Friday, April 3, 2015

Savouring Self Care

My cell phone slipped out of my hands last week and landed face down on our driveway. Its screen is now covered in a filmy spiderweb of cracks, and I can't even blame the kids. The irony is that I spent the last week thinking, "I really need to get a case for my phone. I really need to talk to the Man about getting a case for this phone." But I didn't get a case for the phone, and I never talked to the Man about it, and now...well, let's see if our insurance works in my favor.

Self care tips from the kids:
Get a massage, though preferably not from someone who pulls hair and drools.

The phrase "self care" has been cropping up a lot in my reading lately and in my life. The Man has to get on to me fairly regularly because in my attempts to take care of everyone else, I sometimes forget to take care of myself. Inevitably, that doesn't end well. Last week, for instance, I ended up with a mini-meltdown of despair, which was quickly cleared up after the Man and I realized that I just hadn't slept for about two weeks because I had stopped asking for help with the middle of the night wake ups. No lie.

I guess what I'm saying is that sometimes I treat myself like I do my cell phone. I wait and wait and wait to take care of myself and before I know it, one small slip up has left me feeling shattered. All I needed to do was buy a phone case. Or ask for help. Or take a run. Or go buy clothes that fit right. Or slip out for an hour at the beach. These are not huge things. Sure, huger than nothing, but if I'd done them, I would be left with a smooth cell phone screen and a saner, happier, healthier me.

Do some seasonal decorating and maybe a little artwork with someone you love

But here's the problem: it is so easy to make poor choices in the name of self care. You know what I'm talking about: I sit down to mindlessly surf the internet or stay up late binge reading a novel or watch "just an episode or two or five" of a TV show, because I'm tired and I deserve some rest, and self care, people.  And I'm happy--in the moment--so I think it's a good choice. But this is not self care, not really.

I confuse it with self care, but it isn't, and you know it, and I know it.

Enjoy the view from your window


We need time to relax and decompress. That matters. So how do we differentiate between a walk on the beach and a night on the couch watching four episodes of The West Wing in a row? What is the difference between savouring a few chapters of a well written book and downing the whole thing in one sitting?

Maybe the idea of self care is wrapped up in the word I just used: "savour".

Drink something tasty.
Enjoy it all the way down.

To use a different metaphor, in order to survive, we have to eat. If we don't eat enough, we starve. If we eat too much, we're gluttons. We must feed ourselves, not just our stomachs but our souls, in healthy ways, ways that allow us to savour what nourishes us.

There is such a thing as both too much and too little of a good thing.

Smile and let your mom take your picture.
Making her happy will make you happy.
Smiling will make you happy too.

Let's get specific and go back to the idea of the Man helping me with all the middle of the night wakings. I needed to ask him for help. This is obvious. But what if I then went to the opposite extreme and refused to help him with any of the night wakings, instead demanding he cover them all? While physically that may be a fun choice for me (yay, sleep!), the selfishness involved in choosing to do so would inevitably take its toll on my inner life.

Self care is not supposed to be an all or nothing thing. It is not a case of feast or famine.

When we practice self-care the right way, we learn to slow down, find our rhythm, and allow our soul to be fed. And more than just fed, but well-fed with food worth savouring.

Take a warm bath.

We accept help, but we give it also, because both are good. We work hard, but we also rest, because both are necessary. We learn when to slow down, but also, alternatively perhaps, when to speed up, because both encourage growth.

This is challenging, learning what we truly need and then working towards it, but it can be beautiful as well, as we walk towards the wholeness that allows us to better love ourselves and consequently better love others.

No really, take a bath. Baths = happiness.

{The "He is risen" printable hanging out with my homemade watercolour-speckled bunting is from Jones Design Company. And while you're over there, go read this piece on self-care that helped jumpstart some of these thoughts. And if that's not enough on the subject, you might treat yo' self by reading this post by the Nester and then watching some Parks and Rec.}

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Growing into New Circles

Littles, while painting: I think when I grow up, I want to be an artist like Aki.
Tiny: When I grow up, I want to be a dolphin.
Littles: Maybe you could be a whale!

