Sunday, April 20, 2014

Saying no

Living on a budget is a blessing, but it sure it hard.  My husband and I have a good system (thanks to Dave Ramsey) in which we have a discussion at the beginning of each month and we assign where every dollar will go.

This month, an event came up that I really wanted to do, but when I came time to register for it, the money just wasn't there.  So I said no.  It was a color run for our school's benevolent fund.  What a cool concept.  My 2 oldest boys were going to do the 1 mile walk with me.  What a great moment to share with them!  But part of being an adult is recognizing that we can't always do everything we want to do.

Bummer.  The silver lining is that our family is going to a birthday party later that afternoon so I know doing both events in one day would have been a stretch.

I may get lucky and boys #1 and 2 won't notice we're missing the color run.  If they ask, I'll be honest but non-dramatic.  I don't want them to get the message that we have so little money that they have to worry, but I do want them to learn the message that money, like time, energy and many other things, is limited.  We used our entertainment budget for camping and other things. 

I was challenged recently to focus on the donut and not the hole.  With budgeting, that hole sure is pretty.  So many things I want that I just don't have the money for. 

Lord, thanks for all the blessings I have.  Help me be content this day and give me the wisdom to teach it to my boys.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Taking time to celebrate

I'm working though Restless by Jennie Allen.  It's a wonderful book that is taking me through a journey to figure out what I should be doing now.  Very reflective and a great thing for me at this point.

Yesterday I wrote about feeling apprehension about taking my youngest to a new MDO as well as dropping off the job application.  Both events went well.  #3 loves his new teacher and even had a friend already in the class.  He's very excited about his new school for fall.

I love blue bonnets.  Here in Texas, they bloom for a few weeks every spring.  When I married, I had a good friend take pictures of me in my wedding dress and cowboy boots in the blue bonnets.  We were a sight--Kathryn, my dear, sweet friend doing dress control so that the flowers or grass wouldn't stain my dress (my mom's nightmare) while my friend snapped photos.  The pictures are some of my favorites.

Anyway, when we went to my new school to drop off my application, there were blue bonnets!  Tons of them!  I chose to see that God was using His beauty to remind me that seasons change, children grow, opportunities for growth come our way and He is still God;  He doesn't change.  A dear friend, Kimberly, sent me a text with verses from the Bible that reminded me of the same thing.  God is very good.

I believe worship means to take a moment and see the fingerprints of God.  I worship corporately through music at church often and love it, but I also worship when I see blue bonnets and am reminded of God's love.  I worship when I laugh with my sons as we plan our water gun wars this summer.  The more I worship the closer I am to God.  I remember hearing before that thankfulness should be like the sound track for our daily lives.  What a lovely thought.

Anyway.  As I'm working through Restless, yesterday the challenge was to journal a highlight from each life stage.  Moments that made me proud and satisfied.

This particular moment isn't one--#3 should be in "room time" in which he doesn't nap anymore (boo) but he's expected to play by himself while I have some me time.  He just came in my room to let me know I need to get the plunger to work on the toilet in the boy bathroom, but he can talk me through it because he's seen Dad do it before.  Lovely.

I had some time to myself yesterday and over a cup of coffee I reflected on favorite moments.  What a wonderful exercise.  It was kind of hard to get started, but once I got going I was surprised by how wonderful and rich my list was.  I thought I would share a handful here.  I don't know why, but we don't seem to be a culture that celebrates the little moments often.  It's too bad.  The little moments are the ones that make us who we are.  And yet the moments like the toilet are the ones we seem to talk about.  Hmmm.

Here are a few of my moments:
0-6 years:  swinging on the swingset, swimming at the city pool at my Grandma's house, having blueberry muffins for special occasions

7-12 years:  playing in piano recitals, winning 5th grade class president

13-18 years:  being in the high school musicals, excelling in drama and speaking competitions, enjoying time with the girls in my youth group at church camp, mission trips and spending time together, going to OU basketball games with my dad

19-24 years:  getting my first job, becoming fluent in Spanish after lots of hard work in grad school, living in Spain for a year, meeting and falling in love with Aaron, becoming a teacher

25+:  loving teaching--the joy of watching children grow, the fun of bonding a classroom family together, the laughter, the challenge of helping each child reach his/her potential--, the moment when I knew I was going to be a mom, the moment when we saw we were going to have twins, learning to lean on God and admit I wasn't "enough" to do all this on my own, figuring out that God never promised me that this life would be a rose garden, having good friends to be real with and share the ugly moments with, tent camping with my family, seeing the pride on son #2's face when he figured out how to use the potty the first time, watching #1's pride as he told Aaron, "Dad, I can read!", singing "Low in the Grave He Lay" during breakfast with the boys last Easter...

