outside or in?

Study or not?

Stretch your comfort zone or stay settled?

Which would your kids choose?

This parenting gig is tricky.  Sixteen and a half years ago, my first born was placed in my arms and my husband and I began this walk together.  Some days, we have chosen paths for them (and for us) that are easy and agreeable.  But, some days the choices are cloudy and we rely heavily on our limited wisdom and experience to decide what is needful for our children and what truly matters to our family and try as we might, the "right-ness" of those decisions can be a little less sure than we hope.

It is hard to know what is best...

But, of this I am sure:  my children are not the best judges of what is best for them.  Left to their own devices, they would choose as children choose and I think I am glad for this because it does, in fact, prove that my sweet babies are blessed with a lives that allow them to be children.  Not everyone has been offered this privilege.  But, given that they are young and their view is limited and their goals for themselves are sometimes smaller than need be, the choices made on their behalf can sometimes be met with resistance.

What's a momma to do?

What's a momma to do when she knows that piano lessons are truly a gift and the child doesn't feel like practicing?  What's a momma to do when she knows the value of fruits and veggies and unprocessed foods and the child is sure that a bag of chips and a cookie provides more than enough protein to get by?  What's a momma to do when she knows that being present with those you are present with means more than texting the person who is elsewhere and the child is sure that being in contact electronically with many matters more than seeing the face of the one nearby?  What's a momma to do when she knows that camp experiences matter, that growth and laughter come out of relationship and community and that kids learn much about themselves when they step out in faith and the child is sure that it matters most to be still and home and without plan or structure?

What's a momma to do?

It is all so hard.

But today, I am reminding myself that on that day when I first held my son, I had to learn a new reliance on God.  Because, left to my own devices, my choices can be much like those of my children.  Today, I am reminding myself, that these four children have been entrusted to me.  Not given to me.  And for the very few years that I get to share with them, it is my job to seek wisdom and to act on it.  And there is nothing easy about that.  But the truth is that I did not just get the title of  "Mom", I got the job itself.  And within that endless job description, we will find points like these:

~The Mom will deeply know each child.  She will learn about their God-given strengths and weaknesses.

~The Mom will find ways to enforce said strengths and build up such weaknesses.

~The Mom will find opportunities for her children to learn and grow in ways that are needful and ways that are fun.

~The Mom will provide a home that serves as a launching pad, preparing her children for the necessary life lessons and experiences that her children will encounter.

~The Mom will provide a home that serves as a landing pad, welcoming home from experiences and enfolding her children back into family life again and again and again.

~The Mom will pray and dream for her children.

~The Mom will listen to the words and hearts of her children.

~The Mom will stand firm in what she feels is right and needful, even in the face of childhood adversity.

~The Mom will teach her children to choose well by allowing them to practice but will never give a choice where a choice is not given.

There is no end to this list.  No end.

The truth is we have to actually be the Mom.  And what that means is that I will act out of love on behalf of my kids.  When they like it.  And when they don't.

Which is hard.

So yes, they will eat their veggies, practice piano, volunteer their time, turn off the TV, stretch their comfort zones, do their homework and be held accountable to the whole of it.  Not because I am mean but because I love them dearly and because every day God allows me a little glimpse into who they might become.  And some days they can see that, too.  But some days they cannot.  So, while we are here together, I am going to try to focus on the big picture and stand up for what is needful and pray and pray and pray for them even when they fuss about what we choose.  Even when it is hard and I am weary and we do not all agree.

Because, I am their Mom.  And because he is their Dad.  And the job is big and difficult and beautiful and today, I choose to do it.  Out of the big-ness of this love, I choose to do it.

Blessings on your day.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Planning for Summer: Details #3

The other night, we were burning old sticks and other yard waste in our fire pit out back.  The fire has a way of mesmerizing us and slowly each member of our little family came to stand around the growing flame.  The yard fell quiet and we watched.

After a few minutes, Noah said, "Dad, if I started to fall in... could you still run to catch me like you did when I was little?"

Wistful smiles lit all our faces.

We have this story that we tell from a camping trip we took when Noah was very little.  He was, in fact, so little that his feet did not reach the ground when seated in a tiny folding (bag) chair.  On the day of the occurrence, we were sitting around a campfire with our family and friends while Mark stepped away to grab more wood from a nearby pile.  Noah decided to get off his tiny chair and because he had shifted his weight, the whole chair began to fall toward the fire. Mark looked up just in the nick of time and, dropping the wood he was carrying, jumped forward and caught Noah before he fell hands and face into the fire!  It was a scary moment for all and a moment I am still left grateful for my husband's quick reflexes.