There is something in us as human beings that thrills to the thought of who we could be. As a child, all that hope is wrapped up in one question: what do you want to be when you grow up? It's fun to answer that question as a kid, and it's fun to ask it of our kids as parents.

But I think for many of us, we don't grow out of that fixation on who we want to be. I know at least for myself, I spend a lot of time thinking about it. I want to be back to running regularly. I want to spend more time writing and pursuing art. I want to be able to find time to volunteer. I want to be more patient with the kids and better with doing crafts. I want to be version of together, that is.

In fact, I'm pretty sure that I've said about at least a couple of my awesome friends who seem to have things a little more together than I do, "I want to be you when I grow up."

It's not bad to recognize areas where we could use a little work, and it's not bad to hope and dream about the future. The problem is when we get stuck there, fixating, instead of acknowledging who we already are in Christ. It's easy to get tripped up psychoanalyzing ourselves, questioning ourselves repeatedly (Is this really who I want to be? Is this really what I want from life?) and miss the greater picture. I'm learning to be more purposeful about celebrating the areas where Christ is already shining instead of guilting myself about the things I just can't pull together, at least not right now.

I talk about seasons a lot these days, and it comes up a lot in company as well. I'm often told how quickly these days will go by. It's true. All my kids are walking now. When did that happen? Self-entertainment is becoming a real thing in our house, and we actually cut back on our diaper bill this month. It's amazing. The babies are not really babies any more, and the big boys are getting for real big. Things are changing.

With change comes new opportunities, new openings in time and availability to pursue different things and make other choices. This is good. This is as it should be. But that doesn't mean that all those areas where I feel lacking need to be tackled immediately. It's a gradual process that takes time.

I got two emails this month talking about hopes and dreams that weren't for right now. In one of them, my friend said she knew that the timing for her dream wasn't right, but she hoped that in another season it would come to fruition. For right now, she was acknowledging its existence and letting it rest at that.

The other email was from my sister who used the training circle analogy from The Mask of Zorro. You can watch the clip here, but the important part is this bit of dialogue:

Don Diego de la Vega: This is called a training circle, a master's wheel. This circle will be your world, your whole life. Until I tell you otherwise, there is nothing outside of it. 
Alejandro Murrieta: Capitan Love is... 
Don Diego de la Vega: There is NOTHING outside of it. Captain Love does not exist until I say he exists. As your skill with the sword improves, you will progress to a smaller circle. With each new circle, your world contracts, bringing you that much closer to your adversary, that much closer to retribution. 
Alejandro Murrieta: I like that part.

My sister said that she hoped at some point that a new language she was fascinated with would "move into her circle" although she had no clue when that would be. But until it came into her circle, she had to focus on where she already was.

I was so grateful for that visual aid. Sometimes I get so frustrated when my dreams seem to be impossible to attain in the foreseeable future, but the truth is that my foreseeable future is full of wonderful things that may just not be for right now. And my present is pretty wonderful to, once I let it be what it is.

I have to remember who I already am, who Christ has already made me, and rejoice in that. And let the rest come when it will.

There is often a disconnect between who we are and who we want to be. Maybe that's just Jesus reminding us that He has something greater in store for us later on. But how I hope to learn to rest in the now while I wait for a chance to bring these other dreams to reality, how I hope I don't crush my own dreams by grabbing for them too soon.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Seven Easy Steps to Your Child's Book Addiction

So we now have a reader in the family. For the most part. I mean, of course, other than the Man and I.  The Little Man is still hesitant to put his new powers to use, but he's got them. I wish he'd gain a little more confidence so I could put him to work reading to Tiny, but patience, you know...patience...and a lot of sounding out words very, very slowly.

This was his first day of school picture.
That I took two weeks into the school year.

Anyway, while I'm waiting, I thought I would take the time to instruct all of you out of my now vast wealth of knowledge and wisdom so that you too can instill a love of reading in your child. So here you go.

