New (School) Year Resolutions

boat at sunset

Fall, for me, always feels like a secondary “new year.”  A time to slow down and dust off after a nonstop, jam-packed summer, and turn inward and reflect on what’s next.

Perhaps you can relate – whether you’re going back to school yourself, sending your kids back, or simply sensing a turning of the tides as the magical season we call summer takes its final curtain call and that familiar chill creeps back into the air.

Fall is a good time to right our course. To cultivate new habits, or return to old loves (such as yoga class while your kids are in school – can I get an amen?).

What do you want to return to, or start anew, this fall, the season when rhythm and routine take center stage?  I have a few ideas of my own, and thought I’d share in case they get your wheels turning, too…

1)    I resolve to become a “night before” person.  This does not come naturally to me, but I really believe if I could develop the habit of laying out clothes (mine and the kids’), packing lunches and snacks, and locating things like shoes and coats the night before each school day, we’ll all enjoy less frantic mornings.

2)    Monday food prep day – I have my youngest in school M/W/F mornings this year, and I plan to use most Monday mornings to thoughtfully prep good home-cooked food for the week ahead.  I envision this as chopping and storing vegetables for multiple meals, baking something easy (like banana bread or a quiche) that can contribute to quick breakfasts throughout the week and cooking a big batch of some stew/soup/roast in the slow cooker that’s large enough for leftovers.  I envision these Monday morning hours as almost a religious experience adorned with coffee in my favorite mug, an audio book or TV of my choosing in the background, and a QUIET HOUSE TO MYSELF in which to work.  Is there anything more glorious?

3)    Explore new volunteer opportunities.  Entering the world of elementary school parenthood, I’m quickly learning, means a whole slew of volunteer opportunities.  I look forward to becoming a familiar face in my son’s classroom and finding my place within the school at large as I cultivate my own role in this new community that will be a part of our lives for years to come.

4)    Rediscover walking.  I’ve been pretty focused on running these past couple of years, but lately I’ve felt this nudging in my spirit to slow down and be content with a good walk.  I’ll still run at times, but one of my newfound loves is walking to the rhythm of an engrossing audiobook (if you’re new to this media as well – Born a Crime, Something in the Water and Educated are all excellent places to start!). And of course, nothing beats a walk-and-talk with a good friend.

5)    Stay in my lane. This is a broad one, but it’s something I think about a lot.  To me it’s a reminder to accept what is working (and isn’t working ) FOR ME, at this season in MY life.  It means practicing mindfulness around the people and influences I take into my life, time on social media, cultivating healthy routines, being conscious about comparing myself to others, etc…

And on that note, these words come to mind.  I don’t know about you, but I always appreciate this wise reminder from one of my favorite writers and thinkers, Glennon Doyle:

“You can’t miss your boat.  It’s yours.  It stays docked till you’re ready.  The only boat you can miss is someone else’s. Let them have theirs while you wait for yours.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sink or Swim: Our Family Camping Debut!

As a kid, just about every 4th of July week in my memory was spent in Carnation, WA, a tiny town about 45 minutes east of Seattle, filled with sprawling green valleys, sturdy red barns and u-pick berry farms. For five nights each summer, my siblings, cousins and I (and the adults chasing after us, of course) would sleep in creaking narrow cabins equipped with little more than a bare light bulb and twin mattresses of prison-issue thickness. The mornings came too early but the days stretched on forever, our only markings of time the lines that would form before meals and the chapel bells that would echo through the acreage twice a day. “This is the life,” I would think as I spent hours at the pool, groomed my favorite horse, or floated lazily down the Snoqualmie River.

It really was the life. Some of the best days of my childhood were spent outdoors, running wild, at camp.

In search of an early start to a similar tradition for my own little family, we have begun camping, first last summer with just Anderson (Jude was not yet two and we feared a serious lack of sleep…), then this summer – this week – with both boys.

Though different in many ways than the Bible camp of my youth, tent-camping with my husband and kids in a local state park has been just as magical and memory-building in its own right.

There’s something about cooking on a camp stove, hiking down a crunchy gravel path to the bathroom, and waking way too early to a surging chorus of songbirds, that cleanses the spirit. Watching our kids run circles around the campsite, poke around endlessly at the beach, and snuggle into their sleeping bags at night, utterly worn out and utterly content – fills me with joy and makes life feel less…complicated.

I went into this camping trip a little apprehensive. What if my kids don’t sleep? What if Jude cries and keeps everyone awake? What if three nights is too long?