But, over the years the story has grown...

"And dad, who was way on the other side of our campsite, jumped over everything to save your life..."

"And dad, who was walking back from the camp store, sensed danger and ran to you just in time to save your life..."

"And dad, who was driving back from the next county, ditched the car and FLEW to your side to save your life..."

"And dad, who was in Australia, seeing the Sydney Opera House, challenged the bounds of time and space and used his amazing intuition to know he was needed at the campsite and came to your just in time to save your life..."

For 14 of Noah's 16 years, we have told and retold that story.  Always around a fire.  Always when we are together.  Always a little different, a little bigger than the time before.

But, we never tell it in the car.  Or at a game.  Or at a school event.  Or while doing chores, or homework, or projects.  The stuff of family lore grows up out of slow times, out of down times, out of TIME that is spent  and time that we have...

This is stuff of summer.

We have been given this gift of time. And while it may be overwhelming now that our toes are in the tide of it, there is wonder to be found if we can keep far from the risk of drowning in the very thing we seek.

But how?

1.  Do not over-plan.  After a school year of busy nights and days, we need to allow for some time to sit.  We need to allow for time to hang in the backyard and sit still and be together.  Society has pushed an ideal that we must always be DOING SOMETHING.  Oh, what a lie this is!  Sometimes, we need to pull a chair into the driveway, throw out some sidewalk chalk and sit with our kids nearby.  Sometimes, we need to lay a blanket on the grass and watch the lightning bugs fly.  Sometimes, we need to build a fire and sit together and watch the flames lick down the logs.  We need to tell stories and be quiet.  We need to remember and build memories.  And we need to know that all memories do not come from events... some grow beautifully in the nothingness of a warm summer evening.

2.  Be flexible!  Last weekend, I had a planned a grilled dinner for Father's Day followed by a campfire and s'mores in the backyard.  Mark and all the kids were coming home from a soccer tournament that Noah played in all weekend.  They were tired.  They were hot.  And after we ate that wonderful meal, not one of them wanted to sit next to a roaring fire and do anything.  So, we didn't.  Instead, the little ones had long, cool showers and we watched a favorite program and we relaxed together inside.  Sometimes our visions for what that together time should look like will be more cumbersome than we hope.  Relax.  Be together.  If that is the goal, let the details fall where they will.

3.  Remember that little things count.  As families across the nation plan elaborate vacations and expensive outings, it is easy to feel like this is what summer should resemble.  Whenever I am tempted to fall prey to that mindset, I remember a conversation I had with Noah a few years back.  It was the end of an uneventful spring break and I was standing by the barbecue talking with my boy.  We had not gone on vacation and I was feeling a bit disappointed about not DOING more with my kids.  Out of the blue, Noah began to talk about how he loves when we are home for spring break.  Shocked, I asked him to tell me more.  He explained that what he wanted was time... down time.  He wanted to be with his family at home.  And when we rush around all the time, he misses that.  I call that conversation to mind from time to time in an effort to remind myself that little things count.  In fact, sometimes the little things are actually the big things.  Look for them... allow for them.... Take a walk together.  Sit together and read.  Ride bikes.  BE.  If you have 15 minutes and a bit of energy left at the end of the day, you can spend a bit of time with your family sharing a summer night.

A few years ago, we were driving home from visiting friends and stopped at a beach to let the kids stretch their legs and put their toes in the water.  We had our dog, Lexie, with us.  She had never been in Lake Michigan before.  For about an hour and a half, my kids splashed in the lake.  They laughed out loud at Lexie's swimming ability.  Toes in the water became shoulders in the water and they loaded back into the van, wrapped in towels, tired and happy.  To hear them talk about that experience, you would think we were gone for a week.  That brief stop at the beach has become a vacation to them and it cost us not a thing.  But, it was a gift of time.  It was a gift of yes in the midst of a long car ride.  It was just us together and they LOVED it.

There is a time and a place for vacations and get-aways.  Yes, they matter too.  But these three months of summer offer us something bigger than trips and experiences.  It offers us the space we need to sit still, to look--really look--into the faces of our kids and see them anew.  There is no homework to be done, no pressing project, just bits of time in which we can choose to be together in ways that the rest of the year makes tricky.

And it is not hard.

And it is not expensive.

But it matters to them... and to us.

Blessings on your day.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Updated Blog Rewind: The Last Day of School

With the last day of school coming quickly, I wanted to take a brief break from the Getting Ready for Summer Series I have been writing and share with you what we do on the last day of school.  I wrote most of this several years ago but our routines remain.  Read on for some ideas about how to make the most of the last day of school!  

