On Definitions, Labels, and Learning.

During a lecture in grad school, one of my professors called me out by name during his class for being a (quiet) contrarian. It happened so long ago that I can’t recall his exact language, but it was something along the lines of,  “And then you’ll be saying something and can look at Jenni and know she is contradicting all of it.” And even though I don’t know if that’s precisely how he said it, I do know the first thought that went through my head was, “Me?! No, I’m not!” which pretty much proved his point right then and there.

The funny thing was, until that experience, in my 22+ years I naively assumed that I thought and believed pretty much like anyone else around me. It never occurred to me that someone might take me (well, actually my writing, as I’ve never been very outspoken in classes) as a force of contradiction. In the years since, however, this claim has stayed in the back of my brain, and it’s actually helped me in many ways.

For one, it’s good to know that I have my own voice and that it is worth sharing because yes, it might in fact differ from that of another person. Not that I have to strike out to change their thinking, but that giving my unique perspective is of value because it does indeed add to the conversation. For another, it has helped me – sort of – as a parent because now that I am raising at least one little contrarian of my own, I can find solace in knowing from where it comes, even if that doesn’t do much to help me actually deal with it in real life.

All of this is a very long-worded intro into the fact that as Ben and I are now completing the New Member classes at our new church, First Presbyterian (you guys, I still can’t spell that right on the first try) Church in Hastings, I’ve had some of these contrary student moments that have given me pause and caused me to reflect a bit.

At our first session last week, we were asked as part of our introduction to share what it means to us to be a Presbyterian, and y’all, I blanked. So much blanked that I said, “I don’t know” as that part of my introduction because beyond still not spelling it correctly, I couldn’t tell you what the word itself meant or where it came from, so how else could this contrarian answer but with a non-answer?

Fortunately, we did go over some church history and even the definition of the word “Presbyterian” (ha! no red squiggles!) which has to do with church governance and committees and such , and I walked away from the evening certainly knowing more, but also realizing that I knew more than I gave myself credit for when I first answered.

Another benefit of being contradictory in nature? You learn that you can contradict yourself even, and sometimes fairly soon after a statement’s been made.

You see, as I listened to the others in our group do their own introductions, I realized they were all touching on the very messages/themes that I’ve written about before when I’ve blogged about church, namely being the concepts of love and service. Love and service. It may have been the invitation of friends and the desire to have a church home for our family that initially brought us in the doors, but it is this particular church’s driving forces of love and service that kept us coming back and ultimately led us to become official members this summer. And not just lip-service, either, but actions and actual in-the-world service, which is where my heart lies, introverted and contradictory as it may also sometimes be. [Parenting side note: this too has come up more and more when I address my children because as much as their mama loves words, they have to know that actions matter, too, and often times, even more so than their words.]

In my defense, I was the very first person to share, after our pastor that is, and tired/pregnant mama brain + first-out-the-gate nerves perhaps got the best of me. I should also mention that one of the other questions we had to answer was about which Bible character we related to with a list of examples/qualities to help us, but I still totally pulled a “there aren’t enough women on this list and I’m not connecting with any of the men on here, either” for that one, so yeah….Sorry, Pastor G – there’s that whole contrarian thing again!

But after chewing on these questions for the last few days, and learning more and more about the larger church itself and the actual congregation here that we are now officially part of, I once again land at the conclusion that we are fortunate to be where we are in this community that lives not only by faith but also by love and service. This is the message, the work, and the spirit we want to surround our children with as they grow, and it is how we want to be in the world, too.

And, as I explained in an email to our pastor that he’s most likely not seen yet, but touches on many of these same points, this particular explanation would have been far too long to share with the New Members group (and thanks to my prenatal weepies, I doubt I would have gotten through it one piece anyway), but it is worth sharing here because where we go from here….how we love and serve as a family….well, that’s what it is all about and this is where I share those stories.

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Taken the Sunday in June when we joined the church! 

 

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We Took an Eclipse Day

Since most of my blogging purpose is posterity, I feel I would be remiss not to document this day – this day that has been talked about and talked about for months (and for the last week, has been freaking me out via the Interwebs and eyeball burning warnings) of the Total Solar Eclipse 2017.

But since Hastings really was in the “Path of Totality,” we had a prime spot for taking in this monumental day/night and we ended up taking full advantage of it.

For a while now, I have wanted to pull the kids from school for the eclipse, simply because I wanted to be with them for this once-in-a-lifetime experience, which was a sentiment echoed by several of my mama of school-agers over the course of the last few weeks. And since the hubs was down for that, we proposed the plan to the children at the end of last week: get to come home in the middle of the day for the eclipse.

