Tag Archives: parenting

Exhale

Whoosh!

balloonsAs we pushed through the last week of school and immediately catapulted into the first two scheduled summer activities, I found myself feeling a bit like a deflated party balloon. My outward self was still trying to celebrate my boys’ last day of school yet my inner self was no longer floating high with anticipation just wearily hovering low and fading into smallness.

Summer and all its sunny expectations of FUN was here, but I wasn’t feeling it. I kept waiting for the bright mantle of “summer” to fall upon me, but found myself struggling to muster up excitement for the usual burst of summer activities. “What’s the deal with me?” I wondered.

– – – I forgot to exhale. – – –

The fullness of the school year had pressed in hard from all sides, nudging us along from one end-of-the-year culminating event to the next and sweeping us through finals week. Although I hadn’t taken a single exam or given any oral presentations, I had buffered and nourished these souls that were putting their all into their last school days. The truth was that we were all tired as we approached the finish line of another academic year.

Even if we aren’t the main player on the field, the sidelines are a busy place of support and encouragement as we prepare our players to get out there to do their best. As parents we’ve put in hours of training, too, but may not recognize the toll it’s taken on us. We may not be aware of  the moments we’ve been holding our breath as the next play unfolds before our eyes yet just beyond our grasp.

heart puzzleOn the last day of school, I awoke each of my sons and celebrated the moment of transition into their next grade level. As I looked into each sleepy face, something slipped inside me. A gear subtly shifted inside this mother’s heart and I paused to absorb its impact.

While each of my boys  is excited to move on to the next phase  of school, this promotion  also means a natural step closer to their independence. Celebrating their growth this year also means recognizing their progress toward stepping out on their own one day in the future, slipping away from our home and my dinner table. These were some heavy thoughts to bear in those first hazy moments of “the last day,” so I tucked them back in and moved toward a celebratory breakfast, focusing on their joy.

climatis openingLater that day as I added another envelope to the growing stack of graduation announcements, engagement party/wedding reception invitations, and college brochures, I realized we’re all in the metamorphosis of May. These transformations elicit all the feelings and soak up all the energy. As we dive in to celebrate each milestone, we want to savor each moment.

We also need to remember in each one to breathe . . . to embrace this shift of change in our loved ones and loosen our hold just a bit. (It’s good practice for the next “biggie” after all.)

– – – We need to remember to exhale. – – –

It’s in this exhale, where we can discover the joy of letting go…

to blow out the candles
to blow a kiss to a sweetheart
to blow that dandelion fluff as far as it will fly
to blow a pinwheel just for the delight on a toddler’s face
to release tension that has been building within us
to watch our children soar
Psalm 105:4
Bible Quilt – Psalm 105:4

 

As we celebrate these changes and allow ourselves a moment to exhale, we’ll realize the sunshine is a little brighter and our hearts a little fuller.

We may even discover that we’re ready for the longer days of summer after all. 

 

 

Behind the Scenes of Loading a Great Soccer Wagon

This is not for the faint of heart. There is skill and precision of timing that only comes from being in the trenches—a.k.a The Soccer Field. This is what the Wagon used to look like every Saturday…
We have all either seen or been the mom with an antsy sibling-child that is hungry, bored, wet, cold, hot, whining…I’ve seen a toddler drop his drawers and pee on a parent’s chair. It’s ALL out there on the field.
And yes, there is an actual game going on with your child playing. And you have come to dutifully and joyfully cheer them on. It will come to a crashing halt if you have not loaded a Great Soccer Wagon for the “others”.
The obvious items being: soccer ball, water thermos, chair for yourself, blanket and a handy umbrella for shading options.

Now let me bump up your game with another set of items that will free you to enjoy what you originally came for–the soccer.

