What’s Next.

Almost every Saturday morning of my childhood was spent in a dance studio. For the past several years, many, many Saturdays are consumed by the boys’ practices or games. For me, Saturday usually equals busyness and fun. Not quiet and time to reflect.

So it was really weird last Saturday to find our calendar empty (which ended up being a great thing, because Matt’s parents were able to come over for a quick visit later in the day!). Matt decided earlier in the week that he’d like to do something fun with the boys: take each of them out for a meal by themselves at a place of the boys’ choosing. Just some one-on-one time with each boy to hang out.

And in the semi-quiet of our house, something that I’ve been thinking about abstractly for the past several months came into better focus. I’ll try to put it into words as succinctly as possible.

We’re at a transitional stage of parenting where Matt needs to play a bigger role. I think this is particularly true because we’re raising all boys (not that girls don’t need their dads, clearly). Clarifications:
1) This is not because he’s been checked out to this point…on the contrary, he’s a great dad and has always been involved.
1b) This does not mean that I am checking out. I know I’m still very much needed. For at the very least rides, food, and help with homework ;)
2) THIS IS NOT A COMPLAINT FROM ME. The early years of parenting are hard, particularly on the primary caregiver. Which obviously was me, especially the last 8 years since I’ve been home. And we’re through those years, mostly unscathed, praise God.

ahem. yes. we so totally were.

However, can you see where this is going? It’s not even sadness, really, that I’m feeling. It’s simply that so much of me and my purpose (and the reason I quit my job) were enveloped in a stage that’s over. And I didn’t think much past this stage (because let’s face it; when you’re in the thick of those years, the light at the end of the tunnel seems very, very dim). PLUS, even though those infant/toddler/preschooler years are ridiculous and difficult and challenging and often gross, they’re my favorite. Parenting littles was so totally in my wheelhouse.

i had no idea what i was in for, even this many years into parenting.

2 Augusts ago, when Jack Henry went to full-day school, I felt none of this. There was just happiness over my newfound freedom. But starting last fall, I’ve been feeling like I’m ready for a new something. So I’ve spent a lot of time thinking. And the truth is, I’m still not at all clear what the next stage looks like for me and my family. I have lots of ideas…I am a fantastic daydreamer. Also, I am an excellent song-lyrics-memorizer, so if you can think of a way to parlay that skill into a perfect part-time job for me, feel free to let me know.

Truly, while I’m a terribly impatient person and the idea of waiting for the timing to be right for whatever is next does not thrill me, I’m excited. I’m excited to think about doing something I’m passionate about, and being challenged beyond what I’m doing right now.

And this is the second kinda vulnerable post I’ve written in the new year. I need to go back to easy fluff writing.

Dear Cashiers of America,

I know. Your job isn’t glamorous (and yet, it was my first childhood dream job). It’s repetitive, and you often have to deal with ridiculous people on their phones/with bad attitudes/who are in a hurry. Because I know so many of the afore-mentioned people exist, I promise you that I’m always trying my hardest to be polite and engaged when I come through your line.

Sidenote: if I were you, I would love seeing the strange combinations of things that people buy, especially in the express lane, when it’s obvious your customer has just run in to grab exactly what they needed. If my purchases are particularly odd, I usually just comment on it. Like last week when I bought a bouquet of flowers and a single tomato at Trader Joe’s…flowers for a friend, tomato for supper that I’d forgotten to pick up the day before. But I digress.

The real reason I’m writing to you today is to talk to you about carding people. And by people, I mean me, and presumably, also my girlfriends of a similar age. And by age, I mean well past the minimum 21 but not yet old enough to look like we shouldn’t be carded (which I think is 40, right?).

Yes. I may look pretty close to 40, and my bottle of wine combined with a cart-full of grown-up looking grocery choices doesn’t beg for me to be carded. Yes, it will slow your line down by 30 seconds. But it will make my day, knowing that when you glanced at me, you thought that there was a chance I was under 40. I will never be frustrated about having to pull out my ID. I may even text friends when I leave the store about what a great day it is when this happens.

You had no idea you had so much power, did you?

Whatever you do, please don’t grab the alcohol to scan it, INTENTLY STUDY MY FACE, and decide not to card me. That’s just rude. You’re going to have to be a little less obvious, lady-who-did-this-to-me-right-before-Christmas.

