Slow, Red, Holiday Nails

 

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I never paint my nails. Every time I do, I’m so hard on them that they end up chipped and peeling within 12 hours. I’ve tried fancy salon gel nails, but you have to make the upkeep a priority, and I just don’t have the time. Yet when I saw a friend in church last week who had the shiniest red nails and I was inspired.

So last Friday night I spent time and painted my nails a deep holiday red. I did the full two coats and topcoat, and sat back and admired…knowing the final masterpiece wouldn’t last. After I was sure they were dry enough, I went downstairs to get a snack. Careful, so as not to ruin my manicure, I pulled back the handles on the cupboard, and slid a plate from the stack. And I as I moved in this manner, I was suddenly overwhelmed with a calm feeling.

It made me realize, I function at the top 95% of my energy all the time. I get ready, get a run in, teach fourth grade all day, then come home and cook dinner and get kids to bed. My only mode is go-mode. I was filled with a new desire to preserve my rare holiday nails, and slow my pace. Instead of being “nail-deep” in every project, cleaning, or rushed task, it felt good to be intentionally slow. I laughed thinking of all that was in the background that was blurred because of my hastiness.

The next morning, I planned a trip to Costco. I braced myself for the Saturday morning crowd with a toddler in tow. After getting scooped FOUR times for a parking spot in the lot, I was stressed by the time I reached the door. I scowled as the door greeter asked for my membership ID as I was struggling to lift my two-year-old-in-a-four-year-old-body into the cart. If the parking lot was any indicator, the aisles were worse. I couldn’t turn a corner without someone cutting in front of me.

But then I caught a glimpse of my fingers resting on the cart handle. Miraculously they were still shiny and red. They stood out as beacons to me against the holiday angst I was easily being sucked into. I slowed my pace. My son had his eye on a bag of trail mix on the shelf. “That, Mama.” He said as he pointed. I smiled and brushed his hair from his eyes. “Should we get that?” I asked, as I placed the (giant) bag of trail mix in the cart. “Those are good.”, came a voice from my right. A woman I hadn’t noticed before was standing near us. She was pushing a cane and a full cart of products. “I always find great things here.” She continued as she smiled at my son, “What a sweetheart.” As I pulled around the corner, slower this time, I felt tears bud in my eyes. I would have completely missed that conversation had I kept my stressful pace. Instead I got a moment of new perspective from someone who can teach me something about appreciating rather than complaining.

Inevitably, the nails chipped halfway through the school day on Monday. But you know what? I think it’s time to paint them again…

 

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The Cure for the Summer Doldrums

* I wrote this back in July, just never posted. Kind of miss the weather…

The Cure for the Summer Doldrums:

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose

 

It happens every year around mid-July. The heat has kicked in, and we’ve had days of hot and humid. The initial novelty of summer fun that dominated June has slowly fizzled, and we are left with sweaty, bored kids.

I think of this as the summer doldrums. (And I know those of you full-time year-round working moms are crying your hearts out right now for the poor teacher home all summer.) But days like this are oddly reminiscent of the bitter January days when you feel as though your routines are on repeat.

And for me, this is where anxiety rears its ugly head. I start nit-picking the nuances of my marriage and stressing over the crumbs and dust that have gathered between the salad bowls in my lazy Susan cupboard. The peak of my anxiousness for the week was a highly-emotional work meeting yesterday. (Us teachers don’t have time to overthink during the school year: we have to fit most of our drama into the summer.)

So with the oldest at camp for the day, I felt a need to break free of the anxiety-filled summer doldrums and be spontaneous. So I threw handfuls of Babybels and beef sticks and fruit in a bag and loaded my 22 month old in the car for the Minnesota Zoo.

Today at the zoo was what summer dreams are made of. I careened the stroller down the outdoor paths, chasing pools of shade and soaking in the perfect summer breeze. As we waved to the animals from the stroller (We’re not ready for free-reign zoo time yet), a phrase popped into my head: Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.

Coach Taylor from the show Friday Night Lights will forever be one of my teaching idols (And ok- he’s not horrible to look at either.) My husband and I poured over every season of FNL- twice! Something about the acting, the soundtrack, and the writing captured our hearts- as well as so many others. So naturally, I’m a fan of the main character’s catch phrase, “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.” I even printed a copy that hangs above the doorway in my fourth grade classroom.

