Monday, December 13, 2010

Finding Their Passion

Now that our oldest child is 7 and our youngest will be entering the big K next year, our lives are busier than ever.  If you have kids I'm sure you can relate.  The weekends fill up fast without consciously blocking time out. Even the after school and evening times seem to fill quickly with activities, school meetings, fundraisers, and other related events.  I hear parents talk about their busy family schedules and I cringe.

This weekend we experienced our first music recital.  I had to use every ounce of self control to keep myself from crying (even when the other kids played).  It may have been the pride in the eyes of these little people as they performed their masterpiece.  More likely it was the sheer gratification, that the many Tuesday afternoons spent trying to entertain the little siblings at the music center while their big brother attended his lesson, were worth the excitement and joy in his eyes on the day of this first performance.

Sadly, these initial feelings of parental joy and pride were quickly followed by a panicked thought.  What if they all want to do this?  Music, sports, social outings, how do two working parents make this happen for 3 children?  How do you even find time to give them the opportunity to try the activities that may become their passion?  What if I'm missing the chance right now to introduce one to something that could be their hidden talent?

I hate seeing kids whisked from one activity to the next with little or no time to reflect on the experiences of the day before moving on to the next commitment.  Yet having been a young dedicated athlete myself, I struggle with the desire to give my kids the same kind of satisfaction, growth, and sense of personal achievement which I gained from years of swim practices and weekend meets. Is it possible to give this kind of experience without over scheduling your kid's life?  And if so, how do you give equal amounts of attention and sacrifice for all of your kids without the whole family going mad?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Balance doesn't exist...does it?

I should win an award for World's Most Inconsistent Blogger. In all of the October whirlwind, I couldn't find the time (or desire) one one day to write. I'm okay with this.  Life is busy, very busy in fact!  So  busy, that in the back of my head all month was this question: is it really possible to be balanced?  And if so, what does that mean?

The month of October was full of activities, responsibilities, and deadlines.  Between an increased work schedule, moving, school, and everything in between, sometimes I'd find myself asking "what kind of nut-job puts so much on their plate?"  The question of course is ME.  Friends would say "wow, how do you balance it all?", or "why do you do that to yourself" or "you really have your hands full".  I was starting to second guess my own sanity.

I would fall asleep pondering questions of balance and the realities and perceptions of working moms.  Am I seen as a mom who has no balance in her life?  Do my kids see that in me?  Do I see that in myself?  And perhaps more importantly; what is this elusive thing people call balance?

You can't find a definition of life balance in the dictionary.  So I'm making up my own.  In doing so, I decided that  life balance cant be established with any sort of scale, it's different for each person, and when you think you've achieved it, life changes.  It always changes. Balance for me is feeling fulfilled, contributing meaningfully to my family and to my community, doing things I love, feeling challenged doing those things, continuing to learn, and still having time to enjoy it all.

Because I love lists, and because I didn't know how to evaluate my own sense of balance without looking at my own experience with it, I decided to record my Balance History.

MY BALANCE HISTORY (or lack thereof)
  • Before I had kids I worked full-time, and had lots of fun when I wasn't working. I felt balanced.
  • I had a child, worked full-time, commuted into work, tried to maintain a social life.  I felt balanced...until I didn't.  
  • I had a second child, quit my job, became a stay-at-home mom.  I love it.  I felt balanced, but something was missing.
  •  Started my own home business of making and selling handcrafted baby items, sold every weekend at the Portland Saturday Market, felt balanced.
  • Got pregnant with 3rd child, felt unbalanced...quick the market...balance regained.
  • Had a baby, continued to stay at home.  Still loved it.  Felt balanced (most of the time). 
  • Settled into my role as a mom of 3 but something was missing....oh balance.  
When my youngest turned one,  I started working again.  I started with just a few hours a week and over the last year and 1/2 have tripled those hours.  I've surprised myself by learning to manage all of the responsibilities.  And guess what, I feel balanced.  I love my kids, and I love my job, and I love all of the other things I do that make me me.  I may look unbalanced, but for me this is balance.  It's busy, it's challenging, I feel good about the work I do at home, at my job, and in my community. And I take time to enjoy it.

Of course I couldn't do it without help.  And to maintain balance is knowing that it will change.  Tomorrow is a different day.  Tomorrow, I may have more work, or more laundry, or I may have a little one who needs more snuggles.  I go with the flow, ride the days as they come and try always to remain flexible.  I'm no different from other mothers (working or not), balance is what we do.  In various ways, with various influences, we all play the balancing act.  And we all hope tomorrow is as good as today or better.  

And November brings me something to be thankful for: rest.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Nature's Toys

Owen has always loved to collect, sort, categorize small objects.  For a while it was cars.  Then it was coins (this is actually still a favorite).  But over the summer he developed a real love for rocks.

