Eleven Days of Blogging Silence

It's rare for me to let any length of time slip by without writing, but several extenuating circumstances have disrupted my blogging flow lately. 

By extenuating circumstances, I mean that I've been violently sucked into a vortex of grading for the classes I'm teaching, shuffling multiple children to multiple soccer practices, navigating a challenging situation, packing and unpacking our family's belongings for back-to-back weekends away from home, and replacing our old computer after it faltered, froze, and then ultimately crashed in the most frustrating fashion last week.

In short, my work-life balance descended from the already tenuous level of "kinda, sorta but not really balanced" to the level of "look out, this girl is going down."

So yesterday, I did just that.  I took a lesson from my computer and crashed.  There was nothing profound about it -- just a late afternoon nap on top of an unmade bed during which my mind, for the first time in weeks, stopped racing.

And, not surprisingly, things feel better now. 

There's no shame in crashing.  We all periodically need rebooting.

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12

When Your Kids Remind You of Chickens

Time stands still for a moment as I'm in the kitchen wearing oven mitts and pulling dinner out of a 350 degree oven.

Against the consistent beeping of the oven's timer, two children are yelling.  The third child is cartwheeling in the narrow space between the kitchen table and the island where I'm trying to set down my hot dish, even though she's been encouraged (repeatedly) to curb her inordinate desire to use the cartwheel as her primary method of locomotion throughout our house.

Each child is louder than the next (which seems to be a technical impossibility except that it's true), and each is simultaneously needy, resulting in a ungodly spiral of noise and demands for my immediate attention and response. 

They repeat themselves with increasing volume as if I can't hear, as if I don't notice the small person standing directly in front of me who's yelling about the coloring page that was torn crookedly from the coloring book.  And the other small person who's yelling that it was her coloring book in the first place.  And the slightly larger person who kicks the kitchen table, mid-cartwheel, and crumples to the ground in a hysteric wail.

I set my dish down.  I regard the children warily and notice a certain crazed beadiness of their eyes.  Time stands still, and in that frozen moment I'm utterly convinced that these children would be entirely capable of systematically pecking me to death like aggressive chickens.  One deliberate peck at a time.

If at any point today you feared that your children just might be feral (despite having spent more than enough time with them during their early childhoods to know for certain that they weren't raised in the wild), recognize that you're not alone.  I've visited that dark place more than once.  This afternoon, in fact.

Considering that I've reached the day's end with enough coherence to still be writing, let me encourage you with this:

The chickens won't win.  I tucked mine into bed, kissed their little heads, and watched their beady eyes close.  Tomorrow is another day.  (And, hopefully, a peck-free one.)
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Photo compliments of Ami Bunker from Bunkers Down, a special blogging partner in crime.  Those are her actual chickens.  To my best knowledge, they would never systematically peck anyone to death, but I'd still keep my eye on the one on the right.

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5

Socks Don't Have to Match


My nine-year-old daughter wears mismatched socks by choice.  Each morning she reaches into her sock drawer, finds two in whatever colors and patterns she fancies at the moment, and puts them on her feet. 

She's done this for two years.  Clearly, she's uncaged, a free-thinker in the narrow world of traditionally acceptable foot fashion.

Incidentally, each time I've folded the laundry these past two years, without even thinking I've still sorted her socks, found the separated mates, and joined them in harmonious reunion with one swift inverted tuck.  (You know, so those matched socks would be easy to pull apart the next time she's searching for two different ones to wear.)

One day this summer my daughter and I folded laundry side by side.  She watched me sift through the clothes, sorting and pairing out of dutiful habit, and said, "You know that my socks don't need to be matched like that, Mom."

Such an obvious sentence, given her daily practice.  But in my world -- a world in which I thrive on structure and predictability, a world in which I like to straighten things (whether books on a shelf, a problem at work, or a relationship gone askew) -- socks are matched when they come out of the dryer.
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Continue reading at The Deliberate Mom where I'm delighted to be guest posting today!  Jennifer has become a dear blogging friend of mine, and you can finish reading this post on her site by clicking HERE.


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4

The Benefit of Creating Beauty for Beauty's Sake

While driving to work on Friday morning, I saw a sign announcing a garage sale.  A small part of me mourned because I realized that the arrival of fall (which otherwise is cozy and delicious and aesthetically glorious) inevitably means that the garage sale season is swiftly coming to a close.

This is a downer.  You see, garage sales lure me.  I imagine what unlikely treasures I might find -- those unloved and unwanted cast-offs that are waiting to be transformed by someone who sees their potential.

By the time I arrived at my parking garage minutes later, I already had decided that I'd find a pocket of time during the weekend to start one final project I had hoped to complete during the summer: the refurbishing of an old wooden Lazy Susan. 

