Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Fox and the... Wolf?

I was cleaning up some photo files the other night and I came across these fun pictures from last fall. It was a cool early fall evening and I had just picked up these adorable animal cowls. 

I had been eyeing these cowls on Etsy, but they were each $40-$60 depending on the seller and the quality, and as cute as they were, I just couldn't justify buying them and I certainly couldn't knit them myself. Then one day out of the blue I saw a posting on Facebook for these two cowls for $10 each just a couple of miles from my house. It turned out that this woman ordered them, but they were way too big for her kids and she had hoped they could wear them as their winter hats. This worked out perfectly for me, because although they are a titch too big for my kids too, we just wanted them for fun, for dress-up and imaginative play. 

The moment the kids saw these in the back of my car, I was so glad I found them and for such a great deal! They had so much fun with them and I LOVED capturing some photos of all the silliness! 

It's amazing what a little pretend-play and imagination can do! We love masks, costumes, ears, and other dress-up components at our house! Just a couple of weeks ago, Addi was wearing a Peacock mask all morning and when we left home to head for the lake for the afternoon, she asked me to wear it. I drove about 40 miles with a peacock mask on and I only got a few sideways glances, but boy did the kids think it was hilarious! What fun! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Willow River State Park

Yesterday started out a little rough. Actually, scratch that. It started out delightfully! I got up early with my Addi-girl and sat in the living room with her while she watched a few cartoons on the TV and I sipped my coffee and read my book. I know, I am actually reading a book, right? Seriously, I can count the number of non-children's books that I've read in the last four years on one hand. Not joking. There's probably a dozen that I have started, but maybe only 4 or 5 that I have actually finished. I set a goal to read four books this summer. I have finished two and I am half-way through a third. Not bad. So, anyway, the morning was a gem. It was a cool late summer morning with dew on the grass and a chill in the air seeping in through the open windows. Addi was happy to watch a little TV since the boys were still sleeping. I was more than happy to curl up with a blanket, my coffee, and my book.

I was eager to plan my day... take the kids to visit my Mom for the day? spend the day outside, perhaps collecting some natural fall decor from the woods or the roadside and putting together a little front porch vignette? clean out my garden beds and prep for next spring? spend the day at a park? invite someone over and grill? So many options! 

We knew we wanted to spend some time with Cliff's parents because we didn't really see them all weekend and missed seeing them over Labor Day weekend too!   But, then there is nap to think about for Addi and honestly, Gavin probably needed a nap the most since he seems to be fighting the back-to-school sniffles. 

We kept busy in the morning doing a little tidying up, some laundry, and played outside for awhile. Cliff went up to the farm to talk to his parents about their plans for the day and invite them to do something with us. It was an absolutely GORGEOUS late summer / early fall day! The sun was bright and warm, but with the perfect cool-ish breeze. Before we knew it, it was after lunch and we knew we still needed to settle the kids into naps. Then, I hit a wall. I hit a "this day isn't going quite like I thought that it would" roadblock. You see, I have a tough time adjusting when I have an idea of how a day might go and then it turns out to be a bit disappointing or uneventful. It makes me just want to give up and crawl back into bed. I didn't end up doing any fall decorating, I did more refereeing with the kids than I prefer to do, we hadn't invited anyone over for dinner, or even pulled out anything to grill, I didn't go visit my mom, and I didn't get the garden beds cleaned out. I was a little disappointed. 

So, while the kids napped, I crawled into bed. Silly me didn't nap like I should have because, remember how I said above how I am reading a book? Yeah, well, I'm actually so into my book that I read for almost two hours instead of seizing the opportunity to nap in the sunshine! 

We decided that after nap we would pick up Cliff's parents and head to Willow River State Park for a couple of hours. It's not too far from home and they hadn't been there in many years. The lake is currently drained while the dam is being rebuilt, so it's quite different from the last time any of us were there. We didn't do too much walking, but enjoyed just the perfect blend of playing in the sand, exploring the edge of the river and the trails through the woods, and just appreciating our beautiful world.

I can't be the only one that thinks this picture (above) is absolutely hilarious. This was them posing for a picture! Gavin does this any time he is in a photo with other people his size or smaller. I think Addi saw him doing this and tried to do it herself. It just cracks me up. Between her hair in her face and her patchwork dress and her hunched over posture, it just makes me laugh out loud! What a silly little hooligan! Love it! 