We were met with one “Cool” and one TEARS.

Poor Miss Raegan; she was so excited to start school last week (and also so warn out by starting school last week) that after school on Friday, she was in hot mess meltdown mode because she wanted so badly to have it both ways – her whole family with her at school for the eclipse AND her whole class here with her family for the eclipse. Sorry, Love – no dice on either since TJ needed a nap and I wasn’t really down for inviting 20+ Kindergartners to our yard (for potential eyeball burning).

So we kind of let the issue sit and on Sunday, my aunt and uncle from MN arrived (he is a high school science teacher and was excited to get in on our view) , and Ben and I decided on the wild plan of not just pulling the kids from school for the event, but for the whole day. It just seemed like the best way to keep RL from losing it again and it made for less runaround during our day before and after our observation of the sun/moon dance. And because Ben happens to have plan during the middle of the day and did not have study hall today, he could even join us as the house for gearing up and viewing all the way up to totality (and then he had to split).

While there were definitely moments this morning of wishing I had just sent them (long side note: RL might have stayed home today anyway because she woke up from a bad dream – that’s new and hopefully done – at 2:00 a.m. and with a horrendous barky cough – and I ended up “sleeping” with her the rest of the night to keep her calm and on her side which meant NOT much rest for me, so my patience level plus excitement level of the children just were not on par, but cookies and coffee and extra helpers around the house make a world of difference), I am ultimately so glad that we kept them home and got to be all together (minus the napping baby which was a blessing as far as safety goes) for what turned out to be very much worth the hype.

We did not see everything (no Shadow Bands that we could see, and I’m pretty sure I missed both the Diamond Ring and the beads), but dang, Totality came and it was UNREAL.

Honestly, I was a little freaked out that our timer app was wrong and we’d taken them off too soon, but just like that, you could hear people all over town cheering and hooting and hollering because it was just that wild to have it so suddenly be like night time out (with the 360 sunset around us) including street lights and cooler temps and this perfect ring of light around the moon up in the sky. And lucky us, we got to experience it for over two whole minutes!

The kids – and all of our grownups – were drop-jawed. And it was crazy how, just like that, it was then reversing and the day was returning to normal(ish).

At that point, we headed back inside to return to our regular afternoon routine (as if we have a “hooky” routine! As we told the kids – the staying home from school offer was pretty much once in a lifetime, too!) and I will admit, I felt a little off. Some of that was fear of “OMG. Did we just burn retinas?!” and some was exhaustion from the previous night and the rest was hangover from the awesome craziness of the eclipse. And it legit took most of the rest of the afternoon for that to clear. I mean, does anyone else who experienced it feel like they lived more than one day today?

Although the kids couldn’t quite give us a highlight/favorite moment of the eclipse, at dinner RL said to the table, “Raise your hand if you had the best day ever!” and everybody did, so I would say all the hubbub and such was totally worth it. And thanks to our homemade masks, I think we are all more than fine, even though the 4yo was stressful to watch because he fought the mask for so long, but geez – let’s hope there are no lifetime ramifications of the lifetime event, for us or for anyone else (eventually I’ll get over this fear, I swear).

 

 

Road Diary No.2

Annnnd, just like that, today is the day of Heading Home. For all the effort that went in on the front side (and oh, my – did that involve work and coordination), and then all the careful planning for our evening activities and getting around the burbs and some of KC-proper(ish) while we’ve been here, it’s now just about time to hit the road.

Currently Ben is still at meetings, and I’m spending the afternoon enjoying the A.C. (not to mention the amenities) of Target and Starbucks since I had to be out of the hotel before lunch. I mean, really – things could be much worse, eh? But since I am done with my slow perusing of Target and my lunch, I’m hunkered down at Starbucks until I get word from B that it’s time to come pick him up so we can start the five-hour journey back to Hastings.

There’s no way we’ll get there before the kids are in bed, which is a bummer, but I’m excited to see them (bright and early, as per usual) in the morning and see how big they are (don’t laugh; don’t you think the same even after just a day or two away from your kiddos?).  But mostly I want to hug and hold the bejeebies out of them because I miss that contact like crazy even though getting touched out happens to me all the time with them. Maternal Irony, I guess.

What’s wild, though, is that I get less than 12 hours with them and then I am hitting the road again for a special training in Lincoln. So while I can’t wait to snuggle up and hear all about their five sleeps without us, I still won’t really get to be with them until Monday. I am grateful for the timing of all these opportunities, that I can in fact go from one to the next, but at the same time – this is a lot for me to squeeze into one week!

