Mod Podge Isn’t Easy

When I was a teacher, I banned the word easy from my classroom. It stemmed from kids who got their work finished quickly loudly complaining, That was too eeeeeeeasy! And then the kids who took longer (for whatever reason) would get discouraged because they weren’t as fast. But, fast wasn’t always best. Some of my slowest kids were my most meticulous and rarely needed to go back to fix things.

When I knew our class had mastered something, we’d do an activity and get to call it easy. The kids would make up rhymes: Easy peasy lemon squeezy macaroni cheesy! And we’d celebrate mastering a skill as a community.

Even with other adults, I try to restrict the use of easy. What’s easy for my super crafty friend is not at all easy for me. Anything involving mod-podge puts a project into the extremely difficult category, in my opinion. And I’m sure that things I call easy are not at all for others.

I’m learning to ask for help from others who find my difficult work easy. When I surround myself with people whose strengths are different, I find that not only do they help, but I learn that those difficult tasks perhaps aren’t as difficult after all.

Do you like to outsource difficult projects? How do you find the balance between learning something new and recognizing strengths in others?

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

Rejoicing in This Season

Even though I’m a firm believer in waiting until after Thanksgiving to begin celebrating Christmas, I can’t help but start thinking about Advent and how we’ll introduce it to our kids. I think this is the year we can begin establishing traditions that Bea will understand.

Our Thankful Tree
Our Thankful Tree

We began the month with a Thankful Tree – just a bulletin board cutout and leaves (because I am so uncrafty!) that we add to each night at dinner. I went into this with low expectations, thinking we may have to help out with prompts. But, Bea has taken the Thankful Tree seriously. Every guest at our table is given a leaf and Bea has no end of ideas for her leaves. (And Elle’s – my favorites are “paintings by Vincent van Gogh” and her carseat. We have a cultured and safe baby.)

For Advent, I’m thinking we’ll keep it simple. We’ll light the Advent candles each Sunday with a simple verse. I bought Unwrapping the Greatest Gift last year, and while the readings are probably too long, we can color the ornaments and talk about the themes.

As the days get shorter and shorter and as we come off of a rough couple weeks of upended schedule, I’m already feeling the tired winter feelings. I think of Placide Cappeau’s lyrics in O Night Divine:

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

As we settle into this season of celebration in the midst of seasonal weariness, I know I need to be intentional about stopping and recognizing the restoration happening right now. That we are celebrating a season of family, of generosity, of the birth of Christ, but also of the thrill of a new, glorious morn.

That, as the news and world events can make me weary, we are in fact celebrating the coming restoration of broken systems in a broken world.

How do you stop and recognize something deeper in this season that can be crazy?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Comfort and Joy

Bea is very much like her dad – Christmas lasts all year long. After a particularly grating repeat of one CD during July, I laid down the rule that we could read Christmas books any time of the year, but no music until after Thanksgiving!!

Bea "comforting" Elle
Bea “comforting” Elle

One of Bea’s favorite Christmas books is a series of carols illustrated by Tomie dePaola. One of them is God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Whenever Elle is crying in the car and I ask Bea to comfort her, she will say, Shh! Shh! Shh! Comfort and joy, sister! Comfort and joy!

In Bea’s mind, joy means Elle will stop crying. I think for many of us, this is our definition. Joy equals happiness. But, then I am reminded of Psalm 30:5

Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

When I’ve had a night of weeping or a season of struggle, the aftermath is never a quick shift. I struggle to go from sadness to happiness in a snap. But, that deep peace and joy? As I’m emerging from a tough season, it’s there – deep rooted and a reminder that, though struggles happen and sadness is part of life, joy is never far.

I’m learning to love this deep joy. This joy that is not happiness but is married to contentedness, to peace, to a deeper understanding that life is made up of so much more than fun, happy moments.

How do you view joy? Can joy and sadness happen simultaneously?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Ordinary Brilliance

It’s not easy being green
It seems you blend in with so many ordinary things
And people pass you over ’cause you’re
Not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water
Or stars in the sky

But green’s the color of spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like an ocean or important
Like a mountain or tall like a tree

-Joe Raposo

This week, one of my dearest friends came to visit. We don’t get to see each other often anymore, but when we do, time seems to have stood still. She travels and, while she’s settled down a bit since our younger days, is still living a life I envy on my low days of playroom clutter, whininess, and little sleep.

