Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Day 181.

The kids and I met one of my old roommates downtown for breakfast this morning at Yolk. Yum, that place is good and I recommend it if you live (or visit) in the Chicago area. Anyhow, this post is not about Yolk.

We took the metra up there, and then were going to take the bus home. So, after breakfast, we walked six blocks to the bus stop (mind you, the metra was 1 block from Yolk - but we would have had to wait another 45 minutes for a train). We waited 30 minutes, then watched the #6 go right past us (one street over) and not stop at our bus shelter - you see it is Taste of Chicago time, and I forgot the bus would be on it's alternate route. :(

We had to then walk the six blocks back to the Metra station - quickly - so we didn't miss the train we should have just waited for 45 minutes earlier. I didn't have a stroller. But, we made it. Why?

I am grateful to have a child who is willing to walk.

For the first four years of her life, Dylan has not been much of a walker. Why walk when there is a stroller there for me to sit in? Why walk when you could wear me in the sling? Why walk when you could carry me? But now, post-four-year-old birthday, she suddenly wants to walk more places. Granted, I still need the stroller as back-up for many of our long outings around the neighborhood. I'm just not willing to coax her back 1 mile from the library...not worth it. But most often, unless she's recently expended a large amount of energy, she's willing to start out walking. Thank goodness for her willingness this morning. Not only did we walk probably a total of 2.5 miles on this outing all together, little Noah was walking this too. And THAT consisted mostly of him running, then whining of fatigue, then me carrying him for a few blocks, then me setting him down and starting the cycle all over again. So, thanks, Dylan, for making my life easier and enjoying our city stroll. You rocked.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Day 180.

There will be a day when my 2 year old son falls down and gets hurt, and I can't make it better. Uggghhh. I don't even want to think about that...he's such a smoochable, loveable squishy little guy.

I am grateful for kiss and make it better.

Today while I was sitting on the toilet (sorry, this is my story), Noah was trying to get up on the barstool in the next room and he fell off (barely). I could hear the commotion and then hear him start to cry (with a slight fakeness to it I need to add). I called him in to the bathroom for some comfort and he came in, half whining, half crying.

Me: What happened?
Noah: I try to climb up on the barstool and I falling down. (Crying, half-fake crying)
Me: Oh, ouchy, where does it hurt? Do you want me to kiss it?
Noah: Yes.
Me: Where should I kiss?
Noah: Kiss your cheek.

So, I thought he meant "Kiss MY cheek," as in "I hurt my cheek."
I leaned down to kiss him on the cheek, just as he turned and tried to kiss my cheek. It was like an awkward first date kiss where you aren't sure if you are kissing cheek to cheek or lips (except it was my 2 year old son, so it wasn't awkward). And we ended up kissing each other on the lips. Oops. I figured it out this time, and turned my cheek toward him so he could kiss MY cheek.

Somehow, that made things better.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Day 179.

I have been feeling like a discipline machine lately. Dylan seems to get into these fits of rage (mostly involving heat and humidity and her intolerance of it) and she just loses it. I have yelled more than I would like to admit in the past week - I just really try not to parent in high volume. But lately, I just feel backed into a corner, and have no other choice.

So, when I'm able to not discipline, I take that route. I'm trying to make extra note of times when I can just roll with the punches and not have to micromanage their every move.

I am grateful for laughing instead of scolding.

The kids and I were playing The Picnic Game while Jason was installing their air conditioner before bed. We had a wonderful time playing together, and it was time to put the game away and get ready for bed. But they were being silly and pretending to eat the cardboard food, eat the cardboard plates, and then eat the picnic blanket and game box. It was funny at first, but then got a little crazy, and I just saw them getting all wound up before bed. So, my instinct was to calm them down and get them to listen and follow directions, putting the pieces back in the box, and getting ready for bed. But if I would have done that, I would have missed a great moment. A moment where they both were hysterical together, running around the room being silly, pretending together, and really wanting me to join in the fun.

So, I checked my instincts, and couldn't help but start giggling. They laughed harder because they saw I wasn't going to scold them for not putting the game away, and we all had a fun little time.

I guess it's simple, and obvious, to take these joyous moments with your children and revel in them. But when you're in the day-to-day life of a mom, trying to get everyone fed, dressed, changed, pottied, teeth-brushed, encouraging them to clean up, share, listen, express themselves, play, and have fun...you forget. It is about raising them to be good, respectful human beings that will make this world a better place, but you can also take some time to stop and smell the roses.

