The Big Giant Summer Recap Post

I just got back from a walk, and I think I felt the faintest hint of fall in the air! Granted, it may have just been because many of my neighbors have already decorated their porches for fall (overzealous much?), but it’s coming! 

As evidenced from my lack of posts, the end of our summer was very busy–but amazing! Both of my girls grew so much over the summer, and I loved having a front row seat to watch and cheer them on! I’ll recap a few (ok, a GAZILLION) highlights in a minute.

First, a quick housekeeping note…I am an idiot and accidentally reformatted my entire blog while trying to increase the font size. I hope you enjoy the new look.  If you don’t, please don’t leave any complaints or suggestions, as I clearly don’t know what I’m doing.  (And I used to be a marketing & communications specialist?!! HOW?!!!)

And now…the highlights of summer!

At the beginning of summer, I had Zoe set a few goals for the summer.

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In case you can’t read her handwriting, she wanted to go to camp (she went to gymnastics camp and a Moana-themed theater camp),  read books, go to the pool, learn to swim, and have play dates. I loved that she set both “fun” goals and “stretch” goals–and she achieved them all! Go Zoe!

Our summer was structured very nicely.  After all of the transition of our spring, I sensed that my girls really needed a focused, calming routine.  I intentionally scheduled nothing for the first few weeks of summer, which let us start those rhythms.  After those first few weeks, I scheduled some sort of special trip, camp, or event about every three weeks.  Basically, just when it would start to get boring, we would go do something really fun, and come back grateful and tired and ready for the routine again.

During the weeks we were home, I started most mornings with reading and journaling with the girls at the table.  Then, we would make art, go to my workout class, visit the splash pad or park or library or have a play date, or play/garden in the yard.  Most afternoons, we would have an hour of quiet time, ~45-60 minutes of TV time, and head to the pool.

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We DEFINITELY had some bad days, but for the most part, both girls actually listened to me, and it was like they finally understood that if they behave, we can have more fun.

We had deep conversations about how God sees us and how we should treat others, and although there were plenty of boring moments, I was really honored to spend so much of my time helping to shape our girls’ character and understanding of the world.

In between those “routine” weeks, here were a few of our exciting highlights!

Three days in Lake Lure, N.C.  I’ve already shared a few photos from this one.

-A week at Sunset Beach, N.C. A member of our “Florida family” got married at her family’s beach home during her extended family’s annual beach week.  We were gifted a house for the week and SO enjoyed exploring this beautiful area with our own little family, celebrating one of life’s most joyous events with our dear friends, and getting to know the extended family.

Three of the four of us had a formal role in this wedding (and I wound up playing “backup flower girl,” a role I have now played in two weddings).  Enjoy the following photo montage:

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In addition to normal beach activities and all of the wedding festivities, we took the girls fishing several times (successfully, I might add!!!), made many art projects on the screened-in porch, caught a planetarium show on a rainy day (Zoe: “ARE WE REALLY GOING TO SPACE?!!!! IT FEELS LIKE WE ARE!!!”), and cheated our way through a beach maze.  The beach there is BEAUTIFUL, and David and I swapped off kid duty to take a few runs and walks that let us explore a bit further than our kids’ legs and patience would allow.

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-Riley’s 4th birthday! In honor of her favorite show, Spirit, we had a horse-themed party at a bowling alley.  She received many Spirit-themed gifts, enjoyed a horse-themed cake, got to play her first arcade game, and generally loved every minute of the day.  I do not host elaborate kids’ birthday parties, but I love planning little details that will mean a lot to them!

She now owns every horse and rider from the the Spirit-themed Breyer horse collection, in addition to other Spirit merchandise. When I think of summer 2018, I will remember horses.

The face of someone whose wildest dream has come true.

Vacation Bible School! I taught preschool VBS at church and both girls attended. This was so fun! The girls got really into the VBS songs (which were actually good…) and we are still singing them on the reg. Plus, they now quote VBS themes to one another like, “it’s okay! When you’re scared, Jesus rescues.” BLESS!!!!

9 days in Durango, Colorado…first, the four of us stayed at an Airbnb located on a farm for a few days.  The best word that I can use to describe this place is “magical.”  Our hosts were LOVELY and let us participate in the life of the farm. We were able to pick peaches, apples, raspberries, and tomatoes and eat them right off the tree/vine/bush…

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IMG_4988IMG_4991Watch cows get fed and feed chickens in the little coop in the background of this picture…IMG_4996Enjoy a magical afternoon of rest and relaxation in the shade…IMG_4998IMG_5005And not just see, but FEEL two amazing sunsets, complete with the soundtrack of crickets, rushing water, and cows mooing. IMG_5017IMG_5013IMG_5009We also made friends with their neighbor, who invited us over to a party he was having.  We met goats, sheep, ducks, a fish hatchery veterinarian, an arborist, and a stay-at-home mom of two. It is Colorado, so we also met some players in the legal marijuana industry.  One of my biggest joys in life is traveling and experiencing new cultures, and it was SO fun to learn about the lives of the people we met. I soaked up all the hospitality and left more convinced than ever that there is still so much light in the world.