And the list could go on, but room time is at an end. God is good.  How beautiful to take a moment to celebrate some of the good moments I've been blessed with.  The next assignment is to write about deep hurts.  I'm taking a few deep breaths before I delve down that path.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Frosty windshield

I have just a few moments before #3 and I head out to do errands, but in these moments I'm going to collect my thoughts.

As I write, I've given little guy the VBS Oriental Trading Co catalog and he's to mark anything he loves with a sticky note.  He's in hog heaven.

Yesterday I thoroughly enjoyed writing a submission to MOPs about what my mom taught me about beauty, but it left me frazzled.  I'm not a deadline person.  I know women who are, but deadlines stress me out.  Today I'm not feeling rested or relaxed and to be my best for #3, I need to be.

Added to it, today as a part of our errands, we're going by #3's new MDO next year.  I've taken boys to the same MDO since my twins were about 18 months.  They're now 6 1/2.  6 years I've had kids in this program.  I've made the decision for #3 to go to a new program next fall for a few reasons.  The biggest is that with his late birthday, he would be in the program's oldest class again next year.  That was fine for his brothers because they were catching up, but not this guy.  I think a new program would just be good for him--new toys, new expectations, etc.  It's also closer to where I'll be working on the days he's there as well as it starts 30 minutes earlier which will also work better with my schedule.

See, this is a great choice.  So why do I feel sad?  I remember bawling when I first visited our current MDO.  Friends watched the twins when I went to meet the director and I cried before I even spoke.  She was so loving and kind.

We're also taking my completed application for my new job.  We're just dropping it off, but I still feel nervous.  Also I know it's right, but my heart and head are not really agreeing.  Yet.

This morning there was frost on my wind shield.  We were 2 minutes later getting in the car and I had to scrape the window.  It really ticked me off.  At who?  Not sure.  My husband because I remember my dad doing that for me when I lived at home (pesky expectations in marriage!) or at myself for not checking ahead of time.  I think the emotions just needed to boil over.  We made it to school just fine, not even tardy. 

I've learned this year through my bible study of the Old Testament that the Israelites felt like God didn't love them when things were rough.  This missed the point that God loves us always, but we still face adversity.

God is with me today as I'm feeling unsettled.  He was with me when I threw my mental tantrum about the wind shield.  He's here as change is coming my way.  Time to take a deep breath, surrender my desire to control everything and accept His love and support for this day.  And get packed up to do what needs doing, gracefully.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Pretty is as Pretty Does


This afternoon, I read on the MOPS website that they needed submissions for their summer magazine about being a woman.  Lots of topics were given and writers were encouraged to submit a 450 word piece by...today.
I read the email at 2:30.  As I waited in line for dismissal, I did a web of my thoughts.  When we got home, I let the boys watch Wild Kratts while I wrote out my piece.  I emailed it off, did homework with the boys and now I'm posting it here.  I wish I could have had a bit more time to polish it and make the idea a bit clearer, but hey, it's done and I'm pretty darn pleased with how it turned out. 
Hope you enjoy.  The prompt:  A beauty legacy:  what your mom taught you about being a woman

My mom taught me many things:  how to cut my meat, how to shave my legs and how to be pretty.  I remember her saying (usually as a way of correcting me) that “Pretty is as pretty does.”

At the time, I found this phrase annoying.  I just wanted to be pretty but I didn’t want to have any responsibility for it.  Now that I’m an adult I have a deeper understanding of what prettiness is to others and what I choose it means to me.

We’re in a season of life that isn’t very glamorous.  Our clothes are stained, they rarely fit and me time includes have the luxury of trimming toe nails.  If we’re really lucky, we slap on some polish.

I asked my son what the prettiest thing about me is. Happily he told me, “Your pretty red hair, Mommy!”  I’ll admit it:  I really like my hair. Mom’s comment about prettiness being internal is more reassuring to me now that I’m watching grey take over.  I’ve made peace with the fact that aging is slowly finding its way to me even though I still would give the whole process a big “thumbs down.”

