All posts by Lynley

Scars are Beautiful

A few weeks ago, our small group at church was discussing transparency with others and being vulnerable and sharing the “real you”. I believe the question was asked, “Who here struggles with being vulnerable?”

Reverting back to my middle school days, I quickly avoided eye contact with anyone else in the room (dang circle-style seating) and studiously examined the carpet pattern.

Heck no I am not going to raise my hand. The question was “Do you have problems being vulnerable?” Duh. The last thing I am going to do is raise my hand and say “Yes!” enthusiastically.

(Please note, the teaching in our small group is excellent and we have many people who are braver than me to step up and acknowledge the hard truths about themselves.)

Vulnerability is hard. Fluff and rainbows and unicorns are much easier than diving into the difficult areas of our lives.

However, I am quite vulnerable and open about the fact that in two months, I hit the big 4-0. Getting older is not something I fear or shy away from but rather eagerly embrace. Sure I keep investing in under-eye cream and bread is a distant memory of my past because although 20 year old me could consume a cheeseburger post-work-out, the almost 40 year old version of me can merely look at bread and my hips widen just a bit more. Despite those things it feels amazing to have been around for four decades, with hopefully more lurking in the my future.

40 has also brought just a touch of wisdom (A touch, mind you), a breath of confidence, and a spirit of bravery. Remember how I said I hated being vulnerable to others? I do prefer presenting a happy side of life, that things are all sunshine and cute puppies  and everything is FINE. Part of that stems from being a naturally optimistic person. Part of that stems from not wanting people to truly see the hidden parts. Yet 40 is showing me that opening myself up to others is okay.

One goal I set as I approached 40 was to complete a half-marathon. This is no way a unique “Hey! I am almost 40!” goal. Just search Pinterest and you will see that me and every other Suburban mom addicted to Starbucks have all had the same idea. The slight difference is the fact that a half-marathon is not simply completing 13.1 miles to me.

The half-marathon is a statement to myself that I can tackle the hard stuff in life.

As some of you readers know, I was born with a condition called Spastic Diplegia. Three years ago, I underwent a surgery to help with some of the symptoms of this condition. The way Spastic Diplegia works is that the brain sends faulty messages to nerves that control muscles. These nerves tell the muscles to contract 24/7, rather than only contract when in use. Imagine walking around with consistently tight rubber band muscles. SDR (the surgery I had three years ago) is an operation in which those nerves sending the faulty message are cut so they can no longer tell the muscles to stay tight.

After 36 years of having really tight leg muscles, I no longer walk around with rubber band legs (my term…obviously not one used by the medical community. However, they are free to trademark it if desired.)

Recovery was long after that surgery (I had a second surgery three months later that really took a long time to bounce back from) but now I feel like I am in the best shape of my life. There is a catch to all of this: The 36 years spent with tight muscles wrecked some havoc on my body. A few months ago, the husband and I were discussing all of this and he asked, “How often do your legs/feet hurt?”

My response, “Every step.”

He lives with me and he had no idea. (He knew there were aches and pains, good days and worse days.) The reality is that 36 years of tight muscles have done a number on my feet, my ankles, my knees, my hips, and my back. I know those areas of my body are breaking down faster than they should for someone of my age and health. One of the reasons I am so diligent about working out is to keep everything moving and working. I also am aware there could come a day in which those things do not work anymore and my life could look different than it does today.

And that is okay.

It is hard for me to be vulnerable and put this out there. In fact, normally I would not even mention chronic pain to others. Remember that marathon? There is another goal attached to it. I also want to raise money for an important organization that is close to my heart. The OM Foundation is a non-profit organization started by Bonner Paddock, a fellow individual dealing with CP. He has recently devoted his life to speaking and to raising money and awareness for children with CP who need therapies and medical interventions to ensure they have a good quality of life.

Although I deal with daily pain, I also know things could be worse. The deal with Spastic Diplegia and CP is that cases can be significantly different. CP is caused by brain trauma either in the womb, at birth, or in the first year of life (Please know I am not a doctor and merely use Google for all medical diagnosing purposes). Most likely I did not receive enough oxygen while being born, thus the trauma to my brain (and the nerves sending the faulty signals.). I have a slight disability, one that many people who encounter me daily do not even notice. Yet there are others who are left unable to walk, whose upper body is affected, who cannot speak, or who may also experience some cognitive difficulties as well. Aches and pains are nothing compared to how hard those individuals work every day. I have met many families whose children live life with complicated forms of CP. Their kids are always happy. They are brave and courageous even though they fight their body every moment of the day.