But for some reason, it entered my mind on this lovely morning at the zoo. I let it weave through my thoughts as we giggled through the new kangaroo exhibit, rode the tractor back to the farm (which my son loved more than any animal he saw), and bobbed up and down on a painted giraffe on the carousel. And as if I wasn’t already convinced, I’ve decided Coach Taylor is a genius.

Prairie Dog Marveling

 

Clear Eyes

Us moms walk through our kid-filled days with tunnel vision. And rightfully so, to prevent things like eating rocks, running in the street, and causing problems for other families just trying to enjoy their day.  But today, I tried to see with clear eyes. I watched my son’s face as he peered at a prairie dog munching on a plant- marveling at the idea that this is the first time he’s ever seen that. I watched a group of young kids gather dandelions from the picnic area- their sweet red cheeks and smiles of pride.  I stared at the wooden planks of floorboard on the carousel- reminded that carousels carry such tradition and nostalgia for many people.

Full Hearts

It was seeing those things, that led my heart to feel full. I smiled at another mom across the picnic area and we laughed at how hard it is to get a toddler to eat. I watched my son mesmerized by the tractor wheels and kissed his sweet, chubby cheek. And as I sit reflecting on the morning during naptime (hello, glorious naptime), I want to hold onto this fullness. This buzz of positivity and love and contentment that is fleeting, but oh-so treasured.

Can’t Lose

So today, I am bolstered. By my bonding time with my sweet boy, and new clarity on blessings.  I’m so glad I chose to fend off the anxiety of summer doldrums and be spontaneous today. I feel a little invincible (Coach Taylor would be so proud).

Soon, I’ll be back in the tunnel- applying the torture of sunscreen to squirming bodies, and making eight year olds do horrible things like shower. But for today, for this moment, I will revel in “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t lose”

Maybe it would make a good tattoo.

Darnit, Martha- You Win Again!

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Tree Drawing (June 6th)

A month before school got out, I got an issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine in the mail. I don’t remember ordering it, so I figured someone gifted me a subscription and it slipped my mind. Balancing my 19 month old on one hip, and dirty dishes in the other I stared down at the glossy cover and almost threw it away. I’m so glad I didn’t.

In college and just after, I read Martha Stewart Living religiously. I dog-eared pages and poured over every recipe, decorating idea and project. Someday, I thought- I should do this all. Should. As I got older, got married, and eventually started a family, the idea of Martha Stewart made me angry. WHO, I would fume, HAS TIME FOR ALL THIS??

So it was in that vein that I almost threw that copy away. But I didn’t. I paged through it one Sunday afternoon when I should have been grading division tests. And the first thing that caught my eye was the calendar near the front cover. One would think that Martha Stewart’s monthly calendar might be an impressive schedule of crafts, recipes, meetings and all sorts of wonderment. But I was immediately struck by a simple beauty. Something like:

May 1- Plant basil and thyme
May 5- Go for a horseback ride
May 13- Wash linens in the guest closet
May 18- Make jam

Now, I know for a fact that that is not all she does every day, but it got me thinking about choosing one simple thing to focus on. What if we could ditch our to-do list and just stop. What if we said, today I’m going to pick a bouquet of lilacs for the table. Thinking about this concept makes me calm and grateful. I stood at my kitchen window and felt the warm breeze flow through the screens. I watched my eight year old daughter run across the yard with her friends.

I need this simplicity right now. In these days of crazy toddler chasing and lists, I need to choose to soak in simplicity.
June 5th- Eat dinner outside; big chunks of sweet watermelon and fresh veggie fajita bowls scooped up with tortilla chips.
June 6th- Draw trees with Charly at naptime. Despite the pile of laundry and new mess we’re creating.

So I find myself looking forward to this summer. To keeping it simple, and enjoying the sweet air and sunshine.

Proving once again, that Martha really can do everything.

 

 

Give ‘Em a Nickname

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A couple weeks ago I went for a run around Clearly Lake. I’d been only running two mile routes, so I wanted to push myself to do three. I ran at 2:00 pm and it was 85 degrees out. I also forgot the lack of shade around the lake, but I was determined to do this run.

To get through a tough run, I try to occupy my mind.  I thought about the upcoming start to the school year, and what my new batch of fourth graders would be like. And often when I’m struggling running, I think back to high school. In particular, the one and a half seasons I ran cross country. We had plenty of hot runs, hills, and times you didn’t feel like training.

