Crushing on my daughter for #WCW

Sometimes those Facebook memories just really get me. This week it’s been taking me back to some dramatic and hilarious and sweet times with my second baby – Lydia. It’s her turn for a #WCW post.

Lydia’s got what you call “personality” in spades. She’s always had it – mischievous eyes with long eyelashes to die for, a smirk always moments from appearing on her face. She has always been her own person with her own style pretty much from the get-go. For a period of maybe 3 years, she only wore dresses. She also ran the fastest and climbed the furthest in the tree in our front yard. She entered her school’s talent show and did stand up comedy. As a first grader. And then again at a new school as a second grader. She’s still got the jokes.

She is one of the most athletic kids I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Getting to help out with her team is truly a highlight in my life. Watching her play is really, really fun. I think she could probably play just about anything she decided to, but for now has landed on softball and this softball-playing mom is just thrilled about it!

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Tiny catcher!!!

She’s also incredibly musically talented – her ear is amazing! My husband the other day remarked to her that she was like having Pandora on- she just went from song to song, humming and singing along. She knew every word! I remember when she was little, she’d come home from church or preschool and sing verbatim any little song they had learned. It takes her no time at all to pick things up.

Her independent and confident nature has of course provided us with many, many learning moments as parents. Here’s a tip for any of you with “strong-willed” preschoolers who only throw fits for you but are little angels with their teachers. Leave the room. Grab a camera. Come back to tantrum child. Take video. Calmly explain that the video will be shown to said teacher in the morning. Magically watch as tantrum dissipates into shocked outrage. But along with the more challenging times have come a wealth of experiences I never would have had without her.

One example is her Halloween costumes. She has pushed me outside my box almost every year on this one! I think under the age of 4 she was good with whatever generic princess dress I had on hand, but since then she has had a mind of her own! Here are a couple of the costumes she’s designed/asked for:

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Smarty Pants, Candy Corn, Tinkerbell
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Clown, Mandie (from a book series), and Rapunzel

She wanted to be candy corn a few years ago. I think we pulled it off. Another year she was a marshmallow and that one didn’t turn out as well. We’ve also done Piggy from Elephant and Piggy, Batgirl, an Enderman, and a unicorn (for which she wore a unicorn onesie).  She’s the first to want to try something new – surfing, zip-lining, climbing – you name it – she wants to try it.

She is so fun. We have a rule in our house that when there’s tickling or rough-housing (or really anything honestly), you can say “Please stop” and everyone stops. There are no exceptions to this rule. Well her older sister lasts about 1 second and her younger sister lasts about a minute, but not Lydia. It’s her goal generally to tire out everyone else and to outlast everyone in the fight. She doesn’t say “please stop” – you have to just quit while you’re ahead. Tom, of course, loves this challenge and they bait one another throughout the whole thing.

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Bike ride “date” exploring the creek beds. This is such a Lydia thing to want to do with her date time.

She brings so much laughter to our home, but also serious insight. One day I’ll never forget – I was asking her about her day and then started chatting about dreams and such. We talked about what things she might want to do when she grew up. I remember her not being really sure and I encouraged her to keep dreaming and to dream big and never stop pursuing her dreams. She kinda nodded and then said to me – “What about you? What dream are you going after?” Oof!

It’s crazy because at that time I was really wrestling with where my life was. I didn’t feel like I was living the dream, but I also didn’t know what the dream was.  I believed vaguely that it was important for children to see their parents pursue dreams and to live an abundant life. But until her question, I didn’t see how deeply true this was. Why should she bother to dream if she saw that once you get to a certain spot, you just quit dreaming?  Quit pursuing the deep down thing that moves you?

I can really point to it as a turning point in my life as a mother – before I had believed that it was better to just be ok with how life was. After that conversation, I pushed more into what felt like dangerous territory of asking questions of myself like, well what do you want to do when you “grow up?” Is this the life you want? If not, what is the life you want? If so, are you living it as fully as possible?

She does this kind of thing all the time. We’ll be having some sort of family discussion that’s important but it’s staying pretty shallow until all of a sudden Lydia pipes up with something deep. We all just go, wow – yeah – that was good – hmm. Either that or she makes a joke none of us saw coming and we all laugh for a long time.

