2016 - Baby Steps in High Heels

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Like a Baby

7:31 AM 0
Like a Baby
She sneaked out of bed last week about an hour after bedtime. She didn’t wear the usual mischievous look on her face that typically appears when she is angling for more TV time. She sleepily walked over to me and crawled into my lap without a word. I held her close, practically rocking her as though she were still a tiny baby.

At seven, though, she is far from tiny or a baby anymore. It’s not the weight of her that has removed her from the baby category. At fifty pounds, she is thin and lithe, but she is tall, her arms and legs now gangling from her body. Her face has lost any remnant of baby fat, and I occasionally catch glimpses of what my sweet girl will look like in ten years, or twenty.

So, as she sat on my lap that night, I held her closer still, knowing that these moments were fleeting. How many more times would her entire body fit into my arms? How much longer will she be able to rest her head on my chest in just the right way? I knew this particular time would not be the last time I’d hold her like this, but I was also keenly aware that that time would be coming, and far too quickly.

I breathed in the sweet scent of her freshly washed hair and, although it was a different smell than that of a precious infant, it was still familiarly innocent. I kissed the top of her head, and she snuggled closer still. But it was time for her to go back to bed. We both knew we had pushed the limits of our normal routine.

She drowsily asked if I would carry her back to bed like a baby, and I immediately obliged. I didn’t scoop her up easily like I have done for the last seven years; I had to brace myself, prepare for the impact. Would this be the last time I would cradle her in my arms? Perhaps not, as I am definitely too determined to hang on to these baby years. But that time is coming, without a doubt.

Until then, I will cling to these special, sweet moments; and I will brace myself, prepare for the impact of the day that is sure to come … the day that her head rests on my shoulder instead of my chest, the day that I can no longer physically lift her up in my arms, the day that I can no longer pretend that my beautiful child is still a baby.


Of course, no matter how much she grows, no matter how awkward or difficult or different the hold becomes, I will always hold a place for her in my both my lap and my heard as my baby girl. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A really tough day

7:44 AM 0
A really tough day
"Mom, can I just relax in the bathtub for a while? I've had a really tough day."

When she said it, my first instinct was to laugh, snort, scoff ... what could my very protected and privileged six-year-old possibly know about a tough day? 

But, I didn't laugh. I paused, just long enough to really consider what she had said. I watched her lean back against the side of the tub and close her eyes in an attempt to let the day start to wash away. She looked, well, a lot like I imagine that I look at the end of the day. As I thought more about what she had said, it dawned on me how similar my child's schedule, yes my CHILD, is just like my own. 

She wakes up before 6:00 a.m. every single day and rarely slows down until 8:00 p.m. Sure, her school day ends mid-afternoon, but she is immediately bussed to her after school program, where they're encouraged to do homework right away. They do have a short snack time, but does that really count as down time? 

When I pick her up, there may be a bit of free time, but the evening routine basically kicks in right away...dinner, bath, homework. It's exhausting for me, as an adult that has the maturity and wisdom to process this busy trap we've woven for ourselves. 

She sighed and opened her eyes, ready for me to wash her hair. It had only been a minute, but I could tell she knew it was a minute too long, a minute we didn't have. It took a lot for me to fight the instinct to hurry her through the process, but I tried to resist. I sat down onto the floor, off of my knees. I rested my chin on the edge of the tub and sighed right back at her. 

"I had a long day, too." I told her. She touched my cheek with her wet, soapy hand and smiled up at me, and we sat in silence for just a few minutes. She swished the water around her, and I watched the calm wash over her face with every moment that passed without me saying, "hurry up."


Monday, October 24, 2016

Christmas Countdown

11:25 AM 0
Christmas Countdown
Another Monday means another week closer to Christmas. 

As the commercials and catalogs and lists ramp up, I found so much joy watching these cousins play this weekend ... with a piece of, well, I'm not sure what exactly. Foamy paper?? It was a protective cover for a new TV. Basically, it was going to be trash. 



But they played with it for a solid 45 minutes. And, I'm talking squealing laughter, big imaginations, loads of fun ...and not a toy in sight. 

So, as I prepare my holiday shopping lists this year, I'm hoping I can reign it in myself and remember that they will probably have more fun with the box than the gift!! 

A little break

8:24 AM 0
A little break
We did it. 

We snuck away for a short break to unwind and unplug. 

It wasn't a well planned or well packed trip given that we weren't even sure we'd make it just a few hours before departure. But we did. 

And it was exactly what we needed. 

We woke up hours before the sun, cuddled in front of the fire, watched the kids run and play and explore outside, all day. Without asking for toys once. They chased butterflies, fed horses, collected acorns. 

We stayed hours later than we had planned, most of us falling asleep on the way home, all of us rested and recharged.


Monday, August 22, 2016

First Day

2:54 PM 1
First Day
My silly, sweet, bold, patient, loving girl began 1st grade today. Her first day of a school year that I'm sure will bring many, many more firsts. I was awake most of the night, thinking about her, praying for her, both nervous and excited.


We attended Meet the Teacher last week, and I somehow still don't know ...
Where does she hang her backpack?

When will she have recess?

How will she go from 7:00 a.m. until noon without a snack?!

There is so much that is unknown, for today, for this year, and in life.


But I do know that this girl has great things waiting for her on her journey.