Then, we spent 6 days with my family in the Purgatory Resort area and continued the growth and exploration!

We took the train from Durango to Purgatory, which offers beautiful views of mountains and national forest.  Tip: if you do this, get your dad to buy the tickets.  (At one point, this boy in the less-expensive train car in front of ours peeked wistfully into our car and said to his dad, “they have a servant?!” No, we have an attendant, and his name is Aaron.)

I’m not sure if it was more fun to see the views, be on a train, or continuously order drinks and snacks.  (And when I say continuous, I mean that my sister may have consumed over 6 glasses of locally-brewed ginger ale and that Zoe ordered water, hot chocolate, ginger ale, & lemonade…and those were just the beverages…)

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So many beautiful hikes! Once, we took our rental Jeeps to a 4wd-only-accessible hike.  That was my first “Jeeping” experience and it was so much fun!! Here was the hike I took almost every day…a lake loop right in front of our rental house.

We checked out the resort activities, including the Alpine Slide, pony rides, paddle boarding, windsurfing, kayaking, tricycle rental, and bungee trampoline. Zoe tried so many activities (even solo paddle boarding). I couldn’t believe how brave she was!

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The livery.  Right behind our rental house was a livery. My horse-crazed girl was in heaven and we took twice-daily visits to visit “Silver!”

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The livery also owned a free-range llama named Tony, who made daily visits to our house, sometimes accompanied by his free-range goat friend.  You can’t make this stuff up.

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My girls’ trip to Florida! I went on a Wednesday afternoon and packed in time with three separate friends before leaving Thursday afternoon for a beach weekend in Longboat Key with my friends of 10 years.  THEN, on the way back on Sunday, I spent the afternoon with my old neighbor and her sweet girls. I came back overflowing with happiness (and a strong desire to abstain from alcohol for at least a week).

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-Deepening some friendships here in NC.  I have a semi-regular “girls’ night” crew now, and have been having a wonderful time building connections with the young families at our church.  I also joined a book club of women from church who aren’t in my “young moms” demographic, and enjoy having an excuse to read and discuss books. In July, we had our book club on a boat!

Okay, that was an INSANE amount of highlights. Obviously, it was an amazing summer. I am so thankful for all of the memories we were able to make!

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What was the highlight of YOUR summer?  

What Moving Is Like…So Far

A friend asked me last week, “so what has moving been like?”

I am only a few months into the “change your whole life” process, but here are a few bullet points about the experience so far.

Moving has caused some shifts in my identity.  It has changed my long-term plans, my job (I am not teaching this summer and have no teaching job lined up for the fall either), my sense of stability in and support from my community, and my day-to-day life substantially.

When we first moved here, David had to hit the ground running for his job, and worked a LOT.  Things have calmed down, but throughout March/April, I spent many days entirely alone with only the girls and an hour or two with David to keep me “company.”  I had to take responsibility for having some social interaction by calling friends or family members, going to the park even though it was freezing and starting conversations with random people, and being so friendly it was borderline socially awkward.  I joined a small group boot camp class, which included Burpees (ugh) but helped me get social interaction with the same people 2x/week, and I have some friends now, but I literally haven’t been home this many evenings in a row since elementary school.

When you think of yourself as an active part of a social community, a friend, a teacher, AND a mom, and spend your days and nights accordingly…and then switch to spending 90% of your time with your kids without an outlet for some of those other parts of yourself, your identity shifts.  It’s NOT bad.  It’s not something to resent or rail against.  It’s just different, and honestly, challenging in a good way, as I have to remind myself that my value is found in being a child of God–not in any of the roles/identities I play.

I’m trying to take this time as a gift, savor the opportunities to really dive in deep with my kids, learn what I can from the experience, be friendly, be curious, and be expectant that God will provide. Who knows what opportunities will emerge…and in the meantime,  I am thankful for the character building and personal growth.  (And hey! More time/mental energy to blog!)

Moving has made life calmer (at least temporarily).  Before we moved, I felt like our pace of life was borderline stressful.  I was always intentionally trying to calm it down and create more balance. Now, life is very calm.  🙂

Somehow I still can’t find time to do laundry though…

I know this will likely change as we build more relationships and as Zoe gets into elementary school, but the overall pace of life is slower here, and I think the life we build here will be calmer and slower too as a result.

Moving has made our family stronger.  I LOVE my little family, and I am proud of what we have done together.  We are a tighter-knit unit because we have HAD to spend more time together—we don’t know anyone else! We have had to be flexible and make new situations work (we lived in four houses in three months).  IMG_3643We arrived during a cold, rainy season in a small town and had to find the joy in rainy day hikes, family movies, and making cookies together, because we couldn’t figure out what else to do with ourselves. In Florida, we had a constant roster of activities and friends keeping us busy; I feel like we have better discovered how to make our own fun, and I’m really proud of us for learning how to be more intentional and creative.

