mom life

Ordinary Hard

I pulled my phone out of my pocket to check the time during open gym last Friday. 10:45. How could we possibly still have 30 minutes left before we had to leave to pick up the twins from preschool? My three-year old and I had arrived to open gym later than usual (because we had to make a Target run, obviously) and to have 30 whole more minutes just didn’t seem possible.

I looked at my phone again fifteen minutes later. Except it wasn’t fifteen minutes later. It had only been two. I looked at the clock on the wall, convinced my (*ahem* brand new) phone had stopped working, and resisted the urge to throw my (still new) phone to the floor. I resigned myself to twenty-eight more long minutes of chasing around my energetic boy.

This was also the second Friday of the week. I mean, it obviously wasn’t, but it sure felt that way. I had been convinced all day on Wednesday that it was actually Friday. Every time I remembered it was really only Wednesday it felt like a fresh insult all over again. How dare you, Wednesday? Why did we still have two more entire days until it was Friday?

You might ask what was up with last week. I’m asking myself the same thing. There were no blizzards, storms, or other inclement weather. No one was sick. Our car didn’t break down and the washing machine and dishwasher were both fully functioning. In fact, last week, it was pretty nice out. We played outside at a few different parks. The sun was shining. My preschoolers had only one day of school instead of their normal three, but that really didn’t seem to throw a wrench in our plans all that much.

It was a pretty normal week. A week of being hard in all the ordinary ways.

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Read the rest over on the Twin Cities Moms Blog.

Life Lately

It’s officially spring. Spring feels like the new year to me. The bright sun (out past 5 pm!), melting snow, birds chirping. Forget all that “new year new you” stuff on January 1st. That’s the deepest, darkest part of the middle of winter, for crying out loud. Forget adding workouts or salads to the routine. The only thing I’m ready to do come January 1 is sleep a little more (because it’s dark all the time), bulk up with more creamy soups and all the carbs (I mean, fresh, local produce is basically nonexistant so clearly this is what the good Lord intended), and increase my caffeine intake (because I tried to sleep more but then remembered at 6 am that I still have children). No, whoever invented the calendar made a real mistake; January doesn’t feel like the new year at all. But spring sure does.

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Tyson gave me a 10-class pass to a new yoga studio just down the road from us. For Christmas. And “new yoga studio” meaning well over a year old. Every time I drive by I think, “I really need to check that place out.” I’ve started to make use of it just this past week, killing myself in barre class and powering through vinyasas. It feels good. It’s still sunny in the early evening and the threat of walking from a 92-degree yoga class into temperatures literally 100 degrees colder outside has passed. I’ve been continuing at home; for the past five days I’ve either done a class or some Yoga with Adriene in the living room. That’s damn near a record for me.

I’m emerging from my winter hibernation. And it feels good. Also sore. But mostly good.

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I noticed Caden made friends with another boy at basketball practice the other night. “Friends” meaning I saw Caden suddenly walk over to him and start retrieving his ball everytime he shot and missed the basket (which was...every time). Caden would run after the ball and dribble it back to him; he must’ve done it a couple dozen times.

I wondered at this show of kindness, and asked him about it on the way home, “Why did you start playing with that boy and getting his ball for him?”

“Oh,” Caden answered, matter-of-fact, “I noticed that he wasn’t very good at catching the ball or dribbling. So I made a deal with him that I would get it and give it back to him so he could shoot again.”

Well then. Not exactly selfless but maybe he’s onto something?

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The other morning they spent time playing together at the table after breakfast. Brooklyn painted with a set of watercolors while the boys put PJ Masks puzzles together. We don’t have many slow mornings, we’re usually either off to preschool, a playdate, the library, or the store. And often when we do, I regret it around 9:30, which is about the time we all seem ready to kill each other. But this time, it was nice. It’s often been nice, lately. I think they’re learning how to play with each other a bit more and feel the need to kill each other a little less. It made me think of just how few lazy mornings we’ll have next year.

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Which reminds me: these arrived in the mail the other day. Come mid-April, we will have not one but two kindergarteners officially registered for the 2019-20 school year. What in the actual world.

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Reading this piece on the beauty and hardship and life-giving that is women’s work.

Also this beautiful essay about mom anger. And not the “I told my kids to stop touching each other and spoke harsher than I should have” kind of anger that many (Christian) pieces talk about and make the rest of us feel bad. This is the real stuff.

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Cooking these egg roll bowls. I up the spices and serve topped with wonton strips and sweet Thai chili sauce for some egg roll realness. I keep meaning to add chopped water chestnuts but can never seem to remember. (Bonus: the leftovers are quick and easy for lunch!)

