Showing posts with label family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family. Show all posts

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Scrimmage: a practice session

Friday night was the unofficial beginning to the football season. Kevin and I found ourselves on the bleachers watching our son take the field for the first time this season. It was just a scrimmage, but scrimmages are important as they give the players an opportunity to get a feel for how everything comes together after a summer of conditioning and practicing.

In these last waning days of summer I am feeling what I feel every year at this time...a  little melancholy. As we walked out of the stadium at the end of the evening, I realized we were in our own scrimmage as I was suddenly getting a feel for what our new season would feel like after a summer of easy living and lots of family time.

I felt intensely appreciative for many recent simple moments ~
  • Like the shopping trip earlier that day, Zach, Erin and Courtney and I had spent five hours together. (Kyler asked to be excused from this endless traipsing from store to store).  It was wonderful. I don't have the three of them alone very often and it was good for us to have this time. Really good.
  • I also felt grateful for my college daughter who napped with me on the couch that afternoon. This physical closeness doesn't happen quite as often now that she is nineteen (I can't exactly rock her anymore), and she doesn't even live at home nine months out of the year.
  • We had just spent a week with my niece and nephew and I felt joy at the opportunity to deepen our bonds, and a little sadness as I realized much distance was once again between us.
  • A summer in which Kyler experienced many steps forward made my heart hopeful for his upcoming season as well as grateful for his current place.
  • Knowing my baby girl was starting high school made my heart almost skip a beat. I can still see her two year old self twirling around in dress up clothes and beaming at me as she smiles....which was (and still is) all the time. 
  • I was keenly aware that with Zach heading into his junior year, I have two years left with him at home...and time seems to fly these days. So this created a lump in my throat and possibly a glassy residue in my eyes.
I will be fine. I remind myself. This happens every year. This new season will bring new plays for our team, and everyone will get comfortable in their new positions, including me. But for today, I will remember that all of these feelings are just a part of the process for me each year, so its OK to feel a little sad right now.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

I'm Not Sure I Want to...


Click here to read my latest post on Moms.FortWayne.Com
I wrote about the motivation and encouragement of others.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Girls Only!

The other week was for girls only. Zach was serving as a counselor at our middle school church camp, Kyler was at the camp as a camper, and Kevin was in Colorado for work for the week. That left Courtney, Erin and I home alone, and together, all week ~ it was a rare and wonderful time!

Courtney has a full time internship, so she was gone during the days, and Erin did a little babysitting, but we did enjoy some fun and focused girl time together. We enjoyed watching Erin play softball during tournament week. There was one game I could not go to but Courtney was there and cheered Erin on - she was especially loud ("Great try, Erin!!!!") when the woman next to her complained about a dropped catch. Love that.

One night we went out to a late dinner, then ice-cream, and when we got home we watched a movie and all slept in the basement! (I didn't sleep so well as the dog seemed very confused about my sleeping down there; she kept trying to wake me up all night!)

One evening Erin went out with her softball team after a game, so Courtney and I went to DeBrands for ice-cream (you can read about Summer Weight here!) I loved my conversation with her that evening. Erin and I also trekked to Shipshewana one day; our time together was so much fun.

We went for walks, and really just simply enjoyed each other the whole week. One night we laughed so hard, we all cried. That was really good.

It was a week of living simply. No worries about dinner (I never cooked), no various schedules or plans to keep track of, we did what we wanted, when we wanted. It was wonderful.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A True Tale of Sisters















Once upon a time there was a family. A very large family.

There were three sisters, and one sister that they didn’t even know was their sister until they were older. (She was once called a "sister-in-law" but she felt just like a sister so they changed her official status)

The four sisters were all married,
One was married to a man who could fix anything ~ from dangling car mirrors to flying car top carriers.
One was married to a very funny man, who was also very brave and courageous.
One was married to a future farmer of America (for they had just bought 68 acres and there was now talk of cows, goats and such) who was also known for his culinary skills.
And one was married to a hunter, fisher, gatherer who had many temperature issues, which sometimes caused thermostat wars with one of the sisters.