Years ago, when I was working at Trinity, I learned huge lessons about the importance of closure from a resident assistant who was working with me at the time. Katie was especially gifted at nurturing relationships and in her professional and private life, she always made sure to make both beginnings and endings in special ways. While I had known, in my head, how crucial it is to find ways to offer closure at appropriate times, Katie taught me how that LOOKED as she lived it out before me. This has had an impact on my life as a parent that I did not expect.

Our children attend a nearby Christian school and they adore the time they spend there. Every year, they learn so much and show such enthusiasm for these new bits of knowledge. The teachers are passionate about their work and exceedingly loving in how they treat their students. The school overall does a phenomenal job of building community and connecting students K-8 in ways that brings out the best in each child. It is exactly the educational experience I had envisioned for my children and I am so grateful that they are able to attend this school. But, the end of the year is always bittersweet. While they eagerly anticipate the free and relaxing days of summer, knowing that they will walk out of their classrooms and away from their beloved teachers for the last time brings on a sadness that is saved specifically for year-end. Yes, less time with friends is a part of this equation but it is the loss of a year well-spent that makes my children sad.

So, seeing this trend from the beginning of their school years, we have established traditions that help to take the edge off the end. Year after year, we conclude our classes with carefully chosen activities that offer to them (and me) Katie's closure.

Weeks before the school year ends, we begin to talk about making the most of our final days. We talk about ending well, working and playing hard. We try to be extra aware of academic issues, spending more time studying for tests and completing projects. In our house, the end of the year is so full, so busy, that it would be easy to let all of this slide. And sometimes we do.  But, paying extra attention helps a lot as the final grades are recorded and the days wind down.

The night before the school year ends, I sit with each of my kids and we talk about what they are thankful for in school. We recall the amazing experiences they shared with classmates and the special gifts that each of their teachers offered to them. And then, with all this fresh in their heads, we write thank you letters. I encourage them to do this on their own. The words and memories are theirs and, for us, it has proven to be an important experience to take a minute to not only be grateful but to express that gratitude to someone with whom they have shared this year. (And...this is top secret... after my sweet babies have all gone to bed, Mark scans these precious words into our computer leaving us with a legacy of thankfulness that is heartwarming to review.)

On the last day of school, my kids wear the same outfit they wore on the first day of school.  We take pictures of them in front of the house standing and sitting right where they were in August... it is amazing how much they grow and change each year!

Our four kiddos, first day of school last year! 

Same four kids, nine months later!  
Then, after we pray together and they head into school, I begin a lot of behind-the-scenes running and errands to help that day be all that it needs to be.  First, I run to buy flowers. It is our tradition to give each teacher a bouquet of flowers or a hanging basket as part of our thank you to them. Sometimes, we have also prepared baked goods to give them as well. (This year, I have already begun baking mini banana breads for all the teachers.) It is my goal to be at school, flowers in tow, by 10:00 for the first recess of the day. With the thank you notes from the children, the baked goods and the flowers, I go from classroom to classroom giving these to the boys to give to their teachers. While I am there, I take a picture of each child with their teacher and then leave them to finish their day.

Once this is done, I run out to buy lunch for the kids. I pack this into the van and then head back to school. I get back in time to talk with other mommas as we wait for the kids to come out.  This year, Josiah asked if we could also decorate the van with window markers for the last day of school.  :)  When everyone comes out, I hug my sad kids and they say good-bye to what will always be an important time in their young lives. With teachers waving from the sidewalk and parking lot and many young arms waving from buses and windows, it all comes to an end. The tears do not belong to the children alone. These amazing teachers who have loved their students so well are often misty, too. It is a bittersweet moment for all... reluctantly turning from the blessing of the school year to face full-on summer coming.

With everyone in the van we head off to the ultimate distraction from all things sad, a trip to the park to have lunch with friends from school!

By now, the lunches bought much earlier have grown a little cold but in the last 8 years, I have yet to have one complaint. Arriving at the park, the kids run off to sit at picnic tables with those to whom they have just said good-bye. Eating quickly, they then run and scream and laugh and play at a park we reserve just for this. The moms sit together and dream of days with later starts and worry a bit about filling seemingly-endless weeks with meaningful experiences.

After a couple of hours, everyone exhausted, we pack it up to head home and relax. The intensity of emotion has waned by then and the kids are drained but content. Traditions behind us, summer begins. And it is full and it is good and we are ready.

Blessings on your day!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Planning for Summer: Details #2

Ready for more thoughts about summer?  :)

So, we talked about the academic piece but what about developing needed skills and talents?  I love these open months for doing just that!

