Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

This Mom gets it – embracing the new normal

I’ve spoken to numerous parents over the last few weeks about how they are managing their newfound profession of homeschooling.

Some are sitting smack in the middle of a see-saw with work and one end and homeschooling hanging off the other side, others are diving in structuring their school day one subject at a time and too many have little access to resources. They all say they are doing the best they can.

Amid all of the emails and phone calls, one mom’s profound message left me hoping all parents are able to relate to their new cadence with sanity and grace.

Here’s what she said:

“For a boy that needs his structure, he’s done well with the transition to home-based learning. We keep to a pretty good schedule-school starts here at 10am every day, and we try to be done with the bulk of the bookwork by noon. The afternoon is reserved for art, legos, creative play, reorganizing closets and cleaning, etc.

I certainly wouldn’t want to do this full time, but I think I can handle it through the rest of the school year if I had to (and honestly, that’s where I think this is heading).”

She goes onto say she and her husband both work from home…

“But we’re a flexible family, we understand that this craziness is temporary and that everyone has been thrust into the unknown. We’ll make it through. To be 100% honest, this has been a good thing for us. We are a family that is constantly on the go between soccer practices, basketball in the off-season, martial arts…so this forced stoppage is good. We’ve had homecooked dinners together every night, our house is the cleanest it’s ever been, and there have been tons of movies and old soccer games watched while snuggling up on the couch.

Who knows if we’ll ever get this time

together again.”

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Are parental decisions laced with selfishness?

Our kids didn’t attend pre-school. There. I said it.

We did, however, visit one in Virginia back in 2006.

It was off of Columbia Pike, a big commuter thoroughfare in Falls Church. The fancy, stone building looked more like Hogwarts than a preschool. SUV’s and minivans loaded with all the latest screens and cushy car seats lined the parking lot. Once inside, children’s Picasso-inspired artwork lined the walls and kid-sized water fountains dotted the hallways. Outside each doorway stood joyful, young pre-school teachers greeting students and when we visited the classrooms, they were filled with building blocks, endless art supplies, and dress-up costumes so kids could pretend to be whatever they could imagine.

After the tour, we figured we had to do it. We couldn’t possibly deprive our children of the chance to play and learn with kids in this amazing setting.

Or could we?

Back then, the thought of packing up my three pumpkins in the car, driving in rush hour traffic, unloading all three, leaving one and turning around for pick up in a few hours sounded as fun as running barefoot over a lego laden floor.

Simply exhausting. For me.

But as parents, don’t we sometimes lace our decisions with a little selfishness?

For instance, the other day I bought ‘cheezy’ pretzels “for the kids”…but I secretly love them and could eat the entire bag. Another time I signed all of the kids up for year-round swim tryouts slyly knowing my daughter would be the only one who MIGHT want to join the team. Deep down, I knew there was no way she would have put one toe in the water unless her brothers were suffering alongside her. Now she’s on her way to the High School State Swim Meet. Yet another decision made for the good of the group. (Ha!)

Turned out before we had the chance to try the stone-covered kid sanctuary, we moved to Georgia and much like DC and Virginia, most kids attended preschool.

Not us. We were new in the suburbs and stuck together…at home, the library, book stores, museums and lots of parks. We kept our kids home until kindergarten so they could “bond” i.e: fight, cry, laugh, play, nap, sing, learn, grow, read and just be together. Was it always easy? Heck no. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Plus, I could barely find my way to the grocery store much less a preschool.

In retrospect, best decision ever. For ALL OF US.

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets

One word to stop using now!

I’ve been thinking about the word SHOULD and all the undone tasks that follow that word. I SHOULD figure out a blogging schedule, I SHOULD learn more about growing my audience, I SHOULD work on my husband’s blog: Keeping Kids in Motion.

I SHOULD write a blog about the word SHOULD.

WAIT! I DID ALREADY. I’m reposting it here:

Ever wake up, glance at the clock, and say, “I SHOULD have gotten up earlier”? Only to follow it with I SHOULD have gone to the gym, prepped dinner, called my parents, run with the dogs, played with the kids, or checked the pockets for that pen before I tossed everything in the wash.

The “S” word is verifiably toxic, yet to avert our gaze away from what our lives would look like if we accomplished all of the SHOULDS is nearly impossible. Haven’t you marveled at the early birds who amble into work chatting about their early morning run, seamless commute, or the dinner menu they prepared for the month? Oh, and if you need the template, it’s on their blog.

When our minds harp on these unaccomplished actions, we sadly allow the only NOW we have to circle the drain.