Today will be one of many firsts, and I know that she will conquer each and every one that comes her way. I believe in her, possibly more than I have ever believed in anyone or anything thing.

She is fierce. She is brave. She is kind and compassionate, and her ability to love and thrive has no limits. 

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future." Proverbs 31:25 }

Monday, August 15, 2016

Rest for the weary

9:12 AM 0
Rest for the weary
As I sit in the airport, carrying with me only my purse and a laptop bag, I see you, Momma. I see you see me, too, and I recognize that look in your eye as you push your stroller past. You think I have it easy, even that you wish you could be in my shoes, if only for a moment. 
You'd love to trade that stroller, diaper bag, the three character backpacks your kids lovingly asked you to hold in addition to your own. You'd love to trade places with me, just long enough to catch your breath, to be able to brush your hair out of your eyes (you haven't been able to reach it since your oldest tossed another bag over your already full arm fifteen minutes ago).
I see you look longingly at my light load and wish for a break that will likely not come for years, not until long after you've forgotten what it's like to only carry along a purse. I get it. I have those days too. In fact, before I left for the airport today, I was enthusiastically looking forward to my break. 
Yes, it's a business trip, and I will have to work quite a bit, but it's amazing how freeing it feels when you can hear yourself think. Compared to the constant demands of our precious children, I often find myself comparing work to vacation.
And, I really was all set. Set to relax on the plane, read a book, and enjoy the peace and quiet. I was good. Until I saw you.
And I saw you see me. But I don't think you saw me see you. Or your beautiful family. I noticed your heavy arms and that your clan took up half the walkway and that it must have felt chaotic for you. But I also saw your ability to move 3 people under the age of 5 through a crowded airport. They listened to you, trusted your guidance, and we're at complete ease in a strange place simply because they were with you.
I am waiting for a flight that will take me away from my kids for a week, and yours will never know that separation, at least not until they're old enough to better understand.
And, while I trust my family's plan for work and life balance, I also had a moment today, seeing you, when I would have loved to trade places, to be able to provide that consistency and familiarity for my kids, the quiet sense of calm amidst a busy, strange, new place (or even at home).
So while you may have wanted to trade places, if only for a moment, please know that you weren't the only one. Perhaps the proverbial grass is always greener. Or perhaps, every now and then, we just need a break, time to reflect, reassure, and rest ourselves in this busy life that takes the decisions we consciously make and runs away with them so fast and so furiously that we often times find ourselves looking up with doubt. 
And it is hard not to doubt sometimes, when life seems to offer so many options, so many other solutions, and so many judgments. Please know, though, that I did not look at you with judgement today, and I did not doubt your choices or the option that you have chosen. I looked at you with awe. I looked at you as an inspiration and with a little hope that you could see in yourself what I was seeing with my own eyes … that you are more than enough. That you are amazing.
That when our load is heavy, whether the weight is emotional or spiritual or literally the 4 extra backpacks our kids could not possibly carry for themselves, that we remind ourselves that we can carry this load because we have a strength inside of ourselves that is unique to mothers. As mothers, we carry the love and heartache, the joy and sorrow, and the highs and lows along with the bags, blankets, and teddy bears.
The weight of this load is often so heavy that we are tricked into feeling weak, that we are not doing a good job, even that we are failing. We worry that we have not done enough yet, so we couldn’t possibly deserve a break. There is still too much to be done.
We use so much energy just trying to hold everyone up around us, that we forget how much strength we already possess in order to do so in the first place. We look in the mirror and wonder what we could have done better or what we should have done differently.
Please know that the answer is nothing. Nothing.
You are already more than enough. You are stronger than you know, and searching for a break does not make you weak. We all need time to restore ourselves. Our physical bodies literally need time for muscle recover after intense activity, and we know that the heart is the hardest working muscle in the human body. 
Take the time you need to recover. You deserve it. You need it. 
And you will return with an even greater strength.



He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:29-31

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The best job ever

10:52 AM 2
The best job ever
As I drove her to camp, I said simply, “Babe, I’m sorry we had to rush so much this morning.”

The Boy had woken up in a mood, something that has become more commonplace in our morning routines since he turned three a few months ago. On this particular morning, he was a little stubborn, a little clingy, and completely preventing me from doing anything that I needed to be doing. We were running late.

So we rushed. I packed lunch boxes in record time, squeezed in a little summer reading (thank you iPad app), and I’m only mildly sure we all left the house with brushed teeth and hair. I hate mornings like this. I hate having to rush the kids, to rush myself, and I especially hate when we go our separate ways after such a rushed morning.

I took a deep breath and tried to smooth things over with a heartfelt apology.

“It’s okay mom. But maybe you should just quit your job.”

I explained that quitting my job would mean that we would not have money to do all of the fun things she like to do, like the camp we were driving to at that very moment. I didn’t see this as a time to explain health insurance to a six-year old, but I think she understood that life would change drastically if my employment status changed.

“Well,” she continued. “Why don’t you just get a different job?”

So, I explained that a different job might mean that I wouldn’t have time to take her to all of the fun things she likes to do, like her camp or dance class. And, a new job would almost certainly not give her the opportunity to occasionally stay with me on days when I worked from home.