IMG_4624.JPGMoving has let us have new adventures! Everything (even a trip to a new grocery store) is an adventure when you’re trying it for the first time. We are having a blast exploring the beauty of our new state. IMG_3594.JPGIMG_4620.JPGIMG_4626.JPGIMG_4632.JPGIMG_4636IMG_4542.JPGIMG_4556.jpgIMG_4638.JPGIMG_4634.JPGMoving has made me even more grateful for the friends I left behind.  Like I said, I am making friends here, but the high point of my day is often talking with friends from back home.  I am so grateful for these wonderful friends, and look forward to visiting Florida in August for a girls’ beach weekend.

Summer Lovin’

I have approximately 25 more minutes before I have to leave to pick up the kids from their last morning of gymnastics camp (<–an intense term…they have gone three mornings in a row to do gymnastics for a few hours.  No one is sleeping in a cabin, and I haven’t seen a lanyard yet).

Anyway, you’d better believe I’m going to milk every one of those quiet moments…and what better way than by blogging?

When I last posted, I was 8 days into summer, and wondering if I could survive the summer intact.

Every night, I was going to bed completely exhausted, wondering, “can I do this tomorrow?” We were having a blast, but my kids were physically wearing me out. 

David kept reminding me that every time we take a break from preschool, I wind up loving having the kids around 24/7 and end the break questioning if we should even send them to preschool at all.

I remembered those words coming out of my mouth on multiple occasions, but wondered how I ever got to that place, because I was feeling so exhausted!

Then, around day 11 of summer…something magical happened.

IMG_4204I remembered the pool.  

It turns out that if you promise your kids that if they behave well in the morning, you will take them to the pool that afternoon…then they behave well in the morning to earn the pool, you have a fun activity in the afternoon when it’s hottest anyway, AND they are so tired after said activity that they don’t have energy to get into mischief!

IMG_4407 Too tired to move = SUCCESS

We have been loving the pool, and I’m SO thankful to have stumbled upon this magic recipe for great summer days! This is the first year that I have felt confident that I can supervise both of them in the pool, so I’m also thankful that we committed those years to swim lessons.  Moms with little ones…keep at it!

Other things I have been loving lately:

Making everything into a picnic

Every meal is more fun when it’s served picnic-style…whether the picnic is actually outside, or just on a blanket in your living room.  This has been a favorite trick of mine for a long time (popcorn picnic with a movie! dinner picnic when daddy’s working late! snack picnic when you’re cranky!) but it’s even more fun in the summer.

We have also been enjoying a variation: the reading picnic (basically, cuddling on a blanket on the floor, eating a snack, while I read books to them).  Zoe has been obsessed with chapter books lately, and we are working through the American Girl books.  It’s so fun to read books with an actual plot! I read all of these books when I was younger, but have forgotten most of the stories. Sometimes I find myself reading ahead to find out what happens, which is funny after years of Goodnight Moon-esque plots. 

Working in my garden

If we aren’t texting friends, be glad—because if we are, you are likely sick of me sending you gardening photos. I can’t help myself.  I AM GROWING THINGS, PEOPLE!!!

(And pruning things after I take photos.)

The previous owners of our house planted some beautiful perennials and fruit trees, but there were still a few empty beds.  SO, I asked a master gardener from our new church to come over and help me make a gardening plan.  She gave me a few plants, and my Mother’s Day present was a Lowe’s gift certificate and two days of planting help from David. This jumpstarted my new hobby/obsession!

I love caring for the garden and spend anywhere from 15 to 75 minutes on it every day.  It’s so great to have an excuse to “have” to be outside every day, work with my hands, and enjoy God’s creation.  The girls “help” me most days, and it is ridiculously invigorating to watch things bloom and grow as the result of my care and dedication.  Zoe has fully embraced the joy of gardening along with me, and we have been having so much fun looking for fresh stalks and blooms, pruning, tending, watering, and watching our garden change!

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I would still consider myself a total “beginner,” but I’m excited to learn more through trial, error, and education!

My new romper

Sorry for the double selfies, but I had to tell you that if you have thought, “I’m just not sure I can pull off a romper,” you should reconsider.  I have spent several seasons ignoring rompers.  I’m still brokenhearted by the rapid decline of non-ironic overalls in the early 2000s (RIP) and didn’t care to repeat the mourning process.

But then I saw this one in a consignment shop, fell in love, and decided that maybe I’d risk the pain of attachment.

IMG_4414Bought it, love it, won’t take it off.

It feels like PJs, but you get style points.  It’s breezy like a dress, but you don’t flash people when you lean over to pick up your small children.  The only potential pain point is a more complicated bathroom process, but I am used to going to the bathroom with 1-2 people touching me, watching me, and asking personal and invasive questions, so adding a few buttons isn’t much of a strain.

