Enjoying Two Cups of Coffee

When I was teaching and single, I never drank coffee. There wasn’t much time in the morning and I preferred a cup mid-afternoon to combat that slump. When Frank and I got married, I started drinking a cup because it was already made. Though, really it was just about half a cup before I’d dash out the door. I have vivid memories of one of my elementary teachers having coffee breath and I did not want to be remembered for that attribute, so once I brushed my teeth and left the house, that was it for the day.

img_3739Now, staying home with the girls, I enjoy 2 cups each morning. No matter the chaos of bright-eyed girls running around, I’m usually able to enjoy those two cups in relative calm – not needing to gulp them down or scald my mouth.

The other day I wanted to get just One Thing Done before breakfast. It needed my attention and would have taken less than 10 minutes, uninterrupted. Of course, the moment the thought crossed my mind, my two interruptions swarmed and I had to put the project aside.

It’s easy to get frustrated with lack of alone time and even more frustrating when the things I need to do aren’t for me, but for commitments I’ve promised to others. I envision a quiet house, a slow rise and cup of coffee, and breakfast before the day begins.

And then I think, In what world?! My job right now is the girls. And when I had an “actual” job that morning only existed on the weekends. I guess I have this vision of being retired mid-thirties, enjoying the luxury of time I haven’t worked for.

So today, I’m grateful for preschool that starts at 9:00 and is only 5 minutes from our house. For time to enjoy 2 cups of coffee, even if the environment around me is swirling. And the reminder that I can slow down in the midst of chaos.

What is your morning ritual? Do you ease in or get up and go? Are you a coffee drinker?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “slow.”

When Getting Up Early Fails

I was talking with a new friend the other day about finding time to write. One of her kids gets up at 5:15 everyday, on the dot and has since he was a baby. I asked if she had gotten the alarm clock that turns green and I clearly struck a nerve. Yes, they had. No, it did not work.

img_3740We’re in a fairly good sleep pattern these days, with bedtimes going smoothly and the girls sleeping through the night. Bea does use that alarm clock, meaning I know exactly when she’ll be jumping down the stairs. Elle is still on that blissful 12-hour-a-night cycle, and I’m enjoying it.

The other day, I thought I’d set my alarm about 45 minutes before Elle usually woke up. Other moms manage to have quiet moments in the morning and when I read about those early morning hours, a cup of coffee and a journal or book in hand, it sounds idyllic. I wanted that, too!

The moment that alarm was set, Elle knew it and decided to wake 45 minutes earlier for about a week. I turned that thing off and went back to waking up and hoping for the best. Some days, I’ll get up and read or write. Others, I lie in bed until I hear stirrings from her room.

Books and blogs have been written about the importance of finding time for ourselves. That we can’t let these little years take away our identity and sense of self.

I totally agree with this. I look back at these early years of motherhood already and see ways in which I’ve been able to pursue interests and passions that I didn’t have the time or energy for while I was working full-time.

And yet, in my enthusiasm to find this Me Time and really take care of myself, I’m reminded that I walk a fine line doing that. My full-time job right now is motherhood. While I’m lucky enough to have a support system in place that gives me moments and hours and even a day occasionally to myself (thanks, mom!!) I’m mostly here, writing in the margins and with my helpers nearby.

This friend recently wrote her own blog post about the magical 22 minutes of a kids show, and how so much can get done in that time. For a while, I relied on those 22 minutes, getting so much done during one Daniel Tiger episode. Until we had a kid who is just uninterested in screen time. No matter how I try, Elle just does’t engage with TV. Which is a good thing. But those 22 minutes? I long for them, some days.

In the meantime, I’m assessing my goals and visions. It’s not like I want to write a book or blog everyday… right now. I’m actually very much content to tap away at this little blog when inspiration strikes and keep it strictly in the hobby realm.

Because right now, I’m getting ready for kindergarten roundup and a year with just Elle by my side and the reality is that these tiring, intense, nonstop years really do pass so quickly. I’m learning to savor every moment and remember that my Me Time is simultaneously kid time.

(Also? A year ago, I wrote about this same thing. Clearly it’s a recurring theme!)

When and where do you find time for yourself? Moms, did elementary school change things? When does “me time” become easier? (Or is that a myth?)

