Learning Hospitality Through Play

This morning, the Friday of the first week of school, Elle and I visited yet another park. Nearly every day this week, we’ve explored our favorite playgrounds, trying to fill the void left by Bea’s absence at school.

Normally, I bring a book along so I can read while Elle climbs and digs and scampers around. Today, our park excursion was unexpected––halfway through a practice bike ride to her preschool, we changed course and headed to the neighborhood park instead.

Finally, Elle had my full and undivided attention. I helped her climb a tree and we then commenced in a long and often incomprehensible game about camping and sleeping that only a four-year-old could imagine and sustain for twenty minutes.

I recently read a comment by a mom whose children are in their late teens and early twenties. She was reminiscing about the little years, wishing she could go back for just one day, put aside her own desires, and simply play with her children. Nostalgia keeps us going, doesn’t it? After five eternal minutes of playing, I know I’ll look back on these days with nostalgia but I hope I have a dash of realism mixed in. Yes, I want to pay attention and be present. I totally understand the developmental importance of imaginative play and made up games. And yet, I also recognize how mind-numbing they can be.

In her new book Invited, my friend Leslie Verner quotes Henri Nouwen. In his book Reaching Out, Nouwen talks about how we as parents are hosting our children. They are our closest guests. They are not ours to control but ours to host and extend the practice of hospitality.

That idea was what kept me playing today. Not for nostalgia or because I particularly loved the game but because in so many ways, I’m learning the art of hospitality from Elle. She invited me into her world and the least I could do was join in and participate, even if just for twenty minutes.

Where have you experienced unexpected hospitality? And, do you love or loathe imaginative games with kids?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “hospitality.”

Also, check out Leslie’s new book, Invited: The Power of Hospitality in an Age of Loneliness. Not only did I get to read one of the first drafts, I’ve had the honor of sharing conversations and playdates with Leslie as she wrote this book. It released on Tuesday and is an wonderful, encouraging look at what we can learn from other cultures about hospitality––and it doesn’t have anything to do with a beautiful table or a clean home!

Creating Space In a Crowded Week

This week has felt mentally crowded. Frank’s had to work late in preparation for the tax extension deadline so bedtime has been on my own. But what’s really thrown me for a loop is that Elle has decided to stop napping. Right when I thought I was going to have two mornings a week to myself and an afternoon of quiet, it’s become a battle.

IMG_0627I decided to handle this shift in routine like the mature and capable adult that I am. I grumped and threatened and got really, really annoyed. How dare my three-year-old ruin my ME time?!

Often, my go-to defense is to turn inward. I go into a self-sufficient mode, I don’t ask for help, and I don’t vent to my friends. This usually doesn’t help anything. I finally emerged from this space, went for a walk with a friend, Voxed another friend who has kids farther along than mine and gained some perspective.

I realized I need to recalibrate my expectations. Much like sleep regression, we need to start a new naptime training and move toward “quiet rest time.” Maybe on the days when it’s too much of a fight, we run errands or do other chores. Maybe we’ll go for a hike. I don’t know.

What I do know is that the woe is me feeling isn’t helpful. It has me reflecting on the ways life so often doesn’t go according to plan. I expect to enter a new season with grace and ease, floating through the transition beautifully. The reality usually is something quite different.

I hope what I’ve learned from this start-of-the-school-year nap boycott is to step back and assess what I can do when life doesn’t go according to plan. I know I can always throw a fit, but maybe there’s another way. Maybe next time, I’ll go for a walk first or Vox my friend with the gritty parts of life.

That’s what community is all about. I’m hoping that by leaning in, I find space to breathe this next week. That this crowded feeling eases and we move into a new rhythm.

How do you deal with the unexpected? What’s your best way of dealing with these crowded weeks?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “crowd.”

A Time of Possibility and Responsibility

In her retelling of an ancient Potowatomi story about maple syrup, Robin Walls Kimmerer ends the tale with this reminder:

“Today, maple sap flows like a stream of water with only a trace of sweetness to remind the people both of possibility and of responsibility. And so it is that it takes forty gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup” (p 63). Braiding Sweetgrass

IMG_0503We are three weeks into Bea’s school year and one week into Elle’s. On Tuesday, I came home to a quiet house and got more writing done in those couple hours than I had all summer long. On Thursday, I had a meeting at 10:30, right in the middle of my morning. I read and checked social media and wasn’t very productive until midmorning. And then the meeting got canceled. I had another hour or so before pickup.