Owen may even have a greater appreciation for the many colors, shapes, textures, and sizes that rocks come in, than his father...who happens to be a Geologist. 

He can spend hours hunting rocks.  Everywhere we go he has an eye looking out for the perfect specimen. Rocks seem to fill every space in our house. 

They fill empty shoe boxes, Tupperware containers, little cloth pouches, baskets, and even in his bed.  They're on my counters, tables and desks.  He even has his own rock identification book that he likes to browse when not playing with the real thing. 

Nature finding it's way into our house is nothing new.  There are often sticks, seeds, nuts, and once a pet slug, that frequent our home, but nothing quite as prolific as Owens rocks.  Recently after finding a sock filled with small rocks I made him pick his 5 favorite of all the rocks in his room and return the rest to the yard.  It took him nearly 20 minutes to decide on which ones he wanted to keep.  This has become a weekly routine (usually after recovering from the pain of stepping on a lone rock and the blast of resulting profanity) I help Owen picks his favorites and return the rest back to their waiting spot outside. 

Yesterday as I was making dinner I thought I heard Owen calling for me.  I made my way over to the bedroom door and realized that he wasn't talking to me.  He had 3 rocks, with he was using as toy people.  He had a whole story he was acting out with these three rocks.  They were talking to each other, riding bikes, and building a house.  It's not uncommon to find scenes like this around the house:

I look around the room our boys share, at the abundance of toys and games, and cant help but chuckle in realizing that the ones which seem to offer the most pleasure are not manufactured or purchased.  They don't make noise or move by themselves.  The ones that seem to make the best companions on a rainy fall day are those, like Owen's precious rocks, which open their imagination so large that their are no limits to what the game or story can offer.

Who knows what the next favorite will be, but today I reslish in simple statements like this:

"mom, feel this one" as he rubs it on my cheek "I love this smoothy shiny rock!"

Monday, September 6, 2010

What makes a home?

After having our house listed for the last two months, I'm more than relieved to have a sale pending.  When you work from home, have 3 children, a messy husband, a wild dog, and 4 chickens in the backyard, preparing your house for a showing on any given day feels like going into a surprise battle.  Even hiring a cleaning lady to come every other week didn't seem to make a dent.

Our pending sale will be brief, leaving us to find a suitable temporary replacement for the three months before our new home is ready.  If I thought selling the house was hard, I had no idea the challenges that would ensue in looking for a temporary substitute.  Who knew that dogs under 25 lbs. were more rent worthy than a dog over 25 lbs.?  Not I.  Also, finding someone willing to rent to us for a short 3 - 4 month lease has proved even more difficult.  And, it seems like whenever we find something perfect we're faced with another conundrum.  How will our Nanny get across the river to us by bike, how can we get the kids to school and back with without making people drive all over the city all day (one son is in full day and one in 1/2 day at two different schools), and how can we keep our kids from destroying someone's home, which has clearly proved impossible in our own?

I find myself pondering my irrational attachment to my belongings.  Id like to believe I'm not that materialistic and that I could live minimally if needed (but then again if that were true we probably wouldn't be seeking out a larger dwelling for our family).  So, as I think about what I could live without for 3 months and what I cannot, I'm surprised at how difficult a task it is.   Apparently my belongings ground me in a way which I didn't fully appreciate before.

And this house I was eager to move away from?  Well, I can't help but feel sad about leaving it.  We've lived in this home for 6 years, had 2 of our children here, said goodbye to our old dog, raised 2 broods of chicken, created new family traditions, adopted a new dog, and made many good friends. If this experience teaches us anything I suppose it will be that home is where we make it, where we can be together, and where we can make new memories.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Where did summer go?

I'm in denial. Despite all of the talk, emails, school parent gatherings, pre-school year picnics, home visits by teachers, and the early fall rain washing dust off my windows, I was still somewhat shocked to look at my calendar and realize that with school starting in less than a week, summer is coming to an end.  What an amazing summer it's been for our family.  We have been so busy this summer that I've hardly had time to reflect on all of our travels and adventures.  Here's the run-down of my top ten:

1. Celebrated little Maeve's 2nd birthday!


2. Explored DC with my sisters and Mom before attending a a conference for work

3.Frolicked in the sun

4. Worked Silpada style at the Old Time Fair in West Linn with good friend Erin

5. Biked in the Sunday Parkways

6. Attended the Silpada National Conference and had an amazing time!

7. Celebrated O's 4th Birthday

8. Traveled to Michigan and enjoyed time with our family

9. Put the house on the market and tried desperately to keep the plums picked up off the ground

9. Celebrated Sip 'N Silpada at the Blackbird Wine Shop

10. Jumped with joy at the arrival of the first egg from our 4 new hens

This afternoon Owen asked me "mom, where did summer go?"  I guess summer is on vacation I replied. 