“Well, why don’t you get a new job … like be a pop star or gymnastics teacher? They don’t have to go allll the time like other jobs make you.”

Sweet girl, I thought. She really thinks I could be a pop star. It doesn’t matter to her that she has heard me sing tone deaf note after tone deaf note. It doesn’t matter to her that I have exactly zero dance moves. (Is it possible to have a negative number of dance moves? If so, I do.) She doesn’t see my inadequacies. Or, if she does, she accepts them, accepts me, and keeps going.


She doesn’t consider, even for a second, that I couldn’t do this if I wanted to.  She believes in me, not just with the young, naïve mind of a child who has yet to get to know the ways of the world, but with the all-encompassing love that a child has for her mother.

I explained to her that I don’t exactly have the skill set one needs to be a pop star or gymnastics teacher. I laughed a little. She laughed, “Well, Mom. I guess you should just keep your job. For now, there’s nothing we can do about it. But one day, when I’m a pop star, I will just pay you all of my money to hang out with me.”

“That would be the best job ever,” I replied. 

The best job ever

10:52 AM 0
The best job ever
As I drove her to camp, I said simply, “Babe, I’m sorry we had to rush so much this morning.”

The Boy had woken up in a mood, something that has become more commonplace in our morning routines since he turned three a few months ago. On this particular morning, he was a little stubborn, a little clingy, and completely preventing me from doing anything that I needed to be doing. We were running late.

So we rushed. I packed lunch boxes in record time, squeezed in a little summer reading (thank you iPad app), and I’m only mildly sure we all left the house with brushed teeth and hair. I hate mornings like this. I hate having to rush the kids, to rush myself, and I especially hate when we go our separate ways after such a rushed morning.

I took a deep breath and tried to smooth things over with a heartfelt apology.

“It’s okay mom. But maybe you should just quit your job.”

I explained that quitting my job would mean that we would not have money to do all of the fun things she like to do, like the camp we were driving to at that very moment. I didn’t see this as a time to explain health insurance to a six-year old, but I think she understood that life would change drastically if my employment status changed.

“Well,” she continued. “Why don’t you just get a different job?”

So, I explained that a different job might mean that I wouldn’t have time to take her to all of the fun things she likes to do, like her camp or dance class. And, a new job would almost certainly not give her the opportunity to occasionally stay with me on days when I worked from home.

“Well, why don’t you get a new job … like be a pop star or gymnastics teacher? They don’t have to go allll the time like other jobs make you.”

Sweet girl, I thought. She really thinks I could be a pop star. It doesn’t matter to her that she has heard me sing tone deaf note after tone deaf note. It doesn’t matter to her that I have exactly zero dance moves. (Is it possible to have a negative number of dance moves? If so, I do.) She doesn’t see my inadequacies. Or, if she does, she accepts them, accepts me, and keeps going.


She doesn’t consider, even for a second, that I couldn’t do this if I wanted to.  She believes in me, not just with the young, naïve mind of a child who has yet to get to know the ways of the world, but with the all-encompassing love that a child has for her mother.

I explained to her that I don’t exactly have the skill set one needs to be a pop star or gymnastics teacher. I laughed a little. She laughed, “Well, Mom. I guess you should just keep your job. For now, there’s nothing we can do about it. But one day, when I’m a pop star, I will just pay you all of my money to hang out with me.”

“That would be the best job ever,” I replied. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Books are Treasures

8:56 AM 0
Books are Treasures
“But do you looooove Daddy?” she asked in that silly, singsong way that kids do when they think something is simultaneously hilarious and disgusting.

“Of course I love Daddy!” I replied on our drive to school one morning.

After she giggled a bit more and declared us to be so gross, she then asked what made me love Daddy so much. There are many reasons, of course, why I love him, and I listed off a few of the more obvious ones.

And, because we were on our way to school, it occurred to me that I should share a piece of our story that I also hoped would underscore our love for learning. So I said, “My sweet girl, do you want to know what your daddy said to me shortly after we met that made me realize he was special? That I was really going to love him.”

“Um, I guess so,” she replied. Her interest in our conversation was already waning, but I pressed on.

“He told me that books are treasures. And that’s when I knew that I could really love this man.”

I think we had been discussing e-books versus hard copies, and we both preferred the feel of a book in our hands to the glowing screen of a tablet. To this day, we both enjoy a mix of “real” books as well as the titles we order online, but there is something so much more gratifying when you can hold a book in your hands, turning the pages one by one. I love when my favorites become weathered from repeated use. As much as we treasure them, those many dog-eared pages and crinkled covers are sure signs of our love for that particular story.

If you’re an avid reader, you know the joy that it is to lose yourself in a book, to know characters as if they’re your best friend (or worst enemy), to connect to a plot as though it were a memory from your own life. You’ve prepared extra coffee for the next morning, because you know that you will be up all night with a book you just cannot put down.

We love to read, and we have always read to the kids, even since before they were born. Of course, with our first, we did so intentionally – reading Dr. Seuss to my pregnant belly. With our second child, the stories he heard in-utero were the ones we read to his sister at bedtime. We have done our best to foster a love for reading in our children that would connect their hearts to the written word the same as ours have always been.