Here are three ways to shake the SHOULD NARRATIVE:

  1. BE YOURSELF:  Change the lens through which you see yourself, and celebrate who you are and where you are today.

  2. ACCEPT AND ALLOW:  Your reality may be vacant of the plans you slated for your self-years ago, but by clutching onto the people we love, our SHOULD HAVE world dissipates. Some say, “Let go, Let God” it’s worth a shot.

  3. SET YOUR INTENTIONS: Our deepest hopes are shaped by our intentions. Step out of the noise, serve others, and find your passion, and share it!

As I finish this post I think about how I SHOULD have gone to bed earlier, cleaned the toilets, emptied the dishwasher, and bathed the dogs, but this time I’m going to “Let go and let God.”

P.S.:  Dear God, the bowls go in the cupboard on the left.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

5 things to tell your kids now!

#34 Lenten Reflections

As my children age, they repeatedly tell me what I forget. Maybe it’s reminding, but their tone is more of a “Mamahhhhh!!! Don’t forgehhhht, I have to be at school earlyuhhhh” (teenagers dangle an uhhhh on the end of words for emphasis). I don’t mind the reminders, in fact, most of the time I’ve written things down on one of 3 calendars feeling quite organized yet forget to merge the three. So a nudge to remember what’s on deck for the week is welcome.

I’m grateful they can remind me about the logistical stuff, but with three teenagers jockeying school, sports, hormones, and I wish I knew what else — as their mother, I am responsible to help lessen the weight of their mental baggage. That’s on me to remember.

When their moods speak louder than the local tornado alarm, at that moment I smite my forehead and remember the 5 things I have to remind my kids. (Feel free to reword, otherwise, you may be met with the familiar eye rolls…but I believe some of it sinks in, gushy or not):

  1. You are each given gifts only you can share with the world.

  2. Listen to the little voice in your head when decisions seem impossible to tackle. It will tell you when to take the AP class and when to opt out of being the passenger in a car full of teenagers

  3. We are ALL born hard-wired for struggle, some days are going to be lousy but that’s normal.

  4. You are worthy of love.

  5. You are enough. You matter.

But just a little reminder to anyone reading this…sit for a minute and read #1-5 a few times. They apply to us too.

Spiritual Workout: It’s Palm Sunday…my favorite kinesthetic mass. What can you make with palms?

Workout: Enjoy a nice bike ride with a friend! If it rains, play a board game, take a break and do 30 push ups and 30 squats.

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

20 – 2-minute activities to relieve stress

LENTEN REFLECTIONS #31

I took this picture after I walked with my kids to the bus stop this morning. The trail our feet imprinted was a snapshot of each of us. One set of footprints was my daughter’s, straight and defined, mine seemingly magnetized to each child and my son’s looping around, making his own way to the same destination. The walk took less than two minutes. Two tiny minutes to solidify their after-school plans, gush over the Dogwood blossoms and tell my kids I loved them.

Two minutes.

The walk reminded me of yet another article I read in the Orthodontists office (three kids in braces). The author discussed how sometimes the little tasks in life have the potential to overwhelm our day and push big jobs further into the peripheral. These mental to-do lists can clutter our minds and impose unnecessary stress, so why not just take time to do them?

I wanted to rip out the article and pin it on my shirt like a grade school reminder for picture day. Instead, I thought better of it and simply retained what I could for sharing.

So to remember what I gained from it, I developed a mantra :

Take two minutes to accomplish tiny tasks AND savor meaningful moments.

2-Minute TINY TASKS:

When I see a job that can be completed quickly but requires more inclination than sweat equity, I count through it, literally. Here’s what I mean: I count out loud and time how long the job REALLY takes. One morning, I opened my unorganized bathroom drawer and got that annoyed vibe where instead of just cleaning it out, I want to remodel the entire bathroom. NOW.

After talking myself off the Home Depot ledge, I started my count. 120 seconds later, I had thrown out old lotions, random rubberbands I pulled from my hair when I couldn’t find a hair tie and old make up I swear I’m going to use, but realize it’s easier to look in the mirror without my glasses on than to start using makeup.

After the short 2 minutes, I felt great and the next time I opened the drawer, I felt the cathartic joy I experience when something is done. Ever count through emptying the dishwasher? 2 minutes. Making your bed, 2 minutes or less. It’s the little things we can do NOW rather than later that help make the big picture things like studying for a test, or cleaning the garage or tackling paperwork more doable.

2-Minute MEANINGFUL MOMENTS:

Now those two minutes can also bring immediate joy, like walking with your kids to the bus, snuggling with your partner or petting your dog. In those instances, the tiny two minutes IS meaningful and memorable. A WIN, WIN.