Podcasts

Man, maybe I should retitle this blog post, “Sarah Finally Hops on 2016 Trends.”  I got my first iPhone in 2017, sort of by accident, thanks to my growing frustration with my continually breaking dumb phones, the generosity of my friend Leah who reads this blog, and the lies of a Verizon employee who told me adding data would be $5 a month indefinitely.  I now pay far more than $5 a month to take photos, use emojis, not get lost, and LISTEN TO PODCASTS.

My favorites (you will notice a theme):

God Centered Mom

Mom Struggling Well

Chrystal’s Chronicles 

Coffee + Crumbs Podcast

I will also listen to random business/marketing podcasts, but overall, the area where I feel like I need the most support and encouragement is in my journey with faith and mothering.  Through podcasts, I get the opportunity to learn from those who are wiser and more experienced than me (sort of like one-sided mentoring) and I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn and laugh as I garden, walk, wash dishes, and fold laundry!

IMG_4529.JPGA scene from this morning’s walk…and podcast listening session 🙂 

Do you have a favorite podcast? What is it? 

Day in the Life: Summer Edition

Hello again!

Thanks so much for your enthusiasm about my last blog post.  I loved all your nice texts and comments, and I really enjoyed sitting down and writing, so here I go again! 🙂

I used to write “day in the life” posts every three months when Zoe was little.  I stopped writing them when Riley came along, because I couldn’t figure out how to take pictures without someone dying.  Now that Zoe is no longer attempting to murder her sister every 20 minutes, I thought it would be fun to capture a “day in the life” in our new context.

So without further ado, here’s a Thursday, 8 days into summer break (but who’s counting?! #me), with an almost-4-year old and a 5.5 year old, in a semi-rural suburb in North Carolina!

PS…I never got a chance to do my Bible study on this day, but I certainly reflected on scripture throughout the day, which I have included.

5:36: “Her children arise and call her blessed.” (Proverbs 31:28). Actually, they arise and immediately demand things, but some day…some day…

I make Zoe a bowl of oatmeal and myself a cup of tea, and begin reading the latest Kylie Jean book out loud.

Within 15 minutes, Riley is awake.  We go through our daily ritual: she tells me that she peed in her Pullup, she asks to watch a show (denied every time, but points for persistence), and she reminds me that she doesn’t want milk in her cereal.

6:30: We have finished two chapters of Kylie Jean.  Zoe and Riley have “finished” “eating” and scampered off to the playroom with their BFF, Daddy, for some Anna and Elsa play.  I seize my moment and plate two hardboiled eggs, a piece of toast, and some strawberries, reading a few pages of my book as I eat. Then I clean up everyone’s food and sweep the kitchen.

7:15: “Meaningless! Meaningless…Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless. What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? All things are wearisome, more than one can say.” (from Ecclesiastes 1). It’s laundry time!

7:20: David begins running on the treadmill in the garage. I’m folding laundry. “Mom! You want to hear us play.” MORE THAN ANYTHING.

IMG_4068Zoe also insisted that I take a video of her performance, but mercifully I do not know how to insert it into this blog post.

I fold and put away laundry for about 25 minutes, strip the beds, make them with new sheets, put MORE laundry in the washer/dryer, then help Zoe and Riley clean their rooms.

8:30: I’m trying to preserve my sanity throughout the summer by exercising for some length of time most days. Today, I have time for a 30 minute, 2.6 mile walk through our neighborhood (which is hilly, beautiful, and safe.  I LOVE walking here)!

IMG_4071.JPGI listen to a podcast on being multi passionate and enjoy BREATHING. (David has the kids.)

When I get back, Zoe wants to go for a bike ride. David is heading into the office later than usual today, so I take her for a ride.  Halfway through, she finds snails that she wants to take home as pets, so I end up walking a few blocks pushing two bicycles, while she skips ahead with three snails.

IMG_4072.JPGI take a lightning fast shower. When I get out of the shower, Zoe, Riley, and the snails are all in my bathroom.  Everyone watches me get ready (David has left). Privacy at its finest. While I get ready, I group text with some local friends about one of their bad haircuts and a possible playdate. I’m so thankful to HAVE local friends!

10:00: I’m taking the kids into the city for the first time by myself today.  I have really been missing the energy and diversity of a city, and want to get there every week this summer. This week, we’re going to a puppet show…and then we’ll see what else we find! I pack lunches (grocery day is tomorrow, so the content of the lunches is fairly questionable), shove an energy bite in my mouth, and get the kids ready to go. They insist on packing their own backpacks. Totally necessary.

10:25: OFF WE GO! The kids request Taylor Swift in the car, so we rock out for the next 30 minutes. Zoe eats a cheese stick and Riley eats peanut butter crackers from their backpacks.

11:00: We made it! The kids are pumped.

IMG_4075We meander over to the theater, climbing on benches and statues and making a bathroom stop along the way.  The theater has display cases full of props from past shows, so we enjoy looking at them and talking about the plots of those shows.

11:30: The mane event. (You’re welcome.)IMG_4078The puppet show is incredibly cute and interactive. The puppeteers act out three stories, and lead the kids in movement songs in between. Afterwards, the kids have a chance to play with puppets in the puppet theater.  It’s a huge hit with both kids.