It hasn’t been seamless, but what ever is? We’ve had a good dose of puking (Jude, but only once the first night), bloody noses (Anderson) and pee-soaked naps on the beach (Jude, on my lap- note to self: swim diapers do NOT absorb pee!!).

But those aren’t the things I’ll remember. At least not in any sort of deterrent sense.

I’ll remember things like this:

(Jude and his buddy, Elia)

And this:

(this is the pee nap…we smelled GREAT!!)

And this:

(I love small town parades…their first!)

And this:

(tent-service coffee from Aaron was THE BEST!!)

And this:

(Anderson called this his hot tub and never wanted to get out)

And it already makes me want to return to this place, where we’ve bonded as a family and laughed with our friends – filthy feet, borderline sleep, chipmunk poop everywhere and all.

Because it’s magical. And because this, indeed, is the life. It’s the stuff childhood summers are made of.

Let’s do it s’more.

Half Marathon: Second Time Around

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My becoming a somewhat serious runner over the last year and a half has really shocked the hell out of my husband. 

Our conversations on this topic tend to go something like this:

Him: I just still can’t believe that YOU of all people, just told me you ran 10 miles today.

Me: Is that like a thickly-veiled compliment?

Him:  I mean…we’re talking about YOU!  You hate mornings and love pajamas and really don’t like being in a hurry to do anything.  I just can’t believe you are doing all this RUNNING…

Me:  Hmmm.  Interesting point.  Yes.  I do very much also enjoy my time as a “bathlete” (as my personal idol Glennon Doyle calls it), but I don’t know…I’m just pretty into running now.  It kind of makes me feel like a superhero. 

Friends.  If you would have told younger me I would be running 13 miles at any point in my life I would have probably responded like Aaron does now.  In 9th grade, I spent my first and last season on the high school basketball team because I HATED RUNNING SO MUCH.  And we only “ran” like 30 seconds at a time!!! 

I’ve always loved to WALK Green Lake, here in Seattle, and used to joke to my friends that I wanted to buy a “I will never run a marathon” t-shirt as sort of my own personal protest to all the runners and their souvenir t-shirts and 26.2 and 13.1 stickers.

Now those crazy people are my heroes! And I just want all their t-shirts.  I get a little starstruck talking to anyone who has run a bunch at this distance – let alone a full marathon or more. 

This morning I got to run my second half marathon with a couple of girlfriends.  We are all at different places in our running journey and it was just cool to see us there cheering each other on, yet each running mostly solo, doing “us.”  Or, as my friend Liana so aptly puts it, “Friends who run together find each other at the end of the race.”

Against my better judgment, I decided to make it my mission to “find” my super fast and accomplished runner friend Erica at the BEGINNING of this race.  We had taken off from the starting line (btw – my start could not have been clumsier – lip balm and Clif bloks flying everywhere from my unzipped and now moving waist pouch, as I fumbled with some stubborn apps on my phone – but no one was injured in my madness and eventually, off I was!) when I had the incredibly ill-advisesd idea to absolutely annihilate myself by running an 8:01 (!!) second mile in order to catch up with Erica, if only to say that we ran together for just a moment!

 SV HALF(This is super-runner, Erica.  She is the one I was chasing.)

Did I know that burning out in mile 2 was a very bad idea?  Why, yes.  Yes, I did.  In fact I talk about how incredibly important setting a sustainable pace early on is ALL THE TIME.  Did I do it anyway?  Yes.  Yes, I did.  After completing my first two miles like a bat out of hell at under 8:30/mile (for reference, my first half marathon I averaged 9:57/mile), shit kind of hit the fan. I made up for it with many miles over 9 minutes and one over 10.  I walked several times and lost all wind from my sails setting the stage for my longest, most defeated walking session when the 2:00 pacers finally passed.  It was all just so hard and demoralizing!  But I pulled it together and ground out that last mile and a half, post-pacers.  When all was said and done, I finished the run at 2 hours and 2 minutes, and my wildly irregular splits averaged out to about 9:20/mile, still much faster than my previous race. 

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(PR stands for “personal record.”  This is one of the many things I did not know two years ago.)

I had a goal today to beat 2:00 (two hours/total race time), a common benchmark goal for women at this distance.  As I achily, thirstily neared the finish line and knew for sure that had slipped through my fingers this time around, I had my own mini-Hillary Clinton moment.  I thought to myself, “I may not have shattered that highest glass ceiling, but there are a million more cracks in it!”

Running is so personal.  It’s SO mental.  It’s such a love-hate relationship.  And it’s one of the most rewarding, transformative things I’ve ever done.

The 2-hour ceiling awaits…. I guess there will just have to be a “next time.” 