Day 178.

Saturday, June 27, 2009.

My kids have never been to a carnival or fair. They rode the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier and carousels at malls, but that's about it as far as rides go. I should have know how much they would love this stuff - both of their parents are thrill-seekers (in the amusement park sense).

I am grateful for carnies.

If there were not carnies, there would be no carnival rides. And what child should not experience "Dizzy Dragons" or the "Fun Slide?" Mind you - when I was a kid (did I seriously just say that?) - these rides were not $3.00 each. I guess this is why you stop at two kids.

So this evening we attended Geneva's Swedish Days with our dear friends the Laws. Our kids had a blast and especially enjoyed the crazy jumping thing where they got to get strapped in and bungee up and down on a trampoline for 2.5 minutes...for the small price of $6.00 each. That was actually a bargain - the looks on their faces were worth three times that. I only regret that I did not have the video camera. Dylan might as well have been floating her way up to heaven - she looked that happy.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Day 177.

Back home again, and although our life is about as different here as it could possibly get from life at the cabin, it's a good life. I currently hear a baby crying as if she's in the next room, as well as a few other random conversations out the window - summer life in the city with your windows open!

I schlepped the kids on a few errands this morning, as I'm having a big reunion picnic for all my Bradley Method® couples tomorrow out at the Point. I wanted to get some brats, some steakburgers (not hamburgers...STEAKburgers), and some veggieburgers for grilling out at the lake. So, we headed up north to stop at an amazing place that was worth the 45 min drive.

I am grateful for Paulina Meat Market.

Seriously, if you are ever on the north side of Chicago for any reason, it's worth a stop at this place. I'm sure towns across America have something of this sort, but for a city as big as Chicago, it's really cool to have a place that has been locally based for 60 years, and still has that hometown flavor and customer service.

The nicest old man helped me select my Tomato Basil Bratwurst (the brat special of the month) and my delicious steakburgers. My mouth was watering, even with the raw meat everywhere (which usually just isn't my thing to see it...so in my face). And he offered my kids a free slice of their homemade bologna. Ummm...bologna. Yuck. I mean, actually YUM, I love bologna, but I also know how disgusting it is for you...and I am pretty careful about what goes into those growing bodies of theirs. Call me a little nutritionally overprotective, but they've never tried bologna. So, I figured, HEY, we're at Paulina Meat Market, it's a special occasion. We drove all the way up here from Hyde Park, why the hell can't they have a slice of bologna?!

So they did, and they loved it. And he gave them each a second slice.

Day 176.

Thursday, June 25, 2009.

We have to leave the cabin today, and we are all a little sad.

I am grateful for my parents' cabin.

What a wonderful place to retreat to. It is the right amount of "on the grid" and "off the grid" for me. We didn't have internet, which for Jason and I, who usually spend our evenings dual-laptoping form the couch, it was a good break. My cell phone didn't work out there either, which was probably a blessing too.

So, we played together, ate together, washed dishes together, hot tubbed together, and slept together. It was fun, and it was simple. I hope someday we might live closer, so that we can visit the cabin more often. Until then, our special visits a couple of times each year are all that much more special.

Day 175.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009.

I am desperate for my kids to learn to swim. I regard it as a potentially life-saving need. Thus, I am currently looking into swimming lessons for them both. We tried lessons with the Park District last Nov/Dec and they were unsuccessful. Not the teaching/learning part as much as just the getting to the lessons in 10 degree weather and enjoying them part. The water was cold, the locker rooms were colder, and then your hair froze when you stepped outside. For me, who already hates indoor pools, it wasn't worth it.

So, I need to find something this summer (fast! The summer suddenly seems to be half over) to give my kids some much-needed instruction. In the meantime, the hot tub at the cabin is sufficing for these few days.

I am grateful for hot tubs.

It's freaking hot here, so we're not cranking up the heat. Rather, we're keeping it a nice "cool" 90 degrees and enjoying the water in the midst of the humidity. The kids are having a blast in there. They can both actually touch the bottom (Noah, BARELY, and he just figured this out and was brave enough to do it today on the third trip in) so that makes for a fairly safe, stress-free soak for us all. Other than the random pool games we have to make up, Dylan and Noah are mostly content with jumping and splashing around, playing with all the rubber duckies Grandma and Grandpa put in there, and occasionally braving the "underwater" world.

