It Doesn’t Always Go This Way

It Doesn’t Always Go This Way

School got out two weeks ago tomorrow.

Since then we have thrown parties, gone to the Melodrama, had a few trips to the waterpark and dropped one kiddo off at history-loving camp. There have been some real highs.

There have also been a couple of low, low moments. Meltdowns of epic proportion have ruined large chunks of more than one day.

As much as I hate to admit it, the meltdowns were mostly me.

really did not want to melt down today, so when my peanut was starting to be difficult, I took a deep breath and leaned in.

I am trying to do a series of speech videos with her–if not every day–regularly. She was CLEARLY not interested and started to misbehave. She had to sit on timeout, but rather than fighting it through and making the timeout the issue, once she pulled it together and came back to the table we restarted and actually got a lot done!

YAY.

Then she wanted to watch TV. Now, I’ll be honest. I am actually not a mom who limits screen time with my kids. We are pretty busy as a family. My kids go to a Classical Education private school, which mean they read (or are read to) a lot. There are also sports we do, church and youth group every week, trips to the water park and playing in the pool.

We fill their lives with so much good stuff, I don’t feel the need to battle about TV. We also can only watch things on video or DVD, so there’s not a lot of worry about the influence of commercials or things I don’t approve of.

However, today I just didn’t really want her lounging on the couch and sinking in for a binge-fest. Nor did I want to create a commotion over it. So I tried a new approach.

Without saying a word, I got out her light box and began to set it up. I added a dish of ice, food coloring, salt, a spray bottle of water, and a squirt bottle of oil.

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While I was working on that, she turned off the TV and found some “homework” to do on her own.

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When I finished setting it up, I left it.

Again, I said nothing.

A few minutes later, she began exploring…

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The squeezing and spraying strengthen her hands. The ice is refreshing, as it has been so hot the heat radiating from the blacktop burns my feet walking in flip flops. The salt adds texture. Food coloring is just always fun.

She kept herself happily busy while I got some ironing done.

I didn’t melt down.

She didn’t veg out.

We all won.

5 Dinner Guests

5 Dinner Guests

My friend Kelly from Mrs. Disciple has a Friday 5 link up each week. AAaaaanndddd each week I tell myself I am going to “DO THIS THING!” Then each week I don’t.

Maybe this time I will.

5 Dinner Guests is SUCH an intriguing concept. In fact, my hubby and I already discussed ours this morning over coffee in the hot tub. (A favorite morning activity…soaking, chatting, watching the night sky disappear in the daylight.)

Here goes:

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Clearly I like words. If this is insight into my life, I am most definitely in a season longing for growth and learning, and this list of 5 proves it.

1.) Antonin Scalia. My father was a Superior Court Judge who served as president of the California Judge’s Association. His father was also a lawyer who clerked for Earl Warren. If Grandpa Hal had not died at 43, there is every likelihood he would have gone with Earl Warren to clerk for him in the Supreme Court.

It is in my blood.

Mr. Scalia is brilliant. His judicial acumen and ability to write decisions that illuminate application for the common man are inspiring. My brain might hurt after, and I would likely have to write things down to look up later, but it would be fascinating.

2.) Stanley Greenspan. This one’s tough. He died in 2010, but before his death he was a pioneer in brain development and special needs diagnosis and treatment. His work on “floor time” was revolutionary.

“Floortime meets children where they are and builds upon their strengths and abilities through creating a warm relationship and interacting. It challenges them to go further and to develop who they are rather than what their diagnosis says.”stanleygreenspan.com

That makes me cry.

The ability to collaborate with, learn from and listen to a man of his expertise would be life changing for my daughter.

3.) Hyrum Smith. He is the founder of the Franklin Quest Company and author of the book  The Ten Natural Laws of Successful Time & Life Management. He is one of the most powerful speakers I have ever seen, and his book is life changing.

“Natural laws are fundamental patterns of nature and life that human experience and testing have shown to be valid. They describe things as they really are, as opposed to how we think they are or how we wish they were.” page 12

Well said. Walking through his process of figuring out my governing values was brutally insightful. Putting priorities in order is a skill that I have carried into many, many other situations.

You can only ever have one #1 priority at any given moment. Accepting that is freeing.

4.) Albert Mohler. (Could also be John MacArthur…either/or.) Mohler is a theologian and apologist I deeply respect. His reverence for the Lord inspires me.

Growing in my understanding and application of God’s word is of the most importance to me. I LOVE to fill my brain with Scripture. Talking about how to apply it and live life helping others to do the same is something that would keep my attention raptured for hours and hours and hours.

What a joy that would be.

5.) Lysa Terkeurst. “We have to put our hearts and minds in places where wisdom gathers, not scatters.” Exactly.

Lysa is married to a business owner, is a mom, started a ministry, writes and speaks. She is passionate about applying Biblical truth to life.

She does what I do times a million, with far greater excellence.

She is my hero.

