Month: August 2015

Kindergarten, Bus Ride and Momma Cried

I had her breakfast made before she was up. Scrambled eggs, toast and raspberries – nice and balanced with a little protein punch. She was going to be off to kindergarten in a few minutes and she needed to have energy, after all.

Teeth and hair brushed: check. Sophia shirt: Check. Headband: check. Sparkly shoes: check. Frozen lunch box and hot pink backpack: check. And we were out the door with 10 minutes to spare.

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As we walked, she chatted away, per her usual. Me, forcing her to pause for a few pictures. For her, getting to ride the school bus is one life’s greatest accomplishments and today was the day. She has been asking to ride the school bus and counting the years and months and days until it was her turn. I would have preferred to drive her myself on the first day, but she insisted. And so, off we went.

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After our casual stroll up to the bus stop at the corner, she looked up at me. “Mom, I have to go potty.”

Potty! Of course! In the midst of the breakfast and the outfit and the backpack and the new shoes, we both had completely forgotten about potty!!

I looked at my phone. We had 6 mix minutes. “We have to run,” I said. So off we went, her backpacking bouncing on her back and my keys swinging from my hands. “Good thing I have my fast running shoes on so I can lead you home, mom,” she said. Humility: something we are working on. Confidence: something she’s mastered.

We made it back home, to the potty and back to the bus stop with two minutes to spare. And then the next two minutes went by in a blur.

“There it is! There’s my bus,” she exclaimed, pointing at it driving around the bend.

As I looked down and her and smiled, my mind was on over-drive. Give your kid a kiss. Take a picture. Help her on. Don’t help her on. Hold her hand. Let her go. Tell her to have a good day and to remember where her snack is. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry.

I gave her a kiss, told her to have lots and lots of fun.

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“Okay, she said,” and walked bravely toward the bus. “There’s already kids on there. There’s already kids on there,” she said as she walked up the steps and chose her seat. The doors closed and the bus driver smiled at me. He looked a little like Santa.

I hope he drives safely today. I hope her teacher smiles today. I hope the kids are nice today. Because, while I want her to grow up and do all the things she’s been made to do, the spreading of her wings just makes my momma heart ache with love and pride and unspeakable joy. And some moments just tug at my tear faucets – like this one.

I turned and walked home, tears streaming down my cheeks and prayers going up to Heaven, as I sent my little girl off on the school bus and out into the world.

Today, 2:55 can’t come fast enough.

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Summer Summed Up

Not sure about you, but where the heck did the summer go? One minute the 4th of July was weeks away and all of a sudden, it feels like fall in Chicago.

But while many of you have went back or have sent kids back to school this week, I’m hanging on to summer for just a little longer because it was one of the best ones I’ve had in a long time. And because I learned some things I want to share. And because as much as I’m ready for boots and all things pumpkin spice, I want to talk about lake life and lazy days for five more minutes.

So here goes:

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Traveling is good great, but home is good for the heart.

In a random sequence of events, I traveled to 10 states this summer. That’s 20% of this great nation covered in three months. And while I loved every single minute, or most of them, about every trip, traveling can tire a girl out. Let’s be honest, that much traveling meant home became more of a pass-through than a destination. There were weeks where we were home long enough to unpack and repack the suitcase. Laundry became optional, and scrubbing the kitchen floor? It hasn’t been done since May. I did manage to stay on my weekly changing the sheets schedule, because priorities.

But home. Home has a comfort about it, un-scrubbed kitchen floor and all. Home means sleeping in your own bed and drinking tea on your own couch and eating meals at your own table. For me, home means routines and ease and the familiar.

So, while traveling is great, home is good for the heart.

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We all need our people. If you don’t have any, get some.

I am BLESSED. Abundantly BLESSED with a community that I call my people. I spent time with many of them this summer, and the memories: etched in my heart. We, humans, were made for community, we were meant to be part of a village.