Before we go any further, just think for a minute about what your child really loves.  Consider what skills they will need in the next year?  What talents are emerging for each of your kids?  What things do they need to do or learn that YOU believe will be helpful for them?  Summer is the perfect time to work at some of these!

Here are some things we are going to do or have done in the past:

1.  Sports and Christian Camps:  Generally, each summer I like for my kids to have one structured event to help them grow athletically and one to help them grow spiritually.  We look for places that offer reasonably priced opportunities that can move our children along developmentally in these areas.  We love the sports camps offered by Trinity Christian College because they are low stress, open to all levels, very local and affordable.  Sometimes other moms ask me what they should do if their child just doesn't want to do it... really just wants to sit around for the summer... We tell our kids that sitting around for the summer is not what we want for them.  We work with them to choose things that they will enjoy but yes, some of those things WILL be active and some will be athletic.  Are all of our kids athletic?  Nope.  But running around in the sun is good for any kid and because we are the parents, we get to direct them in ways that will benefit them.  The same is true for Christian camps.  We believe strongly in the value of such experiences.  All of our kids were not ready for sleep away camps at the same age but all of our kids have experienced some sort of Christian camp.  Some of our kids eat that up!  Some do not love it.  We have offered some flexibility here but also talk with our kids about how to meet those spiritual needs if going off to a Christian camp is not a perfect fit.  As someone who came to faith in the camp environment and worked all my college summers at a Christian camp, these experiences hold a deep and firm place in my heart.  My life was transformed in ways I could not have imagined while sitting with friends at camp.  If you have not considered this for your child, I highly, HIGHLY recommend it.

Leaving for sleep-away camp for the very first time!

Soccer camp is so much fun! 

2.  Lessons:  While our summer schedule is MUCH more laid back than our school-year days, I have found that getting my kids lessons for the things that they love (or want to love) during the summer months can be really helpful.  With one of our kids, we began piano lessons during the summer months with hopes that he would so love playing piano that he would want to continue.  That plan totally worked!  On the flip side, another of my boys took guitar lessons during the summer and while he enjoyed it, he found that there was little time during the school year to continue this skill.  Both of these responses were fine with my husband and I and we did not regret encouraging the learning of a brand new skill in the midst of those summer months.  The long lazy days that are coming allow for plenty of time to try new things and practice a bit each day.  We have also done this with art, bike maintenance, drama, etc...

Cello lessons are on the docket for this summer! 

3.  Devotions:  While it may seem that this category doesn't fit well with skills and talents, this is something we want our kids to know how to do.  So, in the summer, we make a new effort to get the kids doing daily devotions and we do this together, as well.  I make a pile of devotional books available to my kids and also make a plan for what I would like to do with them.  This summer, we will structure our family devotions using this image I came across on Facebook:

My thought for this image is to focus on one of these truths each week throughout the summer.  We can even  memorize the verses together.  As parents, it is easy to overlook telling our kids how important they are, how forgiven they are, how VICTORIOUS they are, when we are racing through our busy days.  I love the thought of us focusing on this for the 10 weeks that lie before us and intentionally passing these important truths on to my children (while also reminding myself)!

4.  Volunteering/Service Work.  Each summer my kids use their skills and talents to volunteer.  One easy place to do this is through local Vacation Bible School programs.  Ever since my kids were too old to attend, they have volunteered at our home church's VBS program.  They have led groups, run the activity or craft station or served as a one-on-one helper to a child who needs a little extra help.  I love that these experiences make our kids take their eyes off of themselves and think about someone else.  This matters.  It matters that we teach our kids to do this while they are young so that when they are teens, it has already become a way of life.  Someone once told me that all teens are naturally selfish.  I have not found this to be true.  My teens are taller, more mature versions of the children they once were.  And I like them.  :)  Do they have selfish moments?  Of course they do!  (Don't we all??)  But because our family and our school have both placed a strong emphasis on the value of serving others, this has become a part of their very fabric.  They KNOW it is important.  Summer offers us the perfect time to find opportunities for our kids to do just that.  Need ideas?  What is your child good at?  Can they teach that skill to a younger child?  My older boys help out with a local soccer camp where they teach younger kids to play soccer.  My younger kids help in the nursery at church.  These experiences are valuable and help to direct our kids toward a life that does not place them in the middle... but instead teaches them to live side-by-side, in community, with those all around them.  It gives them a greater purpose in this life... and it turns out, its pretty fun.  :)

Last year, my older boys volunteered at VBS while my younger kids attended. 