I’ll never forget a particularly hot day, our coaches had us running sprints up the hill on the side of the adjacent middle school. Just when I was about to call it quits so I could spend some quality time hanging out in the Fina Mart parking lot, I heard one of my coaches call out, “Atta girl, Sho, lower your arms.” Two things- 1. Coach Sadek had a way of sneaking in advice without it seeming threatening. Like the strategy of lowering your arms when on a hill. (I still do this every time.) 2. He called me “Sho”. My maiden name was Shogren, and a few weeks into the season, he shortened it and started calling me “Sho”.  And I loved it.

See Mr. Sadek knew the secret to connecting with kids. Especially those who are struggling. You take them in. You give them a nickname. He saw a marginal runner, on the cusp of choosing her social life over the cross country team, and he took her in. He winked as he teased me about my boyfriend who was on the team. He called me out when I tried to take the shortcut back to school on long runs. And he continued to call me “Sho”.

I started to think about how I want to start my year with my new students. More important than the curriculum required, is the connections we make with students. I hope to give them a few nicknames this year.  Something so simple, yet letting that student know I got them.

Sadly, Mr. Sadek passed away in 2013. But I think it’s pretty cool to know his words and actions live on through those he coached. Thinking about this, I suddenly remembered a great moment from my daughter’s parent-teacher conference last spring. Charly’s first grade teacher, Mrs. Lee, looked at me at one point and said, “I just love her. I call her Charly-Girl”. My eyes filled with tears and it felt so wonderful knowing my daughter had connected with her teacher.

Well done, Mrs. Lee…she gave her a nickname.

 

The Truth

 

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~Today I slept in and enjoyed a cup of coffee on the deck. My house looked perfect- already clean. My children woke up quietly on their own, dressed themselves (yep- even the nine month old), and told me they’d love whatever I would make for breakfast. Then my husband called to thank me (again!) for being so wonderful ALL THE TIME.

If you haven’t stopped reading this, my morning was the exact opposite of everything above.

I never want to be the type of writer who sugar-coats. It’s so refreshing to read popular bloggers today like Glennon Melton Doyle and Jen Hatmaker and I think people love them because they tell the truth. I think we want so badly to appear as if we have our stuff together, that we forget there’s something wonderful in bonding together in the honesty of life. So here’s a few truths of mine….

  • I don’t know the words to my college fight song. When I go to games, I fake it, and sing the parts really loud that I do know. I really should know it. I think if I had gone to more games instead of parties, I might have acquired this knowledge.
  • I am always months behind on eyebrow waxes, pedicures, haircuts and foils. I look at busy professional moms who work longer hours than I do and think- How do you fit all that in?!
  • I talk a big game about eating clean and healthy….but I consume more than my fair share of Cheetos and CocaCola.

And probably the most important truth I’ve come to in the last few months….

  • I am constantly hanging contentment on the next thing. When my husband and I were dating for years, and he hadn’t proposed, all I could think about was how happy and relieved I would be when he finally did. But then I couldn’t get pregnant. I spent months longing for the peace that would come when I held that sweet baby. And it did. But then I wanted another. Having adopted our sweet boy and finally being a complete family, I’ve found myself still delaying that feeling of full contentment. Why??

I’ve always known this about myself and at first I chalked it up to being goal-oriented. I am always looking to do the next great thing! But the older I get, the more I realize you really have to choose contentment. There will always be that next thing to hope for. And it might be big, like marriage or a child, or it might be day-to-day, like getting over this ear infection season.

There will always be some excuse, some ‘one more thing’ that could be done, to be content. So I’ve been trying to figure out how to do that. I thought back to the most content times in my life and there are two commonalities; truth and thankfulness. Being honest about life and being constantly aware of blessings. I am reminded of Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. In it, she is dared to make a list of 1000 things things she loves; blessings, thankfulness.

I think thankfulness is the key.

When I first read this book, I got inspired and made it to 105 things I was thankful for. It sounds easy, but putting it down is a struggle. And time-consuming.It’s a change in habit and in lifestyle. Like working out regularly and flossing your teeth.

So yesterday I spent twenty minutes on the floor with my toddler, just watching. I thanked God for every eyelash, I noticed how fast he crawled to knock over the block tower I built and giggled. I marveled at the beautiful weather, as the late afternoon sun dappled over his gorgeous blue eyes.

