Friday, March 27, 2015

5 Ways to handle the hard days

There are days I feel so overwhelmingly underqualified for my life as mom, wife, teacher, and human being that I think we would all benefit from me crawling into bed and staying put for a few decades. I am selfish and sarcastic, difficult and disorganized, sleepy and stressed, overwhelmed and ornery. Some of this is circumstantial and some of it is my natural, "glowing" personality.

Some days my natural tendencies lie dormant and I handle the ins and outs of life just fine. In fact, I'd say that about most days. Then there are days, take, for instance, yesterday, where I am fighting me the entire day. I am not the mom I know I can and should be. I annoy and aggravate even myself so I can't imagine what it must be like to be kids listening to this crazy woman.  Sounds fun, huh? Makes you want to move right in, doesn't it?

I'm not saying I'm a terrible human. I'm just saying I'm human. I look in the mirror and see my faults and forget my gifts. I listen to the voices that remind me of all of the ways I can't instead of focusing on all the ways I can. Maybe this sounds familiar? Maybe you deal with this, too?

So, what's a human to do? That's kind of a rhetorical question, but I'd really love to know what you do. Here's what I do. Or at least I try to do, when I can talk sense to myself.

1-Good people
I surround myself with people who see the best in me, forgive the worst in me, and help me to be a better me. Right now many of those people are many states away, but the internet is great for keeping us as connected as we can be so we can lift each other up and talk sense to each other, too. I'm hopeful I'll add to my little group of people here in CO as we get more connected.

2-Good God
I tell myself that I am where I am in this world and this life for a reason. God is with me here with these kids and this husband in these circumstances for a reason. I don't have to do it alone. Cripes, I can't do it alone. So, I wake up each morning with a fresh prayer on my lips and I pause when I want to be sarcastic and say another prayer and I go to the bathroom and pray again and then when the house is quiet and everyone is sleeping, I pray again. Thanks for another day, help for the challenges to come, pleas that I would be the mother they need and meet them right where they are. Prayers that the ugly pieces of me that I mentioned above would die and peace and grace and love would replace them.

3-Personal mantras
I say stuff like this over and over again. "Grace. Grace. Grace. Grace." "Do small things with great love. Small things with great love." "Choose love. Choose love. Choose love. Choose love." Here's a new one I was reminded of while reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio with my 11-year-old. "When given the choice between being right and being kind, be kind." (p.s. Go read this book.)

4-Me time
It's true, that thing everyone says. To be better for the people close to you, you have to take care of you. You also need some time away from them. No one benefits from having a martyr mama in the house. Now finding time away from the kids is kind of tough with homeschooling, especially if Jim is traveling. What's my go-to me time? I run. If I have 30 minutes to do anything that doesn't involve family, I put shoes on and run. I come back breathing heavy, quite stinky, and gloriously happy. My mind is clear and life seems so much more manageable.

5-Get outside
If I can't go for a run, I can load up the kids and go hiking. Or skiing. Or playing ball in the yard. Something about being outside, breathing in nature, looking at its beauty, and being far away from the beeps and dings of computers makes life so much better. It reminds me I'm a little part of something big. That this world is vast and beautiful and has so much to offer and that I have a part to play in all of that wonder. What a beautiful reminder.

I'm not saying these are fool proof. If they were I wouldn't have to lock myself in the bathroom to pray. I wouldn't need to repeat my personal mantras so very often. What I'm saying is that they get me through the hard days. Because on the other end of hard days, beautiful stuff happens.

Sometimes I wish I didn't have to have the hard stuff to appreciate the beauty, but the hard stuff does make life shine more brightly. The hard stuff does make me call on the people around me and my God to pick up where I leave off. Because there will always be places where I leave off. I will always need help. And I'm pretty bad at remembering that. So, here's to tough reminders and the beauty that follows, like a glorious rainbow after a spring storm.

How do you get through the hard days? Any tips?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Your wish is my command

If you follow me on Facebook, you might have been part of a laundry discussion and seen a picture of our really cute AND really functional chore charts. And if you don't, follow me on FB, that is, hop on over and like me or friend me or whatever other weird thing we ask people to do that makes us sound so desperate. Like me, ok? Please? Pretty please??!!! :) But, in seriousness, if you're on facebook, you can find me here.

