Thirteen

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I love the chance to riff off of the traditional anniversary gift list each year…and this year is no different.  Today, Matt and I are celebrating 13 years of being married.  As our nanny said, our marriage has entered the teenage years!  Lord, have mercy.

13 has always loomed like a weird number and an odd anniversary (no mathematical pun intended…).  But here we are and really?  It’s feels great.  Arriving at LUCKY 13!  A Baker’s Dozen.  According to the research, 13 is “the number of upheaval so that new ground can be broken.”

 I am not sure if I buy into all the significance of numerology, but I love that the “gift” for 13th anniversaries is to be lace.  Yes, we could go the lingerie route.  But for blogging purposes, we’ll go for the pun instead.  Lace.  Shoe laces.  Used to secure footwear in place.  And even amid so much upheaval of 2016 and new ground to be broken in 2017, I feel the gift of a partner who truly is that lace for our family.  Securing us in place despite uneven ground, change, and times of disruption.

In the past year we enjoyed a few moments regaining perspective on ourselves as adults.  As normal humans not just parenting team members.  We had about 15 hours in Seattle to enjoy the Adele concert.  We tackled whole30 during the months of June & July.  We walked through work changes together, mostly a big decision and transition for me to go back to full time teaching at the same school as the boys.  It was an insanely difficult choice to make and having a partner that walks through those pros and cons and mostly lets YOU come to your own understanding is paramount.  We conquered some fears too (hello, walking in a dark cave with bats….eek).

So thankful for the chance to celebrate it all…dinner out at Bellhop and the Bachelor premiere.  Classy?  Always.  Here’s to THIRTEEN!

My Love.  Happy Easter!!! Bowling!!! Happy Mother's Day to me!  Cocktail in a watermelon!!42!!!! ❤️1 mile complete!  Bookin' It Run! #cbcplbookinitYippee!Cheesie Happy Adele Faces! ❤️My favorite wedding date forever and always.  Silly husband.Conquered my cave fear and nerves about bats today!  Lava Caves ☑️.1324290200897067085_5876272Happy Thanksgiving!  Turkey Trot ✔️!

Past Anniversary Posts

2016 :: Twelve Years (was sick in bed, so we had a yummy post anniversary dinner out a few days later at Frankie’s after a January 3rd snow “storm” where school was closed!)

2015 :: Eleven Years

2014 ::  10th Anniversary Palm Springs Extravaganza

2014 ::  Ten Years

2013 ::  Nine

2012 :: Eight

2011 :: Contentment (Seven Years)

 

December Photo Project 2016

Every year since 2010, I have participated in a wonderful photo challenge called the December Photo Project.  Can’t believe this is year six.  (until I look back at the pictures and realized that the boys have grown so much!)  Taking time to catalog this month’s pictures on the blog today to hold space for the memories of this month.

 

As a caveat, I have to admit that life feels WAY different this year.  Working full time again (even in the same profession and grade level) has been very challenging.  I feel like I am running on fumes many days and need to put my all into survival.  I don’t mean to sound bleak, but it has been a true challenge to balance the many responsibilities of parenthood, teaching, supporting a student teacher and being emotionally present in my marriage.   I look at the pictures from this season (below this post) and it reminds me that while I forgot to take pictures and post some days, photography and looking for special moments in the everyday is so important to me.  Without making time for it and claiming it as vital, it doesn’t happen and I die a little bit inside.

So, as I think about 2017, I get a little overwhelmed.  I know that today, though, I need to clean out the fridge, make a grocery list and meal plan for next week and shop.  I need to make a homework planner for my students and create a new seating chart and get ready for two new arrivals to my classroom.  I need to finish today’s suduko.  Drink some coffee without cream.  I need to tend to my own boys who are coughing up a lung or two and finish reading Lauren Graham’s new book, “Talking As Fast As I Can.”  And….write thank you notes.  So many thank you notes!

And beyond that?!?  Well, there’s a lot beyond that.  I know I should be goal setting for 2017.  I am doing that with my own boys and with my students.  But some days and years?  It’s about taking the goals one day at a time.  Doing my best to be in the moment and not just treading water.  Below, I recopied my recent post in our church’s Advent devotional.  It talks a bit about waiting.  And being in the in between.  And below that?  My pictures from this year’s December Photo Project.  I post all this with hesitation lest the filters of the pictures lead you to believe that my life is perfect.  It’s way far from it.  But despite the challenges and feeling like I can’t quite get my act together, I am feeling very thankful.  Grateful for good friends, for the support and love of family, for the help of trained professionals and counselors, for books  to read and reality shows to get lost in.  Thankful for almost 13 years of marriage (Tuesday officially!).  Grateful for work that is meaningful (even though it can be hard and overwhelming).  And most of all, thankful that underneath everything….all the plans and lists and goals and to do’s…..that Jesus has come to release us from our fears and to set us free.

