Five Uninterrupted Minutes

When I started this 5-minute timer to write, I started on a different track. Forty-five seconds into this, Bea informed me that It is very hart to pee in a princess dress!

Stop timer. Hold princess dress while daughter pees, all the while thinking, I just want 5 minutes!!

I think that’s the anthem of moms everywhere – I just want 5 minutes! Think of all I could do with 5 interrupted minutes!

IMG_0773
My writing helper

A friend and I were talking about blogging and she started to paint an image of me writing, alone, crafting each post. I laughed and said, It’s rare when I’m alone. I’m so used to writing with Bea next to me and Elle underfoot, it’s almost harder to write when I have peace and quiet. (Almost. I’ll still take the peace and quiet if someone’s offering.)

Even though I think I want more solitude and time to pursue my own interests, I do appreciate that modeling is so important for my girls. Modeling not only the chores of laundry and cleaning (occasionally) and dinner prep but also how to fit in those life-giving activities of reading and writing and going to work.

I’m trying to reframe my want for perfect, quiet, blissful time to myself into a bigger picture – one of activities I hope my girls see and respond to. I hope that they learn the importance of finding activities they love.

Time management. If you had uninterrupted time, what would you do? Do you think you’d be as productive?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write (uninterrupted?) without editing. Today’s prompt is “want.”

A Chaotic Haven

Home improvement shows are my go-to veg option. Especially during tax season, when I can watch whatever I want, I’ll spend my evenings with Chip and Jojo or the Property Brothers, looking at beautiful homes made even nicer. (We watched one of these with a friend visiting from Zimbabwe and it was so uncomfortable watching people make their “must have” list and share the amount of money they had to spend. But that’s a post for another day…)

IMG_1014.jpgI always laugh when a couple talks about wanting a master suite that can function as a retreat away from the kids. At the reveal, it’s always beautifully styled with a throw tossed across a perfectly made bed, a fire in the fireplace.

When we first found this house, we loved the master suite for that very reason. It has a little nook for chairs and a fireplace. We envisioned this space as a place to reconnect, to unwind from parenting, to use as a haven from the rest of our house.

Of course, it’s not. The small bookshelf between our chairs holds our books and a variety of the girls’ favorites. Toys are strewn across the floor each morning as I take my shower. Our big bathtub isn’t used for baths but as a kind of playpen for Elle as we get ready.

Perhaps one day, our white bedspread will always be wrinkle-free, but for now it’s hastily made each morning and the throw pillows are used for forts.

I realize our haven isn’t relaxing and that we could probably train our girls to stay out of our room. But, is that the point of our home? To have rooms that are off-limits? I guess, before long, they will view their own rooms as a quiet haven from the rest of the house, but for now, they want to be near. And (most days) I’m ok with that.

Which home improvement shows are your favorite? Is your room off-limits or do your kids have full run of the house?

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

Practicing Gentle Finishes

The end of May is filled with cheering – from culminating activities and graduation to beginning of summer barbecues and lounging – we are ready for a change of pace.

2016052195152241.jpgYesterday was Bea’s last day of school and when we got home, she fell asleep on the couch, unable to wait until official nap time. (When we got home, she asked if it was “real bedtime” yet.) In the craziness of dance recitals and preschool endings, I forget how much she internalizes and how exhausting that can be.

We buy her flowers and give her verbal affirmation of a job well done, but really, she needs snuggles and movies and quiet play. I need to remember this as we march through the years of school. May will get busier and busier and I need to remember to reign back our extracurricular activities and to focus on a gentle finish rather than a loud one.

When I was young, I would finish every school year with a days-long migraine headache. I internalized all of my performance anxiety until the very end and the moment I wasn’t asked to do anything, my body shut down.

I need to remember this for Bea. (And perhaps Elle, too. We’ll see…) The end of anything is exciting and culminating activities are so rewarding. But. They can take a toll on us, and I need to figure out how to help our daughters succeed without the chaos that can so often be involved with finishes.

Are you on school year-mode? Is May a busy time of endings or a celebration of the beginning of summer?

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

Wildflowers & Cultivation

IMG_0813We recently put a new bookshelf in the girls’ playroom. It’s much taller and, because I had a few boxes of books from my teaching years in the basement, is already nearly full. It was so fun pulling out the books I kept – Fancy Nancy, Frog and Toad, science books. Bea loved looking through the new treasures.

