Goals vs. Growth

Most years I tend to whirlwind through January. Checking off to do lists gleefully and wondering where the days went. The house is never clean, but the workings get a dusting off. This year it didn’t exactly all happen. I’m tired. Just overall, having 4 kids and essentially managing 6 lives is exhausting. I can’t pretend its not. I won’t ever have a clean house or look like someone out of a magazine. Most days I have my hair in a mom bun and have trouble putting on real clothes before 8am. This is my life. I love my life, my complaints are minor, but I feel like it is okay to admit that it takes a lot out of me some days!

This year I finally felt like letting go of some of my aggressive “goals” while wholeheartedly embracing others. This year I don’t have any of my filing sorted yet, because when you keep 3 years of impeccable financial and medical files as I do, quite frankly you don’t want to have to look at them unless the IRS is calling. I usually rollover a new year and shred/sort/keep/recycle all the paperwork. Right now, it is sitting in our office/man room and I’m okay if I don’t see it until June.

Last year in January I started prioritizing time for ME. The Husband and I signed up for starlight yoga every Wednesday and we have been going now for a year. It has been fantastic for both of us. Date night with no talking, no kids and going straight to bed after stretching for an hour? Welcome to 12 years of marriage! In all seriousness, it benefits him because he sits in a chair all day and talks on the phone and for me the silence is almost like being at the spa, not to mention how tight my hips are from having 4 kids and running around with them constantly. I also started trying to run/walk 2x a week last year and I have been somewhat consistent with that as well. I haven’t seen many fitness gains, but I sure can tell I have a better mental attitude.

All this to say, perhaps this year is your year to let go of some “Goals” and focus on “Growth”. As much as my type A self wants to get things done, here are some ways I am more focused on Growth than Goals this year:

1. Financial Growth: this feels like the first year where I have really looked at if our money is working for us. I finally sat down and compared interest rates across the board on our savings, IRA’s and investment accounts. Let’s face it, interest rates are bad if you are trying to save, although ideal for any homebuyers thus far this year. For me, I’ve decided to do my best to set some money aside into anything that earns more than 1.5%. For us this meant some short-term CD’s (certificates of deposit) and moving some money into an e-account which is still FDIC insured but earning 1.75%. We want to be somewhat liquid but also make our money work for us if possible. I am also trying to squeeze more money into my investment account if I won’t miss it in the household budget. The market is an adventure, who knows what will happen, but putting your money under a mattress certainly isn’t doing much.

2. Mental Growth: I am going to try to schedule myself a writing workshop for this year (I say this because it has been a goal for 3 years….it WILL happen this year!) as well as scheduling my writing time (as my exercise) away from the house with certain measurements in place. I am writing this post at a café downtown, alone and with something yummy. Major thanks to the Husband who is putting them all to bed in my absence after a long week himself. My aim is 1 post a month and I figure the last day of January is a good place to start! I love to write and as much as I was occasionally able to blog last year, I realized how much I missed being more consistent in documenting our lives and my writing.

3. Physical Growth: This is a tough one for me. I love my 4 beautiful babies, but they did a doozy on my body and my health. I had some good work put in last year and this year I really want to buckle down and get my labs looking better and feeling better in my body. I also want to sign up for a few races, even with the kiddos it’s fun. I don’t often lack confidence regardless of what size I am, but I am feeling more pressure to really get in better shape as I approach 35. My “baby” is 2 and since I know I am not having more my journey can only go up from here. This means going back to Pilates (which I love) 2x a week if I can. I have told myself I have to do 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. I love dancing and I found an ancient Dance Central game from pre kids, so I have been busting out the Xbox Kinect a few nights a week to do my cardio and I LOVE it. I love competition against myself (the best kind) and dancing doesn’t feel like an intensive weight regime.

4. Spiritual: I have not been consistent at all in any sort of Bible study on my own or within a group. I need to prioritize my reading time when the kids and I do Bible for school and make sure I am delving in and listening to what God has to say to me. I miss the intensive frenetic study of being a student, but I also need to find a balance in the quiet moments since I am a busy mama. I have been devouring library books (I try to read 100+ books a year) but I need to do my Bible reading first. I also love history and catch myself getting lost in the stories, I would love to find some books that explore the history of what was happening parallel to the Biblical narrative. To do!

In the end, I am not one for big New Year resolutions, so instead of specific goals, I am aiming for growth. As I grow older, I can only hope to grow wiser, and I hope some of my ramblings on the subject can motivate any of you who are staring at the vast landscape that is the next 11 months.

Happy New Year! May the 20’s be roaring in the best way.

Adieu, until next time.