This is her last year before becoming a teenager. It’s crazy how fast it’s going. I want to slow it all down and enjoy every moment of being her mom. She is a treasure and God’s gift to me. Love my sweet Lydia!!!

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Sister Friend, a Thanksgiving #WCW

Little sisters. The source of much fictional angst – Jo and Amy in Little Women, Beezus and Ramona in all of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books, and other pairs in countless movies and tv shows. I’m thankful that my relationship with my sister isn’t nearly as dramatic as the above examples.

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big sister little sister easter big shoulders era

Actually, with an 8-year age gap, I barely registered her as a person before she was in high school. Hmm, so maybe SHE felt that it was a bit angst-y….. 🙂 Now, however, I count her as one of my favorite people in the whole world.

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the time I got to go visit my sister in college for my birthday

She’s hosting us for Thanksgiving this year and we’ll get to celebrate her birthday while we’re here, so it feels very appropriate to choose her for my #WCW series this week.

Catherine was 9 when I moved away to college and 12 when I got married. We were in such different phases of life that we didn’t really have a relationship while we were growing up.  The year my husband was deployed to Kuwait and my dad got diagnosed with cancer was in many ways the most intense and stressful of my life. But in one major way, it was one of the best and most significant of my adult life. It was in this year that I rediscovered my sister.

When I brought my 14-month-old daughter back home from Germany to live for a few months, I got to know my sister all over again, not as a kid who was grossed out by public displays of affection or who wanted to tag along to everything, but as a person coming in to her own.

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spring softball sister trip

I got to go with her to a travel softball tournament, help her study for exams, watch silly tv shows, and watch her dote on her niece. She helped bring me out of my funks when I was missing my husband and she played with my daughter when I just couldn’t muster any more toddler enthusiasm. Those months are the shiniest of silver linings I’ve experienced.

As time has passed, we’ve stayed close again. Lately, I’ve felt that the big sister/little sister dynamics have totally flipped with me calling her in distress and her calming me down, talking me down from the ledge, and offering heartfelt words and wise perspective. She still loves being an aunt to my kids, staying involved in their lives, asking great questions to pull them out of their shells, and just generally giving them space to be who they are.

Most recently, she’s introduced me to the Enneagram and that’s opened up a whole new season of soul searching for me and a deeper understanding of our family dynamics. (I’m a 1. She’s a 9. If you don’t know what that means, check this out for a very broad overview). It’s a little hard to say I’m grateful for her introducing me to this since my “type” feels like the worst thing ever. But basically every type thinks that about themselves, so yay? I will say it’s given me great language to describe characteristics of myself and my family that has been helpful – but be warned if you go on the Enneagram journey – it’s not comfy.

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Sisters who Karaoke together stay together.

It’s hard to pinpoint with a person you’ve known their whole life the ONE thing you love or are grateful for about them. But I think the thing I’m currently most grateful for is her ability to let people be who they are and to really celebrate it. She doesn’t expect people to like the same things she does or want to do the same things she does. She actually enjoys watching her family do the things they like to do and feels neither the compulsion to join or the compulsion to convince us to take different path. When you’re with her, there’s no need to pretend or to hide some part of yourself that may be too much or not enough in other environments. You just get to be you. It’s a gift that I treasure.

The great thing about sisters is that they really are forever. I love how our relationship has morphed as we’ve both gotten older. I can only imagine that it will keep getting better. Love you sister.  I’m so thankful for you! Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

Mom K, Grandmommy, Mary Jeane

Did you know there are only 7 Wednesdays left in 2017? I’m committed to getting out a #WCW blog for every one of them! ‘Tis the season for gratitude and I’ve still got so many friends I need to write about!

Today, I’m writing about my mother-in-law, Mary Jeane Kraft. It was her birthday on Monday. Incidentally, I now personally know FOUR people with birthdays on November 13th, all different years. It’s a little crazy! So, while all those others are wonderful as well, we’re just gonna celebrate her for a little while here today.

