Saturday, May 28, 2011

A weekend wouldn't be perfect without...

Since I'm enjoying my alone time and couple time this weekend, I would feel bad if I didn't include my other loves.  Here are some recent snapshots of the kids' lives and other work and loves within our home:
Our kids are notoriously bad sleepers, but have been so busy lately that there have been a few surprise naps (yay!)
Brady enjoys reading and writing so much that he insists on signing himself out of preschool everyday.  He has done so well this year, and although we are sad he will be leaving such a wonderful preschool, he is ready for kindergarten in the fall.  Notice his mussed hair...he now has a habit of playing with his hair when he is concentrating or agitated!
 Superstar Maryn accompanied me to work this week to help me lead morning watch camp devotions for our adults with intellectual disabilities.  They adored her...and she was a little overwhelmed by all the love!  Although she is opening up more with others and is certainly animated, dramatic, and loquacious with us, she is still shy around strangers.  The playground at the camp perked her up, though!
My dear John is not only a fantastic husband and father, but a talented businessman as well.  Over the past few years, he has learned a lot about dealing coins and now buys and sells them as a second job.  After his work counseling during the day, he comes home and makes profits through his eBay store, which pay for the kids' school tuitions and helps to supplement our income.  He has also saved for a trip to Vegas next month.  I'm so proud of him.
Maryn is growing in independence and enjoys riding her tricycle by herself.  She follows Brady wherever he goes and makes up new games, songs, and storylines for her many tiny toy figurines.

A perfect weekend so far...

Time with my sweet husband, working side by side

Planting a late (but hopeful) garden of strawberries and watermelon
Kicking back with some good books and a magazine

Checking out a new place downtown

Time to make and enjoy a quick meal of leftovers stir fry

Watching the first season of "30 Rock" on DVD (a show I've neglected, but had to check out after reading Tina Fey's book Bossypants)

Time to chill with a Frappuccino while doing a little writing
All of this makes Jenny a happy girl!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

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Continuing to explore photography...

The Pursuit of Happiness

As I sit here writing, I'm also watching a video on happiness (the PBS series "This Emotional Life").  I've read several books on the topic as well, and it seems that there is a movement in the fields of economics, psychology, and biology to quantify, hypothesize, investigate, and explain what makes us happy and how.  Coming from a place in my life where I felt a lot of dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and well, depression, these studies have been interesting to me.

But the most fascinating revelation was this morning.  After the usual harried chaos of the morning routine (i.e. sending off the kids), I decided to take a break.  I took a long shower, put dinner in the crockpot, and set off for a walk on the trail by our house.  I walked a little, prayed a little, hiked a bit, and reflected by the creek.  I came back to a house filled with good cooking smells, and sat down to catch up on email, facebook, and a little writing.  It is thundering now, so it appears I made it back just in time.  In a few minutes I'll need to pack up lunches and go pick up the kids from preschool, but for now there's peace...and contentment...and happiness.

It's been such a long jourrney to get here.  The things that I thought would bring happiness (job success, marriage, kids, a house, financial security) have been steps along the route, but my true arrival has been the realization that I have to take the time to enjoy it.  The motions of life are busy and often frustrating.  There's an endless to-do list and I often feel responsible for solving the kids' bouts of boredom, unhappiness, and general unease.  I feel a push to be doing constantly, which should lead to the satisfaction of getting things done, but usually just reminds me of how much more there is to do.

There is a joy in being still.  There is contentment in counting the many blessings I have.  There is hope in praying for those I love.  There is peace, and in that peace I find happiness here.  In the moment.  In rest.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The bipolar world of raising children

I just got back from a once in a lifetime vacation.  For our family, it was the first time we've taken more than a weekend trip anywhere, and it's the longest vacation for John and me since our 3-night honeymoon almost 9 years ago.  We took a magical 4-night Disney cruise to the Bahamas.  It was magical not only for the beautiful locales we visited and the legendary Disney service and entertainment, but more importantly for the ways it enchanted our children.  While we have wonderfully sweet and intelligent children, they are also on the high maintenance side.  I can say that honestly as I guess we have nurtured them to be this way.  They are not good travelers (an hour and a half trip to the grandparents' house can have us all looney) and they are pretty needy and demanding under normal circumstances.  And yet, our trip was a dream.  From the moment we entered the airport, our sensitive and clingy baby girl seemed to grow two inches and two years.  She did not cry about the early hour (as she normally would) and she did not whine to be carried.  She shouldered her own backpack and marched proudly and independently through the airport.  While I had envisioned every manner of meltdown and packed multiple diversions in their bags, they were so transfixed by the flight that we actually received compliments by those sitting around us at how well-behaved the children were and what a beautiful family we make.  For the first time in years I felt my shoulders unclench and the tension melt away.

The vacation seemed to have the same impact on Maryn, who has a nervous habit of picking her lip.  Not once did I catch her doing it on the trip.  Instead, she was silly and happy and fun.  She spoke to the people around us and was actually talked animatedly and without fear about seeing the Disney characters (although we learned that she only liked them from a distance).  She was content to be dropped off for the children's programs and was playing happily everytime we picked her up.

It kind of marked a turning point in some ways.  I had a chance to reconnect with John while also having wonderful family time.  The kids and I could enjoy one another's company without many of battle of wills that seem to be so prevalent at home.  While there were meltdowns, it didn't feel that we were constantly on the verge of disaster.

And then we came home.  I was hoping the vacation spirit would linger, but instead, the kids seem to be "detoxing".  There have been hearts broken, tears shed, battles, and new rules, and family talks.  It has been two days.  I'm trying to hang onto paradise while living the reality of parenthood that is not the "Hallmark card" that I envisioned it to be (to borrow an image from a friend).  It is a gift, and it is beautiful, and messy, and painful, and funny, and stretching.  I am learning and growing, regressing, and finding grace, again and again. 

Recently, Brady made me a "book" that I keep on my nightstand as a reminder of who I am and the choices I have to make:

"Mommy is so mean.  Mommy is so sweet"

"I love Mommy, Daddy, Rye, Colin,  and Me"  (I should feel blessed...poor Maryn didn't get any love!)

It's a big reminder of how my attitudes affect the ones I love the most, and how my behavior shapes their perspective.  While there is a need for "mean mommy" sometimes, I never want that to overshadow the love and grace I have for my sweet babies.  May they always know that love for them and for God guides my actions, and may I let that Love to guide me in better directions.