Believe me, I understand not wanting to ask for help. However, my life forced me to a place of not only having to ask because it was a nice idea. Because it’s nice to do things that sound like “nice ideas,” isn’t it? It makes us feel like we’re doing the upright human-being thing. But when life means two meetings at the same time and a kid across town at a daycare that closes at 6:00, and there is one of you, then you have to ask for help. And do you know what my community does when I ask? They BLOW MY MIND. They take my requests and deliver with abundance. If I have to be out of town, my little girl is treated like a queen. If I need a babysitter, I come home to a house that’s spotless and a kid who is exhausted because she’s played all day. If I spend a Sunday afternoon leading a small group, I am sent home with a bouquet of flowers. I am SO LOVED by my people.

We do life – the fun parts, the hard parts, the crappy parts and exciting parts, together. When we are at the lake and we jump waves with the boat until it literally runs out of gas, then we jump in the lake, clothes on, and push together. When life is crazy and full of transitions that mean we all feel like we have two left feet and hands full of thumbs, we set aside time to laugh (and eat chips and guac, of course). Or we talk or we text or we dance (because a dance party can solve a world of hurts).

But mainly because we can only be loved to the extent we are known, we need to find our people and then let them know us – all of us.

And finally,

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Rest is necessary, but so are routines.

My happy place is the water. Bring me to a lake of any size (on some desperate days, a pond will do) or the beach, and my soul takes a big huge drink. I get it, for some of you, mountains are your place and others love the wide open spaces. I’m less concerned about where our specific places are and more concerned that we visit them…often.

This summer I took out a jet ski, raced in a kayak, got shredded by a tube, took a lap on a wakeboard and made it up on skis (see point number two about having an amazing village.) I drank coffee on the dock, took morning walks around the lake, measured time in sunrises and sunsets and forget about knowing what day of the week it was.

Rest. A break from routine. Our happy place. Our souls need that. I am a better mom, friend, colleague, mentor when I take real rest. ..and then get back into a routine.

Routine is good. Our world functions on routine: Seasons change; days, weeks and months go by; we schedule check-ups and car maintenance and home repairs on a schedule (or we know we should and it’s that nagging thing always in the back of our mind).

And so, as we settle into fall and out of summer, I feel rested, lived, and “summered,” ready for the routine of autumn and the predictability of our schedule. And just like the ebb and flow of the water onto the shore, I have learned again the need for both routine and rest.

So, with that off my chest, I hope summer has left you refreshed and ready to embrace the upcoming season.

While I used to refer to it as fall, I know it’s forevermore going to be referred to as “back to school” season for two reasons: One, Because every time I go to Target, there are no less than eight moms standing post at their respective carts while various school-aged children dash in and out of the school supply section adding loot to the cart. And two, because my five-year-old is going to KINDERGARTEN next week. More on that later.

Coming Unglued: Taking a Time Out in the Lavender Field

My bucket list item for the year was taking place as five of us pulled in to the lavender farm. Adellyn, Julie and her daughter, Abby, St. Jenny (you’ll understand how Jenny earned her title soon) and me. In my head, I had it all planned out so perfectly. How it would smell. What it would look like. How the day would unfold.

It was idyllic, as if we drove into Mayberry briefly as we walked onto a small farm in a sleepy Michigan town. A woman with silver hair and purple shirt the color of the lavender handed us a scissors and a twist tie. “Cut whatever flowers you’d like. All you can fit in here for $4,” she says with a smile. “Have fun!”

And off we went. Adellyn and Abby went racing through the fields gleefully. You could smell the lavender and hear the bees buzzing, far more interested in the plants than the people. As the three of us helped the girls find the perfect lavender flowers to cut, I inhaled deep, trying to be present in the moment. My bucket list item moment.

The thrill of cutting the flowers faded…..after about 8 minutes. And somehow the adults were finishing the bouquet-making while the girls returned to lavender field racing.

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“Adellyn, come sit with me real quick,” I ask, full bouquet in my hands.

