The Grace of Parenting

We’re in the home stretch of tax season, which means that more mornings than not I wake up to Frank’s side of the bed empty. It may be that he has gotten up early to go into the office; more likely it’s that he came home so late he just crept upstairs to the guest room so that I wouldn’t wake up.

IMG_4122Our community, as always, has been incredible. My parents come for dinner and bedtime every Thursday so that I can continue my weekly walks with a friend. Our neighbor’s husband was gone for 10 days on a work trip so we shared meals, the girls played, and we texted support through the meltdowns.

But for all the incredible support, the girls still miss their dad. And I still miss having a partner to help me through this parenting journey. It’s nothing at all like being a single parent but these months give me a small glimpse into that world and empathy for parents who have to do this alone 24/7.

During these months, I rely heavily on the grace of parenting. Of the wonder of extra screen time and the spring weather to play outside. We live with an extra-messy playroom (because our playroom is never clean, regardless of Frank’s presence) and I allow myself to watch a movie after bedtime rather than tidy or read something more productive.

But I also rely on the sabbath that Frank’s office enforces. Each employee must take one day off every week. We bask in those 24 hours together, making sure that we soak in this family time.

On Tuesday, this will be over for another year and life will go back to normal. (Or, the new normal… Reintroduction can be tough.) I’ll wake up each morning with my husband next to me and our guest room will sit empty until actual guests need to use it.

What’s something in your life that is easier when you do it with others?

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

Feeling Satisfied but Not Full

I love meals that begin with champagne and end with port. One of my all-time favorites was a date night at the now closed Le Bar Lyonnais in the basement of the super-fancy Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia. Frank and I dressed up, even for this more casual venue, we spent hours eating beautiful food, paired each course with its correct drink, and left feeling full-but-not-stuffed.

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Champagne in Yellowstone

One of my favorite splurges is going to fancy restaurants and eating slowly for an evening. The portion sizes always leave room for the next course and I leave feeling satisfied but never over-full.

I’ve been thinking about life lately and how easy it is to stuff it full – to add activities and commitments and all the good things that build into relationships and community. It can be hard to say no when every single thing is life-giving.

But I want to be satisfied, not full. I want our days to be filled with goodness but not stressful. I can be very protective of our schedule, trying to find that balance.

I wonder if heaven is like eating at a super-fancy restaurant? We are satisfied but not full. We have enough time for all the goodness without all the stress.

What is your favorite fancy restaurant? What are ways you feel satisfied but not full?

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

Learning the Language of Life

Anyone who knows Bea knows that she is an incredibly verbal kid. She’s articulate and inquisitive and has an impressive vocabulary. But, she’s also 4 and so is still figuring out language. She’ll use words that are mostly correct, though a different word would probably have been a better fit. Her grammar is almost perfect, except when it’s not. It reminds me of when I try to speak French – almost but not quite.

IMG_4047One of Bea’s favorite words is expect. She uses it correctly: I was expecting eggs for breakfast! And slightly off: I am expecting to have a great day at school! Right now, it’s sweet and endearing and reminds me that she is still four.

Sometimes I feel like my own definition of words and of life can be like that. Mostly correct but slightly off. Whether it’s how we want a weekend to look like or bigger life decisions, I feel like I’m still learning the language of adulthood, trying out new ideas and values without being completely fluent.

I know that as season change and we start kindergarten next year… and then middle school… and then college… that I’ll always be learning the new language of life. That I’ll never be quite fluent. But, I suppose that’s the fun of it all, right?

I wish I was as confident to try out new words and ideas without overthinking, knowing that I’ll eventually get it right.

How do you approach new phases in life? With enthusiastic abandon or with thoughtful caution?

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

Doing What Only I Can Do

Even though I quit my job after Bea was born, I quickly found a new identity about a year later working at an incredible museum. Title-wise, it didn’t get much better. Mom and Museum Educator? Pretty cool.

IMG_3982A few weeks ago, I officially quit this pretty cool job. Life has gotten super busy and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. A friend once advised, Do only what you can do. When taking inventory, only I could be wife to Frank and mom to Bea and Elle. But for as much as I loved this job, I knew someone else could do it and do it better.

I confidently made my decision, had a great conversation with my boss, and embraced really being present in this fleeting preschool season.

This past week two small things happened to shake that confidence. One was an offhand comment from a working-mom friend about how much time I have. Another was the response from a stranger who told me that it was cute that I stayed home.