Sitting Just Quietly

One of Bea’s favorite stories is the one of Ferdinand the Bull, who is content to sit just quietly under a cork tree, smelling flowers. I love it for many reasons – not least is that his mother is an understanding cow who lets him sit just quietly. (A lesson I need to remember.)

hebwnWhat I love most about Ferdinand is his pacifism. Even when he is taunted and faced with death (which would probably have been the more likely outcome of this story), he sits just quietly in the middle of the stadium, smelling the flowers in the ladies’ hair.

What a reminder, in a time when we are constantly reminded that strength is necessary. Our country needs to strengthen its borders; strengthen its foreign policy; strengthen its domestic policy. Our churches need to strengthen their messages; strengthen their programs; strengthen the community.

Growing up, I was taught that Jesus loved children, that Little Ones to Him belong; they are weak but He is Strong!

But I wonder if we’re missing something about the message when we focus on strength? When we forget the fact that Jesus taught about an upside down kingdom of peacemakers and helpers and those who turned the other cheek and offered to walk an extra mile.

I wonder, in a time of fear and wanting to strengthen our values and beliefs, we need to remember to stop, to sit just quietly, to smell the flowers, and to remember that the kingdom of Heaven belongs to the peacemakers?

How do you find strength in peacemaking?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “weak.”

Remembering to Ride My Tricycle

Elle just turned 18-months and her little personality has taken off. She’s trying to form complete sentences and even told me her first story the other day. It’s so amazing to watch her follow in Bea’s footsteps, trying so hard to be just like her big sister.

Most of the time, Bea takes the time to help and guide Elle. In the bathtub, I overhear Bea slowly talking to Elle, Elle! This is an elephant. Can you say el-e-phant? Elle! This is a towel. Can you say tow-el? Elle! Do you believe in Jesus? Say, I believe in Jesus! Elle!

Other times, Bea is frustrated when her little sister draws on an art project or knocks down a lego creation. And for as much as Elle emulates her big sister, she wants to do things on her own. She wants to be just like Bea but without the time and effort and years it took for Bea to learn her 4-year-old achievements.

img_3613When we ride bikes, Elle loves sitting on Bea’s two-wheeler, wrapping her feet around the seat, and having me run through the cul-de-sac. She makes vrrrooooommm!! noises and loves going fast. Bea lets her do this for a time, but soon wants her own bike to speed around. Elle is not content with her little balance trike – she wants to skip ahead to what the big kids are riding.

My one word for this year is Capacity. I’ve alluded to different decisions we’ve already made that seem to have fulfilled this word. I want to say, Look! I’m doing it! Just two months into the year and I’ve succeeded!

But this past week has been a bit chaotic and not at all productive. Part of that is because we took a much-needed, long-overdue trip to visit family. It was good cousin-filled chaos and the productivity of seeing aging grandmothers. But I was easily lost in my to-do list. I wanted to get into a rhythm, to fill my now free moments with other really good things.

I was recently reminded of the need for rest. That without taking time to pause, I won’t be refreshed and ready for whatever the next adventure may be. I had fallen into a habit of checking off the boxes, completing my word instead of viewing it as a slow, unfolding process.

Who knows where capacity will take me this year? Perhaps it will push me beyond my comforts. Perhaps it will push me to do less, to open up my capacity for rest. My guess is that I’ve only begun to scrape the surface of what this year holds for me and our family.

Rather than trying to skip ahead and ignore the necessary steps along the way, I’m learning to stop and recognize these steps as developmental. I need to learn to ride that little balance trike before I can tackle a two-wheeler.

How do you stop to remember to take baby steps? Are you methodical by nature or do you like to skip ahead?

Slowing Down to Enjoy the Journey

For my birthday, friends gave me a gift card to a local bookstore with instructions to enjoy an afternoon browsing – either online or in person. I thought about this invitation to simply look at books and so I invited my friend along. We both have young kids so time spent together in a bookstore seemed amazing.

We spent the morning wandering the store, talking about life, meandering in our conversation. There was no agenda and it was lovely getting to simply catch up. I even decided not to buy a book from my to-read pile and let a title jump out.

It was such a reminder of the need to be intentional with friends. This woman and I see each other fairly regularly, but rarely one-on-one. I was tempted to spend a morning alone but knew that I would rush through the store, buy something quickly, and return home to relieve Frank of errands. Having a friend with me helped me slow down and enjoy myself a bit more.