As for the Road Diary that I posted as the micro blog on the MM page, well, I don’t know if I have any other revelations to add to that, except that this trip has been good for us. Ben has worked really hard during the days with his training for the new class he’ll be teaching this fall, and we did our best to fill our nights with activities and opportunities that we just don’t get at home (which I’m still doing here this afternoon with my two indulgences) from the Royals game and seeing an actual current movie in an actual movie theater (with reclining leather seats, tyvm) to shopping at IKEA and hitting up a prenatal yoga studio.

img_6918All of this means the days and nights have been pretty well FULL, but as whirlwind-y as it has been (and as fast as it has gone), there have been big benefits in terms of recharging and being able to have actual grownup conversations without interruptions, which just doesn’t happen at home. From here we jump back in headfirst with parenting and road tripping and finishing out summer camps and activities (pretty sure we don’t have a quiet weekend between now and the start of school), so for now, I’m just going to sip the rest of my iced coffee and say a little (loud) bit of thanks to have had this opportunity.

Update Overdue

I’ve gone with some quiet periods on the blog before, but I don’t know if ever before so many crickets have chirped here between posts. Since getting sick mid-May, we’ve been in the whirlwind of transition between Ben’s school year and my summer adjuncting, plus house projects, and even though I often have words dancing through my brain and stories waiting to be told, I just have not made time to sit down and get them down on paper (page). But today I have a spare moment and some time to myself, so I’m vowing to get back to it with the writing here and now. What follows may be hodge-podgey and scattered, but so it goes with my brain anyway these days, so why not embrace it, right? img_6269

The Monday following my whatever-the-heck-that-was, I started my first ever five-week course at CCC. In summers past, I have always taught three-week sessions, but this was asked of me and I could make it work, so I took on the challenge of leading a dual-course Emporium Lab. Thankfully I did not have to create the course(s) from scratch and once-upon-a-lifetime ago, I did offer self-paced classes as a full-time instructor, but I have never done what I’m doing currently which is to guide students in two classes through their work simultaneously. Actually, some of them are doing one and then the other in the span of five weeks while the rest are signed up for just one of the two.

Have I confused you yet? Yes, I know. It’s unique!

The students spend three and a half hours with me four mornings a week and work through course content, quizzes, and writing assignments at their own pace (which has to be quite regimented for those attempting to complete two courses in this one session). I am there to guide, facilitate, answer questions, respond to writing, give quizzes, and keep everyone on track/target. I thought, going in, that it might be a bit dull on my end since there would be no formal lecture, but holy moly cow. Not dull. Now that we are two weeks in and some are on the verge of finishing all units of their said class while others are still working to wrap up one class in order to move to the next, I see just how wild a lab like this can be.

I feel like someone is constantly calling out “SQUIRREL!” at me, not because the students are bothersome (I’ve been off from summer teaching for a bit and I forgot just how much I appreciate summer students and their dedication), but because someone is constantly doing something different or needing something else than the person next to them, and I spend my mornings trying to keep it and them all flowing smoothly. For the most part, I think it is, and I appreciate the focus and attention this group has brought to their mornings with me.

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Post-class selfies with TJ. 

After I get home for the afternoon, I’m pretty well shot and most days have to throw lunch at myself and then rest for a bit. That doesn’t exactly help with productivity around the house, but B and I have saved that for the evenings as we decided to – finally, after 5+ of being in the house and me wanting to change it all that time – paint our giant, pink-ish living room. Baby No.5 has actually inspired several house projects to make our space even more functional for our crew and painting was a precursor to making those other things happen. I’ll be sure to do a post soon with more detail on all that has happened thus far and other plans to come, but for now I’ll share a few pictures so you can see some of the transformation.

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The painting process was a little scary, not to mention strung out over almost a handful of days because, hi – it’s not easy to paint with this many little Littles in the house (at least not when they are awake), but we got it done (save for the top edge of the room) and I really like the end result.

Other reasons for not writing in the evenings these last two and a half weeks? Well, for img_6276one, we started allowing Harrison to stay up later than the other kids, during which time he and I read together. This is lovely and he’s so darn excited about it but I have to say, it has cut into some of my own personal time in the evening and I legit feel that in my energy level. That doesn’t mean I would trade our new little routine for anything, but I’ve got to be mindful of not letting the tiredness that creeps in during 50+ minutes of extra reading with him totally wipe out the rest of my nights. I’ve recently reactivated my YogaGlo account and am very much dedicated to practicing for myself and this growing babe at least once a week, no matter how long the days seem (another soon-to-come post, I’m sure).

