Saturday, September 13, 2014

Soccer Mom Confessions

Minivan: check.

Lots of kids: check.

Extended family in attendance: check.

Soccer ball, shin guards, oversized uniform: check, check, check.

Folding chairs: check.

Snacks and water bottles: check.

Five-year-old with limited capacity to know which way the goal is: check.

Where's the ball? Who cares?


It's here. I'm a soccer mom. Little did I know that after my adolescent years of intensely competitive soccer, this was my destination. Forget being a collegiate athlete when you can be sitting on a sideline clenching your fists watching people 1/3 of your size, trying not to laugh when they have to stop the game because the players are too distracted watching a plane take off.

We parents try to play it cool. Like we don't care who wins or who contacts the ball last before it rolls into the net. But inside we cringe when the giant Goliath child on the other team scores another goal, and we cheer when our littler guys sneak around him.

True story. Goliath child. I think his name was Kyle.

We parents try to practice some sort of weird mind control method in which we sit on the edge of our chair and forcefully will our kids to move their bodies in such a way that they actually navigate a ball using a foot and not a hand and move said ball in the general direction of a net -- the right net. We yell, "Kick it! Kick it!" And then wonder, Why would I say that? Think about it.

I never wanted to be one of those moms who lived vicariously through her children and screamed her lungs out on the sidelines and lived for Saturday soccer. I don't think I'm there. Please stage an intervention if I ever am.

James' first game was last weekend. They didn't officially keep score, but man, Goliath child really slaughtered them single-handedly. Or singe-footedly. Really, he just mowed them over with the brute force of his whole eight-year-old-posing-as-a-five-year-old body (Poor Kyle. It's not his fault he's huge, but he wasn't very popular with the parents on our side.).

I was supposed to leave early to go to a meeting, as one of the directors for some nonprofit work done in partnership with our church. We had planned to send the kids home with their grandparents after Marc and I left. My pre-mom self comes back to life in such scenarios, and I feel like I'm doing something important and meaningful outside of wiping noses and studying the deep significance of vocabulary words like "cat" and "bat."

But James' team was getting slaughtered, as previously noted. Marc and I debated what to do. After a somewhat disheartening first game, he wanted to stay and be there for our son to make sure he knew how much we supported him and loved him. I had a mini identity crisis meltdown on the spot. I hated  to look unprofessional in the only opportunity I EVER have to look professional, but I hated equally if not more abandoning my oldest son when he might need me.

We decided to stay. We gave James a big hug after the game and told him we had to go but were proud of him. I don't think he cared that they got slaughtered because he was pretty proud of himself for every time he touched the ball. But he cried because he couldn't come with us. Fail.

Oh well. At least my friends/colleagues didn't tease me for being late. Oh wait, they did. Fortunately, I think they had all been there. Hooray for kids' sports!


I originally wrote this post a few days ago but didn't have any good pictures, so I decided to wait until I got those gems at the top of the page (notice no ball in any photos? Hmmm...) Here's some more news from today: Game 2. I think they tied. Or something. At least it was closer than complete decimation and there was no giant this time.

The best part was when James cried at the end of the game. Again. Because he was really sad that it was over.

Friday, September 5, 2014

When You Have a Slow Poke Kid

I don't think I truly understood the meaning of patience until I became a parent.

Particularly, a parent of this one:

Guess how long it took to eat this breakfast...

He's not a bad child; on the contrary, he's sweet and affectionate and respectful and obedient...umm okay maybe not always. He just has the occasional epic meltdown that puts my sanity in jeopardy. You know, normal 3-year-old antics. We're working on it.

But here's the real thing. He is. So. Sloooooooow. Not in the intelligence realm. He knows his ABCs, numbers, shapes, colors and can work a jigsaw puzzle like nobody's business.

I'm talking about take an hour to eat your breakfast. Sit on the toilet for 30+ minutes. Get dressed in 10-minute phases for each garment. Consume a bowl of rice one precious morsel at a time.

It's enough to make even the most easy-going mom want to rip her hair out. Yes, it drives me absolutely crazy. Especially when we are trying to go anywhere beyond our walls.