Back to the business at hand. People weighed in on my 6-year-old's question, asked from the depths of laundry angst, "Mama, how many people in this world do you know that like doing laundry?" A few people chimed in that they liked it, it seems people take issue with the job of matching socks, many expressed absolute hatred, and others said it's not their favorite or least favorite chore. One person not only said she likes doing laundry, but upped the ante by saying she likes ironing. This after another post where I asked myself the age old question, "Why in the heck am I moving this iron to another house?" All I can say is that I am impressed! And what planet are you from? (just kidding!) But mostly they talked about the chore chart.
in all its glory
We have four chore charts on our fridge, one for each kid (not counting the toddler) and one for me. It is laminated and we use a dry erase marker to mark jobs after they're done. Well, truthfully, that's the intent, but we usually forget the dry erase part. But you're probably much more on the ball than I am so you would rock that dry erase marker. I just know it.

Audrey's Mondays are more chore-intensive because the boys are at co-op so we get school done quickly. Similarly, the boys' Wednesdays are more chore-intensive because Audrey's at co-op. The kids and I talked about chores and they helped pick which chores they'd do and which days they would do what. They wanted nothing extra on the weekend. Weekend is only for fun! Elliot's favorite is cleaning the main floor bathroom, Audrey loves washing dishes after lunch, and Isaac loves being the trash man on Thursday nights. As for me, I love chores like mowing the lawn. I do it and it is done for about a week. With laundry and dishes and all the rest, it is a never-ending cycle. Sometimes we get done with a round of laundry and I ask the kids to stop wearing clothes so we don't have so much laundry, but they're not game. Understandable.

We've been at it for a bit over a month. It's going pretty well. Yes, we still forget things. Yes, days get busy and we choose sledding outside over vacuuming the basement. Yes, the bathrooms that the kids clean are less than stellar, but it's better than nothing and I don't have to clean all of them by myself. As an added bonus for all of us, I do a lot less grouchy reminding (code word for nagging) because it's right there for them to see. Win/win, people.

You can print your own chore chart right here.

Happy cleaning. Hope this helps.

Would you rather do all the laundry in your house or be solely responsible for bathrooms? Ugh! How could I decide? What's your favorite chore?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When a weight is lifted.

On Saturday we made an offer on a house. The owner made a counter-offer and we signed the paperwork for it on Monday morning. This was our eighth offer on a home since the beginning of January. It has been a long road that has weighed on all of us.

And just like that my child who had been carrying the stress of all of these question marks around like a 10-ton brick ran along the beautiful little lake in our town screaming, "We have a house! The sun is shining! The water isn't even that cold! We're going to get ice scream! EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!!!"

And that about sums it up.

We have the inspection coming up this week and then the appraisal and then the closing in a month. We're praying all goes smoothly. We're thankful for the chance to buy a home we've loved for a while now. We're excited to get settled, really settled, with pictures and paint colors we love on walls and boxes unpacked and a neighborhood that is ours with friends we are excited about meeting.

We're just really, really excited!
like this excited!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Hard Reset. Perspective. New Week.

Yesterday I purchased packing tape because I have to start packing up the house we are renting even though we don't know where we will live next. The owner of the home is putting it on the market in a few weeks, which mean I have to have a house that I don't own and don't care if it sells show-ready. It might not be so insulting if I knew I had a home to move to, but, alas, I do not.

So, we pull the boxes out of the little storage room at the back of the garage and we tape the bottoms and fill them to the tip top and tape them shut and label them. At first we label so clearly. "Extra towels: kids' bathroom." It goes downhill from there until the day we have to move out when the boxes say stuff like this: "Random crap. I have no idea." We have ample experience in the moving department, especially this year.

But, I bought the tape and have the first few boxes filled and I didn't even feel like I was going to vomit so I would say that is a big step in the right direction.

I attribute that to what I am calling my hard reset. I was just down in the dumps over the housing situation, realtor stuff, Jim's work stuff, kids being sick one after the other, and sleep deprivation because nothing I do inspires Asher to sleep worth a darn. It just built up until I thought I would blow and I was probably pretty tough to be around.

