A beautiful dress

This was at the top of my soon to be 9-year-old daughter’s birthday list.
“A buetaful dress” to be more precise.

My rough and tumble tom boy.
My sweet and sometimes spastic child who can’t always find herself in space.
My awkward, lovely, frustrating, cherished girl.

She wants a beautiful dress.

It makes me misty-eyed because it reminds me that at the center of herself she just wants to be loved. She longs to be appreciated and celebrated.

It is hard to remember this when she won’t brush her long red curly hair.
It is hard to remember when I have to ask her six times to stay out of her brother’s personal space.
It is hard to remember when everything about her is and always has been loud and sharp and on the move.

But she is almost always in a skirt and tights, and she loves to make bracelets.
Why wouldn’t she want a beautiful dress?

Why is it so hard for me, as her mother, to see this tender heart longing to be seen?

Am I too busy?
Have I fallen into the rut of seeing only her challenges?
Whatever the cause, I am awake and aware of her today.

Because she wants a beautiful dress.

God, open my eyes to see the heart in each of my children that cries out to be loved, cherished, seen and understood. Give me awareness of my own tendency to walk through life so busy that I miss the quieter call to love these precious gifts.
Amen

Awareness, beauty, gratitude–
Ingredients for a ReFreshing Life

**I wrote this post over a year ago and set it aside. It jumped out at me today, tugging again at my heart.

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Don’t Kill Them, & 4 Other Essential Parenting Rules

My 5 Simple Rules for Parenting

When my first child was born, I read the books and followed the developmental charts like they were blueprints for a nuclear power plant. I didn’t want anything to explode, and knew that if something went wrong it would be a) the most terrible-awful-horrible thing ever, and b) as the mother, it would all be my fault. 13 years and two more kids down the line, I can tell you that children are way less fragile and more resilient than we could have imagined when we drove them home from the hospital at 15 miles per hour.

Everywhere you turn someone else is telling you what you absolutely have to do in order to raise healthy, happy children. They’ll scream, threaten, cajole, and manipulate your emotions to get you to follow their advice. We all want the best for our kids, right? So why is it that many of the opinions we hear completely contradict each other?

My years of experience and seeing my kids survive (so far) have brought me to a place of simplicity when it comes to parenthood. Feel free to investigate all of the parenting options out there, but I’ve boiled my personal rules of parenting down to just 5.

Parenting Rule #1: Don’t Kill Them

This is a vital piece of advice if you want them to live to adulthood. This includes things like feeding, clothing, and providing for their obvious physical needs. It also covers the very real temptation that might arise around the age of “I can do it myself” and re-emerge when the eye-rolling starts. Take a deep breath. If you don’t kill them, they will probably grow up and have children who also go through these maddening stages. Don’t we all want to see that day?

Parenting Rule #2: Do Your Best

Mismatched socks on their feet, their clothes wrinkled, and you don’t know if that jacket has been cleaned since they dripped ice cream on it last month? If that is the best you can do today, great. They are covered, and trust me their teacher has seen worse. Some days my best includes locking the bathroom door with the fan on so that I can’t hear them when they whine at me outside the door. Five minutes of solitude in the toilet just might help you follow Rule #1. You aren’t going to be parent of the year every minute of every day. Give yourself a break and just determine to do your best with what you have.

Parenting Rule #3: Love Them

I know you might be thinking this rule should probably be #1, but realistically I think not killing them wins for purely practical reasons. Love your kids. Love them sticky or clean. Love them hair combed or with rats nests. Love them with their precious gifts of art you couldn’t decipher if you were a master of cryptology. “Is that a dog? Oh, it’s mommy. Thanks, sweetie.” Just love them. Love covers over a multitude of parenting mishaps, and it will most likely help them not become psychopaths. It’s true.

Parenting Rule #4: Trust God

There are so many things in your children’s lives that you have absolutely no control over. You can’t keep them from every danger, or every bully, or every dumb idea they might decide to try out while your back is turned. If you are going to raise children, you need a higher power.

Parenting Rule #5: Everything Else Can Be Worked Out in Therapy

You know that all parenting theory is just that, theory. Someone has a good idea, it looks great on paper, but then in practice it just doesn’t work for your child. Besides, look at how much has changed in the years since you were a youngster. Could we ever have predicted that our kids wouldn’t know how to dial a phone? (I mean a real phone, selecting Grandma from the contacts list does not count.) So much will continue to change in our world, society, and in the understanding of young minds. You are bound to mess up. Besides, therapists are nice people and we should want to support their industry.