The Time Space Continuum

Isn’t it interesting, in the Bible, how God created Adam and almost immediately realized…”no that’s not right” about him being alone and promptly fashioned an Eve to keep him company?
Lately I have been thinking about the politics of isolation. “Social” media seems to become less and less social and more and more polarizing. No longer a place to interact with friends and tell jokes and write funny comments. I find it filled more and more with divisiveness and advertising, amongst other things. We can view lives from afar and feel a part of the world, and yet very likely, find ourselves staring at a phone in our moments of solitude, rather than being with people IRL (in real life). Yes, another gift social media has given is a whole new language of shortened words, a new and yet not necessarily improved vocabulary. 
As a mother, especially adding in the home-schooling angle, I am certainly not isolated. 4 small voices and needs chime constantly from sunup to sundown. In my world I sometimes yearn for isolation. I have felt a shift the last few years in my attitude toward my free “alone time”. I realize if I look at my phone or check social media a few times a day, I don’t actually miss much. Lately I have pushed myself to pick up a book or try to write rather than wasting time on my phone. 
My time in a book, for instance, does not feel lost or wasteful. I feel as if I have gained something from the characters or the story, as if now more than ever my brain desperately needs the protein of a fulfilling novel. 
I have also tried to be more intentional the last few years of scheduling time (yes I’m 34 with kids, not a lot of impromptu outings going on) with my friends to have conversation, share an activity and enjoy the flow of conversation that differs so greatly from my daily briefings with the small ones. As more and more personal interactions are going to the wayside, so as well, does the general decency and decorum that is associated with an educated humankind. 
As my children grow older, I constantly look around at the teenagers that exist now, and wonder what will mine look like? I cannot possibly lump them all because to be honest, I know a few teenagers who are fantastic humans and I look forward to them becoming adults. The ones I worry about are the kids coming home to empty houses and retreating to bedrooms to play video games for hours or drown in social media onslaught. 
Another aspect of isolation effects another generation, the elderly. As people age, lose spouses, move, or are downsized, they are increasingly put to the side in our society. We consider a lone senior a normality when in fact numerous studies show that for those older and living alone, having an active social life with others outside their home can increase health and longevity. I love hearing about these experiments of preschools in retirement homes, with the generations passing on wisdom and the younger children energizing older folks. 
As people, we need people, plain and simple. My personal jury is out on whether social media in fact fills this manifesto or destroys it. I strongly believe in teaching my children common courtesy and how to properly interact in person with everyone they may come across. So much is communicated in voice, in expression, in facial movement that cannot be expressed in nearly the same way via social media. 
As we work more, study more, spend more time online, we become more selfish with our free time. We work more and live less than many generations before us. If our time is free, we tend to retreat into isolation. To make and keep plans, see people we love in person, becomes more and more challenging as we fight the beast that is “being busy”. 
I think as we see fewer personal interactions and use our common sense less and our google more, we lose care for the world around us. We don’t have as much time to think of others, or other parts of the world and the suffering that may be happening. We simply do a rinse and repeat with our days, occasionally with a day off to catch up on life. 
Making a habit of making time for people in real life is in my opinion, always worth it. For instance, my sister who insists on living in California (God bless her) never hesitates to spend her valuable time off getting on a plane and coming to see her family. As she is the only family member out of state, I have made it a habit and tradition to visit her for a sister weekend every year for as long as I can remember. Yes, we talk, we facetime, we text daily. Is it the same? Not at all. 
I suppose this post is as much to remind me to stay on the path, as it is to remind all of you to take the time. Take the long way home occasionally, leave early and drive slow for something. If a friend has had a hard day, rather than texting, get in the car or the bus and go to them, have a conversation. 
I realize to take time is a leisurely activity, it involves being unselfish with time we often covet for ourselves. I will tell you I can hardly remember any incident in which I regret taking time. To visit my grandparents, to see my sister, to answer all the questions my children have. Too often I regret not doing these things, and I will continue to push myself to take the time. So many other things in life can wait, being with those we love is time gained in a relentlessly busy life. 
Enjoy the slow lane sometimes. 
Signing off to go home and stick my nose in a book. 
E

Music of The Heart

I am the great grand-daughter of an orchestra president. It is but a small footnote in my family history, but one I am proud of. In his 10 year career he managed to bring an orchestra into the black, being one of the first symphonies in the United States to do so at the time. He searched for talent and expected his friends with money to contribute to the orchestra that lay at the heart of their city. The joy and art of music is unmatched. The joy of giving back to our communities can not be measured in any monetary way.

