Friday, March 29, 2013

Maddening March Madness

If you follow college basketball, you know that we're now in the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA tournament. Usually, I am following the games with much excitement. Matt and I have a great time filling out our brackets and cheering both for the teams we love and whatever team whose win would put us ahead of the other in our family pool.

Ten days or so ago, we were all geared up. Our fridge was stocked with pizza and beer. Our pantry had plenty of chips on the shelf and three tournament brackets taped to the door. Matt's was filled out with the help of insight from Sports Center, regular season stats, and a dash of team loyalty. I use my gut and a little more loyalty (which often beats Matt's carefully-researched picks, nonetheless). Kate uses an even gutsier gut, which frequently chooses 16-seed teams to beat number ones, and a number of 15-2 upsets. She's among the few Americans to have correctly picked #14 Harvard's win over #3 New Mexico, as well as Florida Gulf Coast's Cinderella run. Amazing.

And now it's all blown to bits.

Kentucky (my family's team) didn't even make the tournament this year, despite winning it all last year. Then Memphis (Matt's family's team) lost in the first round and Butler—Matt's alma mater and all of our choice to win it all—lost in the second round. So I don't really care anymore, but I'm very bummed to not be caring, if that makes any sense.

All three of us have lost three of our Final Four picks. I guess I'll be rooting for Kansas, since that's the one I have remaining. Matt and Kate have Louisville and Duke, respectively, both of which we collectively despise. (Louisville is enemy of both UK and Memphis. Matt's mom was alarmed when she learned Matt was dating a Louisvillian, until she learned I'm from a family of Wildcats, not Cardinals. And Duke is evil.)

We're a lot more focused on Holy Week and Easter festivities this weekend anyway, so it's just as well that basketball is off my radar.

I hope you all have a very happy Easter, made more meaningful by some reflection on Christ's crucifixion today. . . and if your team is still in the tourney, I hope you're happy with that as well (grumble, grumble).

If you made it to the end of this post, you must be a sports fan, so I'll mention something I forgot to when announcing my virtual Thirty-One party the other day: Thirty-One has a collegiate line! So if you or someone you buy gifts for is a college sports fan, a thermal tote or game day bag with their favorite team's colors and logo would be perfect! Check it out and remember to place your order by Monday at noon. Go team!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

WMW: Leaning In

Have you been hearing all the buzz about Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead? This new book by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has been getting a lot of press and apparently sold 140,000 in its first week.

I haven't read it, but I'm following the media discussion with great interest. Sandberg's premise seems to be that women need to stop trying so hard to be "nice" in the workplace and stop worrying about the common double-standard by which an assertive man is considered a strong, confident leader, but an assertive woman is considered a bitch. Then again, a lot of her advice, apparently, advocates walking a fine line: be assertive, while being "eternally pleasant." (There go my chances :0)

Lauren Hansen of gives this helpful synopsis (followed by a good run down of the most well-reasoned arguments flying around about the book):
Sandberg posits that due to forces both internal and external, women make small decisions throughout their career that impede their progress. Whether it's planning ahead for a family, feeling obligated to think of others before themselves, or shying away from their triumphs, women's degenerative choices over time have resulted in the gender as a whole earning only 77 cents for every dollar men make, and holding only "a meager twenty-one" of the Fortune 500 CEO positions.
A lot of the criticism of Sandberg's book seems to be that it is "elitist," seeming to take for granted opportunities and luxuries that have enabled her to get to the top. I've read some insightful responses, including one from a Latina perspective, and one about how Sandberg has a very 1970s approach to gender differences.

The conversation around Lean In has also brought more attention to the question of whether women who "opt out" of the workplace to stay home are doing so because they really want to or because—for whatever reason—it is hard for women to succeed in business. Or as Lisa Belkin, author of a well known article from ten years ago called "The Opt-Out Revolution," says, now rethinking her 2003 assertion: "most women who leave the workforce are more pushed than pulled."

I read all this with great interest, having recently halfway-opted-out myself to become a freelance editor and writer. I'm still working quite a bit, but with a lot more flexibility than before. And I'm loving it. I keep saying it's the "best decision I ever made." I control my own schedule, work on a wider variety of projects, and enjoy the satisfaction that comes from gaining new clients. I am more available to my kids and (when we have them) foster kids, making breakfast in the mornings and having dinner started when they get home, not to mention sick and snow days. Our marriage is stronger and happier, presumably because I am more relaxed and we have more time for just the two of us, having lunch on his day off, working in a coffeeshop together on his sermon writing days, etc. And—a plus for an introverted pastor's wife—I am less resentful and drained by all the time we spend at church because I have had plenty of "alone time" while I'm working.