Getting some ideas?  Think about the months ahead as a time when you can direct or redirect your kids in enjoyable experiences that we might otherwise not be able to add to our already busy days.  Dream a little bit... and talk to your kids!

The other night, rather out of the blue, my 10 year old Josiah asked if he could please create himself a web page.  As it turns out, he had been reading about how to do that, had already compared several ways to create a website and had formed an opinion about which programs and methods he would like to try.  I was pretty surprised.  :)  Faced with this question, I have two choices in this place... I could tell him no because I am too busy and too stressed to supervise.  I could tell him no because he is 10 and 10 year olds do not need web pages.  Or, I could dream a little.  I could wonder about why this is so interesting to him.  I could tell myself that gifts and talents present themselves in curious ways and that 10 year olds need some yeses in their days to encourage their growth and God-given interests.  I think this summer my boy will get a web page.  And maybe by next summer he will make one for you!  Who knows?  But the months ahead give room for my yes and that, I love.

So, talk to your kids and make some plans... not to FILL their days but to pour into their lives.  In the name of fun and growth, what do your kids need to learn this summer?

Blessings on your day!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Planning for Summer: Details #1

Including today, my kids have 7.5 days of school remaining.  The end is near.  It is time for us mommas to band together and make a plan for the days and weeks that lie ahead.  Last week, I blogged on this very thing.  (If you missed that post, click here to head back there.)  It is a tricky thing to face down the end of the year and dream about what is to come. The end of the year always leaves me feeling a little bit sad... It seems to me that watching my kids magically transform from 3rd grader to 4th grader or :::gasp::: 8th grader to FRESHMAN, causes me more pause and sometimes more tears than their actual birthdays.

My sweet boy, who has grown from this...
to this... 
to this confident 8th grader!
High school, here he comes!

And once we get past that final day of alarm clocks and school clothes and morning rush and homework and teary good-byes to teachers and friends, we are staring down 81 glorious, unstructured, hairy, hopeful days of summer.

I mentioned last week that we always set academic goals for our kids to chip away at during those summer months.  As a former educator, it is hard for me to imagine leaving behind the thrill of learning for nearly 3 months!  I want my children to embrace a lifestyle of seeking knowledge and embracing the wonder of creation.  I also want to think through each child's strengths and weaknesses and make a plan that helps them to begin their new school year feeling ready and capable!

Some ideas:

1.  We have always bought "workbooks" for our kids to process through during the summer.  Most days they will do a page or two and show them to use to check for errors.  I have found that a lot of workbooks are set a level that is below the grade level listed.  Because of this, I usually buy workbooks for the year AHEAD of where my kids are going to be.  Be careful with this though... books can differ.  Since you are the expert on your child, you know best what will keep them moving forward instead of just practicing standing still.  My kids have not really fussed about this because it has always been a part of summer.  So, when I bring home new workbooks, they so strongly associate them with those long and lazy days that they are happy to see them come in!

2.  What about teens?  It can be awfully hard to find workbooks for older kids!  So what do we do with that?  We use a lot of online tools and tap into the interests of each child.  For instance, my oldest boy LOVES math and science!  We love what Khan Academy does and will have them go through a lesson or two each day on that site to explore new ideas and reinforce old knowledge.

3.  I like to look at the summer months as a season of relaxed homeschooling.  So, thinking about what we can learn together in terms of a unit can be helpful.  Consider reading some Little House on the Prairie aloud to your kids and then follow those books up with a trip to local living museum.  In the Chicago area where we live, we can visit someplace like Naper Settlement to meet a goal like that!  Or we take a trip to Springfield and try to figure out where the history of Lincoln meets Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Think about the things you wish your kids knew more about... then jump in with two feet putting together something to do or read at home and something to go see and experience!

4.  One of my plans for my 9 year old daughter is to have her take her love for American Girl books and translate that into historical knowledge.  We will make a big poster to hang in her room with chronological time spans typed across the top.  As she reads different American Girl books, we will have her jot notes about factual events and details from that era on the poster.  By the end of summer, she will have a broader view of American history while she strengthens her reading and comprehension skills!

5.  A few years back, I found a book on Amazon that contained many famous stories that I wanted to share with my kids.  The book was a read aloud book with the approximate time it would take to read each selection printed on the title page.

We had so much fun going through those tales together!   I will never forget reading The Ugly Duckling to my kiddos while they laughed HYSTERICALLY at the fact that the duck was actually called ugly.  Being raised in such a politically correct time, it was beyond their comprehension that such words would be used aloud!  What a fun and funny afternoon we shared as they learned that classic story and I studied their precious faces and we giggled and listened together.  I highly recommend reading together! As you choose your books to read aloud, do not worry that your child has outgrown hearing you read.  You are making memories together and igniting memories of the past, as well!  Do it for the love of story.  Do it for the love of sharing something together.  Do it because it is good and it matters.