So in an effort to tackle the tiny tasks and embrace the moments that count, I’ve researched and crafted my top 20 things you can accomplish in just 2 minutes.

  1. Floss and brush. Your teeth will thank you at your next checkup.
  2. After washing your hands, wipe off the sink and mirror. Almost clean is sometimes close enough.
  3. Turn on music and dance with your spouse or kids. The natural boost of dopamine will inject your mood with joy.
  4. Put leashes on your dogs. Then go for a walk. Sometimes the 2 minutes it takes to put the leashes on the dogs seem so laborious. They’ll love you for it.
  5. Empty the trash and recycling. Then reline the trash cans. Pull in the bins for the curb also if it’s trash day. Done!
  6. Clean out your purse or backpack. Throw away receipts, tissues, and (if you’re like me) take out the 9 Sharpies. You just need two in a Sharpie emergency…one to give away and one to keep. Wipe bag with a damp cloth.
  7. Shake out all the carpets in your car. You can use a scraper or your hand to help the dirt off. Ahhh…a semi-clean car.
  8. Go through the mail you’ve piled up. Recycle the junk, file the rest.
  9. Clean out the garbage disposal. Combine one part baking soda and two parts vinegar, pour in the disposal, let sit for 30 seconds, add a handful of ice and run the disposal.
  10. Clean out the microwave. Since the vinegar is out, fill a mug with 1/4  cup of vinegar and the rest with water. Heat for 1 minute and let sit for 45 seconds, wipe the oven clean.
  11. Play 52 pick up with your kids. Who cares how old they are? Flip the cards up and let them fly. Pick up quickly and maybe you’ll have time for another game!
  12. Give one of your children a piggyback ride. Here you might care about age and size. If you’re my size, ask your kids to give you a piggyback ride instead. Good luck.
  13. Sweep the front steps. Make the entrance of your home look welcoming and happy.
  14. Untangle all of your charger and other device cords and plug in your phone. It will relieve the stress later.
  15. Declutter your email. Unsubscribe to as many unwanted emails as you can in two minutes!
  16. Check texts and voice mail. Make sure you’ve responded to calls and texts.
  17. Pay your bills online. You’ll be surprised how quickly this can be done.
  18. Comb through your credit card bill. Make sure all charges are legitimate.
  19. Sit down and relax for two minutes. Listen to your breathing. Close your eyes.
  20. Ask your children to tell you the best and worst parts of their day. I like to use open-ended questions in the hopes of having more than a one-minute conversation with them after school. Although frequently their response will still be “GOOD”. I think it’s just the teenage script they read from. If the stars are aligned, it could lead to a great conversation.

Take two minutes. To do the little things. Whether they are weighty and mundane or fulfilling and memorable. You will experience delight in knowing you accomplished them.

My two-minute walk to the bus stop and perhaps over-analysis of the footsteps in the grass brought me a day of joy knowing our kids will ultimately go the way their hearts lead them and always know their way home. 

Life is fleeting, find joy in it even if it is two minutes at a time.

Spiritual Workout – my thought for today:

I wish I could push a bobby pin through the little hole in life’s doorknob, shove the door open and reveal all the answers we are so desperate for.

Workout: Get outside today and walk or run – oh! take those dogs with you.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

How to keep the power of storytelling alive…

Throwback Thursday…Originally posted on March 2, 2018

Always, ALWAYS tell your stories.

LENTEN REFLECTION #26

FAITH IN STORIES

Last week, our son was riding bikes, exploring the woods, and climbing trees with a friend. After a while, he came home from the trails and told us a tree fell on him. A little daunting, but luckily he was with a friend who was able to lift it off. Turned out it was an old, small pine tree he was climbing when it just snapped. Thankfully, he was wearing his bike helmet and ended up with only a scratched face, and legs. On Monday at school, he was questioned by friends about the mark on his face, and he shared his story. In the group of students, one boy pressed further, “Do you have a video of it?” “No video” was the reply. “Well then, it didn’t happen.” They debated back and forth, then finally, being a professional selective listener, our son confirmed, “it really did happen” and then moved on, ignoring further hassle.

At bedtime, he told me this story and we sat and picked it apart like old layers of paint peeling off the wall trying to find the original color. My inaugural feeling on the boy’s need for documentation to prove the truth was a feeling of exhaustion. Nowadays, technology negotiates our day much like a seeing eye dog, but with swipes, texts, and posts. We click pictures of our meals, and memories, shorten words and deliver messages as fast as our thumbs can go. Conversations dwindle with our busy lives, along with the age-old craft of storytelling – exactly what our son was doing.