The both LOVE the water, but don't know how to swim, and are scared of going under. THAT is why they need swimming lessons.

Day 174.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009.

Because I was posting about my retreat on Sunday, and not about the current holiday, here is a post that I have been wanting to write since that day. It's especially relevant today as I spend time with my father and my husband here at the cabin.

I am grateful for fathers.

First, to Jason, the father of my children. If I could pick the perfect dad for my children, it would be you. You amaze me daily with your patience, your unending creativity, your stamina for play. The love you have for our children radiates from within you, and not only do I see it, but they feel it. You are adored, and not just because you will play ponies (with voices), play baseball endlessly, and read five books at bedtime. You are adored because you make up silly play like "Michael and Jane" and "Hide and Seek Videos." You are adored because you give hugs in abundance (minus when you are "too sweaty daddy!"). You are adored because you are an incredible dad, and I am so grateful and blessed to be on this parenting journey with you alone. Thank you for being patient with me too, as I read too many books and try to tell you what is best. You know how I am...

Next, to my father-in-law, Warren. From the moment I first came home with Jason to Winfield 8.5 years ago, you have opened your arms to me. You were maybe a little skeptical of this girl with an eyebrow ring, but you didn't show it. You have been nothing but accepting and loving, and I have felt like I belonged all along. You have treated me like your own daughter, and I know how lucky and blessed I am to have in-laws who I adore. Now, it's amazing to watch you with our children, being a terrific "Grandpa Warren" to them. They love you so much, and you show them openly that the feeling is utterly mutual.

And finally, to my own dad, Clark. You have been an example to me of what a father is supposed to be like. Jason had high expectations to live up to because of your amazing acceptance, love and support the past 29 years. You have lost your temper and not understood me at times, but you never stopped loving me. I have always trusted you and most of all, have always looked up to you as an incredible role model and the most ethical and kind man walking this earth. You have a rich soul, and it shows in your deep personal and successful work lives. Thank you for giving me high standards to live up to, and for being such a good person, I couldn't think of doing otherwise. Now watching you with my own children is so joy-filled. I imagine you with me as a young child, and I see the fun you have with them. They love you incredibly, and can't wait to see their "Grandpa Clark" again.

And to my grandfathers - one who I never knew, but longed to meet. And the other, I miss you deeply. I have no other words to describe your presence in my life, but rich. Thank you for your shaping of my life in so many ways.

Here's to all the wonderful fathers out there!

Day 173.

Monday, June 22, 2009.

Ahhhh, the cabin. There is nothing quite like spending your days and nights in the middle of the woods. Breathing in nature is something I need, more than I realize until I have it again, and then I'm shocked by how much I missed it.

I am grateful for trees.

The city does not have trees, minus the wonderful Chicago parks, which I adore and am extremely grateful for. But on streets, in neighborhoods, in general, trees are at a minimum. It's funny - whenever I leave the city, that's often the FIRST thing I notice about a suburb or another place I visit - the trees.

So, surrounded by trees today, even though I only went outside once to go for a run (it was 94 degrees and 1000% humidity), I felt peaceful and at home. Thanks mom and dad for building an incredible retreat that truly helps me recharge, on many levels.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Day 172.

We head to my parents' cabin this afternoon for a couple of days.

I am grateful to be retreating.

So, we'll be sans-internet. I won't be able to post what I'm grateful for, but I will write it down on paper, old fashioned style, and then update posts when I get back. I just didn't want anyone to think I died or abandoned the blog.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Day 171.

Jason and I just got back from a lovely date night. I freakin' love date nights. It makes you grateful for a lot of things: your marriage, your children (whom you love being away from for those hours, but can't wait to come kiss when you get home), yummy food at a too-nice restaurant you feel guilty for going to, a fun and thought-provoking play. But mostly,

I am grateful for a wonderful babysitter.

Dylan's clinginess in bible school this week is spilling over into other parts of our lives lately, and she is struggling with separation in many situations, bedtime especially. So, it was no surprise that Katie had a hard time getting the kids to bed. I called it. In fact, I am just surprised Dylan didn't cry when we left tonight (which for the record, they NEVER cry for Katie, the wonderful babysitter).