It is because of this history that I buy symphony tickets every year. They are a great built in date night, gift to give to others and girls night out. Being able to sit and enjoy a live orchestra is thrilling and peaceful at the same time and I look forward to picking out different concerts each year. The Christmas Pops concert is becoming a fun tradition for the Husband and I.

Music does to our minds and souls something so wondrous it is hard to explain. Every citizen of earth moves in time to her beat. What a privilege to learn of and appreciate music. What a duty to pass on to the next generation the value and importance of notes on a page.

I was given the chance to play violin in the 5th grade. The chance to learn, to push, to be a part of something. A performer upon a shared stage. I did not stick to strings as my sisters did, taking my hand at the clarinet and then the choir. I don’t consider myself musical per se but how my heart thrills to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons or Handel’s Messiah. I know and love these notes written long ago because I was taught and I had a chance to listen to music and appreciate it as a child. As so many arts and music programs are culled in favor of more lofty ideals of science and technology we must make it a priority to remember music, to teach our children to listen in a society filled with noise and distractions.

We are the guardians of the gift, the gift of an ability to listen and enjoy, just because. To revel in the joy of written note. Give your children a chance to hear music, whether Simon and Garfunkel or Mozart’s lullabies. Let them pause in the hectic frenzy of our busy days. Let them be still, dance and revel in what a gift we have in music. Being able to heal our divides, to unite our collective souls, to thrill in our tiny humanity, to be awed in how much is lost of our soul. Music reflects our humanity. Our need to be an audience, to be a player on the stage. Now more than ever music can unite what is divided, can teach us something of our past and future.

I encourage you to take 5 minutes. Sit still, or blast it in the car on your drive. Focus on nothing but the music, the beat, how it makes your heart feel.

Enjoy it for what it brings to you, a peace, a thrill, a momentarily lull from a crazy pace.

Happy listening and don’t forget to support your local music scene!

I’m Back!

Its been a coon’s age. Why exactly do we say that? Note to self to do some research.
Life has been full throttle and then some. A combination of factors means that I haven’t written nearly at all in the last well almost half a year. One of my personal goals last year was a writer’s retreat, which didn’t happen. I’ve put it on the list again for this year and I am hopeful that even if it means locking myself into a hotel room overnight that I can finally get some writing done. I think I’m beginning to see why it takes people years to write a book.
In the meantime, our holiday season passed in a blink. It was hectic at times; however, I made a purposeful decision this year to say no to more activities. We spent time just sitting in the house by the fire, eating all the chocolate, playing all the Lego and in general being homebodies. The kids and I had 3 weeks off school which was glorious, they started to go stir crazy and I was reveling in not doing a daily lesson plan or trying to work through a Math worksheet with my oldest.
Here we are at the beginning of a new year. Full immersion back at school and I’m daydreaming of our field trips and things to do when the sun peeks out. Living in a place with mild winters is rather nice really, I mean I love snow, real foot deep snow, for about 2 weeks. Then I get cabin fever. All the kids have had this terrible cold (which has finally found me) and we haven’t been on our usual social circuit. The nice thing about homeschooling is that we can still get our schoolwork done. Finally in the last few days we’ve been out for a lovely hike and some time at the park. It does as much good for their soul as it does for mine.
Today I finally get a chance to write because my car is in the next town over getting a new battery so I’m bussing it up. The conversations happening around me are interesting to say the least. Quite a few university students and some commuters as well. Although I love to drive, it is very nice to just enjoy the scenery and people watch for a bit.
All this random gathering of thoughts to tell you all that, I’m back, my apologies for the absence and I hope to continue to be more consistent this year. It is always a goal to at least post 1x a month.
May your new year bring much joy and adventure, make time to get outside and spend time with those you love.

Summers End

Yes, yes, it isn’t officially fall yet. I love fall and I can’t wait. Summer is in fact beginning to run out, however, it has been one for the books.

The season of summer though. Wow. This year it was full of ups and downs and obviously no blogging, although some writing was done here and there. I have had so many thoughts or random topics to blog about but unfortunately a small person or household management, or just straight wanting to turn my brain off has prevented much blogging this summer.

We have been busy maxing our park time, camping with the family, playing in the pool and finding shells at the seashore. Oh and ice cream, all the ice cream. Basically it was all the things it should be (aside from almost 2 weeks trapped indoors due to wildfire smoke).

Oh and the Husband and I celebrated being married a decade with a whirlwind 9 day trip through Europe. Well Scotland, England and France to be precise. At some point I’ll need to write a whole separate blog post on the trip because I did bring a writing notebook and I did have moments of absolute silence in which to write. Hooray!