As we were talking, I made a depreciating joke about being a stay at home mom in the suburbs. And she reminded me that there’s a reason people raise their kids in the suburbs. And that the suburbs we chose are not the cookie-cutter suburbs. And that we are in a season that is enviable to others.

Ordinary brilliance from my bathroom skylight
Ordinary brilliance from my bathroom skylight

My other friend, Debby is spending the month of October writing about Ordinary Beauty – noticing these small, daily things that are really beautiful. She’s helped open my eyes to my own ordinary beauty. From a loved chair to the fact that I am able to stay home with my kids to the idea that this small blog, though not fancy or important, is perhaps what someone needs in a moment.

I’m remembering that, though “it’s not easy being green” and it’s not fancy or sparkly, it is part of life. Green is part of nature, of mountains, of the trees that surround our house. It’s in the beauty we talk about and drive to see. I need to remember that these small, ordinary moments are the stuff that makes a bigger, sparklier foundation to our life.

How do you take time to notice the ordinary beauty of your days?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

What did you say?

Let’s make a wise choice, Bea.
What did you say? Why?

Hey Bea, it’s time to head out.
What did you say? Why?

Studying for her next round of questions
Studying for her next round of questions

I could keep going, but that’s what our conversations are looking like these days. You would think after living together for three years plus nine months in-utero, Bea would trust me a bit more. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say things rarely happen the first time I ask, even when doing something quickly would benefit Bea. (Hey Bea, want a cookie? -What did you say? Why?)

I know that 99% of this is the age and phase. Part of it is Bea figuring out her own opinions and ideas. Part of it is busyness – I think she truly doesn’t hear me sometimes. And part of it is just the eternal why stage. It’s like her response is automated, without any thought behind it.

As frustrating as it can be to constantly (constantly!!) hear What did you say? Why? I wonder if that’s how my relationship with God can be. When an opportunity comes along or a gift is given, rather than being thankful and recognizing a blessing, I ask, What did you say? Why?

Maybe I need to remember to trust a little more, to live life a little more faithfully, and to assess my own questioning nature.

Do you respond to situations quickly or do you stop to ask questions?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Broadening Family

My mom is one of seven kids and, while I didn’t grow up in a big family (just two of us!) I loved the benefits of having a big extended family. I have four cousins born in the same year as me and we were buffered closely by older and younger playmates. Family gatherings consisted of nonstop playing mixed with arguing mixed with making up without adult supervision.

Not only was my mom’s immediate family big and close but her extended family was, as well. We have family gatherings every three years that consist of around 80 people. These have been happening for thirty years and by now, we’re just all cousins. Occasionally we take time to figure out the once- and twice-removed categories, but really, we’re just family.

Even now, it’s interesting to see which cousins I’m closest with and which I see most often. I have a second cousin who lives close with a daughter right between Bea and Elle. We get together fairly frequently, and it’s so cool to see our families interacting in ways I never would have guessed at a reunion twenty years ago.

On an adventure with "uncle" Steve
On an adventure with “uncle” Steve

Bea has a few people whom she calls “aunt” and “uncle,” even though we’re not related and I love that they treat her like their own actual nieces.

I think having access to a big family has broadened my view of family in general. Once the lines start blurring for cousins, why not for close friends, for people who care for us regularly, for our community? I love viewing friends as family.

And, as I think about redemption and what this world could look like, isn’t that the goal? That our friends neighbors are family without any other distinction.

How do you view family? Are you closer with friends or with your actual family?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Taking Time to Party

Yesterday at our first MOPS meeting, our “creative director,” Carolyn had us make a party kit. In a ziplock, we put everything we need to have an instant celebration – streamers, a card, balloons… The idea is to take time to celebrate small, everyday moments. A goal achieved, a good day, a string of bad days that need a good day, or simply that it’s Friday.

IMG_8656I love this idea and even just having the bag on our kitchen counter has been a tangible reminder to celebrate the small moments. We’re in the midst of the tax extension deadlines. While not as crazy as tax season itself, Frank is working late and our family dynamic has changed.