Somewhere along the way, I read that a great way to nurture a love for books is to teach children about the physical object themselves. Truth be told, I had never really considered this before, but it made sense to me. I’ve worked in publishing for the majority of my adult life. Books are my business, but I treasure them, as well. I love holding a freshly printed book in my hands, being the first {the only} one who will turn the pages of that particular volume.

I started with simple components that the kids could easily relate to …

This is the spine of the book. It binds the pages and holds the book together. We took turns looking at the spine of the book and then the spines on our backs.

This is the jacket of the book. It fits over the cover of the book just like your jacket fits over your arms. It is there to protect what is inside.

We talked about other aspects of what makes a book—the Table of Contents outlines the story; the publisher takes the story from an idea to print.

And, of course, we discussed the author and the illustrator. The author writes the words to the story. The author makes the story, the kids still say. The illustrator makes the pictures.


I have had so much fun diving into this information with the kids. It helps me relate my job to them, as well, and it gives them an opportunity to understand that books do not simply appear on their shelf.

There is a process. From the inception of an idea in an author’s head, there are then steps to take before a book is actually created. We talk about writing a draft, submitting a manuscript, editing and production, printing and binding, the entire publishing process.

It has helped to explain the beauty of a book, and why we treasure the physical object as much as the story. This is why we don’t stand on books, I often find myself saying to the kids. We must cherish them.

I love a lot of the classics. The Great Gatsby is one of my all-time favorites, and I have read and reread many Jane Austen novels half a dozen times. I also love a good beach read that I can devour in just a few hours.

Husband reads high fantasy and had finished every available George R.R. Martin book before the rest of the world had ever heard of Game of Thrones.

My oldest, an emerging reader, is starting to enjoy chapter books like Amelia Bedelia and The Never Girls, and some of our favorites from her younger years include The Little Bitty Bakery and all things Fancy Nancy.

And, our boy loves anything to do with trucks, trains, tractors, farm animals, or dinosaurs. The Little Blue Truck and The Goodnight Train are family favorites, and I could probably recite The Big Red Barn on command.

We are forever building our library, and we would love to hear about your family’s favorite books. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Summer Bucket List

10:16 AM 5
Summer Bucket List
I just can't. I can't.

I cannot wrap my head around making a summer bucket list that puts even MORE ITEMS on our already maxed-out to do list.

We have plans every single weekend for the next 5 weeks straight …anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, camps, recitals, and such. And then it's July 4th, at which point summer is practically half over.

Y'all. School is not even out yet. Not for days.

So, maybe I'm being a tad bit dramatic, but I literally feel like I just CAN'T.

I'm exhausted even thinking about it! I am nowhere near my goal/word of the year (Still).

Fortunately, I stumbled on one of those magical mommy blogger posts...one that just brings everything into perspective. It was a summer bucket list of old school 'run in the sprinklers and drink from the water hose' types of activities. It clicked.

I loved her ideas, but I knew I had to make it my own or it would do more life-sucking than life-giving to our summer plans. I also instantly knew that I wanted to build activities into the plans that we've already made, activities that would help us focus on the little things so that we might actually see the joy in our chaos.

The idea here is not to add unnecessary stress. I don’t want to be up until midnight making crust-less sandwiches because we are going on a picnic tomorrow, come hell or high water. Nope. That’s not the point. This point is fun. And joy. So we will add a ‘picnic’ to the list, but I’m thinking that our picnic will probably consist of whatever random foods we have left in our house when grocery day is tomorrow and I don’t want to cook tonight. We will picnic on our floor or in the backyard, and it will be okay to eat crackers and cereal and fruit snacks for dinner that particular night.

Soooo, I came up with a Summer Bucket List that I think will fit and serve our family well this year. 



Build sandcastles
Knock down sand castles
Jump in puddles (especially if it insists on raining every day for the rest of time)
Impromptu day trips--no plans! Just pick up and go somewhere
Picnic dinners
Dance under the stars 
Let the kids stay up waaaay too late (late enough to actually see stars)
Slumber party with friends or even just at home
Have a tea party. This might be a fancy tea party, a teddy bear tea party, or just a drive through town drinking Sonic drinks with our pinky fingers out. Whatever works!
Catch fireflies. Because we are actually seeing them again after years without.
Watch the sunset or sunrise. And enjoy it! (Note: remember to make extra coffee.)
Make fresh squeezed lemonade. Don’t sell it in a fancy stand. Just drink it.
Play. Just play.
Messy science projects
Write/journal/sing
Build towers out of legos. Or crackers. Or whatever we have on hand...
Treats...lots of coooold treats! Ice cream, sno cones, beer (rootbeer for the kids, real beer for the grown-ups)
Netflix. Lots and lots of movies on hot, humid afternoons
Swimming

We will enjoy this Bucket List and aim to tackle every single item this summer, but we are doing so with reasonable expectations.

Reasonable Expectations means … lemonade will be made, but we will drink it ourselves. Someday the kids can set up a lemonade stand and sell their little hearts out, but that day will not come until they can make the stand on their own.  Day trips will be adventures, NOT reasons to stress. 

I have no theme parks on this list. Nothing that really requires us to spend any money we weren’t already planning to spend. And, nothing that requires much planning in advance. This list complies with my Mom Guilt Vacation, which I am beginning immediately. 

Right now, this list sounds just about perfect. I’ll let you all know how it goes!