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A prayer for today and the days ahead from the Church of England.

 

“Soon God’s promise to save the world will be kept! When the right time comes, God will send a leader from Kind David’s family, and he will be a good ruler.”

“Hurray!” shouted the people. “God remembers us!” The people were hopeful. 
Jeremiah 33, Spark Story Bible

“I’m drowning…” I have cried these words to myself many times this fall as I embarked on going back into the classroom full-time after a ten-year hiatus. Some days the sheer volume of assignments to grade, curriculum to decipher, emails to read and respond to, meetings to attend and students’ needs to care for seem too much. Hope can sometimes be hard to grasp.

The decision to teach full time was not made lightly last June. Pro and con lists were drafted. Conversations unfolded over texts, phone calls, during walks and through emails. And time and time again, it felt as if God had clearly opened a door. And that door wasn’t closing. It was a promise of sorts. I can’t say it was God calling down from the heavenly realms, “You’ll be safe! I will keep my promise to you!” However, there was a clear invitation to step forward into the fear and the unknowns and the possibilities ahead with a deep knowledge that God remembers me. That I wouldn’t be forgotten. I, like the Israelites, felt hopeful.

And I still DO feel hopeful. But living in the place of waiting, being fully present during the times that aren’t easy, can be hard. We live in a state between “HURRAY! GOD REMEMBERS US!” and “When is God going to show up with that promise?!?” And often, it can feel very lonely, almost like the Israelites’ exile.

Slowly, but surely, God is teaching me a lesson about how I am waiting. Am I in a place of hope-filled waiting? Or angst-filled waiting? Waiting filled with anger? Or waiting filled with expectation? Am I eying my own “chocolate chip cookie” or “LEGO” completely missing out on what is right in front of me?

Can we, like the Israelites, wait? All the while, preparing for a new reality, a new normal to come? What word of hope do we need to hear this Advent? Jeremiah spoke to the Israelites, but his words are God’s message of hope to us, too — God’s promise will be kept because God is faithful. In the midst of our own forms of exile when we feel alone or forgotten, how will we wait? What word of hope do you need to hear today?

Come, O Long expected Jesus, 

born to set your people free.

From our fears and sins release us; 

Christ in whom our rest shall be.

You, our strength and consolation, 

come salvation to impart;

Dear desire of many a nation,

 joy of many a longing heart.

-Charles Wesley

December Photo Project 2016 :: Dec 2nd :: New Christmas PJs!
December Photo Project 2016 :: Dec 2nd :: New Christmas PJs!

Saturday Vibes...Christmas Cards, catching up on podcasts and coffee.  #dpp2016
Saturday Vibes…Christmas Cards, catching up on podcasts and coffee. #dpp2016
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Fraaasgeeeelay! Loved seeing A Christmas Story as live theater! Well done by the Majestic!!! #dpp2016
Santa and his Reindeer ❤️❤️
Santa and his Reindeer ??????
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December Photo Project 2016 ::December 5th :: love that this kiddo sorted two bags of m and m’s and then bagged them in preparation for my students’ checkerboard games…their little holiday gift. Today we are preparing for St Nicholas Day…awesome to do some gifting and acts of service for MOM!!! ???????? #dpp2016
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Stinky Boy shoes filled with oranges and chocolate coins. Thankful for the loving life of St. Nicholas. His example of loving others, feeding the hungry, bringing hope to the imprisoned, comforting the lost and teaching truth to all. (Amy Welborn). So today’s expected snow day seems like a slim chance….instead we sugar the kids up with chocolate coins followed by oranges and then send them out to do loving acts for others. Aka: shopping for the canned food drive with @emmelynne6 ?? and maybe not killing each other with “brotherly love”. ??????. #dpp2016
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Snowman Poop….my favorite! Thanks, @bennysdonuts !!!! ?? ?? ????
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Evidently Alex was up at 3:34am, thinking it was later, standing out on the porch looking for snow! ????????#dpp2016
Love the display at our school....canned food drive time! ❤️ #dpp2016
Love the display at our school….canned food drive time! ?? #dpp2016
At the vet with our sweet girl. ❤️#dpp2016
At the vet with our sweet girl. ??#dpp2016
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When your husband is using three “connected” ladders to install lights. ????????. Griswold Fam.
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Self imposed time out. Steadily checking off the to do list to enter into this last week before break with some semblance of order. This still means dinner hasn’t been started. Husband is out at a church event. Dog is frantically shaking after a medicine bath which nearly killed us both. Kids are running outside in the dark singing Carol of the Bells and I have yet to plan my math lesson on liters which scares me. But I am sitting down on my bed and taking some deep breaths for two seconds. Advent. Calm. Sanity. These states of mind and being are out there somewhere….. maybe on the other side of a Wednesday field trip, building candy houses with 50 kids, and finishing animal reports! 😂😂😂😂

 