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I’m trying to remember the first time I met Mary Jeane and I honestly don’t remember! Tom and I began dating in high school and before we officially started dating, we did a lot of hanging out at his house for movie nights. Of course, I had no way of knowing that this “tradition” of movie nights at the Kraft house mysteriously appeared when Tom began showing interest in me. I did seem to notice that while the friend groups shifted from movie to movie, somehow I was always invited. Anyway, I digress…

I mainly remember her during these times as attending to Tom’s younger brothers, trying to keep them from being too underfoot, bringing snacks, wandering through the room with laundry or a school paper she was grading or something else. Now that I’m a parent myself of a teenager, I see what she was doing. Just inconspicuously keeping tabs on what was going on with a bunch of teenagers in her house, noticing the one person who kept showing up, watching out for her son’s heart, and trying to make her domain a place her son could feel comfortable filling with his friends.

Her intentionality towards her family is now something so obvious and so dear to me.  She asks great questions and listens intently.  She never inserts herself where she knows she’s not needed. But, that doesn’t mean she is unwilling to say hard things if she feels that the situation needs a course correction or for another perspective to be pondered. I’ll never forget the conversation Tom and I had with his parents when we told them we were thinking about planning to get married. (If that sounds confusing to you, welcome to my world. When you’re long-distance dating as a freshman/sophomore in college, it feels scary to say out loud that you want to marry someone, but also foolish to not consider the seriousness of the relationship). Anyway, sometime during that conversation, she looked at me and asked if I had ever considered any other man besides Tom as someone worth pursuing. Talk about a deer in the headlights moment. And she wasn’t trying to catch me in some sort of duplicitous moment – she was just making sure she wasn’t talking to two moony-eyed teenagers. She wanted to know if I had been looking at my options objectively. (The answer was yes I had and no one held a candle to her son and yes I do think I handled that very well thankyouverymuch.)

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The day she became my mother-in-law

 

And then we got married. I do not think there is a relationship in modern American society with more baggage than the “mother-in-law”. What in the world are we doing to the next generation with such negative stereotyping?!? It’s terrible! I do have friends that have fraught relationships with the in-laws, ones even that border on the abusive, so I’m not discounting that many have serious issues there. I am saying that I think we could do better as a society to honor this special relationship.

Over the years, I’ve just come to love my mother-in-law more and more. She remains intentionally focused on the well-being of her children and her grandchildren. She proactively seeks out relationship and opportunities to be with us. She notices the things that are important to people and makes an effort to make things happen. She does not offer empty praise, but instead sees positive attributes and the calls them out specifically. I have watched my children beam under her affirmation, not in an entitled, smug way, but in the way that shows they feel truly seen by her.

In the era we find ourselves now with people in power grasping tightly to whatever piece of the pie they can hold on to at whatever price, I notice that my parents and in-laws are going another direction. The only thing they are holding tightly to is their faith and conviction that God is good and that He is worth following. My in-laws have uprooted their family to move across the country, following a call to be part of a ministry they believe in. They left that ministry at personal cost when it became clear they needed to do that to find God’s flourishing in their lives again. They’ve continued in a limbo situation for a couple of years now waiting to see where and to whom God would send them next. Their faith is encouraging and convicting. Watching what they hold dear is a lesson they are teaching to us without having to use a single word.

My mother-in-law is someone I’m proud to know and enjoy hanging out with. She has fostered a strong sense of faith and connection to family in my husband and his siblings that is so evident today. She continues to learn and grow, sharing with us her nuggets of wisdom and passing along favorite books or passages that we may enjoy. She values service and hospitality, making sure everyone who enters her home feels welcomed, seen, and known.

When you fall in love with someone, you really don’t know what you’re getting with that person’s family. I count myself among the most blessed to be a part of the Kraft family now. Mary Jeane, I love your son and I love being part of your family. Happy Birthday week – I hope you get to keep celebrating! XOXOX

 

Jan, my first bonus sister

This week’s #wcw post is going to focus on my husband’s sister, Jan. It’s her birthday this weekend and I want to celebrate her a bit.

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By far one of my favorite pictures of Jan. What happens when you go running in extreme cold. It also tells you pretty much everything you need to know about her.