Do you have a Summer Bucket List? I’d love to see it … whether it’s ambitious, lazy, or somewhere in between.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Kindergarten Homework

10:18 AM 1
Kindergarten Homework
The guided reading bags have been collected and will not be sent home for the remainder of the year. 

Seriously, this is the BEST thing I have heard from my child's teacher ALL YEAR.

I LOVE to read. My kid loves to read. But, these things may be the death of me. Or at least the death of our stress-free, fun-loving, enjoyable family time together in the evenings. I cannot yell it from the rooftops loud enough … we’re finally through with kindergarten reading homework!!!

Am I the only parent who hates these things? (And I don’t typically throw the ‘H’ word around lightly.) I can’t be the only one who doesn’t see the value in reading six times about Matt’s cat who sat at WHAH WHAH WHAH WHAH.

I’m sorry. I know I’m on a bit of a rant here, and I DO understand why it is important to read together at home. My daughter’s kindergarten class did a four hour reading block every day this year. Our twenty minutes of homework reading was not meant to teach her how to read, but to teach her that her parents also value reading, that we enjoy it. Our time together is meant to foster a love of reading in our children.

But it just doesn’t. I’m sorry. I think it’s crap.

The reading bags were packed up at the end of last week, so we obviously didn’t have it last night as we sat down to read together. What did we do? We wrote songs! We sang songs. We read chapter books about characters that captured my six-year-old’s attention. We snuggled and laughed and enjoyed reading together. We did not moan or groan or snap at each other to just get it done so we can do something else.

We read together longer last night than any other night this school year.

I do realize that there are many layers to this onion. That there are children who would not read if these books were not sent home, parents who wouldn’t take the time without the requirement, low funding that doesn’t allow for updated books to be purchased very often. I know our teachers are doing the best they can with what they’ve got … I just think that there has to be a better way.


My daughter has come home from school once – ONCE – this entire year talking about the work they have done in their reading/writing time. This was shortly after spring break, when the teacher had to reign in their end-of-year unruliness and they were asked to write apology letters to her. Aside from that ONE time, her interest is minimal at best.

What she does talk about are the times when she is immersed in an experience … when they plant seeds, water growing vegetables, and even taste (every single) vegetable that their class has grown. When they incubate eggs and watch baby chicks hatch.

When they feel connected to their lesson, they do not even realize they’re learning.


This is not to say that she hasn’t learned wonderful lessons this year or that her reading level hasn’t improved. She has, and it has. But does she love it? Does she love school? Does she love learning? I’m not sure. And, that might be the saddest thing ever … because if you can’t love school in kindergarten, will you ever? 

Friday, April 8, 2016

There are no rules at the ranch

9:38 PM 0
There are no rules at the ranch
This weekend, we will visit my family ranch to celebrate The Boy’s birthday, and we will be back there again in a few weeks for a larger celebration for Husband as well.

All of our talking about these trips to the ranch has prompted my daughter to mention, quite frequently, how much she wishes she was already there. In one of these conversations, she emphatically announced, “I can’t wait until we get to the ranch! There are no rules at the ranch.”

I laughed out loud. Scoffed, might be a better choice of words.

No rules? I’m not sure I know a single person in the world who has more rules than my dad. He has expectations for behavior – we should be responsible, respectful, and well mannered. Whether we are 3-years-old or thirty, we behave. And, we carry our own weight. We do our part to take care of things before the fun begins. This is his way, and it has always been his way.

There are most definitely rules at the ranch. What in the world was my girl talking about?

Then it hit me. Hard.


She wasn’t exactly looking for an absence of rules.

She was longing for the freedom to just be. To be herself. To slow down, connect, and not be jostled about from one agenda item to the next.

She didn’t need to evade responsibility.

She actually really loves to help, when we have the time and patience to let her. When we, as parents, can slow down long enough to offer her the opportunity to try new things, even if she doesn’t get them right the first time.

At home, in our busy everyday life, we rush from task to task, home to work and back again. We are up before six, gulping a few sips of coffee before we scramble to make breakfast, pack lunches, dress everyone and get to school and work on time.

The end of the day is more of the same … homework, dinner, bath, and those all-so-important bedtime routines. We rarely collapse on the couch before 8:00, exhausted and burned out.

We rush. She watches us rush. We hurry her along so as not to deviate from our schedule. We are not people who are ever late. To anything. But to make that work, we rush.

The only place that Husband and I ever truly slow down is at the ranch. I literally feel a sense of calm wash over me as we hit the county line. I don’t mind the drive. It’s just over an hour. And, of course the kids are usually hungry or thirsty or have to pee. But I don’t mind, because my mind is already channeling the calm and quiet that lie ahead.

And, although I love that my kids find the same sense of calm at the ranch that I do, I also worry that they already feel the need to seek out a retreat. My mommy heart is so heavily burdened by the fact that our children are feeling the same stressors that we adults do – being busy all the time, feeling like enough is never enough.

At the same time, I’m also struck by the irony of my child finding freedom in the place that I’ve always felt had the most rules. The difference, though, I am realizing now is that the rules of the ranch are character rules. There, we are our best selves. We work with our hands. We make food from scratch. We have conversations that carry on for hours. We laugh. The kids help bake and garden. We have time to include them in what we are doing. We are not in a hurry. We are relaxed.

We are a family. 

