Sunday, September 28, 2014

Gondolas at Whistler

Whistler Pics: Kiss the Sky

And Now A Word From the Books Beside my Bed-

Bullies and Balance

Before the beginning of every month I take down the large family calendar in the kitchen and set it next to my stash of markers.

Then, starting with my husband's work schedule, which is different every month, I draw arrows and make colorful scribbles until gradually the next thirty days of our family life takes shape.

I write FHE (family home evening), FC (family council), and DATE NIGHT in large bright colors. Then, I add things like scouts, piano, robotics, and story time. By the time I add the doctor appointments, curriculum night, and a myriad of other places to be on-time, there are A LOT OF LETTERS on my calander. And try as I may, there is absolutely NO WAY of rearranging those letters to spell 
People often talk of "finding balance," but in my experience, balance is not something you simply "find". Balance has to be achieved. 

On Wednesday afternoon we mentally stacked our family's needs against all those letters on the calander and made a decision. Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts could wait until next week and I am not a bad parent if I don't attend curriculum night at the elementary school. That night WE STAYED HOME.

Everyone finished their homework. 

We had a party in the kitchen as we turned a refrigerator filled with garden produce into bags of frozen green beans and grated zucchini. We washed strawberries and snap peas and made eight loaves of whole wheat zucchini bread for the freezer. The chard and spinach went into 36 green egg breakfast burritos that everyone helped fill. 

Tyjah convinced his dad to make his famous peanut butter popcorn...which disappeared in less than thirty seconds.

We all watched the sunset from the back deck and then Wes and the kids played some new version of sharks and minnows- I think they called it fruits and vegetables. Nothing melts my heart more than watching my husband play with our kids. Those giggles as they tried to run past his outstretched arms mean more to me than any award Tyjah could have earned at pack meeting that night.

And speaking of some point that precious boy of mine ran up to me with the biggest hug. "Mom," he said, "this is the best. I'm so glad we stayed home tonight."

My calendar, with all of its arrows and colorful letters, can be a real bully. And my email inbox, filled with everyone else's to-do list can be a real bully, too. 
Standing up every once in a while to reclaim BALANCE keeps things in check. 

The Ideal World of Sisterhood

To be honest, there are some days when I just want each of my children to pick a corner of the house and not even look at each other. Because as soon as someone does, someone else is likely to be offended and say something like"stop staring at me!" Which of course, will tempt the first someone to really start staring. "MOM!!!!!" Why exactly do kids do this?!

We want our kids to get along. To be there for each other. To be each other's best cheerleaders. And the good thing is that most of the time, they are. Take the other night, for example.

Wes and the boys were at a high school football game and the girls and I found ourselves with a quiet evening at home. Eventually, my three daughters and I were all sitting around the kitchen table eating a late night snack when Halle volunteered some school playground woes. Apparently there's this boy she likes to hang out with at recess. He's super funny and everyone likes him.

"But Mom," she said, "he uses potty words like poop and pee and I don't like it. I keep telling him to stop, but he just won't!"

"Hmmmmm...if you don't like how he talks, "I began, "why do keep hanging out with him?"

I could see the war going on inside of Halle's head. It's the second grade version of "hang out with the cool kid" vs. "choose friends who help you live your standards."

I asked good questions that night and we had a great discussion around the kitchen table, but it was the contributions of my daughters that really impressed me.

Sophia shared a similar experience she had a few years ago. She empathized with Halle and explained the consequences of how she had handled the situation.

Then at bedtime, I overheard Lyla's prayers beside her bed: "Please bless that boy to stop using potty words on the playground."

I later realized that my girls were supporting each other, each in her own way. It was a beautiful glimpse into the ideal world of sisterhood.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Put on a Sweater...or NOT

The maple leaves are starting to turn and there's an early autumn breeze reminding me to bring a few sweaters downstairs to hang near the front door. 