By the time I got to know Jan, I was already pretty into her brother. Getting to know her was a bonus. I have rarely met another person so simultaneously generous in spirit, strong in conviction, and sure of her own value. She knows what she likes and what is good for her and she will fight for it, even if (and when – because we all know that a strong woman comes up against resistance every now and again….) others are confused or put off by it.

We had the best time together when we were stationed in Germany. She came and stayed with us for 2 months over the summer while she was in college. Some wondered if that arrangement would actually be beneficial for everyone – small apartment and a long stay. But it was a great, great time. Becca was about 8 months old at the time and a truly delightful baby. Jan loved playing with her and making her laugh. Tom was away a bunch of the time on training exercises and such, so we filled our days with little day trips and longer overnights, exploring Germany’s lovely countryside.

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From Trip Advisor: This train is how most tourists get up the mountain…

One of the things that happened while she was there was that she and Tom decided to run a race together – the Königstuhl race, which is a one-way run up a mountain in Heidelberg. It is a STEEP mountain. It was something that Tom thought would be fun to do and Jan agreed and wanted to do it with him. (Just a side note here – that last sentence is so incredibly foreign to me, I cannot even begin to understand.) So we went and I happily dropped them off and then drove up to the halfway point to cheer them on and then waited at the top. It was a great race and they were both happy with their times. We stuck around for the awards ceremony and were shocked when they called Jan’s name! She had won her division! (Or maybe it was third place, but really, who’s counting?)

Jan uses that same determination and gumption (that’s what I call it!) to take on other incredible tasks too. After their dear, dear grandmother passed away who had knitted all of their Christmas stockings, Jan took it upon herself to be the one making the stockings. And she didn’t do this just for her own children; my Bethany was actually the first one to get a Jan stocking – it is one of the most precious things she has done.

My other sister-in-law may argue that one with me though, because Jan HAND MADE the flower girl dresses for her little brother’s wedding. She had never sewn anything that complicated before, but knew her own mother-in-law could help fill in the gaps, and she just decided to do it! They were absolutely stunningly beautiful.

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Swoon.

Someone with her talent could literally do anything she wanted, but she constantly shares her talents and gifts liberally with her friends and family.  And please don’t take that as anything less than wholehearted generosity – it comes not from a sense of martyrdom or approval-seeking, at least not that I am aware of. She is generous with herself as well, allowing her self the time she needs to recharge, noticing the practices and rhythms that keep her healthy and staying true to them.

Jan, you are only one of the many bonuses I got marrying into your family and I’m so super grateful for it.

A Marginal Morning

It’s not even 9 am and it has been A DAY! It started relatively peacefully with me waking early and getting in a walk and prayer time. When I went up to hop in the shower, I noticed that Michael was awake. He’s been waking up pretty early lately (between 5 and 5:30) but usually enjoys playing and singing (or yelling) in his bed. Having made sure that his noise isn’t waking up his sisters, we’ve decided to leave him there until we’re ready to get his breakfast going. But today, he was crying – so I went to check on him. This is when I discovered that my morning was officially derailed.

The precious boy had pooped and decided that he didn’t like how it felt and so removed the offending diaper from his body and threw it across the room. Unfortunately, that didn’t actually remove the feeling from his body and he only succeeded in spreading it over his bed and hands and body. So, we cleaned up.

And this is where the margin comes in – my husband was around and could help. A few months ago when my business started taking off some more and I was working more regular hours, I told him that what I needed in the mornings was margin. Anyone with children of any age knows that parenting is often a series of interruptions to what you thought the day would be. So, when I wasn’t managing clients and deadlines, basically all the interruptions just dictated the flow of my day. But things have shifted now that my work life is different. So what I asked Tom is to provide some margin in his mornings just for situations like today. Most days, it just means that we both have a little more time to sip the coffee or check in to our apps/games/books. But today, it meant that I didn’t have to clean up poop by myself. It’s just one of the many things I’m grateful for in the scheme of this morning….

…because unfortunately that wasn’t the end.