The rules of the ranch are the rules we should live by every day. We take care of each other. We take care of ourselves. We slow down long enough to connect to the people we love. And when we live by these rules, we actually feel a sense of freedom that is, sadly, becoming more and more difficult to come by in today’s busy world.

It’s not that we need to rid our lives of rules to feel freedom. Rather, we must let the busy world fade away and connect to a simpler way of being, a way that not only has rules, but requires them. These rules, though, are different. They are character rules, rules that are rooted goodness. They are designed to connect us to each other, and possibly even more so, to ourselves. 

Thank God for my sweet, free-spirited, life-loving, high energy girl for pointing out to me what I should have already known so well: that the best life is one that allows us to be our most authentic selves without ever feeling restricted ... and that the only rules that matter are ones than don't hold us back from that life. Rather, they set us free to live it to the fullest. 



Friday, February 26, 2016

I almost missed it

1:29 PM 1
I almost missed it
For those of you who are with me on Facebook, you might remember my sad post about a month ago that I would have to miss my daughter’s kindergarten play. The date the school had on the calendar was, unbeknownst to me, a placeholder, and that date was changed at the last minute. It was changed to a date when I was scheduled to be out of town. At a conference. A non-negotiable work obligation.

I was devastated.

I was going to miss this, her kindergarten “theater” debut, which was a big deal for my pop-star-drama-loving starlet. Shows are her thing. Performance is her personality. And I was going to miss it.

As a responsible working mom, I reacted fairly normally by calling up Husband and announcing that I was going to need to quit my job so as not to miss the kindergarten play. (Hmmmm … I wonder if we might have a drama gene in the family.)

He responded, as he always does, calmly and rationally. He just said, “No.”

“No, you’re not quitting your job. And you’re not missing the show. We don’t miss these things. We will work it out.”

His calm demeanor helped to deescalate my concerns. I took a deep breath and tried to think through everything. I explained to my manager that I couldn’t miss this school function, and an amazing friend at work stepped up to attend the conference in my place. It worked out so easily and smoothly, I almost felt like I had overreacted initially. (Not that I would ever admit to such a thing.)

But if you do feel that calling my behavior an overreaction is accurate, I might not disagree with you on this particular point. Balancing work and family is such a difficult act. From emotional aspects to logistics, it’s almost an entirely different job in and of itself.  And, it is so overwhelming, especially when you throw in components like travel or “lifestyle” jobs that do not follow a traditional 8-5 schedule.

My daughter was in a Kindergarten play. And I almost missed it.


I almost missed her belting out Fifty Nifty United States at the top of her lungs. I almost missed her flawless execution of every dance move and hand motion. I almost missed her impeccable performance as the bronze Statue of Liberty.

I almost missed her pre-show jitters, her fears that her costume wasn’t just right, her uneasiness at the height of the crown. I almost missed the opportunity to talk her through those fears and to make a plan to overcome them (make up and gold bracelet tattoos, of course). I almost missed the chance to watch all of her concerns instantly evaporate when the other kids admired her shiny outfit.

I almost missed it all.

But I didn’t miss a thing, not one single part of this very special occasion. Yes, I was fortunate enough to figure out the details of my work schedule, but there is another reason I was able to be there last night … We simply have a rule in our family, a rule that may have even gone unspoken until this very incident. The rule is this: We don’t miss these things. We will work it out. We do not choose work over family. Ever.

I am so grateful that Husband calmly said these words out loud to me that day, because my initial reaction was to worry. I was worried about how it would appear if I missed a work function for a school play. I was worried that I was asking for too much flexibility at work at the same time I worried about letting down my child, who arguably counts on me more than anyone else ever possibly could.

My initial reaction was to try to make it all work, to make possible the impossible. I thought that meant that I should find a way to be in two places at the same time or die trying (there’s that drama again).

But it didn’t need to be that complicated. Making it all work does not necessarily require me to say yes every time to everything. I had to accept that sometimes it’s okay to ‘make it all work’ by arranging for a substitute or rescheduling a meeting or delegating a task or even just by declining an opportunity.

On the family front, I may not be the Room Mom at every single party or be the parent chaperone on the field trip, but I will never miss the important things. Ever.

And this play …. It was one of the important things.


I almost missed it. I would have missed it. But we have a rule in our family … We don’t miss these things. Ever. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Your Job is Mean!

8:11 AM 0
Your Job is Mean!
I try to use this blog to write about my experiences as a working mom. I try not to delve too deeply into the philosophical issues surrounding working moms, because, honestly, I just don’t have the mental bandwidth for it right now. It’s not that issues of paid maternity leave or paternity leave or anything else aren’t important to me … it’s more about the fact that I barely have time to compose a blog venting about the 100th Day of School right now. I just don’t think I could do justice to larger issues at a time when gluing 100 teeny-tiny rhinestones onto a shirt makes me want to tear my hair out.

However, avoiding this conversation came to a complete halt this week as my tiny six-year-old yelled at me from the backseat of my car, “I don’t care about Daddy’s job!! YOUR job is MEAN!!”

We had a rough drive to school that morning, a drive that, at its longest, lasts about six minutes. That morning it felt like sixty. She was having a hard time. This happens every sales season -- we all reach a breaking point where we just don’t want mom to leave again. This time, it seems to have come much earlier, though, and I wasn’t expecting it at all.