My husband pointed out to me the other night that if I am constantly thinking of my frustration when I think of him, then I need to start thinking differently. I quickly responded that of course that isn't the only way I think! Just sometimes.

But how much frustration is acceptable when you're thinking about your children? That's a real head scratcher.

The flip side of my slow poke's pokiness is that he is fascinating to watch. He savors every bite. He inspects every detail. He completes every task down to the finest detail. He understands at a very young age what it is to be deliberate and diligent.

It's when I exit my normal whirlwind of task-oriented existence and sit and observe him that I realize that maybe he has something figured out. He can't tell time, so what's the rush to do anything? Why not savor every moment? Why not appreciate the finer aspects of life's details?

It's not easy to change the way I think. But these kids sure help me out. Now if only I could convince him that you can successfully consume and enjoy more than one grain of rice at a time...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

How To Be Productively Lazy

I had one of those days this past weekend when nothing was planned all day. So what did I do? Whipped out the to-do list, of course! I was on a roll all day long and got a ton done. Until about 7 p.m. And then I pretty much became a vegetable.

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only woman in the world who works herself into complete exhaustion trying to get it all done (when really the work is never all done). Sometimes I just don't know when to stop until I practically pass out.

I felt bad on this particular day because I could barely peel myself out of my chair to put the kids to bed, let alone give attention to my husband, whom I'd effectively ignored most of the day. Oops.

We talked about it. Fortunately, it wasn't a despairing conversation. The problem was not how to work harder and get more done, but rather how to find a place where I could feel good about what I accomplished and still have time and energy left over to give more to my relationships. I knew what I needed: to chill out. Rest. As we like to say, have some "Sabbath time."

Since then, I've pondered what it looks like to incorporate adequate rest into my daily schedule. And I've come to the radical conclusion: I need to be productively lazy.

For as hard as I work, I have no problem being lazy once my energy level is zapped. But what do I do during my lazy time? Do I surf the web, watch TV, or just zone out? Nothing is inherently wrong with those things, but if I don't use my down time to recharge my own batteries and get refreshed, then I'm setting myself up for failure later. Here's what I mean:

Example 1: I'm decompressing after a long day by scrolling through Facebook on my phone, taking those worthless personality quizzes or reading dumb articles. So I stay up half an later than I intend, sleep in the next day, and start the morning grumpy because I didn't get up before the kids.

Example 2: For an evening together after the kids are asleep, Marc and I binge watch our favorite shows on Netflix. We have no meaningful conversation, stay up too late, and feel distant from each other the next day.

Example 3: I get up early to do some yoga, read the Bible and have some time to myself. Instead of meditating or praying I start thinking of all I have to get done...and I begin the day feeling stressed.

Example 4: I'm doing dishes so it's technically not "down time," but the kids are occupied elsewhere so I at least have my thoughts to myself. I start thinking about how hard my day has been or how lonely I feel being home all day or how I'm missing old friends and family...and I start down the road of negativity, which deflates my spirits for the rest of the day.

Since my lazy time is limited, I want to be sure that I'm making the most of it. Yeah that makes perfect sense.

Productive laziness can include mindless activity like TV and social media and random thoughts, but it cannot consist entirely of these things. I do much better when I limit myself. When I'm doing well, I'm not watching an hour or more of TV every night. I'm limiting social media to no more than five to ten minutes at a time. I'm taking control of my negative thoughts and finding more positive things to think about. I'm putting the to-do list away temporarily (even the mental one).

Productive laziness often includes conversation -- with my family, friends or God. It doesn't have to be deep conversation, but it has to be something besides (or at least in addition to) staring at a screen together.

Productive laziness involves taking care of myself. That means I allow myself to sleep if needed, I enjoy good food, have a long shower, exercise in ways that I like, and just sit and be quiet and peaceful.

Productive laziness is positive and refreshing. I like to read and write. Occasionally I play the piano, go for a walk or grab a latte. Some people like to do art, garden, work out, do puzzles, or work on a hobby. Negativity is not allowed!

Productive laziness takes discipline. I know. I contradict myself. But it's true. You have to at least think about it a little bit. And even plan it. And ask your friends and family to watch the kids.

