We were all laughing and smiling until our faces hurt. It was a calm, beautiful day out on the lake and I couldn’t really think of anywhere I’d rather have been at that moment than on a boat with friends.
My boy was at my side, watching his youngest sister try to learn to water ski. My middle daughter sat in the front, letting the breeze at the bow blow wisps of brunette hair away from her brow. She absentmindedly poked at her calf and turned to the girl beside her.
“I have plump legs,” she declared.
“You have what?” the teen girl queried, perhaps thinking she’d misheard.
“They’re plump. See?” She poked again.
I’m sorry to admit that my first response was actually laughter, but it was. I mean…
Of all the nine-year-old girls I run into, C. is perhaps one of the LEAST likely to be labelled “plump” in any way. Skinny, scrawny, bony, waif-ish… those are all more likely categories that she’d be tossed in.
And so, honestly, it struck me as funny when she stabbed a finger into a rail-thin calf and declared it “plump.” The absurdity of it caused a giggle to erupt before I could even really think about it.
But now I have thought about it. And it makes me kind of sad.
I mean… I look at those two girls above.
They’re both healthy. Neither one has ever had a weight-related health issues (I mean, once C. got ON the charts, that is). G. probably looks thick and sturdy to you when you see her next to C, but if you saw her among a peer group, you wouldn’t think so.
Do I really think C. views herself as “plump”? Probably not. I don’t actually think she has a strong grasp of the word’s meaning. A vague understanding, yes, but not a clear picture.
So why does it matter?
I think it matters because she’s obviously seen and heard other girls or women poke their bodies in a self-deprecating way while sighing about being “plump.” It wasn’t me in this case, but I only know that because I don’t use that particular word.
But I use others. I am positively vile to myself sometimes. If a friend spoke to me the way I spoke to myself? I’d want to slap her upside her nasty little face.
I’m failing miserably at this whole “model self love” thing.
I’m not sure I really know how to do it.
And then G. scrambles back onto the boat, climbing easily and pulling her weight around a post one-handed, muscles bunching.
She beams up at me. “Don’t I have big shoulders, Mommy?”
Before I can figure out how to even answer that, she tosses her wet braid and grins over one of those tanned shoulders.
“I’m so glad, because these shoulders help me do ANYTHING!”
I guess maybe that’s how you model self-love.
So. I believe we’ve established, in no uncertain terms, that housekeeping is NOT my favorite thing to do. While I happily keep up on laundry and love to cook and bake, keeping a scrubbed, tidy home does not come naturally to me, and I have lived most of my adult life feeling as a complete and utter failure because of this.
Now, don’t get me wrong– I haven’t solved this problem. I still find myself surrounded by clutter or facing dust bunnies all too frequently, and I haven’t quite overcome my shame in not keeping as clean a home as my mother and sister. Nonetheless, I’m convinced I’m feeling, and doing, a little better, and I wanted to share three things that have helped immensely in that department.
1. I’ve realized that I may NEVER measure up to others’ standards and that is okay.
Comparing my home to that of people who do a stellar job keeping theirs spotless and clutter-free is kind of dumb, to be honest. The reality is this– it’s just not THAT big a priority for me. Sure, I like it when things are fairly tidy and it’s freshly cleaned and dusted. But I’m just not all that hung-up on having empty counters and tables all the time. It just doesn’t matter that much to me. At the end of the day, I elect to spend that time playing Quarriors (<– geek alert!), baking cookies, folding laundry, or catching up with friends. The result is that I’m not going to have pristine surfaces each night. It’s all a matter of choices and I’m starting to make peace with mine.
2. I work in fits and spurts.
I am utterly convinced that there is not a “cleaning plan” in the world that is going to work super well for me because I tend to work best in fits and spurts. Deciding that “Monday will be cleaning day” doesn’t work for me. Assigning specific tasks to specific days? It’s great in theory, but I’m lousy at carrying it out. I realized that sometimes I will just start flying around like a whirling dervish, getting things accomplished and making huge headway. There’s not necessarily a pattern to these energy bursts, though they typically strike in early morning. This always made me feel like a failure, too. But… why? Why does it matter if I scrub my toilets every Wednesday or just when the mood strikes, so long as I keep them clean? The answer? It doesn’t. Realizing that, and allowing it to be a valid method, was life-changing.