That being said, I understand at a deeper level know my mom’s sage wisdom about beauty because I’ve known plenty of beautiful women whose actions detract from their appearance.  Actions reflect a person’s true nature; physical beauty is just a happy coincidence.  It makes me think of a beautiful painting that is breath taking, but if you scratch the surface you quickly find that the beauty ends at the canvas.  In the same way, you can put on a show for a while, but true internal beauty will be revealed by what you do.

What reflects a beautiful character?  A love of Jesus that reflects His goodness to others.  Seeing a need and doing something about it, like taking a meal to a mom, mowing the lawn so her husband doesn’t have yet another thing to do on his day off or just showing up when she says she will. 

There are lots of things I can’t change.  My appearance is pretty much set.  I’m a short redhead until I’m a short grey-head.   I can’t make choices for my children, even though I sure try to.  I can’t change that there’s injustice in this world.  But I can choose not to give up.  I can choose to be Nice Mommy during the morning rush of getting the family out the door instead of being Mrs Cranky Pants.  Not easy, but the right choice because pretty is as pretty does.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

When do I get a turn?

This posting will be whiny.  If you're not in the mood for that, check in another day.  I'm like a pressure cooker (which I've never acutally used, but I have the basic concept in my mind).  I get all this pent up emotion and it just has to come out.  A favorite way is to just talk, talk, talk and talk to my husband about it, but he's not such a fan of that.  So here we are.

I've spent a bit of time today designing a Shutterfly book for my mom for Mother's Day.  I really do enjoy scrapbooking, but digital scrapbooking isn't as fulfilling for me.  I like to actually feel the paper on my fingers.  But for her, I'll happily do it.  I decided to make it a chronological book of our joint Mother's Days since I've become a mom.  Very sweet project that I know she'll love.

I even decided to go ahead and design my own gift from Shutterfly that the boys will give to me.  I've never done that before, but there's a great sale on, shipping will already be paid and why not?  Better than the gift that Aaron would not even get for me if I didn't nag him.

Wow.  That sounded angry.  Since my posting here about my exsistential (I don't have the patience to correct my spelling there) crisis, a whirlwind of running into a friend who knew about a job led to an interview and a job offer.  I accepted.  Yikes.  Now I'm in this weird land of "What did I do?"

I liken it to being a baby bird in a nest.  For the past few years I've been home with my boys.  It hasn't been a tea party and I didn't want to stay there forever, but I was comfortable.  Now I can see that this stage of my life is going to change.  I know I'll still be a mom and I know my role in my boys' lives will still be crucial, but my time will be spent differently.  I'm grieving that time has passed.

I was at MOPs yesterday and I was struck by how much life has changed since September.  We started the year with many pregnancies and now how lots of babies.  I'm happy for them, but I reminded me that they're still very much in MOPsLand.  I'm not.  And it's OK.

The other day Aaron asked if I want another baby.  Kathryn, a dear friend, had baby Allison and I got to hold her last weekend.  Beautiful baby girl.  Yes, I would love to have a girl; a sweet redheaded little angel to wear matching dresses with and paint my nails with.  But, I have a peace that 3 is a how many children I need.  With my luck, if I were to get pregnant again I would just add another boy to my brood and he would be louder and smellier than the rest.

No, a baby isn't what I need.  I just need time to accept that time passes and it's OK.  Worry is hard for me.  With going back to work looming in the future I worry.  I told Taylor, a sweet friend who works very successfully part-time while she has 3 sons, about my worry.  When I told her my biggest worry--when I'll go to the grocery store--she laughed.  Actually chuckled.  It was a light moment that made me see that in the light of eternity, I'm being silly.

I thrive on routine.  No, I thrive on control.  Routine is just wanting to control everything around me.  I even love scrapbooking because it's a tangible way to make order of chaos.  I realize that sounded super hoaky considering it's my hobby and my pages are far from being works of art, but I like order.

Aaron has this weird theory that all Muppets are order or chaos Muppets.  They either create havoc or they try to make order of it.  Miss Piggy?  Chaos.  Kermit?  Order.  Animal?  Chaos.  Crazy chef guy?  Chaos.  Two of my sons land firmly in the chaos camp and son #1 and I live happily in the Order part of the world.  Take my order away and I get cranky.

This new job is an exciting opportunity and the logical part of me knows it's going to be wonderful.  A way for me to grow professionally and positively impact young adults.  Super duper cool.  But I still have to figure out when to go to the grocery store.