I have met adults who plow through life with joy and gusto, despite the toll CP takes on them.

It is for these individuals that I run. Because I can. I may not be fast. I may not be the most graceful runner. And I may walk at times. But right now I can run and I can do so for all those children who currently cannot.

For so long the scars on my body of years and years of surgeries (there were many during my childhood) were signs of defeat to me, signs that something was wrong while everyone else was walking around being just fine. Scars made me vulnerable and seemed to scream that something was wrong. Remember how I said being almost 40 brings about some wisdom? Well I can now realize that we all have scars. Some visible. Others hidden on the inside. I can see that the scars up and down the backs of my legs and the large one on my back are beautiful. They show resilience. They show strength. They show that I can do hard things, even if what I do looks different than the norm.

Here is where you come in to all of this, dear reader. No, you do not have to run along side me in two weeks. Rather I would love it if you would donate money in my name to the OM Foundation. Read their story and see the ripple one person is trying to make in the lives of children. Click HERE and check out my fund-raising website. I would be honored with any donation you are able to give.

March 5, 2017 is the big day. The calendar on my fridge is full of the miles already run in anticipation of this day. I currently have three outfits picked and ready to be worn, depending on the weather (Because if one is gonna run 13.1 miles, one should at least attempt to look cute). The list of what to pack sits next to me at my desk.

It should be a great day. Not because it will be easy or because of the medal and t-shirt given at the end.

Rather it will be a great day because I proved to myself that I control my story. I can be vulnerable and show those scars to others, knowing they do not think twice about such things.

And together we can all make a difference in the lives of children, showing them their lives have purpose and beauty regardless of a medical title placed over them.

 

#savemychristmas: minimize the crazy and maximize the season

treelighting

A few years ago our current suburb declared themselves the Christmas Capital of our fair state.

I am not sure if this title was earned, coined by the suburb herself, or rightfully won in a duel but alas we currently reside in all things Christmas.

Signs of Christmas begin to appear mid-October around here. That may sound like a Hallmark movie, especially since we have a quaint historic Main Street and a small town feel despite living in a large suburb. However, it is still in the mid 90’s temperature wise here in October so the picture one gets is workers in shorts and t-shirts beginning to hang snow globes and holly around the town.

By Thanksgiving, our burb is in 100% festive mode. All trees are lit, garland is hung in every imaginable place, and a 20 foot reindeer greets all visitors to our historic district. Local stations blare commercials advertising this majestic Christmas Capital of our state, advertising there are over 1,400 Christmas events to take part of just in our little suburb.

Let that sink in a bit….1,400.

The 24 days counting down to Christmas are more than enough to stress a mama out. Now we have 1,400 Christmas-themed events right at our fingertips to partake in to ensure we experience all sorts of holiday joy this season.

This mama is saying “No Thank You.”

Saving Christmas for our families hinges on our ability to see past the hype, to understand that we do not have to do everything and the season will be just fine.

In fact we have to do so very little and our families will be okay.

The week of Thanksgiving our little family of four loaded up and set out for the town’s tree lighting. In years past, this event has been quaint and a fairly low-key deal. When it rolled around again this year, the tree lighting seemed like a fun event. The weather was perfect, the kids were off from school and extra-curricular activities, and the husband was home early for work. It seemed like an excellent formula for our family to head out and start getting into the Christmas spirit a bit early.

We did not calculate into the equation that thousands of others would have the same idea.

Apparently attending the tree lighting ceremony was on this list of 1,400 things to do in our suburb and everyone in all the metroplex decided to cross it off their holiday bucket list.

When it became quite evident that this holiday event was going to stir up more frustration than cheer (Read: We could not even see the stage where the tree lighting was set to occur due to the crowds), the husband and I made the quick decision to ditch the  event and head back to the car.

Were the children disappointed? Yes.

Do they even remember two and a half weeks later they did not actually see the town’s tree lit? Nope.

We made a fast decision to save our Christmas in that moment. Tree lightings seem fun and nostalgic, but waiting for hours for it to begin only to realize that our view was blocked is not my definition of fun.

The season is busy in and of itself. Adding the stress of believing we must attend certain events or do particular activities to make the most of this last month of the year makes us all a bit crazy.

Let me tell you, mama, that you do not have to do  it all. You do not have to move an elf every night. You do not have to wrap up 24 books to open as a literary countdown to Christmas. You do not have to attend every lighting, party, gala, cookie decorating party, and Santa sighting possible.

In fact, choose three.

Choose three things you and your family are going to do this year. Perhaps you will hit up a parade, attend one party, and drive around and look at lights one evening.

