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Monday, October 24, 2016

Be kind.


The world we live in is such a mess. It is ruled by hatred and bitterness. People are killing, lying, and fighting with not only weapons, but also with words. I'm not just talking politics either. It's in everyday life. Greed, vice, and heartbreak. Weren't we taught to love like Jesus does?  To turn the other cheek and show kindness to all? Show empathy and have understanding that all people are fighting battles within themselves?

For the past year or so I have been listening to a lot of country music. I used to listen to country but stopped for years because of the memories it would bring up.  I have enjoyed listening to it again; as it defines what love is, how to love one another and how to just be a good person. Take a look at Garth Brooks' We Shall Be Free, Eric Church's Kill a Word, and Tim McGraw's Always be Humble and Kind. These lyrics describe what life should be like. "I'd turn hate and lies to love and truth", "when the first thing we look for is beauty within", "bitterness keeps you from flying". These lyrics hang over me and I try to live and act by them.  Do I slip?  Yes.  However my heart knows when I am in the wrong and I try to learn lessons from my actions.   

Too many people are choosing a road of animosity.   Deceitfulness and just plain malice is how they respond to something that threatens them.  Bringing others down in order to feel more powerful has become a way of life. Worse yet, people are not standing up against these acts of hate.  They have become bystanders even when they know it isn't right-they just let it go, let it happen.  It's time to change.  

Stop the bullying. 
End the rudeness.
Toss the hate.
Block resentment.
Freeze bitterness. 

Just be kind. To everyone. 
Smile. 
Laugh. 
Be selfless. 
Love.   

And when they strike you in return, show compassion.  Why? Because it's the humane thing to do. Fighting hate with hate isn't going to get us anywhere.  You can't fix those who choose animosity, but you can choose to forgive and walk away.  How can we make the world a better place?  The answer is easy--Be kind.  

"In a world where you can be anything, be kind." ~(can't find who said this but I love it)




Thursday, March 31, 2016

Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

We've all had them.  Those godawful days where it seems as though your own shadow is an omen to your next step.  From the moment my alarm went off today, I wanted to toss a white flag in the air and crawl back under the refuge of my blankets.  

I can't place blame on any one thing or person.  It was just one of those stuck behind a slow driver, dreary weather, can't find the shoes you want, too tired, forgot your mascara, got a hang nail, have a headache type of day.  

By mid morning I realized my Spark isn't going to cut it and I needed some more caffeine.  Every single thing in my life was putting me through the Chinese water torture.  One more drip and I was going to snap. 

Luckily I am a well mannered, patient, sweet (?!) person and I was able to control my rage.  After forgetting my materials, muffing up my schedule, finding my zipper down, and dropping a stack of papers all over, I realized it wasn't everyone else, it was me. 

 I was surly.  Grumpy.  Crabby.  Irritable.  CANTANKEROUS.  

The first step fixing a problem is recognizing the problem.  I felt like I was on my way to healing.  I tried to change my way of thinking and move on with my day. After spilling my water, biting my tongue, getting ignored, losing my badge, and getting stuck behind another slow driver;  my baditude returned.  I wanted silence, music, and solitary confinement.  

My only hope was bed.  I needed to escape the day through sleep.  My priority was to pass the time until I could sleep.  The evening was a hit every red light, be late for an appointment, step on a popcorn chicken in Wal-Mart, almost run out of gas, burn your tongue kind of night.  Then I drove.  I drove in silence into the setting sun.  I watched as it disappeared behind a wall of clouds and took a breather.  The day was almost done and nothing catastrophic happened.  I have friends, family, a job, a house, a car.  Life is good.  Just as I teach my students, I took a deep breath in through my nose and exhaled through my mouth as I blew away the frustrations of the day.  

Tomorrow is a new day.  Bring it on.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Strange Things Are Happening...

It's no secret that unfortunate things happen to me.  I tend to be the target for peculiar happenings and events.  Linking back to a blog from years ago,  Fortune Free, you can see that random circumstances find their way to me.  As I sit and ice my newly sprained ankle, I am remembering past luckless incidents that have crossed my path.

Of course, there is the fortune free incident linked above.  I'm still knocking on wood and crossing my fingers after that.

Here are a few others:

1.  Back when I was 10 years old I was playing at a park with my friend.  We were taking turns pushing each other on the merry-go-round which whirled and twirled as we hung our heads back and let our hair fly.  At my turn to push, I leaped from the orbicular bliss and landed right on a metal dagger sticking up from the rock like a death sentence.  It pierced through my shoe and directly into the arch of my foot.  My body rocketed back onto the spinning entertainment with a scream of part shock, part pain.  My friend stopped the equipment and came to see what happened.  My shoe was split in half with small drops of blood hanging onto the sole.  I rode my bike home one legged and my mom cleaned me up and took me for a tetanus shot.  My father contacted the city about this dagger and it was promptly removed with an apology and a "glad this was found!"

2.  When I was 13 my bedroom was covered in Tom Cruise, Gavin Rossdale, my favorite quotes, and posters of actors and actresses.  I also decorated my ceiling with those glow in the dark stars.  A bit childish but I liked writing sayings with them such as "dream big".  One night I was rocking out to the Top 9 at 9 while rearranging those stars.  I was standing on my bed and reaching up to my ceiling to align them just right.  I took one step to the left, tripped over my crumbled comforter (remember kids...always make your bed before walking on it!) and as I tripped my arm went straight into the spinning ceiling fan.  Result?  A broken wrist.  I seriously need to stay away from things that spin.

3.  As a freshman in college I lived in an all girl dorm, didn't have a car, and was painfully insecure.  I became close friends with a few girls in the hall.  They also became my ride around Cedar Falls.  One October evening we decided to make a Wal-Mart run.  We headed towards the parking lot and rushed across 23rd street dodging the crazed college drivers.  I hopped off of the sturdy cement and onto the lumpy ground landing right in a hole.  My ankle went one way while my body flopped the other.  Next thing I knew I was on the ground with a lightning strike of pain through my ankle.  To make matters worse for a bashful blushing 18 year old, 3 nice looking boys were walking by at the exact same time.  At least they helped me up and back to my dorm before they laughed!

4.  Still in college, working at the Hallmark store, I was knocked out by a 22oz Yankee Candle.  You can read about this blunder here. Once again, something that would only happen to me.

5.  Now an adult, teaching and out on recess duty, I happened to misstep on the playground, roll my foot on a piece of tire chunk, and fall to the ground.  Instantly I had 30 kindergarten students around me asking if I needed a band-aide.  I pulled myself up off of the ground, forced a smile on my face and hobbled to my room.  My practicum student brought me an ice pack and before I knew it my principal and the school nurse were down to examine the situation.  I told them I was fine, after all I did walk back in from the playground.  My principal asked me to stand on it again to see if I could walk and I went down faster than I went up.  I couldn't drive so I hung my head in shame, called Eric, and simply said, "I hurt myself.  Can you take me to the hospital?" Getting me from my classroom through the school and to Eric's car was an ordeal as well.  The only answer was for my principal to push me in my wheelie desk chair all the way down the hall.  Nothing like getting a ride down the hall by your principal to take away any feeling of authority!

6.  Finally today, an epic idea to visit every park in Newton this week, we set off on our Great Park Adventure.  I had my phone set up to alarm every 15 minutes, in which we would race back to the car and proceed to the next park.  Our plan was to take a selfie at each park documenting which we had been to.  Not 5 minutes into park #2 this almost 33 year old mom decides it's a good idea to slide down the fire pole.  Those things go much faster than I remember and as I whirled around (spinning again...) the bottom came with a bang.  I hit the cement block which was not level with the wood chips and my foot went sideways.  I felt the twist and pull of my ligaments and knew our Great Park Adventure was over for the day.  The kids were disappointed but very sweet.  They rubbed my back, offered ideas to help me to the car, and helped me over the chain fence.