The Beautiful Sisters
One of the sisters was beautiful. She had a heart for constantly looking out for the interest of others, even when she herself was shortchanged. She welcomed orphaned animals into her home and loved them with a compassion and empathy that was renowned throughout the land. She loved deeply and laughed loudly.

The other sister was beautiful, she had a deep faith that carried and guided her ways. She was very funny, as well as intelligent (though neither she nor the oldest sister could count by 9’s). She lived far, far away from the other sisters. She was dynamic, talented and could even do cartwheels.

The other sister was beautiful. She was the one who found her sister's when she was an adult. She was known for her grace and poise, peace and calm. She was intentional as she mothered, intentional as she walked through her marriage, intentional as she developed her friendships and intentional as she sought her God.

The oldest sister was beautiful. Sometimes she was also a mother to the sisters. She loved her sisters deeply, she prayed for them often, she felt blessed constantly by the love of the very large family.

The sisters had many children, eleven in all.

The very large family sometimes took vacations together, twice to be precise.

They had been to the hot beaches of South Carolina and to the cold lakes of Minnesota. Once the sisters even met in the windy city of Chicago, but one of the sisters on that trip was an impostor (though a perfect and lovely impostor) as the real sister was home with her family - tending to important and tender matters.

There were two sixteen year old boys named Zach & Zack. They loved football and singing for the family talent show. The had great adventures in the ocean and on the lake, even reminding their parents of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn as they paddled on the very windy waters one day. They were great examples to the younger boys in the big, big family. Both of them were very funny and spent their days knowing their own reality show would one day indeed be a reality.

There were two other boys, one had just become a teenager and one was almost a teenager. The one that was working towards being a teenager was very independent; he liked his i pod, the TV and  sleeping! He was interested in games and even learned how to play cribbage with his cousin and his “aunt” on the trip to the lake. He looked up to his oldest cousin, and liked when they got time together. The new teen had never been to the ocean and loved that trip very much. He missed out on the trip to the lake but had the gift of many days in a row with his very first sisters and brother, proving that families are made up simply of people who have an abiding love for you.

There were three teen girls who were not above being silly and fun and they never gave the impression that they were too cool  for anyone. (Although they did moan and complain about getting up to see the sun rise one morning.) They gathered the young ones, did puzzles, gave puppet shows, took walks on the beach, loved to have water adventures and more. One was confused and wore her Christmas sweater in summer, one was rather quiet and was almost done being a teen as she was soon to turn twenty, and the other one was very kind-hearted and could often be found painting her nails and the nails of others…using very bright colors.

There were two little boys, ages seven and eight who had pool noodle fights and hunted for sharks, crabs, and “free firewood”. They played together and they played separately. One of them loved to spend his time padding around the water, in kayaks and paddle boards, and the other loved to play in the sand, catch minnows and he even lost his tooth one trip. (That little boy was lucky to be alive because one of the sisters kept trying to kill him with peanut butter, (which was a very strong allergen)  but that’s another story entirely.)

There were also two more girls, one going into 5th grade and one going into 6th grade. The older girl loved adventure, loved the water and didn’t think twice about heading out to help rescue the moms one day as they were stranded in the middle of the lake. The younger girl had many, many, many stories to tell, she too would join any adventure.  She loved to fish and wished her mom would give her fiber pills and comb her hair gently. (That poor, poor girl.)

Most of the sisters did not live near to each other, (though two of the lucky ones did) but they used text messages, phone calls, emails and even Skype to live in each others lives, keep tabs on the husbands endeavors and keep track of all those children’s activities, challenges and accomplishments.

Then magically, or faithfully as some liked to believe, they came together for these big family summer vacations where bonding was renewed, fun was had and laughing was non-stop. (The husbands sometimes referred to this as "cackling" which the sisters found quite amusing.)

When the vacations came to and end, and the cars were packed, it was always very hard for the sisters to say good-bye (sometimes they even cried). This was because they never were sure when they might come together again. But as they hugged each other one last time, there was one thing they knew for certain, they were deeply and profoundly connected.

                                                           To be continued……………………..