6.  We intentionally gather books that will make learning easier in the summer.  We put them out to be used and referenced.  We have a great bird book on hand in case something flies by that we cannot quickly identify.  We have a book on rocks and minerals that my kids love to to peruse when they find a new, cool stone outside.  Think about the kinds of things your kids enjoy to learn about and put books and supplies out that will allow them dig in on their own.  We love Half Price Books for books like these!

During the summer months, I want my kids to continue learning.  They do not spend their days over worksheets and tests!  Instead, they invest 10-30 minutes each day on one or more of the ideas above.  We put a high priority on playing outside and while we want them to extend their academic knowledge, we also want them to embrace the slow, relaxing pace of the season ahead.  The key to fantastic summer is to find a way to balance the things our kiddos need and the things we know they want.

A lot goes in planning a summer to remember.  My next blog will talk about how we plan for opportunities for our kids to invest in their needed/wanted skills... including some talk of camp!  (Those who know me well know that I could blog for a year on the value of camp!)  So hang with me and think about the weeks and months to come.  What really matters to you?

Blessings on your day!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Summer's Coming! Whatcha Gonna Do?

It's coming.

Year-end concerts and award banquets and school projects abound.  The days are winding down and summer is almost here. While some mommas are eagerly awaiting the beginning of summer, others are taking deep breaths to stave off the ensuing panic that comes in anticipating over 100 days of unstructured home life, children underfoot.

Where do you stand?

As I sit here today in my quiet home, I am deeply aware that, though I love this daily down-time, it is a privilege that is passing.  In roughly two and a half weeks, my children will come out of school with mixed feelings and summer will begin.  We will dry off last-day-tears and head to a local park where summer always begins for us.  We will gather with friends, eat some lunch, enjoy the distraction from a day of good-byes and stand together at the beginning of a long string of time to come.  I love having my kids home.  I love the peace that comes with plenty of rest and a lack of pressing deadlines.  But, 16 years of parenting has taught me that sleepy summer days can be rocky, too.  Because the truth is that I love my quiet, writing afternoons and my children love their structure.  So, while we dream today of some summer fantasy, it will likely not be that vision that plays out for us.

So, what do we do?

Last week, I decided to add a new talk to my topic list on this very thing.  I am excited to be thinking about summer as I prepare to speak on this for Spring '14.  For years, our family has approached summer planning in a way that offers some structure and lots of downtime while offering parameters that can curtail known frustrations.  Left to their own devices, my children will happily spend way too much time on screens playing video games or watching televisions programs that can only be described as "brain-candy".  This, I do not want.  But, if I spend a few minutes thinking about what goals I have for my kids, maybe the summer can take on a shape that fits for our whole family.

Here are some of the goals we have for our kids each year:

1.  Keep moving academically.  Yes, I totally get that school is over but as a former educator, I know that kids who continue to learn academically throughout the summer begin to see learning as a lifestyle and not a school requirement.  I do not want my children to tolerate academics.  I want to raise kids who are curious, eager, driven.  I want them to love the "a-ha" moments and to seek them instead of waiting to have those revelations spoon fed to them.  If we take the summer off of learning, we do not only lose what has been learned this year but we miss an opportunity to raise kids who see each day as an opportunity to seek knowledge and to explore God's creation.

2.  Work on needed/wanted skills and talents.  With the full and busy school-year schedule, it is hard for us to find time to really focus on things that are of interest to my kids.  The summer allows for time to work on soccer skills, take a drama class or head off to a Christian camp and learn a lot of amazing things all at once!  Over the years, we have really valued these experiences and have worked hard to budget for them.  In addition to this, I will dust off my teacher hat and work up "lessons" that might be helpful to my kids in a variety of areas.

3.  Extended family time.  There is no way around it. My oldest is 16.  I am staring down the end of our familiar life with four kids and I am deeply aware that in two years, my days with my baby will be drastically changed.  We need this time.  It may not be as idyllic as I would hope but it is needed for both my kids and myself. The chaos has a part to play and the spontaneous experiences that poke up out of nowhere become the stuff of family lore.  We need it.  Unplanned.  Open.  Available.  And we need to plan for time when we get away and there is no interruption in the midst of this passing privilege.