Bedtime was rough, as the report went, but all in all, I'm still happy. Katie sat with Dylan on the couch, until about 9:15 (her bedtime is usually 7:30), telling stories with her. Then Dylan told her, "Let's go to my room and you can tell me more stories while I rest." So she did.

I remember being that babysitter - the one who tried everything, even if it went against the normal routine - just to keep the kid happy, content and safe. I always knew if I didn't follow the parents' orders exactly, I'd never get in trouble if I erred on the side of love. Thank God our sitter does the same.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Day 170.

Today was a wonderful family day. It was the first official day of summer for our family, as daddy didn't have to wake up and go to work today, and we were home to share it with him. We spent the rainy, yucky morning at Chitown Futbol, who had an amazing PlayDay where they had four huge bouncers for the kids to get all their energy out. They also had the whole indoor soccer field decked out with a plethora of balls, some goals, and even soccer coaches scattered throughout to keep the whole thing safe and fun.
Oh yeah - did I mention they had free 10-minute massages, free wi-fi, free food (like pretty good mexican fare!), free workout facilities for parents, free coffee...yeah, it was cool.

I am grateful my husband is a teacher.

I love that he gets summers "off." The quotes are because he is teaching summer school this year, and so he's still working. But this whole coming week he is off, and that on the horizon, is divine. Please CPS, don't go to year-round school.

Day 169.

Thursday, June 18, 2009.

I have a problem with children's books. Don't get me wrong - I love them...a little too much probably. I get so excited to go to the library and pick out new books - and it's all I can do to let my children choose their own books and not me.

But, part of my problem is that I'm constantly wishing I was a children's book author and illustrator. I think it's been an inner desire my whole life, and was especially cultivated in the Children's Literature course I took in college. It was one of my most favorite classes...ever.

I have many favorite authors, but today,

I am grateful for Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

I am especially grateful for three of her books that have made my and my kids' lives better.

Thanks Aunt Jeanie for introducing us to the last one!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day 168.

It was a bad day for a lot of reasons. No need to go into details for all the world to read. But, today was emotionally very hard. And so as I sit here grasping for something I'm actually grateful for, I remember the wonderful two hours at my friend Leslie's house for playgroup. It was a wonderful break, a respite from the muck of the rest of the day.

I am grateful for playgroup.

Thanks Leslie for the strawberries, blueberries and cherries. Thanks for the messy house (her words, not mine!) where I fit right in. Thanks ladies for the catch-up conversation, and the understanding that we are all in this together.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day 167.

Bible School went well today.

I am grateful for parent/child compromise.

Dylan and I agreed that the saddest parts of VBS for her were the opening and closing times, when all the kids got together to sing, and she just sat there missing me. So, our compromise today was for me to be there with her for those times. Then, she did the middle parts, with her age group, herself.

It worked beautifully, and she was a smiling girl having fun when I came up the stairs to meet her. Until she saw me - then she got all clingy, wouldn't sit with her class, and wouldn't participate in any of the music or movement. It was like my presence paralyzed her fun. Humph.

So, I gave her some space after the morning, and this afternoon we did some playful parenting (The My Little Ponies went to Bible School and missed their mommies). Then we talked again about me coming to these opening/closing times. I agreed that I would come to the opening time, but that tomorrow she'd try the closing time herself. I told her I'd be downstairs waiting for her when she was done, and she eventually bought into it.

We're transitioning. By Friday, she'll be great - just when it's over for another year. :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Day 166.

I think I underestimated my daughter's own attachment to me. I mean, I know she loves me. I know she's securely attached. But, we had a rough transition at Vacation Bible School this morning. I cried. Oh yeah, and she cried too.

Really my tears were in response to hers, and to be honest, just coming a little too soon to D-day = 1st day of preschool...you know - where I give her over to other adults that know nothing about her and where I have to be willing to let them "socialize" and "teach" her. Really? You don't even KNOW my daughter! Ok, I digress...

But it's just Vacation Bible School, right? Yes. But it's also the first time in her life she's been told..."You're going to school! By yourself! It will be so fun!" And then she got there, was overwhelmed, and was desperate for me not to leave. What's a mom to do?

I tried to leave during Opening time - when they were singing about the fun that is Discovery Canyon - and engaging all ages prior to splitting up into age-groups. She wouldn't sit with the other kids, and wanted to stay with me - probably the first clue that I shouldn't have gone so early. But, I thought I would try - cause sometimes she does better if I just go. So I did.