My decision to leave my old job was motivated by a desire for more flexibility and work/home balance, but my new situation is so fulfilling, it's sure hard to think of it as a Plan B. So, according to Belkin, was I "pulled" home by the desire to better care for my family, or was I "pushed" by the corporate environment?

Belkin says,  
"Had their workplaces been ones that adapted to a world in which workers no longer have other halves (read: wives) focusing on home so that they can focus on the job, and where technology could be used to free employees from their desks physically rather than tethering them metaphorically, and where the "ideal worker" was understood to have priorities outside of the office — in other words, if they'd had a third path — they might well have taken it."
I'd probably call the path I'm taking a "third path," but I know that's not possible for everyone. I wonder if people are really making a false dichotomy between "leaning in" and "opting out." When I first heard about Lean In, I thought, "That's a book I would have eaten up a year ago," but I figured it no longer applied to me. I stopped climbing the corporate ladder when I opted to work from home, right? My husband quickly disagreed. "Being your own boss sure sounds like leaning in to me. And you've got the corner office—overlooking the neighborhood pool, no less!"

I'd like to say "leaning in" can mean actively pursuing a career life that works for you, whatever that means; but it's not my term to redefine. All I know is that the combination of push and pull that leads a woman to make a change does not necessarily have to derail her professional success and fulfillment.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Show and Tell: Thirty-One Bags

This week, I want to "show and tell" you about my Thirty-One bags. My friend Nancy has been a fan for years, and she finally rubbed off on me. In the last year, these things have become some of the most useful and used items in our house.

If you're not familiar with Thirty-One, you might call it the Mary Kay or Pampered Chef of lugging and organizing. My consultant (that's another fun thing about companies like this—you have your consultant :0) Allison got married this month (yay!) and since she wouldn't be able to do as many parties as usual, with all that vowing and honeymooning, I thought a virtual party might be in order!

So let me tell you about some of my favorite things (and a few special bonuses at the very end!) They're all pretty, but more importantly in my mind, very practical. So I don't feel too indulgent spending money on them, and they make great gifts! (Mother's Day will be here before you know it!)

I use my Large Utility Tote for groceries and other random stuff I might need to take somewhere (Christmas presents to the in-laws' house, a huge pack of diapers and other baby gear when going out of town...).

I actually got the black damask one last fall because I loved our pool bag so much and wanted one for everyday use. I got my first LUT (Large Utility Tote) two years ago when we moved into our new house and would be going to the neighborhood pool a lot. This thing holds everything! We took it on our beach trip and saw so many other families with the same bag (in different fabrics, of course, since there are a bunch of options). I put the bunch of bananas next to it just to give a sense of scale. It's huge!

Here's my black one holding all the groceries for our food pantry challenge a few weeks ago. That's a lot of food!

My other most-used bag is this Keep-It Caddy, which I use as our family lunch box to take leftovers, utensils, and paper products to church every Tuesday so we can eat dinner as a family before taking Kate to her gymnastics class. It's not too big to carry around when you've also got a purse, gym bag, and other stuff to lug, and yet you can fit a lot of stuff in it. For a pot luck at church, I once fit a tupperware of veggies, a container of dip, a large jar of spiced pineapple, and the dishes/platters in which to serve all that. This year's version also has pen pockets on the side that would be great for spoons as well.

Note: I see a lot of people using the above caddy as a small diaper bag, which feels very small for a diaper bag, and yet there is plenty of room for diapers, wipes, a spare outfit, and a sippy cup on the side, which is really all you need and doesn't require the digging through a bottomless bag! For a bigger diaper bag, a lot of people are using the new Super Organizing Tote, with its seven pockets and zipper top.

These Littles Carry-All Caddies were gifts from my mom to each of the girls for Christmas, filled with stocking-stuffer type things. I know the girls would love to tote them around with treasures, as kids tend to do, but I've made them our "upstairs-downstairs bags." They sit on the steps to collect items that need to go up to the girls' rooms, and then I load them up with downstairs stuff that has somehow found its way upstairs.  (As you see, shoes seem to end up where they should not quite a bit.)

