Tag Archives: summer

Friendship Friday ~ Cousin Day

Yesterday was a special day. It had been written on a calendar block, cleared of all else. We spent all day with the Boston little boy cousins and their amazing parents.

My anxiety about having little people around for the day was alleviated quickly when this little one walked in, grabbed a recorder, and began playing while his brother accompanied him on the piano.

recorder

Uncle B patiently listened to Little Mae tell all about King’s Dominion adventures using her map of the park.

Mae and Uncle B

My baby and my sister’s baby smiled at each other a lot, which was a huge milestone for anyone who knows my baby and her thoughts about babies.

Baby B

Baby B won her over.

Mae and baby

Meanwhile, lots of creating happened. The cry of Guys, Guys! Look over here! caught my attention. I looked to see this little one with his airplane.

airplane

My much younger sister was caught wearing my perpetual mothering face in this picture. I so know the feeling.

mothering face

With everything happening at once, there were problems to solve, like the one of figuring out how to find all of the pieces and get this track to stick to the green board. Daddy to the rescue on that one! Problem solved.

track

It was sweet for my littles to get an opportunity to experience the life of their big siblings. Here Coco gets to feel like her big sisters when the littles were being born, holding a babe in arms.

Coco and baby

And these eyes and little chewing mouth. I could not get enough of them.

chewdalee chew

And this snuggly sleeper. I might have cried a little.

sleepy baby

Of course, a day with littles (or bigs for that matter) is not complete without some down time with a screen and a cuddly blanket.

screen time

This day was so full, pictures don’t do it justice. I finally had to put down the phone and just be in it, because everything was so much to take in.

I want to remember the moments of sweetness like a two-and-a-half-year-old cousin wandering into the TV room with his bowl of shredded cheese and climbing up next to Kirk and asking questions about Minecraft. My thirteen-year-old’s patient response and offer of letting him play reminded me of how Caleb treated his little brother, and my heart swelled.

I want to remember the conversations with my brother and sister that felt natural and relaxed and made us forget that we live hundreds of miles apart and that this doesn’t happen every day. Moments of falling asleep on the couch or walking out into the yard or playing UNO Attack (thanks, B!!!!) felt like they happen every day.

And dinner time. Oh, the dinner table.

I want to remember shopping with my sister and planning our meal like it’s the most normal thing in the world, all while talking about everything. I want to remember cooking and being together and living life.

I want to remember what it was like to have a full dinner table and the littles getting to be the bigs and experiencing the noise and cries and trauma of food touching other food or too much ketchup coming out of the bottle or corn on the cob rolling onto the wrong place on the plate. Our table was full and loud and fun.

Our day was full and loud and fun.

My body, mind, and soul felt full and tired and happy and sad and grateful, so very grateful.

sister selfie

At the end of the day when, Sister Selfie! was called, here is what we got. Sister selfie, plus one. I am old enough to be this girl’s mom, so I could technically be a grandma. Technically. Not yet.

For now I relish being auntie to this precious little one and his brothers and will hold so many special memories close to my heart.

It was a very good day.

June Goals Post

June found me in a place of endings and beginnings. Ending the five kids in five different schools year and the high school career of child four took a lot of energy. Beginning the summer did, as well.

In the midst of it all, I tried keeping up with and tracking the goals, though I must say that the vigor of the first half of the year feels faded and worn. I am tired.

  • Spiritual ~ Maintain daily quiet time and prayer, following current Bible reading plan. Journal responses and thoughts that result from that time. Spend time in stillness. Read one faith-based book/month.

I finished 1 Chronicles and am moving right along into second. Romans is where I am in the New Testament, and the second half of the year means a second journey through Psalms. Proverbs moves verse by verse throughout the entire year, so I am up to chapter 19. My faith-based book, thanks to the work I am doing this fall was Trauma + Grace by Serene Jones.

  • Family ~ Connect with Steve intentionally each week on a heart-level. Risk sharing something scary or overwhelming inside of me with him during that time. Connect with at least one child intentionally each week. Keep track. Make the most of one~on~one impromptu moments that arise with the children. Keep track.

Steve and I have set aside Wednesday nights to connect and hang out. If you are at all curious about Wednesday Night, just ask our children, and you will get an earful. Sometimes we talk, others we watch a favorite Netflix episode or a movie. More topics of hard conversation are arising the closer I get to fall. More temptations to flee and escape are, as well.

The porch swing has offered a great space for us to process life together.

Connecting with the children during the summer looks different than the school year, due to the more relaxed nature of life and schedule. Little Mae and I took a birthday day trip together to Richmond to visit big sisters early in June. I didn’t do well with keeping track of individual times together this month. Some of our times have looked like working on painting projects one-on-one or heading to the pool or sneaking out for coffee or walking to the mailbox to mail a letter.