When I was at Baylor, we taught at Welcome Week that there are 4 parts to a person:  intellectual, spiritual, physical and emotional.  All parts to the wheel have to be maintained.  Adding motherhood to the burden of the wheel makes the balance of those things so difficult.  It seems the emotion part of the wheel overinflates as the intellectual part shrinks.

Part of me is excited that the intellectual part of my brain will be challenged again.  I've missed using Spanish and I'll be teaching it.  I know I will enjoy it.  The other parts of the wheel will still be there and I know I can figure out how to balance all this.

Especially when I can write whiny posts like this one. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Camping for the first time

Before I begin the post about camping, let's take a quick moment and discuss coffee.  Love it.  My husband is a "barefoot coffee" guy (meaning he drinks it straight black).  I guess that would make me a "fancy-shmanchy boot-wearing coffee" kind of girl.  I like some 1/2 & 1/2, sugar and a bit of flavoring in my cup to jazz the coffee up a bit.  When I order coffee at Starbuck's, he says I get terrible coffee with a side of candy.  Oh well.  He can have his opinion and I can have mine.

Today I went by Starbuck's (brilliant marking plan to have it right there in Target) and got the best drink ever:  a short cup of blonde roast with a squirt of salted caramel.  For $1.77, I got a cup 2/3 full of mellower flavored coffee with a this yummy sweetness that the sweet barista concocted just for me (wow--I am very special) and I got to fill the rest of the cup with 1/2 and 1/2.  Life seriously doesn't get better.

Thanks for following me down that bunny trail.  Back to the subject at hand:  camping.  As a child, I slept in a tent once with my brother and my grandma.  I was about 10 and we slept in our backyard.  It is a good memory, but that was my extent of experience in a tent before last week.

I married a mountain man.  He could seriously live off the grid and be completely happy as long as he had a supply of coffee.  I, on the other hand, am just a bit more froofy.  I've learned that as the mom of 3 boys who are growing to be very much like him, I can choose to toughen up and join in the fun or choose to stay prissy and clean and abstain.  It's a choice to make as situations arise, but camping is something I decided to embrace.

Our Spring Break was last week and it was a chilly one.  When I suggested going camping for a night, I fully expected we would rent a camper of some kind.  Many of my friends camp with their families and almost all have campers or RVs.  Aaron priced said campers and decided we would give his tent a go before forking out the money.  I reluctantly agreed.  I stressed over what to pack and made the mistake of going on Pinterest and seeing how others pack to camp.

In theory, this was a great decision and I will say it really paid off when I had packed an extra pair of shoes for all and they were needed thanks to a poor decision by son #1.  But beyond that, seeing what all everyone else did just stressed me out.  A good friend sent me a list of what she and her husband had on their list and that was very helpful.  The great thing was the Aaron had about 98% of the gear we needed from previous hunting trips, so the shopping was easier than I had anticipated.

When he made our reservation at a state park about an hour from our home, he chose to get us a site with water and electricity.  The morning of the trip, I was a bit overwhelmed with the vast amount of stuff needed to camp out for one night, but Aaron and I worked together with the huge list we had compiled from my friend's list as well as a handful found on Pinterest.

We stopped at DQ on our way which is a treat for all.  When we arrived at the state park, we all went in and the boys were very impressed with how many toys were available to buy there.  I wasn't.  We made it to our camp site, #38, and I was struck by the fact we had a parking space, a picnic table which was good-sized, a cleared out area that seemed to be gravel and the water and electrical outlet.  Not lots of space.  Very close to numbers 37 and 39 which also had families at them. 

Aaron made short work of putting up the tent with all of us helping.  He then aired up the air mattresses like a champ.  I would still be blowing those up if it had been my job.  With camp set up, we headed out to explore.

We did a geocache to start off.  The boys enjoyed the hike and weren't too interested in finding the treasure, but Aaron liked it.  I'm not good at looking for things and tend to get bored quickly.  Aaron's a much better treasure hunter than me.  I was relieved when he found it because I was afraid the treasure wasn't there.

After that, the boys played at the playground for a bit and then we headed out to fish.  The adventure with fishing was that we walked around the lake to find the perfect spot.  There was a narrow trail that Aaron led us down that got more and more narrow.  We had to climb up the bank at one point because neither me nor Aaron wanted to jump in after boys if one of them lost their footing.