After leaving the park, we grabbed sandwiches at a nearby bar and grill and then headed into town for ice cream cones from the candy shop! That's one of my favorite treats!

It turned out to be a great day, with just a little rough patch sandwiched in the middle. It's a good reminder to me to not give up hope when things aren't going my way.    

Enjoying ice cream with Grandma and Grandpa in front of the candy shop on a beautiful night

Thursday, August 18, 2016

On July 11th, I began writing the following post...

July 11, 2016

For whatever reason, today I seem to be balancing on an emotional plank. The smallest little things today are inducing that familiar tightness in my throat, the sting of tears threatening to well up.

I brought Addison to daycare this morning and she didn't want to go. She only goes to daycare one day each week and she used to love it there, but hasn't yet settled in to her new classroom and new teacher. She "moved up" to the preschool-age room at daycare when she turned 3 1/2 years old and it just so happened that the timing coincided with her changing from 4 days/week at daycare to 1 day/week at daycare, a new babysitter at home during the week, the beginning of summer, and lots of vacation time, family time, etc. The other change that happened when summer started was that instead of Addison spending one day a week with Grandma and Grandpa, now Gavin spends one day a week with them instead, while Addi is at daycare. This is particularly tough on her as she treasures her time with them so much! When school starts again, she'll go back to spending one day with them again, and Gavin will return to school all week again. She had lots of changes at the same time... so the transition has been tough. Moving up with the older kids also means that she went from being the oldest one in her classroom to being the youngest and that also seems to have affected her. She had a hard time saying goodbye to me when I dropped her off there two weeks ago and her teacher had to hold her (crying and screaming) so that I could leave. Then of course, we had a week off because of the 4th of July holiday and I'm sure that didn't help us out at all either! When I brought her today, she seemed like she was going to be okay. She did tell me on the way there that she didn't want to go and we talked about it a bit, but she didn't seem upset - just voicing her feelings about it. However, the moment we walked past her old classroom to continue on toward her new classroom, she froze and wanted me to carry her. She didn't want to go. Again, a teacher (the Director, actually) had to take her from me and hold her while I left. Walking out of the daycare center while hearing her sobbing and saying "I want my Mommy" breaks my heart and I had to breathe deeply as I walked to my car to keep my tears at bay.      

I de-activated my facebook account again a day or two ago. For as long as I can remember (back to when I was probably 6 or 7) I can recall facing overwhelming feelings of being left out or not included. I know that everyone experiences that once in a while, but I do think I felt it more often and more intensely than the average person. I always felt like the one who didn't really belong or had to try harder to make and keep friends. I am not feeling bad for myself or looking for reassurance, for sure -  I'm just being real and open about my insecurities. We all have them, right? When I was a kid, I think this fear was largely based on my reality. I think I really was left out for a multitude of reasons... I wet my pants until I was at least 8 years old and I continued to wet my bed at night even beyond that. I know that as much as I tried to hide it at school, that's something you can't hide very well. I also remember when I was in middle school that it was a big deal to have new, designer-brand clothes and I didn't have them. I remember specifically being teased once for wearing clothes to school on free-dress days that my older sisters had worn to school previously. I remember being called out for wearing something that I had gotten at the church rummage sale that had previously belonged to one of my classmates. I think it's amazing and awesome that these days, upcycling, repurposing, and thrifting is something to be proud of. It wasn't so when I was a kid. The whole thrift-shopping, re-using, vintage-clothing wearing trend is now valued and considered to be cool, but it wasn't back then. I know that some of those experiences shaped the way that I behaved as a middle-schooler and even high-schooler and for sure influenced the way that I interacted socially. I would do anything at that time in my life to protect my chances of making and having friends. I know that I was not always honest about who I was and I was sometimes even willing to be whoever I needed to be in order to make and keep friends. I believe I grew out of that the summer between 8th and 9th grade, but some days, it creeps up to the surface and I have little glimpses of those feelings again. I think there are two significant factors in my life that have sort of drawn those self-doubts and insecurities to the surface...  one is being a parent, because there is just so darn much information out there about how to parent and I end up comparing myself to every other 30-40 year old mom I know.