There are many more unfortunate events...such as the time I bent over to get something out of the closet and rammed my butt right into the corner of an end table, the pineapple that almost took my thumb, falling down the stairs, the list really goes on and on.

I could call this bad luck.  Bad fortune.  Doomed destiny.  Clumsy.  Klutzy.  However that would be giving in to my external locus of control.  Believing that bad and strange things happen to me will only get me down.  Instead I listen to my internal locus of control and sit with my foot up on ice and blog with a chuckle about my misfortunes, and consider changing my name to Grace.  :)


Friday, May 1, 2015

Time Travel

Today I had the opportunity to travel back in time.  As I climbed in the back of a black Subaru, little did I know that 1 hour and 17 minutes later I would be 20 years old again. 

1 hour and 17 minutes is all it took to transform me from where I am now to where I was at 20 years old.  We parked in the Campbell B lot and within a few steps I was face to face with my previous home.  The walk down 23rd street took me back to the countless times I walked through snow, rain, and sun to class in Schindler Education Center.  It felt good.  It felt right.  It felt like I was back home-even 10 years after my graduation.   

Change has never been easy for me.  Familiarity is my sanctuary.  As change approaches, my body cowers in fear of the unknown.  My confidence is low and my anxiety is high.  Slowly, insecurely, and cautiously I emerge into the newness.  All the while my mind is racing back in time to my past.  My comfort.  My sanctuary. 

This past school year I faced a lot of change.  My confidence staggered at times and I would need to give myself a "Come on El, you got this" pep talk.  Next year I will face more changes, with still so much unknown.  I want my familiarity like I felt today.  Walking into Schindler was almost habitual.  While others around me walked circles in the building looking for their rooms, I was able to direct myself where I needed to go.  The building still had the same smell, feel, and comfort.  It felt like home.

I sat down in one of my past classrooms and instantly remembered where I once sat discussing assignments and projects with those who were in my cohort.  As my former professors presented their innovative research my mind was eager to learn, take in, and apply.  These were the people who taught me to be a teacher.  They made me laugh, cry, and drink.  They pushed me to my limits, rightfully ruined my 4.0 by giving me an A-, and complimented my performance.  My heart danced as I sat through my sessions, taking notes, asking questions, listening to others share out.  I was too school for cool.  I was home. 

During a break my heart and mind ventured out for a walk across campus.  The trees were blooming and purple and yellow tulips were flourishing.  Without hesitation my feet went directly to the places I wanted to see.  It was natural and tranquil.  I sat for awhile near one of my favorite places on campus and thought back to how I used to sit in that same spot reading, watching, relaxing.  There was so much familiarity in my surroundings.  It made me think about the changes that have occurred in the past 10 years.  Marriage.  Jobs.  Children.  Finances.  Family.  How can so much be the same when countless changes have occurred?  How can this still feel like home when I have been gone for so long? 

The answer came as I started my trek to the Mauker Union, 23rd St. Market, and the Campanile.  The years I spent at UNI were the years that defined me.  As a freshman I was timid and afraid.  So many unknowns faced me and my heart yearned to return to my sanctuary at 609 Walnut Street in Osage.  As time lapsed I no longer wanted to go home on the weekends because Cedar Falls had become my home.  UNI is where I belonged.  I grew up there.  I learned who I was and what I wanted in life.  UNI is where I met some of my life long friends and where I taught myself to study and be a learner.  I experienced failures and success.  I picked myself off the ground when I thought I could go on no longer.  It is where I first heard of the death of a good friend, where I was alerted during 9/11, where my heart was broken, and where I was when my grandpa passed away.  It was where I volunteered at Special Olympics, where I had my first classroom experiences, where I learned to become independent, and where I met my husband.  Each location I visited had a past memory that has brought me to where I am today.  So much of who I am is still the same as who I became during my 5 years at UNI. 

Leaving UNI was painful.  It will forever have a place in my heart and be a sanctuary to me.  It helped me to identify who I was and became my familiar place.  Sometimes, no matter how long you have been gone, places from your past will still be your home.  UNI is where my childhood ended and my adult life began. 

"Home is where one starts from" ~T.S. Elliot



Friday, April 24, 2015

The Final Countdown

The end is coming.  You can see it through the exhaustion, squirms, and the bearish mannerisms from others.  Like the stages of sleep, grief, or labor; there are stages of the countdown.  The final countdown to what?  To SUMMER!  I came up with 4 stages teachers experience as they approach the final countdown. 

Stage 1:  Motivation
This stage occurs following spring break.  After a week off to rest, enjoy family, and catch up on work there is an aura of energy as you walk through the halls.  Smiles greet you as pass by with a bounce in your step.  Warmer temperatures greet you at recess and suddenly you are confident that you can make it to the end.  You want to plan the rest of the year out and fit in extra lessons.  You can do it all for your students! 

Stage 2:  Discouragement
 This stage comes on in the 1st-2nd week of April.  You get a new student, behaviors escalate, you have six meetings in a week, and late nights equal rushed mornings.  You wear your fatigue on your sleeve and others ask you if everything is okay, in which you want to scream, run, and hide like your students do when they are overwhelmed.  At this stage you wonder how you will ever make it to June 2nd, yet you keep going with an end goal in mind.

Stage 3:  Despondency
At this stage you are beyond discouraged.  You are ready to quit.  You have nightmares and scream out in your sleep.  Your confidence plummets and you question whether you are cut out for this job and start to look for other options.  The end is near, yet it is foggy and you can't see through the fog.  You are drowning in your tears.  You still want to give your students your best but your best is inferior to what you can do.  

Stage 4:  Resurgence
Resurgence comes on around the last two weeks of school.  Field trips, assemblies, and extra recess make the days fly by.  You feel the same energy you felt when you were a senior in high school and you tore down those large paper countdown numbers in the hallway after school each day.  You made it.  With a twinkle in your eye you enjoy the final days of hugs and smiles from your students.  As you send them out the door your heart plays a game of tug-o-war between you shouting out, "School's out for summer!" or cry as you watch them walk away.  



Last week I hit stage 3.  Between IEP meetings my emotions got the best of me and tears filled in my eyes.  My confidence going into my next meeting was comparable to that of a first year teacher doing their first IEP meeting.  While I did the best I could preparing for the meeting, it's wasn't my all because I didn't have time to give it my all.  Just like every teacher mid-April, too much was put on my plate.  Something had to spill over, and in this case it was my tears.  

I am trying my best to enjoy the last 6 weeks of school.  It is a stressful time so when you see a teacher who looks like they are struggling, give them a smile and let them know they are appreciated!  We only work for 9.5 months, but we work hard for 9.5 months.  

25 days to go!!!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Circles

"Circles and circles and circles again.  Circles and circles.  Got to stop spinning" ~Tori Amos "Cloud on My Tongue"

Dizzy. It's that feeling you get when you step off of a carousel or spinning amusement park ride. Your feet are planted solid on the ground and your body is still; yet the world continues to spin in circles around you. Your mind convinces your body you are still spinning until you steady yourself and regain balance. 

This bout of Influenza A has given me many dizzy spells. Standing or sitting up after lying down or even turning my head too quickly has given me a merry-go-round effect. I have to stop, close my eyes, and find my balance before continuing on.   This week has been spent mostly in bed or on the couch as I watch the world continue to spin by.  Everything continues to keep moving even when I am not.  Parent/Teacher conferences came and went, the kids celebrated their 100th day of school, and Lauryn destroyed the house as I watched on. 

