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?

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Finding Heaven at the Wild Table

Every Tuesday, I help with Writer’s Workshop in Bea’s classroom. And every Tuesday, I leave after an hour with a greater appreciation toward all kindergarten teachers. Controlled chaos is putting it mildly but somehow Mrs. M is able to help twenty five-year-olds create books about Nocturnal Animals, using exclamation points and onomatopoeias when appropriate.

wax-1175873_960_720Bea is a quiet, concientious kid at a rowdy table. She is constantly battling boys who refuse to give a silent five or take bunny breaths to calm down. One table over is filled with girls who follow directions, share crayons, and get their work done.

Part of me wants to ask why Bea is stuck with the wild kids. Part of me knows exactly why because I inflicted that same spot to my good, quiet kids when I was teaching. Sometimes you need to know that one person at the table will do what they’re supposed to do.

Where’s the justice in this? Shouldn’t all the good kids be together, encouraging each other academically? Shouldn’t all the rowdy kids be together, fending for themselves? In some ways, I think Bea’s school experience would be better if she were at a table (or in a classroom) filled with kids who care as much as she does.

But that would defeat the point of sending her to our diverse neighborhood school. Not only is it culturally diverse, but it’s academically, socially, and economically diverse. When I talk about diversity, I need to remember that it means everything.

Friends were visiting from Zimbabwe and we took them to the fall festival. At one point, as we were standing in the eternally long line for the bounce house, Susan exclaimed, This is what heaven looks like!

This comment gave me pause. It’s true. Heaven, wherever it is and whatever it actually looks like, will be filled with diversity. It will be filled with people who look different, who speak different languages, who see God differently, who learn differently, and who interact with life differently. That’s the beauty of God loving all the little children, regardless of appearance or life experience.

I’m sure there will be a time when being at the wild table will be a true detriment rather than a life experience. We’ll have to evaluate our own values and make a game plan. Until then, I’m thankful that every single day Bea gets to experience a little slice of heaven as she writes about bats and owls.

Where is a place you’ve seen heaven here on earth? What does it look like to you?

BackyardThis post is Day 12 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

The Sweetness of Milestones

We walked to Bea’s new school the other day to meet her kindergarten teacher. When she started preschool, I didn’t cry. I saw how ready Bea was for that new adventure and it seemed so right for our family.

IMG_5702But as we walked through the halls of this big school, as friendly teachers and staff greeted us and helped us navigate our way to the new classroom, as we stood outside and peeked in, tears pricked my eyes. I realized what a milestone kindergarten will be, this embarkment into a great world of learning and discovery and independence.

Standing in the library later with the one family we knew from preschool, we talked about how this is it. For the next six years, this place will define our time and schedule. It will define a lot of our choices and how we respond to them. It will help shape our kids into the lifelong learners we’ve been hoping for already.

I’m incredibly excited for Bea to start kindergarten. She is ready and excited. She’s the type of student that will do just fine – friendly, kind, conscientious, a rule-follower. But, as with so many transitions, there’s something a little bittersweet. Our days of exploration and discovery at home are over. Our flexible schedule and ability to have midweek adventures are being traded for a wider world. It’s all good, but there is still a little heartache at seeing how quickly time really does speed along.

Life is bittersweet, isn’t it? What was your favorite grade in school? If you’re a parent, which transition was your favorite? And, did you cry on the first day of kindergarten?

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