3. I assign– and occasionally pay– children to do some of my least favorite chores.
Here’s the deal: we have two showers in my house. I am usually the ONLY ONE who uses the master bath shower. And I keep it super duper clean! I squeegee that glass after each and every shower and I love to keep it pretty in there. I never, ever use the other shower and, frankly? I despise cleaning it. It was an ah-ha moment to realize that I really didn’t have to. There’s no reason every single cleaning chore needs to fall to me. I’m not the only one making this place dirty, after all! Giving the kids regular tasks and chores won’t kill them and, in fact, teaches them valuable life skills. If there’s a particularly unsavory job? One that’s maybe been neglected for awhile and might take extra time? I often offer anywhere from a quarter to a dollar to get it done and I never fail to get a taker. Win-win, I say.
Do I have the cleanest house on the block? Nah. Am I always proud of the state of my living room? Nope. But you know what? I’m getting better. And I’m feeling better about it. And maybe that’s half the battle.
Back-to-school is right around the corner!!!
Notebooks– 4 for $1!
Glue Sticks… only 10 cents!
Free backpack with $20 back-to-school purchase!
If we hadn’t already known it, the fliers are quick to remind us– back-to-school is just over the horizon.
End of Summer: How Moms Feel
Back-to-school time brings with it a wide array of emotions. You’ve likely heard a few different examples of this among your social circle. See if any of these sound familiar: . . .
Go check out the rest of my post on the myriad emotions we moms feel at back-to-school time and let me know which camp you’re in!
It’s been awhile since I shared a menu plan with you all!
As in many homes, the routine changes a bit over the summertime. Somehow, it feels like we both spend more time at home and spend more time flitting to gatherings. This just means the planning is different. I wind up making larger portions of supper for planned leftover for lunch. I plan to make pasta salads, desserts, and sides ahead of time for cookouts and parties and then I often schlep leftovers home and repurpose them into some other meal. It’s just the rhythm of the days!
It’s definitely been warm around here. Actually, it’s been about as hot and miserable as it gets in Connecticut and that looks a little something like this:
If you’re thinking to yourself, “Seriously, JL? THAT’S what you complain about?”, the answer is: yes. This is what hot and steamy looks like in Connecticut, though it’s downright balmy compared to many states. Summer is our time, people. In winter? Life often sucks. But summer in New England is glorious! Let’s just say I’m looking forward to Wednesday…
In the meantime! Here’s what we’re eating this week…
B–Cereal, Applesauce, Milk (before 7:30AM Mass)
Brunch– Scrambled Eggs, Bagels w/ PB, Fruit
Mid-afternoon Snack– Cheese & Cinnamon Roll Bread
D–A new “One Pot Wonder” version of Pepper Jack Pasta!
B–Chocolate Chip Muffins, Bananas, Milk
B–Cereal, Yogurt, Juice
D–Taking BLT Pasta Salad and Pizza to the lake to visit some friends at their campsite! Yay!
B–Egg Sandwiches, Apples, Milk
D–Cheesy Beans & Rice (date night!)
B–Bagels, Apples, Milk
D–Burgers, Corn, Pickles
B–Cereal, Greek Yogurt, Bananas
D–Pizza – Large Sausage, Medium Mushroom
B–Migas w/ Guac, Fruit
D–Sweet & Sour Chicken Legs, Mixed Veggies, Rice
And that should do it!
So, A. got this award certificate at VBS. And the very first thing I thought was, “There is no way– NO WAY– this would ever fly in the public school.”
People often refuse to acknowledge varying abilities and heaven forbid you throw a superlative like “smartest” out there– people would gasp! The horror!
But here’s the thing… the kids in A’s group? Weren’t the least bit bothered. At least not that I could detect. They also weren’t bothered by the “most athletic” or “funniest” awards that were given.
Do we think children are so ignorant or unaware that they don’t realize they have varying talents? Do we think they truly have such fragile egos that they can’t endure hearing another child called “the best” at something? And, if so, who do we think made them that way?
The kids aren’t the problem. We need to stop pretending they are. Their egos and esteem remain perfectly intact while giving a peer a pat on the back for excelling at something. If anything, they realize the value in a balanced team with different skills and talents. And they feel proud when they’re rewarded for something they’re actually good at.
I’ll end my little rant now, and keep this short and sweet. But it’s something I really, truly believe.