I have been thankful for technology to keep me up to date on the happenings of my friends and family as well as events in town and at work.  The reconfiguration debate of the Newton schools, the budget cuts in Grinnell, and the Live Healthy Iowa updates have kept me in the know.  However, as I read through emails and posts it has occurred to me that as your life moves forward many of the events in it continue to circle back around and recur. 

5 years ago, I was teaching preschool in Newton.  Newton was facing a reconfiguration of buildings due to budget cuts.  The closing of my first school was announced and pain was scattered through the community.  5 years later, Newton is considering reconfiguring the schools once again.  I read on as my friends discuss how this could affect their children and my heart goes out to the teachers who may once again be uprooted. 

5 years ago, Newton schools were facing budget cuts (who wasn't?!).  No one knew whether their job was safe or where they would be the following year.  5 years later my current district is facing cuts.  While out sick, I missed the meeting which stated the budget reductions.  Thankfully, the majority of cuts were done through attrition. 

4 years ago, I was on a Live Healthy Iowa team logging in my workouts and weigh ins and motivating teammates to meet at the Y.  4 years later, I am connecting with friends as we workout together, share recipes, and cheer each other on. 

Life events happen and later happen again.  They circle back around days, months, and years later.  They may give you flashbacks, make you yearn for the previous time back, or make you realize you are in a better place now.  Even when you feel like your feet are planted solidly at the moment you are in, life may spiral back around giving you that fresh off a carousel feeling.  Around and around, up and down.  If you didn't learn how to react, accept, and move on from the past event, it may leave you feeling dizzy.  Through the budget cuts, changes, and new events I have worked on finding my balance so I can successfully continue on as life spirals.

Hopefully the dizziness of influenza subsides soon so I can regain my balance and move forward with the changes. 





P.S. Influenza sucks!  :-)




 




Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2014; In Review: New Year, Old Me

It's time for my new year blog, the blog where I reflect on the previous year and prepare for the upcoming year.  2013 was a big year and when I reread my top 10 list, it brought back a lot of emotions. 2014 held it's own emotions and learning's.  Here are my top 10:

10)  I am stronger than I and others give me credit for.  I'm not talking physical strength (that is definitely where I lack!) but I am a strong person.  I spent 7 weeks alone with 3 kids over the summer while Eric worked in Ames.  In those weeks I nursed a 1 year old, took kids to sports, kept the house clean, took the garbage out, gave piano lessons, fed the kids 3 meals a day, worked out, and took classes online.  I rarely slept but I did it all for my kids.  In 2014, there were times that friends and family hurt me and brought me down, however I always bounced back and moved forward.  Life circumstances left me in scattered pieces at times however the puzzle came together and I carried on.  In 2015 I will not let others or circumstances break me.  I am strong.

9)  Nothing in life is guaranteed.  When I didn't get the job that I requested to transfer to last spring, it left me broken.  My plan for my future was taken back not just by a few steps, but by a few years.  I had to reassess where I wanted to go in life and how I was going to get there.  With prayer and overwhelming support from friends and Eric, I put those broken pieces back together and kept moving forward.  The cracks continue to be visible, but I am strong.

8)  I love where I live.  After 9 years of complaining about living in Newton, I can finally say that I love it.  Why?  We have found family here.  I couldn't imagine living away from our Newton family. They bring us so much laughter, love, and support.  We are so blessed to have them in our lives!

7)  Time away with my friends is important.  Whether it be one night out together or a girls weekend trip, it is needed!  Thank you to my husband for sending me away throughout the year with my girl friends.  I am a better wife and mother because of it.

6)  Raising an active little boy is difficult.  The kid has my entire heart wrapped around his finger and I ache seeing him struggle to control his lanky little body.  His intelligence amazes me and although he doesn't always show it, he is a cuddly little boy who still loves to sit on his mama's lap.  Co-teaching in his kindergarten classroom is stressful yet eye opening.  I see his energy compete with his knowledge and when things do not move fast enough the energy wins the fight and takes over.  God bless his teacher for working with him on this :)

5)  Having my kids attend the school I teach at is incredible.  I now get to spend more time with them, I understand the school projects and routines, and I get to see how they interact with others.  It has it's challenges, like when I walk in the kindergarten room and Bryce yells, "Mama!" but being close to them all day long is worth any challenge thrown my way.

4)  Change is difficult.  Some people thrive on change, while others cower.  I cower.  I cower like a turtle and slowly come out of my shell as time goes on.  It has been a school year of change and at times I have wanted to go back into my shell and pretend everything is the way it was last year.  Hopefully by the end of the school year I will be able to leave my shell behind and believe that I can and will adjust to the change.

3)  My husband is an incredible dad.  I knew this before the year 2014 but having a 3rd child has made it more obvious.  He has a way with our oldest daughter that no one else has.  He problem solves the struggles of morning routines, bedtime arguments, and sibling rivalry.  He changes diapers and gets up in the night.  He even cleans up vomit!  Seriously, I couldn't ask for a better father for my children.

2)  Finding peace and contentment can only be attained through prayer and faith.  I have struggled staying on this path through 2014.  Sometimes I am too busy to read the Bible, I might be too tired to read the daily devotions that are sent to me.  However, when I am on the right path I am more content with life and feel more fulfilled.  God has given me incredible blessings and I must remember to thank Him daily and live in a way Jesus taught us.

1)  I do not need to change who I am for others.  For 32 years I struggled with this, always wanting to conform to the crowd I am surrounded by.  It leaves me feeling lost and uncertain about who I am.  I finally know who I am-and I like who I am.  In 2015 I will not go out of my way to fit in with others. It may be a new year, but I am not going to make resolutions to change who I am.  My resolution for the new year is to be the old me.


I am excited to see what the year 2015 brings to our family.  Lauryn is changing daily and is always keeping us on our toes.  It is hard to believe my baby will be 2 in a few weeks.  The older two challenge us daily with their constant questions and energy.  The love I have for these three is a love I can't even describe. They are my world and I can't wait to embark into 2015 with them.




Sunday, October 26, 2014

Gatherings; Per Request

Someone recently stated to me that they missed reading my gatherings.  I hadn't realized how long it had been since I last posted until she said that to me. It made me wonder why I haven't "gathered" any thoughts lately. While I was running one night I realized it isn't that I haven't, it's just that I have been so busy I don't allow myself to process any of my thoughts. So here are my "gatherings" from the past couple of months.

1. The world is full of rush. Back in August I joined an online Bible study through Proverbs 31 Ministries called Unrush Me. It started around the same time school started. Although I received the daily devotions and emails, I was too rushed to unrush myself and I only read one of them. I think about this a lot on my drive to work. The later I leave Newton, the higher my anxiety about my day ahead. Every morning I feel so rushed. I rush the kids, I rush Eric, I rush myself, and I rush the other commuters on the highway. What if one day I just relaxed and enjoyed driving 45 behind a truck?  What if I took that time to pray, share stories with the kids, or enjoyed the sunrise?  Would my life feel unrushed? How do you unrush yourself?

2.  The way my pants fit should NOT determine the way my day will go. At the end of the day my students  don't care about a muffin top, they just care that I was there and that I somehow helped them make a little more sense of those silly math tiles and crazy sound moves. 

3. Preschool furniture is typically the same height as my knees. Mix that with my gracefulness and I am thankful it is long pants weather (even if they are tight) to cover my bruises. 

4. It never gets easier to leave your baby behind. Every morning I have to force myself out the door as she reaches her chubby arms through the baby gate crying out, "Mommy!!!"  My heart aches as I drive away and I often 2nd guess myself on working full time. Yet, she is very well cared for and loved and the squeezes I get every evening fill up my aching heart. 