What to do? I thought about calling the morning a waste and finishing my book. (Which I think would have been a totally acceptable option!) Instead, I checked the list I had dreamed up midsummer and picked one thing to do on it. It wasn’t much – just cleaning out outgrown clothes – but it felt like a good accomplishment.

I had to put into practice my head knowledge: I knew my list would take a while and that I’m in this two-morning-to-myself routine for a while. And yet, when confronted with actual practice, I spent an hour flailing and unsure.

This season reminds me of Kimmerer’s description of maple syrup. On one small level, this is a time of possibility and responsibility for me personally. As I transition to some breathing space in my own schedule, I’m reminded that the sap only comes when it’s ready. That this is a process.

I want to keep the enthusiasm and wonder of the possibility of this time. And I want to it to transfer to the time with the girls. Because really, these five hours every week are a small portion of my days. They are still filled with all the wonders and disciplines and moments that filled our days before.

How do I hold this possibility and responsibility together? How do I remember that this time doesn’t need to be stressful but appreciated as the gift it is?

What about you? Does it take you a while to transition to a new schedule or season? What are your best practices? 

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “rush.”

Books Referenced:
518pT9D3BDL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_
Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

Let There Be Fairies!

The other day, we realized that we needed to replace our much-beloved but irreparable Jesus Storybook Bible. The binding was broken and fixed many times, pages were falling out, and the reading experience was precarious as we kept the book together. We got the same version for Elle (who, we realized, has never owned her own Bible!) and got Bea the Children of God Storybook Bible by Desmond Tutu.

IMG_9344She opened it and read aloud, Out of this love, God spoke. “Let there be light.” And there was day. And there was night.

She closed the book and declared in a deep voice, Let there be fairies!

Nothing happened. She looked at me, shrugged and said, Well, that didn’t work!

As we were talking about the creation story, Bea told me she wanted to go to heaven to be with God and Jesus because she was sure they would give her wings. I just want to be able to fly…

Did you ever play the game where you had to choose a superpower? The version we played always gave the choice between the power of flight and the power of invisibility. There are a couple interesting articles about who you are based on your choice (essentially if you choose flight, you’re a leader who doesn’t mind the spotlight) but for me, this spoke less about Bea’s potential for leadership and more about a childlike wish for freedom.

I’m often in awe of how Bea interprets the Bible. She picks out details and asks questions that I have long forgotten. She reminds me that, to have “faith like a child” means she interacts with the stories and text with deep curiosity and big questions. Somewhere along the journey, those questions become more thoughtful and based on experience and research. Somewhere, the curiosity becomes hedged as answers are expected.

The older I get, the more I’m able to let go of the answers. I’m even learning to let go of the questions. I’m learning that approaching life with a lens of curiosity is amazing. Bea doesn’t even ask the question, Can I create a fairy? but simply declares, Let there be fairies!

Maybe this is what it means to have faith like a mustard seed. I need to let go of the structure of the questions themselves and approach life with more of a declaration.

What would your superpower be? What does having faith like a child mean to you?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “fly.”

Books Referenced:

61J9AGZf2vL._SX428_BO1,204,203,200_

51np-THkoNL._SX426_BO1,204,203,200_

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

When You’re Done Adulting, Go Home

I had one of those days, with a sticky comment to mediate in a group I manage followed by an intense breakfast conversation about business and identity and life-choices. I went to the park and was met with yet another conversation that would have been a fun,

hello-i-m-nik-635708-unsplash
Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

lively debate over drinks but turned into what felt like an attack in the middle of the playground. By noon, I was done “adulting.”

So I did what any 36-year-old mom would do. I called my mom and asked if we could come over for lunch. As the girls got settled with mac & cheese and Pinkalicious, I felt myself slip into the safety of processing life with my parents. I was hugged and affirmed and felt so much better.

The day was still exhausting. I felt like quitting everything and becoming a hermit for the summer. And, while breaks are important, that’s not really how conversations continue or conflict is resolved, is it?

My biggest takeaway is the importance of having a safe place. I’m thankful my parents live close by and that, when I walk in the door, I’m just their daughter. It’s what I hope my girls will feel when they’re grown – that, no matter where life takes them or how small or big the hurt is, they can come home and just be our daughters.

There’s something profound about that experience, of being known and held. I know for some, that will be found in friendships rather than family relationships but, regardless of who is holding me, I’m remembering to turn to community when I really want to retreat. To reach out when I feel overwhelmed. And to find people who simply hold me, no matter what.

