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In which there is a blanket…

“To love another person is to see the face of God.” –Victor Hugo

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” –Proverbs 27:17

“The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.” –CS Lewis

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I spent a lot of time over the past 8 weeks reflecting on each of these quotes.  I know exactly how many weeks it was because that’s how long it took me to knit a blanket.  It wasn’t just any blanket–it was “the” perfect blanket.  I designed and knit it for a family so special to me that I honestly don’t even know how I am going to write this blog post without crying.  So sit back and wait for it, because this post is going to be a doozy (which spell check tells me isn’t a real word…I call foul).

I have been blessed in my life with the opportunity to travel and live overseas with Marcus’ job.  It has brought us so much closer together as a couple and we’ve come together as a more cohesive family unit. It has also meant that we’ve had the chance to meet people that might not have otherwise crossed our paths.  I think there was a time where I would have called that “coincidence.”  Now, though, I know it was God’s hand in my life.

I know that God put Jody and Rachel and each of their children in my life to fill a void that I didn’t even know existed.  Like I wasn’t complete until I met Marcus and he and I were joined together, I feel like I can also say that we weren’t complete until we met them.  Marcus and Jody are able to work together and play together, each bringing out the best in one another on personal and professional levels.  Rachel and I do the same, each bringing something to the table that the other is lacking.  Like in my marriage, and in theirs, the extrovert and the introvert have paired up as a perfect match.  And so when the four of us are together, it’s more than friendship.  It’s like family.  It’s like home.

It’s not only Jody and Rachel as individuals (though that’s a huge part of it), but it’s also the connection we have felt and shared with them on a religious and spiritual level.  We’ve grown closer to God through our friendship with them.  It has, and they have, changed my life.  I’m prayerful about what will happen to that change when they leave, in stages, over the next several months.

 I am struggling so much with their impending departure.  The curse of living overseas and working with the military is that people don’t stay.  I absolutely despise that part of this experience.

To pass the time, and as part of my Lenten experience, I decided to knit Jody and Rachel a blanket.  They had longingly admired the blanket I was making for Marcus, and I thought that a blanket would be a nice gesture.  I would knit prayerfully and focus on the good, and not the sad.  When I couldn’t find a blanket pattern that I liked after scrolling through patterns on Ravelry, I knew that I should design one myself.

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The “Perfect Match” blanket was born out of love.  Out of necessity.  Out of prayer and peace and loss and happiness.  Every stitch was considered and deliberate.

There are very few projects that I have worked on in my life that I have been sad to finish.  This was one of them.  I cried as I weaved in the loose ends and folded it up.

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I don’t want them to go.

Rachel is my practical, calm, prayerful friend.  She’s the logical one.  Our friendship isn’t ending because they are leaving.  We’ll see each other again.  The internet, Facebook, email, they’ve all made the world smaller and distances relative.  So true.

And still.

I don’t want them to go.

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In which life is too short for crappy books…

I have been a reader for my entire life.  I have devoured books as readily as some might scarf down a pizza or memorize the words the their favorite song.  I could spend hours perusing the shelves of book stores, never ceasing to find something (often more than one something) that interests me.  Reading is a massive part of my identity.

So imagine my surprise to discover in the past year that not all books are worthy of my time.  I know.  I was as shocked as you are.

If I’m honest with myself, it started years ago.  I’d start a book that had all the right criterion for something I’d love.  Historical fiction.  Trashy beach read.  Bestseller.  Young adult fiction.  Dystopia.  The list is endless, really.  I see it, it grabs my attention, I buy it.

And for a variety of reasons, I wouldn’t get drawn in.  I’d get distracted (I tend to do that sometimes).  I’d get bored.  Another book would become more appealing.  I’m fickle, I suppose.

But I have always had guilt.  I am a reader.  Readers read books.  I can’t leave one unfinished!  I have forced myself to trudge through books I don’t love simply to be able to say that I finished them.

It stops now.  Life is too short for crappy books!  My reading time is limited.  If I don’t want to finish a book, it’s time to stop reading.  Put it away.  Donate it.  Loan it to a friend.  But finish a book I’m not interested in?  Why torture myself?

Life’s too short to read books that are crappy.