Earlier this afternoon when my daughters were occupied, I gathered my materials and settled down to work, enjoying the quiet and the progress that slowly materialized, section by section, as I methodically stenciled. 


There's something rejuvenating (therapeutic, even) about working with my hands.  I know this about myself, and the realization forced me to confront an unspoken expectation that I had foisted upon my own shoulders: namely, that it was time to stop these artistic endeavors, this mere play, because my professional work has geared up with the start of the semester.

Foolishness.  If anything, now is the time when I most need to devote a few moments for this purpose!

I think of my friends who have creative pastimes: a musician, photographers, a baker, an actress who performs in local theatre, a quilter who steals hours to sew after her young children go to bed, a paper crafter who makes intricate handmade cards, a home chef.  I think of my fellow bloggers who string words together like pearls, setting forth their thoughts in beautiful arrangements.

Granted, from purely a pragmatic view, this world doesn't need any more musicians, or photographs, or cupcakes, or plays, or quilts, or cards, or salsa recipes.  (It certainly doesn't need another blog post.)  These areas are saturated.

But we need these things.  We need the opportunity to put our hands to a task, to create, and to elicit beauty through as many senses as possible.  Because something changes in our environment and in our hearts when we're in the presence of a beautiful thing.

Even my kitchen -- that kitchen with a full dishwasher, crayons scattered across the table, and a floor so sticky that I'm considering sandblasting it -- was transformed this afternoon when my husband snipped a few of the final summer rose blooms and displayed them on our countertop.


Those roses?  They bloom for me and for my daughters.  They exist for our pleasure, much like when I witness a particularly striking sunset and imagine God, the ultimate creative force behind beauty, painting it for the simple reason that He knew I'd enjoy it.

When we take the time to create something -- whether a song, a project, a craft, a meal, or a piece of writing -- its significance doesn't lie in the size of the audience who encounters it, as if merit were solely determined by scope. 

No, the significance lies in the act of creating.  We create because it's good for our souls, because we're wired to do so.  We create because it's an offering to others.

It's enough to create beautiful things merely for the sake of beauty.

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4

Falling Into Fall

Although we didn't have an exceptionally hot summer, the humidity spiked during our first two weeks back to school.  Within minutes of venturing outside, I could feel my hair frizz as the air enveloped me, thick and muggy.

Then we reached this week, our third week of the school routine, and something in the atmosphere changed.  As we acclimated to our new schedules, the weather seemed to acclimate to its new season.  The humidity broke, ushering in the most comfortable afternoons.  Mornings and evenings now carry a hint of chill.

When the girls return home from school, we visit our garden (zucchinis and jalapenos and raspberries just keep coming!) and we walk through the yard.  Our fall landscaping is different than other times of the year.  Late summer's growth explodes, wild and large, to fill open spaces with deeper colors.

 

As we walk, we pause to inspect milkweed and look for caterpillars, keeping track of their location so we can find any future chrysalises.


It's during these moments when I remember to delight in the fact that we're falling into fall.  Our schedules may be gearing up with workloads and activities, but there's still opportunity to slow down -- to regard the gardens, to appreciate the harvest, to be thankful for the cool September breeze.

No, I don't mind falling into fall at all.

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6

Old Friends

Maybe you have a friend like this (and I hope you do):


This is the type of friend who has seen you at your best and loved you at your worst.  The type of friend who knows your backstory and understands the crazy parts.  The type of friend you text after a two-hour conversation because you remembered one more thing you wanted to share.  The type of friend with whom you can pick right back up, without a hitch, after times of silence.

It's the type of friend who makes you laugh, embarrassingly so.  The friend who understand your quirks -- those OCD tendencies, that inability to make a quick decision, that unspoken request that you don't want to be the one who orders the pizza over the phone, or that affinity for 80's music or sweet pickles or telling stories about your cats.

This is the friend who has seen you through bad hair styles and bad life choices.  The friend who feels pain when you're hurting and comes alongside of you, encouraging and praying and supporting, until you can move forward again.  Even if they have to listen to you tell the same story more times than necessary because it helps you to process things aloud.

And you love them in the same way, no questions asked.

Thank God for these friends!  May we have them until we're old and senile, indeed.

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2

Then I Became a Mother Giveaway

Greetings, friends!  Let me share about a raffle that's offering one free Kindle edition of my book, Then I Became a Mother.  To earn entries in the raffle, the publisher is inviting you to learn more about Subject Scouts, their new book series designed for children in grades 1-4 that can be read in any order but are pieces of a larger mystery.

