What I learned this summer

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Our summer weather arrived this week (hello, heat wave!) but the kids are all back to school. Whomp whomp. Summer is officially but not officially over. We had an amazing few months together, playing hard at the beach and pool, traveling to Alaska, the Sequoia area and Irvine, and enjoying the freedom that comes with no homework, no strict routines, and plenty of time to snuggle in our pajamas. 

Here's a little bit of what I learned this summer: 

Three is easier than two.  I realized something surprising over the last ten weeks. In our current season of life, having all three kids home is actually easier than Anna being at school. Not only did we not have to be out the door by 7:45am each day, but Anna bosses Owen around so well that I felt like I did less entertaining than I do when it’s just Owen and Luke at home. I know that someday my kids may fight like animals, so I truly soaked up their giggles and games. 

Raccoon is the appropriate description for a 10-18 month old. Earlier this summer I posted a photo of Luke rummaging through our kitchen drawers—a daily, sometimes hourly, occurrence. A friend commented that he and his wife call this “The Raccoon Stage.” Ever since that comment I’ve actually looked at Luke’s curiosity with a little more humor and grace. For me, the early toddler stage is one of the hardest to manage and enjoy. Even though I knew what to expect this time, and I have a little more patience than I did for Anna and Owen, it’s still exhausting. (And, he’s not even walking yet! Ay yi yi!)

I’m more of the Wild + Free type than I thought. Our time in Alaska made me realize just how much kids push into their creativity and independence when parents aren’t hovering. The friends we stayed with have a huge property with one of those yards that doesn’t have a defined front and back. Every morning the kids let themselves outside in their pajamas and they proceeded to run around barefoot and wild for hours. They fed the chickens, drove their battery operator Jeeps, rode bikes, shot BB guns, swung, wrestled and laughed. They didn’t wear helmets (no cars around, no need!) which meant they didn’t need our help. Without rules, they seemed happier and more independent than I’ve ever seen them. Since then I’ve been giving Anna and Owen more freedom to roam our culdesac and nearby park, checking in every few minutes or hollering out our back gate to see if they’re within reach. They love it, and I do too. 

Summer is the best time to train for a race. While I hadn’t abandoned running completely since having babies, it’s been SEVEN years since I finished the LA Ragnar Relay and then got pregnant soon after. Training for a long distance race requires a lot of time and I haven’t been ready to set aside other responsibilities and passions to pursue a disciplined running routine. Until now. This summer my half marathon itch couldn’t go unscratched any longer, and between more daylight hours and a less stringent morning routine, I knew I had seize the window of opportunity. The race is this Sunday in Ventura. I’m terrified I’ll get injured before then, so please pray for me if you think of it. I would LOVE to put a big DONE checkmark next to this goal, and be able to prove to myself that I can still run races after pregnancy and babies. 

Summer is also the best time to read fiction. With many of our favorite TV shows off the air, and fewer evening commitments, I made a goal to read more fiction books this summer. What’s funny is that I read one in June, didn’t pick up another book until August, and have zoomed my way through four in the last few weeks. I’m convinced that reading begets reading, like so many other things. What fun it is to binge on fun books, to get lost in thrilling stories, and to stay up until 2:00am for the purpose of finishing the last chapter. (The Hate U Give lived up to the hype, in my opinion!) My GoodReads list here. 

I still struggle with people pleasing. I've always been one to consider every feeling and every opinion but I thought that I'd matured in this area. I'm learning that even though I've come a long way in fighting my pleasing tendencies, I still have a long way to go. The apostle Paul says in Galatians that if I am still trying to please men, I am not a servant of Christ. Ouch. Those are hard hitting words. Something I've been thinking about is how the Gospel is offensive. And while I don't want to be offensive in how I talk about Jesus, I have to be okay with some people not understanding or agreeing with my faith. That's a lot to think about! 