I mean, it was my bucket list moment and it needed to be documented with a picture….or 30…of us sitting so adorably holding our fresh-cut lavender bouquet, with the very fields behind us. I gave up on Christmas cards long ago, but if I did them, this image, I imagined, would be one for the family card.

“Adellyn, come here, please,” I insist, now turning on my momma-tone as my five year continued to race up and down the field without regard to my instruction.

“Adellyn. Come HERE. PLEASE.” Momma voice getting louder. Momma patience getting thin.

“Mom, wait. Abby and I are just finishing our race,” she replies.

“Come here real quick and then you can go right back to your race,” I respond.

You don’t even have to be a parent to predict what happens next.

Adellyn comes walking over with her five-year old sass and flops down in my lap. “But mo-om, I don’t want to take a picture.”

“One, two…oh, Adellyn, smile,” Jenny says.

“Adellyn, Mommy wants to take one quick picture, just smile for Miss Jenny quick and then we will be done. This is a special day for Mommy and I just want a picture of us together here.”

“Okay, Adellyn, smile,” Jenny says. Again.

“Adellyn. Smile. MOMMY WANTS ONE PICTURE. AND I WANT YOU TO SMILE,” I say through clenched teeth, feeling my blood pressure rising through each word.

To which, my five year old continued to sit there, straight faced, un-phased, not gonna smile.

And that was the moment where I.Came.Unglued.

There are all kinds of parenting techniques. There are times to let them be kids. And there are times to discipline. There are times to love. And there are times when mommy just needs to walk away and take a time out before her head explodes.

This was one of those times.

I stood up, set my child back down…firmly. And walked away…over to Julie who was delightfully taking all kinds of artistic pictures of her cooperating daughter. While mine sat stubbornly staring at the ground.

I turned around to see Adellyn and St. Jenny having a “talk.” The next thing I knew I was being called back to the scene of “this is where mommy came unglued” moment, by a bubbly, smiley-faced five year old that, at this point, I barely recognized as my own.

“I’m ready to take a picture now,” the child said.

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I looked at Jenny and then back at A. I didn’t know what St. Jenny said, but I really didn’t care. The child I knew had returned and I had St. Jenny to thank for the Christmas card photo that was about to be taken.

So, down we sat, slapped on our best smiles and 30 seconds later, my phone was filled with lavender field family photos to choose from. And based on the smiles in those pictures, no one would have ever known that literally moments before, mommy had just about lost her marbles.

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Two months later, I was recounting the day with Julie, as we were laughing about the ups and downs of parenting.

“You know,” she said, “I was so grateful to witness that day if it was going to happen anyway. It reminded me that, just like mine, your life really isn’t perfect.”

“It certainly is not,” I laughed. “In fact, it’s not perfect a whole lot more often than it is.”

However, while it’s not perfect, it is beautiful. It’s fun. It’s funny. It’s an adventure. It’s toys all over the house and papers everywhere and hard macaroni and cheese noodles on the floor in odd and unlikely places. It’s full of snuggles and games and friends from all over. It’s Saturday mornings in pjs until noon and summers at the lake. It’s being tired some days and over the moon on others. It’s a juggling act at times and holding it together and it’s moments where you just come unglued. And in all the moments, it’s living honestly in the midst of a community of people who love all of us, even the ugly, unglued parts. And it’s in those unglued moments, when I’m thankful for my village of people who step in and guide, love and direct my child when I’ve just had an ounce too much of the parenting role and selfish me takes over or when I need to hear the truth.

So, for those of you who have…and do…and are embarrassed to admit that every once in a while you just really need a time out, there is an army of us who are with you…or at least I am! All living beautifully messy, imperfect lives. Perhaps we can find relief in striving for life to be full, abundant and for a purpose rather than striving for perfection.

When I think about it, perfect doesn’t really measure up to purpose, and the stories from the messy lives are better anyway. And the real moral of the story: If you have to take a time out, a lavender field isn’t a bad place to take one. Just be sure to bring St. Jenny along.