The Littles caddies are only $12 and so useful. I've seen people use them for remotes in the living room, office supplies on the desk, and creams and such on changing tables. Kate actually mentioned out of the blue how they would be great as trick-or-treat bags, so I'm thinking about getting some in the "black happy dot" pattern and orange monogramming for the girls to use at Halloween!

My treat for myself in December was the Timeless Beauty Bag, for travel, and there are smaller accessory pouches that I'm thinking of getting for the kids to hold her toiletries when we travel.

I hope you'll come to my virtual party! There are also thermal lunch bags, office organizers, duffel bags, purses, and more. And here are two added bonuses:
  1. For every $31 you spend, you can get a tote (one of five options) for 50% off! (click "Monthly Specials" on the site for details)
  2. My dear Allison—I mean my dear Mrs. Kennedy*—is going to draw one of my virtual guests to get free shipping! 

So come to my party and get some fun, useful stuff for yourself and your loved ones, and maybe get free shipping too! The party will close Monday at noon, so take a look and at the very least get your Mother's Day gifts out of the way! :0)

*Anybody get the Gone With the Wind reference there?

Project Life: January

I'm continuing my monthly approach to memory keeping this year, creating a spread or two featuring our big events and little moments of each month. I just finished February, so let me share January this week and I'll save February for next week. (Feb needs a few more photo edits since I can't show our foster child's face or real name online.)

January in our family is generally a re-settling time, getting back into a routine after Christmas and that "clean" feeling of taking all the Christmas decorations down. (I love holiday decorating, but that uncluttered feeling after the tree and other stuff go away is so refreshing.) Plus, January leads up to Kate's birthday on the 28th, so I usually decorate for her party a week or so early, so we can enjoy it and celebrate the birthday child all week long!

I got the Project Life Mayfield Childhood Mini Kit, which has some cute "prompt" cards and filler cards with fun patters and sayings. Since I do my spreads monthly, I don't need as many supplies, but it's fun to try the new designs for 2013, so this mini kit is perfect. I wish it had two more header cards so I'd have one for each month, but I'll survive.

This first page is both the first of the year and first in a new album, so I wanted it to be simple and pretty, with some good "life right now" photos. I've got Claire with her piggy tails and toothbrush, and sitting in the fridge, as she loves to do. I've got Kate with her birthday sticker and star sunglasses, and looking cool in Claire's bunny hat. Also, the girls together in matching jammies, a "daily routine" prompt card (perfect to set the stage for the new year), and a pic and key card from Matt and my little getaway to the Opryland Hotel. The banner on the mantle was for Kate's birthday. Since we were having her party away from home, I put up the banners I made for her first birthday three years ago to decorate the house.

The first full spread of the year is about Kate's party at Monkey Joe's. I love the pics of the kids in their star sunglasses party favor, and of Kate looking so happy bouncing on the inflatables and when Monkey Jane came in. 

The second spread isn't so pretty, but the left side tells the story of Kate's girly loves right now: Dora (including friend Emery's Dora party), princesses, and Fancy Nancy, plus our favorite board games and a shot of Kate's writing of the whole alphabet. The right side is a short page of Claire's cheesy faces!

After flipping through my 2009-2011 scrapbooks, I realize how much I miss doing full, 12x12 pages highlighting just a few pictures or a single memory. They take a little more time, so I tend to put them off (I have a barely-started page for my friend's baby shower last summer and the baby is now seven months old!) I really want to do more of those this year, so that's my goal, but in the meantime, monthly spreads work for me! 

[I'm linking up today with The Mom Creative's Project Life Tuesday, so if you want more memory-keeping inspiration, click on over!]

Monday, March 25, 2013

My Quotable Kids

I'd always heard (or maybe I heard it once and it became law in my mind) that younger children talk later than the oldest child because the older sibling tends to speak for them. This was certainly the case with my husband and his little brother, who apparently spoke nothing until he was two and then it was a complete sentence.