She cried a lot that morning. She was clingy. She was frustrated, angry. And, she yelled quite a few other things about Mommy’s mean job always taking me away from her, never letting me have lunch with her, and keeping me from meeting any kind of appropriate daily snuggle quota. Her words cut like a knife. They were the perfect weapon in her fight against my mommy guilt. She was definitely going to win this one.

These are the moments where logic has no place. There is no explaining the need for health insurance or that a salary pays for our home and her ballet lessons. There is no reasoning that this job, the one that takes me away sometimes, actually gives me more time at home in the long run. There is no rationalizing need versus want with a child who is just asking for a little bit more time with her mommy.


On the flip side, there really was no reasoning with my own guilty conscious either.

But then she concluded her tantrum with that lovely little line, “I don’t care about Daddy’s job!! YOUR job is MEAN!!”

And, that brought to light for me all of those philosophical working parent questions that I’ve needed to avoid in order to maintain balance and sanity.  

Are we making the best choice, choosing security and comfort at the occasional expense of time?

How can I teach my daughter the importance of having strong women in the workplace if she grows up hating that I work?

And there is this:

The question is NOT: Why is my husband held to a different standard?

The question she prompted is: why does my very young daughter already hold her daddy to a different standard than her mommy?

Is the answer as simple as knowing that my travel requires me to be away at times when she needs me most (evenings), while her father is only away during the school day? I hope so. But I also wonder if it could be more. Is the standard different simply because our roles are different? Or are we modeling something for her that is already telling her that working moms are supposed to do more and be more all the while never doing or being enough?

I may not write about these heavier topics very often, but I am constantly questioning and worrying about these things and how they affect our family, and specifically our children. Sometimes I worry that my lack of conviction is the reason we have this struggle in the first place.  Other times, I feel incredibly frustrated that we don’t feel more grateful for our situation, but it is hard to be grateful when you’re unsure about something.


At the end of the day, I just have to hope that she sees how hard we try. We try to make the best decisions for our family, the ones that offer the best balance with the least risk. We try to give the best of ourselves at home and at work. And, yes, WE both do … Mommy and Daddy. We both feel the ups and downs of being pulled in too many directions. We both feel the struggle of never having quite enough time and always feeling like we are not giving enough of ourselves. We both have a hard time feeling like we are letting somebody down – work versus family – when we are with the other. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The 100th Day of School

4:30 PM 0
The 100th Day of School
I LOVE teachers, especially my kids’ teachers. But. I am 100% OVER the 100 things that I have been asked to do to celebrate the 100th day of school!!

I posted that on social media this week in a mild rant, but mild quickly escalated as I opened my daughter’s folder to find even more projects this weekend. Projects that were really for me to do, since she is in kindergarten.

We had already made a shirt with 100 pink rhinestones glued (no stickers, per the teacher's request). This was totally perfect for her personality, but a not-so-perfect match for me given my complete ineptitude when it comes to anything crafty.


I had the lunch with 100 items mostly planned out – 1 yogurt, 1 bowl of macaroni, 1 orange, 1 apple sauce, 1 juice box, 50 raisins, 25 M&Ms, and 20 pretzels. There is NO way she’ll ever eat that much in the 22 minutes they have for lunch, but I was trying to play nice.

I did the Sign-up genius for the 100-things projects they’ll be doing throughout the day. I’m guessing we’ll have a lovely 100-piece Fruit Loop necklace sent home on Wednesday.

It was already a lot. A. LOT.

Then we received her homework … how many times did she think she could do various things in 100 seconds? And how many times could she actually do them? Sooo … we clapped, blinked, hopped, sang (shouted) the ABCs, counted to 10, and a few other things.

Finally, “she” was tasked with collecting 100 things to put in a bag that she’ll tell her class about on Wednesday. Husband suggested 100 pieces of imagination. If wine corks weren’t an integral part of my home décor, I might have dropped 100 into the bag as a not so subtle hint that I might be over this whole thing. Seriously, I almost wrote write on the paper: I do NOT have time for this.


But, we pushed through. She ‘collected’ 100 M&Ms, and we called it a day.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy these projects or the time we spent doing them together. It’s just … a lot. 

As a working parent, though I’m sure as any parent, who has time for ALL of this? It felt a little like that part of Marry Poppins where they jumped into the sidewalk-chalk scene … only, in our case, we jumped into the teacher’s Pinterest board and now we’re all rain-drenched, attempting to dash back to reality.

I do hope all of you enjoy the 100th Day of School … if you’ve put in nearly as much work as I have, your kids should have a blast!!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Is a business trip a mommy vacation?

1:22 PM 1
Is a business trip a mommy vacation?
Is a business trip a “mommy vacation” of sorts? I have always resisted this idea, because I’m not getting away to relax; I am working. In fact, I have often gone so far as to resent the implications of suggesting that a work trip should be considered a vacation. Yes, I know that Husband changed ALL the diapers while I was away, but that shouldn’t exempt him from parenthood in general upon my return. (Disclaimer: he has NEVER expected this, but I know some spouses who do).