Thankfully, my mom came to the rescue and the kids and I spent one night at her house where she fed us and watched the kids while I went for a run and sent us home with lots of meals so I wouldn't have to worry about cooking so much this week. It was only 24 hours, but it was just exactly what I needed to get life back into perspective. Thanks, mom!

And Asher played with this wand, which made him supremely happy. And he thinks squinting is smiling for the camera. Goofy!

I love these people!

Yesterday the kids and I went to church and although Elliot spent much of the service giggling at Asher because Asher was smiling (I remember this same nonsense, out of control laughing between my brother and me at church way back in the day), and trying to join Asher on my lap because "I jut want to hug him all of the time, mama," I still walked away inspired by the message and feeling more okay about all of the question marks in our lives.

I am packing up. I have no idea where and when I will eventually unpack. But my wants are so minor compared to the needs of this world. When I focus less on my wants and more on sharing the love and gifts that fill my heart, the world is a much kinder, gentler, less scary place. And that's what I'm clinging to today. In spite of question marks and mistakes.

The starts aligned and I got Asher down for a nap today and it lasted longer then 45 minutes. He woke up and the kids and I went hiking.
Hiking along Bear Creek

possibly the world's best climbing tree

My little rock climbers

so fierce!
I lost my temper about something dumb. I sometimes look at my oldest son and forget he's 11. I think I need to protect him from things that he has under control. He balks at that and I can't figure out why. Until I'm upstairs sitting in a dark room nursing his baby brother before bed and I realize that, in a lot of ways, I can step back now. I can give him more space. That is so amazing. And it scares the living bejeepers out of me, too.

I got the rest of the kids to bed and sat on the couch next to my son and we talked about more freedom and more responsibility and how sometimes I look at him and see my little baby. We talked about good choices and being part of a family and forgiving and loving. It was a great end to a great weekend.
My loves. And how big does Asher look here?! And how amazing is it that we're all smiling?!
Here's to a new week. New adventures. And maybe even a few answers to our many questions.

What about you? What was the highlight of your weekend?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Adulthood: Sooooooo overrated!

These pictures are speaking  my language right now.
Am I the only one who wakes up some mornings or gets a round of bad news and just wants to snuggle back under the covers and ignore the world for a bit, giving it time for the dust to settle.

But, there's kids to love on and school to teach, baseball practices to attend and life to live!

So, goggles on. Floaties in place. Swim noodle affixed around waist. Time to keep swimming.

What's your favorite "I'm done being a grown-up" activity? Coloring? Fort building? Snowball fight? Margarita? I'm open to suggestions! 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Life beyond the housing market

Hey, have you heard that we're trying to buy a house and it is proving to be rather difficult? Yes, I may have mentioned it once or twice or a million times. Thankfully, freaking out about that lovely little situation is not the only thing we do to pass our time around here.

Isaac has started baseball and has his first game in less than a month. Audrey starts softball practice in a few weeks. Elliot asks nearly every day if I have more information on his baseball season. (Not yet.) Asher thinks everything he touches is a ball and tries to put it in a glove and then whip it across the house. We are all working on teaching him the difference between blocks and balls for obvious reasons.

The sun is shining and we play outside, climbing on rocks and tossing pebbles. Elliot takes off his shoes and stands barefoot on ice until his little toes curl and he jumps off. He thinks this is fun. Don't ask me. We bring clay outside and create and we crush the ice on the side of the driveway and throw it down the hill and kick it and pretend we're soccer players.

We have favorite Minnesota friends come to visit for their spring break. It goes far too quickly and we miss them as soon as they leave.

We volunteer at a shelter in Denver with our church. We hand out canned goods and donated baked goods to people clutching donated plastic shopping bags, rummaging through our boxes of goods for something they like, something they can chew if they're missing most of their teeth, something that won't make their blood sugar spike too much if they're diabetic, something with an easy to open lid if they don't have a can opener. A man said that to me: "Do you have anything with cans that peel open? I don't have a way to open these other cans." He didn't care what was inside of the can; he just wanted something he could open. How's that for perspective?

