Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Do you ever feel like your drowning?  Like, actually?  You're kicking with all your might to stay above the surface and you are barely nose above water level?

I don't know what happened.  I thought I was managing 'it all' with the 4 kids.  It was hard, but manageable.  But then the weight of school just slammed down over my shoulders and all of a sudden I just cannot manage.

The driving.  The reminding.  The meetings.  The lunch making.  The costume wearing days.  The field trips.  The homework duotangs (for kindergarten and grade 1?)  Oh yeah, and there is the potty training toddler and nursing baby who needs naps at home every 2 hours.

Somehow I didn't realize just exactly what this transition would look like for all of us.  We had the little commitment pebbles here and there already.  We thought it looked manageable.  On paper, it all works.  Everything is something good, something worthy of time, something that represents our values as individuals and parents.  

But then, the pebbles became a heap, and suddenly look more like a mess.  For the first time perhaps in my life I am starting to truly recognize that there are very real limits that I cannot work around.

Limits to my emotional capacity.  Limits to my energy levels.  Limits to my ability to be all things to all people. Limits to my hours in the day.

People, we are killing ourselves in this culture.  Killing ourselves, trying to do it all.  I found myself, last week, driving from pick up to home, to soccer, to dropping off at a church function etc etc.  When did my schedule start to be the boss of our lives?  When did our activities start to choke out intimacy and connection and breathing?

I feel like I need to pile everything up again and clear the decks.  Just throw it all down and ask myself some very hard and real questions.  Who exactly am I doing this all for?  And who is actually benefiting?

It's hard because we want to teach our children so many things, so quickly.  We want them to 'get all the experiences' and 'all the training,'  and by golly we need them to learn discipline and stick-to-it-iveness.  Heaven forbid they don't turn out to be the best soccer player in the world, the best at music, the best at everything (?) But then, when we're full throttle, eating meals in the car, unpacking, re-packing, driving here and there and exhausting ourselves, it starts to look like a whole lot of needless busyness.

Busyness.  There is that word again.  We have endless 'shoulds' because of so-and-so, and that-thing-I-read, but really?  Busyness isn't cool anymore.  It's just not.  This dream of busy and satisfied is simply a false god for me.  I mean, it just doesn't satisfy.  It's no longer a good excuse for me, or a good response to a question asking how I'm really doing. It means, for me, that I am not thriving and not saying no when the life of my family depends on it.

So here I am.  Flailing.  Doggy paddle style.  Stepping back, stepping down, simplifying, and back pedaling. 

Anyone else feeling like you need to re-evaluate all the things that are filling up your schedule?

Where did september go??


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

In a Land of Opposites

I live in a world of contrasts.  Slow down, speed up.  Lean in close and listen, while running at break neck speeds.
This is life with two boys, who are completely opposite from one another.  

The fog started to lift a few weeks ago (and by that, I mean the fog of having another new baby around) and all of a sudden I was given new eyes to see these two boys we are raising.  I am endlessly fascinated by their differences and complexities.

How is it, that God has blessed us with two different sides of the spectrum?

On one side, we have Silas.  Our cerebral 6 year old who is a blur of activity, innovation, curiosity, and imagination.  He is our ideas man.  Our master crafter.  Our socialite and news bearer.  He has one volume: loud.  He is extroverted and academic, so incredibly motivated and driven.  He doesn't slow down.  Of course, therein lies the problem.  He doesn't notice the fact that he just ran over his sister, or that his brother might have an opinion about something.  He is competitive and aggressive and simply cannot seem to fathom that there are other people who might possibly be affected by his tornado of activity.  This child will reach for the stars and he might very well get them. He challenges me with his curious and penetrating questions, and his drive to explore and conquer. He will not miss out on anything.  He is my type-A, eldest son to the extreme.

Then there is Toby.  His soft spoken voice, process oriented ways, and thoughtfulness is completely other than Silas.  He notices the little things, the shiny things, the little people and all that is around him in a completely different way.  The fact that he notices anything in the mess and noise that is his older brother is beyond comprehension to me.  He is tender and there is this beautiful thing that comes alive in him with animals (dang-it, this boy will make me get a pet).  He is caring and nurturing, and thinks things deeply and carefully.  He is an enigma to me in that everything has its place, its process, and its purpose.  Most of the time I don't understand his ways, but I respect them because he is so completely careful about how he executes everything he does.  He causes me to pause, to stop and be still.  (You have to be still to hear his voice because he is so soft spoken).  He is all heart, this boy.  Of course, that comes at a cost if you trip over his invisible and unspoken boundaries.  You will unknowingly set off in him a flare of anger or hurt or disappointment (basically all the feels).  He is sensitive and sometimes fragile. 