5. Preschool GOLD documentation is a bit over the top. 965 (give or take 100) objectives per class to log sure takes the fun out of teaching. 

6. Life is and always will be a balancing act. At work I struggle to find the balance between the two separate jobs I have, often leaving one trailing the other. At home my scale is lopsided between house work and spending time with the kids. I think about this as my preschoolers try to balance different sized pumpkins, walnuts, and gourds and I wonder...will I ever have that scale balanced in my life or will there always be one pumpkin heavier than the other?

7. I have become obsessed with my fitbit. I check it everytime I walk the hall to see how many steps I have. I put it on as soon as my feet hit the floor in the morning and don't take it off until I am laying in bed. I typically get  between 11,000-12,000 steps per day. I want 13,000!  14,000! 15,000! Perhaps I should start running again...

8.  I also have an obsession with lifetime movies.  I didn't "gather" this until we got direct tv back.  Love me some baby snatcher, internet stalker, switched at birth drama! 

9.  My 10th year of teaching has been my most difficult. And I don't see it changing.  Demands are higher, students seek out attention in unruly ways, and the work load between two jobs is paralyzing. I am thankful to have generous co-workers who always can make me laugh through my tears. 

It has taken me a month to write out these 9 gatherings. My life is rushed as is everyone's. My goal is to find a way to hit the brakes so I don't miss out on any more gatherings; especially those that involve my kids and family. Shouldn't we all unrush our lives?

In the words of Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."




Monday, October 13, 2014

The Feelings

I woke up this morning feeling shaken. The alarm buzzed in the background of my dream as I came out of a deep trance. Slowly my body awoke in my bed yet my mind was frozen in my dream. 

The dream was vivid and movie like. I remember the layout of the house I was in and the arrangement of the bedroom furniture where I talked on the phone. I was laying on my stomach on the bed with my feet dangling up in the air. The words spoken into the phone are still fresh in my mind. Each and every word. The words spoken to me cut deep into my flesh; my heart aching for love and approval. As the call ended the feeling of rejection overflowed my body. The tears felt warm as they spilled over my cheeks. I was left feeling inadequate, second best, and used. 

I woke up with these feelings hanging heavy over me. They followed me to the bathroom and living room where I hugged my husband, thankful to see him and feel accepted. However the feelings stalked me throughout my day. All morning my thoughts would jump back to that dream. Inadequate. Second best. Used. 

The combination of these three feelings have not been felt in my body for many years. They may come and go one at a time often mixed with other feelings. This was different. It took me back to a place in time before Eric and kids. Yet in my dream they attacked me in present time. 

I spent the afternoon wondering what parts in my life do I feel inadequate, second best and used?  Scrambling through my mind I found no place where I felt all three of these. Inadequacy is a common feeling for me as I always think I can and should be better, do better, try harder. Why is my dream making me feel used? Second best?  My mind is boggled. 

Even tonight my chest tightens as I remember the dream.  Panic enters my body as my mind races with thoughts of "why is this happening?" "Why did I trust?" "How will I get over this?"  The thoughts chase each other in circles until I say, "stop!  It was just a dream!"  Then I am fine until it starts over again. As my mind remembers the dream my body feels heavy and fatigued. The mind body connection is amazing. 

I still do not understand the context of the dream or why it affected me so much but as I lay here ready to sleep I remind myself "just a dream...just a dream..."  In time I know something will lead me to understanding the rise of these feelings from the depth if my heart. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fear, Future, and Faith

"She is clothed with strength and dignity; and laughs without fear of the future." -Proverbs 31:25

The meaning behind this verse is much deeper than I can grasp with my own understanding yet it stands out to me significantly.  Why? 

I fear the future.

3 years ago I was cleaning out my classroom in Newton and found a note on my desk that said, "Don't fear the future, for God is already there."  A co-worker left it for me and to this day it hangs in my classroom by my desk.  This co-worker probably has no idea the impact this small note had on me.  I read it daily.  It reminds me of a very dark point in my life where rejection and displacement struck me down.  My future was dark.  I clung to the words "God is already there" and He blessed me with some amazing opportunities.  Indeed, He was there waiting for me!

3 years later I am struggling again.  Change has always been hard for me.  I find comfort and satisfaction in what I know and stepping outside of that box is scary.  I want familiarity.  However, some changes are out of my control.  Instead of laughing without fear of my future, I spent the summer pushing my fear away.  I refused to think about the month of August and then BAM here it is, smacking me right in the face.

Not only do I have to adjust to going back to work and putting Lauryn in daycare but I have to adjust to going back full time.  Going from 7:15-??? without seeing my baby.  My heart is heavy already with feelings of guilt and regret.  To top it off I am going back to unfamiliarity.  Someone new will now sit where my heart wanted to be sitting and my feelings of unwarranted resentment are still strong.  If that isn't enough I will be embarking on the journey of teaching preschool again, only this time with new regulations and expectations. 

I'm clenching my teeth just typing all of that out.  How can I make these changes and still be the wife, mother, and teacher I want to be?  Where is my strength?  Where is my ability to laugh at my fear of the future?

The woman in this verse was confident-she knows who she is and WHOSE she is.  She fears the Lord which makes her come to truly know the Lord and submit herself to Him.  She is so secure in this that she can laugh at the ups and downs of the future because she knows she is rooted in God and God will guide her.

Wow.

How many women can confidently raise their hands and say they are like the Proverbs 31 woman?  Not me.  I have cried at my fear of the future but definitely have not laughed.  Do I know that God is there?  Yes.  The past 3 years have been proof.  It is time for me to let go of my fears and trust once again that God is already there.  There is a reason for these changes taking place and the only way to truly see the reasoning behind everything is to confidently jump into the future with faith.  Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.  Plans to PROSPER you and NOT HARM you, plans to give you HOPE and a FUTURE."  I am working on wrapping my heart around this so it gets out of my co-workers seat and into the seat God has chosen for me.  

Please pray with me that my tears turn to laughter and my fears turn to faith.  And for those of you who are also struggling...Don't fear the future, for God is already there.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

That Kind of Tired

It is 1:55 in the morning and here I sit, plugging away at my phone wondering if I will ever sleep again.

The baby woke at 12:55. I had only been asleep for 55 minutes. After driving all day and spending late nights on homework this week I was too tired to properly function when she woke. I heard the moan, the rustle of the blankets, and then a whimper. I didn't move. I became frozen between the sheets and prayed a silent prayer to God begging Him to just swoop down from the heavens and calm her back to sleep for me. Yeah, I am that kind of tired.

All you mothers know what I am talking about. The kind of tired that magically allows you to get out of bed, make a bottle, feed the baby, and rock the baby all without opening your eyes. The kind of tired that actually makes you believe if you remain in a frozen state in your bed for long enough the baby will not know you are there and will just go back to sleep. The kind of tired that makes you question why you ever had a baby (or three) in the first place. 

I wasn't sure if I would be able to pick myself up out of bed tonight but I did. I stumbled  5 steps to the pack and play in the corner of my parents basement bedroom and clumsily reached down to rub her back. She calmed for a moment but I must have fallen asleep standing there because the next thing I knew my arm was tangled in a gob of blankets and she was wailing. Yep, I am that kind of tired.