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Only pic I took today but a lovely way to start the day. Sweet rolls and candlelight to celebrate St Lucy’s Day. And then dinner out tonight at Les Caves with Drew’s amazing teacher…Cheryl Graham. A day of light indeed. ❤️ #dpp2016

OSU ladies basketball game! ❤️

OSU ladies basketball game! ❤️

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Best student teacher around. Love you, @eap711 !!! ☃️❄️️🏀❤️☃️❄️🏀❤️

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Someone’s having a Lorelei Gilmore snow moment….❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️

Snowman! ☃️❄️️☃️❄️️ #dpp2016

Snowman! ☃️❄️️☃️❄️️ #dpp2016

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Cabin Fever. Another snow day tomorrow. Hello winter break. Hello sad children and mom.
Rogue One!  #dpp2016
Rogue One! #dpp2016
December Photo Project 2016::Saturday, December 17th::Photo Card Assembling!
December Photo Project 2016::Saturday, December 17th::Photo Card Assembling!
First Presbyterian Church, Corvallis.  So pretty this morning!
December 18th :: First Presbyterian Church, Corvallis. So pretty this morning!
Rudolph Came to Church!
Rudolph Came to Church!
Love going thrift store shopping with this one.  Never a dull moment.
Love going thrift store shopping with this one. Never a dull moment.

 

Shhhh.... #dpp2016
December 19th :: Shhhh…. #dpp2016
Grandma Arrived!!!!! Christmas can begin!
December 20th :: Grandma Arrived!!!!! Christmas can begin!
Cookie Decorating Time
Cookie Decorating Time
Popcorn and a Movie at 10:30am!  Winter Break!
December 21st :: Popcorn and a Movie at 10:30am! Winter Break!
Something besides tshirt a and cozy pants!!!!! ❤️
Something besides tshirt a and cozy pants!!!!! ❤️
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December 22nd :: Another demeaning medicine bath for poor Sally. And Alex in bed with 102.5 temp. Sadness. 😞
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My sweet love. 24 hours ago he was his normal self: creative, opinionated, talking about hard things, snuggling on the couch, debriefing after a full, but fun day. Today? After being up from 3-6am with a migraine and a 102 degree temperature, he put himself to bed and has been there all day. Anyone who knows this child knows that he never rests, let alone 12 hours alone, in bed with nothing to do but sleep. Praying that all the rest leads to a healthier tomorrow and that it doesn’t pass on to the rest of us. No one (especially ministers and kids!) wants to be sick on Christmas. Prayers for healing appreciated. 💜👓💤😴😷😓🤒💜
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December 23rd :: Alex is still in bed. Fever down a tad. Long day of more and more sleeping. Got a few chapters into The Wonder by Emma Donoghue finally (already overdue), Monopoly with Drewsie and Alex crawled out to the couch for It’s a Wonderful Life (thanks to Cara Miller’s movie drop off service). Still hoping for recovery to come and heal buddy boo. My big outing? Eyebrow waxing. Clearly you are all jealous.
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December 24th :: It’s a 6 year tradition now….the picture for the 24th is always our Christmas card so here it is for 2016. This year has been good, but hard. But one of the very best moments we will treasure as a family was the 24 hours we spent at Crater Lake in August. Such a gift. And the eecummings quote?! Magic in words. Merry Christmas everyone!
Made it to church!
Made it to church!
Familia
Familia
Wooohoo!  Happy Boys!
Wooohoo! Happy Boys!
Be still my heart.  Ukulele Love with Grandpa.
Be still my heart. Ukulele Love with Grandpa.
Family Selfie
December 25th :: Family Selfie
Annual ophthalmologist visit.
December 28th :: Annual ophthalmologist visit.
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Happy Hour. Margaritas. Chips, guacamole and salsa. Tacos. Kale salad (for our conscience). And wonderful conversation with my dear friend, @simplyelena . The best. ❤️🌮❤️
Family! ❤️❤️
December 29th :: Family! ❤️❤️ Quick trip to the ocean and Depoe Bay!
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A mojito and an old fashioned overlooking the ocean WITHOUT CHILDREN! Winning! Early anniversary treat at Tidal Raves Restaurant ! Almost 13 years! 🌊🍹 🍷 🍺 🍾 🌊
Bye bye Beach and Grandpa and Grandma .
December 30th :: Bye bye Beach and Grandpa and Grandma .
Waiting in Line!
Waiting in Line!

 

Past Year Posts

December Photo Project 2015

2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 were all daily posts.  If for some reason (hahaha), you’d like to see the posts, just scroll back to December for each year.

In case you want to know more about the December Photo Project, click on the link below.  I truly love this tradition every year!

