Monday, May 2, 2016

Who They Become (aka Mom's Employee Review)

Before I became a mom and back in the early days of motherhood, I often thought about what I wanted to teach my kids. Or what kind of people my kids would become.

For the most part, I wanted them to be kind and happy and healthy. Compassionate. I wanted them to discover their authentic selves and then I wanted them to be the kinds of kids that would reach out to help others or be a friend to someone who needs a friend.

As my kids have grown and their personalities emerge and develop and bloom, I find that my focus shifts with their changes.

For Teagan, at age 11, I want her to feel like she doesn't have to be in control of all the things, all the time. She has a wonderful grasp on compassion and caring for those in need. She has a great sense of equality and justice. I ponder over her anxiety and her desire for control. She is delightful to the world. She is respectful and kind and funny and sweet. She is smart and pretty and people just like being around her. But any doubts or worries or sadness or concerns get locked away inside and held onto until she has reached her safe place - home. Which means the bottled up anxiety and worry gets dumped on the people who are the safest - mom and dad. She also really, really, really likes to be in full control of all the things and all the choices and all the people. Sometimes, that kind of leadership is needed. More often, it backfires.

I want my daughter to develop a strong sense of self worth. I want her to see the positive impact she has on others and I want her to grow in that aspect. I want her to find the power that comes with building people up, with being a good leader.

For Zach, age 8, I want him to find his confidence and his voice. Zach has a touch of social anxiety. He shies away from meeting new people, making new friends, being in new situations. He would be perfectly happy if we would just let him live in his room with nothing but a computer for company and regular drop off of a PB&J for sustenance. Once he has connected with someone, once he has become your friend, he is witty and silly and funny and loyal to the ends of the earth. But getting him to the place where he feels comfortable can be a challenge. This also means that trying new experiences or foods or adventures is a struggle. It is helpful when we can prepare him as much as possible for what a new thing might be like (like watching ride videos before we went to Disney - that was a vacation saver!).

I want my son to be confident in the wonderful boy that he is. There is depth and sensitivity in him that warms my heart. I want him to use his strengths (his sense of humor, his intelligence, his kindness) instead of hiding from them. I also want him to find a sense of adventure so he doesn't miss out on new things just because he's afraid or unsure of them.

And for both of my children?

I want them to understand that other people are impacted by their choices. That how you behave impacts those directly involved but also has an impact on those nearby. I want them to understand the power they have in every choice they make.

Of course, I wish a lot of adults would figure that one out, too.

I also want them to know that they have purpose. I want them to know that if they have a desire in their hearts, they have the power to make that desire happen. And that they have a family who supports them in setting and achieving and dreaming those things with them.

And I still want them to be happy and kind and compassionate. I want them to be silly and strong and wise. I want them to know how safe and secure and loved and adored they each are in our immediate family and in our extended family and in our extended circles.

Which means I have a lot of work to do as a mom. And Jeff has a lot of work to do as a dad. We have to be adjustable and plugged in. We have to recognize when we need to change our approach, when we need to be soft, when we need to use a little tough love. The parenting thing is the toughest challenge I've ever chosen. I've never done anything that entails as much risk as raising my 2 children entails. I've never done anything as important.

As an employee, I get performance reviews. I have a boss who lets me know if I'm not doing something well or if there is something I need to learn more about. I have internal and external customers I have to keep happy in order to be doing my job well.

I kind of wish there was something similar for being a mom. That there was some type of performance review so I could understand what my kids need from me and what adjustments I need to make in order to be the mom my kids deserve.

Instead, I have to just figure it out as I go. There is no real checklist or annual goal setting and there certainly isn't an end of year bonus. I have to figure out on my own if I'm succeeding as a mom.

I know I'm a good mom. I also know I can always do better. Because they are worth it. And because there is purpose and plan and dream along their path - and Jeff and I are the ones chosen to guide them.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Happy New Year!

Back in January, lots of people set goals, resolutions, and even focus words for the year.

I didn't do any of it this year.

Well, not on purpose. I wrote a blog post about Being Loved. And that is certainly a focus.

But something has sparked a desire for change. I've been waiting. Seeking.

I want to eat healthier. I want to be consistently active. I want to be focused at work and excel in my job. I want to be a better wife, mom, friend. I want to have a slightly cleaned up or organized house.

All the things that most of us want, right?

Something has sparked a desire for change. I don't know what it is. I'm trying not to question it too much. I'm trying to just go with it.

I've been walking every day. Not very far. Not for a long time. Not 10,000 steps. But an intentional time spent walking. Around the block. Up and down hallways at work.

I'm wearing my Garmin vivofit again.

I'm drinking water more. Trying to drink soda less. It's a challenge.

I'm being mindful of my food. I'm not on a diet. I'm not counting calories or tracking my food. I'm just being aware of what I choose to eat.