Claire has really surprised us with her vocabulary. At 16 months, she has probably twice as many words as Kate had at 18 months. (Here's my favorite video ever of Kate, naming body parts at 18 months.) Claire seems to lean toward the verbal and fine motor skills, whereas Kate's gross motor skills were so impressive. At Claire's age, Kate was climbing rope ladders and stuff on big-kid playgrounds, and climbing onto and running back and forth on the coffee table! I remember worrying about Kate's language development a little around age two, but obviously she's fine. Kids just develop at different rates and with different strengths!

Roughly in order of her learning them, here are Claire's words:
Daddy, whoa!, kitty, ball, book, Kate, Mama/Mommy, banana ("nana"), yellow, here, Lila (a classmate), cheese! (a smile, not the food), Popi, Nala, Opa (sorry, Granna--you're the hardest!), nose, eye, teeth, no, mine, thank you, help, shoe ("yoo"), baby, ow, and Elmo (which appears to also mean diaper, since Elmo is on some of her diapers).

She's coming out with a new one every couple days now, and it's so fun to communicate with her more. I write each new word in her My Quotable Kid journal so I'll have a record. (Kate's has lots of funny sayings and sweet memories in it, so I'm glad to have one just for Claire too, so they can each keep their own one day, along with their baby books.)

These days, Kate demonstrates her four-year-old verbal skills with increasing . . . personality, shall we say. She has a few go-to exclamations that make us laugh:

Now a big fan of Dora, Kate says "Aw, man!" like Swiper, but added her own spin to often say, "Aw, manners!"

A while back, Kate learned the expression, "No way, José!" (even asking sometimes about Spanish words by saying, "How does José say _____?") but her PK colors are showing, I guess, because now she likes to say, "No way, Hosea!"

When it comes to exclamations of frustration, we definitely have to watch ourselves. She picked up a bad one about a year ago, but she only did it a few times before our lack of reaction (or very calm, "let's not say that; that's not very nice") dismissed the behavior. She does say, "What the HECK?!" like I do, though. Switching to German isn't a cure-all, since we heard Kate saying "Scheiße" repeatedly the other night. Parent tip: act like they've misunderstood you. "Size of what?" I asked her. This works to defuse annoying sayings too. In our house, "nana nana boo boo" has become "banana banana boom boom."

Combining Kate's strong will with the verbal reasoning skills of a preschooler makes for some difficult arguments as well. Kate picked up the use of double negatives from some teachers at her day care, so we're trying to correct "I don't have no shoes," or whatnot into "I don't have any shoes." And while she tries to tell me "no" is okay because Ms. So-and-so says it (arrgghh!!!) she now corrects herself to say "any" with just a look. But, with the legalistic tendency of a preschooler, the word "no" is now verboten (except in terms of general defiance, of course) so when I happen to say something like, "She has no shoes," Kate will say, "Ah, Mommy, it's 'ANY shoes'!" Then we have to try to explain the concept of a double negative and how you can use a single negative either way, and it just gets complicated.

Some preschool logic is just too hard to argue with. 

Yesterday morning, Kate was telling me she is going to be a princess when she grows up. Matt and I both try to combat this, and explain that princess is not a career (click for the Justice Sotomayor/Abby Cadabby video about that). So, I told Kate how you can't just become a princess, it's usually a family business, and that in our country, we have a president, not a king and queen.

"There are only, like, ten real princesses in the whole world, Kate," I told her, expecting a "nuh-uh" kind of retort.

Instead, she said, "Well, then, I'll be the eleventh."

Friday, March 22, 2013

Show and Tell

I'm starting another new series here on The Parsonage Family, basically designed to showcase random stuff worth sharing. Like the name indicates, Show and Tell is reminiscent of that classic kindergarten activity where you bring in something from home to show your classmates and tell them all about it.

Blogging in general is more or less just a giant exercise in show and tell, so I guess you could say this series is basically an excuse to share more random things than I usually would! Maybe a recipe I've tried or a new craft project, or some other fun thing. I'll invite you to tell about any random thing you want in the comments too!

First off, allow me to introduce our Show and Tell mascot, Sunny. Sunny is a yellow Kennel Kuddlee (a knock off of Pound Puppies, I guess) from the 1980s. I loved Sunny and even wrote his name on our deck in black crayon when I was five, and held him by the ear with my teeth when climbing on the playground monkey bars. I took Sunny for Show and Tell every week in kindergarten. We had weekly themes, like "something blue" or "something green," so I would tie a different colored ribbon around Sunny's neck each week so he would fit the rules. Mrs. Cruickshank finally sent a note home saying I needed to bring something other than Sunny for Show and Tell.

