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:

Halloween 2014
Smarty Pants, Candy Corn, Tinkerbell
Halloween 2011
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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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

 

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!

 

Local Business #WCW – Play, Work, or Dash

It’s been awhile since I highlighted an outstanding woman in my circle for #WCW.  I’ve got one for you today PLUS a teaser about some new things coming down the pipeline for me.

If you don’t already know this about me, I have four children with a large age gap between numbers 3 and 4. Just when I was beginning to think about starting back up a career again after being home (for the most part) with the kids for 12 years, I found out I was pregnant with baby number 4. One of the things that I remember my husband saying to me during those early weeks (okay months) of reeling with the news was that we didn’t have to do things the same way this time. He was supportive of me continuing the journey of what I’d already started – figuring out what I want to do when I grow up, pursuing opportunities, etc.

But, HOW??? For real? Well, when Michael was a few months old, I learned about a new place in our area, called Play, Work, or Dash that was offering a unique solution to moms like me.

The founder of PWD is Nicole Dash; she and her little community over there at PWD are my #WCW for today.  This spot is so wonderful and has been an incredible asset to my life these past several months. Here’s the basic concept – it’s a co-working space with childcare.  There’s a cute office suite over in Tysons – you walk in, drop your kids (ages 9 months up to 8 years old) in the lovely playroom that is staffed with great childcare workers, and head out in to the lounge area to do some work, or upstairs to the shared office space. Upstairs is a kitchen with snacks and coffee, multiple workstations with outlets, a printer, and miscellaneous office supplies. There’s also a conference room that you can book for meetings or just reserve to have even more quiet space to work.

If all of that wasn’t enough to radically open up the possibilities of pursuing my career options, Nicole also began offering workshops to her members. Each one of these that I have been able to attend have been very worthwhile. I’ve gained skills that helped me in some of my volunteer roles, my paid jobs, and also just overall with managing my life.

I’m so grateful to Nicole and to the other women entrepreneurs I’ve met at PWD for having the courage to pursue their dreams. It’s been such an inspiring thing to learn about all these people in my area pursuing very interesting careers in various industries.  I love the little community you’re building at Play, Work, or Dash – the sense of camaraderie and “me too” of young moms trying to do life around the chaos of toddlers and preschool, the environment of empowerment without competition.

That saying of a rising tide lifting all boats rings very true at Play, Work, or Dash – I see women being able to go ahead and take on that new client, get back to doing what they love, or start a new thing.

As for me – I am starting a new thing. I’ll talk more about it another day. There is lots of background as to why, how, and when I’m starting this new thing. But one very large reason I went ahead and took the plunge is because of the air I breathe at Play, Work, or Dash – parent-honoring, business-savvy, child-loving air.

Thank you Nicole!

 

#WCW – International Women’s Day Edition

Well, I haven’t written in almost a month! Things got busy around here. I was going to skip today too because my head is just spinning a bit from other things going on, but then I saw that today is International Women’s Day! I have to highlight someone on this day!

So, today I’ll tell you about my daughter, who is rapidly becoming a woman in her own right. She turned 14 last month and today she had quite the milestone of getting her braces off! Ugh, now she’s even more beautiful.

Parenting is such a funny experience. It all happens right in front of your nose so you don’t really see what’s happening. Then you look at a picture from a baby album, or remember how old you are, or write on the invitation to the birthday party the age of your kid and the reality smacks you upside the head. She is growing up! She is not a baby anymore! All the things they said when she was a toddler are true! “It goes so fast.” “The days are long but the years are short.” “This too shall pass.”

22431_301334152450_5771074_nYep, we conquered teething and sleeping through the night, potty training and not eating poisonous things from under the sink. She does NOT still use her binky (phew!)

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I no longer worry about her having separation anxiety or whether she’ll learn to tie her shoes. She’s spent the night away from me too many times to count. She eats her vegetables and makes her bed. We’ve moved on from Dora the Explorer to Harry Potter. The milestones just keep piling up.

She’s an amazing daughter and I’m so excited to watch her turn into a lovely young woman. Next year she heads to high school and while I simply cannot imagine time going any faster than it already does, I know that it, too, will ZOOM. So, I’ll share some hopes I have for your future while I have this moment. (Your baby brother is currently very happily banging on an empty coffee can. This could go on for MINUTES!)

