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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A Summer Like No Other

Summer is my favorite rhythm for our family.  I love the casual flow of schedules and lesser activities.  I like extended time together at the beach, the pool and even to the mountains.  Bedtimes are relaxed and mornings are unrushed.  It's nice.

Yet, we didn't quite achieve the summer-bliss vibe this year.  I have one who took drivers ed with drop offs and pick ups at awkward times - plus the same guy joined the football team, with conditioning at 7 am!  We tackled some home projects including the rearranging of bedroom assignments and painting, hauling furniture and organizing that comes with those changes.  Both Mr. Wonderful and me experienced unexpected career opportunities that required mental and logistical twisting to explore.  We both decided to stay with our present companies.

We had a week of togetherness at the beach which was fantastic.  We had a visit from my parents that I'm still treasuring.  We had a great summer.  It was just a bit different, and indicative of the stage of parenting where we are.

School has started and I no longer have any kiddos in elementary.  The middle school years have proven challenging, but so far we are off to a positive start.  High school is exciting with friendships, football games, youth group and more.  I'm enjoying connecting with my children as they mature.

I notice the flowers are completing their annual cycle.  The evening sun sets a bit earlier.  The leaves on the patio that drop are dry and brown, some in the trees already have hints of color.  Fall won't arrive for a while, but the shift has come.  The rush is real.

How was your summer?  Do you look forward to the routines of fall?  Is there a shift for your family?

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Dorrell T. Baird

Even if you didn't know my grandpa personally, you would know of his love for the Bible and of his silly humor - he was a forerunner of the dad joke generation.

Upon his passing into heaven last month, I learned more and heard more about his life than I had in a long while.  It was wonderful to gather as a family, with many I hadn't seen in more than a decade, and to celebrate his life.

Obituary for Dorrell T. Baird

The veterans ceremony was meaningful and honored both he and my grandma. The words shared by his children were weighted with the value of his heritage.  The gathering of everyone present was a testimony of a life well lived. 

My sweet family at the memorial ceremony.

Four generations - My grandma, mother, self and daughter. 

My firstborn and Grandma.

We are the grandchildren - and don't get to be together very often. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Why The College Admissions Scandal Didn't Shock Me

Parenting brings out the strongest feelings in most of us and we will do just about anything to see our children succeed.  Helicopter and Snowplow parenting is common in our society even though studies demonstrate these practices aren't actually good for our kids.  But for most in our culture, personal gain is more valuable than the common good.  Sometimes, we might feel shame for self-promotion, but the parent who does everything possible to promote and benefit his or her child is commended.

We abandon struggling schools to move to more prestigious districts or enjoy the privilege of home schooling.  We choose the club team over the school team.  We teach equality yet enjoy the vast benefits of our own upbringing and the best our money allows.  We always seek what seems best of our own, often at the cost of the greater common community.

Personally, I have struggled to find the balance between enabling and empowering my child.  We are in a 'struggling' school zone known to be less-than-elite.  It often seems that anyone who is able sends their child to a private school or moves away once they reach middle school and beyond.  I can't say I haven't looked for alternatives myself.  I have experienced and witnessed how parents will do anything they feel will benefit their own child - even at great cost to themselves and others.

Higher education already feels so very discriminatory based on your financial resources and personal connections.  Honestly, I thought money could get you into any school long before these allegations came forward.
  • A parent will go to great measures for what he or she perceives is best for their own child.  
  • Unlimited resources open doors that aren't available to everyone.  
These two concepts made me genuinely surprised that the college admissions scandal was such big news.  I wish I was surprised by the scandal, but I already assumed such behavior was taking place.  I didn't even consider that faked test scores and false athletic endeavors would be needed.

How can we respond as parents?

We need to reinforce the truth that there isn't one formula for success.  What happens in education is defined by our family values, individual student strengths and goals.

Character is more indicative for life-success than a resume.  We can teach our children that success isn't determined by college acceptance - Life continues well beyond that benchmark and traits such as integrity, peace, family, community contribution and the ability to work hard are traits to be admired. 

I wasn't shocked and even understand the drive to give our children all we can.  I hope our bond and connections with our children provide the greater source of strength and advantage than attending specific schools and attaining certain careers. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

A New Season of Blended Life

All of life is full of change and over time I've learned to expect the transitions and roll with them much better than I did in the past.  Still, some are even more monumental than others.  My oldest step daughter began her first full time job in a city many miles away.  We had her back for six months after college graduation and got accustomed to having her near.

Transitions are hard and knowing this helps tamp down the panic that I sometimes when realities are shifting and I'm tempted to manage others' emotions.. When I anticipate and allow for sad days and uncomfortable feelings, I'm able to move through them with less resistance and be steady anchor for others who are feeling the loss.  At times, I've been so driven to avoid pain that I have fallen into denial for myself or those I love.  Without intending, I minimize their ability to process and move through their feelings by crowding them out with fixes.  I can think of many time I have done this.