How to Make a Book Addict Out of Your Previously Untainted Child in Seven Easy Steps

Start 'em early : There is no child too young for a book. Seriously, start reading to your kids while they're still in the womb (it can't hurt, right?). Whatever you're reading, read it to your kids. Unless you have awful taste in literature. Then don't. Save them from yourself. But really, you're sitting there holding your newborn baby, read them something. There are few things better than snuggling a baby while enjoying the written word. Except for sleep, maybe sleep. That might be better. But what would I know.

Start 'em often : There is no such thing as reading too much. A book at breakfast. A book at lunch. A book at dinner. A book at nap time and one at bed time. Forgo everything else, but just keep reading. A clean house is over rated. Anything more than a PBJ for lunch is extraneous. Showers are totally optional. Books are not. Read. Read. Read.

Model what you want to see
 : There is no such thing as reading too much. Wait, I already said that. But last time I meant reading to your kids. This time I just mean reading. As in to yourself. For entertainment or education or anything else you want. The more your kids see you reading, the more they will see it as something of value. And the more they will recognize just how much fun it is. And the more they will want to learn how to read on their own because obviously it must be incredibly entertaining.

Limit screen time : I know, I know, you hear it all the time. Turn off the TV. Close your computer. Put down your smart phone. But those are all really negative. How about this: open a book. The more time you spend on a screen with your kids, the less time you spend with a book. My parents (paragons of parenting virtue) didn't have a TV. They raised three voracious readers. This is proof to me that it works.

Build pillow forts : This may be my most important tip. Make pillow forts with your kids and read in them. Pillow forts are like crack for kids. Seriously. Anything done in a pillow fort is automatically the most awesome thing of all. File your taxes in a pillow fort. Your kids will never get arrested by the IRS. Cut your toenails in a pillow fort. Your kids will be perfectly pedicured for life. Fold your laundry in a pillow fort. Because if you have as many kids as I have, that's the only way you'll ever get the laundry folded. Pillow forts. Trust me on this.

Make the most of bedtime : Read before bed. Why? Because that's the time of day all kids put off as long as possible, and while they stall, you are molding their little malleable minds into reading machines. Those pleas of "One more chapter, Mommy?" will be music to your ears instead of driving you one step closer to insanity.

Hit Up the Library : Make the library the coolest place in town.  Don't pick the bookstore because either you'll go broke or the bookstore owners will have you arrested as a public nuisance. The library is your friend. Someone had a really good day potty training? Celebrate with the library. You're trying to make up for a morning stuck on the phone paying bills? Treat your kid to the library. You barely survived shots at the doctor? The library will make it all better.

And if all else fails, convince them that reading will get them out of eating their vegetables at dinner. You never know. It might work.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Done and done and done...ish.

There is nothing quite like that feeling at the end of a long day when everything is finally finished.

The kids are tucked in bed, and sleep is imminent.

Littles and his new garden.
My version of a field trip.

The dishes are washed, the table is wiped, and the floor is swept (however haphazardly).

The toys are picked up except for the loan whiffle ball that seems to have taken up residence in the kitchen. The bathtub has been drained, and the towels hung by their monster hoods on the back of the door. The twenty gazillion cough drops Bruiser exploded all over the master bedroom have been returned to their crinkly ziplock bag.

There are few things more helpful than Bee sitting on clean, damp laundry
...with the dog leash.

The door to the dog's food has been reopened and the door to the kitty litter. The laundry Bee dumped has been refolded and returned to the laundry basket which will double as a chest of drawers for another couple days (let's not get too crazy). The dirty diapers have all made their way to their respective trash cans.

Day one of potty training has gone swimmingly. Cough syrup has been doled out lovingly. Phonics lessons get a check mark for the day.

The twins who ride together stay together.

Everything is done, and the couch awaits, and a very large cup of tea...and maybe some chocolate...and the knowledge that the Man will be home if he ever finishes his paper and he will applaud my awesomeness and it. will. be. so.

Peanut butter and jelly face.

