Friday, January 29, 2016

THE END OF ANOTHER ERA: SCHOOL REGISTRATION

Today, I registered Bella for Kindergarten.  She's ready, and since she's as tall as my current first grader, she certainly looks and mostly acts the part.

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Registering Bella was drastically different from registering Lily.  First off, I totally forgot that it was happening this week, so I was scrambling a bit.  Secondly, I waltzed into the office, paperwork mostly filled out and greeted the people there that I have come to know.  I had Bella and Violet with me, so there was no time for tears - nor did any surface.  Instead, we got to have a potty break right there in the office in the middle of getting copies made.

On Monday, I also filled out paperwork for the twins to attend full-time preschool next year, so if things go according to the current plan, I will go from having three kids at home to none.  It will be a wild change of pace from the last seven years, and I'm sure it will feel both incredibly liberating and sentimentally sad all at once.  I'm praying for the Lord to lead me on the best ways to spend the time that will be opened up.  I'm sure I will not suffer from boredom.

People say that the days are long and the years are short, and I'm living this out day by slow day and year by fast year.  I cannot believe I registered Lily two years ago, and I remember standing there with the same woman trying to hold back the tears that were pressing hot in my eyes.  She must have thought I was crazy.  She now knows for certain that I am crazy, because she has seen me try to wrangle the three younger kids in to have lunch with Lily.

I do love our elementary school and have been thrilled with our teachers and experience there so far, which I am so thankful for.  School choice in Little Rock in a complex, tricky ordeal, but for us, so far, its been straight forward.  We feel strongly that public schooling is what God has for us right now, and its nice to feel confident in that.  Our school is amazingly diverse, and because our family is diverse, this is something that is really important to us.

So even though I am often having long days, I can see a change in the distance.  It makes me glad and sad, and in a good way, it helps me to be grateful for the time we have right now.  I won't miss carrying William around everywhere we go, but I will miss having his arms ready to hug me all the time.  It's safe to say that the twins are well attached to us at this point, and my heart sings with joy knowing that God has knit us together.  Change is coming - ready or not.  I think when it gets here, we'll be ready.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

MAGICAL TIDYING UPDATE #1, MOSTLY CLOTHES

So, last week I wrote that I was going to start putting into practice The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  And I went at it full force.  I decided weekly (or whenever I feel like it) updates may be in order.  Maybe you will be inspired to tidy yourself!  Maybe it will be a good record of what I am learning along the way.  Either way - this is one of the primary things that I am working on in spare moments, so I'm going to blog about it.

The author recommends that you start with clothing, so I have been diligently sorting through all of the clothing that I am responsible for.  This entails me and all the kiddos.  I have been through my closet in the not too distant past, and I was still able to part with far more than I ever have before. I had about 50 plus hangers swinging empty when I was done, and my drawers have lots of empty space (mostly because I hang almost everything.)  I think I am going to get to know the people at the Goodwill drive-thru before this is all said and done.

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I am SO pleased with the final results in my closet, and I went ahead and did ALL accessories, which for me included toiletries and bathroom drawers.  Everything is in perfect order, which truly feels amazing.

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(These shelves were a travesty when I started, and now they are functional!)
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Now, the kiddos rooms are another story.  I'm about half way through their clothing alone, and I've found there are many perils and pitfalls.  Mostly that the twins don't exactly nap during all of their "nap time" and instead like to pull neatly folded clothing out of drawers and closets.

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By God's grace, we all lived through this experience.  I'm about to pare down our costume stash, which is expansive.  Since I go through the kids' clothes about every six months, there's not a lot of excess, but it is nice to shuffle it around in a way that makes more sense.  I am LOVING standing all the clothes on end in the drawers so they are like files of clothes.  So much easier to look through quickly, and things are much less likely to be smashed and forgotten at the bottom of a stack.

What have I learned this week?

Well - I have hung on to many things in the past out of guilt.  Guilt that someone gave it to me, and it wasn't quite right.  Guilt that I bought it and should have returned it and never did.  Guilt that it is perfectly good, but I no longer wore it for whatever reason.  This process helped me realize that guilt is not a good reason to keep things that I don't need and won't use.  I've been able to clearly see what I use and what "sparks joy," and for me - that's been a very helpful way of looking at things.

I've also learned that magical tidying will not happen overnight and will create a mess in the short run.  It's like having to spend money to make money - I have to make more of a mess to get to less of a mess overall.