As young children, there’s faith in stories. Maurice Sendak takes us to a wild rumpus and faithfully floats us home with Max as he arrives home to his warm dinner.

Faith in friendship is palpable when Charlotte sits in her web and says:

“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”
― E.B. WhiteCharlotte’s Web

Faith requires vulnerability. Stripping the need for that which is tangible. In “Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus” Francis Church interprets faith in his editorial in The New York Sun in 1897:

“You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart.”

The historian Stephen Nissenbaum connects ”Yes, Virginia” with not only faith in Santa Claus, but faith in faith. In the late 19th century religious doubt ran rampant among middle-class Americans. According to Mr. Nissenbaum “…God must exist simply because people so badly needed Him to.” When Mr. Church referred to ”the skepticism of a skeptical age, he was speaking to grown-ups.”

Now that doubt cloaks children too.

We make an emotional investment with every story we tell. Some may believe if a tree falls on a boy in a forest it’s true, doubters will question and want video proof. The vital action is to tell the story, be the raconteur and propel your listeners with you on a journey of faith.

Dig Deep: Go on a Rosary Run! Yesterday I did and it took my mind off the pain. 🙂 Run on!

Lenten Challenge: Pray for the doubters and cynics in the world, truly that’s all of us at times. Keep story-telling alive!

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

WHY I RUN – 11 REASONS

LENT REFLECTION #24

The other day, my husband and I went for a run. As we reached our turn around point, a group of college-age runners sped by. Leading the group, was a young girl with legs about the length of my body, and a long ponytail chasing her on her seemingly effortless run.

By her pace, I thought perhaps it was her speed day or maybe a long run. Whatever it was, she knew why she was running. All runners know.

Running reasons always start with the basics: lose weight, lower risk of heart disease, and improve overall health.

But running is so much deeper. Running gives more, even when you don’t ask for it, even when you don’t expect it. Running is generous and painful, fulfilling and grueling. All we have to do is show up.

When I lace up for a run, I always picture myself going so much faster than I actually can. But that’s not why I run.

When I was younger, I had PR’s and long distance goals. I ran so I could justify dessert or shed some water weight. In my first race ever, a college campus 8K (random distance) in Flagstaff, I ran with my friend Dan. We came in dead last. In that instance, I ran for the t-shirt and to say I did it. And I did it.

Now, I run for the peripheral stuff running gives, not to beat a PR or score a dri-fit shirt. Much like our past ancestors, I run for survival. Not the original hunting for prey such as antelope or gazelles type of survival…

…just mom survival. Here’s why I run:

  1. Simplicity: it only takes shoes, desire and about 45 minutes
  2. Perspective: it makes the mystery of what’s for dinner, not a big deal
  3. Refocus: it opens my mind to new ideas (dinner again)
  4. Meditation: this is my meditative time, just me and my labored breathing
  5. Body Awareness: feeling the wind on my face, lungs breathing, and sweat pouring
  6. Afterward: the gift of a pounding heart, thankful legs and arms, and a clear mind
  7. Recalibration: working through injuries, relishing rest
  8. Family fitness: being a positive example for our kids, even though they all run faster than me
  9. Success: knowing my mind and body can fight through every incline and rough patch even when everything hurts
  10. Exposure: all travel should include a run to experience the area
  11. Clean slate: even 30 minutes of running can wipe my worry slate clean

Ultimately, running is the catalyst to joy, freedom, fitness, and longevity. It has helped me become a better version of myself and a calmer mom. All a work in progress. Time for a run.

Spiritual Workout: whether you walk or run today, include a Rosary as you accomplish your workout.

Workout: Run on!

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Little Leaguers lean on each other “Come on kid!”

Lenten Blog #20

Throwback Thursday…Originally posted on March 29, 2018

In honor of Opening Day(s) everywhere…I am reposting a blog I wrote last year during baseball season and Lent.

All the stars were aligned for a baseball game tonight. The weather was ideal, the parking lot was nearly empty and unriddled with invented parking spaces, parents had their multi-cup-holding chairs set up, and the kids were spirited and ready.

While standing behind the backstop, I spoke to an elderly woman who said, “Oh, that must be your son.” Perhaps she heard me shout things like, “wait for your pitch, good cut,” you get the idea. Or maybe it was because I had a camera pointed directly at him. “Yes, it is” I responded. “My grandson is next to bat” she continued. We chatted further about how fortunate she feels to be able to watch the games and see her grandson. I added how I love hanging out near the dugout where I can hear conversations boys have about pitchers, snacks, and “lit” pro players. She said she wondered if the kids enjoyed the games as much as we did.