Auggie Sunshine

I didn’t get dinner made, or the car vacuumed. But I felt more content than I had in weeks.

I think thankfulness is my new next thing.

 

 

It’s Always Sunnier in Aisle 3

 

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Being a mom of a new infant has allowed me to relive such pleasures as getting up at 6:00 am on a Saturday.  It’s hard to keep this fan of sleeping in down, when I see that ear-to-ear gummy smile of my four month old.

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As a result, I was showered, coffeed, and three items down on my checklist by 8:00, so I decided to head to Target.

I heard this family before I saw them. The mom, bless her heart, must have loudly repeated; “No touchies” about 15 times before I rounded the corner. A couple with two young children were attempting to fill their cart, but were spending more time loudly reprimanding their children than tackling the list. Now, no judgement here. Most parents have been there- some days they just push your buttons. Early.

The third time I saw them, they were still trying to cure the “touchies”, but this time the wife looked at her husband and said, “I don’t think this is going to happen.” The husband countered something about already being here, lets just get it over with. I decided to really curb my backseat parenting, and just send them a prayer. A prayer of the “Dear Lord- can we just make it through Target- variety.”

But I couldn’t help but watch them out of the corner of my eye. They seemed to be expending an extraordinary amount of energy complaining than attempting to get out of the store. And I constantly come back to the foundation that your mindset, your attitude, is 95% of your experience.

Upon the arrival of our newly adopted sweet boy, I can’t help but notice how blessed we all are. Yes, I was up at 6 am, when I’d rather it be 8…but I got to snuggle chubby cheeks and tiny fingers. We all have colds and there is more snotty Kleenex in this house than ever before, but we are a snotty family of FOUR! Something I spent many years on my knees praying for. It’s not that I should never be allowed to complain again- but sometimes it doesn’t seem worth it.

As I was leaving the store I saw another couple with two young boys walking in. The oldest did a sideways ninja-jump over the big red balls outside the store. The mom reached over and pulled her son up, laughing and brushing off the wet snow. She looked at her husband and said something about it being another “Shit Show”. They swung their kids by their arms and entered the store laughing and messy.

I think that second family is my new role model.
I’m going to choose to laugh at the sideways ninja jumps.
I’m going to embrace the Shit Show.

Praying Through…

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These days we are overwhelmed by videos and stories on social media. This family prayed really hard and the disease was cured! This woman tried and tried and lost that 50 pounds! This family survived miscarriages to finally get pregnant!

Who doesn’t love a good happy ending?…right?

As I look out on our second day of rain in Minnesota, I’m craving a different ending to read about.

Today I want to hear the story of the family who prayed and prayed and is still praying. I’m thinking of a dear friend who opened my eyes to the stories of waiting in the bible. Most people spend a huge portion of their lives waiting. I think we are all encouraged by those happy endings. And some days, we NEED to hear that someone has been successful in their prayers. We think- Maybe this time it will be me?

But sometimes I’m encouraged more by the ones who are still in it. Who have hoped and dreamed and prayed, and are still praying through it. Today’s gospel reading was the story of the vineyard owner. The owner who paid his full day workers the SAME as the ones who only worked an hour. This story has been my touchstone through years of infertility because it addresses why some people seemed to get things so easily and others are still working.

Today I pray that people feel encouraged to share their stories of praying through. To feel encouraged by others that are waiting as well. And someday we’ll get to post our happy endings too, but for now it’s enough to know that we are not in it alone!

Under the Influence of Golden Words

As I tell my fourth graders, the more you read, the better a writer you are. When I read their writing, I can tell who’s read a rich collection of literature, and who struggles to get through a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book.

I love to read, but I need to write.

Sometimes, I have written whole blog posts in my head before I have officially sat down at the keyboard. And the more I read other blog-style writers like Glennon Melton Doyle, Jen Hatmaker and Shana Niequist, the more I am inspired, or required to get my words down on a page.

I write in my head constantly. Early in the morning, when poetic phrases glow from the early sun and off the branches of trees. When prayer is fresh and hopeful.

I write during the day- when I’m full of comical revelations of parenting and the ins and outs of daily life and routine.

