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family

I Stopped Making Our Easter Egg Hunt “Fair”

Up until this year, I made sure the Easter bunny set up a “fair” egg hunt on Easter morning. Usually it was color coded and each child was assigned a color in a special note. It was easy and I didn’t have to worry about anyone being upset.

But this year, my priorities changed. This year, I just finished reading the book “UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World” by Dr. Michele Borba.  It is about empathy, and how important it is in being successful and happy. And how emotional intelligence and kindness are important factors in developing empathy.

And it made me think about my priorities as a parent. And our priorities as a family.

So we remodeled our Easter egg hunt.

The oldest is currently six, so she is old enough to notice the change; therefore, the shift required some explanation.

When Easter morning came and she noticed the absence of a note, I played along.

“Oh Lex, that’s really special that there is no note this year.”

“It is?”

“Yep. That means the Easter bunny has been watching you and he thinks you are ready.  It’s kind of like graduating. The Easter bunny has noticed how kind and generous you are. So this year, instead of him making sure the egg hunt is fair, he is leaving it up to you. It will be your job to make sure your little sisters get to find some eggs and that you all get to share the candy and eggs in a way that makes everyone feel good.”

She didn’t need more explanation than that. Kids are awesome that way.

And suddenly Easter morning turned into a beautiful lesson in kindness and empathy.

The oldest had to think about her siblings. She had to stop herself from taking all the easy eggs. She had to notice if they were having fun and feeling good about their own eggs.

Sure, she needed a little guidance. Because paying attention to other people and being kind is something we need a little help learning how to do. I helped by pointing out that leaving the easy eggs was a thoughtful thing to do and helping her to read the toddler’s feelings.

“Oh look, she is happy playing with the eggs she has. I think it’s okay for you to go finish hunting now.”

And it turned out to be even better than if I had made it fair. The toddler didn’t care if she got the same number of eggs. She got to hunt a few and then was perfectly happy to eat jelly beans. She wasn’t counting. And we didn’t have to force her into hunting the rest of “her” eggs.

And the oldest loved hunting eggs, so she got the thrill of finding the majority AND the emotional reward of being thoughtful of others and generous with her eggs. And since it wasn’t set up as a competition but rather as a collective effort, the oldest wasn’t counting eggs either. Everyone was perfectly happy with what they had.

Which was beautiful. But the best part? I didn’t have to police the egg hunt. I got to sit and relax and watch my kids enjoy the magic of Easter morning.

Overall, it was an awesome success. My oldest was proud to be recognized for her kindness and the younger two saw a great example of empathy and sharing in their big sister.

I have a feeling I’m going to like this new Easter tradition.

On Being “Done”

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We never really decided to have baby #3. I like to joke that it is nice of her to have taken the pressure off of me to decide. I think if I had had the chance to consciously make a decision to try for a third I would have decided to. But who knows.

To be honest with you, I never really expected to want a big family. Back when I had my first child, I never could have imagined having three.

So when she made her presence known, I swore that that was it and repeatedly declared I would not only having my tubes tied during my c-section, but would be having them removed and framed in a shadow box where I could keep an eye on them.

But then pregnancy got complicated and delivery got moved up and maybe it’s normal to hesitate before closing the door on this chapter of life or maybe it was hormones, but I kept resisting the final decision. When I expressed my concerns to my OB, she reminded me that I’m only 30. That four years from now when my youngest is nearing Kindergarten age I may decide our family isn’t complete. By then we would be out of the toddler and baby stage, everyone would be potty trained, and everyone would (most likely) be sleeping. Things may look different.

That made a lot of sense to me. Sure I may not be anywhere near ready to go through pregnancy again anytime soon. But four years from now? What if we decide we want another baby?

So the c-section passed and my tubes remained intact. But because being done was still the logical decision, permanent family planning measures were still on the table and would now fall to my husband. He graciously accepted the responsibility and made the appointment.