Finally I picked up my distressed babe and put her in bed with me. After numerous kicks to my face I knew sleep had to surrender. I prepared a bottle and here we sit. Back and forth we rock, the only sound is the soft squeak of the recliner. She drifts and so do I until I move wrong or stop the soft squeak sound. Then she stirs and again I find myself frozen praying to God to keep her asleep. I reposition her and she drifts again. I sit here in the dark and create a vacation in my mind of a place I can go that is dark, quiet, and has a king sized bed. The softest most comfortable bed ever made.  And it's all for me. I would stand at the bottom of the bed with my arms outstretched and fall back into the cushion of comfort. My body would sink deep into the mattress and I would sleep a full body sleep for 10 or more uninterrupted hours. 

Why would I create this as a dream vacation?  Because I am that kind of tired. The kind of tired that daydreams about sleep. 

I have slowed the rocks and the baby has not moved for more than a paragraph. I am off to lay her down and hopefully make my dream vacation come somewhat true. 4 hours if sleep sounds like a slice of heaven. Wish me luck! 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Game of Motherhood

I follow a lot of insightful blogs: moms, teachers, teachers that are moms, and christian blogs.  While I can't always keep up with all of them I try to read a few that catch my attention each day.  And each day I wonder how in the world these ladies have time to blog so much!  I am envious of their devotion to blogging as well as their ability to keep their lives together enough to find a time to sit down and blog.  They even post about how their "life scale" is always unbalanced.  Yet they inspire me and millions of others with stories of their disorder and chaos.  Funny how someone else's turmoil can give others a sense of calmness and pleasure.  As women it is gratifying to know that other women have the same struggles.  With that in mind, I thought I would share some of the curve balls that have been thrown my way and how I hit a grand slam (or a single in some instances) and carried on with the game of motherhood.

My husband, bless his heart, took a job in another town for the summer doing research in a biology lab (sorry if I totally messed up what you are doing honey!).  He is living away during the week and comes home Friday afternoon through early Monday morning.  That leaves me versus three kids all day every day Monday through Friday.  What.was.I.thinking....

So here it goes-airing my dirty laundry on the Internet in hopes to inspire other readers.

Curve Ball #1: Cooking dinner while giving piano lessons.  

I had 3 piano lessons scheduled from 5:00-6:30 and 3 kids to feed not to mention 3 kids to watch!  Monday is spaghetti night so I had to figure out how to prepare spaghetti and teach piano at the same time.  Here was my solution:

Brilliant, right?  I checked the noodles every now and then and drained them between lessons!  The baby gate was up so the kids couldn't get in the kitchen and the baby played in the basement so I could watch her during my lesson.  I gave myself a few pats on the back for this one.  Home run!!


Well not quite..I did forget about the bread sticks...I just stuffed the cheese back in them and the kids never noticed.


Curve Ball #2:  Baby Gate Blues

I was helping Cailyn in her room in the basement and I heard the baby throwing a fit.  I figured she just wanted to come downstairs so I went up to get her to find this:
I did what every good mom would do and took a picture before helping her.  Out of all my babies, Lauryn is the chubbiest and her rolly thigh was stuck.  My first thought was to rub butter all over her leg and slide it out.  I wanted to try other options first.  I tried to just push it out and that made her cry more.  (sorry baby!)  I tried to move it up to see if the bars had more give.  No luck.  Then I called Cailyn up and while I stretched the two bars outward she pushed Lauryn's leg through.  It worked! No messy butter needed and only a small bruise on the baby.  Phew!  Can't give myself a grand slam on this one as I probably shouldn't have left her upstairs in the first place even if it was for 5 minutes.  I give myself a single considering no food products were used and nothing broke.

Curve ball #3: Pool Trip
I wasn't sure how often I would venture to the public pool with 3 kids on my own but I tried it for the first time last week.  I packed as though I would be gone for weeks-sunscreen, towels, extra clothes, food, water, floatation devices, etc.  I was going in prepared and confident.  Things were going well-Cailyn and Bryce stayed in their allowed area and Lauryn sat with me in the shallow end splashing her chubby (and bruised) legs.  It was bliss!
Then I heard a child screaming.  I ignored it at first.  Then I saw a child running towards me with blood running down her chin and her hand up catching the drips.  I looked around trying to see if a parent was running in to help.  Then I realized it WAS MY CHILD.  Luckily I had a friend next to me who took the baby as I rushed my bleeding daughter out of the water.  No, I didn't stop to take a picture this time!  Before I knew what was happening the pool staff was helping us clean up and taking an accident report.  I can't express how much I appreciate their quick response.  After some ice, water, and a nice long break hanging out with mom on her towel, Cailyn was ready to jump back in with both feet.  We left the pool happy, wet, and hungry.  Double!

Curve Ball #4: The Case of the Cereal Thief and other Messes
If you are a facebook friend of mine you have seen pictures of Lauryn and her cereal.  I have even blogged about Lauryn and her cereal: http://www.ellengrabe.com/2014/04/my-place.html .  Things haven't changed.  She loves cereal!


I haven't found a good cabinet lock for where we keep our cereal.  I have moved the cereal up to a higher shelf but the big kids always put it back on a low shelf.  Then things like this happen...

And here is her "did I do that?" look:


And after I took this picture my phone died but in the first picture you can see the little feet coming towards the pile of Trix....those little feet didn't stop.  The stomped, clomped, and thumped right through it while the baby laughed and laughed.  Trix is now on the grocery list.

At least the cereal is dry food-easily swept up.  Remember what Monday night is? 


Spaghetti night!  This picture doesn't even show the extent of the mess.  It took me 45 minutes to clean up from this.  I had to pick up every little sticky noodle from the floor, wipe down her seat, the chair her seat is on, and the safety straps of her seat.  Then I had to scrub the kitchen floor.  Thankfully my mom was there and gave her a bath while I did this.  It's a mess but judging by the look on her face this was a grand slam moment!


We are almost done with week 3 of daddy being gone.  4 weeks left to go.  I'm sure I missed many curve balls and I am positive there will be many more.  I take it one day at a time.  I have learned that there isn't a perfect mother out there and I am much more relaxed laughing at my mishaps than I am fretting over how I should have done something differently.  Parenting is a tough game to play but I sure feel like a champ each night when they say their prayers, say "I love you mommy" and hug and kiss me goodnight!





Friday, May 2, 2014

In The Fog

I was recently working on some comprehension strategies with a kindergarten student. While reading a book entitled "In the Fog" we read the pictures and the words to help us understand more about the book. One picture that we "read" was a picture of a busy city bridge.  The fog was hovering over the bridge creating a white wall that drivers were blindly driving into. I asked the student, "What is the white stuff in the picture?"  When the answer I received was a blank stare I built some background on what fog was and we found the fog on each picture.

Once back on the page with the picture of the bridge I asked, "What is hanging over the bridge?"  The student correctly answered so I delve in a little deeper.  We discussed how it is difficult to see in the fog and how we could only see part of the bridge because the rest of it was covered in fog.  I then asked a defining question, "Is the bridge still there in the fog even though you can't see it?"  The student confidently answered, "No."  To try to get her thinking about her answer a little more I asked, "If the bridge isn't there where are the cars going to go?"  Blank stare.  I upped my questioning a little more, "Can cars drive in the fog?"  Student replied, "Yes."  So I investigated more, "If the bridge isn't behind the fog will the cars just drive off the bridge once they drive into the fog?"  The student's face lit up and she nodded while saying, "Yes! And fall off to the water!"

I replayed this over and over in my head for the next week.  I think that is what UNI called being a "reflective practitioner" .  However, this lesson gave me insight into life, not just into how to reteach this book.  The more I thought about fog, the bridge, and her responses; the more I realized how relevant the book was to life.

Recently a few patches of thick fog have drooped into our lives.  The gloom of the clouds has obscured our vision of the future.  What we thought was going to be a sunny path became a wall of whiteness and while we know that life will continue on behind the white wall, we do not know what it will bring.  I have learned that life is going to have it's "foggy" moments, days, even years.  Times when it is difficult to understand why things happen or why it is taking longer than you expected to get to where you want to be.