But my favorite is the writing I do when I’m falling asleep at night. There’s something about that half-asleep, semi-conscious that seems to tap into my creative resources. The words seep out of me uninhibited, in lengthy descriptive phrases. I love how the flavor of those words reflects the style of the book I’m currently reading. If I’m reading a blog-style memoir, the thoughts come out, raw and honest, sometimes blunt. I’m reading a wonderful memoir right now called Turn Here, Sweet Corn by Atina Diffley. Her natural flair for eloquent thoughts echo through my mind long after I’ve put the book down, waking in the middle of the night.

I’ve always felt that I gain something from everything I read. Every book gives me a new repertoire of background knowledge and writing style. Each time I finish a book I have a loaded feeling, ready to add the new influence of each talented author into my own prose.

I continue to meet adults who admit they don’t read. They say they’ve never enjoyed it. I wonder how this happens. I spend a countless amount of energy each year getting any print into the reluctant hands of nine-year-olds in the hopes that something, anything, will be the gateway book that leads them to fall in love with reading. I can’t help but feel sorry for those that don’t read. To me, not reading would be a hollow existence, void of an essential piece of who I am and how I express myself.

I’ll continue my tireless effort to get those resistant readers hooked, until then, I’ll keep writing on, proud to be under the influence of authors of golden words.

Won’t You Be My Sibling?

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The endcaps at Target feature plastic totes and shelves. They are of course catering to all those parents wondering where to put the many delightful treasures accumulated over Christmas. Having only one child to lavish this season means between family and Santa- our dear Kindergartner got everything on her wishlist and more. But there is one thing we can’t give her. Yet.

We were down in Texas over Christmas, and my daughter Charly played the entire five days straight with her cousins. Age 9 and 11, she spent every waking hour trying to keep up and be just like them. The last day, we said goodbyes and gave hugs outside the airport. As Scott and I rolled our many suitcases and bags into Delta Airlines check-in, and wondered how we were going to fit it all on the plane, I glanced down to see silent tears streaming down my daughter’s face. As I bent down to her she whispered, “I’m just going to miss them so much.” That’s when my eyes filled with tears. Because, although we fulfilled everything on her Christmas list- a sibling has not been in the cards for her. Her little heart was breaking to say goodbye to her “coussiblings”.

With renewed faith, I start 2015. I know God with find a child for us to adopt eventually. And I realize that’s it’s not just about Scott and I feeling a child missing from our family, but it’s about Charly missing a sibling too. At this point, she’s well aware that we are waiting right now. Waiting on God’s timing; waiting for a birth parent to choose us. And every so often, her patience wears thin. A few months back, while driving in the car to see a friend’s new baby, Charly implored, “When will WE get a baby?”. So we said a prayer, because that’s what we can do. Upon the final amen, she shouted, “Aw! We should have honked the horn so God could hear us.”

We have so much hope that 2015 will be our year! Friends and family- please keep us on your radar. You never know when you may hear of a potential birthmother looking for a family to place her child with. And our hearts are full of gratitude for those who have been praying for us… make sure to honk so God hears you.

Our Adoption Website

Our Profile on Adoption Minnesota

Enjoying the Wait

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It’s one of those days in Minnesota. Indian Summer- the colors are brilliant against the blue sky. There’s only a couple days in the year that you can feel the crunch of leaves under bare feet- it feels a little rebellious, as if I’m shaking a fist at my furry boots in the closet.

I love this time of year, and I find myself trying to slow down time. Trying to bottle up these gorgeous colors and sweater-with-shorts weather. It’s such a fleeting moment of the seasonal rotation in the Midwest- I wish I could trade it’s length with snowstorm season in March and April. And as I was on my run today, soaking up every moment before the sun sets earlier than I’m ready for, I thought about how there aren’t many times when we want time to slow down.

My good friend and former bible study buddy turned me on to a lecture series at her church last year on waiting. It’s about the bible story of Elijah and it discusses how most of the time, we are all in waiting mode. Waiting to graduate, waiting for a job, waiting for a child. The lecture opened my eyes as to how to regard my time while in that wait. God wants us to know that waiting time is not wasted time. Things are happening behind the scenes that only God knows.

My hope and prayer for this beautiful Sunday afternoon is to turn this period of waiting for a birth mother to choose us, into that gorgeous fall day. Today, waiting is not tears and impatience. Today, waiting is relishing the extra time to get grades entered and write! Today, waiting is snuggling my sweet girl and giving her all my attention because it’s just her! Today, I will not grumble about the empty spot at the table, but reach across it to grab my husband’s hand in a prayer of gratitude.

God is working on our family. But until then, I’ll be waiting.