We have a carry container with a Lego drawer and a top brick plate to create on. These are our “Soccer Legos” and they draw crowds of kids each time we bring it. Everyone can build side-by-side on a blanket. Legos have no age barriers. All 4 of my boys and their peers will sit down and tinker with Legos!
“Dirt Toys” are fabulous for the younger set. Grab a recyclable clothe bag and load up those sand box toys with a few extra hot wheels for good measure. The field inevitably has a side area that will just be dirt. And if you have boys…they are magnets to dirt! (Just throw in some wet wipes for the clean-up).
We always have a stadium-sized umbrella for the kids to set up a make-shift shade tent on the ground. This also comes in handy to block wind. I tuck a small rope in the wagon in case we need to tie it more securely to a chair.  Speaking of rope…there have been times when the kids will collect sticks and use the small rope to make “tepees”.
Band Aids, Comic Books, Gum,  Rubics Cubes and various Fidget Toys are stashed in Wagon pockets. Any Drive Through Toys are funneled to the Soccer Wagon; if they get left or taken by another child…I’m good with that!
I tuck a few quarters in for a random snow cone occasionally. And I take 1 snack for each child but put it in multiple tiny ziploc bags that won’t hold much, so that when they ask me repeatedly for more, I keep doling them out…eventually they’ve finished the 1 snack but they are none the wiser. (It keeps them busy).
We load the Wagon the night before a game day and then lift the whole thing into the back of the car. It does not collapse down until the game day is complete. You can do this too!! It takes a small amount of preparation, but once you’ve set the Wagon up, you are good for the season. Enjoy the games!

accidental turtle farmers

Recently  I uncovered a copy of the Sycamore,* a neighborhood newsletter (vol. 1, issue 1) dated June 10, 2011. This was the first of only two limited editions of this beloved paper because the young amateur publishers – ages 10, 8, & 5 – quickly moved on to other things that summer.boys' newsletter

As I reviewed this childhood treasure, I was reminded of the importance of sharing our kids’ passions, whatever they may be. Each of my boys had a designated role in publishing this 2-page newsletter and took their responsibilities very seriously. Among their memory stash was a thank-you email, a handwritten note and, surprisingly, still tucked between a reporter’s interview notes was a fresh $1 bill “to help with expenses.” Our young boys were eager to try something new and this tired/busy momma was likely pretty motivated to keep them busy during those long summer days! The bonus was our neighbors embracing the boys’ ambitious efforts, and the unity feeling stronger around our little cul-de-sac.

Within that original newsletter was my son’s story about how our family became accidental “turtle farmers.” (We never could quite agree on what term we should use for ourselves, but this one stuck.)

Our turtles are awakening now from their winter slumber and sleepily searching out food scraps like voracious teenagers. With their shells encrusted with dirt and bits of crunchy leaves, their eyes blink slowly in the bright spring sun.

Every March when they come out of hibernation, I’m impressed that they’ve survived the winter in self-made shallow dugouts and equally amazed that our family is still “hosting” them 7 years later.

3 amigosSo… here’s our story about becoming accidental turtle farmers according to our 8-year-old son:

Our Turtles: A Quick History

Our family found Zippy, Zee, and Rocky on an empty gravel road surrounded by forest in Missouri. The turtles got their names from what they did while they were trying to get away.

Zippy was so named because he was zippy in getting off the road. Zee was named Zee because we found him on Highway Z. Running headfirst into a rock was how Rocky got his name.

On the way home, we went to Texas to visit our aunt. Now the turtles had been to Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri; where we found them. When we came back to Kansas, the turtles were living in a large tub, instead of a tackle box and two boxes. Also on the way back, our turtles were in the Bixby, Oklahoma Turtle races (they didn’t win).

We have had the turtles for about a year. After we had built a nice pen for the turtles, Zippy got away (and we never found him). We got another turtle with almost identical markings at the Harvey County State Fair Turtle Races. We named him Zippy Jr.

The turtles are still living in their area and not one of them have gotten out since, even after hibernation and a year in the same nice big pen (a turtles paradise!!!).

Turtles Favorite Foods: Bread,  Strawberries,  Blueberries,  Snails,  Ham,  Apples,  Mangoes,  Broccoli Stems, Worms

baby turtles
Turtle hatchlings

Ironically, we now live only a few miles from where our turtles competed in their first Turtle Race.  Our turtles have had babies that have grown into sturdy “adolescent” turtles. A few years ago on St. Patrick’s Day we were fortunate to discover them during their hatching process, witnessing these delicate miniature turtles crack through their shells and emerge into the world. A lucky day, indeed!