Last week we were in California visiting family. One evening, after the girls had gone to bed, my aunt was working on her Bible study and I was reading. She invited me over to talk through the lesson with her and we spent the next hour discussing and combing through a verse in Nehemiah I most likely would have skimmed over on my own. In the midst of reading about those involved in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, we talked about current events, our own views of qualification, and how God uses us in unexpected ways. My daily quiet time is alone, but this was a reminder of the importance of sitting side by side and talking.

img_3240I’ve been thinking about modeling a lot when it comes to my life and my girls. It’s faster and easier to do things without them. Dinner prep is way less frustrating and a lot safer without my two sous-chefs. Reading my morning devotional is a lot more pleasant when I can focus on the words. And yet, that’s not reality. So, I pull out extra carrots at dinner and let Bea chop them. I brush my teeth while reading Spurgeon and letting Elle climb around the bathroom. I include and model what my own day looks like.

Just now, I’ve struck a deal with Bea to help me clean the playroom. She originally suggested I do it while she was at school and in some ways, it would take a lot less time and be a lot less stressful if I did just do it myself. But it’s not my playroom or my mess. So we agreed that we’d do it together.

Time alone to rejuvenate is something that is essential to most of us, in varying degrees. But I’m reminded more and more that life is done together. It may not be easier but when we choose to sit side by side, the journey seems richer.

How do you intentionally slow down? What are some ways you stop to enjoy this journey?

Creating Safe Spaces

I recently worked through the process of writing a personal mission statement. I’m still holding the phrase close, seeing how it fits, and taking time to see areas in my life in which it’s already present.

One part of the phrase is that I create safe spaces. As I was talking this through, my coach and I noticed places that safe spaces already exist in my life.

img_3194Our messy playroom is a safe space for the girls to explore, discover, and create.

A recent decision to step back from commitments has created a safe space for me to be more open about our current season.

We have a housecleaner come on a (very!) occasional basis. Instead of feeling guilty that I can’t keep our house sparkling, a friend reminded me that it helps me create a safe space to invite others in – and it’s ok to ask for help in that.

As we plan out tax season and schedule in time for family, I’m guarding that time and keeping it sacred. Getting together with friends and building community is important; Keeping our scant family time together is even more so.

A friend recently wrote a post about finding peace in the noise and I’m remembering that self-care is important. It’s a privilege, for sure, but it’s nonetheless an important one to remember.

In a world of chaos, I’m thankful for the reminder of checks-and-balances. For means and ways to create a safe place for myself, for my family, for our friends, and for our community.

I’m holding this part of my mission close and seriously. How can I best help others feel secure?

How do you make space for safety?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “safe.”

Review: What Falls from the Sky by Esther Emery + Giveaway

In less than a month, we’ll be entering one of the most popular seasons of the church calendar, when Jesus asked his disciples to give up Facebook for 40 days. (Excluding Sunday check-ins, as part of breaking the fast, of course.) I can’t condemn this practice at all – I have given up or put extreme limits on social media during Lent and it’s always been a needed breath of air.

_140_245_book-2130-coverGiving up social media for a month or a short season is one thing. All internet (and internet related conveniences) for a year? That’s an entirely different sort of fast. This is exactly what Esther Emery does – no internet, no cell phones, no debit cards for an entire year.

When I first read the synopsis for What Falls from the Sky, I wondered what kind of “year long experiment memoir” this would be. I should have known better. Emery’s honest writing and keen observations on life made this much less an experiment in living without internet and much more the type of memoir that makes all other memoirs pale in comparison.

Emery’s story of moving from Southern California to the Boston suburbs while simultaneously making ties to community – both old and new – much more difficult in this technology age is not at all what my current life looks like. And yet, the lessons she learns and the powerful storytelling she uses drew me in. I felt like I was walking alongside this year of challenges and struggles. I found myself assessing our own life choices in new ways and through a different perspective.

Emery gracefully blends her own story into a greater picture. She draws the reader into her own details without ever making it seem like her choices should be anyone’s but hers alone. There is no pressure to live life by her choices – this is a tale of what happens to Emery and her family because of those.

I haven’t enjoyed a memoir like this in quite some time and Emery restored my love of this genre. If you’re looking for a thought-provoking, beautifully written story, I’d highly recommend What Falls from the Sky.

What is your relationship with the internet? Do you need to take intentional fasts from social media or have you found a natural balance?

GIVEAWAY! I am giving away my copy of What Falls from the Sky. Leave a comment about giving up the internet and I’ll randomly select a winner on Friday, February 10, 2017. (United States addresses only.)

I review for BookLook Bloggers
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.