The past couple of weeks I have had difficulty seeing through the fog.  I have questioned whether the bridge really does continue to stretch across the water or if it ends at the wall of fog where we can no longer see.  Through talking with family, friends, and praying I have a sense of peace about the situation.  I have faith that the bridge continues on even though I cannot see it and it will carry me across to the next phase in life.  I know that  God will not let me fall "into the water" and will instead guide my life.  As long as I trust Him, He will help me see through the fog of life and give me assurance that it will eventually lift.  I cannot change His plan for us and I trust there are sunny days, even in the thick of the fog.

A friend sent me this song and I have listened to it repeatedly.  It has helped remind me that everything happens for a reason, even if we do not understand that reason at the current time.





Thursday, April 17, 2014

My Place


It has been a hard couple of weeks. There are times that God tests your limits and you wonder where your place is with friends, family, work...in life. You question whether you are wasting time on friendships that are one sided or whether you are heading down the right path at work. That has been me this past month. My house is a mess, my laundry is never done, and we are so busy that we hardly sit down and have dinner as a family. I have asked myself many times, "Where do I belong right now?"  

Tonight I found my answer. 

I was cleaning up the kitchen after our first family meal of the week. A job that should take about 20 minutes was taking a lot longer due to a curious 1 year old opening cupboards and spreading various household items all over. I wiped down the counters while holding ponds of tears in my eyes wishing I could figure out my place in life. 

I swept up under the counter and panic struck me like lightening when I realized how quiet Lauryn had been. I called out her name and rounded the counter into the kitchen. There she was looking smurflike on the kitchen floor playing with a box if food coloring. Habitually I yelled, "No!!!" Even though I knew it was too late. Her fingers, tongue, and pajamas were blue. She looked up at me and shrugged with an innocent look and I scooped her up and wiped her down from a bright sky blue to a pale blue. 

As soon as I set her down she went to the pantry and pulled out the Lucky Charms. She sat happily picking out the marshmallows and chucking the other pieces every which way. She was content  so I went to check on the other kids.  

Never under estimate the power and speed of a 1 year old. When I came back there were lucky charm pieces all over the kitchen floor. I looked down at my princess and gave her a look of disbelief. She replied by holding up a marshmallow towards me to offer it to me. Despite the cereal mess, blue jammies, and stress of friends, family, and work I sat down and accepted the rainbow marshmallow from my generous babe. I then dug my own hand into the bag and pulled out a few pieces. I tossed the cereal pieces to the side and shared the marshmallows with my partner in crime. She looked at me with a sparkle in her eye and gave the best baby belly giggle ever then crawled onto my lap and together we fished for marshmallows. 

Tonight I found the place I am suppose to be. It is not trying to be noticed by friends or family and it is not at the kitchen table doing school work. It is simply sitting criss cross applesauce on the kitchen floor with my sweet smurflike baby eating the marshmallows out of the box of Lucky Charms. 

Thank you, Lauryn for reminding me where my place is in life. It is with you. With your sister, with your brother, and with your dad. The other things will come and go but my family is forever. It is forever my place in life.




Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013; In Review

The year 2014 came in with a blast of snow and 7* temperatures.  Nothing better to do than snuggle up in a blanket and reflect on the teachings of 2013.  I reread both New Year's blogs of 2011 and 2012 and realized I continue to learn as life progresses through the years. 

Here is my top 10 list of 2013:

10.  Having a baby changes everything.  Actually I learned this 7 years ago when we brought Cailyn home from the hospital, but on January 21, 2013 our lives changed drastically...for the better.  Lauryn brought much love and laughter into our lives this past year.  I relearned how to care for an infant and spent the entire year breastfeeding which was a huge accomplishment and a constant learning curve! Lauryn has blessed us beyond anything I could imagine.  She has intoxicated our lives with joy by giving us smiles, giggles, and looking at us with her deep brown eyes.  Our lives are busier, our bank account emptier, our home more crowded; but our hearts are fuller. 

9.  Three kids is a lot!  Making the jump from two kids to three was a big adjustment for me.  Just the other day I was overwhelmed and I looked at Eric and said, "We need another parent in this house."  Splitting your time between 3 kids is next to impossible, especially when it seems like one is constantly attached to your chest.  However I would not trade my three little dears for anything.  They give my life meaning and keep me going on my toughest days. 

8. Three kids is enough.  :)

7. Accepting the changes that occur to your body postpartum is more difficult with each child you have.  No longer do I see my early 20-something pre-baby body when I look in the mirror.  Instead I see marks across my belly showing that life once grew within me.  I appear wider and rounder and wonder if my hips will ever narrow out again.  I am still working on accepting these changes and feeling confident with myself.  My time spent working out, running, and logging my meals has helped me to realized that being healthy is so much more important than how you look.  Teaching my daughters to be active and eat healthy will take them so much further in life than teaching them to worry about how they look.  I hope to continue to grow in this realization in 2014.


6.  Sleep is important.  I have not had a full night of sleep in over a year (never slept through the night during pregnancy and have not since Lauryn has been born!)  The deprivation I have suffered has left me foggy minded and less motivated.  Take it from me-SLEEP IS IMPORTANT! Someday that cute bundle of perfection that intoxicated our lives with joy will sleep.  I hope it is in 2014!

5.  Being a big brother and big sister is hard work.  The only way I have ever experienced this is through the eyes of Cailyn and Bryce.  They have had to learn to be more patient, play by themselves, and do more for themselves in the past year.  Witnessing their screams of frustration and acts of aggression pull on my heart at times.  I know that they just want the attention they once owned.  On the other side of things I see them wanting to help with Lauryn in the best ways they know how.  At times it is overbearing which is difficult for a 5 and 6 year old to understand. As they learn to become more patient, I learn to become more patient.  They are wonderful with Lauryn and I can see she has filled up their lives just as she has mine and Eric's. 

4.   Laundry for a family of 5 is never ending.  And socks never match up.  It is a frustration that I need to let go of and yet I continue to let it stress me out. 

3.  Too many people lose sight of what is truly important.  About a week before Christmas I was visiting with a good friend.  As we talked we realized our conversation revolved around the stress of Christmas. We discussed our last minute $200 trips to Target, the chaos that comes with  traveling with young kids, and how all the little things for teachers, friends, daycare providers, and so on add up to be much more than expected. We bounced ideas off  each other and discussed the option of not getting our youngest girls anything a at all. Finally I looked at her and said, "This is sad. It shouldn't be this way. Instead of enjoying what Christmas is really about we are stressed out and missing the most important part of the season." We sat in silence for a few minutes and promised ourselves to change for the coming year.  In 2014 I hope to slow down and take time to enjoy life more.  The Christmas season should be about recognizing the coming of our Savior--Jesus!  It should be about teaching our children the true meaning of Christmas.  It should not leave us stressed and angry about not finding the perfect gift.  Many changes to make for the Christmas season of 2014. 

2.  Sometimes it is easy to lose focus and put other things before your relationship with God.  I have read many blogs and articles on the importance of putting God first, spouse next,  then children.  It is SO hard to not let your children consume your life.  In 2013 I learned that I was allowing my children to take priority.  In 2014 I want to relearn how to put God first. 

1.   Family is important.  Friends come and go.  Jobs change.  Money is not constant.  Family is everlasting.  Do not take them for granted.  Love is who you share your life with.  Love is family.

I end my 2013 blog to the cries of my 11 month old.  Hopefully I can find a way to soothe her so we can all get some sleep on this first day of 2014.  