PS – I used to ask myself, “If I run two half marathons, can I say I’ve run a marathon??”            

NO BETH, NO YOU CANNOT, says every marathon runner ever.

PPS – I just want to be clear that my husband, in all his disbelief of me, really is my biggest fan and most amazing support.  There’s no one I’d rather see at the finish line when I’m crying allll the ugly tears of pain and joy and relief, and he was right there today.  He’s also watching our wild children right now so I can indulge in my other love-hate relationship: writing.  He’s basically the best. 

SV HALF 3

 

 

 

It’s Going to be a Long Summer (or, Why I’m Never Taking my Kids to Costco Again)

Here are some metaphors to help describe where I currently find myself in this particular season of parenting:

I am a soldier at boot camp, army-crawling through the glop and mud, thinking about my next meal, and if I’ll have to eat it standing up (probably).

I’m doing more damage control on a daily basis than the producers behind Roseanne and Samantha Bee combined.

I am Britney Spears the day she decided to shave her head.

Mmm kay, now that we got that out of the way. Disclaimer: this essay probably isn’t for anyone who isn’t comfortable talking about ALL aspects of parenting – the good, the bad and the ugly. If you’re more comfortable with highlight reels, this is not that. Cool? Cool.

But really, it’s either this or the Britney Spears buzz cut. And I still kind of like my hair. So here goes.

Yesterday, in a desperate attempt to do something to get myself and my children out of the house (because we’re thriving here on day 5 of summer vacation), I decided we’d all load into the car and head to Costco. Yay! After circling the parking lot approximately 17 times, we found a parking spot. We then made our way into the store with Jude in the front of the cart, Anderson in the big area, only mildly threatening to push each other out. I cut my normal item count of around 50 items, down to around 7 for the sake of all of our sanity.

I did not do my best planning with the timing of meals on this particular day, so we decided – for the first and last time – to try the Costco Food Court. This started with me finding a way to weave the world’s most enormous shopping cart filled with snack food and two grabbing, clawing, shrieking wild children through a sea of hungry child-less people to a little kiosk where I could (conveniently!) order our food.

Time was of the essence so I quickly selected a cheeseburger, slice of pizza and smoothie from the order touch screen. This was going to be the best lunch ever. A few minutes later I collected our food from a man SCREAMING the order number into my ear (it was #45; I will never forget it.) and pushed our huge cart over to a table that a woman was just leaving.

There was a rather muscular man still sitting there who didn’t know enough about our situation to say no when I asked if we could join him. Yay number two! Why Costco positions napkins, condiments, straws, napkins, forks, and NAPKINS SO FAR AWAY from the table where people actually have to sit and contain their children is truly beyond me. Our “meal” went like this:

*Jude and Anderson mock-sword fighting and nearly knocking each other off the plastic bench seating every 2 seconds

*Me dashing as quickly as I possibly could back and forth across the room to grab huge quantities of napkins and praying my kids didn’t injure each other or start a food fight in my absence.

*Me standing in between them hunched over devouring half a burger as fast as humanly possible while Jude runs the red pizza grease-covered palms of his hands alllll over allll of his clothing. I am single-handedly keeping the company that makes Shout stain remover in business.

*Me dashing back for more napkins, probably working up a sweat by now (totally intentional half marathon training!).

*Andersons and Jude fighting over a nearly-erupting smoothie while the man next to us continues to watch loud videos on his phone inclusive of both song and dance.

Right then and there I decided, this is it. THIS is what rock bottom, losing-my-mind parenting young logic-less children looks like. It actually LOOKS LIKE the Costco Food Court.

We (I) limped to the car and loaded our bulk-sized snacks and bite-sized children into the car. I then promptly texted my husband and a commiserating friend: “I just went to Costco and the Costco food court by myself with both kids and I think it’s truly one of the craziest things I’ve ever done in my whole entire life.”

On the way home, my sanity long since abandoned somewhere between the parking lot and the food court, my kids thought they would make sure I was still paying attention by launching books and shoes throughout the car while I drove. In that instant it dawned on me that young children are like prisoners: they cannot be trusted and will turn anything into a weapon.

We got home and I knew the rest of the day would be cake in comparison….so there was that.

So happy summer everyone. I promise I won’t be a downer EVERY DAY, but for now, you’ll find me and my kids making a sort of triangle in our living room, each on our respective devices, reading and watching garbage truck videos respectively, because KEEPING THE PEACE. There’s screen time, or there’s bald Britney. Pick your poison.