Justice for Sunny! He can appear every week here on The Parsonage Family with no teacher to tell him otherwise :0)

But just in case Mrs. Cruikshank is looking down on us (we were her last class before she died of breast cancer) and wishing we'd share something else, I will point you over to Ministry Matters to see a series of collages I made in 2006 for a Stations of the Cross worship experience at Vanderbilt Divinity School. Matt and I have used these for Holy Week in various churches every year since then, and I finally photographed them so they could be shared more widely and projected during worship.

Here's a sampling of my favorite stations, and you can download all of them, with corresponding scriptures, at Ministry Matters.

Have a blessed Holy Week!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Taking Stock of Our Time

This past week's Lenten challenge in our church's "Taking Stock" series was taking stock of our time, and I have to admit, I was just no good at this one.

Oh, I take stock of my time, alright, in a super-organized, Type A sort of way. I use an online time tracker ( to keep track of the hours I spend on various work projects (especially important now that I'm freelancing and paid by the hour, in some cases) and I write things in my planner even after the fact so that I have a record of how I spent my time. But the specific challenge this last week was to carve out ten minutes for prayer and devotion each day, and I have to admit that more days than not, I just forgot.

I pray a lot, in that I talk to God throughout the day and try to live ever-mindfully of God's presence and will for our lives, but I really struggle to sit down and focus only on prayer for a period of time. To stay focused, I generally need a pencil in hand, to underline lines of scripture that strike me as I read it, or to write and sketch my prayers creatively. Judging from these two extremes, it seems I have trouble just doing "nothing." What a shocker. I can go about normal life prayerfully, or I can productively draw, write, annotate, etc. Just sitting and "being" in the presence of God is tough for me on an ordinary basis. When I think of times I am able to do that, it's generally when I've gotten "away from it all" in a cabin or whatnot, and sit in an Adirondack chair with a mug of coffee, just staring out over glorious hills and trees. 

This week is "taking stock of our relationships," being mindful of the people we come into contact with each day and the health of each of those relationships, particularly any anger or grudges we may need to let go of.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

WMW: Constant Accessibility

I heard this stat the other day: that 7 in 10 working adults have a smartphone, resulting in an increase in work bleeding over into personal time. It's not just the smartphone's fault, of course. Personal computers meant you could do things at home that maybe once were reserved for the office. Laptops meant you could use the same computer at work and home and tote it with you wherever you go. The Internet and Cloud-based apps mean you can work on a project across a bunch of devices—work computer, home computer, laptop, tablet, phone, etc.

It used to be hard work to work anywhere. You'd have to think ahead to lug paperwork home at the end of the day, or at least save stuff on a flash drive to tote it home electronically. Now, it's not only easy to work 24/7, the work follows you and it becomes expected because everyone knows you could
theoretically work 24/7.

How could you not know about the client crisis that erupted at 9 am on Saturday morning? You were at your kid's soccer game? Well, you had your phone on you, didn't you?

Hey, did you get the email I sent ten minutes ago? Why haven't you responded? I thought maybe your firewall blocked it, so I sent it to your other address too.

Perhaps worse than the external expectation of constant accessibility is the pressure and temptation you put yourself through. Say you do look at your phone during that soccer game and become aware of the brand new work-related crisis. Then you're tempted to fire back emails to address the issue when you should be connecting with your family and supporting your child.

When I was first able to check my work email from my home computer, it was mainly for extenuating circumstances (business trips, sick days, etc.) I remember when cell phones were just for emergencies too! When I first got my work email on my phone a couple years ago, I thought it was pretty cool. I could check on things before getting to work, or before going to bed. I could respond to an email at 9 p.m. and impress whoever sent it with my industriousness.

Now that I work on a contract basis, paid by hour or by project, I don't feel the same pressure to be constantly available. I took that email account off my phone, and I rarely go into my home office when Matt and the kids are home, and I don't use the kitchen computer for work. I expected it to be harder to segment my life, working from home, but in a way it is easier to draw those lines.

What about you? Are you accessible 24/7? Do you expect others to be?