Audrey reads about No Kid Hungry in an American Girl magazine and asks me if she can join other kids across the country in doing bake sales to raise money so that kids have enough to eat. She decides what we should bake, calls local businesses and our church to organize the sales, makes posters, and sells her goodies. She has already exceeded her goal of $500 and still has donations coming in online and a bake sale on Wednesday. She is feeding children who don't have enough food. How's that for perspective? (If you're interested in helping this great cause, you can donate to her webpage here.)

Pretending everything is peachy keen all of the time is unrealistic and dumb. So is lamenting every piece of life and thinking I have it so rough. Life is beautiful. And hard. And exhilarating. And stressful. And in spite of the ups and downs and ins and outs, every breath I take and every moment I get on this planet with these people I love is a gift.

So we get up and we make breakfast, hug our kids and teach math, stalk and wait for an email from our realtor, read history books and play in the yard, bake more cookies and fold the laundry, give baths and sing lullabies. Then we lay our heads on our pillows and I pray, thankful for another day, hopeful for better news tomorrow, and grateful for our home, Jim's job, our kiddos, our safety net, our friends and family who support and love us.
One of my favorite quotes-Frederick Buechner
 How's your week going? More beautiful than terrible? More brave than fear?

Monday, March 16, 2015

The hard thing

A few weeks ago I had a dream. I was taking a swimming lesson and I was the only adult in the group. I was all geared up in my swimsuit and walked into the pool holding the hands of the little kids in the swim class with me. As I entered the pool area, my new pastor, Vera, was already in the water leading another swim lesson, again all little kids, that was just finishing up. She looked up, saw me, and asked, "Do you have your goggles, DeNae?" I told her that I did not and she replied, "You might want them because the water's going to get really rough."

How's that for a sneak peek at my life. Folks, the water is currently rough. We are staying afloat, but the stress is building, trying to sink us from all angles.

We put our house on the market to move from Minnesota to Colorado and thought that selling our house would be the hard part. We dropped the price a few times and finally accepted an offer after what felt like an eternity (probably due to the fact that we had over 40 showings and we have four kids), but was actually at the average for days on market. It was hard. In fact, we thought it would be the hardest piece of the moving puzzle.

Then we spent seven weeks in Omaha where we never really felt at home because it wasn't really home. We were there too long for it to be a vacation and not long enough to feel at all settled. It was hard. In fact, we changed our minds and thought that would be the hardest piece of the moving puzzle.

Now we are home. We love Colorado and the kids are in a co-op and starting their spring sports. We have a new church home and are meeting more people and love the mountains and the skiing and the proximity to my mom and Keith and on and on the list goes. Unfortunately, it appears we are not the only people who love it here.

The housing market has reached a panicked frenzy. I have explained it this way: Imagine a koi pond at the zoo just after a child throws a handful of food into it. It's that crazy here. We have been at showings where there are 8 other realtors and families looking at the same time. All houses we look at get at least four offers in two days and usually at least one is cash and at least one is $20,000 over asking price.

The freaky, sad, really stressful reality is that we have less than two months to find a place to live because our lease is up. We cannot extend our current lease for a multitude of reasons and the rental market is even tighter than the housing market.


We are doing everything we can. We are trusting the wise words of my grandma who said that God got us this far and won't leave us stranded. We are also feeling the pressure rise because we are humans who have four small people relying on us to keep them safe and protected and in a home. And, good grief, we are trying. Repeatedly we are trying, but we just can't compete in this market.


In a weird way, I'm just hoping this is actually the hard thing, not just another thing we think is the hard thing that turns out to be not such a big deal. I kind of need this to be the big deal.

I am breaking each day down into little pieces of what I can control and what I can't control and I'm trying to throw the can't control stuff out the window. I cannot control when people put their houses on the market. I cannot control if they accept our offers. I can control how I respond to my disappointment. I can control the steps I take to find a place to live. Sometimes I succeed and other times I lock the bathroom door to cry. Stress. Gotta love it.

I'm sorry this is all I can write about. It's pretty much all I can think about, too. I guess I should have grabbed those goggles. The water sure is rough.

Here's to breaking up with stress and making it through the hardest part, whatever that part is for you right now.