Done.

When we are diligent in our choices, our choices become more enjoyable.

When we rush frantically between events, our choices become exhausting.

Your children will survive if they attend only a small handful of Christmas events. In ten years, they will not remember how much they experienced during the 2016 holiday season.

They will remember the quality of time spent with their families, if their parents were calm and pleasant rather than stressed and frantic.

In the spirit of giving, share what your three things you may choose to do this holiday season. Perhaps you have already accomplished them or maybe you plan to tackle them in the next 12 days.

A winner will be randomly selected on Monday December 20th for a Starbucks gift card…perhaps to use as a way to enjoy one of those three holiday events.

#savemychristmas

savemychristmas

This past weekend my children were packing for a weekend away at the grandparents, while the husband and I were packing for a weekend away with each other. (Best Christmas present we give ourselves every year.) As my daughter contemplated what to bring (she comes by her over packing tendencies naturally), she began to stress over her advent calendars.

Does she take them with her?

Does she open them early, since she would be gone one full day of advent?

Does she open them late?

Is Christmas ruined?

Did you happen to catch the part where I said advent calendars? Yes, my children have multiple calendars they open each morning in December helping them countdown the days until Christmas. We usually try and purchase them each a Lego Advent Calendar as an early Christmas present (except for the years in which I forget to buy these cursed things in October and panic when they become terribly overpriced by Thanksgiving). Both kids also have a 99 cent chocolate advent from Trader Joes (Again…purchase early. Stores sell out pre-Thanksgiving. I purchased so many when they were released the cashier half-jokingly asked if I was reselling them on Facebook. I told him I only do that with Hatchimals. These festive chocolates were for our various homeschool co-ops, thankyouverymuch.)

(And I do not really do that with Hatchimals because I did not know they were a thing until too late)

If you are counting, so far my daughter is up to two advent calendars: the Lego and the chocolate. Last year right before Christmas the husband and I stumbled up a Nutcracker-themed charm bracelet Advent calendar (Open a box each day and get a charm) drastically reduced in price at Neiman Marcus. We snatched it up and stored it away for this year.

That is now three advent calendars.

Finally, the girl crafted a calendar of good deeds at church a few weeks ago. This is similar to the old school paper chain of yesteryears. Every day she pulls off a chain and performs the good deed. She was quite proud of herself for making one of those good deeds read, “Be kind to Mommy.” I did not question why that was not a daily occurrence for her.

See her delimia? The girl has FOUR advents to maintain on a daily basis. A mere weekend away makes everything askew.

Christmas time is magical. City streets glow with festive lights. Radio stations blare carols 24/7. Commercials are jolly as people frolic in the snow in their newly purchased luxury SUV.

Yet sometimes we are left feeling exhausted, frantic, and bit sad.

Questioning how in the world we are going to maintain things like four advent calendars (or crazy shopping lists or 27 school holiday events or the laundry) while merrily counting down 24 days until Christmas…

If this is you, understand I am right there with you. I struggle between finding the joy of the season and not letting the pace of the season completely tackle me and leave me stranded in a sea of wrapping paper, half-eaten peppermint bark, and an abandoned list of all the holiday movies I must watch this year.

Follow along with me this week as I discuss ways to Save Your Christmas, helping your family fight free from the stress of the holidays and find ways to simply enjoy the season. I have some giveaways to share as well as some opportunities to keep up with casa de phillips in the new year.

If you are looking for ways to carve out more JOY and less busy as we near December 25th, hopefully this little piece of the internet will help you in this task.

At the very least it just reminded you to purchase Lego advent calendars early next year.

 

 

Empty Parks and Busy Carpool Lanes

minivan-jpg

This morning I was able to be in a part of an intimate audience and view a delightful play about a misguided girl and the woodland friends who lead her back home to the one true truth.

All while still wearing my comfy clothes and clutching a cup of coffee.

The girl asked if she could take a break after four subjects this morning (her norm these days) and head upstairs to play. This play break ended with a darling performance in her bedroom, using every doll and stuffed animal she owns.

Here is a little secret: Any time my kids ask to play during the school day, I let them (This does not mean play technology). Some things can wait until later. Play always takes precedence.

As they have aged, those requests for play time have diminished somewhat. Their school load is heavier (I feel as if we should light a candle in order to gain favor from the Chemistry gods most days) and their interests varied. However, play time still ranks as incredibly important for me. Since I am boss when it comes to school, play gets the top spot in my book.

This morning the girl orchestrated a fun play that she wrote, designed props for, and executed all on her own. Her brother established a school schedule for the day that will allow him to race outside right at 3:15pm in hopes of catching a neighborhood friend walking home from the bus stop.