Friday, June 17, 2011

Investing in What Matters

Relationship building ~ it always takes time, sometimes money and usually some sort of sacrifice. Let's face it, there is a cost to build relationships. With overly busy schedules in our culture, time is probably our greatest gift, but sometimes it is the hardest to give. But I am reminded over and over, it is relationships that hold us together, sustain us, bring us our greatest laughter, and our most valued and intimate support.

With relationship building in mind, our family is headed once again on a week long vacation with my two sisters and Kevin's sister and all the families. (We're hoping my mother-in-law will also join us for a few days this time.) Two years ago we rented a house on the ocean, this time it is a cabin on a lake. There will be eighteen of us gathering for a week of cousins connecting, swimming, spoons, much coffee in the morning on the porch and some beer around the fire in the evening. A week of deep conversations, shared meals, ice-cream, walks, laughing 'til tears are streaming down our faces, of pancakes, fires and s'mores dripping from our chins. (I do have pictures of this, and no Jamie you cannot post them, and Tracey, quit laughing!)

I believe we each make this trip because of the investments we've been making all along. We travel to each others homes, even though 500, and even 1,000, miles separate us. We call and email and text to share the big things and the very little things. We pray for each other and ask honest advice from each other. We bear each others burdens and forgive each other when needed.

This is blessing ~ we weren't always this close. It didn't just happen, it took, and it still takes, investment. I know right now, this trip is coming at a higher cost for some of us, and it would be easy to not come because of other things and people who need us right now. But the time has been set aside, the travel plans are in place and the pay off is coming soon.

Relationships take investment ~ but once deposited, the
payoff is something that cannot be calculated.

Click here to read more about investing in relationships,
and here to read about growing relationships.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sidelined

It takes a lot to knock us moms off our game, but last week a fever and horrible body aches knocked me way off of my game; I spent 36 hours either in bed or on the couch. Although there was much on my plate for the week, and my kids and others were counting on me, there was nothing I could do.

Late in the afternoon on day one Courtney sent a text to ask how I was feeling. That was so thoughtful. Then later Erin received a text message from Courtney letting her know that she (Courtney) would be making dinner. Wow. With Kevin not likely to be home in time for Erin's softball game, Zach said he would drive Erin to her game and stay to watch her. Nice.

It is amazing to watch these children grow up, sometimes right before my eyes. Every so often I miss the little kids that they were, but I am amazed constantly by the young adults they have become.

I'm glad to be healthy and back in the game now, but seeing how the other players moved to make sure things got covered assured my time on the sidelines was not a total loss. Thanks team. Its heartwarming to know you've got my back.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Love Notes in my Pantry

My mother-in-law, Verona,  left twenty-six days ago. I miss her terribly. She was here in our home for ten days. Six of those days Kevin and I were in Utah and she was here cooking and running our kids around. She was also baking and reading and walking our dog. She was cleaning, taking naps and sitting at softball games. She was checking homework, helping with projects, loving our kids and being an amazing grandma, mom and mother-in-law.

I respect Verona a lot. She raised four kids, three of which were boys...one of those boys made her believe he would be an only child (this would be the one to which I am married). She is a mother-in-law to three women and one man, and I am constantly learning from her how to be a mother-in-law. She is a wonderful cook (many of the recipes I make are from her), she also has much order in her home. She is intelligent, a good friend, and much more.

I am always looking for others to help me in this journey of mine, knowing Verona would be here and working within my kitchen, I gave her free reign to reorganize anything she wanted. If she thought a different arrangement or system would serve me better, than I told her to please re-arrange or at least let me know what she thought when I returned.
I returned from Utah to children who felt loved and deeply cared for, cupcakes and muffins on my counter, cookies in my freezer, clean sheets on our bed, a completed puzzle on the dining room table, a basket-full of expired canned and boxed goods from the pantry and these notes on my pantry shelves:

Its been twenty-six days since she left and the notes remain still. Her handwriting in my pantry greets me each and every time I open that door, it tells me she was here ~ a little bit of her presence, love and care wash over me. We have lived many, many miles apart for nineteen of the twenty years I have been married to her son, and I am reminded how blessed I am, and how much I sometimes crave her presence in my life. When I grow up (even more than I am now) and am in her position as the mother-in-law, in many, many ways, I want to be just like her.