As parents we are under so much pressure to be perfect, but none of us were raised by perfect parents. (If you write to tell me your parents were perfect, I don’t know if we can be friends.) All of us are here, walking around as (mostly) productive members of society. Give yourself a break from perfection based on someone else’s theories. You will be a more peaceful parent, and your kids will need less therapy. That’s a win-win situation in my book!

Keeping it simple
ReFreshing!

An open heart in the face of grief

Pregnant women experience spotting all the time, and everything turns out fine. The voice of denial did it’s best to keep panic at bay. I struggled through prayers of bargaining, and anger at my body for the biggest betrayal I’d ever experienced. All the stages of grief cycled again and again, but I always came back to denial in those early days.

Not denial of facts, but denying myself the experience of emotions I was sure would overwhelm me. My heart was locked down tight.

What else could I do? I had just announced to my church elder board that I was pregnant the week before. I had responsibilities at church on Sunday. My family of three was headed out of state on Monday to our Pastor’s Retreat, which I still felt strange attending as just an associate pastor.

I didn’t have time to fall apart. I didn’t want to feel all the pain, and loss, and grief. Other people needed me to be strong. And it felt as though God wasn’t answering my prayers. I wasn’t particularly interested in anything He had to say, either, so I guess it was mutual.

The bleeding continued as I packed the car, as I preached in church, as we took family pictures of all things. One of the Elders, a woman, noticed something was wrong and asked me if I had lost the baby. I nodded. She cried. I didn’t.

We went to our Pastor’s Retreat, I pasted on a half-smile and determined not to talk to anyone about anything serious. Keep it light. Skim the surface. Bury it deep.

I’m not sure why it was that I wandered out into the common area during our free time. Husband and toddler napping, I thought I would try to journal a bit. As I sat, a woman I’d never met struck up a conversation. I don’t know how it happened, but I told her everything. Not sure what to expect, I certainly didn’t think she’d tell me that she had also suffered pregnancy loss, three times.

It was a comfort, knowing I was not alone, that life really could continue. When I went back to my journal, there was a prompt in my spirit that I needed to grieve. I desperately did not want to do any such thing. The impression was unmistakable “If you do not grieve this loss, you claim that it had no value.”

When we value things and lose them, we grieve. We may not like it, but that is the way life is. By refusing to grieve, we deny that what was lost had value. By refusing to be affected, we deny that what was lost had any impact on our existence. I could not allow that. This tiny life had lived for such a brief time, the only impact it could have was on me. I would not rob this life of meaning.

So I grieved. I opened the doors of my heart and let the pain in, and let the pain out.

And it was worth every tear, and sob, and sigh.

Brené Brown says that we cannot selectively numb our pain. When we shut down we shut out everything, including joy. It is better to live with an open heart and some pain than to live without pain and also without joy.

This pregnancy loss happened in May of 2005. I had a subsequent loss in August of 2005, and another over Memorial Day weekend 2011. Each loss was its own journey through pain, acceptance, and healing. I had to choose every time to open my heart and feel the loss when by my own habit and nature I would have avoided and stuffed those feelings down deep.

If you are experiencing grief, or if you never gave yourself permission to grieve a secret loss, give yourself permission to open your heart. You will not heal with it closed off, and you will find that joy is dulled and life loses it’s color. It will hurt. But it will not hurt forever, at least not with the same sting.

I still feel sad when I think of the losses we experienced, of wanted babies. It does not overwhelm me, though, with tidal force waves of grief. I have walked on, and I have delivered two healthy babies since that first loss, for a total of three. I have had 6 pregnancies, and 3 live births.

Not everyone’s story ends like mine. I have a beautiful friend who is expecting baby number 8 in June, she has her own stories of loss. I have a brave and wonderful friend who, unable to conceive, has chosen adoption. I know families who have chosen not to have children, those who have chosen adoption over producing biological children, and those who are still charting their course. Wherever you are on this journey of life and family, I hope you choose to walk bravely forward with an open heart. You may experience loss and grief, but you will also encounter moments of exquisite joy that you may have otherwise missed.

