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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Togetherness on Vacation

Our annual vacation was especially treasured this year because our whole crew was able to participate.  This entire summer feels like a significant time for our family to enjoy being together as there are unknowns in the coming season.  Our oldest child graduated from college this year and will soon enter the workforce, where schedules and limited vacation days will curtail our travel together.

Like all families, blended families have
seasons of joy and of difficulty.  For that
reason, getting away to celebrate our
"togetherness" is important.  I love these
people will my whole heart.  Living with
each one gives me insight and
understanding that I wouldn't have in any
other way.  Time away from the normal
demands and routines allows us to connect,
laugh and make memories that continue to
mesh our family into a solid unit.
Our week started with Father's Day!  I'm so grateful for Mr. Wonderful and the father is is to his daughters, the father-figure he is to our other three.  It's complicated at times, but I see how he continues to step in as a role model, provider and leader in our home.  We're so lucky!  Yes, we Went to see "The Incredibles 2" - loved it!

The girls rose early for sunrise on the beach.  It's a magical time.


Bicycles are a big part of our fun.

In a blended family, we balance combining our family with a little bit of 
honoring the original family, too.

Beach Babe and the Stepmom

The boys and I loved our day in Savannah.

Gymnastics on the Beach

Mini-Golf night is always a fun favorite.

This was his hole-in-one pose!

This was our fifth time to go to Hilton Head as a family. They have grown so much!

Hilton Head Island- June, 2014

 The time on the beach is my favorite!  

Annual Gator Pose - 2018
First Year They went to Hilton Head - 2014, Same Gator!
Pool Fun!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What Summer Looks Like in Our Crazy Life

We seek hikes and waterfalls.
There are so many ways to do summer.  I'm sharing the way we are doing it this year because I like to get ideas from others.  It's not the only way, or even the best way - it's what works for us.  All our family members are home this summer and Mr. Wonderful and I still have to report to our jobs each workday.  So we have to make a plan.

We maintain a loose schedule and yet work to keep a rhythm.  Cycles of waking, lounging, work and play are woven into they day.  At ages 10, 12 and 14, my children are good at following a schedule including some chores each day.  They can accomplish light lunch preparations and be responsible to maintain general order.  We are working respect and responsibility as character traits this summer.

As part of our normal routine, the children spend time each week at their father's house.  This gives them a change of scenery and additional activities to enjoy.  There are also trips planned: scout camp, beach vacation, a week with grandparents, church camp and vacation with their dad.  All in all, each will be gone four weeks this summer and will break up the monotony.

As a working mom, I struggled with what to do during summer.  I fondly remember "boring" summers where my thrill was watching game shows and riding my bike to a friend's house.  I wanted my children to have the same carefree summer, but had to keep my job.  So, I've hired a babysitter to come to our home each summer since they were tiny.  Nowdays, they are technically old enough to be home alone, but I didn't want there to be zero supervision.  So, for the past few summers, we have hired a "Mother's Helper" for 2-3 days a week

Adventures in Babysitting
Her main job is to keep them active and busy, off of the electronics.  Together they will swim, visit museums, go to the mountains, enjoy snow cones and look for new things to do.  My children adore Ms. Angelica and look forward to the days we have her.

Pool Time!

Our oldest one is all graduated and settled back home.  She'll be seeking her entrance into the workforce and we are soaking up the days we have her back.  The younger step daughter is home for the summer, too.  She's already working, house-sitting and keeping busy.  It's fun to have the activity of college-age girls back at home.

There are seven of us at home with multiple schedules, activities and plans.

Our house is full for the first time in a while.  It's going to be a bit of a whirlwind, I fear, and at the same time a summer of memories.  I hope we get to enjoy meals with seven places around the table, laughter, new games, connection and memories.  In my heart, I feel this is snapshot of our family that we will all look back upon with fondness.  If so, I'll consider it a success, indeed.

Keep it Simple

Friday, May 25, 2018

Proud Mom Moment

(That's him in the middle.)
This week, I attended "Awards Day" at the elementary school.  My little guy earned zero academic awards.  He didn't get a sports trophy or win the art contest.  The "Singing Eagle" award didn't appeal to his skill set.  He got a certificate of citizenship for good behavior, along with all the others who didn't get suspended, but he wasn't really honored in any tangible way.

I noticed how so many of his peers gather around him.  He is well-liked and a wonderful class mate.  His teacher knows he will follow instructions and participate in class.  He is kind, dependable, respectful and responsible.  I was so touched to read the notes left in his class memory book.  Yes, he was voted "best dressed" because of his propensity to dressing with style, but so many also said he was a good friend, a good listener and someone they can talk with.

I could not be more proud of my son.  I love him exactly the way he is today and wish I could freeze time at this age.  He has one more year of elementary school and I'm trying to savor it as the season slips away.  Until then, bring on the summer days!
Because he likes to dress nice.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Today's Gift

My mother once wrote in a note or card that she "Didn't know it then, but she was living the best days of her life."  She was referencing the days when she was at home full time with my sister and me, and then the years where we were busy in school, bringing friends home and keeping her on her toes with all the activities.  What caught me by surprised was that she "didn't know it then."

It makes me catch my breath to wonder - what if I'm living my best days right now?   I know I will look back on them fondly and think of these moments of chaos with tenderness.  Already I can think back to the baby-years and see them with much more precious perspective.  Some days I get lost in old photographs.  I notice the softness of baby skin, the piles of mess in the background, the smoother skin on my own face.  I look for clues of days gone by in the toys and the furniture at the edges of the focused subject.  I remember the slower pace of life then, even if the cycles of eat, play, sleep, clean were never ending.  The truth is, those cycles did end and new cycles have taken their place.