A book I used to read to my class at the beginning of each year has become a new favorite. Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden is about a teacher who plants and cultivates her garden over the course of a school year. One of my favorite lines in it is,

“A few are like wildflowers and will grow anywhere you put them.

And some need gentle care, a special watching over.”

As a teacher, it was a great reminder of certain kids. But as a parent, I find this analogy beautiful for each phase, each activity, each new place we’re at in this developmental process.

Some things come quickly and easily – Bea picks up words and social skills without effort. Watching her navigate her world, making connections, and recognizing patterns in the world around her is amazing. It’s not necessarily something we’ve taught, but like a wildflower, Bea has picked it up quickly.

Other things, like swimming and sleep and sitting through a meal have taken time. We’ve needed to cultivate and care and watch over these activities in hopes that a foundation is laid for the future.

It’s a reminder for me, too. Some things come easily for me and others take work and cultivation. But each are beautiful – each produce amazing flowers and unique qualities.

Do you identify more with wildflowers or flowers that need more care?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. This week’s prompt is Grow.

 

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.”

Earning Resets Instead of Rewards

Bea loves making reward charts (or, as she calls them “award” charts.) She’s surprisingly good at drawing rows of squares and we have pages of charts, ready to be filled in.

Right now, we have an award chart hanging outside her bedroom for sleeping through the night. Especially with Frank getting home late, she often gets up to check on him. And for a drink. And to fix her pigtails. Etc, etc, etc. There’s always something to get up for.

The biggest problem with the chart system is that Bea is not motivated by rewards. She loves making the charts but doesn’t care so much about the end result. We’ll take her for a yogurt date or Frank will do a sleepover on her trundle bed, but those are just fun things. I’m not sure she’s actually linked it to the chart itself.

Last night was a horrendous bedtime. It started out well – we went through our routine quietly and snuggly. And then, as I tucked her in, a switch flipped and she was wild. Over an hour later of removing all books, putting her back again and again, and finally losing my temper, Bea asked if she’d ever have anything fun again. I said, Probably not!!!

IMG_0549.jpg
Testing out the tent

Tonight, we have a sleepover at my parents’ planned. My dad has the tent set up in the basement and he and Bea will camp out. It’s been planned separately, for fun, without regard for any chart.

Part of me wanted to take it away. See? You get nothing fun!! But then I realized the grace of parenting is still doing fun things, even when our kids don’t “deserve” it. That we often need fun resets rather than fun rewards.

So tonight, Bea has earned a reset. Hopefully it’ll be a great night and she’ll receive the undivided attention that is most likely at the root of last night’s struggle.

And I’m reminded, again, that parenting is a communal effort. That I can’t be a whole parent on my own – it takes not only my partner, but my parents and friends and neighbors to fill in those gaps.

Any advice for an easier bedtime? Are you motivated by external rewards or intrinsic success?

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

The Obvious Decision

One of the most tangible times I have experienced God’s presence was during my second year of college. After another failure in learning French, followed by a series of stressful cultural situations, I sat down on the corner of the sidewalk. There, under the shadows of the Eiffel Tower, I curled up and wondered Was this the right decision?

When I first heard of a this college in Paris, I knew I had to apply. When acceptance and financial aide fell into place and when a trip during dreary February confirmed that I could imagine living in the city of lights for four years, the choice to move abroad seemed like a no-brainer.

Until it wasn’t. Until learning French didn’t come as easily as I’d hoped. Until the eight-hour time difference to call home to ask for advice seemed like an eternity. Until living all alone in a cute little studio at 19 made the idea of dorm rooms filled with instant community seem alluring.

So, there on the street, I felt lost and confused and questioning my easy decision. And then I felt something, a presence surround me. It was like I was enveloped in safety – I could physically feel something or someone hug me, right there on the dirty sidewalk. And, even though I still had a French failure to figure out and cultural mishaps awaited, I knew that I had made the right decision. That this was where I was meant to be, and that God would use these experiences. Maybe not for something grand, but for something.

I still don’t really know why I went to Paris – or stayed. Yes, it has shaped me and my worldview but looking at my life now, I could have easily gone to a college down the street from my parents. But, I didn’t. And I’m thankful for the resilience I learned, for the friends I made, and for the worldview I couldn’t learn from books. I hope to pass along that spirit of adventure and trust to my daughters. And, I’m thankful for that day when God reminded me that our decisions aren’t always easy but they are life-changing.

Do you have a choice that seemed obvious at the time but changed you unexpectedly?

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

A Surprise Pause

It’s 9:40 and already today hasn’t gone as planned. I wasn’t going to write this post, for one. We had a lot to do between dance class and preparation for our one 2-day weekend as a family.

