Gathering

The past couple of months there has been a lack of peace in my home, and I often thought, this mothering gig really isn’t my thing anymore. 4 teenagers, one with profound special needs, a pre teen, a 10 year old, a 9 year old, and a four year old who has no lack of confidence. It was a lot. Between health and job and hormonal issues which led to emotional issues and arguing and backtalk and snarkiness and bad attitudes and the older kids teaching the younger kids things they had no business knowing; the whole thing was a big honkin cup that overfloweth… or perhaps, it was more like a kitchen sink or the bathtub spilling over & it was causing significant damage. And we – the parents – should have immediately steered the ship back on course, but instead we bickered & bitched & complained as we held on for dear life to the raft boat the kids threw us when they made us walk the plank.

This sudden change in the family dynamic was attributed to a few circumstances: one, everyone was getting older and hormonal and becoming more opinionated & two, our move to an urban community where the kids had opportunities for activities, sleepovers, and jobs and the focus slowly shifted from the family unit – a strong unit we had in rural America where we relied heavily on each other because it was all we had – to individualized focus “You take care of you, and I’ll take care of me” & as long as the older crew took ownership of themselves: jobs, food, school, homework, play – we didn’t question much. We reasoned it was simply a stressful time in our life and “this too shall pass” and then…

Then, a few weeks ago, I said to my husband “I really miss family dinners.” You see, with the introduction of jobs and late nights and neighborhood kids to play with and everyone fending for themselves, and in turn each individual grabbing a bite to eat here and there, dinner time as a family had become almost obsolete – the rare exception in our family since our conception in 2011. For 8 years, we have religiously sat down at the dinner table and enjoyed a meal together – religiously until the move this past December. When Ryan and I married, we knew this tradition would provide a foundation to our success as a blended family – the art of gathering around a table for a home cooked meal and offering a blessing for not only the food we were about to eat but also for his faithfulness through our lives. We knew that the table would provide the foundation for community and connectedness in our newly blended home and the absence of the table would only leave a void and disconnect.

We recently reincorporated family dinner night. It looks a little different than it did in rural America, and we eat later – around 6 now because of play time with the neighborhood kids. We’ve made it a requirement for any child who is home that evening, and my oh my, what a difference we’ve seen already. Attitudes have changed and lightened as we laugh around the table partaking in fresh pasta and warm bread. I like my kids again & I think they might like me too as the focus has shifted, and we get to know each other on a heart level – on a real level- rather than just co-existing.

There is so much chatter in the world today about how lonely we all are, how depressed and isolated and longing for community, and this is not only true for ourselves as adults, but it’s desperately true for our kids. Our homes need to be safe places of respect & connections and what better way to foster these desperately needed essentials than around a table? What better way to encourage conversations? And what better way to show love than to invest our time, our most precious commodity, in them? Give it a try. You won’t regret it ❤

Just keep livin.

Mom! Don’t Bring Luke!

A few weeks ago, on a particularly warm summer day, Ryan and I announced to our crew –

Kids! You’ve been so helpful lately and did your chores without complaining so we’re going to have a family fun day at a water park!

Kids responded with glee and excitement and Yays! all around and asked –

Who’s going to watch Luke?

We’re going to bring him, we replied.

He’ll enjoy getting out of the house. 

Mom!!!!! NO!!!! bellowed the sounds of despair. We’ll have to leave early if Luke comes!

This is a constant dilemma we face.

We brought him.
He did make it very difficult and tiring.

We did have to leave early because Ryan and I were absolutely beat after a few hours of fun.

We arrived around 11:00 a.m. because this particular event had free food (major bonus with our crew!). We loaded all eight plates full of grub, and then Ryan retreated to the furthest corner of the park, in the shade, to feed Luke so that the stimulation of all of the people didn’t overwhelm either of them and so he wouldn’t try to grab the food off others plates (Luke not Ryan). I picked a table near the food because I knew my tribe was going to take full advantage of the free factor.

Mya took charge of Annabelle as she skitted about, and the rest were free to roam independently. Ryan and I took 20 minute intervals engaging with Luke. A word here – Luke is no longer content to sit. EVER. He has declared a mutiny on his stroller and wants nothing to do with it, but he needs constant supervision and assistance for his and others safety. We took turns introducing him to the parks plethora of activities – 5 slides, numerous water features, an accessible swing, acres of land to explore, lots and lots of hot dogs because he wouldn’t eat the chips or watermelon or popsicles.

About 3 hours later Ryan and I looked at each other and we knew – we were done. Physically, mentally and emotionally, and we also knew our kids wouldn’t be happy about it.

Let’s give them the 30 minute warning

My wise husband suggested.

We did.

The moans of disappointed began –

Luke always makes us leave early! Why can’t we find a babysitter for him? Why can’t you and dad drive separately? (Which maybe we should have but the park was about 45 minutes from our house)

WHY DO WE HAVE TO BRING LUKE? They wailed

And we responded, frustrated as well and exhausted, questioning the excuse we offered-

Because he’s part of our family, and we need to include him occasionally. 