There are hundreds of children in the program, at least a dozen altar servers among them. Still, A. was the first asked to serve. His commitment and responsibility are well-known within the church, so it was natural that they’d ask him. It was also natural that he’d say yes.
There were four servers and, though A. was not the oldest or largest among them, he was clearly placed into the leadership role as the book-bearer and bell ringer. Ringing bells surely doesn’t sound hard, but, with the arrival of two new priests, routines have changed rather dramatically at our church and there are now two additional, and somewhat hidden, times the server is asked to chime the bells. In addition, there is a whole new, complicated candle procession that surrounds the gospel reading. It is beautiful, but it’s new and complex and, well, it confuses a lot of people.
As the pastoral team prepared for the gospel, I watched A. up behind the altar, trying subtly to get the attention of two servers beside him. He tried a side-eye. A nudge. Finally a leaning whisper.
At that point, they realized they had completely missed the cue for getting the candles and they laughingly went and grabbed them from their stands and just met the deacon at the podium.
A. surveyed the scene, gave a tiny nod, clearly determining that, well, at least they were where they needed to be now.
He is ever-vigilant, my boy, and so determined to do what is right. When he served at a Confirmation Mass back in May, the bishop tracked me down to tell me that he’d never met such a devout ten-year-old and that the Holy Spirit was clearly on fire in my son’s heart.
It was chaos, though. With hundreds of little ones, many of whom aren’t all that accustomed to Mass, there was major noise. People didn’t know the routine and things were a bit haphazard.
Despite his prayerful focus, A. totally missed the first ringing of the bells.
My gaze flew to him, mainly because it surprised me, and his blue eyes grew wide.
Then filled with tears.
He got through the consecration, ringing the bells appropriately and bowing his head with each blessing.
But I could see, even from my row so far back in the church, the crystalline drops fall to splash on the kneeler.
I desperately tried to catch his eye again, to give him a thumbs up, to smile encouragingly, to mouth, “It’s okay!”
But, while the servers beside him, who had completely forgotten to even DO their job, carried on, grinning and non-chalant, A. was crushed.
And this, this is the downside of raising a child who is both incredibly devout and perfectionistic… he feels the weight and sting of that miss so very strongly. He can’t let it go. He can’t accept that no one else noticed or cared or judged him for it.
To him, that’s not the point.
“Mom, when I step up to serve, I want to do it for the glory of God. I want to give Him my all. It’s not like dropping a fork at supper. I’m serving before the Lord. And I messed up.”
It breaks my heart.
And so I pray that he may hear the truth. That he might hear his Father whisper that it’s not about getting man-made routines perfect– it’s about the heart with which he does it.
God hears the devotion ring in his heart, even when the bells stay silent.
Summer Spirit is in session. That’s pretty much just “VBS”, but at our Catholic Church. The program has been in place for 35 years and it’s always been called Summer Spirit.
There are about a gazillion things I love about it. It’s fun, affordable, full of enthusiastic teens, and just two minutes from my house. The activities themselves are wonderful and have stood the test of time.
Most importantly, my kids all love it. So that’s great.
So well-done and affordable is our program that people send their children in droves. At least half of our campers are not Catholic, but their parents are drawn to the rock bottom prices and good reputation. Summer Spirit is known for encouraging joy and gratitude without being overtly connected to Catholic doctrine.
There are also a ton of kids who attend regular Faith Formation (church school) classes, but whose families never really go to church, who come to Summer Spirit.
In theory, this is awesome. The idealist in me loves to think that it’s just spectacular to have SO many children take part in it. It doesn’t matter what their family background– we’re just so happy to have them! It shouldn’t matter if they regularly attend the church or are familiar with the lay-out or any of that… right?
And that’s true. It really is. I am THRILLED the kids are there.
I pull into the parking lot and immediately have to slam on the brakes. The woman in the car in front of me throws on her right blinker and I realize she must be planning to back into the one open parallel parking spot right next to the church.
Wait some more.
At this point, I know full-well that I am holding up traffic behind me and that the road is now blocked because only about two cars could even fit in the lot behind this woman whose plans were starting to elude me.
She didn’t make any move to back in, so I pulled forward, feeling just awful for the people stuck behind me.
Then she backed up.
Fortunately, she DID see me and stopped before crunching my fender, but she obviously couldn’t get into the spot anymore. I couldn’t back up. Traffic, as it was, was crunched in behind me and getting more impatient with every passing second.