It’s too short for friends who aren’t real.

Too short for movies that I don’t enjoy.

Too short to spend a sunny day inside cleaning.

Too short to choose TV over playtime with the girls.

Too short for my iPhone instead of real people.

Life is too short.

Be selective.

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My daughter hates me.

My daughter hates me.  All kids go through a similar stage, I’m sure.  I do everything wrong.  I make her do her homework (the horrors!).  I force her to brush her teeth (call social services!).  I don’t tolerate rude and disrespectful behavior.  I have high expectations for her.

In kid-speak, I’m mean to her.

I know I shouldn’t let it bother me.  I’m her mother—not her friend.  I love her more than anything in the world, and because I love her, I have a job to do.  If I do it right, we’ll be friends later…much later.

It bothers me anyway.

What mother doesn’t want to be adored?  Hugged and kissed when she does the school drop off in the morning?  Obediently obeyed with a smile?  Snuggled and told, “I love you so much Mommy!” at bedtime?

Of course, I recognize that this ideal mother-daughter relationship doesn’t really exist.  I only see glimpses of relationships between other girls and their mothers, not the whole story.  I can’t be the only mother that struggles with these issues.  I know I’m not.  Definitely.

Right?

I’ll be honest and admit that I’m not the mom of the year over here.  Ignoring the fact that my house is rarely clean (and that’s with biweekly cleaning people, too) and the fact that my idea of a home-cooked meal is 90-second rice, frozen veggies (yes, I microwave them first), and chicken nuggets, there are areas I struggle with as a mother.  I’m quick to frustrate.  Impatient.  Particular.  Overcommitted.  Selfish.  Lazy.

Of course, I’m not all of those things at once.  But they’re things I describe myself as when I’m feeling particularly crappy at this thing called, “mom.”

Last night, though, my daughter woke up sick in the middle of the night.  I was ripped from my sleep by her call for, “MOM!” from her bed.  It took me less than a moment to fly from my room to hers, help her to the bathroom, hold her hair back, and stroke her back as she got sick.  To hold her once it was over.  To sit with her and comfort her.  To reassure her.

And she wanted me.  Her immediate instinct when she woke up sick was to yell for me.  She did it without thinking.  I’m who she wanted.

Maybe she doesn’t hate me after all.  On some level, I’m doing something right.  She might not appreciate it all now, at eight years old.  But one day she will.  One day, she’ll know how much I love her and how much I do and how much I want for her.

I take it all back.  I am mom of the year after all.

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Back to school…blues…?

It can’t be. I’ve craved the return to school for weeks (if not more). I can’t be experiencing some weird sort of…well…missing it…can I?

Yes, I can. It’s not that I’m not happy to have the girls back in school. I am. Oh, I am.

It’s not that I miss the pool and the sun and the vacations. I do. Oh, I do.

I think it’s that the kids’ return to school, Jessica getting slightly older, and the (don’t laugh) fact that I’ve hired a cleaning company to help me now that I’m working so much, have all sort of changed this definition I had of myself.

I’m an overstressed, overworked, over exhausted, under appreciated, overwhelmed mum (I must be channeling my inner Brit tonight). Or, I was.

Suddenly I have time. I can breathe. I can think. I can make more choices. I have options. There’s flexibility.

And I feel guilty about it.

Go figure.

On the upside, I played field hockey with my oldest daughter tonight while my younger two wrote and colored. And it was awesome. Everything about it felt right. I was enjoying my kids. Actually enjoying them.

It doesn’t happen often enough. It if it does, I don’t remember to pause and catch it.

Maybe the two are related. Perhaps.

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A history of my world in 100 objects #28

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I made this when I was a little girl. I remember my dad taking my sister and I to a craft store, where we got to pick out the materials, paints, glue, and everything we needed. Kiki gave hers to Nanee and Poppy, and mine went to Grandma and Granddaddy.

For as long as I can remember, this hung in their kitchen. As I got older, I remember thinking it was so absurd. I forgot to paint the mouths on some of the bears. It wasn’t perfect. It didn’t go with anything.