12:15: “Again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat!'” (Numbers 11:4b). The kids are hungry, so we find a lovely picnic spot across the street. One of my favorite parts of being in a city is meandering and stumbling upon awesome places to hang out. I’m so thankful to be here!

IMG_4079We actually didn’t have enough bread for me to make myself a sandwich, so I brought peanut butter crackers along for myself and figured I’d eat the kids’ leftovers. The jokes’s on me because they both drop half of their sandwich and have no leftovers. Oh well!

The park has a large splash pad, and I happen to have extra clothes along, so I let Zoe go in the water after lunch. She quickly makes a friend and has a blast scampering all over the multi-level park.

IMG_4080Riley prefers to cuddle. IMG_4081After almost an hour in the park (which has no shade), I’m beginning to feel sunburned and Riley is telling me she is “sweaty.”  I tell Zoe it’s time to wrap it up and change her into the spare set of clothes.

We are having so much fun that I don’t want to leave the city, so I ask the girls if they want to walk to a coffee shop.  I plug Starbucks into my phone and we take off on a 5 block walk.

1:35: The Starbucks is located almost exactly in the “center” of downtown, which means prime people watching! We are across from a HUGE skyscraper, and there are people on scooters and bicycles, golf carts, and police cars. There are people of all kinds, doing all sorts of things. The girls have a grand time staring out the window and asking tons of questions while eating cake pops.  (I have an iced soy latte.)

IMG_4083.JPGI love this time.  I want the girls to be comfortable around all kinds of diversity–people of different ages, sex, ethnicity, races, professions, abilities, languages, and subcultures.  I want them to feel comfortable in an urban setting, to understand city safety, and to be curious.

We have enjoyed about 25 minutes of people watching when Riley suddenly screams out at top volume, “I have something in my private area.”  I pretend not to notice the business people trying not to stare at us as we head to the bathroom, where Riley learns the word “wedgie,” Zoe screams in abject terror about the automatic dryer, and a construction worker tries to hit on me as I leave the bathroom with my two children.  Maybe that’s enough of city life…

2:05: Zoe loves photography, so I give her my phone to take some photos as we walk back.  She asks Riley and I to pose on a bench…

IMG_4085.JPGand in front of a wall with “neat texture” (Instagram husband, anyone?) Here are a few of her photos from our walk back.

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IMG_4126I love her eye.

On our way back, I take the girls into a neat historic church.  They are very concerned that we will be arrested because it isn’t Sunday.

Riley’s legs also stop working, which I had expected, and I wind up carrying her the five blocks back.

2:45: I drive to the gas station to fuel up for our trip back to the ‘burbs. Zoe is writing a story and Riley is drawing. I can tell they’re going to fall asleep, so I turn on a podcast on branding. IMG_4130.JPG3:30: We arrive back at our house.  Traffic wasn’t bad until I began following a school bus for the last two miles of our trek. The girls each enjoyed a 20 minute nap in the car.  They are very cranky and hungry when I wake them up.

We usually do an afternoon quiet time followed by 1 hour of TV, but I can tell they just need to zone out, and I have a work phone call I need to make, so I make the kids a snack of strawberries, chips, and cheese and summon my favorite babysitter, Sofia the First.

3:40: I throw some laundry in AGAIN and chat with my Florida friend and colleague for about 20 minutes about her new branding and a project we are working on together.  She confesses that she is one week into summer and forgot how little she can get done with her children around, so can we push our timeline back? YES WE CAN.

It’s the last day of the month, so I do my monthly client reports and invoicing.  I’m also hungry since I never ate lunch, so I make some tuna salad and have a few crackers. Here’s a glimpse into my office…IMG_4134I planned to take the kids outside and do the water table around 4:30, but it begins thundering, so I just let Sofia continue to work her magic, switch some laundry, start the spaghetti, and keep working on a foundation research project for a client.  Sofia is the most reliable babysitter I have found in our new town, so I’m not teaching this semester (just continuing with ongoing client work).  I’m really glad I didn’t take on more.

I also briefly text with a friend to a) plan tomorrow night’s happy hour and b) congratulate her for showing up in Joan Garry’s weekly email!

5:20: I serve the kids spaghetti, which Zoe complains is “too pasta-y.”  I make myself a salad with craisins, feta cheese, and almonds because I ate so recently.  During dinner, we FaceTime a family member who has had a rough week, and enjoy catching up.

6:10: Bath time! 15 minutes of water play and 5 minutes of cowashing/hair detangling!

IMG_41406:45: David walks in the door carrying a hummingbird feeder and homemade muffins from a congregation member (totally normal) and helps me read, sing, find transitional objects, and coax girls to sleep.

7:00-7:20: I run upstairs several times to fix various emergencies like “my blanket fell off,” “you forgot to say my words” (I said them), “I’m not tired,” and “I’m scared.”  I finally issue the trump card: “if I have to come up here again, you won’t get a muffin in the morning.”

7:30 “…She found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left” (Mark 7:20). The girls are asleep.