And. I’m still not sure.

I know that I can’t handle another pregnancy in the near future. I know that I definitely can’t handle an oops. With a six year old, one year old, and seven week old, my hands are full.

But am I really ready to be DONE? Am I really ready to close the door on this whole phase of my life? Am I really ready to never see those two blue lines again? Never feel the nervous anticipation waiting to hear a heartbeat? Never feel a baby kick inside me?

Surely hormones are at least partly to blame for this conflict.  The most recent pregnancy was no picnic. I stared at my ankles for a full two weeks after they returned to normal size (nearly a month after delivery) and I just now regained feeling in my fingers thanks to pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel. And now we are in the deep dark no-sleep stage of raising a newborn. If there was EVER a time when I was going to be ready to throw in the towel it should be now, right??

My brain has a million reasons why we should be done. They are all really good reasons. We are so blessed with the children we have. I can’t imagine needing more.

And yet, I can’t imagine not having the choice.

I guess I expected to feel totally on board with this decision. My brain is. But my heart isn’t. My sentimental, nostalgic, carefree heart isn’t ready to be done. Because being done with this phase of life means the next one is coming. And the next one will be beautiful and wonderful and amazing.

But then it too will pass.

Being done means there is an expiration date on “little” in our house. An expiration date on baby carriers and nursing and bottles. An expiration date on snuggly blankies and footie pajamas.

My heart cannot handle the end of footie pajamas, y’all.

The truth is, I’m never going to be ready for them to grow up. My heart is never going to be “done”. This is the first example in a long line of examples to come of mama dragging her feet kicking and screaming into the next phase of life. I probably should be handling this with a little more grace. But I don’t wanna. (Insert arms crossed pout face.)

So there.

I don’t know what the right choice is in this circumstance. I don’t know whether decision should come down to my head or my heart. I don’t know whether or not this decision will be any easier if I put it off for five more years. I’m guessing not.

What I do know is that this phase in life–this amazing and challenging phase of creating new life–will eventually pass, whether I want it to or not.

Sometimes choices in life are obvious, and sometimes they will never be, no matter how you spin it. Sometimes you simply have to admit that you may never know the right choice, and instead just roll the dice in the direction of the future as best you can.

And sometimes you just run out of time to overthink it because it’s time to drive your husband to his appointment.


Anyone else feel conflicted about this decision? What did you do?

Why the World Series Makes Me Think About Parenting

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Don’t tell my dad I put a picture of him on the Internet.

I’m not much of a sports person. I enjoy Husker games and am proud to be from Husker Nation. And baseball.

I don’t religiously follow baseball. But it has a special place in my heart because I grew up with baseball.

My dad is a baseball fan. Whenever we went on vacation to a city with a baseball team, we had to see if they were “in town”. And if they were, we had to go to a game. I don’t remember if I liked this tradition when I was younger. I’m sure I did my share of complaining. But now it’s a memory I cherish. In fact, on a trip to Seattle one summer I found my way to a Mariners game, in the name of the same tradition. It’s funny how little things like that become a part of you.

I remember that the Cubs were one of “our” teams. So were the Royals. And that no matter who they were playing, we always cheered against the Yankees.

I also remember my dad quizzing us on which teams came from which cities, usually while we were driving in the car. I also remember car trips where I hated that he would put on a crackling AM radio station to catch the baseball game instead of letting us listen to music.

But tonight, here I sit in my family room, listening to the familiar sound of the announcers on AM radio as the Cubs take on the Indians in game seven of the World Series, reminiscing about these simple little moments from my childhood that didn’t seem like much at the time they were happening. But now they feel like gifts. Like the kind of life stories that make you who you are without you even realizing it. Stories that become an anchor in my soul to a different kind of simplicity. A kind of simplicity I feel blessed to have access to.

As I sit here thinking about all of these things, I can’t help but wonder what life moments my own children will take and keep and hold on to. What are the things about me that they will remember? What are the memories we will make together? What pieces of their own childhood will stick with them and how will those pieces change them?