Through previous changes we must allow time to adjust to the new way things will be.  Such is true with our most recent transition, as well.  Mr. Wonderful has adjusted to talking with his daughter by phone or text each day.  It isn't as ideal as face to face conversation, but it honors the relationship they have cultivated for a lifetime.

Change makes me feel unsteady.  I used to panic and become filled with anxiety, often making poor decisions in my desire to return to what is comfortable.  I felt shame for being disoriented and projected that onto those I loved when they were adjusting to changes themselves.  Now, I intentionally make room for my loved ones to feel the change in our lives. Sure, I get impatient and still want to avoid the struggle, but after a lifetime of change I think I'm accepting it much better.  I welcome the idea that it takes time for my heart to process the changes.

The freedom not to rush through feelings of loss and transition is a gift to give myself and those I love.  Like spring, we are slowly unfolding to a new normal and all at once we recognize that a shift has happened - we are okay with things the way they are now.

I notice it happening just in time for another change that I see in the not-so-distant future.  I trust the Lord is already working in our hearts to prepare us.  Some changes are big and some are small.  All require grace.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

New Year - Same Me!

It's a new year, but I'm not miraculously different because the calendar changed.  I'm going to keep up with some things I like and evaluate how change the things I don't.  As always, my real reset comes with my birthday which happens in February.

It's hard to label a year good or bad because when looking back there have been both in every year that I have lived.  I suppose simply having the chance to experience another year is the good thing and blessing in itself.  Mostly, 2018 is year I will remember with fondness.

Here are a few thoughts to remind myself as I take on another year, although I usually wait till February for my actual goals.

What is working?
Grocery online ordering and pickup has actually changed my life.

Stashing cash for short term goals is keeping me from spending what I have allocated elsewhere.  I love knowing the cash is there for bigger expenses that I know are coming.

Therapy when things get challenging has helped me know I'm okay.  It gives me a place to voice the darker things that I sometimes want to deny and yet know there is a way through them.

More intentional time off work including family vacation, visits to family who live far away, girlfriend time and days off coinciding with school breaks.  I feel like I'm maximizing the time I do have, even though it never feels like enough.

What is not working?
Extreme drive-times with three kiddos at three different schools.  I have attempted a car pool, but nothing has worked.  I don't know the solution, but I need to be in the car for fewer hours each day.

Often I stress over things that I cannot control: other peoples' emotions, decisions and consequences.  I'm working to let these things go and channel that angst into prayer, learning what I can from it, then refocusing my attention.

Overconsumption of screen time is another thing NOT working and I'm being intentional about

Something old, Something new, Something borrowed...
Something old that I still love: Ponytails
Something new I will try this year: Strength Training
Borrowing from my sister, Relationships over Rules.
Something blue: Need new jeans

I'll be thinking of specific ways to keep these priorities in the next year.

What I'm looking forward to in 2019:
A big birthday: Mr. Wonderful turns 5-0!  We hope to take a trip together to celebrate.

My firstborn will get his driving permit and begin the right of passage of learning to drive.  Oh my.

My youngest will end elementary school and with it a whole season of my life seems to pass.  I'll never be mother to littles again.  Middle School seems so big.

Our oldest will be off on her own in a new city and I hope to take all three of mine for a visit.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Our Christmas season has been just lovely.  I'm grateful for the way our family can come together and be intentional about celebrating Christ's arrival.

Mr. Wonderful and I drove through the mountains on Christmas morning, there was snow on the high elevations and I was tempted to go further!

We had a yummy lunch with special friends ...

Then we were ready to gather with our children.

(He made me this candle - it smells SO good)

Sugar cookies are one of my favorite things.

We get to spend time with family near and far - our Christmas isn't done.  May you keep the spirit of Christmas all year long!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Why I Love This Wonderful Life! (Blended, Steps & Bios)

Recently I was asked by someone who reads the blog and hears some of what I say about the challenges of blended family life whether I was happy with my choice to remarry and blend our family.  My heart was so sad that my representation left her questioning my satisfaction.  Marrying Mr. Wonderful is one of the very best decisions I have ever made!  I am thankful for our family for so many reasons.

1. We are a living example of how God brings something beautiful out of heartache.

2. Our children have an expanded idea of life - it isn't perfect and that's okay. 

3. Each of us have a larger sense of gratitude.  We have lived through more difficult times and are grateful to come through better.

4. We accept faults with grace. We try to view others with compassion when someone is having a hard day, or week.

5. I see Mr. Wonderful choose us, every single day.  This is such a beautiful gift and one I do not take for granted. 

For these and so many reasons that I cannot even number, I'm thankful every single day for our beautifully imperfect family!  I never want others to wonder whether I think it is worth it - a thousand times, Yes!