Over the years, I have been so resistant the this notion and the stage it might set if I accepted this line of thinking that I might have missed out on the ways that business trips can actually rejuvenate a tired momma. Last week, my sales meeting provided one evening of an ‘excursion’ for those who wished to take in the local sites of Palm Springs. Many chose the tram up the mountain. Others selected a casino night. I found myself, without any premeditation, on the bus with every other mom of young children … the dinner and shopping activity. It was too obvious to ignore: this four-hour stint was our little mommy vacation.

We ate dinner. We ordered food that required two hands to eat. We took more than three and a half minutes to consume our food. We had drinks. Fun drinks that we wouldn’t normally have ordered. We didn’t rush. We thought we might make it out to a little shopping, but were totally okay if we didn’t. We laughed. We relaxed. It felt like we were on a little vacation.  

On the short trip back to our hotel, I found myself reflecting on the ways that a business trip CAN feel like a vacation, and why it’s okay to embrace it as such….

Extra sleep leaves you feeling rejuvenated. Given that I have only slept through the night a handful of times in the last six years, I am grateful for any sleep-related bonus: sleeping through the night, having an entire king-sized bed to myself, waking up to an alarm clock rather than a screaming child trying to poop, having the option to hit the snooze button … these things alone can seem like a little slice of heaven for an exhausted mom.

The small things count: not having to rush through a meal, having time to shave your legs in a hot shower, and walking out the door with two matching shoes cannot be overlooked as perks of a little alone time. But that is just the beginning (and a bit of a sad-but-true testament to the nature of motherhood).

Butler Service. Okay, maybe not really butler service, but when you have somebody else making your bed and your food all day, every day, it can certainly feel like a vacation. I mean, in real life, we’re making 3 meals plus 2 snacks every single day for 4 people … a break from that alone decently rivals the view of my toes in the sand.


Me time. Am I the last person in the world to discover Serial? Probably. Regardless of that fact, though, I binge-listened to the entire first season and the first few episodes of the second while on my various flights last week. I’m not one to work on a plane, so I definitely had the time. It was fantastic. I can’t remember the last chance I had time to binge on anything other than a sleeve of thin mints. Speaking of which …

It’s okay to eat dessert. Really, it is. It’s paid for. It would be rude not to. Everyone else is doing it. You really don’t have a choice, so there is no point in feeling guilty. Eat the dessert. Order the steak, the appetizer, the coffee. Just enjoy it. It’s what you’d do on vacation, right?

So, no, we are not really on vacation when we travel for business. I saw more of a conference room than the beautiful dessert last week. (Really, it was dark when I flew in, dark when I flew out, and I only went outside that one evening for our excursion … the Hard Rock Hotel was pretty awesome, though!)

Buuuutttt … there are still quite a few perks that we should allow ourselves to enjoy. I can’t think of a single reason not to, so I’m going with: YES, yes we should absolutely enjoy the coffee and the sleep and the dessert. Mental vacations sometimes carry just as much weight as real ones.


Of course, now that I’ve finished this post, I think it’s probably time to just take a liiiittle peak at summer flight schedules ... 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Still

4:08 AM 0
Still
Apparently my word for 2015 was move. It’s safe to say that I forgot about this resolution as quickly as I blogged it, or, rather I forgot to be intentional about it any time after about mid-January. I was able to move a lot in 2015, literally and figuratively, but probably not as much as I would have liked. Fitbit tells me I had a decent number of steps each day, but that might be the only measurable account of my objectives.

As we move into 2016, I have thought again about selecting a single word to guide me through the year. I’ve given consideration to several words that attempt to get at an overall goal … calm, slow, settle, relax, replenish. These are all great words, but nothing seemed to fit just right. Then it hit me ….

STILL.


I didn’t mean arrive at a word with the exact opposite meaning from the one I chose last year. I’m not sure if there is a bigger meaning here or not.

And, I am not even sure that still is exactly the right word, but I had a hard time finding a single word with the following definition: stop rushing around all day every day because it stresses everyone out and we are rarely able to enjoy each other without feeling like we are neglecting other obligations.

So I settled on STILL.

Life will continue to rush ahead around me. I am an on-the-go mom with an on-the-go family, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. There will be business trips, grocery trips, and never a free weekend. We are in the little years with our kids, which means there is rarely a spare moment to claim as our own. These are things I cannot change.

In fact, I am not even sure I know how to be still.

But I’d like to try.

Because I think that, even if I am not successful, but as long as I try … I might end up finding wonderful things in the still.

Rock the ‘baby’ instead of putting him right back to bed in fear of creating bad habits. At almost 3-years-old, he is rarely still anymore. Enjoy the still with him. These moments are precious.

Shoes, and coats, and backpacks … rushing out the door every morning just to beat the build-up in the carpool line makes perfect, logistical sense. Leaving a minute or two later than usual and NOT sniping at my sweet-stop-and-smell-the-roses child makes even more sense. She knows how to be still. Learn from her.

A cup of coffee. A glass of wine. A hot meal. These are not meant to be rushed. Or enjoyed in the light of a smart phone. Multi-tasking is my lifeblood, but it should be so only when necessary rather than set as my default mode.

Still … life is moving so quickly around us. My goal is not to stop it, or even slow it down. I wouldn't even know where to start. I would like, however, to stop crawling into bed each night to the first still moment of my day.

Plus, God commands it, so it seems like a good place to start …


Psalm 46:10 - “Be still, and know that I am God.”