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Reads of 2016

Each year I try to take a few minutes to reflect back on the year past and the books we have delved into.  I feared having gone to full time teaching that my list would be minimal at best, but surprisingly there are more to be found than I’d expected.  So, without further adieu, below are the books I read this year.  My favorites are also marked with two asterisks.  Happy Reading and please comment on your own favorites this year!!

img_8676Kids

  • Elephant & Piggie Series (especially the last two books in the series that were published this year, I Really Like Slop! and The Thank You book). Mo Willems is a genius in our household (and in my classroom).  And the best highlight?!?  Meeting Elephant and Piggie at the Farmer’s Market in Corvallis this summer.  Such a blast!
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar (an oldie, but a goodie and Drew’s first book checked out on his very own library card)
  • Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
  • Danger in the Darkest Hour and Night of the Ninth Dragon by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Pax by Sara Pennypacker
  • Upside Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Play by K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany (and the end to the regular series!)
  • A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
  • Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell **
  • Escaping the Giant Wave by Peg Kehret
  • Quinny and Hopper by Adriana Brad Schanen
  • 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts by Raquel J. Palacio

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Teaching/Professional

  • Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler

Young Adult/Fiction

  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  • The Girls by Emma Cline

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Fiction

  • Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
  • Paris for One by Jojo Moyes
  • Circling the Sun by Paula McClain
  • The Nestby Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
  • The Muse by Jessie Burton
  • This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah*********
  • The Wonder by Emma Donoghue**

Cooking

  • My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl (wonderful book in and of itself, but going to SEE Ruth when she came to Corvallis this past winter was a DELIGHT!!!!!)
  • How to Celebrate Everything by Jenny Rosenstrach
  • The Seasoned Life by Ayesha Curry
  • Bon Appetit Magazine!

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Religious/Psychology/Parenting

  • Love Warrior by Glennon Melton**
  • Rising Strong by  Brené Brown
  • Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist**
  • Falling Free by Shannon Martin
  • The More of Less by Joshua Becker
  • Well Played: The Ultimate Guide to Awakening Your Family’s Playful Spirit by Meredith Sinclair

 Frivolous

  • People, Real Simple, and Sunset magazines
  • And catching up on the back issues of my favorite magazine which has now ended, Anthology L

Travel/Memoir/Biography

  • Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr
  • Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham
  • When Breathe Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi**
  • For the Right Reasons by Sean Lowe
  • The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
  • Eating Up the West Coast from Sunset Magazine and Brigit Binns
  • Camp Sunset: A Modern Camper’s Guide to the Great Outdoors
  • Love, Loss and What We Ate: A Memoir by Padma Lakshmi**

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Looking Forward to in 2017….

  • At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe by Tsh Oxenreider
  • Our Little Racket by Angelica Baker
  •  The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
  • What Falls from the Sky: How I Disconnected from the Internet and Reconnected with the God Who Made the Clouds by Esther Emery
  • Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path by  Erin Loechner
  • Katharina and Martin Luther:  The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk by Michelle DeRusha
  • Over Easy:  Sweet and Savory Recipes for Leisurely Days by Joy Wilson (Joy the Baker)
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • Salt to the Sea  by Ruta Sepetys

 

Past Year Book Round Ups:

2015

2014

2013

OKAY

{this post was originally published in December 2016 during my once-in-awhile contribution to Practicing Families blog}

okay

~by Christine Gough

“OKAY” has taken a bad rap for awhile.  We often joke that “OKAY” is the most common answer to life’s constant questions.

“How was your day?”  OKAY.

“How are you feeling?”  OKAY.

“How does the weather look?”  OKAY.

“Did you like the book?”  It was OKAY.

But then something happened the other day.  And it woke me out of my rut and daily routine.  I was walking by our adjunct family member, Amazon ECHO.  It’s a little device that conveniently stores song libraries, holds lists of important information, and can even play games with you.  It’s almost as forward-thinking as the Jetsons.

Anyhow, due to my husband’s ingenuity, when I walked by Echo and stated, “Echo?  Turn on Christmas Tree.”  She replied, “OKAY.”  And it happened.

As in….I asked one time.  And she said OKAY.  And that was that.  My request was granted. The tree lights went on.   End of story.

I think this moment seemed so unexpected because—-this never happens.  Or maybe I should say, it rarely happens.

I ask my eldest to “please unload the dishwasher.”  And usually anything but “OKAY” comes out.

I request that my youngest stop what he’s doing and feed the dog.  Again, a simple “OKAY” would work perfectly, but not so much.  “MOM…..I NEED TO FEED SALLY!???!  NOW???  I’m busy!”

A good friend of mine was having a similar reality too.  So she made an OKAY! chart.  Every time she places a simple request before her daughter and the response is, “OKAY!”, her daughter gets a star on the OKAY chart thereby getting closer to reaching a reward.

I know I’m not alone….while sometimes I dread the monotone, “OKAY” response to my probing questions, other times, I’m dying to hear it when I place a request to my children.