Then I hid in the hallway, peaking in. And I watched my little four-year-old, born out of my own body, start to change from lonely glance, to quivering lower lip, to the saddest little tears dripping down her face...hoping that no one would notice. Oh yeah - and did I mention she was sitting next to the wall by herself? H.E.A.R.T. A.C.H.E.

I came back in, scooped her up into my lap and she let some more tears fall, grateful for my swift return. And then we sang and listened for the remaining 10 minutes of opening time. She wasn't ready to say goodbye, so I accompanied her to "Games" - the first rotation of the morning. She was with about 10 other four-year-olds, and looked completely comfortable during the actual playtime - but as soon as there was any lull, any downtime...her head darted feverishly around the room for my face.

I warned her twice, and then after I got her settled into the Music room, I left. It had been an hour, it was time. So, I told the leader that I'd have my cell phone on me - and to keep an eye on her - "She's struggling," I told them.

I didn't get a call, and picked her up two hours later, to find a smiling Dylan. But a dear friend did tell me she got a little teary near the end - again in the singing time with all age groups. Thanks to this friend for noticing - and telling her it was only a few more minutes until mommy-time. You see, I think she just drowns in these large-scale peer situations. She is the most outgoing, happy, socially-appropriate kid in small-scale situations and with adults. But give her a room full of 3-10 year olds and she freaks.

I am grateful for therapeutic storytelling.

We came home and didn't talk much about Bible School for awhile (minus her telling me on the walk home she was NEVER coming back). After lunch, Noah was asleep and I had some time to just spend with Dylan. We played, we colored, we talked and were silly. We needed it - after a weekend away and then this morning of separation anxiety - we really needed it.

Then came the storytelling. Dylan always asks me to tell stories, but it all started last fall when she sliced open her hand and had to go to the ER with me to get stitches - it was a traumatic event - and storytelling - through most of those 7 hours in the hospital room (and for weeks and now months to come) - saved her.

Now we tell stories about everything, and it's not always therapeutic, but when it is, it means something extra special, and I know not to give a "Mommy's not in the storytelling mood" line. We do it because she likes it, but more important, we do it because she needs it.

So, this afternoon, Dylan and I sat, arms around each other. First we told real stories about me taking my little square of a blankie to preschool, so I wouldn't be so lonely, me rubbing it in my pocket whenever I felt sad. Then we moved on to pretend stories, mostly about my made-up experiences at Vacation Bible School, and how I really missed my mom. Dylan was feeding me most of the story line, and my favorite part was how the girl in the story used "watching TV" to not be sad anymore about missing her mom. Wow, Dylan, I guess I know how you truly veg out.

Right now I can hear both kids jumping on the bed in the next room and singing "Discovery Canyon, it's here and there! Discovery Canyon, it's everywhere," at the top of their lungs. There's hope.

Day 165.

Sunday, June 14, 2009.

I missed my kids. Yes, I was so grateful for the break, and I am utterly grateful to my sis-in-law Sue watching the kids for two days and two nights (and thanks to help from Warren, CJ and Eddie too)!! It was hard work.

But now, I'm so grateful to be with my kids again. Nothing like absence to make the heart grow fonder (if it was even possible!). I know, it's cliche, but gosh darn it's true. I could barely wait to see them as we pulled down Morningside Avenue. I wanted to jump out of the car and run to the house with open arms.

I admit, I even woke Noah up from his nap early (something I would NEVER EVER do in other circumstances) to hold him. I just had to have that little body cuddled next to mine, saying "mommy."

I am grateful for my children, and a renewed desire for motherhood.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Day 164.

Saturday, June 13, 2009.

I love weddings. I don't even have to know the couple well to enjoy myself. I love getting dressed up, going to a meaningful ceremony, holding hands with my husband during the vows. You know, this is good mushy stuff. I can't help but be happy at weddings...and let's not forget all the fun at the reception!

I am grateful for weddings.

Thanks to my dear friend Chad from college, who married Rachel today. It was such a fun day, and brought friends together for a wonderful, enjoyable time. We danced the night away!