Is there a special way your mother-in-law touches your life?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

These Days

These kids of mine - Summer 2009
Erin 12, Kyler 11, Courtney 17, Zach 14, me....younger   :)
So this week....
Courtney started a full-time (paid!) summer engineering internship. I loved the two weeks she was home from college but not yet working. We had time for shopping, lunch, the Y and more. I love that she is working and learning and growing...and I am preparing myself to FULLY experience this summer with her because next year she may be working out of town at a co-op job. Sigh. It's good. Really it is, said the mom to herself. And somewhere in her heart she knew it was true. 

Zach got his drivers license today! On my gosh....another teen driver in our house...and on our insurance (!) sigh. As we he was driving home from the BMV, I realized how much I will miss picking him up and dropping him off. This time alone in the car has been a great way to touch base, to hear about his day, to have him alone. I won't miss driving him to football conditioning and practice at 7:00 am on the upcoming summer mornings...except that in a way I actually will, knew the mom.

Erin turns fourteen this week. Fourteen. We shopped for her birthday gifts - which were not baby dolls and Polly Pockets. She is wrapping up her last twelve days of middle school and is heading to high school in a few short months. How did this happen to our little bundle of joy? wondered the mother who still sees the crib in the nursery window somewhere in her minds eye.

Last week I wrote of Kyler, this week I am mindful of the other three. Although, I will say that Kyler did give us a change of spirit; it has been here for 48 hours. I can't recall the last time his spirit has been soft - I'm not kidding, its been that long. So there is a gratitude for the grace of God upon this one. Thank you Jesus, whispered his mom.

It happens so quickly, yet really, just one ordinary day at a time. Our time is fleeting...and that is if we even have the time we think we should. Intentional - even in the grocery shopping, errand running, dropping off, picking up, game watching, homework helping, TV watching, making popcorn days. Because really, these are all the days we have, remembered the mom.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More than Enough Room

Have you ever gone back home as an adult, walked through the doors and slid back into the role, or position, you had as a child? Do you suddenly become the baby, middle or eldest? The favorite, the prince, the ornery one, the trouble maker, the responsible one, or the peace maker? I have been thinking about this a fair amount as I anticipated Courtney returning for the summer after her first year away at college.

One of the joys of parenting these kids is seeing who they are becoming. I believe the basics of personality and character are in place, but there is so much more of them yet to unfold. As I wrote here, it has been a year of change for each of our kids. I took a little time to talk to the baby and the middle one the day we drove to retrieve the eldest. :) I brought to their attention that they had each changed and grew in this past year and that I hoped that they would walk in that change even as things went back to feeling "normal" with the return of their sister.

We send our kids off to the next phase (college or independent living) with hope and expectation of growth and change. So I believe its important to not put them back into their same places when they come back home; they won't really fit there anymore anyway, and this is a good thing. I want my kids to leave home and then be comfortable coming back bigger, broader, and wiser. But I'm not sure this comes naturally to us parents, for me it has been an intentional thought process.

I heard a mom say today that she was disappointed when her family didn't do an Easter egg hunt this year. (her kids are in college and high school) She said that no matter how old her kids get, she wants them to hunt for eggs. This sounds to me as if she is trying to preserve what has been...for her sake. But I think when we do that we prevent what is...for all of our sakes.

I get that I am new at this stage of parenting. I know that I don't even know what I don't know. I believe there are seasoned parents reading this who have experiences of which I am completely unaware and may be shaking their heads at how naive I am.

I just know that if I expect my kids to quit changing because it makes me sad then I will miss out - and they may end up pretending to be someone they are not...just to seem like they fit. That is exactly the opposite of what we taught them - please don't be someone you're not just to fit in.

So, welcome home Courtney, stand tall Zach, Erin and Kyler. You are each becoming really great young adults and there is room enough in this mother's heart and mind to accommodate all that you are and all that you will become.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Making Room

Our family has grown ~ it happened while Courtney was at college.