Back to school, sports, indoor activities, rain, falling leaves, wool sweaters, wet days at the park...and hopefully a few more sunny ones.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

He's a Rockstar!

My son is a rockstar.  Seriously.  I don't just say this because I think he's smart and funny and super cute (all of which of course he is).  Our bright little 6 year old has always been a charmer, but lately we're seeing a side of him that's pretty...well...rockin.  On two different occasions, while visiting our friends who have a band of instruments set up in their basement, Elliot took to the microphone like he was born to perform.  He directed the musicians, and laid down some lyrics off the top of his head that were incredible. 

It started with his first time in front of the microphone and the "Candy" song that ensued.  Take a look.

Then there was a second visit that resulted in this little performance. I think the thing that blows me away the most is his ability to come up with rhyming lyrics as he goes!

Finally, here's his most recent performance in front of quite a crowd of adults and kids. It's a little grainy but you'll get the picture.

So the question is, how do you encourage your child's natural "rockstar" talent appropriately?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

This Crazy Family Travels

I have always loved to travel. There's nothing more exciting than hitting the road (or air) and landing somewhere new! Adventure has always been a pleasure of mine. In fact, when I imagined myself with a family I envisions trips around the world, weeks of backpacking in the greater outdoors, and exploring new lands and cultures. Fast forward many years, and 3 kids later, and I find it hard to make it to the local park let alone camping or overseas treks.

This summer, with our house on the market (and my inability to maintain the order necessary for showings), we thought it would be a great time to travel with the kids to our home town in Michigan for a little R & R with the family.

It started with a two-leg plan trip from Pdx to Detroit through Denver. After lugging 3 suitcases, 2 carry-on kids cases, 2 laptop bags, one diaper bag, 3 car seats and a jogging stroller from the economy parking lot via shuttle to the terminal I was already exhausted!

Once I plane I could finally start to relax. Normally a family who heavily limits screen time, Elliot was most excited to have unlimited access to movies and his Leapster on the plane!
Michigan was HOT...seriously hot...and humid. But we didn't let that stop us.

One day my mom and I took all of the oldest kiddos to the movies! Of course I spent most of the time escorting people to the bathroom and delivering popcorn, but at least we were in the air conditioning!

At Greenfield Village Elliot got to make candles, and be a printing apprentice.

And Owen was thrilled for the train ride and real Round House.

Clearly I was having fun. I was so hot and this frozen cherry-dipped custard cone was the bomb. Or at least most of it was, apparently my eyes were a bit bigger than my stomach.

The best part was seeing the kids have such a great time with their cousins.

We were sad to say goodbye and head home after a fun filled trip.

The flight home was horrendous. More begging to get seats together on the plane, and a middle of the night lay over with the kids made me wish I had a prescription for Xanax. But by far the worst part was having all three kids crying hysterically for the last 30 minutes of our descent into Portland. When everyone else on the plane was deboarding, our most dramatic 6 year kept crying out "I need a wheel chair, I need a wheel chair". The flight crew was more than a little irritated as we finally managed to usher all of the kids off the plan and into the gate area. We were the last ones of off! Ugh.

Waking up this morning was brutal. Why it's so much harder to travel back from, rather than to the Eastern time zone, I will never understand. After picking up bagels for breakfast, Dennis took Elliot to pick up the dog from our friends house. Our friend had reported that the dog had some accidents (which he's never done to us) , but that he was otherwise having a great time. Since he was out this morning he left the door open for Dennis to get the dog. You can only imagine how pleased Dennis was to find a huge poop on the floor there when he arrived. After cleaning up, leaving $40 (and a note offering assistance) for a carpet cleaner, as well as a lovely thank you gift certificate, Dennis and the dog returned home. Within two minutes, the dog stole Dennis' sandwich of the kitchen table. WELCOME HOME!

Back to the real world! Work, keeping the house up, and lots of laundry and sleeping to catch up on!

Here are just a few reflections from our trip as a family of 5:
  1. Book your family flights directly through the airline and not with some discount online program. Otherwise getting seats together is ridiculous.
  2. Always bring your bathing suit when traveling to a warm climate in the middle of the summer (Dennis!)
  3. Get real when packing! I could have forgone many items which took up a lot of room (sweatshirts for 5...ahhh). Though I did get to show off all of my fabulous new Silpada jewels!
  4. Frozen custard is very filling
  5. There is a thing called a heat index...don't look at, it will only depress you.
  6. Nothing is better than diving into a cool pool on summer vacation!
  7. Be careful who you leave your pets with when your away (if you want to keep your friends that is).
How do you travel with kids? Does it ever get easier?