And on top of all this, weddings (especially without my kids to run after) give me a time to focus in on my own marriage, to remember the night, almost six years ago, that Jason and I said our vows to each other, danced our first song to Norah Jones, didn't get to eat a piece of our own wedding cake. So I hold Jason a little closer, convince him to come out on the dance floor with me a few times, and revel in the memories. At the same time, I re-commit myself to my wonderful husband, and am glad that after six years of marriage, I still do get butterflies when he puts his arm around me at a wedding.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Day 163.

Since Noah was born over two years ago, Jason and I have not had a night away from both children. It hasn't been exactly intentional, but it's not like volunteers are lining up at the door..."Excuse me, can I please overnight babysit your two young children who still frequently wake up at night?"

I am grateful for a break.

I feel a ton better today than I did yesterday. I'm still weak and tired, but feel like I'm almost myself again. And just in time. I know I'm trying hard not to look forward to things this year as much as I usually do - to just stay present in my daily moments and be grateful for things as they are - even if that means being grateful for the most lame and seemingly unimportant thing. But I admit, I was really looking forward to this weekend. And I know my kids were too. And being such a planner, it's hard for me to suddenly adjust my expectations to something much less fun - what? Stay home and not have two nights sans kids to see one of my best friends from college get married?!?! No thanks.

So, I'm putting on my game face. And I'm getting this break...even if my energy level isn't quite what I expected it to be...I'm just grateful I'm going.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Day 162.

I felt awful today. Maybe it's the swine flu - did you see my post from yesterday? Maybe it's just an overall achy body that makes me want to go to bed and never come out. Whatever it is, I have to kick it soon - we're hoping to have a fun weekend away for a friend's wedding, and are leaving the kids with my sister and brother-in-law and nephew. My children will be so sad if this doesn't happen...and needless to say, so will I.

I am grateful for my children taking it easy on me today.

It's not fun to have a mom who lays on the couch all day, who only gets up to make you lunch or wipe your bottom. I hate having to say, "No, I can't make up a story, but if you come over here by the couch, I'll do a puzzle with you."

But the kids were wonderful and kind, and there was only one moment all day (right before lunch when they were starving and crazy and I couldn't get my bum off the couch fast enough) where there was complete meltdown on all three of our parts - a nasty picture.

Thanks Dylan & Noah for letting me rest (as best as one can with two young kids running around the house going stir-crazy!), for not whining when I said NO fifty times in a row, and for playing so nicely together so I didn't have to mediate very many fights.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be a new day.

Day 161.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009.

I am a lifelong worrier. I worry about my family, our health, my church, safe travel, the world.

I have spent most of my life trying not to worry, which usually results in even more worrying...essentially worrying about worrying. I have come to accept it as a deeply ingrained part of my makeup, and an unfortunate thing I'll have to deal with for the rest of my life. Or is it really that unfortunate?

I am grateful for worry.

I was invited to give a meditation at my church last November, and decided on the topic of worry. It was the most logical topic for me - to use my most overwhelming struggle as a point of learning for the congregation and myself. In the meditation I cited a scripture that has become really important to me in my life.

Philippians 4:6-7
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Later in the sermon, I had this paragraph:

"This week, while re-reading Philippians 4:6-7 many times to prepare for this meditation, I saw something new in verse 6 that I hadn’t noticed before. Again, it reads: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” With thanksgiving. I had always taken that to mean thanking God for what we have already been given…being grateful. But I began to see how actually being thankful for our worries, and our ability to lift them up to God, could provide it’s own therapy. In the midst of a mind-numbing worry, it’s hard to thank God for providing that chance for spiritual connection. But these moments are filled with opportunity. The opportunity to trust God. "

Today was the first time I had read that paragraph since last November. I didn't remember that I had talked about being grateful as an essential part of "worry management." Maybe my worries themselves have birthed this blog, and so for you worries, I am grateful.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Day 160.

Dylan has made up a new pretend-play activity that has taken over almost ALL her play. It started last night, and has continued today into a full-blown all morning pastime. It's called, "Celebration!" She's SO excited about playing Celebration that it is catching...Noah gets on the bandwagon and I admit, I'm even excited about this game, that involves a lot of imagining and a LOT of mess.

I am grateful for "Celebration!"