After the cleanup of room, baby, bedding, clothes, and self, I allowed myself to just sit for a while. Which was totally fine until we realized that we had just missed the high school bus. Oy. Insert second derailment of the morning. The High School is about 10-15 minutes away depending on traffic and the third kid wasn’t even awake yet for the elementary school bus that was coming in 40 minutes. Oops. Everyone shot up into full go-go-go mode and miraculously everyone got to where they needed to go and had what they needed to have (except for a lost very important piece of paper that has disappeared into the unseen regions of a home with 6 active people living in it.).

What’s interested me about this morning the most is how I’ve handled it. This kind of thing – cleaning up poop, missed buses, missing papers – this is normal. It’s the everyday stuff that adds to the chaos and stress of managing a family. But today, I didn’t feel overcome by the stress of it all. I for sure blurted out in frustration – Oh no! We missed the bus!!! But I didn’t yell at my daughter for not telling me or spend the whole drive berating her about time management skills. I was definitely frustrated with the toddler – and ohmygoodness did he hit the ground running this morning after being cleaned up – we are in the toddler chaos zone right now. But it wasn’t pushing me over the edge and into snapping at everyone in the family.

Why am I telling you this ?  It’s not to brag really. It’s just an observation of how things have changed in my heart and mind over the past almost 15 years of being a parent. And I guess I just want to say that things really can get better. My usual way of dealing with mornings like this has been to devolve into just more and more frustration with every. little. thing. going exactly the way it shouldn’t. And today it didn’t. So I’m marking a moment. I don’t want it to be a marker that brings shame to anyone, not the least of which my old self or my future self. It’s just saying – today, love and peace won over the chaos.

Thank you God!

 

My mom, part 2 – The Reverend

Last week ended up being too full to get this part 2 post wrapped up and sent out, but I didn’t forget about it! If you missed Part 1, check it out here – it’s a few snapshots of my relationship with my mom and is a great setup for today’s post.

I’ve been a pastor’s kid my whole life. Someone once asked me if it was strange that it was my dad up on the platform preaching, and my response was, “No, because it’s always been that way. It feels more strange when it’s NOT him.” When I moved away from home and those conversations came up about who we were and where we came from, I almost always answered that my parents were pastors. Many would exclaim, oh really?! They’re BOTH pastors?! And I would correct them and say, “well, technically, my dad is the pastor, but they’re both so integral to the running of the church that I see them as a unit, pastoring the church.”

IMG_8396This past week, my mom made it official – she is now an ordained minister of the Assemblies of God. In addition to her decades of real-life ministry experience, she took classes at night and over weekends to fulfill the requirements: classes on theology, biblical history, and leadership. She did this in addition to her full-time job and her role as worship leader at our church, all while still showing up as a wife, mother, and grandmother. My dad gave her the pulpit several Sundays to give her time to practice preaching and teaching and finding her own voice. Watching her pursue this goal and watching my dad support her in it has been life-giving to me as their daughter in innumerable ways.

I may write something a little later that fleshes out my thoughts in a more general manner regarding credentials and ordination of women and what it all means. There are interesting conversations happening around this subject, and I may dive in sometime.

But today – it’s really about my mom and my daughters. I’ve heard it said that “you can’t be what you can’t see.” It occurred to me last Monday that my daughters are seeing a woman step up into roles of leadership and pastoral authority and to them, it feels obvious. It is the next step. They won’t think it’s odd to hear their grandmother preach – they’re growing up with it. We adults all felt the gravity of the moment. There were tears through the smiles. In these days, in this society, with our history, my mom’s ordination MEANS something.

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Family row at the service – forgive the lighting

I tried to explain a little bit of the significance to my daughters but truly it was foreign to them that some would (and will continue to…) find this step offensive. They really didn’t get it – and for that I’m thankful. While I do want them to understand the history that we stand on, I’m grateful that this moment was one of simple celebration for them.

