Mapping My Hopes With a Foundation of Flexibility

School started last week for Bea and, while we have another week to go until Elle begins her preschool adventure, I’m enjoying the rhythms that the school year has to offer. This summer was pretty unstructured. Outside of a week at zoo camp, we hung out, went swimming, got on each other’s nerves, and played outside a lot. I think that freedom and boredom are incredibly important to a summer schedule, even if I get overwhelmed with the mess and chaos.

IMG_0487Now that school has started, I’m itching to get back into a productive routine. This first weekend of the school year arrived and I found myself out of sorts and frustrated. I looked back on the week and saw all the things I wanted to do that just didn’t get done. Elle and I went to the zoo but I didn’t write as much as I was hoping; we didn’t clean the playroom; we just kind of hung out.

With Elle starting preschool two mornings a week, I’ve been imagining all of the things I’ll get done with those five extra hours each week. I have big plans! I’m going to practice French and work on a project that kept getting shelved over the summer and really go through the closets for a good purge. Frank and I want to have morning-dates and I want to try to find a workout rhythm. I want to volunteer in Bea’s classroom and go to the art museum regularly. I absolutely recognize that I have more planned than I have space for.

Before preschool begins, I’ve started making lists of my hopes for this year. Things I want to accomplish and rhythms I’d like to create. I’m hoping to map out this time so that it’s not wasted away doing things I could do with Elle around.

But I also want to be intentional about this time with Elle. I’m recognizing that these goals and hopes need to be flexible and fluid. I see how quickly the time passed before Bea started full-time school and I want to savor these moments with Elle.

In her reflections on summer routines and the beginning of a fall schedule, author Addie Zierman says,

“And so I’ve come to accept that this summer, for me, was not supposed to be about being productive, or even really functional. It’s been about being grounded.”

Addie Zierman: Field Notes from the End of Summer

As I plan my fall and our new schedule, I need to remember these words. I have hopes of productivity and I know our routine needs to be functional for our family. But above all, I need to find the ways in which we all stay grounded and rooted. How am I building a schedule that leaves me energized and fulfilled for those days I spend with Elle? How can I feel as productive as possible during my alone time so that the after-school flurry feels more energizing rather than draining?

I have a feeling this will take a good amount of trial-and-error and I need to remember that this is part of building rhythms, as well. What is working? What clearly needs to be fixed? How can I read my family and myself through this shift in seasons?

For now, I’ll keep scribbling my lists and goals as I assess what makes the most sense for us, at this moment.

How do you set goals at the beginning of a new season? How do you tweak your plans along the way?

Building a Rich Legacy

I’ve been thinking about legacy lately. Bea is at an age where it feels like what we do and how we parent matters a lot more. She’s starting to remember things and will most likely start keeping memories of this time in her life. What do I want her to remember? What is our family’s legacy – not just our small family but one that has been passed down through generations.

Here are some things that come to mind that my grandparents did with my parents, that my parents did with me, and that I am doing with the girls. (I also included one from Frank, since he’s a key player in this whole legacy building adventure.)

Love of Reading & Learning

Me and my dad’s dad

When my grandparents moved out of their home of 45 years, we packed boxes and boxes and boxes of books. My grandfather loved reading hardcover books. Some were classics, some were the latest John Grisham. Many were Christian, many were novels. Every single room in their home had shelves of books. I loved curling up next to him and listening to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Amelia Bedilia, Miss Know-it-All, and so many more. I have pictures of all of my grandparents reading to me, which I treasure. When we took a photo of Bea reading with my dad, I remember noting the significance of this family treasure being passed along.

Now, in our home, we fill it with books. Most rooms have bookshelves and if they done, books are stacked on surfaces. Even with crammed shelves in their bedrooms and playroom, the library is a favorite spot for the girls. Even Elle insists on picking her own book when we visit. I am grateful for this love of reading – that it is our family norm and an ingrained part of our family’s culture.

Financial Awareness
Before Dave Ramsey wrote about his envelope system, my parents taught me to separate my allowance into categories of spend, save, and give. I remember the thrill of opening my first savings account and putting money aside. These lessons stayed with me into my teenage years, when I was able to pay for part of my first overseas experience with money I had saved to the way in which we budget and spend our money intentionally.

We opened Bea’s first savings account last year and she was so excited to sign her own name! About six months or so after we opened it, she asked if we could withdraw some money. When I asked why, she had a specific book in mind that she wanted to buy. I love that she already has an understanding of saving money for something you want. She also saves up her piggy bank to give to the Museum of Nature and Science’s saber tooth tiger.

I know we’ll have to go deeper one day, but for now, I’m glad that what my parents learned and taught me is being passed onto our kids.

I could put this one for mine as well, but when I asked Frank about a legacy from his grandparents, he told me about his PopPop’s garden. He remembers the boxes filled with tomatoes and peppers and other veggies. Boxes that remain at the house to this day. When Frank’s aunt sent us a stack of old family photos, many were pictures of his dad’s garden – packed tight with the same veggies his grandfather had planted.

We have always had a backyard garden but doing it with kids adds a new level to the experience. Bea loves going out to collect zucchini and tomatoes and both girls learned at a young age that tomatoes off the vine are the best. This year we were able to harvest some apples off our small tree, and it was so fun to make connections between small seeds and the snacks we were eating.

Awareness Through Travel
My brother and I were the same age as Bea and Elle are right now when my parents moved us to Germany. I always knew that move took a lot of courage but now I have a whole new appreciation for it. I link my own love of travel and exploration to those early years of navigating kindergarten in a foreign country.

Though we haven’t taken any international trips with the girls, we want to one day soon. And in the meantime, we are intentional with our family vacations. Where do we want to go that reflect our family’s priorities? How do we use our time off to help build our own values? From National Parks to historic sites in Philadelphia, we take time to recognize the rich natural and cultural history of America.

Both sets of my grandparents were known for their generosity. From time and skill to money and objects, my grandparents lived life with open hands and care for their neighbors. My parents live the same way. I remember watching my mom or dad sit at the dining room table, writing checks to various organizations each month. No matter our own financial situation, giving was a priority. So, from a young age, I learned to set aside a portion of my own money to give.

Now, Bea always asks for a dollar to put in the red offering bag at church. Though we do most of our giving online, we talk with Bea about where we give and why. I want this conversation to be one our girls remember having – one that helps shape their view of the world. We often can’t change policies so easily as we can support the organizations we most believe in. So, we use our dollars to vote and to support life-changing work.

What are your top priorities when you think about your family’s culture? What are some things that your grandparents did that affect the way you view the world today?