Love,
your 37-year-old customer

Vacation 2014: The Steamboat Springs Part

So this one time, my family went on a great Colorado vacation and I blogged about the first 2 parts of the trip (here and here), and then, apparently, got distracted by something shiny, and now it’s 4 months later and I haven’t finished the last post for whatever reason. However, for the sake of posterity, despite my memory not being that great, I want to finish this series.

Ok, the REAL reason we planned a Colorado vacation was for this last portion of it! We were invited by my Aunt Karen and Uncle Bob (my mom’s brother) to the amazing celebration they were having for their 50th wedding anniversary. All of my siblings and their families and my dad and Annmarie decided to go, too, so it was a big, fun family time out in Steamboat! Additionally, many of my other aunts, uncles, and cousins were there, which made it even better.

We all made it into Steamboat in the late afternoon on Friday. The 4 siblings and their families were all staying in a big condo I’d found, and Dad and Annmarie were just a short drive away at a hotel. Grocery shopping for 15 for our house was an adventure :) We enjoyed grilling out on Friday night, celebrating my sister-in-law Dana’s birthday, and just settling everyone into our place.

Saturday we spent the morning seeing a bit of the town and going for a short hike at Fish Creek Falls with apparently everyone else in Steamboat Springs. However, our big event was that evening, and with 15 of us to get ready (thankfully the condo had 3 showers), we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to get everyone ready for the party before the bus came to pick us up at 4:45. I’m happy to report that we planned well, and we were waiting out front when the bus arrived…this is a huge accomplishment for our crew!

The party was western-themed, and I just can’t even tell you how every tiny detail was perfectly planned. It was a beautiful celebration of a wonderful couple we love very much, and being there with my whole family just made it extra amazing. Check out the pictures below to get a feel for what a good time we had.

Sunday morning brought a trip to the local alpine slide, which was a huge hit, and then the hot springs up in the mountains outside of town…I have to tell you, my SIL Michon and I were particularly interested in getting in the hot springs. I mean, it’s such a weird phenomenon, right? Boiling hot water that comes up through the ground? And it’s supposed to be good for your skin? Yes!

Let me sum it up with this: our consensus was that it was mostly strange and slimy and gross, it smelled bad, and we couldn’t wait to shower. (In googling since our trip, I’ve seen pictures of hot springs that are much cleaner looking than what we visited…) However, I’m SO glad we tried it!

In the early evening, we all headed over to my aunt and uncle’s beautiful home near Steamboat, where they were hosting a cocktail party for everyone who was heading out of town the next day. It was such a nice afternoon, and we followed it up with a cookout at the rental house where another part of my extended family was staying.

Everyone packed up Monday morning to head back to Denver for various flights out of town. We had quite a bit of time to spare, so we ate lunch downtown and then walked around for a while. It was, um, interesting. We had lots of beneficial discussions with the boys about drug use and mental illness after several encounters and conversations with some colorful residents.

As always when leaving Colorado, the boys asked when we’d be back. I hope it’s not long.

Maybe It’s Time.

At the end of my post about our anniversary trip to Siesta Key, I said something about writing about living in a bikini for a few days and what it taught me. I said I’d write about it if I was brave enough.

Well, I decided I wasn’t then. But I guess I am now. Maybe?

Yes. Yes I am. Deep breath. Girl talk time.

IMG_4675

>>>To start: this seems slightly off-topic, but I promise it’s not. It’s good time to interject that I read Brene Brown‘s Daring Greatly, a book about vulnerability and leadership and living wholeheartedly, late last fall. I loved it and swore she was stealing thoughts from my head several times. It’s very well-written, and totally thought-provoking, so you don’t just breeze through it, and it messed me up in a really good way. And perhaps gave me the confidence to write things like I am today. Truly a perspective-changing book if ever I’ve read one. If you haven’t heard her speak, I highly recommend starting with her TEDx talk, followed by her TED talk, followed by the book.<<<

So. At 37, it’s just time to get over some of these insecurities I’ve had for years. I’m not that young anymore, but I’m in the best shape of my entire life, so I’m declaring that 2015 is the year I let go of some of these stupid, warped-by-society issues I’m still carrying around primarily from my teenage years.

Especially because the things I don’t love and nitpick? They’re not even things that I can change. I mean, via surgical means, lots of things are possible, I guess, but I’m not going to those lengths :).