How do I be all things 'equal' and 'fair' to such completely different boys?  I feel such different things about them.  I love them so completely but they stir something unique in me all the same.  Now with Toby entering kindergarten it's shocking how different they are.  Silas was practically reading at the start of kindergarten and Toby can actually hardly spell his name.  But yet, I am proud of him all the same for such different reasons.  Is it possible to set very different academic standards for them?  Is it possible to give one permission to achieve and compete, and give the other permission to love and relate?

How does a parent do this?  I recognize in me a natural reaction to want to push Toby to be more academic and push Silas to calm down, but yet there is this sacredness about their unique personalities that God has placed in each of them.

My dream for them is that they would recognize the gift that they are to each other. What a gift for Toby, to have such a challenging older brother.  What a gift for Silas to have such an empathetic brother.  My dream is that they would be able to stop competing for our love (because they have it already), and simply be challenged and inspired by each others gifts. My prayer is that the comparisons and competitions would end and they would be able to encourage and champion each other.  My prayer is that we can steward their gifts without squashing their brothers gifts.  

Anyone else have very different children?  How do you uniquely challenge each of them according to their strengths?

Oh.  Right.  We have two more children afterwards.  What in the world will they add to this already complex dynamic?  Mercy.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


I feel like a child who is suffocating in a winter coat and shoved into a too-tight carseat.

That's about the best description I can figure for what my internal world is feeling right now in the midst of transition.  

This is my sobbing fit:
What do you mean I have to drive my kids to school, every day?  Sign a piece of paper?  Check off homework completion every night?  Make lunches?  Drag my 2 year old and 4 month old back and forth to school what feels like every half hour?

School has arrived.

I'm on day two, DAY TWO folks and I already feel the panic setting in.  "I think I'll just quit.  Throw in the towel.  Homeschooling here we come!  I can't do this."  My kids are feeling it too.  6 year old woke up and declared he is never going to school again.  He will not wear his shoes.  He will not eat his breakfast.  And he desperately said "you mean I have to go EVERY day, FOREVER?"

Pfffft. Yes.

You and me kid.  We will get through this ugly phase together.  Put on your game face and pull up your panties, Shannon.  September has arrived and you will survive!  

You will survive.... gradual entry requiring 8 trips to the school, in one day.
You will survive... an unforseen 50 minute commute instead of 10 minutes.  
You will survive... parents illegally parked in parking lots, blocking you in.
You will survive...complaints about every snack you send.
You will survive...100 newsletters with a bajillion dates for you to remember 

Transition can be ugly.  And that's ok.  It can be downright uncomfortable.  Like stiff new shoes and scratchy new shirts, it can be irritating.  It's like flying with kids: Shifty and panicked stares across the aisle with the other tired parent:  "how much longer is this flight...?"  That will be september.

So how do we ride out the wave of discomfort to get to a new 'normal.'  Here's what I figure:

Sleep more.
Lean in closer.
Forget all but the important things. (No house cleaning, duh).
Believe it will get better.
Make space for emotion.
Be gracious to ourselves, our kids, and the other wide-eyed and panicked parents.
Ride it out.

We can do this, parents.  We can make it.  The next week is going to be like gravy wrestling- awkward and violent- but it's normal (or so I've been told).

I'll leave you with better imagery than that:

I remember when Silas refused to try the waterslide.  He was finally tall enough.  Finally could swim well enough.  And every time we took him swimming we would all gaze at the slide and it felt unconquerable.  He would refuse, every time.  Except when he finally didn't.  We encouraged, we prodded, we all held our breath (figuratively and literally) and at the bottom of the slide he emerged.  He got up, shook himself off, smiled huge, and then his enthusiasm couldn't be contained.  I SHOUTED with joy at his survival and accomplishment and felt such joy in watching him discover that he could in fact do the slide, and then marveled at him doing it over and over again successfully.

So IT WILL be with school.  They will learn.  They will accomplish.  They will come out the other side, shake it off, and do it again. 

Good luck.  Be sane at drop off and pick up.  Love on your teachers.  Pray.  Park legally for heaven's sake, and RIDE this transition out.

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