The Blessing of May Chaos

It’s May again! For us, that means concert season, field trips, soccer, baseball, dance recitals, gymnastics, Mother’s Day, spring weddings, and end-of-the-school-year celebrations.

Every May is crazy for us, and that’s ok. Throughout the year, our family rhythms vary from quiet to frenzied. We know each season is coming and we also know it will pass – whether we accomplish everything or not. I know some families who are constantly busy with no lulls. Props to them, but I don’t think I could survive this pace year-round. I need to know that the chaos is temporary in order to keep a level head while we wade through it.

7yo playing his favorite sport!

After two decades of adulting, there are a few truths I have learned to accept when it comes to busy seasons:

Our house will be messy. We are not neat freaks, but (for two working parents with three busy kids) we keep a pretty clean house. In May, however, that’s just not possible. I used to carry great shame and guilt about the state of my house during busy seasons, but we simply cannot keep up. With time, I have learned to live with the clutter, dirty floors, and dust because I know I will have time to clean once our schedule clears a bit.

We cannot go to everything. So much happens in May – especially on the weekends. Weddings, birthday parties, sporting events, and end-of-year school celebrations fill our calendar. We could never attend all of it, which means some feelings may be hurt. Until we figure out how to clone ourselves so we can be everywhere, my family is just going to have to make thoughtful choices about how we spend our time.

Sometimes, it’s OK to take short cuts. In quiet seasons, we have time to meal plan, cook at home, read lots of books before bed, and mop the floors weekly. In busy seasons, that is a pipe dream. We try our best, but I refuse to beat myself up over grabbing my kid dinner from the baseball concession stand instead of packing fruit and vegetable-filled meals for between games. If my child has to read for homework, it may happen in the car while we run from one event to another. My floors may get a speedy sweeping, but mopping is only going to happen if I spill something. We do what we can.

We will spend more money. Often, these May happenings come with a price tag. Obviously, weddings and birthday parties require gifts. Kids can’t play sports for free, and shortcuts like fast food cost way more than eating at home. We do our best to be mindful about our spending, but it’s hard to be frugal when you have 30 minutes to eat, change uniforms, and get your child to their next event.

June will come soon. I used to have meltdowns sometime around the third week of May. Ok, sometimes I still do. But through the years I’ve gained perspective on how much of a blip in life this season truly is.

12yo in her dance recital.

In the midst of it all, I try to remind myself how truly lucky we are. Having the means and ability to be this busy is a privilege and a blessing. Complaining about it is nonsensical because we’ve done it to ourselves. We make our schedules. We sign up for the activities. Traveling through this season is a challenge, but we are fortunate enough to have the means and ability to make it happen. A younger me never fully appreciated the comfort we live in that affords us the opportunity to fill our schedule, but the older and (slightly) wiser version of me certainly does.

So, bring it on, May! Here we go!

4yo running her first race!

 

 

P.S. – I only had time to write this because my dog doesn’t know what a weekend is and insists on sticking to our regular early-morning schedule – even on a Saturday.

Eckley Miners Village

Although it isn’t very far from home, we had never visited the Eckley Miners Village in Freeland, PA. So, a few weekends ago when the weather was nice, we decided to drive over and check it out. The village and museum are open year-round, but April is still off-season, so there were no guided tours available. Instead, we were able to grab some visitors guides and use the cell phone tour to make our way through the village.

You can check out our video HERE.

 

It was creepy, in a a cool way, because we were the only visitors for most of our time there. To be walking through the old mining village and see the ruins of old buildings in the silence of the afternoon gave the whole experience a very ghost-town kind of feel.

7yo was fascinated to learn about the boys his age who would have worked in the breakers, and he had the following revelation:

“I wouldn’t want to be a boy back then, because working in the breaker was dangerous and I could have died. I would rather have been a girl, because they only did laundry, and you can’t die doing laundry!”

12yo’s response: “Sometimes, when I have to do laundry, I die a little on the inside.”

“One Kiss” Confusion

A few weeks back, I was driving 7yo to his gymnastics class and “One Kiss” by Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa came on the radio. If you’re not familiar with it, the lyrics of the song go like this:

One kiss is all it takes to fall in love with me – the possibilities.

I wasn’t really paying attention to the music, but my thoughts were interrupted by 7yo halfway through the song:

7yo: Wait! This song doesn’t make any sense!

Me: No? In what way?

7yo: Well, you don’t kiss someone until you love them, so why would they be kissing in the first place?

Me (smiling): That’s a very good point, buddy.

7yo: I mean, are these people at a party somewhere and they trip and fall face first into each other and when their lips smash into each other they accidentally fall in love? That doesn’t make any sense. I don’t think that’s how it works.

Me: You’re right, buddy. This song doesn’t make any sense.