Good ‘ol Amazon Echo made this utterly clear.  The cheerful “OKAY!” and quick completion of my request threw me.  While I desire this to be done for my own benefit, I am realizing how hard it is to do myself.  I read over and over again that a simple act of kindness, simply saying, “yes” or “OKAY” can be the glue that holds relationships together.  The binding material for thriving, not just surviving, with others.

As we teeter on the brink of this upcoming holiday, maybe this lesson is the reminder we need to model and not just desire from our children and those in our lives.  True giving, the spirit of the Christ’s birth, is a resounding “OKAY!”  A “YES!”  Living from a place of kindness and keeping our eyes open for places we can give the gift of “OKAY!”  Christ’s birth story was one not many would have said, “yes” to.  The circumstances weren’t pretty or polished.  The companions might not have been expected.  The road ahead unknown and overwhelming.  But Mary said, “OKAY.”  In fact, she responded, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”  The situation was anything but easy, yet Mary agreed.  She said, “OKAY.”  Not just to feeding the dog, or emptying the dishwasher, but to carrying the very embodiment of God.

My yes might be a bit smaller and day-to-day, but over time, these “OKAYs” build into something bigger.  They begin to form a lifestyle that embodies the divine qualities of kindness and generosity.

What Are You Thinking?

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How often have these words slipped out between gritted teeth?  “What are you THINKING?!?”  Or maybe, “What ARE you thinking??” Better yet, “What are YOU thinking?!”  But this year, the phrase has taken a turn.   “What are you thinking?” has become an invitation, not a threat veiled as a question.  In the classroom, I have begun to use a strategy with my students of invitation to be metacognitive…to think about our thinking and go deeper with the texts we are reading.  We start our reflections with what we noticed, what we see, what we wonder about, what we are feeling.  We think about character’s actions and notice patterns and traits.  Students are connecting stories from their own lives to the narratives of the characters in the books we read.  Illustrations become a jumping off point for observations, to think deeper and to notice.
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We remind each other daily that REAL READING is a mixture of the text paired with our thinking…text alone doesn’t have the heart that comes from thinking deeply about the words. As we read text, we stop and put up our thinking bubble, face in, ready to share our thoughts about the text.  We pause.  We think.  We share.  We notice.  We feel.  We see.  It has become a class norm and the class culture…an expectation that text is more than words and that our discussion together is spent in the business of taking time for deep thought and listening.When I slip home, though, out of the classroom, it becomes exponentially harder to maintain this mindset.  “What are you thinking?” reverts back to a mom-yelled rhetorical statement, not a welcoming question.  Where does the mental strength, the time and the perseverance come from to pair this thinking with our parenting?  We are called to be question askers.  To be consistent at looking and noticing and truly seeing.  And more than that, to ask our children, with genuine hearts, what they are thinking and to listen.

christine-thinkingWhat would happen if we all had giant thought bubbles to hold around our faces everyday?  Would people sit up, take notice and listen more readily?  How different would our homes, our relationships and our world be if we took time for real thinking?  Real listening?  That perfect intersection of vulnerability that gets to the heart of real communication.

Try one of these thinking stems and see what might follow…it’s not magic, but it does lead to REAL conversation.  As we look at the person of Christ we see this again and again.  Christ asks the questions.  “What do you need?”,  “Why do you doubt?”, “What do you think?”, “What do you want me to do for you?”, “Why are you thinking these things?”,  “Why are you so afraid?”, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?”, “Do you want to get well?Christ, being fully divine, had no need to ask the questions.  Asking the deeper questions had a bigger purpose.  A chance to turn the tables allowing for someone to notice.  To see.  To feel.  To think.  To wonder.  Not to be told, to be put in their place, to be shut down and out.

The question is ours…to ask and to answer, “What are you thinking?”*Special thanks to my friend Hillary who shared the life changing book and ideas shared here (Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor )

 

{this post was originally published in October 2016 during my once-in-awhile contribution to Practicing Families blog}

Press or Walk

{this post was originally published in August 2016 during my once-in-awhile contribution to Practicing Families blog}

Vocabulary and shades of meaning make my heart skip a beat.  The 3rd grade teacher in me salivates a bit over the day when we get to pull out the thesauri and find the perfect word for our narratives.  To push away from using mundane, overused vocabulary in favor of verbiage that truly fits the situation.  And so, as I look over images from our recent vacation, this game of “find the perfect descriptor” begins.

We had planned this trip to Crater Lake and Sunriver awhile back and were so looking forward to seeing grandparents, watching friends get married and experiencing one of Oregon’s Seven Wonders together for the first time.  And then, just days before departure, the newscasters began to report that there was a fire right on the Western Rim of Crater Lake.  Close enough to the Historic Lodge and Visitor’s Center that the most efficient road in was closed.  My carefully plotted and attained Lodge Room Reservation seemed like it might disappear before we ever arrived.  Luckily, despite warnings, there were other routes in and the staff assured us it was safe to come to the Lake.