She threw her hands in the air in obvious annoyance and gunned it forward in the lot, narrowly missing a teen counselor who was trying to cross.
I proceeded to drive into the parking lot, to the rear spots, not 30 feet from the front door, where I park every single Sunday. There were no fewer than 45 spots available there.
I took a deep breath and dropped my kids off.
Returning home, I stormed in the house (kid-free), red hair flying.
I told my husband the whole story, eyes flashing, hands gesturing, finally ending with a breathless,
“Seriously, what is WRONG with people???”
He looked at me, laughter in his eyes, and I narrowed mine back at him.
“What?” I demanded.
“Nothing. There’s just nothing to quench your usual faith in people like a trip to the church parking lot during VBS.”
I threw a towel at him.
But he’s not wrong.
Last week, my Facebook feed BLEW UP with people sharing some article about how we should– scratch that– we NEED to eliminate the word “just” from our emails and writing.
Another post flittered my way that lamented the overuse (and misuse) of ellipses.
These pieces are really nothing new. It seems there’s constantly someone out there telling us what we’re doing or saying wrong. Not long ago, I learned that a paragraph that contains more than three sentences is too long by today’s standards. Really?
The word “that” is something at which we should sneer. Modifiers and “soft” punctuation are merely superfluous and signs of a weak writer.
Over and over and OVER again, I saw comments on Facebook reading “guilty.” Person after person shamefully revealed that, yes, she used the word “just” in her writing.
And I just sat there thinking to myself… “and, so?”
I don’t know… maybe I’m just crazy. (<– Do you see what I did there?) I just don’t think that people need to feel like they must cater their writing to fit one specific audience.
It doesn’t matter how many times I read suggestions and assertions to, “Stop with the soft language! Be direct!” The reality is this– when *I* read emails lacking softness and gentle transitions? My back goes up.
Here’s a real life example for you–
Our middle child takes horseback riding lessons. From time to time, I receive an email from their, I don’t know, marketing coordinator or what-not. And here’s what I will tell you with no hesitation: every time– EVERY TIME– I get one of these emails? I get annoyed. I read it to my husband and ask, “can you BELIEVE her abrasive tone? There’s a much nicer way to say that!!!”
And, because he has a different personality type from mine, he just shrugs and says, “It doesn’t bother me. It’s brief and to-the-point.”
He’s right. It IS brief and to-the-point. And perhaps that’s super appealing for some people. I get that.
But here’s the flip-side–
It is NOT super appealing to all people. Some of us like the sweetly delivered, “Just wondering if you might be able to join us, say, Monday? Or even Tuesday… just let me know!” over the straight up, “Let me know if you can join us on Monday or Tuesday.”
There’s nothing wrong with the second. I’m not claiming there is.
But you know what?
There’s also nothing wrong with the first.
That’s really what I want to say.
Just be you and know that there really are some of us out here who enjoy your words… just the way they are.
So, we got back from vacation just a couple days ago. It’s hard coming back to reality. I just thrive in that salty air!
For me, the most important part of a vacation is that it’s RELAXING. I am not much of a run-around jet-setter who needs to visit a thousand landmarks. I also don’t need to dine out for every meal. Honestly? I don’t want to have to do a whole lot of planning on a vacation. I just want to be able to breathe deep and enjoy a beautiful environment.
I would say that I toe the line between wanting a vacation to feel a little special and indulgent but also wanting to adhere to the budget. I am most certainly not one who avoids restaurants at all costs. I am also not one who feels comfortable going out and buying whatever we want just because “it’s a special occasion.”
So, with all that said, I’d like to share what the plan looked like for our most recent trip:
[Note: Any time I post things like this, I receive comments about how I could have done better-- why some of our choices aren't the healthiest and, in a nutshell, why I suck. I'd love to tell you these didn't bother me. The reality, however, is that I get very hurt. Please know, upfront, that I am well aware that this is in NO way a "real food" plan. This is not how we eat all the time, nor is it a diet that would meet everyone's needs. If it makes you cringe? I apologize for that, but please feel free to move on without telling me what a horrible, pathetic excuse of a mother I am... 'k? Now, for the rest of you... ]
Sunday: TRAVEL DAY– We spent this whole day in the car, from 5:30AM until 6:00PM, so I wanted to keep things simple. Here’s how we handled it.