Do you have a place you can return when life gets hard? How do you cope with too much “adulting”?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “return.”

Searching for Moments and Space

I’ve been writing and thinking a lot about pause and creating space lately. Mostly, this is because I’m not doing a very good job at actually creating these places in my day and so, I’m looking for moments that already exist.

IMG_8829From walking to school to the poetry I’m reading and all those other little moments, I’m learning to find what is already there.

It’s hard. In my mind, I know that every Tuesday, I have an hour and a half to write. And then it takes some time to settle in and I switch a quick load of laundry and… There’s always something else. For the most part, I’m pretty protective of my time. But I also love meeting up with friends because, without those face-to-face connections, community is hard. I use some of my “me time” to volunteer in Bea’s classroom because creating relationships with her teachers and classmates is a high priority.

In my imagination, I’d love to have a little writing shed in our yard or a weekend cabin to retreat to. Really, that shed would go unused because the reality of this phase of life is that all my work happens in the middle of everything, at the dining room table. And weekends are filled with all those little moments that create our family’s culture, not retreating somewhere on my own.

We were talking about this balance the other day in my MOPS group. Of loving these years and struggling to create time and space. Of pouring ourselves into our kids and families and recognizing those outside things that fill us with life and joy.

I’m leaning into these small spaces. It’s still frustrating on some days but the more I look for those moments that are already here, the more I seem to find.

How do you include moments for yourself in a busy day? What seasons did you find this easier or harder to do?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “include.”

Squeezing Thousands of Years Into a Minute

I’m reading a book about the history of food and modern farming. I find it incredible that, even though we’ve been farming since 8500 BCE, it’s still a blip in the history of humanity and digestion. Our bodies still haven’t adapted to a sedentary, grain-based diet. (See: An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage, pg 4.)

kees-streefkerk-352874-unsplash
Photo by Kees Streefkerk on Unsplash

If 150,000 years can be compared to a minute and a half, I need to rethink my view of adaptation. I ask the girls to adapt all day long – from an unplanned errand to a switch in who picks up Bea from school, teaching flexibility is a surprisingly big part of the parenting process.

Or maybe it’s part of the human process. I like a predictable schedule and often wish I could adapt to surprises and changes with more grace and ease. The reality is that I need time to process new ideas and perspectives. I often read the news or a book and then need to dig deeper, figuring out this (new to me) information.

I’ll emerge and want to talk about it with Frank, only to realize that I’m unloading a bunch of internal processing in the course of a conversation. Essentially, I’m asking him to squeeze hundreds of thousands of years into a couple minutes.

Ok, my analogies are mixing but what I’m remembering is that adaptation takes time. Yes, in the course of human history, 150,000 is a blip. We haven’t been farming all that long so of course our digestive systems haven’t had time to adjust. And yet, we’ve been farming long enough that none of us have any ties at all to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. We wouldn’t know how to survive, even though it’s the foundational norm.

I’m giving myself grace as I deconstruct and rebuild foundational norms, whatever they may be. When I get discouraged at the slow pace of society in general, I’m remembering that these long years are a blip in history. I need to stretch back and remember that life is a slow process and adaptation is often imperceptible.

Are you able to adapt quickly or do you need time to process? How do you ground yourself in history?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “adapt.”

Books Referenced:

51INTf4BPsL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

Paying Attention to the Spark

Whenever I’m feeling stuck or unmotivated, I turn to the experts. I might search for a book or a webinar or an article in hopes of getting unstuck. If someone has gone ahead, I want to learn from them! Often, this works. I get a piece of inspiration or am distracted just enough to refocus.

IMG_8753But sometimes, I’m still stuck. The other day, I listened to a free webinar from an expert that turned out to be an hour-long sales pitch for a paid site. (You get what you pay for?) I got a few nuggets from the beginning but left feeling at a loss. I had been given just enough information to feel even more confused.

I chatted with some friends who aren’t even part of this particular field, let alone experts, and through our conversation, a few ideas were sparked. I was able to take those small nuggets and figure out ways to use them.

It’s a reminder that, while the experts are important and valuable, there are so many moments in which I find the help and inspiration I need from sources that aren’t proven or expert at all. When I put aside my to-do list and focus on playing with the girls, I feel refreshed in other areas. When we get outside and soak up the sun, when I turn off the noise of social media and Google searches, when I read a really good fiction book unrelated to anything I’m working on, when I remember to pause and breathe and take in the big picture – this is where I’m refreshed and most likely to unstick my thoughts.