Finally packed and ready, bikes atop the van, we left for our trip, stopping quickly at the Library to grab the long-awaited reserved items that had arrived.  Before we hit the road, I wanted to return one book that was close to its due date.  No 50 cent fine for this responsible library-goer, thank you very much.  As we drove down into the underground garage to put the book in the drive-up slot, a loud, ripping sound made me slam on the brakes.  And with a sickening realization, we remembered the bikes on top of the van.  No longer standing proudly, waiting for biking adventures.

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Our regrets, tears, frustration, brokenness and car parts blocked the entry to the library.  Drew wailed the words that were in my mind, “OUR VACATION IS RUINED.  IT’S OVER!”

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Calls were placed to the insurance.  Friends helped us schlep the bikes home.  The car parts were stowed and we hit the road, bound for Crater Lake, fire and all.  Folks wrote on our Facebook wall that hopefully the worst incident of our trip happened at the beginning and that things had to look up from there.  My eldest who, like me, can get stuck in the negative narrative, kept trying to say positive things and lift my spirits.  And I realized I needed to be the one to pull myself up and out of that grimy, dark pit of negativity and be the adult.  To change the story I was telling myself and displaying with my presence.  To “fake it ‘til I made it,” like I tell my students time and time again.  “Change the verbiage, Christine.  Look for a new shade of meaning.”

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Because of the mishap before we ever left town, I was feeling a bit anxious for all we would miss out on at our destination.  We were going to be late.  Check in was at 4pm and Trip Advisor had loudly and boldly reminded us through those who had gone before, that everything at Crater Lake would be crowded, busy and full of lines.  And then we rounded the bend and this stretched before us…

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Everyone tells you that Crater Lake will take your breath away.  And.  They are right.  Its blue waters are truly otherworldly.  So we stopped and took in the view (smoke in the distance and all…).  We eventually made it around the lake, the long way.  The surprise? We missed the crowded, line-filled check in. Greeted by calm, friendly staff, we got to our room.  And despite the close up view of the fire out of one window, we had crystal clear sightlines to Wizard Island and Crater Lake out the other.

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The choice of mindset became clear once again, God using whatever means possible to remind us.  Which words do we choose?  Which story do we tell?  How do we model, as parents, the right response to life’s hiccups to our children?  As we entered this long-awaited vacation, did we PRESS forward, like soldiers off to war, or WALK through, letting the views and beauty into the narrative?

These “shades of meaning” are so small but mean so much.  I cried, like Drew my youngest, outside the library parking garage.  I had many self-loathing thoughts coming through my head and out of my mouth just hours earlier.  But the shade of meaning I was to choose had to be connected with the example I planned to set for the boys too.  Fists clenched, teeth gritted, PRESSING on through our trip, determined to save it?!?  Or WALKING forward, hands and eyes opened for the grace and beauty right there?  It was the choice to be made.  Just like the two windows from our room.  Did we fixate on the window framing the fire and smoke and doom?  Or rotate to the other showing the calm lake?

I am not one to ignore the realities, however painful, to be in LaLaLand, floating on a cotton candy cloud, downing hot chocolate and singing happy songs while the world is burning below.  But we do have a choice.  As parents we choose every single moment the story we tell our children, even without words.  What is our knee jerk reaction after things don’t go according to plan?  What words do we use with and towards the ones we live with and love most when they mess up?  What lens do we chose to look through in the midst of difficulty?  When the schedule and plan derails, what next?

My own kids and husband are reminding me through their actions of the answer.  We walk.  We don’t press or finagle.  We aren’t called to coerce and manipulate.  We walk.  We take in the view, even if it is different from what we expected.  And after we let the tears flow and say our truth, that “this ISN’T how it was SUPPOSED to be!” we can turn and look out the other window and maybe be freed to see what IS.

Holding Space for Someone Else

{this post was originally published in June 2016 during my once-in-awhile contribution to Practicing Families blog}

After a rough parenting day, one which involved three instances of difficult transitions with my 5 ½ year old, I typed a text message to a few girlfriends through tears.   It has been the first week of summer vacation and as a teacher, the days have been filled with writing report cards, packing up a classroom, saying tough goodbyes, helping my students and my own children wrap up their years all the while hoping everyone has lunches, signed permission slips and clothing that is clean.

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This year end frenzy has been magnified due to an upcoming transition in our family as I move from half time to full time teaching. My youngest will start kindergarten and my oldest will be in 4th grade. For better or for worse, ¾ of our family will be in the same building all day for school…we will see who ends up embarrassing who the most come June 2017!

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As exciting as this whole shift is, it is a time of deep and oftentimes difficult transition. And in these times of change, it can be easy to dig deeper into the anxiety, the “what if’s,” the fears, the unknowns and spin out of control. But that handy scientific term…osmosis?!? Remember that biological term for the process where molecules can pass from one place to another? Well, it becomes a real life demonstration lesson for our family all too often.