As we were driving to pick her up and move her back home for the summer, I realized there had been much growth over the past nine months. We need to make room not only for all the stuff coming back home, (where are we going to put that futon?) but we are going to need to make room for all the growth as well.

Erin grew into her spot as the only other woman in the house. She became even more helpful, more intuitive, and grew in responsibility and maturity. She grew into herself a little more, she is more confident and carries herself a little taller. Her relationship and even friendship with Zach definitely grew, I see her rely on him in ways she hadn't before. I have heard them laugh and seen them help each other in new ways these past nine months. She sobbed when her sister and best-friend moved out, but now rejoices as she makes room for her to come back and share her room again.

Zach also grew - he stands not only taller, but sturdier as well. He easily slid into the leader of the pack spot when Courtney went to college. He grew in reliability and strength. His shoulders became broader not only physically but relationally. I saw him use them to allow Erin to lean into him when things with Kyler have been chaotic. I remember one day in particular when Kyler went into a rage, Zach cheerfully said, "Hey Erin, let's go outside and play catch." He knew to remove his little sister from the environment that felt a little scary. He has grown in his faith and even in character. Also, in a few short weeks he receives his license and we will need to make room in the drivers seat as we go from two to four drivers. 

Courtney is not the same young woman we left in that dorm room nine months ago. She grew so much this year. She, too, is much more confident. She returns with wisdom and life experience gained while forging her way through life while away from us. She comes back to us with new personal strength as well as cooking skills! (She has requested to make dinner twice this week ~ I'm not gonna kid you, this is an area that delights me!) She drinks coffee now, is used to keeping her own hours, and to coming and going without checking in. She has grown in ways that have changed her at the right time and in the right ways.

Our family is growing, and this must propel us forward. We must expand and widen who we are and how we see each other to make room for all this growth. I will write my thoughts about that next time....

(Kyler has grown as well. To be honest, as I sat down to write this I was discouraged to not be able to measure his growth in obvious ways, but I realize one significant growth area. When we brought Courtney to college, he was not allowed to go with us, his behavior was such that he would have ruined this important and significant day for the family. (It was on the advice of his therapist that we find an alternative way for him to spend that day) When we made plans to move her back home, we didn't even question taking him with us. It felt good to have our family together that day and so I do measure and count that growth.)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kevin Steps in

As I write this, it is exactly one week from the day that Sheri will watch a mother be named American Mothers, Inc.’s 2011 Young Mother of the Year. We will no longer be able to refer to Sheri as THE Young Mother of the Year. We kid her that she will need to “give up her crown.” The reality is that there is no actual crown, and Sheri is even more humble about her abilities to parent today – especially when she compares herself to the other mothers in her network – than she was when she was named the 2010 Young Mother of the Year.

In honor of the passing of an age I decided to hijack Sheri’s blog and share the words I spoke at an event honoring Sheri this past year:

“Before I met Sheri I had a mental picture of what my wife would be like. She would be perfect in every way. Perfect hair, perfect face, perfect body, perfect judgment, always said the perfect thing at the perfect time – perfect, perfect, perfect. Then I met the Sheri, the woman I would befriend, fall in love with, marry - the woman with whom I would start a family. As it turned out, she was not perfect. However, it is in her imperfection that Sheri has become an incredible mother.

When our children were very young, Sheri recognized that she was not a perfect parent, so she sought help. She signed us up for parenting classes. She read books. She found mothers who had walked the parenthood path before she did and sought their council. She has taken every opportunity to learn to be a better mother.

Because she is not perfect, Sheri has made parenting mistakes and has learned from them. She has developed a set of experiences and tools that cover a wide variety of parenting issues. Mentoring younger mothers is a passion of Sheri’s. Since she has shared similar struggles, she is able to relate to young mothers’ challenges and is a very credible and sought after mentor.

And since Sheri has never been perfect, she has made mistakes in her life. Through those experiences she has been able to relate to our children’s struggles. She is able to anticipate trouble, and can speak to our kids from a place of empathy and compassion. They do not feel judged, they feel understood.