Parting with Preschool…Part I

Parting with Preschool…Part I

 

This week I watched my first baby graduate from preschool.  The parting ceremony consisted of firefly wings and headlamps, my son reciting his first solo line to a full-house crowd, snapping pictures with teachers and collecting armfuls of artwork as we headed out the doors and into the spring air one last time. 

Anderson is one of only a handful of students who has been at his preschool for three straight school years – since he was two!  I still remember getting choked up as I dropped him off on that very first day, swollen-bellied at nearly 9 months pregnant with his younger brother.  I must have been a cocktail of emotions that month. 

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Over the last three years I have seen Anderson blossom as a friend, a learner, an artist… I have routinely worked up a sweat wrangling him and his brother up and down those school halls and staircases, to the car and back.  (NEVER are they more bouncing-off-the-walls hyper than in the five minutes immediately following their reunion when we pick Anderson up from school.) Buckling and unbuckling car seats ad nauseam, packing lunches like a boss.  No one ever tells you that THOSE moments of parenting – getting out the door, to school daily, somewhere in the ballpark of “on time” and with all their stuff, back to the car again with lunch, coats, gear, strollers, snacks… while keeping two squirming shrieking children alive and safe straddling traffic – THOSE are the Herculean tasks, the Olympic events, that make up the daily grind of your life as a parent of young kids.

I have collected enough art projects to wallpaper every room of my house.  This has been a great cost-savings to us when it comes to home décor, and Anderson has taken to wallpapering his own room with gusto!

Anderson - art on walls

Thanks to the preschool years, I speak fluent “potty talk,” have survived diapers, pull-ups, toilet training, crib-toddler bed transitions and more middle of the night wake-ups than I can count.  I have witnessed my boys become each other’s fiery opponents, and each other’s best, most beloved friends. 

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I have befriended many a fellow mom in 8-second conversation increments as we wait in line at pick-up, peel tantrum-ing kids off floors, share luke warm coffee at play dates (or occasionally, hot coffee while our kids are at school), and take advantage of pinterest-worthy photo opps at what are the cornerstones of our current social life season: KIDS BIRTHDAY PARTIES. 

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So what will kindergarten hold?  More art projects and lunches I presume, and probably some deeper and more complicated learning and relationships.  I am really excited to walk alongside Anderson as he is stretched and inspired in so many new ways.  And – I’ll be honest – I personally plan to bask in new little luxuries such as school parking lot drop off where Jude and I both get to STAY IN THE CAR (can I get an amen?) and pretty much never having to referee Jude and Anderson inside the halls of a preschool simultaneously again (sanity, I’m coming back for you). 

In all seriousness, preschool you have been sweet and good to us, notwithstanding the daily hallway wrestling sessions.  You’ve taught me how to parent a student, how to advocate  for him and learn what he needs most in a classroom, how to help him navigate big feelings, big ideas, and a big imagination.  You’ve given me an outlet to give back to my community and serve where I could alongside a wonderful group of families and teachers.  We have treasured this first school experience for Anderson and the countless ways it has paved the way for his biggest adventure yet: Kindergarten and the whole wide world of elementary school.  Thank you to everyone who has walked with us on this journey – we couldn’t have done it without you.  ❤

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The pictures above were spontaneously taken by a friend on Anderson’s second-to-last day of school.  He is adamantly against having his photo taken these days, and I should have known that these would be THE BEST photos we’d get of him all week.  (Thanks, Susie!!)

So that’s a wrap for preschool: kid 1.  As they so wisely say, “The days are long, and the years are short.” The preschool journey continues with Jude – and Jude alone – marching down those same hallways next fall. 

I, for one, can’t wait. 

Glass Half Full

Glass Half Full

And just like that Anderson is (mostly?) writing out our names, sort of telling time (OK that needs a lot of work…) and today told me that Egypt is his favorite thing he’s ever learned about in school, and can he please have “Egypt toys” for Christmas??? Please?!

It’s been a hard, brutal start to the year for many people I know. Illness… pain…and sheer grief at times simply over the world we live in.

I’m trying to live in a state of gratitude as much as I can, sweat the small stuff less and just really love on my kids, family and friends.

Anyway, I wrote this short poem (I think? We’ll go with poem..) at the start of the year as just a little personal time capsule to remember some of the nuances and fabric that make up my days at this point in my life. It’s the simple, un-sexy stuff that I find myself stopping to notice…like microwaved coffee. Maybe you’ll relate to all of this, maybe none of it.

Nothing profound…but isn’t that everything?

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A Full Life

By Beth Morris

A full life is found in the daily grind.

In the countless bucklings of car seats and the rushes to get out the door.