I plate David’s dinner, clean up the girls’  plates and places, do the dishes, switch the laundry once again, pour a glass of wine for each of us, and talk briefly with David. Then I work for 45 more minutes.  I also get an email from a friend who is running for the Florida House of Representatives, and marvel at how awesome and accomplished my friends are!

8:40: Connect and hang with David.  Keeping it real, we get into an argument slash relationship growth opportunity.  I also eat a muffin.

10:00: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.” – Psalm 3:5 Bedtime! I think I fell asleep in less than 5 minutes.

I’m realizing that this summer, I will really need to pray for “daily bread” in the form of energy and patience to keep up with my kids’ energy level.  I am also remembering that last summer I began a “two shots of espresso at 1 pm” habit…

But still…I know that I am very blessed to be able to direct the fun and coach the girls through their daily emotions and experiences.  I’m excited for the rest of summer!

Changes

So, we moved to North Carolina.  I feel like I should punctuate that with an exclamation point, because shouldn’t I be excited about this big change in my life?, but that feels a little false.  I could also punctuate it:

So, we moved to North Carolina?

Or:

So, we moved to North Carolina…

Perhaps the ellipses is the most accurate, because I don’t know what’s next!

We have been here about nine weeks, and a lot has happened during that time. So, upon several requests, I am bringing the blog back (at least for this update).  IMG_3840.JPGSome of this story is just David’s, but in short, he has been wrestling with his call for a while.  We both absolutely loved our church in Florida, but he was feeling restless.  When he was first approached about applying for a new position, I was in one of the hardest seasons I have ever been in and flat-out told him NO.  You cannot disrupt our life right now; it is hard enough.  I cannot cope with more.  If you are gone any more, if we have any fewer resources at our disposal, if I have to implement one more change, that will be the straw that breaks me.

Although I told him no, it began an almost two-year conversation about what a new call might look like.  What would make us leave the people we loved and the important work we both did in our community? What would be “worth it?” Every few months he would hear from a church wondering if he was interested in an interview.  We said no every time.  We both acknowledged that we would likely move at some point so that David could advance in his career track, but you don’t leave a job when things are going well (or so we thought).

Things got easier with the kids.  Last spring, I was offered an exciting job opportunity.  The position would require me to stay in our area for the next three years.  David told me that I should take it–then told me three days later over tacos and my tears,  “I don’t think I can commit to staying here that long.”

This timeline was new to me.

(I want to pause here and say that marriage is a growth opportunity.  It’s easy to say the vows; it’s harder to make choices that prioritize another person’s happiness over your own.  Deciding, ok, your fulfillment is more important than mine—I’ll figure it out is SCARY. Yet I believe it is what we are called to, and I believe that God will bless us when we are obedient.

There are, of course, more complex layers to this decision involving long-term finances and health insurance and childcare–and in some of those decisions, David has laid down some of his happiness for us.  So don’t interpret this as my martyr story.  Healthy, loving families sacrifice for one another; marriage generally works best if you do, too. Moving along…)

I didn’t commit to the job opportunity.  But the conversation had shifted something anyway.  I noticed that David began to say “when we move” instead of “if we move.”  Things were going well for him AND for me professionally and personally, and the kids were thriving, so I pretended I couldn’t hear him.

In November, David went on a weeklong retreat for pastors.  I sent him away somewhat rudely, telling him he needed to figure out why he was so restless.  I assumed they would tell him to try harder to have a positive attitude, or something.  Instead, the vocational coaches told him he was restless because he was ready for a senior pastor position.

He came home and had barely updated me on the retreat when two churches contacted him to set up interviews for a senior pastor position.  Two in one week.  And here is where I sort of lost my mind, because THIS WAS MOVING SO FAST, and when I said, “figure out your restlessness” I didn’t mean, “move our family in the next few months.”

Yet just eight weeks later, I found myself in a tiny rental car, driving towards a a small town in North Carolina.

Over a long weekend, I learned that this church wanted and needed my husband’s exact skill set.

I could see the opportunities in front of the church and the growing community; I could see how his gifts would allow this church to expand their ministry and share God’s love with more people.

But I was so comfortable in Florida. I was happy.  Life was running smoothly(ish)—finally. 

IMG_3404As I spoke, journaled, prayed them—these objections disturbed me.  I used to want to be a missionary in another country—and now I wouldn’t BE MISSIONAL because I was too comfortable? Since when was my comfort a good decision-making standard? And was my happiness truly contingent upon being in a 5-mile geographic radius, or was God big enough to fulfill me anywhere? Could I trust God to help me handle the transitions that would come with a big life change, or not?

Long story short, through lots of prayer (mine were mostly “DON’T DO THIS TO ME PLEASE DON’T DO THIS TO ME CRAP I THINK YOU MIGHT WANT ME TO DO THIS”) and with the help of wise counsel and a good offer, we decided to take the job.  I still wasn’t totally jazzed, but the logical part of me saw how all of this was good, and I didn’t want to hold us back with my selfishness.