There is no better proof of this than the words of our eldest daughter written for a scholarship application prior to Sheri receiving the national title:

‘My mother’s wise advice, peaceful demeanor, and balanced life have not gone unnoticed, and she recently was nominated for the Young Mother of the Year award. She is currently Indiana’s nominee for Young Mother of the Year. This acknowledgment is something of a joke in our family, as my mother would never seek attention or reward for her efforts to be the best mother she can be. My mother is, truly, an amazing woman. She is selfless. She is resourceful. She is wise, intelligent, and empathetic. Her ability to know how people are feeling and relate appropriately to their emotions is impressive and even uncanny. Most teens vow never to become like their mother, but I aspire for the opposite: I hope that when I have my own children, the guidance and love of my mother shines through my character.’  ~Courtney Carlstrom, 2010

So Sheri is not an incredible mother in spite of her imperfection. She is an incredible mother, mentor, friend, and wife because she is not perfect and has used that to her very best advantage.

Sheri – we love you and are very proud of you. You deserve every acknowledgement you receive. You are OUR Mother of the Year EVERY year. Love, Kevin

This is a note to any husbands reading this blog entry: (Wives, feel free to show this to your husbands) Mother’s Day is coming. Write your wife a note letting her know why she would have your vote for Mother of the Year. It will be a gift she will cherish.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Where's the Money?

Field trips are not my favorite thing (this confession brought to you by the 2010 National Young Mother of the Year...just another reality check here on that title), but I do love the 8th Grade Junior Achievement Finance Park field trip. I believe this is the most important field trip the kids in our district participate in at this age.

Upon arrival at Lincoln Finance Park, they receive an envelope which states their life situation for the day. They discover their age, if they are single or married, whether or not they have kids, occupation, annual income, and taxes to be paid. From that information they will set a budget based on minimum and maximum amounts for each budget category, and they will receive many, many options for purchases. Such as for the house and vehicle they will purchase, (along with corresponding insurance). They will budget for clothing, entertainment, a benefits package, groceries, home improvements, utilities and more.

It's incredible to watch these teenagers struggle to make decisions about which house to buy, how much to budget for eating out, why they cant buy the sports car - because of the need for car seats. In general just struggling with how much things cost. Its amazing to see them grasp what is must be like for their parents as they come and ask for money for clothes, movies, pizza, and more. The realization of where that money comes from was happening.

At the end of the day, with budgets stretched and cutbacks made, the Junior Achievement leader asked if there were things that parents have to budget for that were not on their budget sheets today. Their answers again showed the clarity they had gained....YES. Vacations, birthday and Christmas presents, gasoline to name a few. One kid said that when his parents say no to something, he now understands why.

When I asked some of the kids in my group if they received budgets or allowance, they all said no. When I asked them  how they get money to go to movies or to buy things, they said they just ask for money and their parents give it to them....check back here tomorrow to find out what I suggested to them!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hanging On So I Can Let Go

I remember that it was very exciting when we began college visits for Courtney. I also remember the first pain that hit my chest as I suddenly realized how much everything was about to change, and how very much I would miss her.

I recently realized that next year at this time we will be doing the same thing with Zach. He will be mostly through his junior year at this point and the process will begin again...with another child of mine.

Last week Courtney sent me a text message that said she was on campus and had seen a guy who looked much like Zach. She said it made her heart hurt a little as it made her realize that very soon Zach will be that old. I wonder if that meant she felt the first twinges of realizing that as they each move to the next stages, our family structure will change and none of us really knows what it (we) will look like when we get there.

All of this makes me wake up even more to the little, every day things that make up who we are. Soon this 6'2" blond boy of mine will have his license, so for today I enjoy dropping him off and picking him up. I hug him a little more tightly as we say good night because I can. His sense of humor brings much laughter and lightness to our family and I don't want to imagine how we will all miss that, so for today I wrap myself in it.