I hope you always believe the TRUTH about yourself – that you are talented, intelligent, creative, beautiful, full of potential, worthy of love, and loved immensely by your family and by God.

I hope you continue to surround yourself with friends who support you and who you support. Girlfriends are life – treasure them! Bring them over for dinner – we love your friends and we love a home full of girls’ laughter.

I hope you take time to pursue your dreams and passions. Go to school. Travel (just always call me when you get there, ok??) Try something crazy. Enjoy the adventure of your life. We’ll always leave the light on for you.

I hope you know you are more than your GPA, your transcript, your list of activities and accomplishments, your eventual college acceptance. Your achievements will be so important, but they’re not everything.

I hope you’ll remember you come from a line of strong women. We support you and cheer you on. Your grandmothers and great grandma are women who have not always walked easy roads, but who have gained resilience from walking those roads with dignity. Their legacy is an amazing one and I’m so glad you get to know them. I hope you keep up your own relationship with them as you grow older.

I love you my sweet girl. You and your sisters and brother fill me with such hope for our future. Happy International Women’s Day!

 

Sheltered: On media exposure and parenting

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how sheltered my kids’ lives are in comparison to how my life was sheltered as a child. I grew up in a fairly strict conservative household that limited tv and movie viewing and book reading to titles with only G or PG rated material, and sometimes even the PG was a little much. Little to no secular music was played in the car or at home.  We watched Gospel Bill and SuperBook instead of the Smurfs and Scooby Doo. I went to a Christian school through middle school so I didn’t get much exposure at all to the popular music of the time.  My kids are growing up a bit differently.  We still limit a bunch of tv and movies, mainly because we don’t have cable! The tv is rarely on. But my kids know the words to several classic rock songs thanks to my husband, and are constantly humming top 40 tunes thanks to the music they hear on the announcements at school.

So, in some ways, my children are less sheltered than I was. But in one way particularly, they are extremely MORE sheltered. What way is this? The News.

Growing up, the evening news was always on the tv from around 5ish until dinner and then back on while dinner clean up was happening. I rarely sat down and watched it with my parents, but I was very aware of things that were happening. I watched the videos of the Rodney King beating, Gulf War SCUD missile strikes, DC protests of all manner, etc.  (Interestingly, somehow I missed the Challenger explosion. Apparently every other kindergartner was watching it, but not me. Maybe I was sick that day? who knows.) But now? Like I said before, we don’t have the tv on much at all. We don’t have cable (mainly a financial decision, not a philosophical one), we haven’t sprung for a roof antenna, and the tv just doesn’t get great reception down in the basement. I don’t have a little tv in the kitchen either. So my kids just don’t really get the exposure to current events like I did. I get the news on my phone, usually during the day while they’re at school and after they’re in bed. Sometimes on the radio – but I usually switch it off in the car when the kids are with me, because it’s usually the only time I have one on one time with them and it’s a good time to talk.

I know they hear about some things at school. For example, my husband and I had not really been talking about the election at home, but my big girls all still knew all about Trump and were fairly flabbergasted at his success. What’s interesting to me is that this sheltering is not intentional. I’m not trying to keep things from them; it’s just that my consumption of media and news is not as public or in front of them as my parents’ was.

I’ve read blog posts and articles about how to handle kids’ anxiety in today’s news world where it seems that some major disaster is happening every few days. I always read these and am like – wait, does my kid even know that happened? Should she know it happened? Just what does my child/teenager need to know about what’s going on? About Black Lives Matter? About the cultural battles being waged over LGBTQ issues? About abortion? About this mass shooting? About that terrorist attack? etc, etc, etc.

I don’t mean to be doing them a disservice by not opening the door to current events.  I also don’t necessarily think they need to know about everything happening – it’s overwhelming for me as an adult to engage with every story. I simply do not have the emotional capacity to handle caring so deeply about all of the major cultural discussions swirling today.

I would love to hear how other parents are handling this issue – are your kids media exposed? Are you intentional about it? Any lessons learned?