And then I remember...

that Tiny used the baby potty one last time while I was putting the twins in bed, and it needs to be emptied and wiped out. Which isn't a big deal (nowhere near as big a deal as the time he lit a muffin on fire in the microwave during the twins' bed time) until I discover...

that he clogged the big person toilet with what appears to be literally an entire roll of toilet paper.

Yeah, laugh all you like...
{don't judge my bookshelves: the twins are expert rippers}

There's nothing quite like that feeling either.

But I will prevail. I will also get very familiar with our plunger.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Stroller-Walking: the Littles Version

The Little Man has discovered chapter books.

Well, let me clarify. He has not so much discovered chapter books (this year I've force fed him Mr Popper's Penguins and Farmer Boy, oh, and Mary Poppins and now The Little Prince) as he has discovered that he loves chapter books. And when I say "loves", I really mean that he is showing signs of a genetic disposition towards a reading addiction.

It was sure to crop up sooner or later.

He had it coming from both sides of the family.

The culprit was My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. And it was aided and abetted by Mommy's love of reading out loud and Bruiser's stomach bug. If you're wondering what Bruiser's stomach bug has to do with it, the answer is that while he was sick, we had 4 wonderful days of sleep. The first two while he was feverish and vomiting were not so restful, but after that, he had an extreme break in personality and was going to bed at six, only waking up once a night, and taking naps that lasted longer than 45 minutes.

It was fairly surreal. And it gave me a lot of time to read to the boys.

It also gave me a lot of time to sit on the front porch and watch the sunset while eating chocolate cupcakes. True story. That's not the point.

Anyway, the first night that we sat down to read My Father's Dragon, after the cupcakes and the sunset and the pajamaing and the brushing of the teeth, we read the whole book. No joke. I mean, it's not hugely long, eighty pages or so, but that's a lot for a five and three year old. And they were riveted!

Then it just so happened that I'd gotten the book I got also contained books two and three (this seems more confusing than it really is). So the next day the boys were hounding me to read it to them, but the twins were fussy and it just wasn't going to fly. I suggested to the boys that we take the dog for a walk and get the twins out of the germ infested house, so we loaded up the stroller and went out to enjoy the sunshine together, bringing the book along...just in case we got a chance to read. Well, the Little Man conned me into reading while we walked the dog. Seriously. I'm sure we looked like even more of a circus than usual.

I don't do as much stroller-reading as I did when Alex was a baby. Something about twins and maniacs on bicycles and a crazy four-legged canine.

Then we dropped the dog off at home and went to play in the field next to our house, and by play I mean, I sat on the quilt and finished reading book two out loud.

The next day was full of doctors appointments...which was super fun. There is nothing more enjoyable than taking four kids and a ginormous double stroller and cramming everyone into a tiny, sweltering hospital room. Some days I think back fondly on the time when I could sit for hours in waiting rooms, blissfully reading, all by myself... I think I must've been thinking back to those fond memories when I tucked My Father's Dragon in the diaper bag.

And then Littles found it. And hounded me mercilessly until I read it to him. Even though I was desperately trying to fill out new patient paperwork while still shoving half a stale belVita cracker in the general direction of the twins who were having a yelling contest. Ever resourceful, I told Littles that if I could finish the paperwork and he could get the twins happy, I'd read.

We knocked out two chapters.

I'm making him take book three a little more slowly. I know that crash after binging on the written word. May he experience it more gently than I do.

A few side notes: 
  • I hate book jackets; I hate them even more when libraries tape them so that you can't see the maps on the inside covers of fantasy novels. 
  • Littles' nose is green in the first picture because of sidewalk chalk. More on this later.
  • Blurry pictures are entirely my fault. I'm still trying to figure out the new camera. Expect me to take a while. Nice cameras and grabby handed toddlers do not mix well.
  • There is photographic evidence of both me and the Man on multiple Christmases and birthdays with our noses stuck in books. Family gatherings are fun when we're around.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Family Mottos and Over Reacting

Does anybody remember this clip from The Office where Andy loses his temper and punches a wall?