We found a good spot and fished for a bit.  The boys aren't great at casting, but they liked being on the water.  If it had been warmer and I had planned a bit better, they would have worn waterish shoes so they could wade out a bit.  The shoes didn't stop #1.  They loved the shells and the water.

At one point, #2 needed to use the bathroom so I took him.  He loved the hike around the lake.  Honestly, I did, too.  No fish were caught but we had a great time.  At the bathroom, there was a mom who got irritated at her daughters for wanting to climb the tree just up the way from the bathrooms.  I was thrilled my boys were interested in the tree so I could pop into the facility while Aaron was gathering fire wood.  To each his own.

Watching the boys "help" Aaron start the camp fire was a cool moment.  They were so impressed with how he could use the magical tools to start a fire.  If that would have been my job, we would still be out there waiting for me to get one lit.  The hot dogs were yummy and I totally enjoyed not feeling like I had to also have a vegetable at the dinner table.  S'mores were hit and I learned that for next time, #2 and Aaron really don't need S'mores.  Marshmallows are really all they want.  Good to know.

As it got dark, I thought it wise for Aaron to take #3 and #1 to the bathrooms while #2 and I watched the fire.  I don't really know what we would have done had something have happened to the fire in Aaron's absence, but luckily we didn't have to see.  Aaron and the boys were gone for over 30 minutes.  I started getting worried.  #2 asked if he could go ahead and put on his PJs since it was getting cold.  I told him he could.  Turns out the bathrooms were a 20 minute round trip for me to walk.  Yikes.  Good to know for next time.

Our tent is for 4.  We are a family of 5.  It was a bit snug, but at least we were warm on a chilly evening.  I tend to get cold and than stay that way which makes me whiny.  Aaron thought ahead and got a sleeping bag rated for 30 degrees for me.  I was warm and toasty.  With my air mattress I was very comfy except for #3 kicking me in the head throughout the night.  He had turned 90 degrees during the night so he would head butt Aaron while also kicking me.  Quite an adventure that he doesn't even remember.  Boy #1 woke up at 5, totally ready to take on the day.  The rest of us weren't.  Aaron convinced him to keep resting until about 7. 

On my morning constitutional to the facilities, I noticed that those of us in tents were up and about but those in campers weren't.  I also noticed that my boys were noisier than I would have preferred, but quiet isn't really a setting for #1.  He lives life loud.

Aaron made us bacon and eggs and we enjoyed coffee.  So glad I packed the coffee creamer.  That hazelnut sure tasted good in the chilly air while trying to hush my boys.  We broke camp and went on to explore.  There was a historic fort we got to see and of all of us, Aaron liked that the most.  The boys liked seeing the weapons.  I was just happy to be there.

We did another geocache that was easier, but the boys were tired.  It was time to head home.  Rain hit as we drove.  So glad it didn't come in during the night.

My goal with this adventure was the leave with a smile on my face.  I met my goal.  I loved being out in nature with my family.  Even when I swear I heard a coyote outside our tent somewhere around 3AM, it was good.  My boys had a great time.  We're making plans to get a bigger tent and go again before the heat hits this summer.

I like that I can be a froofy coffee girl but can also brave the wilderness with my boys.  Motherhood helps us grow in many ways, toughness being one of them.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Resume updating

Since writing my last post, I heard back from many friends encouraging me as I figure out Laura 2.0.  I also downloaded an ebook of Restless by Jennie Allen per the recommendations of two different people.  It addresses exactly where I am.  I'm two chapters in now and would recommend it.

This weekend, I need to update my resume.  I haven't done that in quite a while.  The good thing is that my husband is very good at things like computer formatting and being able to put lots of bang into very few words.  Helpful skills that tax me quite a bit.

I'm not a fan of resumes.  I get why they're important, but I'm a girl of many words.  It's tricky to express all I want to say in a short phrase.  Another tricky thing about resumes is that they are to be job-specific.  I imagine an arrow pointed directly at a target and the purpose of the piece of paper is to summarize exactly why you are the perfect fit for this job.

I won't go into specifics, but an opportunity has come my way that could be the answer to my prayer for part-time employment for next fall.  The resume will be for this purpose.

My prayer for this:  Lord, grant me the wisdom to accomplish the task of writing this resume in a way that honors you.  Help me not let worry, pride or any other thing that's not of you get in the way of your purpose.  Thanks for loving me.  Amen.