She is funny. She is moving. She is insightful.

And most importantly she is an example.

Both times I went to the Proverbs 31 Conference SHE SPEAKS, I was gobsmacked by how humble and edifying the entire team was. I had never seen women treat each other that way before, and I wanted more of it.

When I read this blog of hers, I was a devoted fan forever.

I would be a better person for interacting with those 5… What about you? Who are YOUR 5 DINNER GUESTS?

My Demented Oreo

My Demented Oreo

I am part of what is called the sandwich generation, tucked between nurturing and growing my children and caring for aging parents. Because I am naturally soft in the middle, it makes sense to me that if I have to be a sandwich, I should be a cookie one.

So I have decided to be an Oreo.

Just over a year ago my father in law passed away from Alzheimer’s. The last few years of his life were a roller coaster. There were hospital stays and care facilities; anger and emptiness. The journey of Alzheimer’s is learning to grieve the living.

Although my father in law died first of Alzheimer’s, many years before he began to show signs my mother in law’s memory was disappearing.

My husband and I will celebrate our twentieth anniversary this fall, and for over 15 years of that my mother in law has been fading. Her mother had dementia, and she resigned herself to the same fate. She has never been responsible for caring for my kids. My girls have never gone to grandma’s for the weekend.

She is still one of my favorite people in the world.

I call my mother in law Winnie the Pooh. She has a heart of gold but a head full of fluff. She is never cranky, always happy. (I called my Father in Law Eyeore, because he was quite the opposite.)

While some in our family have understandably struggled with the reality of both Grandma and Grandpa radically mentally impaired, my youngest–our precious little peanut–knows no different and loves her world. She loved her grandpa.

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She loves her grandma.

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This week was Grandparents Day at my daughter’s school and I knew Ryan would love to have Grandma there. Her school is 20 minutes away, and the memory care facility where my mother in law lives is 40 minutes past that. That meant quite a bit of driving.

As Grandma and I were walking out the door of her home to pile in the car I asked her, “Do you know who I am?”

No. She did not.

By the time we reached the first stoplight two blocks away, she asked me half a dozen times who I was. The conversation usually goes like this…

          Me: I am a married to one of your sons. Who are your sons?

          MIL: Let’s see. (Starting to count on her fingers…) Bernie, Carl, Everett.

On occasion she’ll add someone else to the list, her husband or son in law.

         Me: Now which one would have been smart enough to marry me?

She laughs at that every. single. time.

          Me: I am married to your son Carl. Usually if you say it together, you can remember my name. Carl and _______________…

          MIL: Robin.

It is an interesting conversation. Or not. But it is my life.

For the whole drive we chat about the scenery and philosophy; family and the past. It is often the same conversation on repeat. I believe the fact that she is my mother in law and not my mom makes it easier for me to enjoy her as she is. There is not as much loss to bear.

We get the walker out and toddle to the group meeting.

I get Grandma a snack she can eat with her hands. She lost the ability to effectively use silverware a while ago, but she loves a sweet treat.

Then we headed to the classroom.

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Ryan was so happy. Daddy had to come along for the fun.

San Luis Classical Academy, my daughter’s school, is a beautiful part of this season of life. Ryan is on campus two days a week and homeschooled three days a week. I am hauntingly optimistic we will make tremendous progress this year.

Ryan did her “recitation” of Wynken, Blynken and Nod.

 

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When your child can’t talk, you must improvise and prioritize. I decided that for this recitation, being comfortable in front of the class was the goal.

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Look at that face. Today was a winner.

After recitations were art projects and show and tell times with Grandma.

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Keep in mind that at the very moment my these pictures were taken my Mother In Law had absolutely no idea where she was or who she was talking to. None.

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THIS IS GRACE.

THIS IS LOVE.

THIS IS BEAUTIFUL.

My daughter who can’t talk and my Mother in Law who can’t remember have a relationship that looks like this. And they both mean it with all their hearts.

I love this part of the Message version of the third chapter of Ecclesiastes:

A right time to cry and another to laugh, A right time to lament and another to cheer.

This is my life right now…a crazy, mixed up jumble of lamenting and crying while also laughing and cheering.

It is my demented Oreo of a life, and while I may not have chosen it, I do–in fact–love it.

 

 

 

Exposed

Exposed

I was caught unaware.

Scrolling through my social media feed, mindlessly, lazily filling my afternoon with unproductivity, and there it was. A beautiful picture of someone who I will always be connected to.  There came a catch in my throat.

The words were loving and seemed so sincere, and my inner conversation began, “Why am I not good enough for this? Why are there no words like this for me?”

Relationships, and people, are so messy.

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And the extended version of the winsome photograph I found myself staring at is the most disheveled human connection in my world. Sometimes family feels like it is on life support.

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In the swirling, I realize that I am feeling a wee bit vulnerable right this moment. My beloved Tuesday Night Bible Study needed to come to a close; my precious little ministry is flailing trying to plan for the next project; and unexpectedly I find myself discouraged.