In the sticky post-breakfast messes on a baby’s face, the loads of laundry always waiting to be done, the vegetables to chop, the mail to open.

A full life is found in each new page turned, in each line written.

In the post-it note to-do lists and end-of-day bubble baths.

Breathe.

A full life is found in card games with friends, visits from your kids’ grandparents, always with some surprise up their sleeve.

A full life is found in a hot yoga class. It’s found in a bone-chilling, head-clearing run on a winter afternoon.

Picking up Hotwheels for the thousandth time, microwaving the coffee you’re too busy to drink.

In hurried hellos to preschool moms and kissing your husband goodnight as your head hits the pillow…a full life is found.

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That’s it. Just a little poem to spark my memory down the line someday when I’m drinking fresher coffee and taking more regular showers.

I’ve always loved these words from Maya Angelou, which I try to challenge myself with often:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Words to live by…even if you forget all the words.

New Year, Blank Page

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One of my mantras lately has been, simply, to “check in” with myself more.  Asking questions like, “What am I doing?” and “Why am I doing whatever I’m doing?” and “Do I want to be doing this?” Of course we all have things we have to do, often before we can do the things we want to do, but as far as the “want” list is concerned, I’m trying to tackle it as thoughtfully and intentionally as I can.

I’m striving to do things less for optics, less out of habit…stemming less from a pre-conceived idea of how I should be spending my time, or how I want to be able to say I spent my time.  For example, maybe I actually love reading MORE than writing (or maybe writing’s just a lot harder – ha!)?  Maybe I love consuming art more than creating it (see “harder” comment above).  Maybe there’s always room for both (there is), and the extent of creation vs consumption will ebb and flow throughout my life and that’s OK?  (Yes, and yes.)

Lately I’ve been honing in on, and just very aware of, my overall love and appreciation for the arts.  Whether it’s the written/spoken word (reading, lectures, etc…), comedy, live theatre, film, or music…I just LOVE consuming art, appreciating art, witnessing art, creating art… It is such a privilege, while feeling so necessary, all at the same time.

I believe wholeheartedly that art is fundamentally important to humanity, and expression, and connection. Good art and storytelling fuels me like nothing else.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever stop talking about that time I got to attend the CMA Awards in Nashville and see virtually everyone in country music perform in one night, or the episode “Memphis” of This is Us, or how smart and funny and relevant The Big Sick is, or John Mayer’s goosebump-inducing cover of “Free Fallin’.”  And the list goes on…. I’m sure you have your own ever-changing list.

So I want more art in my life.  I live in a FANTASTIC city for consuming, supporting and creating art.  From Hugo House, to 5th Avenue Theatre, to SAL, our awesome independent bookstores, music venues, the list goes on… I’m increasingly aware of and grateful for my intelligent and artistic hometown the older I get.  And to my credit – I think I generally do a pretty good job of filling my time with books, music, quality films and television that broaden my thinking, and live artistic events.  But I want more!  And I want to put more thought into what role I personally feel called to play in the artistic world.

Is it blogging more?  Taking more writing classes?  Pitching a collection of my personal essays as a book? Working for a local theatre in some capacity?  Volunteering for Seattle Arts and Lectures?  Seeing if I can dabble with writing for Seattle magazine again (I was a writing intern there years ago).  Learning an instrument? These are just a few of the wide-ranging thoughts I’ve had about tapping into my own creativity more.

I haven’t worked outside of the home for almost 5 years, and I’m so grateful I’ve had the opportunity to be home with my kids in these early years.  As utterly crazy as the SAHM life can be, I honestly wouldn’t change how I’ve spent my days these last 5 years.

But!  I’m only 34!  I’m realizing that I can still have totally new, brilliant chapters in my life! And so can YOU!  Isn’t that exciting??  So while I’m not actively job-hunting and may hold the record for most dormant LinkedIn account ever, my wheels are turning…a little more each day.  As my kids ease into more hours in school each year, I wonder how I might fill these new blocks of time.  Will I volunteer more?   Will I create?  Will I work, even part-time, in a totally new kind of role?  I don’t know exactly…but I’m actively thoughtful about checking in with myself until I find where I feel I’m supposed to land next.

What is your small still voice telling you when you take the time to check in?  What new chapters lie ahead for you?  To borrow the motto from one of my favorite stores, Paper Source, how are you striving to “do something creative every day?”  I’d love to hear about it!

Cheers to a colorful and creative 2018…and to taking time to check in with ourselves and all that untapped potential.   The pages are ours to fill.

 

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”    -Mary Oliver