I know this isn’t breaking news – that getting outside and turning off all the voices is healthy – but it’s news I need to remind myself of again and again. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, instead of looking for the answer, I need to just be in the moment. The answer will come (or it won’t and I’m learning to embrace that, too) but most often it’s a little spark at the back of my mind.

Today, I’m putting aside a lot of ideas and papers. I think I’ll even stack them up and put them in the basement for the weekend. The girls and I are meeting friends for a ramble at an open space and we’ll run and soak up the sun. And I’m sure some ideas will show up in the midst of living life.

How do you get unstuck? What experts do you find most helpful? Where do you turn when you need to get away from books and overthinking?

Linking with Five Minute Friday, a  time to write without editing. (As evidenced by so many run-on sentences in this one!) Today’s prompt is “stuck.”

Appreciating Spring Snow

One of my favorite things about springtime in Colorado is that the weather changes quickly. The other day, it snowed in the morning and by the time we picked Bea up from track practice in the afternoon, we were wearing t-shirts and enjoying the sunshine and dry ground.

IMG_8673We’re up in the mountains, decompressing from tax season. We’ve found the importance of getting away after such an intense season. When we stay at home, we fall into old habits and patterns. A change of scenery is the break we need to reset.

Yesterday, we went swimming in the hot springs near our rented cabin. The girls loved climbing the rocks around the creek, finding the best natural pools to splash in, and soaking in sunshine and family time. We woke up this morning to a wintery landscape. Our mountain views were obscured with clouds, the trees had a perfect outline of snow clinging to their branches, and Frank started a fire in the wood stove as we ate breakfast, played games, and did puzzles.

I know a lot of us are itching for actual spring – for blossoms and predictable sunshine. I am, too. I can’t wait to plan our garden and put away the winter clothes. But I also appreciate this quick turn of weather. It’s a reminder of our family’s current season, as we reconnect and refocus on life as a family of four. In a lot of ways, reentry is like a Colorado spring. There are sunny beautiful memories, there are cozy wintery moments, and there are gales and winds that kick up the dust.

I’m remembering this takes some time and after years of practice, our expectations for these post-season getaways are much more realistic. We shut down, limit our screen time, and focus on the four of us. But real life doesn’t actually stop. The girls still bicker; I still long for alone time; Frank still has some business to wrap up. Those moments seem much more bearable and pass much more quickly when we’re intentional about this time of reconnecting, and I’m glad for these pattern breaks as we enter this next season of spring and a more normal family life.

What is spring like in your part of the world? Do you like unpredictable weather? How does that translate to your daily life and expectations? 

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “turn.”

Pausing to Enjoy the Summit

When I moved back to Colorado after college, my dad and I would spend summers hiking the 14,000-foot mountains around Colorado. We’d wake up before dawn so that we could be stepping foot on the trail at sunrise. We’d hike all morning, eat an early lunch at the 10418255_10152599208242938_297764949818653760_nsummit, and then hike down before the afternoon thunderstorms rolled in. I loved having lunch at the peak. It was a reward for hard work and it gave us time to pause and really enjoy the scenery. What’s the point of “bagging a peak” if you don’t stop to enjoy the view?

We were sitting in a circle at MOPS, talking about having one foot in the toddler world and another toe dipping into The Next Phase. Some of the women are firmly entrenched in the baby and toddler years but a group of us are starting to emerge. We’re not as sleep deprived; our kids are a bit more independent; school is on the horizon. What’s next?

It’s an interesting place to be – on the cusp. I don’t really know how long I’ll be at this summit, overlooking new ideas and opportunities. Part of me wants to just dive in and leave this last season behind. But reality means recognizing that being on the cusp is a slow journey.

I’m watching others take these next steps. They’re starting practices, taking classes, writing books, and pursuing dreams, all with kids the same age as ours. I compare myself and think that I should be ready for this next journey.

I’m remembering to stop at the peak, to eat my lunch, and to enjoy the scenery. I don’t know how long this will take – it could be a shorter pause than I’m anticipating. Or it could be a few more years until this next phase actually happens. I’m remembering to cheer for my friends, to work hard at my own goals, and am learning to savor this particular time in life.

How are you remembering to pause and enjoy the scenery? How do you balance living fully in the moment while pursuing dreams?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “other.”