The other thing... is Facebook. I make a conscious effort when I look at Facebook to not take everything personally... to just simply be happy for my friends and acquaintances when something great is happening in their lives, but no matter how hard I try, it often comes back to feeling "less than" and envious. When I see photos of friends of mine with other friends, I feel envious that they got to have a fun time together and either I wasn't included or I haven't had an experience like that with that friend. I start asking myself things like "I wonder why they didn't invite me? Why doesn't that friend ask us to go to the cabin with them? Why do all those girls have perfect, white teeth and gorgeously lush hair and I just can't get my hair to behave or just don't have teeth whitening in our budget right now? Why do they get to take their kids to the zoo, the park, the museum, the splash pad all week long and I have to go to work while my kids are at home with a babysitter? Am I a bad parent because I'm choosing to work instead of taking my kids to the splash pad? Are my kids right when they say I never play with them? Are they right when they say they never get to go anywhere fun or do anything fun and all their friends do? How do these people afford to go on a tropical beach vacation two or three times a year and we can barely seem to coordinate a road trip to Missouri to visit my sister? Why can't I seem to figure it out?  Why does everyone else seem to have it all figured out?"

  ...all these things I ask myself. All that self-doubt. All that jealousy and envy. All that measuring up. I try and I pray for my mind and heart to be happy with all that I have because I know I have SO very much to be thankful for, but I can't seem to really rid myself of these feelings of jealousy and self-doubt. I can't seem to get over that immediate reaction when I look at blogs of fun and uniquely designed homes, charming furnishings, perfectly executed kids craft projects, and facebook posts of fun times had between friends.

I have to think that it must be because I'm really feeling like I'm missing those things right now. I must need time with friends. I must need to cross some to-dos off of my at-home project list - get that room painted, get those shelves built, get that table refinished, etc. Some days I look at Facebook and honestly feel like crying because I feel "left out" of the fun, "left out" of the friendships, "left out" of the imaginary conversation where "how to have a perfect life" was discussed. I know logically that I DO have a nearly perfect life, but my heart can't seem to take hold of that knowledge and latch onto happiness and contentment. So, it's off of Facebook again.      

This weekend was our town's annual festival and the parade was Friday night. I know I can't be everywhere at once and I always want to be. I was a little sad that it didn't work out for me and Addison to walk in the parade with my coworkers representing our hospital... but I knew it wasn't what Addi would most enjoy and honestly, I kind of wanted to just watch the parade too. So, I sat with my sister and some friends and watched the parade. I was so busy watching Addi (she was nervous about getting lost, so she wanted to cling to me) that I didn't even get a chance to visit with the friends we were sitting with. Then I heard later that some of our friends who usually sit with us, chose to sit elsewhere along the parade route with some other friends. My initial and automatic gut feeling was "Why did they choose them over us?"  Talk about insecurity! Then I ran into some other friends who we don't see often enough and have sort of lost touch with these last few years. I learned that they sat with some other acquaintances of ours and that all-too-familiar pang of envy and self-doubt crept right back up. Gosh, it is embarrassing to admit that, but I am really focusing on being real. 

Anytime that I mention any of these insecurities to anyone who knows me, they don't believe me. They say things like "but you're so confident, but you seem to have it all figured out, but you have so many friends, but you're always busy doing something with friends".     

I have no specific reason why I feel so sensitive today, but could list a hundred possible factors...

August 18, 2016

So... I wrote that post two months ago and never published it. As I read over it today, I can't say that I'm completely over all of those feelings for sure. I still have insecurities for sure. I still struggle to decide how I "should" be spending my days sometimes when there are so many options out there. I often spend three straight days at home just caring for my family, cleaning house, doing yard work, cooking, grocery shopping, laundry, etc. and then Sunday night comes and I feel badly that I didn't take the kids to the beach or the park or connect with friends for a zoo day. Then if I take the kids for the weekend to do something fun, I feel guilty that the laundry didn't get done and the refrigerator is empty, and the garden didn't get tended to, and the pears and peaches and cherries that I planned to make jam out of are going bad because I didn't take care of them. It's sort of a no-win situation.

Then I need to take a few moments to myself to reflect, to meditate, to think on all of it and I realize it's not a no-win, it is a win-win. Yes, I missed an opportunity (or several), but I missed it because I was taking advantage of other opportunities!  

Sometimes it just takes some quiet reflection to see the light.