B– Cookie Crisp cereal (in individual ziploc bags), clementines, sliced cheese (co-jack, swiss, cheddar, and pepperjack), coffee (grown-ups) & juice (kids) **I bought a case of Welch’s juice in 8 oz. resealable bottles. It cost more than Capri Sun 100% juice would have, but was SO much handier on the road.
L– It was Father’s Day and I told my husband he could pick whatever he wanted “on the road” for lunch. We wound up grabbing KFC and it was a lousy meal. Really none of us enjoyed it and it was kind of pricey (around $25 to feed our family of 5.)
D– Carnitas and Spanish Rice burritos. I had made these ahead and frozen them, then transported them in a small cooler. They were still super cold upon our arrival and I just warmed them up.
Monday through Saturday– Six days on the beach. The name of the game here was to come up with extremely simple, well-liked meals. Lunches were, for the most part, packable and portable. Many ingredients were purchased at ALDI before we even went on vacation, making my destination shopping list very short and sweet– fruit, milk, butter, eggs, bacon, hot dogs, lunch meat, ground beef, ice cream, and cheese.
cereal, fruit, milk
granola bars, cheese, juice
bacon, egg, & cheese bagel sandwiches
bacon breakfast burritos
pop-tarts, fruit, milk
ice cream & fruit on the beach
cheese quesadillas, fruit
sandwiches, fruit, pretzels
sandwiches, fruit, corn chips
sandwiches, fruit, penguin crackers
hot dogs, carrot sticks, pickles
carne asada burritos with all the fixins (leftover)
burgers, pickles, chips
carne asada burritos (our friends brought this to us– SO good)
OUT x 2 (One meal was AWESOME. One was meh. If I could do it again, I would have just gone to that first restaurant a second time– it was fantastic!)
beef tacos, corn, spanish rice
crackers, cheese, meat, fruit– easy light stuff
Sunday– THE TRIP HOME– Again, it was important to me to keep it simple.
B– bags of cereal, clementines, cheese, juice, coffee
L– McDonald’s. Healthy? No. Way better than that KFC we’d had, though. At least everyone ate well and we came out over $10 cheaper. So that’s something, right?
So there you have it.
On vacation, we eat a lot of things that are atypical for us– pop-tarts, McDonald’s, ice cream for breakfast, etc.
We also go out to dinner more often than usual.
Overall, though, we keep it really simple and fun and try to make mealtime so easy that it’s not something we even need to think much about.
And that’s how we do meals on vacation.
How about you? Do you pack stuff? Eat out? Cook in a hotel room? Look for a place with a full kitchen? I’d love to hear about what makes vacation most relaxing for YOU!
Come July, I will have been blogging for seven years.
While there are certainly many bloggers who’ve been in the game for longer than I, that still makes me something of a dinosaur in the blogosphere. I can never remember the numbers, but I know that the percentage of blogs that fade out within the first year is HUGE.
That makes sense, to be honest. The beginning is rough– it’s kind of like standing there, talking to an empty room, just praying that people will eventually show up and want to hear what you have to say.
Anyway, through luck and grit and some fabulous forged friendships, I stuck it out and here I am, still standing. Still writing.
And then, this past fall, I made a huge life change– I decided to go back to work outside the home, part-time.
The initial plan was to substitute teach a couple days a week, maybe.
The reality was that I wound up working an average of four full days per school week, with a fair number of full weeks thrown in there.
I’ve discovered that I both really love it and am actually rather good at it. I don’t have any trouble getting work and I truly LOVE being in the classroom. I enjoy being with the kids and I am THRILLED to have all that adult conversation peppered throughout my day.
But… guess what happened?
I didn’t write so much.
The blog stayed quiet for longer stretches.
In the end– I started to feel that old adage… Something Has to Give.
I’m not going to give up working in the school. Frankly, I just love it too much now.
But… you know what?
I love writing, too.
I love this community. I love those of you who hang with me on Facebook. I love those of you who share your worlds with me on Instagram. I love seeing your emails and messages and comments and being able to interact in so many ways.
I’m not giving up the blog, either.
But I do need to stretch. You’ve already seen a bit of what that looks like– more time between posts. Longer breathers. Less play-by-play, perhaps.
But I’m hangin’ around. Who knows? Maybe the summer will see a resurgence in writing! (We’re still in school right now.)
Either way, thanks for sticking with me. It would make me all kinds of sad to not have you all in my life.