I didn’t see it coming.

Mostly things are really good.

And my hubby and I are thinking through other things to make them better. There is no crisis. There is no overarching angst. But…every once in while…when I am looking in another direction…I suddenly feel exposed and at risk.

Here’s the truth I must face: Life is imperfect. Am I brave enough to accept that with grace?

The wacky thing is God is moving in my life. He has lovingly connected me with new friends, most of whom are writers, and I feel the itching to grow and learn in the very best of ways. I can sincerely cheer them on, applauding great work in the form of poignant words, embracing stories. It is lovely.

I am tackling a large project that has been laid on my heart. It is one that will hopefully bring women into deeper connection to God and stronger faith. I will find solutions for the ministry project and will be involved in a different Bible Study this fall. It will all be okay.

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Except for the situation in that photo staring at me from the computer screen. For that I have no answers. And although it doesn’t impact the totality of life, or daily happiness, there are moments–like this one–that leave me feeling hauntingly sad and exposed.

Great Moments

I love summer. I love the changing of seasons; not seasons of nature but seasons of life. The coming of summer and the end of school inherently provide a time to regroup.

I often need time to regroup.

Here is the truth of my life: I think I am getting better at it. 

I am not perfect. Obviously. But I am also not a perfectionist, I am a pragmatist. What I am constantly trying to move toward is a life that works. For me that means my calendar matches my priorities. In quantity of time my family comes first, but in priority of time my faith comes first.

This season is working for me because, as it turns out, I love to learn. In church and Bible Study I am in a fruitful season of learning God’s word and how it applies to life. In parenting, my girls are in a fantastic school–on campus a few days a weeks and at home the others. Reagan is completely in charge of her own learning, and Ryan is homeschooled a few days a week.

After four years, I may be getting the hang of it. I actually finished the school year with momentum…and I am excited about the coming year.

It’s crazy, I know. I was actually…organized.

I want to push pause on a moment. In one of our homeschool days this spring, there was a breakthrough.

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This is an activity we have done many, many times. Baking soda, vinegar, water, corn starch and food coloring have provided hours of entertaining engagement. This day we were using it as our fine motor activity. All of the squeezing and pinching making her little hands stronger on our road to learn to write.

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Mostly I sat back and watched, letting her explore and combine.

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The breakthrough came…for the first time, ever, Ryan did not combine all the colors into one big brownish-greyish gloomy mess.

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Obviously she is still a bit messy. ($3 clear shower curtains get a lot of use as craft-table covers in our home.) But she was more careful than I have ever seen her.

This summer we want to continue to strengthen her foundational skills so that we can embrace the curriculum more thoroughly this fall. We intend to read more and exercise more. In August she and I will head to Connecticut to get a thorough evaluation and several sessions with an expert in Oral Motor Placement Therapy. It is our attempt to progress in teaching her to talk.

We are not ready to give up hope.

Meanwhile, we will do all we can do to enjoy this season, these moments, this child.

“And God looked at all He had made, and indeed it was very good.”

Genesis 1:31

This Is Your Moment

Educating my kids is the hardest part of parenting for me.

The truth is that I ended up hating school, as did my son.  And my heart breaks wanting things to be different for my girls.

Three and a half years ago, as my middle was finishing up fifth grade, my hubby and I set out to look at different education options with only one question in mind: Where will she get the most excellent education?

The choice, within that framework, was very easy. That fall our family became part of the San Luis Classical Academy family. It is a hybrid education, where she was in classes with wonderful teachers two days a week, and home schooled the other three. They guided the home days, and we got to add our own stamp to what we learned.

It was the best educational decision we have ever made.

Now she has started high school. And the school is having its very first CIF teams. Ever. It is our first volleyball season as parents, hers as a player and the schools as a team. We love it.

At the game the other day, the senior member of the team started encouraging the girls by saying, “This is your moment.” We were loving it in the stands…every time momentum was going in the wrong direction, she would call it out.

She was right. These really ARE the moments. Life, an abundant life, certainly has grand gestures and big events, but it is the simple of the everyday that really makes things beautiful.

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Right before my eyes, she is changing. It feels like she grows an inch a week, and if I could I would sweep her back to chubby cheeks and endless days right by my side. But I can’t, so I will do what I can to pay attention today…because there is so much to be awed by.

She loves school because she loves to learn. We are watching and rooting her on, as we wipe away the tears when she’s not looking. Seeing my kids grow up breaks my heart with beauty.

We are transfixed. We are grateful. She has read Chaucer and Shakespeare; The Illiad and Beowolf. She has been wrapped in science and loves geometry. She joined the Writers Club. After volleyball she heads downtown to get dinner and then attends youth group at church with her friends.

My heart is overflowing with gratitude that God has blessed this process so abundantly, and I will breathe it in deeply because this moment will be gone all to soon.