When we moved to another state, the turtle contingent came with us. They got a new habitat and change of scenery out of the deal.turtle parade

My hubby and I never had big dreams of growing up to be turtle farmers some day, but here we are. Our boys have observed the life cycle of one of God’s “lowly” creatures and have learned some responsibility along the way. We have enjoyed watching the process unfold.

As pets go, turtles are extremely quiet and low maintenance. We even get a caretaking break during the winter. 😊

turtle inspectionLast year a wandering turtle actually crawled through our fence and joined our little turtle family, so I guess we’re officially kid-tested and turtle-approved!

turtle artworkThese little turtles have interwoven themselves into the fabric of our family. They have been featured in our children’s artwork and have served as a great ice-breaker at backyard parties because of their novelty. Smiles appear as our visitors connect with their own memories of encountering turtles in unlikely places.

turtle at 4th of July swim partyTurtle farming and boys…all in all a pretty good combination.

And to think this began simply by me stopping the car on a gravel road and letting one of the boys rescue a box turtle from getting run over. We had no idea how that one small gesture would blossom into a long-term family adventure.

UPDATE JUNE 2017: Check out this time-lapse video of Mama Turtle burying her eggs! 

little guyFollowing a child’s passion can lead to a wonderfully unexpected family storyline.

 — What might your family adventure be?

a handful

Mom, you’re talking too fast. You’re moving like you’re in a hurry.”

Guilty as charged.

I was in my son’s bedroom, navigating through piles of balled-up socks, damp clothes and boy gadgets he had dumped onto his floor after a scout campout. I knew that we had limited time before we would be leaving for a youth group activity. My mind was a whirlwind of details in order to have him “ready” for his first full school week. My goal was for my new sixth grader to come home from youth group and transition smoothly into his bedtime “routine” (not that we’re back to that yet, but I’m hopeful). An inner voice from past experience prodded me to push him through all this prep work, knowing that he would be exhausted and we would both be cranky if we faced all of this in the bedtime prelude.

growing boyI was acutely aware of the various tasks my son needed to accomplish in the time available. I was also keenly attuned to his need for a chunk of downtime. I had even asked him what his preference would be: rest before or after the tasks at hand? He said after. We both heard it. We moved forward with this “plan.” I followed his little body as he dragged himself lethargically up the stairs. Quietly I reminded myself to only give him one-step directions. We crossed the threshold of his room and targeted the campfire-smoked clothes pile first.

Within minutes I could tell that his sleep-deprived, camped-out body disagreed with his verbal agreement to this plan. His sluggish synapses had apparently voted “no,” too. Staying on task was not happening. Patience was squirmy to hold onto for both of us.boy in afghan

That would have been a REALLY good moment to recognize the realities at hand and revert to the “take a break first” option. I didn’t. I pressed on, trying to engage him in chatting about his first float trip — a flimsy attempt to boost the we’re-in-this-together morale. It’s possible that I quickened my pace and was doing more for him that he would typically do for himself. Our momentum ground to a halt when I heard,

Mom, you’re talking too fast! You’re moving like you’re in a hurry.”

 

Yep. I was. I looked down at my hands heaped high with boy stuff and glanced over at his slumped posture. Busted. I dropped the pile on his bed and we talked it through. We reconnected and evened out our pace. He did get a recharge break and had a delightful time later that evening, exuding energy and laughter.

boy swinging

This brief interaction was a poignant reminder of how easily we impact our children in those hurried moments of life. I’m grateful my son  was able to speak up and that I was finally able to hear him. I’m thankful for God’s grace which allows us to keep practicing at this parenting stuff.

My devotional the very next morning reinforced this lesson:


“Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:6

handful of quietBoy, did that hit home! I’ll be pondering this one a while. Quieting our multi-tasking momma brains is so hard and our busy hands tend to come with the territory of motherhood, right?

May each of us discover a little quietness in ourselves so we can reflect a bit more calmness to those around us. Amen?

Nerf wars

When you hear the phrase “Nerf war” do you envision hoardes of kids running through your house and yard shooting orange darts all over creation?