I fight to create a schedule in which play is King for my children. I do this because my children also have another thing lurking on the permiters of their days: Extracurriculars.

When the children were little, we slowly entered the world of extracurricular activities. They played in a six week long soccer league. We tried a few classes at our local rec center. There were no long term commitments or extended practice hours. However, by the time my youngest was six years old our slow entry into this world had become a full-on sprint. Both children were signed up for multiple activities and gone for stretches of time at night.

This summer I tapped the breaks on our extracurricular schedules, making everyone be at home in the evenings. The change of pace was nice and my mini van’s mileage appreciated the break.

Recently I came across a thread on a local mom’s support group on Facebook in which a mother was inquiring about how many activities her six year old needed to be involved with after school. The mom was feeling conflicted because her child was tired at night (It is his first year of kindergarten…that will wear anyone out!) and she was run down after working all day.

Several mothers commented that he did not need to do much other than just play and enjoy being six.

However most people commented that kids love activities, kids need something to do after being cooped up at school all day, and (the real kicker here) colleges really look at extracurricular activity involvement when making their enrollment decisions.

Um…excuse me?

I get it. I currently live in a highly competitive suburb. Everyone looks the same, makes the same, sounds the same, has the same advantages….so they feel like they need an edge. Yet when we start discussing the need for kindergarteners to step up their game in regards to activity level in order to get into college (13 years down the road) we have a situation.

When did we decide to bow down to extracurriculars like they hold the key to our children’s future?

Last week as I was driving the minivan all around town, carting the children to and fro activities, I felt a tightness in my chest. I realized I was weary of the driving, the scheduling, the dropping off and the picking up. Despite making more changes this school year when it comes to busy nights, I still feel like the worry that my children are missing out and getting behind. This worry is pushing me towards signing up for all the things and driving to all the practices and events 24/7 because nothing sounds worse than one’s kid “falling behind.”

One thing I notice on these drives: the parks are empty.  I pass many neighborhood and community parks on my afternoon/early evening drives and the parks in our suburb are vacant. Sure it is still summer and temps can rival the surface of the sun in our region, but the parks are void of children. Rather than running and playing and climbing for free, we are forking over hundreds and hundreds of dollars for organized activities that simply leave everyone in the family exhausted.

Why are we all jumping on this crazy bus, shuttling our family members around in the name of being “well-rounded” or “standing out from others.”? When did having one sport turn into being involved with a sport, a hobby, a special interest club, and an afterschool team become the norm?

I have not figured out this dilemma when it comes to our family. In fact, I am about to holler up the stairs (in my sweetest June Cleaver voice, mind you) to tell one kid to get ready for the dance and the other to get ready for karate and student groups at church later. We have to leave early tonight because the minivan’s gas gage is teetering on empty.

If all these activities are supposedly good for college admission, surely all the driving around I do will  boost my resume.

 

No Tired Like Back to School Tired

backtoschool

I  feel like I could sleep for the rest of the week and still be tired.

We are in the middle of our third week of school. I have been doing this homeschool thing for six years. Prior to that I taught in public education for four years. Way before that I have 13 years of grammar school and six years of high education.

One would think that I would not be surprised by the complete fatigue that hits at the beginning of the school year.

However here I am wondering why my eyes can barely stay open past 8pm and planning that night’s bedtime as soon as the alarm goes off in the morning.

We are off and running on our sixth year of homeschooling. This year we have jazzed things up a bit by adding a second co-op. If one is fun, then two must be a blast, right?

The reason for the addition was to have a structured classical model guiding us each week. Also, the kids needed to take chemistry this year. I pretty much sat through high school chemistry with a confused look on my face so outsourcing this subject was a no-brainer for me.

Everything else is fairly routine around here. The extra cirriculuars are slowly picking back up. I am back to pinning crock pot recipes that I will actually never try. The lazy days of summer are starting to fade from memory as we remind ourselves how we do this how school/life thing.

 

 

Those Summer Nights

summernite

 

It is currently 104 degrees here.

Sometimes I just want to look around at my fellow suburbanites, all residing in this state that gets insanely hot (and stays that way), and ask, “What are we all doing here?”

That 104 degree temp? Well it will cool down to a brisk 97 by midnight.

I love how magazines and retail stores like to convince me summer nights are the best time to be outdoors. Obviously they have never visited my part of the country in which outdoors in the summer = heat, mosquitos, and more heat.