I’m also back on the iced coffee train. As soon as that temperature kept climbing above freezing I took this bad boy out. It will now remain in permanent residence in our refrigerator until about September. Or maybe October.

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We’ve officially entered the dramatic hyperbole stage as Brooklyn has begun to drawl, “Oh. my. gosh” and “Are you serious?” Also heard her exclaim, “I think I’m in heaven!” (over a piece of generously buttered popcorn) and “How embarrassing” (out of context, but points for trying). And those were just the ones I heard over the weekend!

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I’ve been obsessed with this fabric shaver. Yes, a de-fuzzer. Hello, life in my 30s.

There’s an old cardigan I love: the fit is perfect, the weight is just right, and the color goes with everything. Except it was covered with those annoying little fuzz balls. It looked sloppy. I wondered if I needed to give it up, find a new cardigan to adore.

Then I researched and purchased sweater shavers. One pass with the defuzzer and my cardigan was like new again. I’ve been using it on everything from sweaters to t-shirts to leggings (seriously saved a favorite and expensive pair of mine from Athleta).

It’s been especially worthwhile because I gave up buying things for Lent. Or at least, buying non-essential things. I’ve been trying to think of how to phrase this exactly. I couldn’t just give up online shopping because that’s how I order my groceries. Also, one crazy trip to Target could completely blow the intent of that fast. So I gave up buying things I just don’t need. No new clothes, nail polish, $6 lattes, etc. My foundation is about to run dry, so I’ll purchase a fresh one sometime in the next couple of weeks: it’s an essential I use just about every day. But eye shadow? Yeah. I have enough. I still order coffee if I go to a coffee shop to write (the way I see it, that’s just me paying my dues to be able to use their space). But no runs through the Caribou drive-thru just because. Clothes and accessories? Nope.

(Though ask me if I panic-ordered my way through a couple of web sites the Monday and Tuesday before Lent began. The answer to that is YES.)

(Also I completely forgot and bought a shirt when we went to see Michelle Obama on her book tour a couple weeks ago. We walked in, saw the merchandise tables, and my mom said, “I think we should all get matching shirts!” That was all it took for me to say, “Yes obviously!” and I proudly handed over my $35. Forgot about my fast literally until I walked into the house that night. Wore my shirt proudly the next day anyway.)

I’ve been keeping a list in my phone of things that keep running through my head, things that really would be nice for the new season. A pair of Birkenstocks. New sunglasses because mine have been through two seasons and sit kind of crooked. A new tumbler for smoothies or all that iced coffee I’m drinking since I recently dropped mine and shattered half the lid. (It still works for now...kinda.)

This is as much about checking myself before making impulse purchases as it is about saving myself time. I’ve begun to realize how often I would scroll through the Madewell website just to see what was new or on sale, how many shops I follow on Instagram, the number of times I would waste 10 minutes on a retail site with no intent of ever buying.

Anyway, all that to say, my de-fuzzer has come in especially handy at refreshing some of my “old” clothes and helping them look new again. $10 well spent. Even if you’re in the middle of a “don’t buy things” fast.

Winter in My Body

As we drove back north after a family visit to Iowa, I couldn’t help but notice the quiet beauty of the landscape, mostly flat fields and farmland. The trees, their leaves long lost, reminded me of the sticks my children poked into our own sandbox. I admired the bold, dark forms against the clouded sky. The fields were blanketed with snow now, beautiful in their neutral simplicity. It was a striking palette, all white, slate blue, dark brown.

This is not a time of year typically associated with beauty. Nobody cheers for February’s arrival. The buds of spring, fall leaves, and even the first snow are all greeted joyfully, but February is something to be endured. Living in the Midwest, no one really wants it to snow anymore, but winter isn’t truly over yet either. It’s a sort of no-man’s-land between winter and spring.

I enjoyed it, though, during our drive. Maybe it was because we had the first real glimpse of sun in a run of too many cloudy days, maybe it was because all the kids were napping, or maybe it was because neutrals are the “in” colors right now, but the scenery felt soothing and peaceful.

I realized on this drive that while late winter often does feel like something to be endured, I also felt that way just because it’s what I’d always been told. Once I appreciated it on its own, for its own sort of beauty, my perspective shifted.

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I’ve been grappling with my body these days. We’re not exactly friends. You wouldn’t know it from looking at me: from the outside I appear trim and healthy. I’m blessed with good genes or a good metabolism or both. My shirt size hasn’t changed since middle school (though I’m shopping at different stores now, I promise) and it’s hard to find pants to fit my petite 5-foot almost-2-inch frame. People are routinely surprised my body has carried and borne three children, especially a set of twins. While those numbers on the scale haven’t shifted much, that’s about all that has stayed the same. This body ain’t what it used to be.