When I'm productively lazy, I don't feel guilty about "me time." What's more, I don't need a whole lot of it! Once I've been refreshed, I'll be more motivated and energized to get back to my tasks -- and be more productive. I'll also be a better mom, better wife, better daughter/sister/friend. And while there might be toys scattered around the room or dishes in the sink, I'll generally not care so much.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

We're Alternative Education Rebels

Surprise! I don't believe I've officially announced that we are bailing out on educational institutions and fully exploring my inability to facilitate craft projects.


James is of the kindergarten age. So instead of going through the ritual of sending my darling baby off to school, I decided to keep him all to myself and try to educate him that way.

I could not get a good picture to save my life on our first day of school. There are so many funny things about this picture I can't even begin to explain...
Good luck to me, right???

I brace myself a little bit every time I announce this. While a few people accept this method of education as completely normal, many respond with astonishment, skepticism, admiration, fear, confusion, pity and/or wonder.

So I have to explain and defend myself to some extent. But it's okay. I had to get over my own skepticism to begin with. You see, I married a homeschooler. If it had been any other way, I probably wouldn't have even considered it. But after years of hearing him explain his upbringing and advocating for this odd educational technique, I decided to do at least look into it. And I never really looked back.

It was already a huge step for me to leave the workforce when I had kids, but the homeschool thing just takes me to a whole new level of domestication. It's rather frightening.

So why, you ask. WHY? 

It's not because I hate public schools or think they're going to ruin my children's lives. I love a lot of teachers, I admire their work, and I think my kids would be fine in a classroom. I excelled in public school myself.

It's not because I want to smother my children and hide everything evil from their eyes and ears for as long as possible -- although I have to admit I'm glad their exposure to topics too mature for them will be limited for at least a while longer. So call me overprotective if you want, but I suppose that's a matter of opinion.

It's not because I've had this lifelong dream to sing songs and draw rainbows and butterflies all over my house, reliving some lost childhood fantasy.

It's not because I think homeschooling is the end all be all, superior method of education for everyone and that my children are better than everyone else's and anyone who thinks otherwise can take a hike.

So here's why I'm choosing to homeschool, although I don't think I can fully explain it:

There are several good education options for my kids in my community. However, this option seems the best -- for us -- at the current time. I can provide my kids with a lot of individualized attention, help them learn at their own pace with their own style, explore their interests, and foster a love of learning. I don't know that we're going to do this for the entire K-12 stretch, but I think it's a good place to start.

Homeschool is an extension of our parenting. We can seamlessly blend our family's values with everything the kids are learning. This isn't just about being able to read the Bible or pray together during school hours. This is about talking about heart issues, life's challenges and the real world in every context (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Kids grow up fast and I want to take every opportunity I can to help them excel in life -- not just in academics and work, but in relationships and character. There are some wonderful teachers out there who can help kids in this way to an extent, but nobody does it better than a parent.

Oh yeah, and as I mentioned, Marc was homeschooled and I think he turned out pretty good. Plus if this just doesn't work (as homeschooling doesn't work for everyone), we fortunately have other options.

Isn't it great that we have options to help our kids learn and grow?!! I think so. We're trying this one first.

Now I know you might be thinking things like, "But aren't you worried they won't get enough socialization? I could never do that, I'm not that organized. I couldn't be around my kids all day. Have you been trained as a teacher? Aren't you afraid they'll miss something? Aren't they going to turn out naive and unprepared for life? How could you possibly teach while you have a toddler running around?"

Sheesh, it's just kindergarten. I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

4,000+ Miles Later: Surviving an Epic Road Trip with 3 Kids

Well, obviously I haven't posted in an embarrassingly long time. I'm still here, doing great actually. I thought I'd re-enter the online universe by sharing about the most epic trip we've ever taken, completed successfully about a month ago.

It all started last winter as we were planning out our year because I was feeling a little homesick. I hadn't been west of the Rockies in four years. Four years! I've had a couple of kids since then and I was due to see a few folks and show them off.

Road warriors

Why fly when you can drive a few thousand miles and multiply the fun?