It can be easy to get lost in parenthood. Easy to lose myself in motherhood. I left a career to devote myself to raising these babies. And I love it and I’m grateful I have the chance to do so.

But I can feel how easy it would be to let pieces of myself collect dust in the corner in the midst of the chaos of parenting.

Which is unfortunate. Because, in a way, that is cheating my kids.

In order for them to remember a part of me, in order for me to be a part of their childhood memories, they have to see a part of me to remember. My dad’s love of baseball wasn’t special because it was about me. In fact, it’s special because it wasn’t about me at all. It was about him. It was a piece of himself that he shared with us.

Maybe sometimes the greatest gift we can give our kids isn’t about them at all, but rather about the authentic pieces of ourselves that we choose to share. Maybe it’s about us showing up as who we are. As fully real, fully whole human beings. After all, that’s how they will learn to show up as fully real, fully whole human beings.

And I can’t wait to see them show up.

Re-Puzzling

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-8-23-53-pmAdding another human to a family is like blowing up a five thousand piece puzzle that had already been put together and reassembling it all over again (but with new, extra pieces).

We start with the basics. Find our four corners. For us, that means holding on to each other. The house may be a disaster, we may not have accomplished a single thing, but everyone in our little circle is being fiercely loved. And sometimes that’s enough.

Then we sort out our edge pieces. Sleeping. Doing laundry. Dishes. Showering. Cooking a meal. (Okay, maybe cooking is a stretch. 😉 KIDDING.)

Getting kids to school on time. Reading every night before bed. Making doctor appointments.

The pieces come back together slowly. We are unlearning and relearning how to do everything. I’m trying to wrap my head around how to get a kid ready and to school in the morning while still feeding a toddler, all with a newborn attached to me. (To be honest, I’m still figuring out how to feed a toddler with a newborn attached to me.) And we are still trying to figure out a bedtime routine where everyone gets the end-of-the-day attention they need. The picture is the same but the pieces are different. Many days, it’s a win simply because everyone brushed their teeth.

Only after you find your corners and reconstruct your edges can you start to fill in the big picture details. Playdates. Trips to the park. Reading a book for fun. Coffee with a friend.

Writing on a blog.

Confession time: We don’t have all our edges in place. The house is bordering on being a disaster and I haven’t actually cooked a meal yet. The oldest two are both on antibiotics because why wouldn’t they get sick the MINUTE we bring a newborn home. Sick kids mean more attention, more medicine schedules to remember, more disinfecting and quarantine-ing, less sleep. It’s like working on the puzzle in the dark for a little while.

So what am I doing hanging out in blog land when I don’t have my edges together?

Who knows. I guess I got a little impatient.

Don’t get me wrong. I know there’s something beautiful about starting from the beginning and re-puzzling our world. I know that there is magic in these moments that feel like chaos, where we are stripped down to the bare basics. I’m not trying to skip this part, even when it feels hard.

But sometimes I just need a reminder that I’m not just building a frame, I’m building a masterpiece. And I need that little rush that comes from seeing a little piece of the bigger picture fall into place.

Translation: I miss writing. In this stage, it won’t often make the cut when it comes to the list of things I can accomplish in the day. That won’t always be true. But for now, it is. And that’s okay.

Because some day all of the pieces will fall back into place. And writing will be one of those pieces in a rich and beautiful picture.

And then one day we will tear the puzzle apart again.

Family Game Night

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It was a long week for this crew. The final weeks of pregnancy are no joke. The kids both battled some sleep disruption that had us all up earlier than usual more than once. By Friday evening, the six year old was showing obvious signs of wear and tear: dragging her feet to go to school all week, crying at the drop of a hat, etc.

So when the girl wanted to do a movie night, a pretty common occurrence around here on weekends, I said no.