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Taking Stock of Our Closet

Week Three of our Lenten series on "Taking Stock" was all about our clothes closets. Talk about a place where most of us have so much abundance that it is more of a curse than a blessing! Matt started his sermon with a scene that is all-too-familiar to most of us: bleary-eyed, coffee-drinking, freshly-showered, staring into our closet with the inevitable but illogical lament, "I have NOTHING to wear!"

Since I've been working from home, this has been less of a problem, since I really can wear the same five outfits over and over and be comfortable and content. But if I'm headed to church or a meeting, that familiar angst comes right back. I had been looking forward to this week's challenge ever since Matt told me about it. (I last purged almost a year ago, when I read the No-Brainer Wardrobe ebook—I highly recommend it.)

The scripture for the day was Jesus' admonitions against worry, including worry over our clothes, and Matt challenged the congregation to take stock of our closets, purging the items that we don't wear or need, that are nothing but clutter, and bringing them in to donate. Our church collects items for a store called ThriftSmart, which is like a Goodwill, but they have an excellent model for collections with local churches. We have a large bin in the commons area, and when it is full, ThriftSmart comes to pick it up, weighing the donations and giving the church gift cards in the amount of $1 per ten pounds of donations. The gift cards can then be handed out to people in need who come to the church seeking assistance (often, our food pantry clients, when they need more than just food).

As with last week's pantry challenge, there is both a personal and missional element. Yes, we are donating to people in need, but also, by assessing our own abundance, we come to a better understanding of what we need, what is excess, and the joy of simplicity. Clearing out my closet was fairly easy, since I already had a box in the back of my closet, full of stuff I was considering giving away anyway. (It was sort of a "if I don't miss it while it's boxed up here, I won't miss it when it's gone completely" thing.)

I also found that so much of the excess in my closet consisted of things that might come back into style or I might be able to fit into again. As for the fitting issue, I tossed my "fat pants" and kept things that were just a bit snug, that re-joining the Y (as I am about to do) could take care of. The style issue was a little more difficult. It's aggravating how styles ebb and flow, and as sure as you toss your flared pants, the skinny jeans fad will end and you'll buy wide-leg stuff again.

Since I was staying home all day the day I first started going through things, I put on some things I hadn't worn in a few years, just to see if I could get any use out of them again. Matt commented, "Those are some big pants..." I assured him they fit exactly as they were intended, but yes, the style was so much looser than things are worn now, I felt completely dumpy and had to change. I wore about six different pairs of pants that day, I think, as I tested out different pants and found most of them intolerable.

I hate to be wasteful, so if there is a chance I'll wear something again, it seems silly to give it away only to buy something similar a year or two down the road . . . but how often do I really do that? I did keep some things that I doubt I'll wear much, but I managed to fill two large boxes with things to give away. Here are my before and after shots:

Before: messy, cluttered with tons of things I don't wear. (We have a very long, narrow walk-in closet, so these are three views of my side.)

After: I don't feel like I purged that much, overall, but taking stock of what's there, organizing and simplifying, made a big difference in the look of our closet. I hope it has a similar impact on the way I view my clothes, appreciating what I have and not constantly feeling I need more, newer things to be in style. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

WMW: Parenting is a Marathon

Have you ever listened to the end of the popular NPR show, "Car Talk" with Click & Clack, the Tappett brothers? They're funny, and in the credits at the end of their show, they include some humorous names. For example, their law firm is supposedly "Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe."

They also mention the leader of their working mothers' support group, "Erasmus B. Dragon."

Some days, my ass is draggin', so I can definitely identify.

Today's post is relevant to all parents, really, but given the pressure working moms often put on themselves to "do it all," I thought I'd share this gem of wisdom, which I can't even take credit for, as it is something my husband is reminding me all the time:

Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. 

Matt reminds me this whenever I feel guilty for taking time for myself, or when I hesitate to ask for help, or when I get really anxious over some issue that doesn't have to be solved in a day. Going "all out" at every single moment will only wear us out—and the "finish line" is 18, 21, 35, 50 years away!

We have to pace ourselves. Take the long view. And that means if you need to let hubby take the kids to gymnastics so you can have some solo scrapbooking time (as I did last night), or let the playroom stay messy for a few days, so be it. If your "ass is draggin'," you're not going to be the best mom, wife, or employee you can be.