IMG_0285.jpgAnd then, through a miscommunication, we ended up skipping dance. Instead, we are playing in the snow, drinking hot chocolate and going at a slower pace. Instead of rushing to pack and remember all of the things kids need for an overnight and worry about leaving on time, we’re able to stop and enjoy the fire, to play a bit, and to ease into the day.

Sometimes surprises can be exciting – surprise parties, surprise trips – they get my energy going. Sometimes surprises are overwhelming and take a lot of recalibration.

Other surprises – like today’s – cause me to remember that it’s ok to pause. That sometimes we need to stop and play in the snow. That, even in the midst of the miscommunications of tax season, some miscommunications work to our advantage. It wasn’t even a miscommunication but an act of service when Frank should have been rushing off to work that allowed us to play rather than rush.

Today’s surprise bodes well for our weekend. We get two whole days together as a family and I hope to remember this pause – that it’s not about packing in the time together but resting in our 48 hour break before this last push.

Do you use surprises to your advantage or do they catch you off guard?

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

The Importance of Yes Please

This week was a reminder of the importance of partnership in parenting. It’s funny that it happened on this particular week – one in which our community totally helped share the load. Between friends and neighbors and my parents, I didn’t have to cook one meal or worry about those post-nap, pre-dinner hours. My “connection with community love tank” is completely full because of the kindness and generosity of those surrounding us.

IMG_0005.jpg
Breakfast in a Rocketship

On the opposite side, it’s also been a rough week for Frank. He’s reached the 70+ hours schedule that won’t stop until April 18. Even though the girls and I have found a bedtime routine that works, Bea was up, crying that she just wanted daddy to tuck her in. I get it. I wanted daddy to get up out of sleep and tuck her in, too. This time of year renews my awe and appreciation for those parents who do it alone – either by choice or circumstance. What do you do without someone to share the hugs, the frustrations, the load of parenting?

And for us as a couple, this is the moment in tax season when we are like ships passing. Even in the years without kids, this last month and a bit was tough. But now, with two, we never have a moment just the two of us. I think that’s a hallmark of this season of parenting anyway – two kids (and a dog!) and two parents means someone is always occupied. But, adding the time factor, and our shared time as a couple is about as low as it can get without Frank being completely gone. (Again, renewed appreciation for those whose partners travel for extensive periods. It’s rough.)

And yet. At those moments when I just feel like I can’t anymore. Or I just need Frank to step in and share this with me, a gap in his schedule opens. A Noodles date happens or he squeezes in time to take the girls out for donuts so I can write this five minute post.

And I’m reminded that tax season doesn’t last forever. That he is home every night (even if it’s after midnight). And that I do have a partner to share this load. In the meantime, I’m so grateful for those who share as they can. They remind me of the importance of front-loading community. Of accepting help and saying “yes, please.”

Do you have people to help share your load? Or are you more one of the helpers, who takes the burden?

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

Laughing from the Other Side

My mom used to tell me that the toddler years were when she really started to enjoy motherhood – we were a bit more independent, we could express our feelings using words. Life seemed more fun.

In the midst of a screaming rage from our own preschooler, I looked at my mom and asked, Really?!?! This was your favorite mothering season?!?!

My mom laughed (as only you can laugh from the other side…) and suggested that maybe she had forgotten some of these moments. She was sure they happened, but when she looked back, she didn’t really remember them.

That gave me some hope. We are in the trenches with All the Emotions and I worry that I’ll look back on this time with distaste. Or that Bea will look back on these months and wonder at my parenting skills.

IMG_9960.jpgThank God we forget. That there’s something in our brains that lump rough feelings and experiences into the I survived so it couldn’t have been that bad category. I wonder if the toddler/preschool years are dealt with in the same way as birth – that we somehow forget the pain and remember the result.

I’m clinging to the hope that the results of these power struggles and boundaries and everything result in an well-adjusted, thoughtful, empowered daughter. At this stage, I can only hope and pray and trust that it will. If I stopped now, it would be too discouraging, so I remember my mom’s from-the-other-side laughter and hope that one day, I’ll laugh in the same way, having forgotten these rough moments.

(Note: Bea is an amazing kid and 95% of the time we’re good and we have amazing adventures. It’s just that other 5% that is so intense…)

Are there life experiences that you’re thankful to have forgotten or, at least, looked back on with rosier perspective? As a parent, what’s your favorite stage?

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