4.  Lifestyle learning. When we worked as residence directors at Trinity Christian College, we offered a curriculum of lifestyle lessons to freshman and sophomore students.  My kids need nothing less.  They need to learn basic skills like conflict resolution, living in community, household chores, etc... The summer offers us the opportunity to focus on such things and teach them well.  As mommas, we are the experts on our kids.  You know exactly what they are great at and in what areas they need growth.  Three months of downtime can lead to an awful lot of learning!

5.  Fun, fun, fun!!!  We need to find space for fun.  We need to laugh and relax and do unusual things and let it unwind the tightly wound springs that the school year has placed in my kids.  We need to use the time we have in ways that September will not allow.  We need to get away and we need to stay put.  And while so much of this can seem spendy, there are ways to have a lot of fun without spending much money at all.

While I have many mini-goals for my kids, much of what we do for the summer falls under these general categories.  Finding ways to plan for the things we want for our kids helps to offer structure to all those loosey-goosey days.  This gives me hope that the summer that is coming can have moments in it that feel exactly like what we want.  It makes me believe that the images in my head might come to fruition.  And maybe I will have to hunt for those moments or maybe they will rise up and make themselves well-known. Either way, we will make space for summer to become what we need.  All the days will not be good.  All the weeks will not be perfect.  My kids will argue.  The house will begin to feel small.  We will miss some goals and we will over-focus on others.  But in the end, it will be what we make of it and that, my friends, takes a plan.

Over the next several posts, lets take a peek at each of the categories above.  I will tell you what we might do and maybe you will share some ideas, too.  And then, no matter your feelings about the months that are to come, we can plan for the summer to be something good.  Not perfect.  But good and purposeful and needed.  And when September cycles back around we may still feel eager but we will also feel nostalgic for the wonder of three months of days that we got to experience together...

Blessings on your day.

Monday, February 4, 2013

No More Perfect Moms: Big News!

I am so excited about this news!  I wanted to be sure to share it with you first thing this morning!

For the past month, I have been reading Jill Savage's new book, No More Perfect Moms and have really been thinking about how I approach this work in my own life.  This book has challenged me in many ways.  Maybe you, like me, find yourself caught up in comparing your parenting, your home, yourSELF to others and are left feeling like you fall short.  In my own life, expecting perfection (especially in parenting) has left me in a place where I feel badly about things I have missed, mistakes I have made, things left undone, even years after the event occurred.  I so want to do right by my family that falling short can be overwhelming.  I have a sense that I am not alone in this?

So, when I was given the opportunity to read Jill's book and help her launch it too, I jumped at the chance.  Now, I find myself carrying the book around and realizing regularly that there are NO perfect Moms.  Honestly, I needed this information.  I needed to learn to stop comparing my insides to someone else's outside (which Jill talks about consistently throughout her book). It was time for me. Is it time for you?

If you are ready for a change, if you are ready for a new approach to family life, if you are ready to extend grace to yourself and others as you love on those you love, it's time for you to read Jill's book.  And there are so many reasons to do that now!

Check this out:

Everyone loves a good investment…especially one that comes with a big bonus! This is one of those investments that you don’t want to miss! Purchase Jill Savage’s new book No More Perfect Moms anytime between February 3-9 (online or at a store…and yes, electronic versions such as Kindle and Nook count too!) Send a copy of your receipt to Scan it, take a picture of it - just be sure to send it to the email! You'll be given access to well over $100 worth of resources that will help you on your mothering journey - absolutely free! What will you receive?

  6 Sixty Minute Audio Workshops (MP3 format) from Hearts at Home
  • Desperate for Wisdom - Dr. Juli Slattery
  • How to Fight for Your Marriage - Dr. Juli Slattery
  • It is Well with Your Soul - Jennifer Rothschild
  • Multiple Intelligences - Dr. Kathy Koch
  • Ten Stress Strategies Every Mom Needs - Jill Savage
  • The God Who Sees You- Tammy Maltby
4 Printables from Hearts at Home
  • 10 Stress Strategies Every Mom Needs
  • “Love Is”--I Corinthians 13 for Parents
  • Mom Rules
  • How to Fight Fair In Marriage
3 Free E-book’s (including PDF, Kindle, iPad, and Nook editions!) from Moody Publishers
1 Contest Entry You will be entered in a drawing to win hotel accommodations and two Hearts at Home Mom Conference registrations for you and a friend at a conference of your choice! (If unable to attend a conference, a Hearts at Home Conference To-Go will be substituted for the winner and a friend.) This offer is available for this week only (Feb 3-9)! Grab a copy of No More Perfect Moms, scan your receipt, email it, and start enjoying your new book PLUS all of the extra bonuses you’ll receive! It’s “mom university” delivered right to your computer!