There's no prize for doing it all. The real reward is enjoying the journey, and the best news is that we get to run the race together.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013


My two little girls are different in many ways; but one thing they have in common is one of their first words:


It's a great word, and one of my favorite things in the world. (Brie, goat, swiss, mozzarella . . .) The thing is, my girls meant completely different things by it, and honestly, it's rather surprising which is which. 

Kate, who has been known to strike a model-ish pose in many a photo, knew that "cheese" meant that delightful dairy product. On the other hand, my little gourmand, Clairy-Bear, knows "cheese" as a camera-mugging idiom, and is happy to show you her mastery of the concept at every opportunity. 

Monday, March 04, 2013

When They Grow Up

We had some friends over for dinner the other night, and I made mental notes on their amazing daughter so I could say we "knew her when" when she wins an Oscar or a Grammy or something. Even at three, she is so artsy and dramatic. She had to get on an elevated surface (the stairs or Kate's bed) whenever singing a song. She had a few costume changes over the course of the evening, and had to be called by the name of the princess she was dressed as each time. It was very Method, we said.

I just love hypothesizing about kids' future careers based on their current personalities. In most cases, it's just a joke, based on phases of development. Based on common toddler/preschooler behavior, one would project them to grow up to be a psychopath or schizophrenic, but that is clearly overgeneralizing. (We hope. I actually said to Matt once, "I shouldn't worry. All 3-year olds are sociopaths, right?")

But it really is fun to look at children's early proclivities and speculate what they might become if those traits "stick." Here are a few possibilities we imagine for our kids. . .


Teacher. For a while, this is what Kate would say she wanted to be, if you asked her. Once, she even got so specific as to say professor of Old Testament, but I think Matt was leading her in that case. In her experience with preschool, she's learned that the teacher gets to be in charge, and she seems to like that. Her aunt (a teacher) got her a school playset for Christmas, and she has a lot of fun with it, making Claire, her dolls, and Matt and me her students. She loves to make us identify states on the map, numbers on the calendar, etc., and make up names for her attendance sheet. Her invented names all sound Scandinavian: Alla, Inga, Atta, Insa. . .

Project Manager. While we enjoy doing crafty things together, at my initiation, Kate is often more of a project manager when it comes to coloring, letter-workbooks, and whatnot. "Color that blue. Color that red," she'll instruct, as we're coloring "together." Actually, she's taken more of a hands-on approach lately, but still loves to instruct others at least as much as she likes to do things herself. Bossy girl. The pediatrician actually told us, "She's a leader," when we (okay, I) expressed concern about her extremely strong-willed personality. I wouldn't be thrilled to see my child go into the military, but I have to admit, Kate would be a bad-ass G.I. Jane.

FOX News Anchor. (If you're a fan of this channel, substitute whatever station you distrust). Matt often teases Kate that she will be a great FOX News anchor because she thinks she can say things and they automatically become reality. No, I didn't wet the bed; I spilled water on myself. No, I don't know why my sister is crying. And my personal favorite, when Kate wants candy after dinner: "I DON'T have to eat my dinner all." She says this with a very convincing Jedi-mind-trick face. (I miss her "dinner all" phrase, now that her grammar and syntax are improving!)

Pastor. Oh, Kate. This is one of the few professions I would dread my children being (not that I wouldn't be proud, but I've seen the toll it can take!). It's such a common joke for P.K.s, and seems so likely, given Kate's fondness for being at church 24/7 and service-oriented tendencies we've tried to instill. Kate takes such an interest in Matt's work. Consider the following photos:
Kate at 2, wearing a "mini-stole" intended for hospital visits, at our local Cokesbury store.

And more recently, leading worship with the decorative music stand and antique 1920-something Cokesbury Hymnal in our dining room. Yes, that's a Slinky on her arm.

She made Matt and I stand in front of her and sing. All I can say is, the life of a Music Minister is probably much easier than the life of a Senior Pastor.


Pianist. While I was still pregnant with Claire, I joked she would be a concert pianist, since her in utero movements were more like light skitterings across my tummy, as opposed to Kate's big gymnast stretches that pushed out both sides of my belly. Since then, the best argument I can make for this career path is to point out that Claire shows more aptitude for fine motor skills like threading a stitching card toy, whereas Kate was such a gross motor skills toddler, climbing things twice her size from the time she was walking.