#lakelife lesson: The Good Stuff is Worth the Fight

Hello, friends! I decided to take summer seriously this year and celebrate being back in the Midwest, where summer means open windows and weekends at the lake and bonfires with s’mores, of course, because it’s not a real bonfire unless you leave with marshmallow residue in your hair.

And while seriously summering has meant a break from blogging, it hasn’t meant a break from some lessons I’ve learned from #lakelife. Lessons like: Breaks are necessary and lakes are a good place to take them. Coffee tastes better when sipped on the shore. Mornings walks make me a nicer person. Having no cell phone signal or Wifi for a day or two is a good thing. God paints beautiful sunsets.

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And one lesson worth elaborating on: The good stuff is worth the fight.

I got up on water skis this summer for the first time in 17 years. It.was.awesome!

It was a sunny morning when I jumped into the chilly in the water, pulled the skis on my feet and felt…awkward. They say some things are like riding a bike and it all comes back to you, but 17 years is a decent amount of time, and I wasn’t so sure. I knew what I needed to do, but as the boat took off and I held on to the rope, my knees felt wobbly and my legs looked like Bambi on ice, each going the opposite direction. Saving myself from the dreaded face plant, I quickly let go of the rope and sunk back into the water. I could have given up, but I wanted to get back up on those skis..darn it…and I was going to fight for it.

The boat circled around, I grabbed the rope and tightened my legs. As the boat accelerated again, I squeezed the rope handle, holding my best in-water chair pose, fighting to see through the wave of water in my face. And then, after what felt like a day, but was really about 15 seconds, I popped up and was cruising along the water.

That’s the funny thing about skiing. That moment. You know the one, where you can’t rush it and you don’t yet know how it’s going to turn out. And you can’t do anything except hang on tight, hold your best chair pose and wait. While sort of trusting the boat. Trusting yourself. Trusting the sport.

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Sometimes, in fact, a lot of times, you fight hard and the lake wins and you have to try again. But then sometimes, you are able to put the pieces together and you pop up out of the water and THERE IS NOTHING LIKE IT. The water under your feet, the wind on your face. And all of a sudden, the fight was worth it!

But you can’t get there without the struggle. Without getting some water in your face, doing the work at the beginning, hanging on tight and waiting and trusting the timing and proving how bad you want it.

This is true with the hardest and best things in life, I think. All of the good things, my most treasured moments or memories or experiences have come with a trial or a struggle that’s required me to stand firm, to get some water in my face and forced me to a place of determining just how bad I want it.

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The good things, the best things have made me answer questions like, what do I want more? Where does the path of least resistance lead and is that where I want to go? If I’m facing this mountain, is what is at the top worth climbing toward? What am I willing to sacrifice and what is the cost?

Chocolate now or ten pounds later? Quit training now or half marathon under my belt later? Mundane and predictable or exciting adventure? Fighting to maintain “control” or standing firm in faith? Taking a chance on someone or something or always wondering what might have been? Giving up now or sense of accomplishment later?

And sometimes, the water in the face part is scary and blinding and the holding on tight part is tiring and taxing, but just like when it all comes together in skiing, it all comes together in life. Somehow, someway, in perfect time. We have a good, good Father. He’s an excellent boat driver. And while I spent a lot of years trying to be the captain, I’ve surrendered the wheel now. You’ll find me either on the front of the boat, hands in the air, enjoying the ride or hanging on tight, fighting for a thrilling ride from the rope in the back, having the time of my life. Sometimes with water in my face. A lot of time with water in my face, hanging on tight, knowing there is a great run ahead if I just fight for it.

If you’re hanging on, water in the face, fighting for something, hang on, sweet friend. You’ll pop up out of the water soon! And if you’ve been knocked down, grab the rope, not the wheel, and trust your captain. Try again. There is smooth water and a lot of life to be lived on the other side. The good stuff, the best stuff – it’s worth the fight!

I hope you’ve summered this summer, and if you haven’t, there’s still time left. Go enjoy it and come back and tell us all about it!