Read the rest about my views on this late winter season and my body over on Kindred Mom.

Forget Later

We’ve all heard it. Too many times, probably. Maybe as soon as we pushed those babies out of our bodies or welcomed them into our homes.

They’re only little once. Enjoy it. You can clean the mess later.

When exactly is later? I wonder, as I load up the dishwasher with the things we’ll need if we want to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner again tomorrow. In my head I picture a very literal “later”: a kitchen overcome with over a decade’s worth of dishes to tackle, after my youngest has presumably left the house. Twenty years worth of encrusted grime. Maybe we could use paper plates, but then who would take the garbage out? (Also: the environment. Not good.)

I think of the kids’ bathroom wedged between their bedrooms. How can I possibly clean this later? I can’t do it even after they’re all asleep. The sound of the toilet flushing would wake up the twins on the other side of one wall; running the water to scrub the bathtub would wake up the third on the other side of another.

I look around the playroom after a joy-filled afternoon of play and sigh. The last thing I want to do is deal with this later. It’s a disaster. Absolutely worth it, since all three kids played together so well with everything from puzzles to their play kitchen. But still a complete and total watch-where-you-step-because-you-can’t-see-the-floor disaster. It’s not fair to expect me or my husband to clean this all up later when we didn’t make one iota of this mess. To excuse the kids from their part in this so we can “enjoy them now and clean up later” seems absolutely absurd. And exhausting.

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Read the rest over on the Twin Cities Moms Blog.

The Advent That Wasn't

Advent was a big part of my church tradition growing up. Lighting the candles in the Advent wreath each week to celebrate one of the shortest seasons of the liturgical year, the pinks and the purples of the candles and the priest’s robes a funny contrast to the Christmas-y reds and greens everywhere else.

Advent disappeared as I grew into my high school and college years, as I left that traditional church setting for a different one. Nobody talked about Advent anymore. I realized that no one talked much about Lent or the days in Holy Week either. The liturgical vocabulary more or less disappeared from my life.

Until I had children.

A couple years ago, I was listening to a podcast where the hosts discussed their plans to celebrate Advent with their small children that year. They had all sorts of plans, from daily Bible studies to activity books to baking treats to tie right in with the Advent season. It caught me off-guard.

Because it was October.

Yeesh, I thought, Am I supposed to be thinking about this already? Do I need to start an Advent tradition with my two two-year olds and baby? Am I already failing?

That year came and went. We didn’t do anything for Advent. Same with last year. And, admittedly, this one as well.

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I’m doing an Advent study with some friends this year. I’ve missed more days than I’ve kept up with. Still, it feels like a step forward. Most years it gets to the second week of December before I realize it’s Advent and I probably should have started on something a solid week and a half ago.

It’s not for a lack of caring about the season. The Christmastime is one of my favorite parts of the year, for the magic of twinkling lights, snow, and Santa just as much as the miracle in a manger we are all waiting for. And I can’t say it’s because I’m too busy in this season to stop and think about Advent. Outside the chaos of life with three small children, that is. Truly, I don’t feel we’re over-booked with Christmas activities or events, my gift list is usually under control by the beginning of December.

No, I think it’s because Advent often feels like just one more thing to DO, in a season where I would love to just sit back and BE.

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I read a post on the other day along these same lines, about the trendiness of Advent these days. It was comforting and spoke so strongly to my own heart.

Because the most important thing this Advent isn’t that we do a daily Advent-related activity.

It’s that the kids have been playing with their Nativity set and we’ve talked over and over the familiar story with them. (Playful embellishments encouraged.)

It’s that we’ve baked more than our fair share of Christmas cookies. It’s that we’ve delivered them to our neighbors.

It’s that we set up the tree and I let them hang ornaments wherever they dang well pleased. (Even if I re-arranged it all later so there were ornaments ABOVE the four-foot line.)

It’s that we’ve spent time watching Christmas shows together, all piled on the couch with blankets and snuggles.

It’s that they add a new sticker ornament first thing every morning to the paper Christmas trees taped to their doors to help them count the days until Jesus is born. And, yes, also the days until Santa comes.

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There’s another tug in my brain, (as happens with other traditions or the lack of), that says, It’s too late! You didn’t start an Advent tradition from their very first Christmas so you missed it! It’s too late!

That thought is, of course, utter bullshit.

The truth is I still have very young children, who, for the most part, won’t remember these early Christmases. The truth is I don’t remember most of my early Christmases, outside of a few moments here and there. The truth is it’s not now or never. We wake each morning to new mercies, new chances. And each year and every season as well.

There’s always next year. Or the year after that. Or maybe, never at all. Maybe we’ll just work on baking more cookies and sitting back to be still in this season of magic and waiting.