How many players: Only 1 to set up, but unlimited actual players - if you play by the rules
Ages: 2 (if you play by the rules) and up
Rules: Have fun, listen to Dylan, and don't suggest cleaning it all up
How to play: Make a poster for your Celebration and hang it on the wall in the designated celebration area - with tape. Lay a huge scarf down on the ground (either the rug or today it was the hallway - making it impossible to walk down the hall). Then run around the house collecting things from all parts of every room, bringing together a very eclectic group of toys and objects and setting them all around the perimeter of the scarf, creating a virtual playroom. Then bring lots of play food and make place settings for all the invitees. Use foam bowling pins as drinks. Then run screaming to the guests, saying "It's time for the celebration! It's time for the celebration!" Guests come to the Celebration and enjoy their play food and drink, take turns sharing and playing with all the toys, and make sure to talk excitedly about the Celebration!
Game over.
How to win: Clearly, Dylan is the real winner.

When I asked what we were celebrating, Dylan said, "Valentine's day!"

I mean, DUH.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Day 159.

We had no real plans today, so it was nice to be able to schedule returning library books (for once on time!), cleaning up around the house, and finally unpacking my Colorado suitcases/random bags for today. The one thing I wound up doing more of than I planned...talking to medical professionals on the phone all afternoon. Why is it that managing insurance companies, medical referrals, and billing questions can be a full time job?

I expect customer service people to be either incompetent and/or not people-persons. I have fought my share of battles over the phone with these individuals, and so I'm sorry if anyone out there is a kind, patient and intelligent customer service representative, but I just have not had the pleasure of dealing with you.

I am grateful for kind and competent customer service people.

Today was an exception. I talked to several, and although I was sent around in circles on the phone with Children's Memorial, trying to get a pre-certification for Noah, at least I was talking to real people who really did want to help and understand my situation.

On the phone with Dylan's dental office, the nice receptionist even waived the $8.00 bill because, according to her, "if they go broke over $8.00 they have bigger problems to worry about." How nice.

I don't know, maybe the economy is making everyone more grateful for their jobs, thus paying it forward to the customers they deal with, and I'd like to think my kids even benefited from a nice, calm mommy as I got off those calls - which would not have happened if I'd spent two hours on the phone with my usual customer service crew.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Day 158.

My church had a wonderful service of healing and light this morning. It felt so good to be in the presence of our family...our incredible church family that is sticking together in some pretty difficult times.

I am grateful for healing.

How fantastic to see a body of believers so broken, but yet coming together to share The Lord's Supper with one another, receive annointing together, and sing praise and worship to God. It was as hopeful as I have felt in a long time. God's grace is forever sustaining...I am humbled.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Day 157.

We went to my cousin's daughter's one year old birthday part this afternoon. All the fun you can expect from a one-year-old party - the funny faces as she tasted her cupcake, the joy of the wrapping paper, the mini-meltdowns over ripping toys out of her hands that she just opened (to open something else of course). So cute.

There were some extended family that I hadn't seen for awhile there, and we got to talking about our upcoming family reunion this August, and I just got all warm and fuzzy.

I am grateful for family heritage.

I have such good memories growing up with my cousins (on both my mom and dad's sides). And so now, as adults, it's so fun to be having children together and going through a totally different faze of our lives.

The foundation that holds us together is our family - mainly our grandparents, which we share, and who we all have such fond memories of. I loved seeing pictures of my Grandpa Joe and Grandma Frances sitting on a table at my cousin's house. I just felt like I belonged there, and that both of them were smiling down from heaven on us...having such a nice afternoon together.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Day 156.

After dinner I was trying to convince Jason to give the kids a bath. They desperately needed one after almost a week without AND sunscreen on today. Yikes. But I just really hate giving baths. I don't have the energy or creativity by the evening to be fun at bathtime. I guess I should do more morning baths.

The problem was that he wasn't being convinced, and the kids were listening to our whole conversation. I was ashamed that we were both trying to get out of giving them a bath...in front of them. I didn't feel like a very good example.

I am grateful for having my own live-in marriage therapists.

Dylan cut through our conversation in a very calm, but firm voice:
"Guys, let's just not talk about this anymore."
Noah repeated for added emphasis (and comic relief):
"Guys, you not talk about this anymore."

Ok, we're done. I lose. I'm giving the bath.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Day 155

I was super sad to leave Colorado. Super excited to see the Gingerich family in Kalona. Again super sad to leave them after only seeing them for one morning in beautiful sunny Iowa. But,

I am grateful to be home.