Mechanically, I got ready for the move.  But my heart wasn’t in it.

IMG_3063About a month later, just before we announced our move, I was perched on my kitchen bar stool, reading and journaling and doing my best to work through all this when I got to Romans 10:

For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

And for the first time, I could picture more than my comfortable life.

I pictured the small town, growing by the day.  I pictured the church–which has been ministering to the community since the 1700s.  I remembered the search committee’s description of the church: their sincere desire to share good news with their community, and their longing for someone to equip them to be the best messengers possible.

I realized that while I was begging NOT to be sent, they were begging TO be sent.

And then God hit me over the head with this thought (from my BSF lesson):

IMG_3070What if I stepped out—and something amazing happened in someone else’s life because of it? What if someone found Christ because I agreed to move? That would be worth it. 

And here, I found a vision that compelled me more than my comfort.  I still wasn’t (and honestly still am not) happy to leave my friends and community, and man, it has been a lot of work, but I feel purpose in this transition.  David is doing a great job.  The church is thrilled to have his leadership.  The community is responding.

We have a new house, in a wonderful school district.  I have six new friends’ names and numbers in my phone.  I even got here in time to plant a garden…and it’s growing!

IMG_4026I didn’t picture this.  I didn’t plan this.  But once again, I find myself “journeying with Him.”  Surrendering to the mystery of the journey.

Even enjoying the journey.

Maybe I’ll blog about the journey?

Spring Thoughts

I’ve been a horrible blogger this year.

Working part time instead of “very” part time has killed my desire to spend any extra time behind a computer screen. Additionally, Zoe stopped napping last year (June 13, 2016 is basically my personal Pearl Harbor Day), and having a constant companion makes it hard for me to even know what my thoughts are, much less to process them in prose.

Also, as a writer, I typically draw a lot of inspiration from the world around me (that seems so adorably retro now, like carrying around a CD case in your Honda Civic and paying for your gas in a mixture of dollar bills and quarters…a sweeter, more naive time).  I’ll spare you the political talk but man, it’s bleak out there. I also draw inspiration from my faith, and 2017 has been weird spiritually as I attempted to “read through the Bible in a year.”  Who knew that the layout of the One Year Bible would suck all joy out of my spiritual life as I came to dread each day’s reading? I got almost two weeks behind with everything going on with my grandmother, and tried to catch up, but the layout of this reading plan had me reading essentially the same stories and laws for two months.

I didn’t want to catch up.  I wanted it to end.

By late April, I was only reading it because I felt like it was a chore I “should” get through, and that I “should” finish what I started out to do.

But as Shauna Niequist puts it, “should is a warning sign,” and as a recovering perfectionist, I am really sensitive to how quickly “should” can corrupt something good for me.  So this week, I quit.  I want my relationship with God to be a soft place to land, where grace can be given and accepted, where my heart is glad and free and knows it is loved. Life is hard enough without creating burdens for ourselves. God tells us to be diligent about knowing, remembering, teaching, and living the Word—but He did not say we have to read through it in a year.  🙂

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(I made it further than this, but basically, yeah.)

I’m trying to be more sensitive to the “shoulds” in my life—which, when combined with the other reasons listed above, is why you haven’t heard much from me this year.  I don’t want to blog because I “should.”  I want to blog as a natural outflow of my inspired, reflective heart.  My heart isn’t quite there right now, but despite the lack of self-reflection, I’ve been enjoying life! I’m in a good place in so many ways.

Zoe has been doing so well with managing her emotions over the last few months, which makes an incredible difference in my energy level and my own emotions.  She just gave me a Mother’s Day present that she made at preschool that includes a photo of her from the beginning of the school year.  She was so uncomfortable with many situations then, and was dependent on me to help her figure out coping strategies.  The progress between then (left, the best picture they could come up with because she was so uncomfortable…it was like a photo shoot of misery) and last week (right…joy-filled as she enjoys African dance with her class) is visible.

Praise God that she has come so far. I have learned a lot over the last year about how to advocate for what my daughter needs, but have also learned that I can only take her so far and then have to trust God, the community He has given us, and herself to take her the rest of the way. God has been gracious to continually remind me that He is my partner in raising my children, and that it’s not all up to me. It is not chance that the church we “happen” to serve at has an inclusive preschool program that “happens” to be the best place possible for her. I got her on the waiting list when she was one week old; I had no idea we’d need or benefit from the inclusive services. But God did.

Sally Clarkson writes about learning to trust God with her “different” child:

“If you accept this child as a gift from Me, I will use him as a blessing in your life. Let go of your questions, fears, and guilt. If you submit to My will with a humble heart, I will carry this burden for you so you can find peace…

A sense of freedom filled my heart when I understood that I didn’t have to solve all our problems at once or even understand them. God would be with me every step of the way. He would fill in the holes of my inadequacy with His grace” (p. 23).

I am finding this to be so true—the surrender, the peace, the freedom, the gift. And yes, I should probably just hand over the keyboard to Sally Clarkson and let her write this blog.