As these kids of ours become young adults I realize more and more, that this is it. The time I have right now is the time that is really mine. And it is fleeting. Most of us are in the same house (we're all in the same house when Courtney is home from college). We're all in the same state. There are no spouses. There isn't a lot of competition for family time. The nuclear family is intact. And so for now I will take in, soak up, and hang on to what is in order to prepare to let go, so that I can embrace what is to come.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Growing vs. Maintaining

667 miles separate me from my sister Jamie.
594 miles separate me from my sister Tracey and my sister-in-law Kalie.
1,234 miles separate Tracey and Kalie from Jamie.

There are other things that separate us as well ~ time, finances, schedules and work. So we call, text, IM, Facebook and email to stay in touch, keep current and maintain our relationships, and I appreciate ALL of this.

But a few months ago, we planned a weekend to overcome all of that and meet in Chicago for a "Wicked" Sister Weekend. Tickets were purchased, reservations made, and anticipation built. Then life happened and my sister Tracey was unable to join us. (You can read about that here.) With non-refundable expensive tickets, Kalie invited her sister-in-law, Amy, (a perfect choice) to join the "sister weekend" and off we went.

It was amazing. It was so much fun. There was so much laughter. There was a really wonderful dinner, a fantastic musical, a great bottle of champagne, a hotel in the heart of the city, valet parking, cab rides, shopping, funny, funny lines we will remember for a long time, matching sweaters (not intended - which made it even funnier), a church service, a quite dinner, popcorn, and so much more.

We created new memories with each other, we grew new connections with Amy, and we remembered that removing ourselves from our day to day lives revives us, relaxes us and energizes us. We can't wait to do it again, and we will as soon as Tracey can join us.

I value face to face time and shared experiences. This is why I planned a beach vacation for our families, why I meet my high school friend Diane at a favorite coffee shop when I am back in my home state, and why I drive 90 miles (one way) to meet my friend Barb for lunch. I know I can maintain my relationships with phone calls, texts, IM's, Facebook and emails, and understand how tricky it can be to plan these get-aways. But I believe it takes shared experiences to grow the relationships.

If someone has come to your mind as you have read this, consider getting some time away to connect, laugh, share and grow your relationship. Its not usually easy to do this, but then valuable, important things ~ or people ~ are worth the investment.
(I posted A True Tale of Grace here yesterday)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

All is Calm. . .NOT

I had an opportunity to speak this morning at an American Mothers Christmas Brunch. I took a few moments to talk about how we moms set the tones for our homes and our families...and that the Christmas Season seems to be when the natural tone of our culture seems to one that is frazzled. Below is what inspired my words.

I remember distinctly standing at the stove trying to make dinner, incredibly crabby after a day with young children that seemed to have no end. My poor innocent, hard working husband walked in the door and was immediately assaulted with a barrage of complaints and commands.

He immediately used his large, loud dad voice to begin directing kids - which created more chaos and anger within me. I looked at him and said something along the lines of needing him to come in and be the one to bring the calm and peace (possibly using my nagging wife voice). Again, poor him. Imagine walking in, excited to see your family, you are assaulted before you can even put down your briefcase, you try to help and are assaulted again.

What he said has stuck with me all these years.

He said that I set the tone for the home and that when he walks in the door and I am at full throttle he just jumps in and gets up to speed as fast as he can.

I also remember what I said next, "Well that's not fair."

Whether its fair or not isn't really of any consequence. It is reality. As the mom who stays home all day and manages all that I do to run our family and our home, I do really set the tone. That doesn't mean he's off the hook and doesn't have any responsibility to redirect our course when we are heading towards the guardrail. I mean whose going to jump in the car heading off of a cliff? But he has no control over what he simply walks into at the end of his day - that's all me. Others (as in my kids) may influence that tone, but as the adult I'm the one charged with directing that influence.

Honestly, some days this feels like too much responsibility. I want to walk in the door and have someone else set the tone...and have dinner ready. (said the mom in a whiny voice) But he's right, it's my responsibility nonetheless. There is so little in life we get to control - there are so many influences that our kids face that we don't even know about. But I do have control over the tone and feel of our home. I get to use these walls and that door as barrier and create a sanctuary for us from the world.