 

Ah, if only life were so simple.

 

Reliving Game of Thrones: No Thanks

(For those of you dwelling in caves: spoilers ahead!)

Like millions of people around the world, Jim and I are anxiously awaiting the return of Game of Thrones for it’s final (and shortest) season. We already have plans with friends to get together every week to see if Jon Snow (aka Aegon Targaryen) is actually Azor Ahai.

(I would also like to point out here that Aegon, Targaryen, Azor, and Ahai are all accepted words in Google Docs, and Google knew that I actually meant “Jon” and not “John” as I originally typed. So creepy.)

In preparation, Jim has decided to re-watch all seven existing seasons. This is where I bow out.

Don’t get me wrong, I love GOT. But I also can’t stand it. Even when I know something is coming (because I looked it up online ahead of time to appease my anxiety) I still can barely stand to watch it. We were one season late coming to the party, so I had already heard that Ned Stark, the apparent hero of season 1, gets beheaded during the penultimate episode.  That didn’t get to me. The first actual warning I got that GOT may be too much for my sensibilities was when Cersei Lannister sent soldiers to Littlefinger’s brothel to stab bastard Baratheon babies. That sword sliced through a pretend baby and I was like, “Nope, I’m outa here!”

I was so intrigued by the story, however, that I came back. Every time the show passed my emotional limit, I still came back. The Red Wedding, the killing of direwolves, the burning of Shireen Baratheon, and even the death of Hodor ripped me apart. And yet, I came back.

What I won’t do, however, is watch it all again. I will not submit myself to four seasons of King Joffrey or Ramsey Bolton again. I will not watch half of my favorite characters die again. As satisfying as it would be to watch Daenerys (also in the autocorrect, btw) walk through fire not once, but twice, I think I’ll just look those scenes up on YouTube.

More power to Jim if he can spend two days, 15 hours, and 30 minutes watching the whole thing again. I’ll be there for the season premiere in April, watching through my fingers with a nice glass of wine. Until then, no thank you.

I Made A Cake!

I am usually pretty lazy when it comes to cake-baking. Often, I give 12yo the task because she enjoys it and then I don’t have to do it. Lately, however, I’ve been watching the Great British Bake-Off. So, when my mother asked me to make the cake for my grandmother’s 85th birthday party, I was inspired to try something new.

I have almost no knowledge of how to decorate cakes, and I am definitely missing some essential tools (off-set scraper, turn table, etc.). I DO have YouTube, so I watched a few videos and gave it a try. It didn’t quite turn out how I would have liked it in my head, but it was not bad for a first decorated cake. It looked pretty AND tasted quite good, so everyone was happy.


We haven’t travelled for a while, so I’ve been missing a creative outlet since I don’t have any videos to edit. This was the perfect task to give my creativity a boost, and it has inspired me to try it again.

Happy Birthday, Gram!

 

It’s only Wednesday!?

Some weeks are hard. This week has been hard for me. I’ve cried a couple times already and it’s only Wednesday. I’ll be fine, my family will be fine, but some weeks just sit on your shoulders and heart. This is one of those weeks.

To pick myself up, I googled “cute puppies.”  Try it, it helps.

Our New Truck!

Jim and I are so excited to share our new truck with you! We brought our new 2018 F250 home with us yesterday!

 

We are especially excited because, although we have needed a new truck for quite some time, we wanted to pay off our car first. By the time we managed to do that last month, Jim had already picked out the truck he wanted. Now, we can’t wait to use it to pull the camper!

No, YOU Pick It UP!!!

Yesterday, I discovered a parenting hack that worked so well I thought I would share it. You may have already done this yourself, but I had never thought of it, so I’m sure there is someone else out there who could find this to be useful.

We have a big, finished room in our basement where our two younger kids keep many of their toys. This room is often anxiety-inducing, as my littles have the typical childhood habit of leaving all their toys on the floor. Fortunately, the mess is hidden in the basement most of the time. The difficulty comes when I decide it is finally time for them to clean it up.

If I send them downstairs with the command to put away their toys, one or more of the following ALWAYS happens:

  • After some time passes, they come upstairs and tell me everything is put away. What has actually happened is they have put away a handful of things and the rest of the toys have miraculously become invisible to only the two of them. After giving them a few more chances, one of us eventually comes downstairs and has to tell them specifically what items do not belong on the floor.
  • They go downstairs to clean, forget immediately they are supposed to be cleaning, and begin to play with their toys instead. The room is now messier than before.
  • After 3 minutes, one of them comes upstairs to claim that the other one “isn’t cleaning ANYTHING!” after which, the other one yells, “I am TOO cleaning!” Truthfully, neither one of them is cleaning.
  • Shouts of “That’s not mine!” and “I didn’t get that out!” echo from the basement. No one picks up anything because nothing belongs to anyone.