Maybe because of this freedom, my work/life balance has felt mostly on point for several months.  I’ve been stepping into rest more easily than in the past.  I’ve been vocalizing the things I want to do to have fun, and enjoying my city, my family, and my friends (I’m trying to do one new thing per week, which is a great challenge if you want to up your joy a little bit). Daylight Savings Time added two hours of daylight to my life and some serious pep to my step.

I’ve been quitting things that came from good intentions but didn’t feel quite right, like the reading plan and my monthly cleaning checklist…I’ll just live in filth, thanks.

I’ve been adding joy to my life through podcasts and exercise and reading and buying the expensive hummus (just do it—it’s amazing).  I’ve set up some fun rhythms with the girls, like watching some of The Voice every week when David works late (my final four predictions: Lauren, Chris, Brenley, and Hunter.  Lauren, I’ll buy your album.  Hunter, would it kill you to emote?!!)

One of my favorite podcasts talked about how truly stopping work can be impossible when you have young children, and how a more appropriate goal for Sabbath may be to “play.”  Instead of “resting,” focus on doing what you love and enjoy.  I’m so on this train.

This year has me traveling more than any other year in recent memory, which I am so excited about….I’ve already been to Philadelphia twice and Watersound, Florida once, and I’ll be making trips to North Carolina, Texas, and Minnesota in upcoming months, each with a different combination of family members. Pray for our ten hour car ride next week…

IMG_0337I’m not doing any type of regular formal ministry at all right now (for the first time in 7+ years) and a few of my high school girls (who were then my college girls, and are now my POST COLLEGE girls…what?!!) are coming back to town to start big-girl jobs.  I’m excited about the possibilities for continued mentoring and friendship, but cautious about committing. If God leads me this direction and opens this door, I would be very happy to step into a new chapter of mentoring young women.  But He may just want me to keep taking care of my little ones, and that’s okay too.

So, I’ve been a horrible blogger, but I’ve been a great live-r of life! I just wanted to write a little post to share that I am happy and healthy.  I will be back when I have something of greater substance to say (or when summer break drives me to sarcasm), but until then, I hope you all are enjoying your lives as well!

And Happy Mother’s Day to all of you moms!

Celebrating

I haven’t written for a while because my Nana died, and I didn’t know how or what to write about that.  I was able to travel to say goodbye to her, and I have to say that I know God is real when you can sit at your Nana’s kitchen table, silent and jumbled-up and with an aching soul—and simultaneously knowing and feeling that He is at the table with you, not because you’re doing or saying or thinking anything good, but because He is good and He loves you.  God has met me in some very interesting places over the years, and this is one I’ll always remember—not because a miraculous healing occurred or because my heart was overcome with joy or because I heard a clear message or suddenly felt equipped to do the hard thing in front of me, but because He was there, and that was enough.

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I could talk for a long time about the experience of saying goodbye to someone, but Nana directed our feelings when she shared with us, “Don’t be afraid. This was easy.  I know where I’m going, and I’ll see all of you there.”  It was a sweet time, and I’m so, so grateful I got to be there.

A few weeks later, I was privileged to join my entire family to celebrate her life.  There was fresh snow, a freezing graveside service, a beautiful and inspiring church service, tears, laughter, wine, coffee, and unexpected train rides, so the entire thing felt a little bit surreal-ly balanced between happy and sad.

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After saying goodbye to Nana and beginning to reflect on her legacy, I have a clarified outlook on what really “sticks” at the end of your life, and I’m freshly aware that I am responsible for living now as the kind of person I want to be.  Sifting through Nana’s life made me realize that I want to be more intentional about being a good friend, making family memories, and doing the things that I enjoy (instead of thinking “wouldn’t it be nice to…” and then shelving the activity for some unspecified date).  

Thus…

Zoe and I went on a breakfast-and-sunrise date last week.

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I’ve been taking advantage of the wonderful weather and taking my girls to the beach with friends.

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When we leave the beach, we often stop for a sweet treat.  I’ve decided it’s just going to be an official, regular thing now.  I want my adult children to say, “remember when we were little and we’d go to the beach, and we’d always get ice cream/a chocolate muffin?!! That was the best!!!” 

I went on a beach weekend with my own friends, too (and we left the kids behind)!!!! This should also be an official, regular thing. 🙂

I went to an international fitness dance expo with two similarly dance-crazed friends and danced for two hours.

IMG_0274Clearly, we looked just like the lead dance instructor. #not

I’ve been enjoying a walk or two on our treadmill each week once the girls are in bed.  I wear Zoe’s toddler headphones (which don’t fall out of my ears like the dumb iPod ones) and praisewalk/dance like a loon to random Christian music playlists.  IMG_0262

I have thoroughly been enjoying my little ladies and the daily adventures they bring into my life.

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I am trying to find the humor and universality in the little annoyances of parenting.

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And I am trying to soak up the little moments…because they add up to the bigger picture of my life.

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Thank you, Nana, for all you taught me, and for all you keep teaching me.