Butcher. What the heck? Well, Claire loves to hang out in the fridge, so if I'm going to make these silly speculations about a 16-month old, I've got to point out how much Claire would love a meat locker. Any time I open the fridge, she makes a beeline for it and sits down in it. And it's been going on a while. . .

11 months

15 months

Engineer. This is actually the one I'm most insistent on for little Claire. I know all kids of this generation have an aptitude for technology, but I've always said Claire is very mechanical. She's into how things work, investigating machinery and whatnot. Phones, door hinges, sound mixers, iPods, clock radios, cameras, nightlights, remote controls, keys and doorknobs, landscaping equipment, and more.
All over Popi's John Deere lawn mower at 10 months (wearing overalls, no less).

She loves the sound controls at The Road. Usually turning knobs, of course she acted nonchalant when I  wanted to take a picture. 

So those are my best hypotheses as to my daughters' future careers.
What do you suspect your kids will end up doing as adults?

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Taking Stock of Our Pantry

I expected to post a couple times between last week's "Taking Stock" post and this; at the very least a Working Mom Wednesday post, but I got busy and it didn't happen. Oh well.

This week, for our Lenten challenge, we were taking stock of our pantries by living off of the items that are included in a food box from our church's food pantry. It's a specific variety of canned goods, spaghetti, peanut butter, etc. It costs around $40 total. (We use this cute illustrated shopping list so Kate can help pick out items for the food pantry while we're grocery shopping.)

Matt's sermon last Sunday was really good, not just pointing out the reality of our community (3/4 of our county's public school kids on free or reduced lunch!) but examining the story of the feeding of the 5000 in ways I hadn't thought of before. First, that the idea of communal responsibility is assumed. The disciples don't approach the problem from a perspective like, "these people are getting hungry, we need to end the sermon!" or "they should have brought a picnic!" but automatically, "Where will we get enough food to feed all these people?" And secondly, that Jesus doesn't perform a miracle ex nihilo (out of nothing). He uses the bread and fish one boy brought, using what we have and what we bring to feed others. Connected with Jesus' refusal to turn stones into bread at Satan's tempting (preached on the week before) this especially made a good point.

One of our main family values is gratitude, so I'd like to think I look at our pantry pretty often with thanks for all that we have. We are fortunate to be able to buy the food we like and want in the quantities we like. Health plays more of a restraining role than money, usually. (Though I might buy more fancy cheese every week if we had unlimited funds. Cheese is my weakness.) It was a new experience, though, having to eat what "someone else" picked out for me.

We went grocery shopping as a family last Sunday afternoon, and while I picked out a couple soups myself, Matt grabbed the first chili he saw to add to the cart. "No!" I cried. "I want to pick out the chili" (since Matt doesn't care for chili and it would be me eating it anyway). Matt quickly reminded me that folks receiving a food pantry box don't get any choice about the veggie, meat, bean, or calorie content of their chili.

It looked and tasted like dog food, by the way.

I ate it for lunch on Monday. It was 32 grams of fat per can. Not what I would have chosen. Breakfast was healthier (instant oatmeal and applesauce) though I really wanted an egg white and english muffin. Ah well. Choice and health seemed to be the big things sacrificed in this experiment. Taste, too, being left with peanut butter and saltine crackers for a snack, rather than kalamata olives and wheat crackers, or whatever. But it was a little bit frustrating.

Our pantry for the week.

I even blocked off a couple shelves, so I would remember not to tap into our other snacks, seasonings, or canned goods. (Cereals and cooking oil were still fair game, I figured.)

We continued to eat any perishables we already had in the fridge, but I ran out of coffee creamer on Tuesday and was grateful we still had some milk left. I can't imagine what it would be like to need a carton of milk and not be able to afford it. And it made me ever more aware of the lack of fresh produce in poor areas. I was able to add some zucchini we already had to our spaghetti, and the kids devoured the applesauce and fruit cocktail. We need fresh fruits and vegetables, which are generally not available from traditional food banks.

This coming week, we'll be taking stock of our closets, and I look forward to purging all the clothes that no longer fit or I just don't wear. Jesus' statement "I was naked and you gave me clothing," may seem far fetched in this day and age, but there is still a need for free and cheap clothing for those who need it, and perhaps moreso for the more affluent among us to realize how much we have and learn to live more simply, so that we may live more generously.


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