  • Social ~ Connect with at least one friend for coffee or conversation time each week. Say yes to fun. Make an effort to have people over to the house again starting with once/month. Adult kids and their guests are a bonus and not part of this number!

This is going well, as my summer schedule offers open days. I have had friends in for coffee in my corner and met with them at the pool while our kids swam. This is the first year ever when I have been able to go to the pool and just sit on the side reading or talking with a friend. That. Is. HUGE!!!!!!!

Adult kids continue to show up and are always welcome.

  • Physical ~ Do 20 minutes of yoga at least five times a week. Longer or more times is a bonus. Improve flexibility in my down dog. Practice presence on the mat. Consider walking Dewey as an opportunity to get exercise and fresh air and not an annoying burden built into my already full day!

I usually am good about starting my day with yoga. It is so necessary, as I notice a difference in my ability to move when I don’t, and that is just a fact that comes from being mid-forty with a bockety back. I have added core work, as well, with the reality that I have to work harder to keep what I have sinking in deeper daily.

  • Teaching ~ Organize my teaching materials and office space. Write an encouraging note to one student/week recognizing individuality and strengths.

Of course, it’s summer, and school is out. Teaching has taken the back burner, though I have picked up a few new things here and there for fall and jotted down some ideas. I took a few hours one morning to organize and pack up my desk and am trying not to borrow trouble from fall and just stay present in summer. Mid-August will come soon enough!

  • Personal Development ~ Pursue the Allender Center’s Lay Counseling Certificate. Read one book per month related to personal growth.

This is real. It is really happening, and now goals in this area look like booking plane tickets and reading assigned books and beginning the writing assignments. The Healing Path by Dan Allender and A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, M.D., Fari Amini, M.D., and Richard Lannon, M.D. claimed my reading space this month.

By next month, I hope to have all of the reading complete and the first plane ticket booked. I also hope to have a space on my computer devoted to writing out my first assignment.

  • Ministry ~ Attend Stephen Ministry meetings regularly. Participate actively. Return to worship team rotation at least once per cycle.

Summer schedule is here, so this area is lighter, as well. I plan to sing in August, the Sunday before returning to work.

  • Financial ~ Take intentional time with Steve to go over the family finances and budget and grow in understanding of our financial goals together.

This continues to be my weakest link. Always room to grow here!

  • Writing ~ Schedule intentional time each week to write and work on the blog. Submit one Red Tent post for consideration each month.

I submitted a Red Tent post that didn’t run this month, so I am considering posting it here on the blog. It was excellent preparation for my work this fall. With writing assignments approaching, I really need to be intentional to make writing a priority and not just the thing I get to do when everything else is finished.

There you have June’s goals report. I almost need a sub-category for summer goals. Summer brings with it the hope of finishing some painting projects and getting rooms sorted and rearranged along with a reality check that fall is fast approaching. Oh to practice presence in the moments!

Parenting Tip 99

Mom! Are you using Parenting Tip 99 on me?

What’s that, Daughter?

Offer to do a chore and then do it so horribly that your kid can’t stand to watch anymore and just does it for you.

Hmmm. That wasn’t the strategy when I offered to mow the backyard, but I’ll take it. Parenting Tip 99, it is.

The lawn mowing adventure started this morning with cool temperatures, overgrown grass, and several able-bodied people home together for summer break. Knowing that it would not be an easy task, I summoned middle-school girl-child and asked if she wanted to mow front or back yard.

Offer choices. I’m doing great!

She chose front yard.

I went to find middle-school boy child to break the news that he would be mowing the back yard and received news of my own.

What! I always weed whack! No. That’s not my job.

Ah. Classic response AND mother snafu.

Know your plan and people’s regular jobs before announcing changes.

Since I mow better than weed whack, I offered to mow the back yard.

Let me clarify. Since I have mowed a lawn once and weed whacked never, I figured I would practice my mowing skills.

Ok. Then I will mow the back yard.

I’ll mow it, Mom, girl-child replied upon hearing the news. I usually do.

No, I said I would do it, and I need the practice.

I promise that I wasn’t being passive-aggressive.

Walking around the mower a few times and fiddling with this and that, I realized that I needed to ask for help. Back inside I went to ask eleven-year-old daughter to help with starting the mower.

That might have been when she realized I needed some supervision and direction. She began instructing me in the backyard mowing techniques and patterns that her father taught her.

Do you want me to go around the edges like Dad did for me the first times I mowed the grass?