If I planned a rustic dinner party under the summer stars in my backyard with twinkly lights and boasting a s’mores buffet… no one would come. Not because my friends do not appreciate a lovely feast but because it is so hot that the marshmallows would melt before reaching the fire and the twinkly lights would only add to the heat index.

By this point in the summer, nighttime usually finds us indoors relaxing to the tune of the air conditioner humming along. This summer our nights have been a little bit different than summer nights in the past.

This summer we have been home at night.

In the past and because we homeschool, I have allowed our nights to be consumed with child-centered activities. I spend the evening hours hustling back and forth between various sports and their locales, while attempting to cook supper, feed the family members who happen to be home, and clean the kitchen. Weeknights become a blur of frenzy for us.

This summer we brought it all to a stop.

I told the children we were not doing any nighttime activities. There were no arguments or dramatic sad faces. Rather they were thrilled to be home.

Their days were filled this summer, as they attended a variety of camps and classes as well as spending lots of quality time with friends.

But their nights were at home with their father and me.

We did not do anything extravagant on these evenings. We ate dinner at the table. We played some board games. We watched some television. We just enjoyed home.

Next week, night time activities start to fire up again. School begins on Monday, carrying with it all of our other commitments and obligations. In the meantime, I will soak up these remaining quiet summer nights.

In the Time of Love and Chore Charts

Nothing makes me happier than when all the major retail stores start rolling out the school supplies and the fall clothing.

Sure, I live in an area of the country in which we will not see fall temperatures until approximately November 14th, but I am still Fall’s biggest fan.

As we begin to prep casa de phillips for the 2016-2017 school year (coming at us in ONE WEEK. Summer, where did you go? Oh yeah, I decided to write a book this summer. That is where you went.), I start to evaluate our chore system.

Or our lack of chore system, as things seem to have gone as of late.

chore

I cannot tell you how many chore charts I have crafted over the years. I have had “check off the box” systems, match the cute icon systems, fancy chalkboard systems, and “For the love! Someone just pick up a dirty towel!” systems. No system seems to linger too long and often I wonder why I cannot manage to create a simple chore chart that works for our family.

I have a masters degree.

I paid big money to take courses on Behavior Modification.

Surely my brain could configure a chore chart that works.

This speculation causes me to dive deep into the root of the problem. The problem is not that I have yet to create the perfect system.

The problem is that I have yet to create the expectations.

Often times we set the bar low for our children. I look at their sweet faces and see toddlers rather than the nine and eleven year old standing before me. No longer do they possess chubby little baby hands useful for only grabbing Cheerios. Nope. Those kiddos can WORK and it is time for me to set the expectation for them to do so. I do not have to deem myself Cinderella (pre-glamorous makeover and missing shoe), busting my booty attempting to do all the chores while the children simply do their heart’s desires. It is time to have them earn their keep around the casa.

High expectations move children forward, providing a sense of responsibility and pride in their abilities.

Low expectations fuel a generation of entitlement and a belief that life is served up on a silver platter.

We are all out of silver platters over here, kids. It is time for us all to bust our booties.

How does one establish expectations, especially when one’s children only expect access to Minecraft 12 hours a day and a constant stream of entertainment?

Training

This morning I drug myself out of bed at 4:30am and got myself to the gym. Friday morning’s exercise regimen involves a total body conditioning class taught by a perky instructor who must live on caffeine and puppy hugs. As she cheerfully ran us through a tough workout, she reminded us that our planks (with a froggie burpie combo, mind you. No one should ever combine the two, in my opinion) only improved with training.  Apparently if I do train my body to do planks at any given moment, my body will not complain so much when it is time to hold said postion for two horribly long minutes.

The same theory applies to our children and chores.

When we train them on how to do chores, we provide them with the muscle memory to do those chores on repeat.

When we train them on what is expected of them, they learn to rise to the occasion.

Be Realistic

The expectations we set forth for our children must be realistic. This is a delicate dance between being real about what they can accomplish and setting the bar high enough based on ability.

For example, I have one child who is extremely creative.

Want to know what goes along with extreme creativity?

A trail of paper and glitter and half-completed projects that are always in some sort of work-state.

Keeping her room tidy is my Everest.

However, we work on keeping floors clean and containing her creative space to her desk top.

That desk top might not ever see the light of day while she lives under my roof. However, I am being realistic about the cleaning I expect of her when it comes to her personal space while allowing her spirit to shine.

Clear and Consistent

Remember that perky gym instructor I mentioned?

Every Friday morning she is quite consistent with those elaborate planks.

When we are consistent with our children in regards to chores, they understand that we actually do mean for them to get those chores done. Expectations have to be consistent.