It was also a reminder of the argument Kiki and I had at the time, over who’d give which one to which set of grandparents. We’d both wanted to give ours to Nanee and Poppy. I’m not even sure why. As kids, maybe we saw them as the “fun” grandparents. We had to be quieter at grandma and granddaddy’s house. We didn’t get to watch as much tv. There was no air conditioning (the horrors!).

In the end, I simply gave mine to Grandma and Grandaddy. It didn’t really mean anything to me, anyway.

But it meant something to my grandparents. I had done it. Me, one of 15 grandchildren, had made it for them. And they didn’t take it down until Marcus and I bought our first home and they gave it to us.

Now, I can’t imagine my house without it. Time has taught me so much. About love. Faith. Family.

My Grandma died on Thursday. She’s meeting my grandfather in heaven, of that I’m sure. And they’re so very, very welcome there.

But she…they…are missed more than I can ever put into words. There are no favorites anymore. There is only love.

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Family Project: Summer Reading Contest

Today is the first day of summer vacation! On a whim, I told the girls we should start a reading contest. It has suddenly ballooned into a major family project, and we are so excited about it!

First of all, I want to give credit where credit is due. This project is modeled on a classroom reading project my daughter’s kindergarten teacher did this year. I’ve made some modifications to suit a family, but the ideas behind the project are hers. So Mrs. Koontz–thank you for this inspiration.

I was also inspired by a teacher friend’s middle school house cup contest–thank you too, Cap!

Teams: We are working in teams. As a family, we chose parents against kids, which we hope will help our daughters feel closer to one another instead of competing with one another. Depending on your family, you may want to team up as boys vs girls or mixed teams. The key is what works for your family.

Points: My daughters are still young and reading short chapter books, early readers, or picture books. We decided that every book (without chapters) or every chapter earns one point.

My older daughter is starting to read silently, and my younger daughter primarily reads aloud. So that we can guarantee that they’re actually reading everything they say, we alternate between asking them to re-read a page to us, asking them questions about each book or chapter, or simply asking them to tell us about what they read. If they’re so inclined, they can ask us to do the same. 🙂

Reading Journals: Though this is team contest, we are tracking books individually, too. We first created a large chart for the wall so that everyone could record their books. I very quickly found that this would be impractical, and we modified our program to include individual reading logs instead. Everyone has their own, we decorated our covers (even dad did his!) and there are lined pages inside for recording books or chapters.

Team Tallies: Daily, or several times a day, you should record everyone’s progress on a large team tally board. Make a big deal out of this family time–cheer for every participant and count up the tally marks (math lesson!).

Prizes: Our project is going to last for 8 weeks (we think). The grand prize is a trip to Chuck E Cheese (if the kids win) and Cheeseburger in Paradise (if we win). I’m also planning smaller “pop prizes” for the first team to 50 books, first team to 100 books, first person to 50 books, most books read in the first week, etc. Some of these pop prizes will be team prizes and some will be individual.

I think that’s it, so far! I’m sure I’ll modify as I go and we see what works and what doesn’t. My biggest concern is the length, so I’m hoping we can
keep the kids motivated for the entire 8 weeks.

If you and your family want to join us, please do! I’d love to hear about how your family does their summer reading project, so please use the #summerreadingproject tag!

Start reading! 🙂

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A history of my world in 100 objects #27

Yesterday my family and I attended a BBQ not far from the beach house my grandparents owned when I was a child. On a whim, we drove a little bit out of the way to see the old house.

I was so surprised to see it, and all of the changes that had taken place there over the years. Gone is the wraparound screened-in porch, there’s a large second story where there was once none. It’s yellow. It’s all wrong.

I snapped a picture and we drive away. Marcus asked me what was wrong, and I burst into tears. Everything. Everything was wrong. The house wasn’t right. My grandparents, both older now and in declining health, aren’t right. The passing of time felt wrong. Nothing was right.

My parents, divorced now but both with hundreds, thousands, of memories of the house at Breezy Point were quick not reminisce, pointing out all the wonderful things that happened there. Those should be the focus. They’re right.

But I still look at this picture and everything seems wrong. Object 27 is this house…but moreso, it’s the lifetime of family memories that took place in this house. And that isn’t wrong. It was, it is, so very right.

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