I'm being more present with my kids. Focusing on their stories and what they share with me. Focusing on what they need and what they want.

I'm not perfect in any of these areas. Not by a long shot. But. The inspiration is starting to peek through again. That has to be a start, right?

It feels like a New Year. Like I'm turning a new leaf. Or maybe I'm coming out of my chrysalis. Starting to open my arms again. To embrace life and change and possibility again. Making myself vulnerable to failure. Making myself vulnerable to success.

Edited prior to publishing to add: It seems I'm now injured. There was a pop and then I couldn't immediately put weight on my right knee after a double roundhouse kick at tae kwon do last night. Ice, Aleve... and will most likely end up calling the doctor. But it means my walking streak comes to an end since walking is more limping and hobbling at this point. I'm frustrated and mad about it. But I'll get myself healed and get back to it.

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Deeper Faith

One year ago, we made one of the hardest decisions we've ever made and left our church. We'd been part of this church and deeply part of the family of this congregation for over a decade. We were deeply involved and connected and plugged in. There were many weeks where we would be at the church for differen things almost every day in a week.

Leaving was almost impossible. I had to break a lot in order to make the decision. I had to clearly see the reasons why it was time. And a lot of times, it isn't clear. I learned that I needed to trust my blind faith. And I discovered that I needed my faith to be deeper. To be more true. To be more the definition of true Faith.

Faith. Complete trust. Complete confidence.

From last year -

"My faith was not where I thought it was. My faith was not as strong as that of Abraham or the Disciples. My faith needed to go to a deeper step and God needed me to step out in faith - needed me to not just be obedient but to also have "blind faith" and trust simply in Him. To know who I was following, even if I didn't know where I was going. Which reminded me of a conversation with a friend and mentor who told me that sometimes we don't hear God because He needs us to take action and then He can correct us if we've gone the wrong way. That was the first step in understanding this blind faith that God was asking of me. "

Leaving meant having blind faith.

Finding a new church has meant a different kind of stepping out. We've discovered we have "lines" that we didn't know we had. For example, I had never been in a church where the idea that women submit to men was a really true belief. That doesn't mesh with our family culture, with our faith. We visited churches with dynamic and exciting children's programs - that were terribly overwhelming for my son.

We have landed. We have found a place that warms my liberal heart, excites my social justice soul. We have found a place where we can dig deeper, ask big questions, be validated in our questioning. We have found a place where people see Zach and embrace him and desire to connect with him - bringing him slowly out of the shadow of his adaptable and easy to connect wtih sister.

But now my faith has to go deeper. And I find I am struggling to figure out what to do next.

Good thing there are resources. Good thing we found a church where a lot of people are eager to help me figure out what's next.

My stand by commitments in a church are usually music focused and kid focused. And it looks like I'm going that way again. But I am happy with that.

But that is about my church involvement. I've followed with blind faith. Eventually. Now I need to know what work is needed from me. Who I am going to reach. Who does God need me to love?

I've started daily Bible reading based on the Lectionary. Yesterday, a passage from Ezekiel spoke to me - Even if they don't listen, continue to speak.

I've been hodling back on writing. I know that people from my "old church" might still read my blog and the last thing I ever want is to hurt anyone. I think that's a big part of why I've been less open with our experiences and maybe even with my faith. I've just needed it to be something in my heart that I redevelop. It's been a year of tenderness, of realizing that a lot of hurts happened a year ago and in the year leading up to the decision we made a year ago. It takes time to heal. It takes time to mourn. It takes time to accept that the healing and mourning are ongoing.

And accepting that hope truly is eternal.

Our pastor recently said in a sermon, "The question is Who Am I. Not Who was I?" And... "What am I doing?" In other words, the past doesn't define me right now. I've believed this for a long time. But the reminder is good. My past built me to where I am. Brought me to where I am. But who I was then is not who I am now. I feel like this past year has been about figuring out who I am. And now I have to figure out what I'm doing, how I'm serving, how I am ministering.

It's time for whatever is next!

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Dear Morris... Grooming! #MorrisFeeds

With spring coming up and after that, the dreaded bathing suit season (eek!), I know everyone's searching for ways to look their best. And my readers have a 'paw up' on the competition because we're about to get some style and wellness tips from someone who knows a thing or two about looking awesome... I'm talking, of course, about Morris the Cat. 

In case you're not familiar with this illustrious feline, Morris is the original celebricat, starring in over 50 9Lives cat food commercials from the 1970s up through today. He's even been called "the Clark Gable of cats," and that's about as debonair as it gets! In his "Dear Morris" column, he'll be answering some readers' burning questions about good grooming, and he's also giving away a human-sized, 9Lives-branded bathrobe, a $300 Spa Finder gift card, and a whole year's supply of 9Lives cat food! Enter at his website:

Dear Morris,

I love my cat, Baxter, but man, does he shed! Every time I leave the house I'm covered in cat hair. It's getting to the point where we can't even cuddle together without me looking like the sticky side of a lint roller! Unleash your wisdom, Morris... there must be something I can do.