The best way to establish consistent expectations is by setting the example with our own actions.

The Phillips’ Family budget is not set up for us to have a housekeeper come on a regular basis. Therefore the children and I set aside Friday mornings as our cleaning time. This is a consistent time we have established to clean our home. Although some people around here pretend to act shocked when I mention that once again we must pull out the cleaning supplies and get to work, in their little hearts they are expecting it.

Recognize Success

Want to know what warms my little heart?

It makes me feel like I deserve a big gold start for the day when my husband walks through the door at night and proclaims that the house looks nice.

He does not need to know that thirty minutes prior to his arrival lunch crumbs were still on the floor and a science project was scattered through the living room.

When he acknowledges the work I have put forth, I feel like I have won wife of the year.

The same philosophy holds true for our kids.

Recently I read how it is important for our children to know the positive impacts they have on our lives. I have been trying to put praise in tangible terms, rather than muttering a “Great Job” as I fly through my day.

Saying things like “You really blessed Mommy’s day when you unloaded the dishwasher and put the dishes away” recognizes their effort and shows them that said effort mattered.

If we want our children to take an active part in maintaining our homes (and we do, sister!) then we must acknowledge their work and the effect their work has had on our families lives.

Teamwork Mentality

Team sports were never my thing because I am not what one would call “athletic”. (Just ask that perky gym instructor). I did swim competitively growing up and would be on the occasional relay team for meets.

Those relay teams would be their most successful when we would all work together, figuring out the best configuration of swimmers to ensure a positive outcome.

Chores have a purpose. They are the mastermind of adults just wanting to make kids miserable.

When our children understand that as a family we work as a team toward a common goal (Not having the family home featured on Hoarders) they can adopt a team mentality. As mentioned, we do big cleanings on Friday mornings. The kids know that when our cleaning is done, we get to move on to more enjoyable tasks. We work together so we can play together.

 

As you stock up on three-pronged folders with pockets (Bless that requirement.) and search Pinterest for a cute back-to-school Teacher gift, do not feel like the solution of Back to School sanity lies in the perfect chore chart.

The solution is found in the expectations you establish for yourself and your family.

 

 

 

 

Spoken Goals

goalWant to know the secret to accomplishing a hard goal?

Tell someone you are going to accomplish said hard goal.

Example: About seven years ago I decided to grow out my hair and then donate it to Locks of Love. I believe I was inspired by two things:

  1. Ann Curry’s hair donation done live on the Today show.
  2. Lack of sleep due to a small toddler girl at my house who did not value a consistent eight hours of slumber.

I mentioned this goal of growing/chopping of hair to my grandmother. She then proceeded to ask me about it anytime I saw her. I had no choice but to actually grow out my hair and then cut it all off (18 inches donated in the end). Because I told her of my intentions, she held me accountable to my goal.

A few years ago I mentioned to my children that I wanted to write a book. The husband already knew about this dream because I have been toying with the idea since we were first married. Funny thing about kids: they never forget some things you tell them. For instance: They can immediately forget that I mentioned they needed to hang up their laundry for the week.

They will never forget that I causally mentioned we may go get milkshakes or I may write a book sometime in the near future.

Thanks a lot, off-spring.

Because I spoke this dream out loud to my family, I decided I needed to make it a reality.

book

Last summer I messed around a bit, formulating a book idea and crafted bits and pieces of a book proposal. I liked the idea and I loved the writing, but I was not dedicated to carving out the time to make the proposal an actual thing.

This summer that proposal became an actual thing.

Over the past few months the children have watched as I have typed and researched and fretted over a book proposal. They have gone to headshot photo shoots and sat at Staples as I lamented over the weight of paper in which to print said proposal. They have watched a considerable amount of television in order to provide me with the space and time to write. They have stuffed folders and have even picked up their own pens and paper and begun writing themselves (more on that to come).

Two weeks ago they bid me …and the 80 page proposal…farewell as I boarded a plan headed for North Carolina and the She Speaks 2016 conference. Nothing was better for my writer soul than being around 800 other women who share a love of the written word and a heart for Jesus. Nothing was better for my children at that moment than seeing a goal spoken and achieved as they did when I left that Thursday.

The book proposal is showing a bit of promise and I continue working every day towards getting the manuscript complete. The words on those pages come from a space in my heart that is eager to share hope and encouragement with families. The desire to reach the end goal comes from a space to show my children that we can do hard things.

My question to you is what goals have you spoken into the universe and then felt compelled to reach? Perhaps speaking them today, maybe just to this blogging community, is enough to set you on the track to achieving those goals.