Now I just have to keep up the momentum.  And keep the twins out of their drawers.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

LIFE WITH TODDLER TWINS & MORE

Life has felt a little on the overwhelming side for a while now, and I'm realizing that it is not getting easier.  Certain things obviously ebb and flow, but there is a reality to our constant right now that is tiring.

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(this is me trying to take a nap at nap time - which I hardly ever do, but I needed it - and I needed to block out the sound of twins running wild in their room.  a pillow over the ears does help a bit.)

Having toddler twins is not for the faint of heart, and when I feel faint-hearted, I am losing.  One current example of this is that Violet has decided that she needs to be potty trained, and for a while, I thought it was a kick she was on that could certainly not last.  Her language skills are behind by several months, so I wouldn't have picked NOW to start this dreaded process.  But, she has picked now and with authority.  There is success about 50% of the time.  She wants to go frequently and everywhere we go, so I definitely have a "toilet tourist" on my hands.

Since I didn't initiate this process, I have been dragging my feet and annoyed and hoping it would just pass.  After potty training the girls (which I hated), I have always said you should wait to potty train a child until they are absolutely ready.  I'm finally coming to grips with the fact that Violet is, and now I have to do the hard work.  I wasn't ready, but that doesn't matter.

William likes going into the bathroom and touching things, so that's been pretty awesome.

At Christmas, both twins decided that sleeping in their cribs was overrated.  This has meant a bit of pandemonium at nap time and bed time - just what I wanted to inject into those.  We transitioned them into toddler beds, and now we lock them into their room.  Every night is different, but V especially does not like to be contained and often bangs on the door.  Many nights she falls asleep on the floor by the door, and because her breathing is so loud, it feels like Darth Violet is breathing down your neck in the living room.

William refuses to walk out of doors when it is cold.

Violet can push a chair around the kitchen to climb anywhere she wants.

William hates to put on a coat and often hates changing his clothes.

It is a constant state of high alert, and I feel tired about it most of the time.  Plus, we are parenting two other precious children who come with their own fair share of drama.  I feel like I owe our two most recent babysitters public notes of apology, because they both had to experience very unpleasant behavior from our older girls in turn.  John and I actually cut a date night short to intervene just this weekend.

How do I bring this post around to something redemptive?  I'm not really sure at this point.  I want to be real here, and I also want to remind future Carol of what it was like.  I think some of these are things that get lost in the shuffle and glossed over with rosy haze- most of which is probably for the best.

The bottom line is that I am constantly needing more of Jesus to do life.  He's the only place that I can get the kind of energy that I need and a perspective that changes the sometimes drudgery into holy moments.  Also, I need his wisdom and extra doses of creativity and joy to be able to parent in a way that is pleasing to him and also the way I really want to treat my children.  They are gifts, and while I am totally honored to be able to parent them, I hope I survive at least until they are all five or older.  It will be only by God's grace.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

SNOW DAYS

It finally happened.  Snow landed in Little Rock this winter - a lot of it.  We have a love/hate relationship with snow, because it is beautiful and fun and also horrible for business.  Also, only about half my kiddos like the snow about half of the time, but overall, this was a better snow day experience than we've had so far.

There was sledding.

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And snow-angel making.

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And snot-dripping.

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And snow-man building.

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And wood-walking.

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And hot chocolate drinking.

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And fit-throwing.

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And obviously including trike riding.

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And as a bonus - it was a truly beautiful snowfall.

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To round out our weekend, John was a good sport and let our Sunday School class make him into a snowman.

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I'm looking forward to getting back into routine, but I'm thankful for the good moments the last several days have held.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

MAGICAL TIDYING

I know I mentioned it in my New Year's post, but this year, I want to do a "grand purge."  I am by no means a hoarder, but I after looking around a bit, I think I tend to let things linger out of laziness.  In the back of my mind, I always want to be neater, but it has felt elusive and too plain hard.

Now, I'm mostly through this book -

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and I'm feeling more hopeful about this process than I ever have before.  I know that I have more stuff than I need - this is probably true of most of North America.  However, I often feel guilt over getting rid of perfectly good things - even if I donate them.  I get bogged down, and then I become paralyzed with indecision.  Then laziness sets in, and status quo remains.