Sure, that would be helpful.

She arranged the picnic table up on end to begin the first section, started the mower, and began to walk. I watched.

When it was my turn, I clumsily began pushing. It was harder than it appeared until my instructor showed me the lever that would activate the self-propelling feature. Then it was too fast.

Here, let me show you. Wait! MOM! Are you using Parenting Tip 99 on me?

That’s when I learned about Parenting Tip 99. It’s also when I remembered how hilarious all of my kids are when they are not driving me crazy!

I promised that I wasn’t. I really wanted to learn how to mow the lawn, and she was being a great teacher. We were making some amazing memories, as well.

The lawn is now mowed. Teamwork during the morning means one less thing for Dad to have to supervise in the evening. We are trying to navigate this summer.

With Mom at the lawn mower’s helm, anything can happen!

Summer Rising

It’s not even technically summer, yet, but we will call it summer.

School is out, finally and completely finished for everyone. The first morning of us all home together wrung me in the worst of ways. In the span of hours there were tears and heartache and disappointments and relief, and that was just from me.

Each child had his or her own voice to add to the chorus. Fifteen minutes of weeding the side yard and watering the rogue vines growing in the dirt pile out back offered a bit of relief for my soul.

I woke from a nightmare that was morbid and gruesome and disturbing. It’s meaning makes complete sense to me. My brain is full and dumping data on overtime’s schedule. Vivid dreams are one way I deal with overload.

After traveling at breakneck speed for the last weeks, it feels as if my internal emergency brake handle was pulled, leaving emotions to fly forward as I simultaneously jerk them back. The collateral damage felt through my eyes and heart reminds me of the messiness of even the good parts of life.

Day One. Send off adult kids to their own homes on the heels of a big graduation weekend. Process hard places and disappointments and Plan B with newest adult and send him off, as well. Hear the rest of the voices left under the roof, clamoring for attention. Drop one at a friend’s, take the others to the library, make semi-annual contribution to the library’s operating fund in the form of overdue book fees, talk to a sister or two on the phone, read for a little while. Try to write. Feel feelings that are stirring and allow self to cry. Go to quiet corner only to find it claimed by the queen of the house. Sit on bed instead.

Zephyr

I am trying to accept the arrival of summer with open hands. I see the kindness in the chaos and the goodness in the grief. It is only day one. There is time for space to open and for dust to settle and for change to offer perspective, as I feel summer rising.

Easy Answers; Quick Fixes

Don’t exist.

I sit tonight in the aftermath of a difficult parenting situation with a pileup of years of difficulty bearing down on me. Hearing hard words from children is always difficult ~ especially when they are tinged with truth.

Of course, there is perspective. We are the grownups; they are the kids. Does that invalidate their experience of their reality? How do I hear their words? Usually it’s with great difficulty due to the cacophony of voices shouting unhelpful responses in my head.

Parenting a wide range of ages and stages presents a unique challenge. Every family unit has its own unique challenges for which there are no easy answers or quick fixes.

But I want them SO badly.

Conversing with adult children is different than with those being actively parented. There is a maturity that comes with growing up and beginning to understand some of the parental perspective. There are questions and clarifications and hard things that they endured at our hands.

As we parent those still at home, there is a struggle to stay grounded in the midst of current conflict. There are always conflicts.

It is exhausting.

One of the many reasons I am pursuing this counseling certificate now, during this season, is for personal growth. It is not theoretical work but hands on dig into your story work.That is why it can’t be done solely online and involves showing up in person.

My hope is that rather than easy answers I will find words for hard realities. Instead of quick fixes, I long for lasting restoration. These are what I seek to find as I head into the 2016-17 school year.

It will be hard. An email that came today with additional information now that I am officially enrolled reminded me of this. In addition to all of the physical logistics are the logistics of the heart. It’s about to get even more real.

Thank you for joining me on this journey in whatever capacity your interest lands. Whether curiosity or encouragement or prayer support or financial support, it all matters. Thank you for being with me in the challenging and difficult places where things are neither quick nor easy.

Every Blessing!

Summer Growth

One thing that I want to remember about Summer ’15 while it is still here is that there was growth. A perfect example of this is found in the rubber plant that I transplanted and moved to a new location back in the spring.

I bought this plant for $2 a year and a half ago. It was a nice little plant that stayed just the way it was. No change. I moved it around a bit, and it looked pretty, but there was no new growth.

I wondered if it needed a bigger pot and a space with different lighting. I repotted and moved it. Not long after, it began to shoot out new leaves.

This was the first. I watched it closely, fascinated.

IMG_3607

Each leaf was followed by another and another.