****

In case you are following along, finishing a book proposal was part of my “39 in my 39th”. Please know that I put a big fat checkmark next to that one once I typed the final word on my proposal.

Unsubscribing to Summer Guilt

summerfails

Dear Pinterest,

Just a quick note to let you know how much I have appreciated all your pins encouraging me to make this the BEST SUMMER EVER for my two children. You have inspired me to initiate random water balloon fights, track summer reading minutes, plan themed dinners, and host summer camp-style playdates for all the neighborhood children. Mason jars were purchased in hopes of catching fireflies and I printed seven different recipes for s’mores. I jotted down a summer schedule back in May one night while I waited on dance class to be over. My Amazon cart was filled work workbooks that promised to ensure no forgetting of math facts or spelling rules would occur between the months of June and August.

Pinterest, you inspired me, filling my brain with images of a summer which would be both magical and productive, educational and relaxing.

However, dear Pinterest, I must be honest as we soak in these final moments of summer break.

There have been no random water balloon fights. The children have read books but we failed to join the summer reading program at the library in time and I just received an email stating the Reading Victory Party is being held next week. Oops. I would love to catch fireflies but I live in the ‘burbs where the sun does not set until after 9:30pm in the summer. Apparently fireflies do not find living in the suburbs to be ideal so we have none to catch. Also, I like my children to go to bed at a decent time so I can hang out with my husband. I guess those mason jars will have to sit vacant on the shelf, waiting for fall and whatever craft you tell me to make then.

There was no cute chart marking off our summer bucket list nor did we set out on one educational field trip.

Pinterest, I am afraid I may have failed Summer 2016.

In spite of these summer failings, my children have participated in a variety of camps in which they learned new experiences. Both took tennis and realized that Texas is way too hot to play tennis in any month other than January. One child attended drama camp and now has every song from the musical “Matilda” memorized. The other took a game design camp and (fingers crossed) learned new skills that he will put to good use one day.

My daughter decided to join the gourmet popsicle revolution and has crafted an assortment of flavored pops while simultaneously writing a popsicle cookbook. My son has talked on the phone to his BFF (who attends another school and lives in another suburb, so time together during the academic year is limited) every day as they develop a new Minecraft server (I love to toss around technical jargon as if I know what it means. All I really know about Minecraft is that I get motion sickness when the children attempt to show me their worlds.)

We joined the Pokémon Go hysteria and I learned that one CAN take her 11 year old son on a million errands without him bemoaning his lot in life the entire time.

There have been days in which claims of boredom have been issued. I reminded my children in our house boredom is cured with weed-pulling and baseboard cleaning. Miraculously they found things to entertain their time. One began writing a novel while the other reconfigured Lego sets.

Despite my best intentions, my children did not need me to curate a magical summer.

They managed to do it all by themselves.

As for today, this day that is a final gasp of summer before school starts in a week, my children have been outside since 7:30am. Their faces are covered in blue popsicle (You gotta stay hydrated) and they keep alternating between the pool and the swing set with a gaggle of neighborhood children. Funny thing is, they will consider this the best summer day ever.

Pinterest, as much as I appreciate your cute ideas on how to plan the perfect summer, I am pretty sure my kids have you beat. Their recipe simply calls for a bit of freedom, whatever kid is available to play, and 12 hours of daylight to run around until exhaustion takes them over at the end of the day.

Sincerely,

A mom who may not have failed at summer this year

 

Things I *Big Puffy Heart* Love

thingsilove

I love a good list. If someone pens a list about their favorite books, their current fashion must-haves, or curriculum essentials everyone needs to purchase now, I am on board. Seeing what other people are digging at the moment is such a great way to get a tiny glimpse of who they are.

During the (almost) eleven years of writing this blog, I have authored many lists. As I was fleshing out the ideas for this piece, of course “Coffee” topped the list.

Because I always big puffy heart coffee

Then I realized that was likely the number one item on every list I have ever made.

I also found myself in the Starbucks drive through line yesterday morning, realizing that I was getting coffee on my way to have coffee with a friend.

Um…I may have a problem.

I nonchalantly steered the family station wagon out of the line before placing an order, giving myself a little pep talk about how I could indeed carry on without coffee while enroute to get coffee.

(It should be noted that I had been up really late the night before preparing for She Speaks ’16.)

In no particular order, here are some things I am loving right now (with the exception of coffee….because OBVIOUSLY I love coffee.)