The very nature of life is ever-changing and forward-moving.  This school year will end and the next one will be different.  We don't notice the subtle changes from one day to another and yet they happen ,and all at once a season has changed.  The light shines from another angle.  The colors have shifted. What I loved about one season (hello - afternoon nap time was a real gem!) morphs into something new to love about a new season (hi, you can now fold your own laundry!).

When we in the middle of life, whether it is a good day or a bad one, there is just so much we can choose to embrace - right now.

  • Practice gratitude
  • Learn contentment
  • Empower responsbility
  • Release expectations
  • Engage connection
  • Experience joy

The list feels trite and cliche', I know.  Yet these habits work to bring value to each day and each season.  It's overwhelming how quickly and unnoticed we slip into a new phase and time.  There is value in capturing the gifts here and now which will become treasures in the years to come.  Don't let today's gift go unnoticed.

Friday, May 4, 2018

I'm Still Here and Living the Life

I commented to Mr. Wonderful last night that I hadn't written in quite a while.  It makes me a bit sad and yet I have to admit that I don't even know why - very few people visit this blog any longer and my real world life is going well.

I would love to have greater interaction but for now, I'll simply let you know what's new in our family.

In the first part of the year, five of our four children have a birthday.  I've really sensed the shift of seasons as they grow, mature and face new challenges.  I love who each one is becoming!  We celebrate a couple more birthdays this May.  Parenting has also sent me back to talk with a therapist this year, and I'm so glad for the objective input.

With the family-seasonal-shift, the older step daughter is graduating college!  We all a bit shell-shocked and no one yet knows what the next steps will be...but we are celebrating the amazing woman she is!  Watch out world - here she comes!

Stepmom Score! I was able to attend Mother-Daughter weekend for the younger of my step daughters.  Her mother had a prior commitment and I was thrilled step in.  Never let being asked second steal your joy or your fun!

Mr. Wonderful and I are grateful for our jobs and the income they provide.  First world living is expensive!  So, worklife consumes a huge part of our lives and it isn't always fun. We try to do our best and be thankful for jobs that provide for our family.  My job has been the most consistent part of my life for these past thirteen years - who would have thought?

My firstborn is finishing middle school.  I'm so proud of his growth through this notoriously awkward season.  It's seriously mind-spinning to witness the changes.  Our other middle schooler is still in the awkward mess, but we are confident she will emerge with grace and grit.  We still get one more year of elementary bliss with our little guy.  It's a good season of family life.

Our home is our sanctuary, with all it's quirks.  It's about to become filled, once again with returning college students and summer break activities.  What is going on in your family life?  Summer is coming, do things change for you?

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Art of a Slow Day

I've learned many things from Mr. Wonderful, but one thing I have come to value most is the art of a Slow Day.  A Slow Day looks like one without a schedule and without expectations.  There may be a few loose tasks to accomplish but there will be wide open margins in which to get those things done.

Saturday is our Slow Day.  My favorite part of the day is waking up without having to leave early. I have time to sip coffee, read, just sit and stare out the window.  I love it.  On these days I'm usually out of bed before Mr. Wonderful and I enjoy the solitude.  Sometimes, I rejoin him after coffee just to enjoy being together.

The art is to carve out blocks of time doing nothing that feels like work.  The nuance is to do the necessary work without the pressures of time constraint and schedule.

On a typical Slow Saturday, we exercise, we go out to lunch and we tackle some laundry.  Often Mr. Wonderful plays his bass guitar and I tackle some errands like making donations or grocery shopping.  The exercise often happens with a friend for each of us. There is not an agenda, just a loose idea of what we would like to accomplish.  It is common to end the afternoon with a nap.

My children return home in the early evening, but even they seem to fall into the slow of our routine.  Most often, we stay home on Saturday nights.  The downtime is essential to each of us.  As a task-oriented "doer of all the things,"  I didn't know the value of Slow Day's until I saw the example of Mr. Wonderful.

I've changed so much through my lifetime, and I am positive I will continue to change in my coming years.  Embracing slow schedules has been one thing I've come to truly value.  Some call it a sabbath, others describe downtime, I've learned to love our Slow Day. 

The art is to carve out blocks of time doing nothing that feels like work.  The nuance is to do the necessary work without the pressures of time constraint and schedule.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Winter Work

Spring arrived early, and I have savored every birdsong and bloom.  I must remember that what I see in the winter doesn't reveal the work happening within the ground or the heart.  This season has been one of outward challenges for my little-big family.  We don't have anything resolved. There are no answers or tidy resolutions.

I feel pressure to have a solution.  I long for relief from an ongoing struggle.  I experience stress to solve matters in the lives of those I love.  Sometimes I just want to be let in, to know where someone stands.  But these desires are not destinations and the daily ministry of life reveals progress...even if it seems glacial at times.

- Consistently reaching out to one who has seems to have closed her heart.
- Diligent correction to one who is pressing against boundaries.
- Encouragement to the persons without direction and entering a new stage.
- Commitment to a goal that often feels impossible.

Meals. Laundry. Encouragement. Routine. Often these are the points that provide the structure for growth.  They aren't glamorous and don't earn any recognition or reward.  But showing up, supporting, training and working are efforts that aren't wasted.

When we have day after day in a row with cold air and dark skies, and the warmth of spring may feel far away.  Don't forget that the darkness is necessary for growth.  Wonderful things are happening even when they are completely unseen.  I miss something when I want to skip these days and rush into the brightness of spring.  I miss the lessons done in darkness.  I overlook the value of the mundane.  I forget the return on seemingly small investments.

I miss so much when I don't let winter do her work.  The season where so much seems dead is often the very time when I am being prepared for a new season of beauty and life.  I can't wait!