Sunday, December 1, 2013

Remember When

This morning we took Eric's parents to HyVee for breakfast for their birthdays.  We surrounded a round table enjoying eggs, french toast dusted with powdered sugar, and shredded potatoes glistening with cheese.  The kids were bubbly and talked excitedly about birthdays, Christmas, and school.  Lauryn shrieked with delight from her highchair and welcomed strangers with her contagious smile.  As we finished our meal an older lady walked by our table and stopped while staring for a moment at each of us.  I watched as her eyes went in a circle from seat to seat and wondered what she was thinking.  Finally she spoke and with a distant smile said, "What a lovely family."  Then she proceeded to her own table where she watched on as we finished our meal.  While we bundled the kids in their coats and swept the crumbs under the table she smiled and again and told me, "Enjoy your family. They grow up fast, even if it doesn't seem like it right now."  I smiled politely and thanked her and told her how much we enjoy our kids.

When you have young kids you hear the words "they grow up fast" all the time.  I know that there is truth in this statement.  We celebrate Cailyn's 7th birthday this week and I remember so vividly the day she was born.  She really has grown up SO fast.  However it is what the woman added on to that phrase that caught me off guard-"even if it doesn't seem like it right now."  

I am guilty of sometimes wishing away the years.  Sleepless nights, diapers, early mornings, snack days, snotty noses, laundry, interrupted showers, sharing our bed, and messes all over the house.  These are the stresses that often make me wonder what life will be like when they can take care of themselves more.  I long for an hour of quietness and instead hear stomping feet, screaming voices, and the clatter of toys.  I yearn to walk into a flawless house and instead see crumbs on the floor, finger prints on the windows, and toys littering the floor.  

The look of remembrance and absence in the woman's voice when she said, "...even if it doesn't seem like it now" made me want to take back all of the thoughts on wishing my kids to grow up.  It is hard to remember that they are only little once and that you should enjoy as much of it as you can.  Instead of worrying about all the things that need to be done I want to change my thinking and worry more about all the things I should be doing with my kids. The last thing I want in life is to look back and wish I had spent more time with my children.  

I know that the hard times of having littles will eventually fade away and someday I will be wishing the chaos back as I watch a young family together in a restaurant.  Thank you, random lady, for putting my life into perspective.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

5 For a Moment (part 2)

Dear Bryce,
     Last weekend something amazing happened.  My 5 pound baby boy turned 5 years old.  Where did the last 5 years go?  I remember so vividly sending your daddy to Wal-Mart to buy preemie baby clothes so I could dress you in clothes that fit.  You surprised us and joined us a month early with eagerness to make yourself known in this world.  You were frail and vocal and you haven't changed a bit.

     There were nights I wasn't sure I was going to make it through your first year.  Daddy worked two jobs to help pay the bills so I spent many nights home alone with you and your sister. I would pace the cluttered hardwood floors with you as you wailed through your tummy aches.  Cailyn cried out for attention while I bounced, patted, and swaddled you close in attempt to comfort you.  You endured many pokes, prods, and x-rays at doctor appointments.  Through it all you still had the biggest, brightest, widest blue eyed smile anyone has ever seen.  Your giggle was contagious which rings true to this very day.

     In the past 5 years mommy and daddy have slept less than anyone should.  With blurred eyes we cuddled you through RSV, numerous bouts of croup, severe flu, and two hospitalizations.  You taught us how to put another person before our jobs, friends, and leisure activities.  You and your sister became our entire life.

     Even with your rough start in life you have always been able to fill a room with joy.  Your energy keeps you bouncing from wall to wall.  Watching your admiration for your big sister has made me proud of the relationship you two have created. I know your friendship will last a lifetime.   In the past 8 months I have watched you grow as a big brother.  When you enter the room your baby sister lights up with smiles.  Your silly attitude gets her giggling and your willingness to share with her and help take care of her melts my heart.  I admire the way you look out for Lauryn, read to her, and are concerned for her.  She is so lucky to have you as a big brother.  

     There are times I look at you with peer exhaustion and wonder how I'm going to keep up with you for the next 13+ years.  Those moments of fear quickly vanish when you look at me and smile.  You have come so far since since those days when we would worry about your growth and development.  Your carefree spirit kept you going and you proved so many of us wrong.  You did grow-in your own time-and are now my spunky 5 year old that picks me flowers, calls me pretty, and wipes away my kisses.  

     Bryce, I know that you will do great things in your life.  You are stubborn yet determined; fierce yet serene; timid yet kindhearted.  Your wittiness is infectious and your warm heart has already touched many in your 5 short years.  Keep these qualities for life and you will soar.

     Mommy would love to slow time down but I know that I need to let my "B-R-Y-C-E Man" grow up and continue to become more independent.  The moment you came into my world, you changed my life for the better.  I am confident you will continue to do the same for others.  

     Happy 5th birthday my Brycie Allen.  I will love you always and forever!

     Love Always,

     Mommy 


Link to Cailyn's 5th birthday letter~

http://www.ellengrabe.com/2011/12/5-for-moment.html

Friday, August 16, 2013

Live and Learn

Monday marks a significant time of year for my family.  Each summer when the first hiss of a cicada rings in my ears I begin to dread this day:  My first day back at work.

Come Monday morning our lives will be chaos for the next 9 months.  Lazy mornings of lounging in bed with all three kids will be left lurking in our memories.  Leisurely walks to the pond and park will fade away with the diminishing daylight.  Carefree attitudes about dirty feet, messy hair, and mismatched flip flops will turn into stresses.  Truth will set in: SUMMER IS OVER.

I have visions of the first day back going as follows:

The kids wake up at the early hour of 6:00 AM.  Cailyn and Bryce eagerly bounce out of their beds and dance into their clothes.  Bryce invites Cailyn to brush her teeth first and he dresses himself while he waits.  Cailyn politely declares she will happily eat whatever we serve her for breakfast.  Lauryn will crawl around the living room playing with her toys while Eric and I get ready for work.  After a healthy breakfast both kids will know exactly where BOTH of their matching shoes are and will put them on without being asked.  They will sit at the top of the steps and wait without fighting until it is time to get into the car.  As a family we will emerge from our spotless house wearing clean, pressed clothes with smiles on our faces.  We will embrace in goodbyes and arrive at our destinations early.  

This is how the first day back will really go:

The snooze button will be hit 2-3 times putting us 18 or more minutes behind schedule.  
Fireball Bryce will be galloping around the house singing songs only he knows the lyrics to.  The clothes laid out for Cailyn will have some agonizing crease in them causing her to shed streams of tears.  Lauryn will cry unless mommy is holding her.  Granola bars and bananas will be tossed haphazardly onto the counter as Cailyn and Bryce fight over which stool they sit on.  
Shoes will be lost even though I set them out the night before, more than likely a result of 
Bryce flinging them around the house as props to his song and dance.  We will leave the house 
with 1 kid under our arm, threatening to leave another one behind, and with one wailing because mommy isn't holding her.  Eric's shirt will be wrinkled, I will have spit up on my collar and sticky granola bar hand prints on my pants.  We will shove the kids into the car and call out some goodbyes over our shoulders.  We will arrive at our destinations 5 minutes late.  

It's reality people.  Leaving the house by 7:15 AM with three kids is just not practical.  In no way can I even think about striving for perfection.  In time we will find a routine that works for us and possibly arrive to work on time for the majority of the school year.