I’ve even blogged about both of my main hangups in the past: stretch marks and body shape. One stretch mark comes with a funny story. Here’s an edited excerpt from 2008:

I got stretch marks that were not run-of-the-mill when I was pregnant with Luke…The main one to which I’m referring is on my side, and it wasn’t all that noticeable until after he was born. When Luke was about 3 months old, I was putting his car seat in our car, and my shirt lifted at my waist a bit. Matt gasped audibly, and asked, “What happened to your side?” He apparently hadn’t noticed until then my gigantic, red stretch mark that was like 1/2 an inch wide and 2 inches long. I glared back and said, “Uh, I had your baby.” Priceless look on his face…like I’d somehow been stabbed without him knowing it or something.

My other issue is that despite two years of working out, eating healthy, losing 30 pounds, etc., and major changes to my body, my body shape remains the same. As in, I carry my weight in my lower body…I may be a few sizes smaller, but I’m still a curvy few-sizes-smaller.  And my sweet friend Heather, who’s a trainer as well as just smart and full of good sense, has talked me off the ledge several times with a simple reminder: this is how God made you. And that’s more than ok. And, you really can’t change this anyway, so tone it up as best you can and deal with it.

All of that brings me to the beach trip. I bought a small-ish bikini; with no one I knew besides my husband, who was unshockingly a fan of this decision, AND no offspring on this trip with us – oh my gosh, they would be so embarrassed to know that their mom even owned, let alone wore, this in public – I felt confident enough to do this.

Until that moment at the beach when I first took off my cover-up…momentary panic. What was I even thinking back in Missouri when I made this decision?

And then? This overwhelming feeling of WHO IN THE WORLD GIVES A RIP ABOUT THIS? I am on an amazing trip to one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and I’m going to worry about my imperfect, non-airbrushed, yet totally healthy and capable body? That’s just crazy talk. I literally decided in those first moments on the sand that I was done thinking about that…and I was for the rest of the trip. Totally at peace.

The thing about insecurities, though, is that they have a tendency to creep back up on you eventually…hence waiting a couple of months to actually write this out. Work in progress, people.

I wore that bikini 3 of the 4 days we spent on the beach (one day, my never-sees-the-sun-stomach needed a break from the rays or I would still be peeling). I walked miles of shoreline and laid for hours in a chair reading or sleeping in that suit. And it was incredibly freeing to be rid of all of those gremlins, as Brene calls them.

Also, all of this makes me think: I love and am gifted at being on vacation, and I want to go back as I sit in the frigid Midwest right now.

—–

A couple of friends of mine and I have claimed 2015 as our year. We have big dreams and big goals and we’re going to make them happen. I’m not ready to write about what it all means just yet; it will likely come out in bits and pieces as the year goes on and as I actually know something.

I know I’m not the only girl (yep. Still going with girl instead of woman) carrying around nonsense like what I wrote about today. Maybe it’s time for you to be ok with something you’ve long disliked about your body, too? Join me. Be brave.

I’m Back! And, a Note about Gratitude.

Ohhhkay. So it’s been a while. I’ve taken breaks before, but never of this magnitude. I wish I could say that I planned it, and it was a sabbatical filled with lots of important thinking and stuff, but that’s not entirely true. So to the 4 of you that have clicked over here to read, I thank you.

Quick and dirty of the past 8 weeks:

>I got a tattoo. Managed to blog about that. I’m still obsessed with looking my own wrist, and have plans for a second tattoo. No regrets. Love it.

>I had heel surgery, wore an aircast for 2 weeks, was incredibly impatient about the whole thing, and I still am. I can’t do any high-impact exercise for another several weeks, and it’s killing me. And, my heel is still mildly sore all the time, sometimes more painful depending on my shoe choices and how much I’m up and around. So really, y’all can thank me for NOT blogging during the earlier part of this whole ordeal, because I was crabby (tiny violins are playing everywhere right now, I know).

>So this is bad, but Luke had a birthday and I didn’t write a post (I have a moderate amount of guilt I’m dealing with over this). Thankfully, this blog has been around for a sweet forever at this point, and I’ve documented his birthday nicely from age 5-11, so I think this is forgivable. Plus, in my head, he’s still this tiny adorable guy, and sometimes I like to pretend he’s not 12:

>I have listened to a million hours of my current favorite songs on repeat. I can listen to a song over and over and not tire of it for longer than you can imagine. It’s a special gift.
My family does not share this gift.