Sometimes you just need to wait. Despite our best efforts over the last few years, our middle son hated the water. While we made Anna take swim lessons starting at age three, I knew Owen would be a nightmare in the water for any instructor. So, I took a friend’s advice and gave Owen time to mature. This friend actually taught swim lessons for many years but her own son took a long time to warm up to the pool. I remember her saying, “You know, he’ll learn to swim eventually and I just decided that I didn’t want to fight him about this.” Even though learning to swim is a really high priority value of mine, I decided to set my self imposed rules aside and let Owen be Owen. This summer, once he turned four, we enrolled him in two weeks of private lessons. And, in just a few weeks time, he went from refusing to get into the water to jumping off the side of the pool. I am thrilled for him (and for us!)  

What did you learn this summer? Read more great posts on this subject over at Emily P. Freeman’s blog

The real kind of strong

Writing about exercise is tricky, and you all know my thoughts about skinny talk. When it comes to women and working out, I tread lightly. I know that when other women discuss when they work out, and how they work out, I start to think that I'm not doing enough. 

She goes to yoga three times a week? 

Wait, you joined Crossfit?

A half marathon? And you're only three months postpartum? Gosh, I'm feeling lazy. 

Here's what I know about myself: I'm a go-getter. Disciplined, at times, when it comes to something I want. A list maker. A goal setter. So when other women accomplish athletic feats, it's easy for me to wonder why I'm not. 

Back in the day before children woke me up at 6am, I used to run 4-5 times per week. Not to compete, not to achieve, but because I enjoyed the sport. These days, with a husband who leaves the house early and children who want waffles at sunrise, it's not as easy to make fitness goals happen. I'm finding that regularly exercising requires careful planning with my calendar..and...wait for it...a YMCA membership.

While I'd much prefer a sunrise beach run, the YMCA treadmill and a (mostly) senior yoga class are pretty good runner ups. And you know what's interesting? The more time I spend at the YMCA, the more I love going. Because every time I'm there I'm reminded that strength and beauty are not exclusive to perfectly toned Lululemon bodies. At the YMCA there are people from all walks of life--young and old, strong and disabled.

The 70 year old ladies in my pilates class aren't baring washboard abs, but they radiant confidence.

The teenager with Down Syndrome might not be using the stair climber correctly but she's got incredible grit.

The man swimming with only one arm isn't quite ready for a triathlon but he's much stronger than I am.

I still occasionally attend yoga classes at fancy studios, they're a great workout after all, and I'd  love to check that post-babies half marathon off my list. But I'm so glad for reminders that exercise and fitness aren't about big achievements or perfectly toned arms. Exercise is simply showing up. Moving our bodies. Setting small goals that work for us. 

Thanks, N'tima, for sharing this commercial with me! 

It is friendship

I first noticed Jenny in our dorm hallway, years and years ago, before I had wrinkles and she still had bangs. Those were the days before everyone had cell phones, so she would pull her dorm room phone cord into the hallway to talk to a boy from home. He was the classic "not my boyfriend" who called every day and made her cry. She cried a lot that fall, and I watched from afar. I'd never seen someone so okay with crying in front of others. She wore her heart on her sleeve. Eventually, she taught me how to do that too. 

Chris lived downstairs, right below Jenny, right down the hall from Jonathan. He was easy to like, easy to spend time with, and always up for an adventure. He still is. He's the kind of guy that came into college with stories and adventures that none of us had experienced, like riding across the United States on a motorcycle, and he's the kind of guy who still does things like jumping in freezing cold glacier water to water ski. With a smile on his face. 

When we were all freshman, a guy in our dorm invited a few of us to the mountains for a ski weekend. We were new friends at this point, and our weekend together is, in my mind, a solidifying marker of our relationships. When we reminisce about that ski weekend we tend to tell the same stories; like when someone left their ski boots on the open furnace and almost started a fire in the middle of the night, or how Mike put all the guys in one cabin, and himself and the girls in another. It was the first time I heard the Nelly song Ride Wit Me, and by the end of the weekend we had it memorized, because, hello 2001

Last week we took our big kids to Alaska to visit Chris and Jenny and their three children, and on one of our many late nights spent cooking and eating together, the boys told us a story we hadn't heard before. It was that first night in the mountains, all those years ago, when Chris confessed to Jonathan that he liked Jenny, and Jonathan immediately confessed to Chris that he liked me.