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Today it was a building frustration that my children don’t just DO what I ask them to do WHEN I ask them without hesitation or complaint. Instead of responding with patience, calm and lack of charged emotion, I demonstrated the exact opposite. Stressors that have nothing to do with my children took over. Instead of letting their frustrations roll off, I engaged. I got frustrated. I entered into the anger.

In the midst of this moment of complete exhaustion, I typed out that quick text to two girlfriends confessing my own stuck points and frustrations. And even over their phones, they supported me, encouraged me, made me laugh and provided a place where I felt love unconditionally.

One sent me this quote:

Holding space for someone else “means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.” – Heather Plett

It dawned on me that this was the very message our family’s psychiatrist was planting this week as well. As parents, it is our job to hold space. To walk alongside our children, “without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them…” When my boys exhibit behaviors that embarrass me or leave me sinking into exhaustion, I keep hearing a faint voice of our counselor reminding us to not engage and respond with matched emotion. Rather, to take a break. To offer a suggestion or two that has worked for us. And most importantly to listen and hold space for our children where they experience God’s grace and acceptance and support. I am hoping against hope that the few times we disengage, leaving the heightened emotions behind, that we then begin to build the relationships with our children that are only possible with true support.

As we walk into summer, it is my prayer that we can all seek to be space holders for those around us. May we let go of the need to fix others, to change outcomes, to stay closed and to cling to judgmentalism.   But to enter conversations and interactions with the goal of open hearts and hands as we listen to and care for others on their own journeys.

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The Rain Fly

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{this post was originally published in May 2016 during my once-in-awhile contribution to Practicing Families blog}

A little over 12 ½ years ago we were knee deep in wedding preparations and of course this included the opportunity to register at some of our favorite stores. Registering conjures up many images in my mind, not all of them are pleasant. We had a brilliant idea, though. With hopes of outdoor adventures in our future, we decided to register at REI. REI would allow us to register for that water filtration system we would need for backcountry adventures. We could select the perfect Thermarest to keep us comfy. And of course…the sleek, lightweight, 3-season, “high in livability” tent for two.

Fast forward 12 years. I am standing in Costco. It’s mid-March and I am surrounded by outdoor “necessities” on all sides. Air beds. Cots. Coolers. Pop-ups. Cooking accessories. Kayaks. Backpacks. Lanterns. And yes. You guessed it. Tents. No more sleek, easy-to-carry models. We are talking full-on, Coleman, 10 person CABIN tents complete with vestibules, ventilated annexes and netted roves with unadulterated views of the stars. It was almost a shameful moment to imagine the potential purchase. We had become THAT family. The one that succumbed to the mini van. The family that gave in to the tent that could fit three queen Aerobeds. Would this be a slippery slope to glamping?! No more visions of hard core expeditions carrying all we needed on our backs?! Despite the fear of judgment, the Costco card was scanned and the tent procured. We now might break our backs setting up our home away from home, but there was space for “everything we needed.”

christine 2Just a week ago, we set off on our second adventure with the tent of amazingness. Our van was filled to the brim leaving barely any room for our poor dog, Sally. We left behind the worries of classrooms and congregations and hit the road. It was a warm Friday afternoon, hitting the low 80s. Blue skies promised a warm and comfortable weekend ahead. I finally exhaled, prepared to enjoy Mother’s Day weekend with wonderful friends in the Oregon outdoors.

After pulling up to the campground we met up with our friends and chose a spot to pitch the tent. The lure of starry skies and trees towering over us led us to naively pitch the tent without the rain fly.   We settled in for some beautiful views from the comfort of our pillow top queen Aerobed and down comforter (we nixed sleeping bags years ago…). Night one went fine. Didn’t sleep too much, but at least we enjoyed the starry view. Night two, we crashed hard. Our day had been filled with river exploration. Water gun fights. Amazing food concoctions. Raging campfires and multiple s’mores. Shenanigans with fellow mom friends. Kids running in packs like our very own Lord of the Flies. Suffice it to say, everyone fell asleep without much complaining.

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Until…the rain. The unpredicted, unplanned for, early morning rain showers. The rain fly seemed so superfluous just 36 hours prior. But things changed. The weather defied the most reliable apps on our phones. My husband went flying for the car to dig through the box and find the rain fly. We shivered while trying to unroll the fly, attempting to launch it over the almost 9 foot height of the already pitched tent. Somehow the kids slept through it all and we scurried back into bed after securing the fly enough to last until our departure later that Mother’s Day morning.

Mother’s Day. It’s often one of those days that we build up in our minds. A holiday filled with big expectations of handmade cards, colorful flowers, kid-prepared breakfast in bed. Sweet children cooing around their moms’ feet, gazing up with loving affection. But our best intentions and expectations often shift with time and perspective and LIFE. Those sleek, “high in livability” tents for two are soon traded in for the roomier and more comfortable Coleman models. Motherhood becomes an opportunity for best laid plans to be uprooted and changed. Parenting is all about planning for the perfect moment of starry skies perfection, and then running for the rain fly when the unexpected “storm hits,” burrowing down under the wet comforter and laughing at the ironies.