Yes, I was one of Mr. Roger's television neighbors as a child. I'd watch him walk through the door, hang up his coat, and change into one of several gloriously 1970s zippered sweaters. He'd feed his fish and then maybe we'd watch a video together on Picture Picture. Remember Picture Picture?

All those yellow crayons rolling down the conveyor belt, one after another, somehow keeping time with the gentle piano music- I was mesmerized.

But what I really looked forward to was that trolley coming through the wall. Didn't all of Mr. Roger's television neighbors dream about a trolley coming out of their own walls and taking them to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe?

The rhythm of those episodes was almost magical. You come home. You change out of your coat. You put on your sweater. And after that, well...after that everything somehow sort of falls into place.

So here we are in September and it's time to pull out those sweaters. Everything should fall into place.

Reality, though, doesn't put on a sweater and hop the trolley. Reality has us grabbing our coats and scrambling out the door. There are three schools to get to on time and seminary starts at 6 am. And despite my husband's jokes about me sitting around with Lyla "eating bon-bons all day," there is still too much to do in between.

The truth is that sometimes family life feels more like one of those incredibly annoying kid movies that tries to make up for a dumb plot and poor character development with potty humor, flashy colors, and obnoxious music. Ug. I hate those movies and it drives me nuts that my kids love them so much.

But this is the season we are in. There is no sugar-coating it- WE. ARE. BUSY. No matter how hard we try not to be. And I'm not saying that I mind...except every once in a while when the obnoxious soundtrack really gets to me and everything is NOT falling into place. I just want to tear up every last page of homework in the house and forget about cub scouts, robotics, and whatever else demands us to be on-time. Yes, every once in a while it's all I can do not to just grab my sweater (cue the gentle piano music) and go feed the fish...which I can't really do because last year we actually killed all of our fish.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Road Trips and All Things Canadian

Last weekend Wes and I decided to surprise our kids with a last minute trip to Whistler, B.C. We haven't taken our kids to Canada in an embarrassing number of years. It seems a little weird that we'd take them all the way to an orphanage in Haiti, but not a couple hours away for gravy on french fries, eh?

So we packed up the car with luggage and snacks and headed north.

Let me just say that I spent my childhood driving from Georgia to New York and from New York to Georgia. It was an 18-hour drive and we drove it straight through. We had no iPads, no iPhones, and no Netflix- can you believe it? By the time we got to New York, my voice was hoarse from singing "Coming to America" and "Daydream Believer". That's right- Neil Diamond and Ann Murray for the better part of 18 hours.

Those trips to New York were often made in the summertime to drop me off for a few weeks with my grandparents. I used to fall asleep for the last few miles of the New York State Thruway just to temper my excitement. 

I remember arriving one summer to find that my grandparents had purchased a small RV. A week or two later I was curled up in the back of that RV with a stack of books, happy to lose myself in the world of Anne of Green Gables and curiously...The Grapes of Wrath. After miles of twisting, turning roads I looked up to see my grandfather's frustrated face in the rear view mirror. "Why don't you look out the window?"

Clearly, the whole point of a road trip is to take in the scenery.

So when we were not yet ten minutes into our Whistler road trip and our kids started whining for iPads and iPhones, I found myself preaching the same sermon.

"Why don't you look out the window?"

And then I promptly felt ancient.

Whistler Road trip August 2014

Halle was first to express her excitement to finally cross the border-

"Remember to say hola! when you get to Canada!"

After that, our children passed the time by pointing out Canadian joggers listening to Canadian music as they jogged by us on Canadian roads. We drove by Canadian rivers, Canadian ponds, and a staggering amount of Canadian trees.

After passing the 543rd Canadian rock, we arrived in Whistler and checked into our Canadian condo. I thought it was a little odd that within five Canadian minutes of unpacking, Halle ran upstairs to take a shower. She came down ten minutes later, impressively balancing a towel turban on her head that was nearly half the size of her seven-year-old body.

"You have GOT to take a Canadian shower!"

There would be no end to all things Canadian for the next couple of days.