Who am I kidding? Everyone remembers that part. I'm pretty sure the Man watched it on repeat one week, laughing until he cried. Since then, it's become a catch phrase in our family.

So this week when I had to change Tiny's diaper and he dissolved into a puddle of tears while screaming hysterically, I turned to the Man, lifted my eyebrow, and said, "That was an over reaction." And we both had a good laugh. Which was nice, because sometimes Tiny's three year old-ness just makes me want to pull my hair out, not laugh. And that's not good because honestly, there's not a lot of hair left on my head thanks to Bruiser. That kid has grabby hands.

Then a couple hours later, when Littles stubbed his toe and screamed bloody murder, all the Man and I had to do was look at each other and we knew that the other one was thinking: That was an over reaction. And nothing makes me happier than an inside joke with my husband, so that was nice too.

It worked again when Bee pitched a fit over not getting Tiny's germ infested water bottle. Tiny has a stomach bug--I would prefer him not to share said bug with anyone other than Bruiser, who gave it to him originally. Bee doesn't care. All water bottles should be hers, except for the one I actually gave her.

And then when I lost my temper at an unnamed child for flooding the bathroom and busted out the classic "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!?!" before I remembered that three year olds don't always really think, I thought, "See? That was an over reaction too."

And then when Bruiser shrieked hysterically because he wanted... oh, I don't remember, but something, which is typical... I realized that almost everything in our family is an over reaction these days so...

All that to say, our new family motto is: That was an Over Reaction.

Other people can have more sophisticated family mottos, you know, family mottos that actually inspire a family to greatness or kindness or spiritual growth, but for now, this works for us. All we need is the ability to laugh and regain perspective when what we really want is to pack the kids in a box and mail them to Nana.

Which would be, as you know, an over reaction.

I think I'm going to cross-stitch our new motto, possibly accompanied with a made up family crest, and hang it over our imaginary mantle.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Nocturnal Twins and Other Blurbs

Normally I get asked if my boy/girl twins are fraternal or identical. Yes. True story. But today, I had my favorite twin moment (possibly ever) when I got asked if the twins are nocturnal.

Why, yes. Yes, they are.

You know that wonderful moment when you slip between smooth, cool sheets at the end of a long day? I get that moment multiple times a night! So does the Man! It's super fun.

Okay, that was a slight exaggeration. Things on the sleep front are improving (you really want to know this, don't you?), and we have even had two dinners in a row where everyone ate well, there was no screaming involved, and the Man and I were actually able to have an adult conversation. It was a minor miracle!

In all that, I've just been having some great moments with the kids lately, and I wanted to share a few of them with their adoring public. 
  • Tiny and Littles love the trash truck. We did hardly any Christmas baking this year, but the trash guys got a loaf of pumpkin bread. That says about everything you need to know. But this morning I found Tiny in his room carrying on a full conversation with the trash truck, not the trash guys but the actual truck, who is evidently now called, wait for it, "Trashy". 
  • The twins wore long-sleeved white t-shirts today. Then I fed them strawberries for breakfast. And pizza for lunch. And hamburger pot pie for dinner. And by the end of the day they could've doubled for Jackson Pollock paintings.
  • Yesterday I came downstairs after tucking in Bruiser for naps to find Bee playing gleefully in the middle of a sizable puddle while Tiny cheerily chucked cupfuls of water from the sink in a creative attempt to turn our dining room into a water park. The peals of laughter pouring out of Littles stopped abruptly so that he could professionally lay blame on Tiny. My kids could write the book on birth order.
  • Me: Tiny, you have Littles' helmet on backwards. Tiny: I can do what I want. Me, internally: yup, sounds about right.
  • Littles told me the other day that the honey dripping down the side of the honey bottle looked like the sun setting into the bay. I'm going to keep that kid.

    Aren't kids great? At the very least I think mine are. And sometimes I even think that at other times during the day than just after they've fallen asleep. I'm sure the harbor seals think their new pups are just as awesome, but they are wrong. Although the way they inchworm their blubbery bodies up on land is super adorable. I wonder if I could teach that to the twins?