Check out the raffle today!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Reviews for Then I Became a Mother:

I loved every single chapter. This is by far the best book on motherhood I have ever read.  (Chris Carter, The Mom Cafe)

Hysterical and spot on!  Robin Kramer has the uncanny ability to use the written word to mentor a mother's heart.  A must read!  (Jennifer Mullen, Mosaic of Moms)

I got so caught up in it, I couldn’t put it down.  Robin’s words captured the experience of new motherhood in a way I’ve never been able to convey – either in spoken or written words.  (Stacie Nelson, Motherhood on a Dime)
 
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0

The New Schedule: When Moments Open Up Again

The second week of school is coming to a close, which means that we're slowly getting accustomed to our new family schedule. 

On the home front, I'm seventy percent certain that I'd answer correctly if you quizzed me on what days my two older daughters have library and what days they need to wear sneakers for gym class.  (Okay.  Maybe sixty-five percent.)  I'm settling into the routine of emptying backpacks, signing permission forms, and checking the lunch menu to determine which days the girls will pack lunch and which days they'll buy.

I'm learning what days my husband can return home for dinner (Thursdays are looking good!) and what evenings he needs to stay on campus past the girls' bedtime (all but Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday).

On the work front, I've learned my students' names, set up my course websites, prepared my grade spreadsheets, finalized the first assignment handouts, and committed my Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule versus my Tuesday-Thursday schedule to memory.  Daily, the feeling of newness, that sensation of unfamiliarity, that subtle start-of-the-semester unsettledness is lessening. 

Give us one more week, and we should have the routine down cold.

But I'm not writing this post to tell you that.  I'm writing this post to tell you this: my youngest daughter has begun a preschool program that runs for two and a half hours each morning.  When I factor in my teaching schedule, this boils down to one key fact:

Each week this semester, I will have exactly four hours and twenty minutes to myself. 

For those four hours and twenty minutes, I won't be teaching.  I won't be holding office hours.  I won't be responsible for childcare.

This is monumental.

I should acknowledge that my first two-hour-and-ten-minute stint of freedom yesterday morning was spent in my office preparing lecture materials and making photocopies.  As the semester progresses, I imagine that the time will be allotted for grading that I'd normally tuck into the late evening hours.

But.  BUT.  BUT!  The beauty is that, if I truly wanted or absolutely needed to, I could use the hours for anything.  I could go on a run.  I could take a nap.  I could stroll the aisles of Target.  I could eat an entire movie theatre sized box of Dots while staring out the window. 

Frankly, I'm dizzy with the possibilities.

I recall reading The Unlikely Missionary, a beautiful novel written by my friend Elizabeth Brady.  In one of the scenes, a character reflects on the fullness of her days before her children had grown up.  I had cried after I read the passage. 

At that point, I had a newborn and two very young children underfoot.  Every moment of my day felt crowded.  I rushed home as soon as I finished teaching in the morning, never even bothering to stop at the restroom, so Joel could pass me the on-duty parent baton and start his work on campus.  I pumped late at night so the baby would have milk when I was gone.  I frequently saved my two-year-old from imminent disaster because she was determined to climb everything -- everything! -- that could be climbed (and some things that could not.)  I grappled with my five-year-old whose strong will clashed with my own.

There sometimes weren't moments to shower in peace, much less to think.

But here I am, several years later, and I have moments to myself.  Four hours and twenty minutes of moments each week, in fact.

Dear friends, if your days are so filled to the brim that they drip over the edge, splashing and puddling at your feet, take heart.  The road eventually opens up.  Your moments, even if they are just a few, will come again.


Image compliments of cpj79 (Flicker.com)

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11

What Do I Expect From This Day?

I can't exactly pinpoint what I expected from today, but at some point late this afternoon I realized that those expectations -- whatever they were -- weren't being met.


We had the day off for a for a nominal holiday, but there wasn't a picnic or any sort of gathering.  It rained when we visited a park in the morning, and it rained again when we visited the pool during its last open afternoon of the season.  We ran errands, but I forgot to pick up milk.  I wore exercise clothes, but I never managed to work out.  The girls flopped around, listless, and I started to prepare dinner.

It was at that moment while chopping zucchini that I recognized my choice on this very average, very nondescript day. 

This is the day that the Lord has made.  This is the day!  I could accept this to be true, or I could continue wallowing in my vaguely discontented feelings of meh.

It matters little that the day was unremarkable and bland, or that the rain interrupted our amusement, or that I didn't accomplish much.  On this day -- like every day -- I am noticed and loved by God, who has placed breath in my lungs, who has given me a purpose.

Let me tell you, I chopped that zucchini with more enthusiasm after this perspective shift.

What do I expect from this average day?  Nothing less than communing with the creator of the universe.

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