For me, the process of practicing our faith in the midst of raising children also looks so different than I imagined nine years ago, days before having our firstborn. You can “register” for all the necessities, and think you have all the boxes checked, everything prepared and purchased for success. And then these little free-will beings enter your neat and tidy world and change the homeostasis. It’s these same little ones, though, that teach us about God and faith in ways we never could have imagined. They help us expand our thinking and deeply held beliefs when they try and grasp the confusing enormity of God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity. Children ask the tough questions and send us running to grab the rain fly to keep us dry during the storms of their growing years.

Through it all—the warm days filled with lazy exploring in nature to the unexpected rains that surprise us—God grants us community to help us experience a felt presence of the Holy Spirit. We are not left alone. As the disciples attempted to grasp this new reality after Jesus’ ascension, God promises them a gift of presence. God moves amongst them in the craziest of ways. With fire. Wind. And too many languages to count. In the midst of true bewilderment over it all, the disciples are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to help them figure it all out in community on that first Pentecost.

Maybe these moments, the surprising and unexpected, send us running for protection, for our “rain fly” that we might have deemed unnecessary.   But may we know that true community and support are worth it and often, the means to weathering the hard times.

God, we thank you for the ways you surround us with fellow imperfect friends and family to show us the truest way to experience your grace and love.

Sweetness is Finite

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{this post was originally published in April 2016 during my once-in-awhile contribution to Practicing Families blog}

After two months of immersion in something slightly embarrassing (binge watching the entire Gilmore Girls series), I am finally pulling myself out of hiding and rejoining life.

With the end to Gilmore, Season 7, Episode 22, I am able to dig back into reading. Many library holds went unchecked out or ended up overdue as I sided with “just one more Gilmore Girls episode…” over picking up a book. First up, though? Anthony Doerr’s Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, & the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World. Doerr also penned the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See. Four Seasons chronicles the time Anthony and his wife were given the chance to spend a year in Rome in 2004 with their six month old twins while he worked on All the Light. From the moment I cracked this book open, I was immersed in the world of Rome…the sounds, the architecture, the history, the smells and food. All the while paired with parenting littles and the unique challenges that brings to travel and daily life….and sanity.

The book is organized into seasons and at the end of the first section about Fall, Doerr writes,

“I’m thankful that everything sweet
is sweet because it is finite.”

And my breath caught. Everything is truly sweet, because it has limits. Sweetness is finite. Boundaries make the special things in life…just that. SPECIAL.

The last episodes of Gilmore Girls were so poignant and sweet for many narrative reasons. But mostly, it was the knowledge that the end was coming that kept taking over my thoughts. It was a slippery slope running quickly towards…the finale. The final visions of characters. The “end” of story lines. No more insanely witty discourse. No more Lorelai or Rory. No more Luke’s Diner.

As parents, some sweet moments are truly sweet because we know there is “an end in sight”. Diapers, spoon feeding, babbling, sleepless nights?!? There are times they feel all the more precious because they truly are finite. Our children will develop. Learn to talk. Eat independently. Walk on their own. Communicate without us looking over their shoulders.

We are moving into the season of Spring and it is a time of new growth in the world around us. In classrooms, students are preparing work, taking statewide tests; teachers are assessing data in preparation for parent teacher conferences. The church calendar tells that we are Easter people, living in a time of resurrection. Flowers are pushing through the soil to paint our yards in color. Spring cleaning means taking stock, letting go and “clearing the decks” of the old. In our lives, though, spring cleaning might mean leaning into what lies ahead, the new life we wait on. And, it’s time to take stock in the sweetness of the finite.

Before relishing the sweetness of the endings, I believe we must also take a deeper look at what is ending. When we push ourselves and our children into the new thing…..new sport season. New grade level. New friendships. New developmental stages and expectations. New adventures. New responsibilities. Well, we can lose sight of that crucial moment of reflection.

So this year, as we roll into Spring and the newness bursts forth around us, stop and take a minute to mark and remember the sweetness of the moments that have passed by. Help your young ones to mark and remember the many things they have accomplished, tackled and worked through. The hard challenges that have felt impossible in the moment just might have offered enough disequilibrium to lead to new growth and development.

May we sit in moments of sweetness and take note of our surroundings, knowing that the finiteness of the moment is a gift. It is also a reminder of God’s overarching love—the one true infinite element. We are hemmed in by it and held in it. God’s love holds us through each moment and links the days together. May we hold out these road maps to our children and ourselves to see how our journeys, while made up of many endings, are part of a much bigger adventure. And adventure full of much sweet finiteness.