Or…do you imagine all the times you’ve been frustrated by the growing piles of dart guns scattered all over your house and have the urge to declare war on all things Nerf?

(I once found a dart in my ice maker…Whaaaat? “Somebody” had to have the freezer door hanging wide open while another “somebody” blasted him with darts?!?)

pile of dart guns

boy with nerf dartsWe have a little bit of both going on over here. With some inspiration from an old Pinterest post, we put our heads together to create some neutral territory.

Step 1: Claim some unused pegboard and attach it to the back of closet door in the garage (thanks to my hubby for some carpentry assist)

Step 2: Gather all the Nerf dart paraphernalia, relish in all their glory (btw: one of us partook of this step more robustly than the other)

Step 3: Scavenger hunt all over the garage for pegboard hooks of various sizes (sorry, broom: your resting place is now on the floor)

Step 4: Puzzle through all the different dart gun shapes and hang them within easy reach of active boysboy with dart pegboardStep 5  – Kids: Call your buddies over to launch a Nerf war! Parents: bask in the fact that all the Nerf stuff is OUT of your house. Woohoo!

*Optional steps if you want to up your game:

  • Visit your local hardware store and get some dart-orange paint (Valspar 2010-2 “Island Orange” was our choice. We got a sample can for $3.)

  • Use painter’s tape to mark off a pattern

  • Let your kiddo paint away! Let paint dry and then do a second coat.

    boy painting pegboard

  • After paint is thoroughly dry, carefully pull off painter’s tape to reveal your kid’s design.

    Orange pegboard for nerf guns

  • Load up the pegboard with Nerf guns (and maybe a light saber or two)

Gear up:

Nerf gun pegboard

Get READY…

boys talking dart strategy

+++++ AIM +++++

geared up

boys and Nerf guns

Fire away! —————–>>>

boys geared up with Nerf guns

…and, good luck finding all the darts before the lawnmower gets them first! 🙂

 

 

Helping hands

Summer is in full swing and kids are all over the place, exploring and having a chance to wander a bit more than during the school year. Hands that have been crunching time on keyboards and lifting heavy backpacks are reaching out for some new things to do.

When mom-guilt pings about how much those hands can be on electronic devices, I pause to reflect on what their hands are grasping during those non-device hours.

Growing hands around here have been capturing frogs and releasing them into a neighborhood pond. frog visitorSweaty hands are helping with weekly yard chores of mowing and weeding…even the too-gross-for-mom removal of icky things from the yard (mice, moles, and doggie-doo). “Thank you, son.”baby turtlesCaring hands are feeding pets, brushing the dog, and transferring wriggly worms from the driveway to the backyard turtle habitat.



Embracing boyhood one summer day at a time.



Helpful hands are assisting me with meal prep and endless dishes. The noise level crescendos as cabinet doors bang and utensils clatter, dropping nearly into place as they are tossed casually on the table. Fingers swipe phones to change tunes or ask Syri random questions. Hands tap out rhythms and fingers poke playfully as we pass each other in the kitchen.

boy cleaning poolThroughout our parenting we’ve weaved “helping” into our family tapestry in daily routines and weekly chores. Each phase is a bit different and we’ve revamped schedules to better fit personality types. This summer they made their own chore schedule while I supplied encouraging parameters and crunchy snacks.

boy helping weed playgroundAs they’ve gotten bigger, we’ve expanded “helping” into community projects. It’s amazing how kids persevere on mundane tasks when they are alongside new friends in youth group and have ultimate frisbee at the end of their toil.

boy doing service projectI’m trying to catch them being natural helpers and offer a simple “thank you for ____.” My mom-brain keeps prompting them in ways big and small to see ways they can help others. I want to expand their hearts for serving. Eyes redirected to faces rather than tiny screens. Hands reaching out to open a door instead of clutched to a phone. It’s a process.


“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us.” Psalm 90:17


Today it may be picking up a piece of trash on a walk. Tomorrow may be helping a grandparent with a project. Someday it will be caring for their own family. I want their hands capable and their hearts ready, so we’re going to keep rocking the helper chores over here and maybe in the process catch a frog or two.