It was such a pleasure going to the ordination service. There were about 30 other people getting ordained that night and watching the diversity of age, gender, and race walk up to the podium was very meaningful. There were at least two married couples who had gone through the process together and were being ordained together. It is our network’s 100th year anniversary this year, so the service was extra special and drew national leaders to the stage. These new leaders were charged with some excellent (and challenging!) remarks by our General Superintendent Dr. George Wood. IMG_8390

As a participant in the service, I couldn’t help but feel hopeful for the future of at least our small corner of the church world. There is so much pain and brokenness going on in the church. Last week’s service didn’t change that and won’t heal the wounds overnight. But I couldn’t help but begin to see a rising tide of sound, strong leaders taking their place.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

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Proud granddaughters. My little one wouldn’t stop hugging her! #allthefeelings

 

A two-part #WCW: My mom

The next two week’s #WCW will be dedicated to my mom. We’re coming up on Mother’s Day and she has a big professional milestone around the corner so I wanted to give some extra space for that!

Next week, my mom will be ordained as a minister in the Assemblies of God. She’s been working towards this step for several years and I couldn’t be prouder. I’m taking my big girls at least to the ordination service and next week’s #WCW will be much more about that side of things.  This week will be mainly about the mothering side – childhood memories and the ongoing relationship of an adult relationship with my mom, and next week I’ll brag on her other “outside the home” accomplishments. What follows are some snapshots – a few memories that try (and will fail) to capture a lifetime of moments.

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no bedhead pictures – but this smile is the one I think of while singing that song…

Childhood:  I’m sleeping and my mom pops in the bedroom and starts singing in a loud whisper voice – “Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory! Rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory” – then her voice increases to a regular tone and she almost shouts the last phrase – “RISE AND SHINE AND [clap] give God the glory, glory, children of the Lord!”  We didn’t use alarms – my mom preferred to greet we non-morning-loving people with overly cheerful and peppy songs! It makes me giggle remembering shuffling out to the breakfast table with eyes barely open with the soundtrack of my mom’s voice in the background.

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Senior Prom – the only teenager picture I could find of me and my mom…

Teenager: It was the weekend of my 16th birthday and my mom had driven me several hours away to a softball tournament.  In the middle of one of the games, my teammates stood up and started singing Happy Birthday to me and then my mom told me it was time to leave. I had no idea what was going on – I left in the middle of the game!! She told me she had already cleared it with the coach and that she just needed me to trust her.  We head out in to the parking lot and she throws me the keys to drive home. I’m in shock, as I’m still in the learning phase and wasn’t sure she quite trusted me. In the next 2 minutes, I gave her cause NOT to trust me driving, when I turned too much pulling out of the spot and slammed in to the car next to us. Yes, my first ‘accident’ was pulling out of a parking spot. I’m pretty sure my mom shrieked, but then just calmly came around to my side and switched places with me, leaving a note on the car that we hit to call us for any damages, and drove home. Fairly quickly her annoyed attitude shifted to excitement and she tried to draw me out of my ashamed sheepishness. Unbeknownst to me, my parents had invited several of my friends to the symphony playing at Constitution Hall downtown and we were going to be getting home just in time for me to shower and change into something nice. She was dropping all these little hints about what I should do when I got home – and I was so confused because none of them were related to my driving disaster! I actually still don’t even know what happened with that, because once we got home it was all party time. She graciously allowed me my moment and didn’t allow it to squelch the day’s fun.

 

Adulting – I had just had my first baby. We’d been home for a few days and my mom was about to leave to go back home. My husband came home, a bit shell-shocked, to tell me that his chain of command had decided that instead of remaining behind as the commander of the rear detachment, as had been the plan leading up to my delivery, he was now going to be deployed with the rest of his company to the Middle East for an indefinite number of months.  I remember vividly seeing my mom on the couch, hearing this devastating news, and then literally crawling into her lap. I for sure didn’t fit there any more, but it was the only place I could figure out to go. I just bawled there for a bit and she let me cry it out. Then, we started figuring out how we would handle it. It would be ok, we decided. We could do this. THANKFULLY, the powers that be came to their senses and changed their minds. We didn’t have to figure it out. But I’ll never forget that moment of crawling back in to my mom’s lap like a little kid and her letting me, and then helping me get back up on my feet.

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Mom and Becca admiring a fish I caught. Several months post-breakdown

These are such short moments in a lifetime of fun, surprising, and calming ones. Love you mom!