Here was our route:
We took the southern route out and the northern route home.
In case you didn't notice, Google Maps estimates 64 hours of road time. This doesn't include stops or any excursions at some of our destinations. Don't you think we're crazy? I thought I was. But the hotels were booked, the plans were made and we were going.

The number one bit of advice I'd give to anyone planning this kind of trek with children under five is to take it slow. The whole purpose of this trip was to visit our family in the Northwest, including in Boise, Spokane and Priest Lake (see above). But we figured, as long as we were headed out that way, why not enjoy the journey and see some old friends along the way?

Fun stops: I won't detail every leg of our journey, but the drive to the Spokane area took seven days, including a full day in Denver and two days in Boise. If there was an interesting place to stop on the road, we took it. This included places on the way out like a model train museum in Missouri, a natural history museum in Kansas and an unplanned side trip to Arches National Park in Utah. We gave ourselves enough wiggle room in our schedule to enjoy some spontaneity (although the Arches detour took four hours and we didn't get to Boise until about 2 a.m. that day. Whoops!).

Arches National Park was one of my favorite scenic excursions!

Trains. Lots of trains.

The ride back wasn't as fun, but we made the most of it, particularly in South Dakota. Our favorite stops were Wall Drug, the kitschiest tourist trap on the planet, and Badlands National Park.

Just one of the attractions at Wall Drug
The Badlands

Oh, and if there was anywhere interesting to eat, we found it. And ate it. I highly recommend Trip Advisor for finding good restaurants.

Surviving the Ride: In spite of our frequent stops, we spent a lot of time in the car. We were loaded with games and activities. When it came down to it, I sheepishly admit that the iPad and the Leap Pad made everything much easier. I limit their exposure to electronics at home, so the fact that they were given a lot more screen time was a special treat. And it kept them quiet so Marc and I could enjoy books on CD! Hey, it was long ride for us too!

And just so I don't feel like a complete sellout to electronics, I'll mention that we sang songs and played road games and had "quiet time" every afternoon after lunch. We made them turn the games off when the scenery was interesting. They also actually self-regulated at times and turned the devices off themselves (gasp!). And of course they did a lot of coloring and played with little gadgets that I stuffed into their backpacks like the Etch-A-Sketch and a magnet board.

Grace, being 16 months old, did miraculously well. She dozed, she looked out the window, she looked at me in her little mirror, she watched her brothers. We also had a huge bag of board books and manipulative toys. As long as her diaper was clean and her tummy was full, she wasn't terribly miserable. Except for the worst diaper rash I've seen in my life. That was the worst problem of the whole trip, and she was a little trooper.

Friends and Family: Seeing the people we love was by far the highlight of the trip, including my college roommate in Kansas City, friends we knew in Anchorage who now live in Denver, and of course parents, siblings and extended family in Washington and Idaho.

Warning: photo dump! And there are tons more I'm not posting!

My sister! And me on the left looking very tired after a full day of driving

Having a firefighter uncle is awesome

Nana trying to coax Gracie to sleep

Papa teaching James manly skills

My other sis and her husband (and unborn child, heehee!)

At times I felt sad or guilty that I didn't get to see everyone I would have liked to, especially in the Seattle and Portland areas. But we had to press on. Maybe next time!

Scenery: If you have not taken a road trip through the western U.S., you are missing out. The Rocky Mountains, the red rocks of Utah, the wilderness of Idaho, the inland lakes of the Northwest, the Badlands of South Dakota...all of them are absolutely breathtaking. The kids didn't appreciate it as much as I did, but I hope that we can foster in them an appreciation of nature as they grow up.

Lucky Peak just outside Boise, probably my favorite scenic shot taken by Marc's aunt.
So that's my story that I lived to tell. Would I do it again? Absolutely.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Advice From a Toddler

Dear Mommy,

We need to talk. I have a lot I need to communicate but it seems like you're just not hearing me. To make things easier for you, I thought I'd compile a list of thoughts that go through my head each day. Perhaps this will help us come to a better understanding and make our days run a little smoother. Enjoy.

Grace (12.5 months, in case you forgot)

My Thoughts

We're out of the house and you forgot to pack me a change of clothes? This is an opportune time to execute the biggest poop of my life.