I missed:
- my wonderful, amazing husband who looks even cuter than I remembered. :)
- my porch, and my plants (some of which got trampled by a downpour while Jason was at school one day...)
- my kitchen
- my bed - although lara, the bed is really comfortable in the guest room!
- my laptop (is that sad? i missed my bookmark toolbar)
- my neighborhood. It felt so good to be rolling into hyde park this evening.
- my couch...which I have yet to curl up on because I have been teaching my class all night and now Jason is sprawled out...hmmmm

It's good to be home.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Day 154.

Today could have been a horrible, terrible day of driving, whining, tiredness, muscle aches and crying. But it really wasn't. It went by quickly, and we covered four states and 12 hours of driving between the hours of 7:30am and 10:00pm. It was extremely successful.

I am grateful for this very gift of a day.

I'm back in eastern Iowa spending the night with family and my kids are snoozing soundly in the next room. I'm pumped up on adrenaline, and can't sleep. But we're here safe and sound.

The day flew by - partly due to the wonderful family and friends who called to check up on me...some several times a day. And partly, it went so fast because of Tuesdays with Morrie, which I listened to on CD the whole way. It was the perfect length, and I literally finished listening to the book only about 4 miles from my sister-in-law's doorstep.

I have never read that book before, and I'm not sure why. When it came out, I missed the boat - I was in late high school/early college - and I just wasn't reading many books for leisure. And once it had become wildly popular, I guess it felt a little like My Big Fat Greek Wedding to me. A surprise success if you discover it early, but after you've heard all the hype, it just sort of sizzles. So, I never was that interested, sure it wouldn't live up to my expectations.

Fast forward 12 years, and here I am driving back from Colorado, feeling sad about leaving my sister and family, feeling grief over a deeply painful church conflict, looking back on my wonderful children behaving like angels in the backseat, and missing my husband whom I haven't seen in nine days. It was the perfect time in my life for this book. I needed emotion. I needed optimism. I needed to remember why we should savor every moment of this precious life. Even the sad ones. Even the grief-filled ones. To allow the emotions completely, but then to move on. And live for the relationships that all make these things mean something in the first place.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Day 153.

I am grateful to have had this wonderful time in Colorado.

We leave tomorrow morning and start the long trek home to first, Iowa, then Chicago on Thursday. I am not dreading the trip, but not exactly looking forward to it either. We are all really excited to see Jason, but wow, it'll be hard to leave.

In a way, the hard goodbye already happened. We just put the kids to bed (about 2 hours late) and it was traumatic. Especially for Dylan, who just couldn't stop crying. We ended the evening watching a clip of the dance recital Anya and Dylan put on for us yesterday. And when I turned it off, she new what it meant. It was time to go to bed, and we won't see Anya in the morning when we get up real early and get on the road before breakfast. She knew it was time to say goodbye.

I've never seen Dylan cry for something like she did tonight. She's cried harder before, but never deeper. She just kept yelling, "I want to stay here forever! I want to stay here forever!" It broke my heart, because it just plain sucks that we live so far away, and so I couldn't help but start crying over and over again myself. That, of course, made both kids extra upset, seeing both Lara and I crying over the difficult goodbye. And so both Noah and Dylan were bawling uncontrollably at bedtime.

As a mom, it's my instinct to stop my child's crying. To give them a hug, to fix their boo-boo, to alleviate any pain they are feeling. So far, that's been my role. But tonight, I feel like we turned a corner. It was the first time I couldn't fix it. As I held her in my arms as she drifted off to sleep, her breathing was still penetrated by sobs. It had been an emotional cry, and one that couldn't be cured by a hug or soothing song. All I could do was hold Dylan and let her cry. It was a life lesson for her that everything that makes her sad can't be fixed. Some things just are sad, and we have to find it within ourselves to alleviate that pain in some way. For this, it will be hopefully more webcam, writing Anya lots of letters, drawing her lots of pictures, calling her on the phone, and planning for our next visit together. But, unfortunately for us all, that's just not good enough.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Day 152.

No "creative" title. The title is the thing I wait until the last moment to fill in every day on each blog entry. I hate doing the title. I read several blogs that always have the most interesting, creative titles and I just can't live up to that. So,

I am grateful for changing my own blogging rules.

So no more titles. So much less pressure. And really, that makes me grateful for less stress.