It’s officially September now so yesterday we opened up Bug’s 2nd grade curriculum (yay!) which made it pretty real. We won’t start until September 10th but she starts extracurricular activities next week. I already feel over scheduled, which I don’t like at all so we may have to pull back on some things, especially once swim starts again….oy…vey.

About a month ago I made a small list of things I wanted to do before Summer ran out. A family bucket list if you will. Truth be told, we had a great time just hanging in the backyard most days. Thankfully with homeschooling we still can fit in a few more adventures under the sun. I am so grateful that we get to begin another year of learning. I’m already buying so many books based on educational premise. As I look forward to the next few weeks and finishing the bucket list I’m also trying to look forward in the year and make more meaningful time to write.

Summer puts everything so off schedule, in a good way. Having a list was nice but I feel like this summer went so fast because I didn’t plan much family wise and the Husband and I were focused on our trip. Thankfully given our time away I had time to think about my goals and writing goals and think about what should change when we got back.

I had a goal this year to attend a writers retreat which doesn’t look like it will work at this point, however, I have decided to pick a chill weekend and go stay somewhere overnight. To meaningfully unplug, let the silence invade, and see if I can make some progress on any of my works in progress.

I hope that as Summer winds down for you, you allow yourself a moment or more to breathe, to look forward to a simple schedule in the fall and to take time for your personal goals. I think for me this means purposely (and often far in advance) carving out time to be creative and to put aside electronics and distractions and just observe the world around us as the seasons change.

May your fall be without lament and full of purpose!

The One Where I’m Over It

This school year is so so close to being done. As in this Friday I no longer have to get a sleepy daughter going in the morning, prod her to get dressed and brush teeth and start our school morning. I’m so glad because I am over it. Like a kid I see the summer approaching and I am wiggling in my chair with anticipation.

Its been a long year, !st grade aside, there has been a new sibling born, job stress, new activities to add in the mix and many, many celebrations and family events.

Best part of this year being over? Despite a slow start (and a somewhat doubtful husband) Bug is now reading merrily along. Just as I knew she would. She has picked up the beauty of reading and can now be found an hour after bedtime greedily devouring a book. By no means are we at a Herman Melville level yet but she is LOVING reading, which really is all you need.

The boys had a successful year at preschool. They made friends, participated in a talent show, made lots of art projects and walked many miles to and from school.

Despite taking at least a month off for the arrival of baby E, we have managed to finish before Summer breaks through. Hallelujah!

And what a summer! The only consistent thing on the schedule is a weekly 30 minute piano lesson which means we are FREEEEEE!

Kicking off the summer will be our annual family 4th of July BBQ. Shortly thereafter with much excitement, the husband and I embark on our 10th Anniversary trip. That’s right folks, its taken 10 years but for 10 days we will be enjoying each other’s company and having a conversation where no one ask for snacks. To say I’m looking forward to a full nights sleep or 7 and food I don’t have to cook would be an understatement.

To all of the teachers out there I think I finally get it. To all the parents out there, let’s try to live it up like the kids and embrace summer with all its crazy adventures.

Ciao for now!

Monday Monday

The sun has appeared at last. It isn’t a fluke. The glorious PNW is coming out in all her glory. The mountains are snow capped, the fields are filled with blooms and the waters are sparkling.

Spring has finally sprung.

Meanwhile, over here though we are reveling in it we are also still busy with school and life and the new baby (who is 4 months old now!).

Today despite Fuss having a spring cold we packed up and headed to the glorious blooms of spring tulips. Uncle Roe came along to herd the small ones and add to the general merriment of the day. First stop, coffee, always the coffee.

Everyone sated and happy (except baby E who hates the car seat) we headed out for a drive in the country and found ourselves parking the car at Roozengaarde. For $7 (kids 5 and under are free) we walked through the gates into a beautiful garden complete with picturesque windmill and rows upon rows of gorgeous tulips.

The kids loved looking at all the different colors, and the boys, lets face it, mostly liked the muddy paths. We took lots of pictures and baby E fell asleep in her carrier as it was just to much for her to take in.

Arriving home after much fresh air, my sweet brother in law hung with the kids for an hour so I could run errands ALONE (score!). Windows down and music up, sun shining almost felt like a vacation.

Post lunch the boys are watching a movie (because now Giddy has hopped on the sick train-despite being perfectly fine) and Bug and I are working on school work. Math is up next, not my favorite. Baby E is napping though which is nice. In about an hour when school is over for the day I will release them to the backyard and much opening and closing of the screen door will happen, along with numerous requests for snacks and swimsuits, etc.

It may be 57 degrees but here in the PNW Spring has sprung and we couldn’t be more excited.

Hope you all are enjoying this lovely time of year.

ta ta for now!

E