I'm not saying this is easy or comes naturally. In fact, this can be quite challenging on a normal day. And now its December ~ and Christmas is coming. Culture is shouting, SHOP! BAKE! GET A TREE! HANG LIGHTS! DECORATE! PARTY! WRAP! SHOP! SHOP! SHOP! We can easily feel frazzled, overwhelmed and cranky while trying to create memories of peace, family and love. Ironic.

But, what I am saying is that with intention, we can set the tone for which we hope in our homes and families. It takes intention because if I let whatever is going on around me (or even within me) set the course, it could feel chaotic, crabby or even cold.

My encouragement to myself (because I needed this message today) and to you is this - think and pray about the tone for which you are hoping in your daily life and in this season. Then ask for some Holy Spirit whispers to help you achieve that along the way. Whether you have kids at home and the Spirit may need to shout a little, or whether your kids are grown and you will be bringing your tone to their homes over the holidays, as moms, we do indeed set a tone with our families. May it be the one we desire and may it be one that creates the calm and bright we sing of on Christmas Eve.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Name We Bear

We had an interesting discussion at dinner the other night. We took a few minutes to allow Erin & Zach to tell Kyler what they were feeling about his latest shenanigan at school. (see previous post) It was interesting to hear their hearts, they both talked about our family name. He was told that since he is the last one to come through the school with our name, the impression he left would potentially be the impression people may end up with when our family name is spoken.

There is also concern that if the only exposure others have of our family is his inappropriate words and behavior than the impression of our family has the potential to be an inaccurate one.

OK...so I have a few things on my mind on this topic.

1. Return with honor. This is on our front door. I hope these parting words mean something to each of us. I believe every time we leave this house we are entering a world where losing honor is tempting and easy. I want each of us to care about our family name. I was touched to hear our family name and reputation mean something to our kids. No matter where you come in the line-up, you will leave behind impressions for others to walk into. Be kind. Be nice. Be wise.

2. We all bear names. Our family name, our company name, our church name, even titles. I remember when my friend Barb heard I was nominated as Indiana's Young Mother of the Year; she said (lovingly of course) the first time someone recognizes me will be at Target with my hand gripped so tightly around Kyler's wrist that my finger tips are white! So after we laughed, I thought, Well, that wouldn't represent the title so well now would it? Caring about the name we bear matters.

3. I have written about this name bearing before. It stinks; I still misrepresent the one whose name I bear. If the only exposure you ever have of Jesus is through me, then it it quite possible that I may not leave you with the most accurate impression of who he is. Through the lens of Christianity, sometimes my words and behavior are inappropriate.

4. May I remember the name of the one who bore it all for me and leave an impression that is pleasant for others to walk into.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sometimes...

Sometimes its just hard being a mom.
Sometimes its probably hard being the kid.
Sometimes it must feel hard to move from kid to young adult.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Other Women

My husband spent some time this week with two of my favorite women. Kevin's uncle passed away last week and so he flew to Minnesota for the funeral. Although the passing of a loved one is not something any of us look forward to, it is a time when family and friends sometimes come from near and far to gather where they otherwise would not.

It was a busy week for Kevin, he was to be traveling for work to two different cities. Instead he cancelled all plans and flew to pick up his sister and then travel the 5 hours to meet up with their mom. I love this.

As we move into our marriages and begin our own families, we sometimes lose one-on-one connections with our parents and siblings. I love my sister-in-law, and I love when we get one-on-one time. I adore my mother-in-law and when we get time alone, it fills me up. Kevin doesn't seem to get as much of that time as I do, and its his family!

I think its because we women are so relational, we make sure we get that time with the other women in our lives who mean so much. I also believe because we understand that, we should encourage our husbands to take time out for their moms, for their sisters (and for their dads & brothers).

Kevin and his sister were very close growing up, even with twelve years between them; in many ways he became a father-figure to her. They laugh and joke around and care about each other. I have always seen the special and loving relationship Kevin and his mom have had. Although I would have loved to have gone along for this time in Minnesota, I am also loving that my husband got this time with two of his other favorite women.
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