Don’t get me wrong. A movie night would have been wonderfully easy. But it hasn’t escaped my attention that screen time doesn’t do much to help the frazzled feelings of a first grader.

So I turned down the idea of movie night. And when the tears started well up, in a stroke of parenting genius (or insanity), I suggested a family game night.

That did the trick.

We put on pajamas and put the toddler to bed. The girl headed downstairs to prepare for game night while I wrapped up a few things. By the time I got down to the family room, she had an elaborate setup including pillows, a balloon, a blanket, gemstone cards, and some spools of ribbon.

“I invented a new game!” she announced.

I’m going to be very honest with you all here. My first reaction was not excitement. You see, the girl has always been very creative. However, invented games often tend to be complex with very fluid rules that can be difficult to keep up with. In the final hour before bedtime on Friday, I wasn’t sure I had the energy.

But I sucked it up and pretended to be excited.

And you know what? It turned out to be great.

The game she made up was actually pretty simple and organized. She got to cut pieces of ribbon, which for some reason she always loves doing. She got to have us follow her creative lead and honor her ideas.

AND we practiced counting and adding. We practiced reading gemstone names and talked about the different kinds of rocks. We refreshed our “safe scissor etiquette” lesson. We practiced taking turns and being flexible.

All those learning opportunities from one game invented by a six year old. I love these parenting moments when I find the energy to follow her creativity and it leads somewhere better than I ever could have.

I’m glad I sucked it up and said yes.

 

 

 

May 16, 2015

 
We went to my cousin’s wedding in Omaha today. This was the only picture I took. A goofy little moment while waiting for the newly married couple to leave the church amidst a celebration of streamers and bells. 

I don’t really mind that I didn’t take many pictures. When the whole family gathers and grows, it’s something you want to show up for. So I did my best to show up.  

April 26, 2015

 
Harper’s baptism was today. The dress was my grandma Marcey’s wedding dress that my aunt turned into a baptism gown. Which I love. 

Despite almost getting dropped, Harper slept like an angel the entire time. 

And I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “grace” lately. 

And I’m really grateful for my family. 

Those are my random thoughts from the day. 

April 19, 2015

 

This morning I slept in. My husband made me breakfast. We finally got our pictures hung in our room. 

And then we drove an hour an a half to go be with my family. We stayed for four hours and then drove the hour and a half home. Because that’s what families do. 

Daily Photo – April 7, 2015

  

My grandpa got sick this week. Really sick, really fast. They took him in for surgery this afternoon, so I left in the middle of the afternoon and drove to Lincoln to be there. 

This life can be so hard. And so hard to watch helplessly sometimes. 

This photo was on my way in to Lincoln. But the real photo today is one I didn’t take. It’s of my grandpa, laying in bed with bandages around his face and neck, a tree of at least eight iv bags all hooked to their own tubes which are all hooked to him. And an enormous dialysis machine pumping away next to the bed. 

And my dad, sitting on a stool holding his dad’s hand, talking to him and telling him what’s going on. About how he made it through surgery. About who has come to visit. About the weather. And what time it is, so he doesn’t lose track of time. 

My dad is so good at this. This standing beside people stuff. I’m not sure if he knows how good he is. When my first daughter was born and I was reeling from the intensity of becoming a mom, waiting in the recovery room for them to bring my new baby girl to me after they made sure her lungs were ok, my dad stayed with me the whole time. 

I’m not always as brave as he is. It’s hard to go up to your grandfather on a ventilator and talk to him like everything is ok when it doesn’t look ok. I want to be brave. But sometimes I’m not. 

But I watch my dad and I hope he knows, I would be brave if I had to. If it were him in that bed, I’d never even think twice about brave or not brave. I’d hold his hand and I’d tell him about the weather and the visitors and the latest information. I’d tell him that we were all ok, because I know he would hate to see us worry. I’d do everything I could to help him not be scared. To remind him of all the times when he was brave and I wasn’t.