Within the year we were all dating, and then four years later, unbeknownst to them, the boys planned proposals in New York City, just a few weeks apart. The next summer we all got married, just a few weeks apart. And years later, we would welcome our third babies...you guessed it.. just a few weeks apart. 

When people ask me about our Alaskan trip, I've been telling them the highlights: like the boat rides and the float plane and delicious fish dinners and how for the very first time traveling with children, it actually felt like a vacation. But while the fish were indeed biting, and the whales were jumping, and the mountains were taller and more majestic than I remembered them to be, it was more than that.

It was the wonder of seeing their son shoot a tiny bird and catch a huge fish with his dad cheering him on. It was the delight of seeing my friend's beautiful face mirrored in her six year old, and it was watching our kids laugh hysterically in the back of a minivan while we shared our hearts in the front seats. It was the glow of a solstice sun over icy calm waters while our children fell asleep to our laughter on the boat deck. It was sweet little Kate, smiling every time I came out of our room in the morning. It was memorizing the contents of Jenny's kitchen drawers and pantry as we did life together. It was talking about baby names and school choices and theology. It was catching up on each other's families and dreaming about our futures and feeling 100% okay not having makeup on. It was being with people that knew us before we were us, and who helped us become us. It is watching our friends be exactly how we have always known them to be, but better. More responsible. More adventurous. More in love. It is understanding that we, Jonathan and I, are those things too. 

It is being kids together, and raising kids together, and realizing that no matter how much time passes, they are always part of our story. 

Stuff to Love in July 2016

It was a full and busy month! Here's what kept me busy: 

Books: Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist (I got an advanced copy and you can read my review here). As usual, I have about 10 other books going at the same time but I can't seem to finish any of them. Maybe I'll have more book recommendations next month. Or maybe I'll just continue to watch TV. 

Food: Loving $2 Taco Tuesdays at our neighborhood Los Agaves, brownies from the box, Fourth of July flag cake, Shauna's blueberry cobbler, McConnell's ice cream, and whatever easy pre-made meals I can scrounge up for dinner. This ain't the time for cooking and baking elaborate meals, my friends. 

Podcasts: Trump and the Evangelical Inferiority Complex, Sally Clarkson's May 1 episode: Expressing Love to Our Children Through Appreciation and Honor; Modern Love's Episode 14: My First Lesson in Motherhood; The Simple Show Episode 28: Fighting ISIS with Soap; Revisionist History's Carlos Doesn't Remember. 

Television/Movies: Season 1 of the Gilmore Girls; Born This Way (a reality show about adults with Down's Syndrome); The Beginning of Life (documentary about the early childhood years); The Drop Box (about a Korean man saving young babies); Ali Wong's one hour comedy special on Netflix (raunchier than I usually like but very funny); The Bachelorette, and The Newsroom. (Thank you nursing baby for giving me permission to veg out in front of the TV!) 

Wearing: Maternity shorts, maternity shirts, and sandals. All day, every day. Thank you summer for giving me time to fit into my regular jeans! 

Favorite purchases: Beautycounter's tinted moisturizer and new Rainbow sandals

Things we did: Sent the big kids to their grandparents for a weekend so we could rest, play and hang out with Zach and Dana; spent lots of time with Jonathan's brother Matt and his wife Elizabeth who were visiting California; hosted Jenny from Alaska for a special girls' weekend, celebrated birthdays, recorded several amazing interviews for the C+C podcast (get excited for August!); emptied the dishwasher 30+ times, went for walks, spent lots of time at the beach and pool, got very little sleep, nursed around the clock and snuggled a super sweet 2 month old baby boy. 

Stuff I love on the web:

Two questions to help refine your personal style (fact: my closet needs some attention.) 

I could totally relate with Get the Epidural and Why First Time Moms Can Have It The Hardest

Dear White Parents of My Black Child's Friends: I Need Your Help

Moving as a Child Can Change Who You Are As an Adult

I Have Cancer...For Now

Resources to consider when thinking about racial reconciliation

Anticipating/dreading: Anna's first day of kindergarten. Cue the tears.