I don't know why you bother cooking dinner. This is clearly the time of day when I need to pull your pants off and graft myself to your leg.

Your head is turned! I gotta climb something now, GO GO GO!!!

I see you're on the phone. I GOTTA SCREAM!!! Can't you hear me?! I gotta do it LOUDER!

Did you just change my crib sheet? I want to make sure it's clean before I vomit all over it.

That particular brand of cereal is not at all appetizing unless it is on the floor.

I know you work so hard to keep choking hazards off the floor. Don't worry, let me help you...I'll immediately find all the tiny little pieces you miss. You're welcome.

I don't understand why you are always messing up the house. I am constantly putting my toys and other things away, right in the middle of the floor where they belong, and you keep messing them up by putting them in bins and baskets. Can't you see how hard I work to keep things organized?

Why on God's green earth would I ever willfully go to sleep? Are you crazy?

My older brother has left his carefully crafted masterpiece just within my reach. So clearly it's mine and I'm going to destroy it with glee.

Socks. I NO. Just so we're clear on this, I'm going to leave one in the corner under my dresser and the other in stuffed into the back of a cabinet. Okay?

Hats. Seriously? They suffocate my three strands of hair. You expect me to keep this on for more than 1/25 of a second? Are you crazy? You seem to like hats, so I'll leave a collection for you under the back seat in the car.

Shoes, on the other hand, are wonderful. I love shoes. They're unmatchable for teething.

Someone left the toilet lid up! GO GO GO!!!

Someone left the baby gate open! GO GO GO!!!

Someone opened the dishwasher! GO GO GO!!! (I have uncanny intuition for these things).

Pick me up, pick me up, pick me up, waaaahhh, pick me up!

Put me down, put me down, put me down, waaaahhh, put me down!

Don't you dare, under any circumstances, rub the bristles on that toothbrush over my precious teeth or I will scream bloody murder. I'm warning you now. I will clamp my mouth shut with the strength of a vise to prove my point.

Don't you dare, under any circumstances, attempt to clip my fingernails. You should know better by now.

Pouring water over my head. Do we even need to discuss this? Are you insane?

What to you mean, I'm a "picky" eater? I think it's pretty clear that I dislike pretty much everything.

Now that we're clear on all of this, I just wanted to let you know that I love you, Mommy. Don't leave me for a second. Not. Ever.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

One Thing Almost Every Mom Does Wrong

Well friends, I've made it. Somewhere.

Highlights of the last few months include my baby turning one, surviving bitter cold for weeks on end, annoying chronic back pain, surviving the stomach bug from Hades and writing a lot of things that people pay me for, like what type of underwear to wear with a bridesmaid dress (not kidding).

And here we are, it's spring, and I've arrived. Right here.

Happy birthday, Grace

In the meantime, during my pondering, pontification and philosophizing (usually occurring in the shower or while cleaning), I've come to a place where I simply enjoy where I'm at. I take one day at a time, some good and some extremely tiring, but overall I watch with wonder at these little beings called my children.

I was talking to fellow mom soldiers about a month ago when I noticed a pattern in our conversation. We went back and forth with the same dance, worrying about our worthiness as mothers and trying to console each other to no avail.

Things like:

"I let my kids watch too much TV and play too many video games."
"We don't get out enough."
"We don't have enough down time."
"I don't spend enough quality time with my kids."
"I'm not reading to them enough."
"I'm not disciplining them the right way."
"We don't eat healthy enough. They get too much sugar."
"They don't play outside enough."
"I'm too exhausted to talk things through with them."
"As a parent I am failing at __________."

And so on. In other words:


(And then there's my personal favorite: feeling guilty about feeling guilty. O vicious cycle, we hate thee.)

So I'm going to say it, friends: STOP. Let's stop the madness.

Guilt is a joy-sucking evil and you know what? It doesn't work. It might motivate you for a little while, but kids are just too needy and demanding for us to be fueled by guilt and fear and succeed in the long run.

I have a lot to say on the subject, and hopefully I will soon.

For now, I've got this gem for you:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)

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