Hairy Harry

Dear Hairy Harry,

If your cat is shedding on you, the thing you should tell him is... "thank you!" Being covered in cat fur means you get to look like a cat, which means you get to look more awesome. However, if this isn't your desired effect (although I can't imagine why it wouldn't be), try wearing clothes the same color as your cat to camouflage the fur. Kind of like a cat camouflages himself in clean laundry--hey, come to think of it, that could be why you're always covered in fur! You can also try brushing Baxter a couple times a week to remove excess fur and redistribute the natural oils on his skin--now, that's what I call a win-win!

Dear Morris,

My teenage daughter spends 45 minutes in front of the mirror every day primping and brushing her hair. I think this is excessive but she tells me it's what makes her happy. Morris, since you always look fabulous, I thought you could give me some advice--what's the best way to get her to spend less time in front of the mirror?


Fur-ustrated Mamma

Dear Fur-ustrated Mamma,

I know it may seem like I just wake up looking this good, but believe it or not, I put in lots of long hours licking my fur. In fact, as a cat, I groom up to 50% of the time I'm awake. Grooming not only makes you look good, it can be used for meditation--kind of like focusing really hard on a red laser dot. So I say, take the time you need to feel your best--whether it's 5 minutes or 45. It's a very purrsonal choice. 

Dear Morris,

Lately I've been looking slightly less than my best, which is unfortunate because I just started a new job and I wanted to make a good first impression. But instead, my eyes are all puffy and I just haven't been my chipper self. I'm not sure how to get out of this style rut. Morris, can you help me get my grooming groove back?


Fashion Faux-Paw

Dear Fashion Faux-Paw,

Let me shed some light (and some fur) on this situation. The main thing I took away from your question is that you're STRESSED! Starting a new job can be stressful and can lead to falling out of typical routines and lack of sleep. I should know because every time I start shooting a new commercial, I only sleep 15 hours a day instead of 16. But don't despair! There's one failsafe way to calm those nerves and give you back your glow. I'm talking about a massage, specifically a kitty massage. We kitties LOVE to give massages--well, we think of it more as kneading but you humans don't seem to know the difference. A kitty massage will help you relax, and in turn, feel and look better. Plus, it's purr-ty much impossible to feel stressed when you have the love of a cat.

There you have it! Thank you, Morris the Cat, for sharing this invaluable grooming advice. Readers, how many of you have a good-looking, well-groomed feline at home? You could win them a whole year's supply of delicious 9Lives cat food, plus a human-sized, 9Lives-branded bathrobe and Spa Finder gift card for you! Just go to Morris' Live Well & Prospurr website [] to enter. Then, 'paw it forward' by tweeting #MorrisFeeds, and Morris will donate a bowl of 9Lives cat food to a kitty in need.

I was provided with 9Lives goodies in exchange for this use of my blog space. I don't have a cat but we like to donate food and treats to our local shelter. 

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Friday, March 25, 2016

It's Reveal Time! #Disney

The original plan had been to reveal the trip on April Fools Day. But then we would be leaving the very next day and my gut just kept telling me that it wasn't a good idea. For lots of reasons.

Then it hit me - Easter is a week before the trip. Why not do the reveal as an Easter thing?

So we put it together. And I guess it's kind of an Easter thing - except we aren't doing baskets. Instead, the grand prize will be a Mickey (for Zach) and Minnie (for Teagan) tote bag with Disney shirts, books, and gift cards. The games leading up to getting the tote bags will reveal clues to help them figure out that we're going to Disney World.

Here is the plan.

They wake up Easter morning. Once we're all out of bed - and there aren't any Easter baskets around - we hand a clue to Teagan and ask her to read it out loud. They take turns receiving the clues and reading them out loud. The final one gets them dressed and headed outside (hopefully).

Notice - these are all in "Disney" fonts.

My kids are fans of a game show on Nick called "Paradise Run." So the outside portion of the reveal is loosely based on that show. There will be 3 team challenges and then a final puzzle. Each prize earned gives hints of the big prize.

Challenge #1 The Cotton Bowl. Move a pile of cotton balls from one bowl to another using only a straw and your mouth!  Prize - a picture of a hotel.

Challenge #2 Chalk Art. 1 person has the picture, the other has the chalk and can't see the picture. The picture holder has to describe the image to the artist and the artist has to create it on the driveway. Prize - a picture of luggage.

Challenge #3  The Power of 10. Each player does 10 tricks on the trampoline, shoots 10 baskets, and then runs 1/10 of a mile (to the corner and back). Prize - a picture of an airplane.