 

Yesterday was a snow day with lots of sleet, so we were stuck inside. Again, I told them to go pick up their toys, and more than one of the above scenarios began to play out. I was preoccupied with an organizing task of my own and I didn’t want to stop to go supervise their cleaning.

Suddenly, inspiration hit and I had an idea. I gave these instructions:

“James, you pick ONE thing that Harper has to put away. Then, Harper, you get to pick one thing James has to put away. It can be ANY toy that isn’t where it belongs and you can’t argue. Just put it away.”

And it worked. In less time than normal, all the toys were off the floor and no one was fighting.

 

This was successful for a few reasons:

  1. They got to boss each other around and take turn being in charge, which they LOVE.
  2. It narrowed the task down to just one item at-a-time.
  3. They took turns, so there was no argument about who was doing more.
  4. It took away the idea of “yours” and “mine” so they didn’t waste time arguing about whose fault it was that the item was on the floor in the first place.

Before, I would have stood in the room and done the exact same thing: “Harper, put away that princess doll. James, put away this nerf gun.” This simple adaptation kept their cleaning task the same, but allowed me to step out of the equation. It also broke down the steps of having to 1) identify the misplaced object and 2) put it wear it belongs. Instead, they only had to do half of the process at once, so they never got overwhelmed.

It may not work for everyone, but I will definitely be using this method in the future. I may even look for ways to use it to accomplish other difficult parenting tasks.

Do you have a useful tip for cleaning with your kids? If so, share it in the comments!

The Polar Vortex

My facebook feed is rife with screenshots of everyone’s weather apps showing it is -5 degrees here in PA. With the wind chill, it will get down to -30 in some areas. Chicago transit is setting their train tracks on fire to keep them from breaking. Schools are closed all over the country. People who don’t understand science are posting, “what about global warming?”

 

Our family is doing just fine on this cold day off, snuggled under blankets, watching YouTube. Because spending a day at home without accomplishing something causes me intense anxiety, I am sure I will organize something today. Otherwise, I will read, spend time with the kids, spend time avoiding the kids, and maybe change from my current set of pajamas to another set of pajamas.

That being said, it is not lost on me that there are people out there suffering through this cold: people who are housing-insecure with little to no shelter, children who are food-insecure and will not eat because they are not in school, and people who will lose pay because their workplaces are closed. If you know anyone in those situations, reach out to them. If you are in one of those situations, reach out to us. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, for food, for shelter. If you lose your power and cannot stay warm, come share our warmth. There is room for you here.

 

My 19 for 2019

I’m a latecomer to the world of Gretchen Rubin. I discovered her last summer when I was looking for podcasts to listen to that would lift my spirit and help me develop a positive mindset. I simply typed “happiness” into my podcast app’s search bar and the top podcast was entitled: “Happier, with Gretchen Rubin.” I had no idea who she was or that she had a best-selling self-help book, The Happiness Project (and several others), I just liked the title and I appreciated the simplicity of her advice.

Image result for 19 for 2019 happier gretchen rubin

One of her projects last year was “18 for 2018,” a personalized list of tasks one would like to tackle throughout the year. Because I started listening mid-year, I was too late to take on that one, but decided to give it a try this year and do “19 for 2019.” The best thing about the list is that it is low-pressure. The tasks aren’t resolutions and they don’t have to be life-changing. They can be as mundane as finding a new shampoo or they can be as monumental as quitting smoking. At the end of the year, there are no expectations that you will have completed all 19. Instead, you can enjoy the satisfaction found in the ones you did accomplish.

For accountability, I’ve decided to post my 19 for 2019 here on my blog. As the year goes one I’ll come back to revisit the ones I complete.

My 19 for 2019 (in no particular order):

  • Watch ALL the Avengers movies in chronological order before seeing Avengers:Endgame.
  • Run in 6 local 5ks
  • Spend one entire day playing Zelda on the wii
  • Finish reading every book club book (1 each month)
  • Organize our important paperwork
  • Fix our printer
  • Organize our address book before Christmas card time
  • Get our passports renewed
  • Learn to play my dulcimer
  • Lose 15 pounds
  • Keep a calendar of time spent with friends so I can make sure I’m not neglecting any friendships.
  • Visit Valley Forge with the kids.
  • Visit every covered bridge in Columbia County, PA.
  • Update our wall photography.
  • Write at least one blog post per week.
  • Get my hair colored.
  • Get a professional family photo taken.
  • Do three service projects with the kids.
  • Get grass to grow in the muddy spots our yard.

If I accomplish even half of these, I will consider it a pretty successful year.

Do you have a 19 for 2019 list?