Remembering those small moments is what makes crazy time special. We won’t be able to have a full family day together or even daily family meals perhaps, but we can make the time we’re together a celebration.

We just finished up potty training and celebrations were part of our daily routine for a couple weeks. Chocolate chips were handed out and lots of hoorays! and I’m so proud of you! were shared. Now that Bea is into the routine on her own, we’ve stopped celebrating her achievement, but maybe I need to find a new one. It was a reminder to say hooray! to the mundane, the things I take for granted.

How do you celebrate the everyday moments?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Redeeming Differences

“Race is the child of racism, not the father.” -Ta-Nehisi Coates

I just started reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and this line has been the one that I’ve been mulling over most. (So far.) It has me thinking about life in a perfect world – where we wouldn’t see color, where “colorblindness” was truly a reality. But, we don’t and so we celebrate each difference and we do see skin and abilities and privilege.

Beyond skin color and racism, it has me thinking about the way we choose to see others in general. How we support and welcome refugees from one country but fight to keep out refugees from another. How we repost photos of and pray for special needs children but have no patience or desire for our own children to be in the same classes for fear of falling behind.

I wonder how we redeem these preconceived ideas and stereotypes? How do I raise my daughters to celebrate the differences of their peers without making the difference the point but the person.

So far this book has brought more questions than answers for how I raise my daughters, and shouldn’t it? It is a letter from a black man written to his son. I am a white mom raising daughters. And yet… I’m stopping and listening and trying to see the world from a different perspective.

What are you grappling with lately? What are your thoughts on raising kids to celebrate the diversity around them?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Saying Yes

Saying yes…

Meant stepping out of my comfort zone, moving to Paris, spending an incredibly hard but incredibly important four years abroad, learning about myself, my faith, my world.

Saying yes means experiencing these moments.
Saying yes means experiencing these moments.

Saying yes…

Meant staying home, raising daughters, finding ways of fulfilling my strengths, of continuing to learn, of passing on traits and role models to the women of our future.

Saying yes…

Meant sitting at a table of strangers, of making awkward conversation, of learning about what it’s like to be a woman in today’s world of balance and having it all (or not), of finding my own unique mix of life-giving needs.

Saying yes…

Meant getting up early on a Saturday morning, meeting strangers in a parking lot, snowshoeing with a group of people I didn’t know, of unexpectedly meeting my husband.

Saying yes…

Meant sticking with community, even when it didn’t feel easy, even when I felt I was putting in more work than anyone else, even when I wanted to quit, even as I saw amazing friendships and conversations and ideas emerge from all that work.

Saying yes…

Is learning to say no to certain busy-ness and yes to quiet times at home, of learning that balance and the strength to recognize when no to one opportunity means yes to something quieter but often better.

Saying yes…

Sometimes means my own carefully formulated plans are no longer reality and that’s ok.

Saying yes…

Isn’t always the easiest or most natural response, but when I do say yes… I often find myself a more compassionate, complete person.

What have you learned from saying yes?

Linking up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

The Thirties

Even though I’m only a few years in, the thirties has been a great decade. Granted, I’ve looked forward to these years for a while. As a teenager, planning my life, the thirties seemed to be the decade where everything comes together: After living in the selfish twenties, my thirties would be where I figured out life.

In 10 years, she'll be 13...!
In 10 years, she’ll be 13…!

While the details are certainly different from when I was fifteen and dreaming, much of that sentiment has held true. I love that, ten years ago, I was about to start my first “real” job, was halfway through grad school, and was living in a city I enjoyed. Over the next years, a lot of 10-year anniversaries will happen: 10 year friendships, 10 year book club meetings, 10 years of marriage.

I love looking ahead 10 years, too. Of still being in the craziness-of-raising kids phase in life and yet it will look so different. Bea will be in middle school (!!), perhaps I’ll be working full-time, hopefully our kids will be more independent.

I love this middle ground that the thirties have to offer. Of reflection and anticipation. I’m sure this sounds naive, especially if you’re reading well beyond your thirties. Hopefully every decade in life offers this opportunity for reflection, but I am glad that I’m in a place where I can take some time to enjoy this moment.

Which decade was your favorite? Or, which are you most looking forward to?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.