In reflection, I am amazed at how quickly that confidence can be shaken. I know my identity is so much deeper than the job that I hold. I know that the decision we made was the best one for our family. I know that my days are busy and that being a full-time mom is a full-time “job.” And yet, that confidence wavered when my decision was so quickly dismissed.

I think that, no matter which path we embrace; no matter which life choices are best for our families, there will always be moments of hesitation and question. Because none of these choices are The Best. They are the best for us, in this moment.

What are some in-the-moment choices you’ve made that you see being temporary? How do you embrace the season you’re in?

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

Raising Friends

When we first found out we were having two girls, I immediately thought, They’ll be friends!! Even though my brother and I are close and Frank and his sisters are, too, there seems to be something about a same-sex sibling relationship. I’ve always envied people who had sisters – who had a built-in best friend growing up and into adulthood.

IMG_3935A friend and I were recently laughing at that ideal. She and her sister are close in age and are friends. But she said she wouldn’t consider them best friends. Another friend said that she and her sister, who are 9 years apart in age, are still quite close. I suppose it’s more of a personality thing than an age thing.

The past couple months have seemed like a turning point for Bea & Elle’s relationship. After the newborn phase, where Bea was disappointed in Elle’s lack of interaction, to the frustrated She’s messing up my stuff!!!! phase, we’re finally in (somewhat) of a playmate phase.

The two are inseparable. They’ll draw together, mother their dolls together, eat together, read together. Elle can’t wait until Bea is done with school and Bea rushes to her with a bear hug at the end of the morning.

I know we still have many years of fostering friendship with these two. But I hope that these moments are a true glimpse into the future. That, through the tween and teen years and into college and adulthood, they’ll continue to create and share food and perhaps even mother together.

What is your relationship with your sibling like? How do you foster friendship among your kids?

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

Abandoning Books

In January, I quickly put the book Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship of Muhammed Ali and Malcolm X on hold at the library. It’s one that I’m writing the discussion post for with the Red Couch Book Club and I was eager to get started. When the book came in, I dove in but quickly found myself floundering. I was having such trouble connecting the lives of Malcolm X and Muhammed Ali to the book club audience of primarily women who are social justice-minded.

IMG_3693I emailed the woman who was writing the introduction post, saying I was about 100 pages into the book and just not connecting with the direction. She wrote back saying she was at about the same place and would focus on her views of Palestine.

Wait. Palestine?!

I quickly went back to the archives of when we assigned the books and realized in my haste, I had reserved the incorrect copy of Blood Brothers. What I actually wanted was Elias Chacour’s memoir of being a Palestinian Christian. Completely different story.

The Muhammed Ali-Malcolm X book is still sitting on my desk. I’ve renewed it twice and only have 3 more weeks before I need to return it. I know that I’m not going to finish it, but I’m unable to abandon the idea that I could still read it and learn something new.

I’ve always had trouble leaving books, whether they’re just not my style or too dense or the completely wrong book. I like the idea of being able to find something anywhere to learn and expand my worldview.

But sometimes, it’s ok to stop, to return the book, and to recognize that I’m just not in a place to finish every single thing I start. And that’s ok.

Are you able to abandon books or projects? When do you realize it’s time to let something go?

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

Reflecting My Self to Others

When I first read the post back in October, offering a 4-meeting journey to write my mission statement, I hesitated. What does a person like me need a mission statement for? For the next few years, I’m in this staying home thing, raising these little girls before school starts.

img_3818But something tugged at me and I ended up signing up and joining 10 other amazing women as we met via video chat, from all corners. We talked each week, processed specific questions, learned from each other. We reframed the idea of a mission statement into a purpose statement, something that seemed much more applicable to this stage in my life.

At the end, during my one-on-one call with our leader, we were writing words and moving them around, seeing what worked and what just didn’t resonate. At one point, my statement seemed pretty good until my coach asked, Is this for you or for others?

We switched a couple words and suddenly, my purpose statement was for me. My coach said that if this statement was for others, it would falter. It needed to be at the core of my self. If I had a statement that reflected me, it would reflect to others naturally.

This process helped me reframe this idea of self-care, of purpose. It can be so easy to make life about others – how am I best serving the girls? How does our home best create hospitality for others? How can I best love and serve this world?

But, when I take all those core values – of serving and hospitality and love – and internalize them first, it seems easier to go out with energy to give what I have to others. It’s a reminder that self-care often means including myself in the things I’m already doing.

How do you make sure you are included in your purpose or mission? How do you reflect yourself onto those around you?

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