If you're interested in the book - this blog post contains an excellent summation of the main points.  This blogger also addresses what it is like to try to tidy with children in your home in another post, which is a beast that the book does not mention.  The basic premise is to examine EVERY item in your home and ask the question, "Does it spark joy?"  Now - this will work for some and probably not for others  (John thinks it sounds a little crazy, but he is already naturally good at this and doesn't need the help.)  However, it does speak to me.  It has already helped to reframe the way I think about the stuff that I have and about the ways I go about accumulating more stuff.

The book also gives a great road map of HOW.  After reading Seven several years ago, we got rid of some stuff, but it is different to try to do everything all at once and to great purpose.  I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes.  Don't worry.  I will most definitely keep you posted, since I know you are dying to know about my stuff.

For me, there is a trap here, because it would be easy for me to make an idol of something that does sound so magical.  I want the feeling of having things perfectly in order, and then I will feel all better about everything in life.  I'm thankful that I've come far along in life to realize that no amount of magical decluttering will fix the state of my heart.  However, the state of our home does impact and feed the state of our minds, so I do want to be mindful and care for it in a way that serves God and serves our family.  Also - I don't want to be a slave to stuff, and it can feel that way when stuff skirts the edges of my mind, taunting me for not dealing with it.

So - let the magical tidying begin!  I actually began yesterday.  I sorted all of the short-sleeved shirts that I owned, because I had about 20 extra minutes, so I snuck it in.  It was amazing to me how the "spark joy" filter changed the way that I went through my clothing - something I have done with some regularity.  Maybe you'll join me on this journey?

Monday, January 18, 2016

MLK DAY

I read these words and get really teary eyed.

"I have a dream that one day ... little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."

Martin Luther King Jr.

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That dream came true in my family.  They are black and white and sisters and brother, and the beauty of it in light of history is truly overwhelming.  We are tasting a small bit of the freedom that Martin Luther King Jr. advocated and fought for and eventually died for.  Today I went back and read the entirety of his famous I Have a Dream speech, which I'm sure I've read before, but I can't remember when.  He was an astounding and gifted writer, and the power of his words gave me chills while tears poured down my face.

We've come so far.  And we have so far still to go.

My children are free to go wherever they want, but they are not free from judgement and prejudice.  They currently live under the relative safety of our white privilege, but I dread the moments ahead when we will not be able to shield them from the racism that still plagues our society.  It is more subtle than it used to be and in many ways more dangerous for it.  It's harder to root out and kill, because it no longer lives in the law books of our country.  It takes refuge in human hearts, poisoning their minds and allowing prejudice and hatred to march on.

I'm guilty of it, and you probably are to, no matter what color you are.  Each of us has experiences that mark us for good and evil, and I'm praying that God continues to reveal the places in our hearts that need to reflect more of his love and heart for justice.  We are hoping to show our children that we can live in hope, knowing that we are all God's children, and he makes the way for our ultimate freedom.  Until that time, we will advocate and fight on behalf of our children and family and friends and brothers and sisters of color.  I'm so thankful for the privilege to see the world differently.

And today, I'm so thankful for men like Martin Luther King Jr. who paved the way to make my life and family possible.  

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I was looking around the internet for good ways to expose my kiddos (especially the older ones) to what this day is about.  This is a fantastic resource, and I'm hoping to watch a couple of these clips with the girls tonight.  And, if you haven't yet seen the movie Selma, it would be another great way to see what Martin Luther King Jr. was able to accomplish.

Happy, MLK Day!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

LILY'S LEGO PARTY

Lily turned seven last weekend, but I put the party off for another week, because it's nice to have a little buffer between the holidays and a big party.  We celebrated our oldest with the party theme of her choosing - LEGO!  Our whole family loves Legos, so it was great fun for us all.

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I used clip art from the current Classic Lego boxes for the invite and all printables, and I decided to make everything else rainbow to match.  I bought one big box of extra Legos and used others that we already had to decorate, including John's rather large Architecture collection on the mantle.

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I let Lily mostly dictate the food, so it was a super kid friendly spread.

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(our Halloween costumes made an appearance!  William was not tempted to put his back on.)
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I really did keep the activities simple.  There was a table set up with Duplos for younger kiddos, and we did a Lego relay race, a tower building contest and a piƱata with the super fun surprise of bouncy balls - gotta love Pinterest for ideas like that!

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Then it was time for cake and sending friends on their merry way with mini-figs and chocolate bricks.

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All in all, it turned out to be a ton of fun, and I had a very pleased birthday girl!  Happy birthday, Lily!

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