That's a lot of free stuff!  I have seen each of those Hearts at Home presentations and can tell you that you will not be disappointed!  (While listening to Dr. Kathy Koch give her presentation, I could not take notes fast enough!)

Today is your day.  Order Jill's book and offer yourself the grace you lavish on others.

It's okay that you are not perfect.

It's okay that you make mistakes.

It's okay that your house is not spotless.

It's okay.

This book will help you embrace that truth.

Blessings on your day.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Perfection Impossible...

No More Perfect Moms

The kids have been back to school since yesterday.  Both mornings were far from stellar.

Books and hats missing.

Clothes not organized.

Homework incomplete.

House messy.

Momma frustrated.

Kids frazzled.


This is not how I wanted it to be.

I long for sweet and easy mornings where my children come calmly down the stairs, fully dressed and ready for the day ahead.  I love the thought of a hot breakfast on the table and little ones willing to eat it.  I dream of being able to share devotions before school and of sending my sweeties off with a word of blessing and a kiss on their heads.

Instead, our mornings look chaotic.  Like ants in search of sugar, they scramble from room to room, directionless, gathering one thing while losing another.  An hour goes by.  Some of them eat.  I am asked roughly four million questions, to which I am able to answer only 3.  Instead of making a sandwich, one child delves into theological theory while another corrects his sister over a bowl of cold cereal.  Showers are taken, some teeth are brushed, some hair is combed.  But not all.  Never all.

There are times when it is not like this.  And I know we can do better.  But somehow, right now, we are not.  And I am frustrated with the whole of it.  Because I know that in the midst of our messy mornings, we are missing out.  Yes, my kids know well how loved they are.  They live and thrive in a home with parents who adore them and love being together.  And that is good.  They have food and beds and a warm place to be.  Also very good.  And I know we are blessed to have what we have... and yet...

I also know we fall short.

And I am not a fan.

But, there is pressure that comes with those pictures I seek.... the way I wish it was causes me to miss the wonder of the way it really is.  And I am learning that seeking perfection means choosing a path where I focus on the missing socks more often than on the sweet, little feet of the one who lost them.  Which makes me sad, to tell the truth.

So, it is time for a change.

Maybe the change is bigger than me.  Maybe you need it too.  In a world of Pinterest Pretties and Stupendous Statuses, maybe it is time for something new.  Because I have to tell you, I wonder what would happen if we all told the truth?  It's a tricky thing for many of us, exposing our realities to other's polished posts.  But, what would happen if we actually said, "I am not perfect and I am weary of trying to be."

Kinda scary.

Kinda necessary.

Kinda time.

Maybe, just maybe, we would find out that the perfect picture we are pursuing does not actually exist.  And maybe, just maybe, we would discover that we are not at all alone but belong to a brotherhood (motherhood?) of mommas who are all in the midst of such struggle?  Maybe the truth would come out that in all of our homes, something spills on the floor, our kids misbehave, mornings are crazy, the bathroom is a retreat and we fall into bed awash in a mix of wonder and frustration that tomorrow will bring more of this miraculous mix.


But here is what I know.  I want to think about this more.  I want to focus less on perfection and more on being present.  I want to think less of how we present than how we really are.  I want to set goals based on my reality, not on someone else's blog, tweet or status.

And yes, I want to do well, love well, raise well.  But does perfection fit in the midst of these?

If you can relate at all, I have some ideas for what we do next.  Not because I know the answer... but because I think I might finally know the question.  :)

I have been given the opportunity to be part of a launch team for Jill Savage's upcoming book.  The book is not yet out but the team has had the privilege of reading it now.  It's shaking stuff up around here.  But the shaking is really good.  The title of the book is No More Perfect Moms.  Don't you love it?  There is a website you can peruse that has lots of resources for moms who are struggling with this very thing.  Here are some other things that might help:

1.  Sign up for a month of emails that will give you things to think about as you consider this important topic.

2.  Get ready to buy the book!  But not today!  If you wait to buy the book between February 4-9 you will get lots of freebies to go with it!  Afraid you will forget?  You can sign up here to be notified when it's time.

This is a book I am going to delve into.  For me, the time  has come to balance my focus and remember the truth.  And then tell the truth.  Because I have to believe that I am not alone in my struggles or my mess or my frustration.  I have to believe that the God who gave me these four children did not intend for me to spend their childhood wishing for something else.  Contentment is lost in midst of such wishing.  So is joy.  And that is not what I want for my life or their lives or our life together.

Perfection is impossible.  This year, let's get real.


Blessings on your day.