While we sat, we could hear one player in the dugout bellowing out textbook baseball chatter, “COME ON KID, you’ve got this, you’re going to do great kid, wait for your pitch kid.” The encouragement was nonstop and straight from the heart. The same player hollered inspirational words from center field to my son as he pitched. Slowly all the boys began chanting, and it was as if the players were virtually boosting each other on their shoulders with positive baseball jargon. As the game went on, there were errors, strikeouts, base hits, doubles, and fly balls. But with each play, the sentiment remained positive, and I couldn’t help but think the credit should go to the cheering player whose curly-hair hoisted his cap high on his head, much like his enthusiasm.

At the bottom of the last inning, I walked over to say goodbye to the sweet grandmother I met earlier. As a base hit brought our team ahead by three points, she admitted, “I can’t believe I get butterflies like the boys.” “Me too.” I agreed, telling her my heart rate zooms when the excitement builds for anything my kids do. Before she rolled her wheelchair away, she smiled and said, “You know, we’re both good moms.” “Thank you,” I replied, touched I had my own cheerleader. After all, moms need to raise each other up as well.

Honestly, the best part of baseball is watching the boys put their thoughts aside, play ball, endure each run and out, and lean on each other for support. Personally, I wish the curly-headed player would yell out to me each morning, “Come on kid, we can do this life thing kid, we got this kid!!”

Dig Deep: Especially when you get to the point of mental fatigue, keep your thoughts positive and do a steady state exercise (walk, run, swim, etc.) for at least 20 minutes.

Lenten Challenge: Model optimism with your families. Pray for positive words to lead you in conversation.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, siblings

PAPER AIRPLANES TAUGHT MY KIDS TO FAIL

Lenten Reflections #19

Paper airplanes taught my kids to fail.

The folding. The flying. The fixing.

After each failed flight I taught them to tweak it. Adjust it. Change it.

To try again.

They used paper clips, tape, rubber bands, light paper, heavy paper, newspaper, tissue paper.

The INTENTION was to make the plane fly.

If it didn’t work, they made another plane.

They learned there’s no guarantee for success.

Sure it was small. But they tested, they measured.

They learned what each fold was for and why they made it.

No score was being kept.

They learned what uncertainty and failure felt like and danced with it.

They were invested in finding the flight.

They learned the worst that could happen was it wouldn’t work.

They still tweaked and fixed.

They learned when you care enough you will fail and fail and fail again.

It’s their airplane. Their flight. Their crash. Their landing. 

But they were curious and hungry.

Let them fold. Let them fail.

Let them create. 

After all…

The creative mind who invented the ship also invented the shipwreck.

 

Spiritual Workout: Pray for the families of the Parkland students.

Workout: Over spring break, pack your tennis shoes and always, ALWAYS walk when you travel. You’ll see the beauty of cities from a new perspective.

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Heaven can wait

After a recent move from Washington, DC and church shopping for a good year, we finally settled on St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. It was cozy, diverse and close to home.

Following a Saturday evening mass, we discussed the homily with the kids on the drive home. It was a mediocre effort to summon thoughts from our children and see if anything other then the weekly pew fight was absorbed.

The sermon was very straightforward, essentially about going to heaven, practicing repentance and doing the right thing. At one point, Father Michael asked the congregation to raise their hands if they wanted to go to heaven.

I looked down one side of the pew and saw our eldest daughter and son with their waving hands straight up in the air, then glanced at our 5-year-old, Zavier whose tiny digits were tucked away under his legs, eyes staring at me shaking his head adamantly.

His brother and sister, in their loud church whispers, glared at him and with disappointed voices uttered, “ZAVIER! You HAVE to raise your hand!” He readjusted his hands under his legs, sat up straight and stared up at the altar.

On the drive home, more curious than concerned, I asked the question again with the long drawn out vowel sounds kids love. “Sooooo, WHOOOO wants to go to heaven?” Dexter who is 7 and Cora, 8 both entrenched in Catechism hollered, “I do”, with zeal in their voices.

Zavier again shook his head, and in his outside voice said, “NOPE, I DON’T want to go to heaven.”  With her well-trained third grade “you’re such a dummy” tone, Cora yelled, “YOU DON’T?!”  

Zavier took a look around the van at all of us and finally announced, “No. I don’t want to go to heaven, ’cause I just don’t want to move AGAIN!”

That said, we all breathed a sigh of relief, gave our compassionate “we get it” nods and drove home. Logical thinking for a little guy. I mean, we all love the thought of eternal happiness but moving really is exhausting.

Mind and body workout – Meditate for 5 minutes. Pray for those who have moved to heaven, may they know how profoundly they are missed.