>Christmas: fabulous celebrations with just the 5 of us and our extended families.

So. There ya go. Caught up.

Onto the second half of the title of this post: for the past 2 years, our family has been writing a gratitude journal. And the new year is the perfect time to start something like this, so I thought I’d share.

I got this notebook, used the Silhouette to cut out some stickers for the cover, and boom: our Family Gratitude Journal was born.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/cb7/1969960/files/2014/12/img_4616.jpg

The idea is really simple, and I’m sure I read it on a blog somewhere years ago, but I don’t remember where (sorry, random person with this great idea). It starts with one family member writing down the date and something for which they’re thankful, and signing their name. Then, they leave the notebook at the bedside of another family member. That’s it.

For me, the goal is this: not every day has a huge, oh-my-goodness-this-is-amazing moment. If it does, then it certainly should be documented. But every day, there is so much to be thankful for, and I think kids (and adults, too, really) need to be taught to look for blessings in their lives.

My boys never have to worry about having a roof over their head, or enough food to eat, or if they’re safe and cared for at school. They have medical care and reliable transportation (well, as reliable as their mother’s memory, at least). Naturally, then, it’s easy to take these things for granted, but that’s not how I want them to be raised. One way we work to be aware of these gifts is by sponsoring kids through Compassion International – you know how much I love this organization, and our communication over the years with Jeremy and Joangel has opened the boys’ eyes to so much.

So our journal has become another tool in teaching gratitude. Obviously, I can’t say for sure whether it’s working or not, because as with all things parenting, we don’t get to know how this works out until we’re finished. Which is crap, but that’s just the way it goes, and it’s why we try these things, right? I’ll be so happy if the boys, when they’re grown, remember this practice. And even happier if it’s impacted them enough to really, truly live a life of thankfulness and compassion.

Logistics: it started out going to someone new each night. Over the 2 years, it’s not gotten passed around quite so frequently, so we’re working on that again. But I LOVE this family artifact we’re building, complete with little kid handwriting. Mercy…Jack Henry’s earliest entries are so stinkin’ adorable.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/cb7/1969960/files/2014/12/img_4618.jpg

FYI: Waffle is his little stuffed dog.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/cb7/1969960/files/2014/12/img_4620.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/cb7/1969960/files/2014/12/img_4617.jpg

What do you do with your kids to teach an attitude of thankfulness? Help a mama out.

New Hair Day

Today was new hair color/trim day, which is a day of happiness, obviously. It’s just slightly darker for winter, nothing drastic.

In case you don’t live in a house full of boys, and wonder what it’s like to come home with different hair, here are their reactions:

Luke (hours after being around me, I asked, “Did you notice that I got my hair done today?”): Nope.

Bennett (asked if he noticed): Yeah. (No further comment.)

Jack Henry (asked if he noticed): Yeah. Did you get your bangs cut, too? Because they’ve been in your eyes for a long time and I don’t like it.

Boys and Fashion.

So, it’s cold. And I’m already over the battle of making the older two boys wear appropriate clothes. By appropriate I mean pants (yes, the middle schooler came downstairs this morning in shorts and a long-sleeve tee, and it was about 25 degrees) and jackets and hats. I’ve moved on to “natural consequences” for them…you want to freeze your butt off, go right ahead. Your teacher won’t let you go out for recess because you aren’t dressed appropriately, 4th grader? Whatever. I’m over it.

But Jack Henry is young enough that I insist on correct clothes, and he’s actually smart enough to know that it’s freezing out and he wants to be on the playground. However, he’s a boy. And a sports-loving boy at that. So this morning’s little conversation shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did, and it made me laugh. Keep in mind that he’d pick a Cardinals/Illini/whatever tee and athletic pants everyday if left to his own devices.

He always gets himself ready in the morning, but today I pulled out a pair of jeans (because he said he was cold yesterday in athletic pants) and a thermal, striped long-sleeved tee for him. He examined the shirt, made a face, and said, “Are you sure this isn’t a sweater for church? It looks and feels like it.” I can only assume that the lack of Nike swoosh or mascot made it look nice enough for church (I have to admit, my standards for church clothes has tanked the last few years, so he’s not far off), coupled with it having more texture than a tee.

The shirt went back in the drawer. It was too big, but I have a feeling that even when it fits, it’s not going to be chosen on a regular basis.