Final Challenge - the kids are given a stack of words. They have to put the words in order and then guess what the clue means. The clue is: "Not in our house... but it all started with a mouse!"

Once they guess "We're going to Disney World," we hand them their grand prize tote bas and tell them that we leave the next weekend! WAHOO! I'm hoping we can capture video of the fun - and I also hope we wear them out a little bit first thing in the morning.

I'm looking forward to sharing all the plans with them, getting their input on things, showing videos of rides, and no longer having to hold my tongue every time something Disney pops up! I've kept this secret for 6 months and the excitement is overwhelming!!

Disney - here we come!

Edited to add the video of our reveal!!

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Friday, March 18, 2016

2 Weeks Until #Disney (and my kids still don't know)

My heart is all a-flutter. I am in double and triple check mode. I have lists going and second lists. I have a list of what to pack. A list of what to order from Amazon Pantry. A list of what still needs to be done.

But we are basically ready. Except for that part where the kids still don't know!

Here's the plan - we won't tell them anything until the day before we leave. Which happens to be April Fools Day. Which is kinda perfect. It's going to take our best improv abilities. We know the plan to get the "joke"started and then it will all depend on their reactions.

The kids know we've been talking about a Disney trip in the year 2016. They also know it takes a lot of planning. April Fools Day - we are going to call a family meeting. At that meeting, we will tell them that the deposit has been made for our Disney vacation! When they ask when we are going, we say "Tomorrow!" But we're going to really cheese it up.

And in the next 2 weeks, there is going to be a lot of hint dropping about pranks and jokes and how you can't pull a prank over on Daddy or sharing the best pranks we've done. We want them fully prepped for prank mode on April 1.

So when we give the big cheesy "Tomorrow!!" - they will either get excited and believe us or they will think we're joking. Or some other reaction. But the plan from that point is to neither confirm nor deny (immediately) but to proceed with packing as if we are going. And to also keep any normal routines we have - because that also throws them off.

Other final details include packing, outfit planning (which is harder to do when I can't pre-pack anything), figuring out our grocery plan (we order from a service to have snacks and breakfast items and bottled water delivered), and a few other odds and ends.

I've got coordinating shirts planned for our travel days. I've got shirts planned for Hollywood Studios (all Star Wars, of course) and for 1 of our 2 days at Magic Kingdom. We've purchased Disney gift cards for souvenir spending. We've planned out cash for housekeeping and table service meal tips.

I may start trying to prepack a bit once the shirts I order arrive. I figure I can start plotting things out at night after the kids are in bed.

And because the travel details are so nicely under control, that means my focus for the next 2 weeks is really strongly focused on work. There is a lot I want to make sure is lined up before I'm gone for a solid week.

Watch out Disney... we're coming... soon!!

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

On Turning 11...

Today is my daughter's 11th birthday.

Here is what I know about her from having lived with her for 11 years.

She is funny and energetic. She is a leader. People are naturally drawn to my child. She gives off energy and light. She has an enormous heart. She is smart and clever and compassionate.

This birthday has felt different. She is excited for her birthday but there has been a serious undertone in our celebrations so far. At dinner last night, she was a bit more reserved than usual.

This morning, she came and sat on my bed - after we woke her to our melodious singing and the opening of her gifts - and told me, "Mom, I just don't think I'm ready to grow up."

Did I mention she's just turning 11? Not hitting the teen years yet.

But she sees girls in her 5th grade class that are taller and curvier than she is. She hears girls in her class talk about boys and cruches and kissing. She knows girls who are ga-ga over boy bands or actors.  Some girls have started wearing make up. Some need bras and some have even started their periods already.

My girl is a late bloomer. And we like it that way. She has no interest in boys or make up. She doesn't have crushes on anyone famous. Or even on anyone, period.

She likes to hang out with her friends - boys and girls. She likes to run and jump and play tag and hide & seek. She likes to make up a restaurant and hire her friends as servers and cooks. She loves tae kwon do. She looks up to teenagers in her life and also to adults - but not so much to her peers.

So I told her...

There is no rush to grow up. She's perfectly fine exactly where she is.

Then I told her...

I know many moms who lament the days gone by - when their kids were sweet little babies who cooed and needed to be held. Or they were silly toddlers, figuring out the basics of walking and talking. Or even those early days of school and the first tiny little signs of independence. But me? We're in my favorite year right now. 10 turning 11 has been my favorite time with you, my daughter. I see you growing into this unique person with interesting ideas and plans to make those ideas happen. I love talking to you about politics or how your day went or what's going on with your friends or the things that are troubling your heart. I love your sense of adventure - you are generally willing to try new things, new foods, and discover new interests. I love hanging out with you and going on experiences and adventures together. You've developed your very own sense of humor and you make me laugh every day.

Happy 11th birthday, baby girl.

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