An Open Heart
ReFreshing

Summer Chores & Activities!

Once again school is out, and we are rebooting our Pick Five chore system. Here is the skinny on the stroke of genius that has gotten us through 2 summers of my working full time from home with three kids (now 12, 9, not quite 4 years old) and keeping my sanity!

These are the benefits I’ve seen in the two summers we’ve used this system:

  1. A set of chores and activities that they can choose and do on their own.
  2. Self-regulated screen time.
  3. Built in reading time.
  4. Simple rules: do your 5 chores anytime you choose, one TV show, one 30 minute session on any other screen, additional screen time is earned by doing extra chores.
  5. Kids that contribute to the household chores!

Here is a link to the original post from May of 2014:

https://refreshinglifeblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/kids-a-k-a-in-summer/

Here’s our updated chores and activities for our growing kiddos!

Chores And Activities

Chore and Activities 2016

Still a great system, and still adding refreshment by the score to my life. Enjoy!

‘Twas a Clutter-free Christmas

‘Twas the week before Christmas and throughout the house,
All ’round clutter abounded without many doubts.
There were papers on tables, receipts on the floor,
It made me plum crazy, couldn’t take any more!

The children had piled up their jackets and socks,
Just to run off to play with their trains and their blocks.
My husband and I, sadly complicit, too,
Had been walking away from my purse and his shoes.

Now then school was dismissed, our work loads were shifted.
The time was now here for these piles to be sifted!
I surveyed the big mess, my heart sank in my chest.
“There’s too much!” I confessed. “This stuff’s making me stressed!”

Now Rina! Now Bella! Now Teddy and Richard!
We can’t let these stuff piles grow up and get bigger!
Clean dishes, sort papers, report cards and projects,
Fold laundry, then stow it, don’t have to be perfect!

Collect it, and stash it, and clean all the corners!
Recycle, or trash it, no time for disorder!
Christmas is coming, it’s a time for good cheer!
“No you can’t simply move that from there to right here!”

The stuff piles were growing now smaller and smaller.
No more did I fear that the bell was a caller.
Now our friends could come over, not breaking their legs
Tripping o’er errant Legos, and dollies, and trains.

Come celebrate Christmas, sip coffee and chat.
Don’t need fancy jackets, or ties, or new hats.
Our house it is cozy, the corners fresh dusted,
but it still isn’t spotless, now that can be trusted!

So long, panicked cleaning, and sorting and such,
It seems all that was needed was a firm human touch
‘Til next year we bid you a not fond, “Farewell!”
Merry Christmas, to all, think I’ll rest for a spell.

Vacation Report- Grand Canyon

   We spent one day at the Grand Canyon. I would highly recommend setting aside at least one whole day, if not 2 or 3. We started at the visitors center, picking up the kids’ Junior Ranger Booklets. Our group was made up of 8 adults and 9 kids under the age of 12. We knew that we would not be making any long treks to the bottom, and pre-planning our trip revealed that there are a series of shuttle buses inside the park that will take you almost anywhere you want to go in the park for FREE! The shuttles allowed us to travel as a group and saved our little ones’ feet from having to walk everywhere.

The cost for our trip: packed lunches, $30 park entrance per car, $15 ice cream cones for our family of 5. Not too shabby considering all of the views!

20150810_085430 DSC01775We took the shuttle to Yavapai Point and Geology Museum, then hiked the rim trail to Shrine of the Ages where we hopped the shuttle again to Bright Angel Lodge.

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We walked through the village and had ice cream, took the shuttle back to the entrance where we parked and drove out to the Desert View Watchtower. DSC01865

DSC01878My “We visited the Grand Canyon and none of my kids jumped off the edge” smile. Safety makes this mom happy!

DSC01893DSC01890Our girls took advantage of the Ranger Program at Tusayan Ruins,
completing their Junior Ranger badges.

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A day at the Grand Canyon:
completely manageable, completely affordable, completely magnificent!

Family Fun in the Recording Studio

What did you do on your summer vacation? We crammed 17 people in a recording studio and laid down some tracks! Thanks to Synthesaur who provided us with studio space. If you are in the Flagstaff area and need professional recording services, check them out!

I hope you enjoy our family fun, and think of doing something out of the box on your next family vacation!