We currently do not have a solution for this problem.

It is what it is.

We do feel the need to include Luke – even at the expense of his siblings happiness, but we understand their frustration as well.

This post is simply to bring awareness; the little things that special needs families struggle with such as decisions that sometimes cause pain for other family members. I do believe that our children will be better human beings in the long run for having Luke in their life as they have patience, flexibility, and independence that other kids may lack. They have also learned compassion and acceptance towards those who might not be just like them – those who might cause a bit of a disruption to their happiness – those like Luke.

 

Just keep livin.

Snapshots From a Social Media Free Weekend

I decided a few weeks ago to give up social media on the weekends. This decision came together for a few reasons such as –
  1. I’m not very good at rest and even worse at the concept if I have the opportunity to constantly work (via social media).
  2. I realized the onslaught of never ending information was making me anxious and depressed. Yes, I care about people, yes, I want to know how they’re doing, but after awhile it just becomes too much, and I have to step away.
  3. Social media was making me less present and available for those I love – my husband and children.
  4. I’ve found I’m much more productive in so many other areas of life by setting boundaries around social media on Saturday and Sunday.
  5. Finally, I’ve also discovered the flip side to be true – I’m much more productive and engaged online Monday through Friday because I’ve had a mental break over the  weekend.
This past weekend was fantastic. We began Saturday morning with giant banana split yogurt parfaits, then we all helped dad plant the garden, followed by chores which resulted in Wendy’s frosties and a trip to the store where the kids picked out a new book for being so helpful. Saturday night we had homemade pizza and strawberry/beet sorbet. We intended to go to church on Sunday morning, but Luke slept in until 9! So instead we took the family to the park, Ryan and I went for a hike, and then I parked my rear end in bed and poured over my new cookbooks from the previous day’s shopping excursion. It was good for my heart & perhaps my experience will encourage you to try a social media free weekend.
See you Monday!

Just keep livin!

PIZZA PARTY!

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The feeling of hopelessness within the world seems to be at an all-time high lately. Between natural disasters, people dying, senseless shootings, and opinion after opinion after opinion on anything and everything because that’s what we do – we hop on our social media platforms and barrage the world with our thoughts – never necessarily having to take ownership for anything because we’re just a click away from deleting it all or logging off.

Anyway…  I needed to do some soul searching due to the information bombardment and what I felt like it was doing to my soul as it was not only sucking me dry mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, it was depriving my family of me – present, engaged, fully in tune me – which isn’t good.  It’s not good for me, and it’s not good for you either.

I took stock as I so often do.  I thought about how the information was feeling overwhelming and causing me to be anxious about life which in reality I really shouldn’t be anxious about because we’re all good. We’re healthy thriving people, and somehow in the midst of this goodness all around me I felt bad because I was overdosing on the negativity of others. We should absolutely be sympathetic towards others and their plights, but there is a fine line. When we continuously process all of the “others” pain and heartache we become stunted in our own relationships as our purpose and ability to be present becomes nonexistent because we’re so engaged in what else is going on in the world. It’s the woman out for coffee with a long lost friend who can’t put her phone down.  It’s the dad at his son’s football game who can’t stop texting someone. It’s the mom checking out Instagram as her daughter banters for attention (guilty). It’s in these moments where we must put the phone down, turn off the Television, or let the battery die on our tablet. Seriously. This is when the “all knowing” has crossed a line. Instead of being able to help the world because of our vast piles of information, we actually hinder the process of joy and kindness as we are no longer able to even display these simple traits within our own small tribes because we’re so consumed with humanity as a whole instead of the individuals within our homes.

I gathered all of these thoughts and made some changes which I will discuss in depth next week, but for this post, you get to be a part of one small change.  We had family pizza night on Sunday. Now, this isn’t necessarily unique in our family as we eat a lot of pizza but what was unique was the process we engaged in as a family to get to pizza night.  Ryan and a few of the kids ventured down to the garden to pick the few remaining tomatoes and peppers from this year’s crop.  Mya helped make the dough. Mabel painted garlic oil on top of crusty bread for bruschetta.  Many hands helped chop up the topping options and make sauce. Annabelle assisted in picking basil from the planter.  It was a community effort as we all pitched in as a family, making our pizzas, being present together on the deck, laughing, eating, and being in the moment which is so incredibly rare nowadays.  

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I’ll have the dough and sauce recipe on the blog in the next day or two and yes, I am slowly rising out of the fog of infancy as my baby is now two and a half, and I plan to digress quite a bit more on this blog if I still have any people interested in my ramblings.  If not, guess we’ll call it a journal 😉 AND – a big congratulations to Melanie King who won the copy of LOVEDbaby!  Message me and I’ll get it in the mail. 

Just keep livin!