School Supplies

Nothing makes me feel more giddy than the big retail stores rolling out school supplies on July 5th. Sure, it feels like they just pulled the scissors and the glue off the shelves to make room for summer essentials, but I still love the rows of fresh, clean school supplies making their debut every year. This year, Wal-Mart has really amped up their supply game. Last week the girl and I purchased a variety of adorable notebooks for mere change.

Pokémon Go

It might seem strange that I am including a video game in my list of things I love. However, I am truly starting to believe that moms of tween boys invented this app (Sorry, Japan.).

I just put the app on my phone this week (FYI: it only works on devices with GPS). The girl has activities all morning so it is just the boy and I hanging until she returns home. Because I am preparing to go out of town for four days without my people, I have had a large amount of errands to run.

The boy’s least favorite thing to do is run errands.

Enter: Pokémon Go.

This (Free!!!) app keeps him entertained and makes errand running fun. Never before has an eleven year old been so anxious to walk around Nordstrom Rack. Plus, it has proven to be great way for us to interact and chat as we drive all over our little suburb.

The beauty of it being on my phone: He only gets access to it at special times.

Uniball Signo Pens

I have taken an unofficial pole and have voted these pens to be the best of all time.

For whatever reason, I cannot keep up with a pen to save my life so I may have to purchase these in bulk. No worries because they are relatively inexpensive (Costco sells mega-packs) and last forever.

The Popcast and Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey

I know I have already given a recount of my favorite podcasts. However, I cannot stop listening to old episodes of the Popcast. I have listened to so many lately that I fear I may refer to the hosts as actual people that I know (I do not know them). It should be noted, that I am the girl who once greeted a fellow blogger who I did not know and whose blog I stalked (back in the days when everyone blogged and one could be given a free washing machine without the FTC requiring disclosure statements) as if we were real life friends.

This is likely why she stopped blogging soon after that experience.

Check out “my friends” on the Popcast. You will not be disappointed.

Also, a (real, true) friend and I are going to see the Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey when she hits our town next month. The purchasing of these tickets happened via a flurry of text messages while I was attempting to shop and she was watching tickets disappear by the second. I have a secret goal to one day be a guest on the Happy Hour so I am super excited to attend a live taping. This event *may* just be happening the night of the first day of school, but you only live once.

Revival of My Laptop and Keurig

This summer has been the summer of writing for me. Although the blog has not seen a ton of love over the past few months, I have been a writing fool over here at casa de phillips. The first week of June I shipped my kids off to the grandparents and sat at my kitchen table and wrote for hours and hours each day.

That same week both my laptop and my Keurig appeared to be on death’s doorstep. Choosing this summer for these two close personal friends to decide to leave this life was obviously poor timing on their part.

Miraculously both found a will to live and seem to be humming along just fine.

VBS

Can we just take a moment and recognize the spectacular beast that is present-day VBS?

I have dear memories of VBS as a child, with some sweet bible stories, generic Oreos wrapped in a napkin, and a cup of warm Hawaiian Punch.

Today my kid was served a snake made out of a donut cut in half with a licorice tongue and m&m eyes.

Yesterday she feasted on a cupcake bearing the story of creation in its frosting.

Obviously the ways of Oreos and punch have been abandoned.

Vacation Bible Schools are amazing. The amount of work churches put into creating a week filled with fun and Jesus is outstanding. Living in the bible belt, I pass sign after sign in the summer advertising Vacation Bible Schools on every corner. What I tend to forget that behind those signs are teams of people who have worked for months to make a special week for kids in the community. Big kudos to those that take large amounts of their time each summer to make such events happen.

Swimming Laps

Back in the day, I was a competitive swimmer.

I spent hours and hours at the pool, year-round, practicing and competing. Although I was never really good at this sport, being a part of a swim team had a deep, positive impact on me as a kid.

Lately I have decided to toss swimming into my workout mix. I have had some joint pain issues due to the heat so working out in the water seemed like a good option.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I forgot how swimming laps…really swimming with goggles and a cap and a non-mom bathing suit (which slightly freaked my kids out)..is the best work-out ever.

Headshots

About a month ago, I had headshots remade for some writing things I am working on. I do not really have the model gene personality. I can stand and smile or sit and smile. There is not much expression after those two possibilities have been exhausted.

However, a dear friend shot the pictures for me and she was great at encouraging me to just have fun and relax.

Our session inspired her to reach out to other women and encourage them to have their pictures made of JUST them.

Is that not the best idea?

How many pictures do we have of our kids or even of our spouse but we often have very few of JUST our self (unless you are the type that changes her FB profile picture every day. If so…Bless.). You may not need a headshot but I encourage you to hire a photographer or ask a friend to snap some pictures of just you.

 

What are some things you are loving this summer?

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