As I mentally prepare myself for returning to work I have to let go of my worries and anxieties.  Fears creep up inside me about leaving my kids at school all day without mom. What if Bryce needs a good mama hug?  What if Cailyn needs a reminder that she is smart and beautiful?  Dreams of Lauryn not remembering who I am when I pick her up at daycare have haunted me.  What if she feels abandoned?  I have lived these fears for 6 years now and each year I learn it gets better with time.  Although I dread this time of year I love it at the same time.  I get a charge of energy from starting a new school year.  Teachers have refreshed minds and returned motivation.  The cooler weather brings a crispness to the air and rejuvenates me as I breath it in.  I savor the changing colors on the treetops as I drive to and from work (although I have been told Iowa has a lack of trees!).  I have learned that I need to take these positive feelings and use them to help me through the worries of leaving the kids behind while I work.  I am fortunate that I am able to spend my afternoons with Lauryn and pick the big kids up from school each day.  I look forward to seeing their smiling faces run to me as they push their way through the school doors at 3pm.

I wouldn't dread this time of year as much if the first scenario was the norm in our house.  A mom can dream, right?


Sunday, July 14, 2013

God Moments

While pushing Lauryn through Hy-Vee attempting to catch the 2 day sale items in their final hours my cart was halted in an aisle jam.  An elderly man and a mother with two young children were crowding the aisle.  During my wait for one of them to move I witnessed an odd encounter. The man reached out his withered hand to the little girl and in it was a crisp two dollar bill.  She reluctantly accepted it into her stubby fingers as her eyes looked up at her mom for permission.  I heard the man tell the girl to tuck it away somewhere safe like her piggy bank. I assumed the man knew this family, however upon further observation I realized this man was a complete stranger. The mother of the little girl tried rejecting the gift but the man would not take back the bill. The mom smiled shyly and warmly thanked the man and told him her daughter would put it away in her piggy bank. The man smiled affectionately and nodded at the little girl before he moved on in search of uncracked eggs. I quickly moved around the cluttered aisle, grabbed my kids some lunchables, and made my way home.

I didn't think too much about the random act of kindness other than thinking that this nice old man must be lonely and really enjoy kids. It was sweet and the smile he put on that little girls face was priceless. It was a feel good moment.

Later that night after the kids were all asleep and Eric was with some friends in Des Moines I decided to sit down and watch a movie and have some "me time".  I searched through the Netflix documentary category.  A couple of the movies caught my attention and I settled with "Unconditional".  "Unconditional" is a movie inspired by a true story about a man who spends his days suffering from kidney disease while helping at-risk youth in his neighborhood.  A tragic event reunites him and his childhood friend, Sam, who has lost her will to live after her husband was killed in an act of violence.

Half way through the movie I had to hit pause and think about what I just saw.  During the movie Sam has a flashback to a time she was receiving an award for giving away some of her published children's books. During a speech she spoke on how her husband had believed there was enough love in the world to go around but people don't spread the love around enough. He compared it to a two dollar bill.  There are millions of them made but you never see them because people tuck them away and hide them instead of using them and spreading them around.  Sam's husband had decided to randomly hand out two dollar bills to strangers as an act of love.  The two dollar bill became his symbol of love.

At that moment I hit pause and just sat there in the silence of my house.  Did I really just witness this act of love in Hy-Vee today?  How did I choose this movie out of all the movies I was looking at?  I had chills running up and down my spine and goosebumps on my arms.  It was one of those moments where you feel God's presence in your life.  I sat there trying to figure out what God was trying to tell me.  Do I need to act more lovingly towards others? Should I find a way to give more to others in need? Does God want me to look deeper into recognizing the acts of love that are being given to me?  I continued to contemplate this God moment the rest of the night and into the next day.

Uncertainty of why I was lead to view the movie just hours after observing the man in the store still exists. As I tried to wrapped my mind around this coincidence I thought about some of the symbols of love I have received that I have tucked away.  I even went in search of some.  In my high school senior year journal I found a note from my dad apologizing for yelling at me.  In that same journal I had a card and a dollar bill from an aunt who randomly sent me mail one day.  In a tin container I found all of the little cards that came on bouquets of flowers Eric sent me when we were dating.  Finally, in a filing cabinet I found a funny note that I wrote an old friend who died just a few years after receiving that note.  As I read it I remembered him smiling and shaking his head as he walked up to me and gave it back to me.  In the same file there were birthday cards from my grandma and letters that my best friend wrote me while she was away at summer camp.

All of these items are symbols of love.  It made me think about things that I have done or given to others and about what I could do or give to others to show love.  Just like Sam's husband in the movie, I want to live my life spreading love to those I know and don't know.  I may not be handing out two dollar bills but I am motivated to act in a Godly way and spread love to others.  It's such a simple act.  It took 2 minutes in a grocery store to fill a little girl up with a sense of love.  Surely it is a task I can handle.  I need to find my symbol of love and spread it.

I ask my readers to think about symbols of love you have seen, received, or given. The world is full of love but it is also full of hate and violence.  Maybe if more people start to share their symbol of love with others there will be less hate.  It's worth a try...


http://www.unconditionalthemovie.com/



Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Something Right

As I sit and look around my house in the quiet of the night I can't help but wonder if I am doing anything right.  Baby toys litter the living room floor, mismatched shoes are kicked here and there, and laundry baskets sit with clothes spilling out of them.  Yet I sit here in the chair and enjoy the silence for the time being even though I know I should be cleaning up the messes from the day in order to prepare for the messes of tomorrow.

Do most parents wonder if they are doing things right?  Is it common to constantly worry about how you are raising your children?  How do you know if you're a good parent?  These questions come to my mind often.

The other day was a day full of chaos and challenges. It seemed as though with every blink life approached me with a new frustration.  By the end of the day I was run down to the point of tears.  I had yelled at my kids, questioned whether I'm in the right place in life, and felt defeated.  Exhaustion powerfully took over my thoughts and stole my logic.  I finally fell asleep that night and woke to a new day.

Since that dreadful day I have been thinking about signs that show me I am doing something right.  Surely I'm not a horrible mother and wife even if my house is in shambles.  I have told myself, "There HAS to be signs that show I'm doing SOMETHING right."  I thought about this for a long time and came up with a few examples.

Peace comes over my worries when I think about the day Cailyn wanted to take the money she got from the Tooth Fairy to school and donate it to needy kids.  I was so proud of her that day.  I'm still proud of her.  Showing signs of selflessness at age 6 is a sign that she is seeing her father and I act in generous ways.  We are doing something right.

A sense of calmness permeates my body when I see Cailyn take Bryce's hand in an unfamiliar situation and guide him until he is comfortable enough to be left alone.  Signs of responsibility, love, and protection show me that we are doing something right.

My heart beams when I think about the day Cailyn and Bryce were being silly and coming up with different places Lauryn came from.  Bryce stopped and said, "No, I know where she came from. Lauryn came from love!"  You got that right, buddy.  And so did you and your big sister.  Hearing a 4 year old say such a strong and meaningful statement shows me we are showing enough love and that we are doing something right.

I feel peer joy when I walk into a room and see the way Lauryn lights up when she sees me.  It isn't just her smile but her entire body lights up.  Her eyes twinkle, she grins ear to ear, her legs kick with excitement and her breathing get heavier.  At 5 months old she is able to show me signs that I am doing something right in caring for her and loving her.


We may not be able to find our missing shoe or have socks that match all the time but we always have 1 thing: Love.  While Eric talked me through my tears after my rough day with the kids he asked me two questions.  First, he  asked, "Did you take care of the kids and feed them today?"  My answer: "Yes."  Second he asked, "Did you love them?"  My answer:  "Always."  He replied, "Then I'd say you're doing a pretty good job."

  A verse that was read at our wedding from 1 Corinthians 13 comes to mind:

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  8Love never fails....
13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.