Rubber Plant

Especially fascinating was the way the leaves emerged encased in a protective sheath which then dropped off, leaving the new leaf to unfurl.

Rubber plant growth

This happened continuously throughout the summer.

Here is what it looks like currently.

Rubber plant growth

Yes, there is much clutter surrounding this plant. Life is cluttered. There may or may not be a large dog crated six inches away from where I stood to get this picture.

New Growth

Altogether I counted four new leaves with the tiniest spout beginning for a fifth. We shall see if the growth continues.

Longer Shadows, Bluer Skies

September is here.

Shadows lengthen. Skies take on the brilliance of sapphire at just the right time of day. Fall prepares for another appearance.

School is in its second week. We seem to be settling into a routine before things change again. Because that’s what happens. Things change.

September brings a hopeful tension to me. The beginning of September makes it doubly so, since those single-digit days have returned. The hopeful part is that fall will be ushered in in all of its glory. The tension enters when no amount of pumpkin spice can cover up inevitable heartache and disappointment.

We try.

There is the hopeful of setting intentions. Waking early. Stretching. Following a routine. Planning.

Sapphire blue skies.

There is the tension of unintention. Oversleeping. Shutting down. Falling behind. Scrambling.

Longer shadows.

Yea, though I walk . . .

Fall brings a hopeful brilliance before the fading into winter.

It’s still summer, though. There remain several days to stay present in that instead of rushing ahead to the next season. The next season will come, ready or not.

God Already Knew

This Sabbath Sundown is my last of summer.

Tomorrow finds me back at work preparing for another year of teaching.

There are many feelings swirling inside as I prepare to just do the next thing. I feel excited, overwhelmed, tired, hopeful, eager. This year is going to be a stretch in many ways.

But God already knew that.

So when there was joking from my sister about me having five kids in four schools, which became five kids in five schools, God already knew.

When the teacher I was looking forward to spending another year with moved on, God already knew.

Because He already knows, I can step out in confidence tomorrow morning, knowing that nothing will cross my path or touch my life that God doesn’t already know.

He is with me in this next chapter, and I can quit wrestling with and just rest in that.

Dashing Dewey

Who left the gate open?!

These words flew from my mouth as I flew into a panic as Dewey flew out of the yard. No one heard me. How could they? Everyone was settled in the house doing afternoon media time.

Best time of the day.

I had graciously offered to take the puppy outside for a potty break so that my girl could enjoy her media time. Look what that bit of generosity got me!

My mind flew to two middle-school boys walking home from downtown and entering the backyard through the gate. I knew who left the gate open, but there was really no point in wasting valuable energy ruminating and fault-finding when there was a puppy to chase.

Dewey had lived with us for less than a week. He was still trying to figure out his world. This often involved running the length of our chain-link fence and barking at every car that drove past, followed by trying to dig out under gaps between the fence and the ground. He needed a close eye.

Adrenaline coursed through my veins as visions of a small puppy, ignorant of danger, yapping up the road, being hit by a car on my watch ran through my head. I ran faster, holding up a hand at an oncoming car while mouthing please stop! and nodding my head in the direction of an erratic mini canine blissfully darting to and fro across the street.

Dewey!

I ran faster, huffing and puffing and realizing how completely out of shape I am.

He paused to look back.

He paused!

Dewey!

This is exactly what I did NOT want to be doing with a puppy. Chasing and yelling up the road. This was not part of the plan!

Running towards me, Dewey offered a split-second chance to be scooped up, allowing me time to hail a grateful wave to the patient driver who had stopped and waited as I did the Dewey dash.

Still Single Digits

August is still single digits. New and fresh, the month has not yet swelled and aged into what is to come, but it’s coming.

Change is on the way.

The single digits of each month offer excitement and hope. They hold possibility. They look ahead to what is not yet here and offer a breath. A pause.

I am trying to breathe; to stay present in the single digits.

This month’s single digits offer just a little more slow down time. They remind me that the school year is not yet here, and that kids in PJs for another day is okay. They remind me to enjoy the puttering while it is still puttering season rather than borrow stress from what is coming.

Monday begins double digits and the last week of my summer before returning to work. I am spending another year in the classroom with just the right group of students. I am excited about changes that are coming. I am sad about changes that are coming.

Ambivalence much?

For now I will sit in the single digits. I will help change a guinea pig cage and visit a brand new baby in the hospital. I will hitch a ride to Roanoke to check out my son’s new apartment when he and his dad pass through with the moving trailer. I will continue to assess clothing and school supply needs for the upcoming year and check the calendar for last-minute appointments.

I will rest in the unrest. The mess.

I will savor the remaining single digits of this month.