The final two culprits? Books and Netflix. I finished only one book in April (hello morning sickness and end-of-school year rush), but I more than made up for it in May by completing seven titles (two of which I started in April, mind you). And then Netflix decided to drop new seasons of all our favorite original series of theirs plus Hulu has The Handmaid’s Tale and yeah…..more “TV” for me in last three weeks than the previous three months, I bet (and we still haven’t even touched two of our faves on Netflix).

So there ya have it: life as a busy mama who is growing a babe and a business while teaching and momming and still trying to be a person with actual interests pertaining to self. It’s a wild and wonderful ride and even when I don’t always record all the details, I’m still happy to come back to this space and reflect on just how we fill our days, hearts, and minds.

Just Ask. And Then Let Them.

I tell myself a lot of stories in my head when it comes to asking for help. I’m not good at it. I don’t need to do it; I can handle this myself. If I ask someone for something, I will be in debt to them and feel guilty until I can go above and beyond to repay them. This and so much more runs through my mind when I’m in a tight spot or in need of assistance. Do you ever tell yourself similar stories, maybe surrounding different issues?

Since I came into motherhood, I have had to work on this. A lot. When you don’t live in the same city (or state) as family, and you have Littles, you are inevitably going to need help from others. Sometimes a lot. The concept of a village is no joke, and in the 7 3/4 years (the 3/4 is very important to HD these days) of being a mom, I have been fortunate enough to meet and surround myself with some of the best and most caring helpers out there.

And yet, still, I sometimes don’t know how or when to ask for help.

Yesterday started out as one of them.

In my defense, I did not know what was coming for me yesterday. Now that it’s over, I’m still not entirely sure what came at me, but it turned out to be far more intense than what I anticipated when I got sick before breakfast yesterday.

Since my initial OB appointment, I’ve been taking a little medicine before bed each night to curb the nausea and help me get some sleep. All safe. All doctor approved. Since I’ve been feeling better for the last week and a half and Wednesday marked 13 weeks, I decided that night not to take it because I thought I was past all that.

When I hardly slept, had a raging headache, and then got sick at 7 a.m., I thought otherwise. In fact, I thought I had made a very stupid mistake and was being treated to some really crappy morning sickness in return. Yesterday was HD’s first day of summer vacation (read: my first day with all four kids home) and Ben’s last day of finals, so I knew I just had to suck it up. I was stuck, sick, at home with four kids all day and that was just that.

Except then I continued to get sick. Nothing stayed in my system. By mid-day, I was so wiped out that I knew I was either in the middle of the worst morning sickness flareup EVER or had the stomach flu. But I still didn’t reach out to anyone because Ben was at least able to come for a few minutes to throw lunch at the kids (anyone else use that expression?) and then it was crash time for me and the baby during afternoon nap (which turned into extended screen time for the Big 3 which might have been just as good of a start to summer vacay as if Mom had been upright and functioning). So we were surviving. Mostly.

After Ben got home for good post-testing, I crawled into bed with the computer and reached out to some mamas in town to see if they knew about anything going around that I might have caught. From there, bless their sweet hearts, we parsed my situation and ruled out the morning sickness entirely, and settled somewhere between potential bug and potential food reaction. I was all in favor of diagnosing myself with something that wouldn’t spread to the rest of my family, and by that point in the day I was at least keeping Gatoraid in me for a little bit before getting sick again so I thought things were improving.

And then they went downhill again. Frequency and intensity of sickness increased and had it been just me at stake, I probably would have just toughed it out. But by the afternoon, every time I’d run for the bathroom, I kept thinking about this tiny baby growing in my belly and felt so bad for the wild ride s/he was being given. So after Ben got the kids down for the night, we called the answering service for my OB’s office and got a return call from the doc soon after that. He was very reassuring that Baby was undoubtedly fine, and that it was really just up to me on how I felt on whether or not I should go up to the hospital for fluids. I mean, at that point, I hadn’t kept anything down in over 12 hours for more than 30-45 minutes at a time, and couldn’t remember the last time I peed, so we decided going in was probably a good call.

Not only was it absolutely the best thing to do for my body, it gave me another opportunity to know just how willing my people are to step up when I just ask for help.

With some quick phone calls and later messages, we had people here at the house to hang with the sleeping kiddos, a friend to sit with me at the hospital while Ben ran up to school to get his tests to grade (so he could stay home and take care of me/the kids today), and eventually, thanks to the beauty of social media, lots of well wishes and prayers from all of you as you learned about the day and the situation. And don’t even get me started on the ridiculously awesome care I received at MLH – they always go above and beyond and if I start writing about that, I won’t stop.

img_6228At one point, Ben and I were sitting there in the room, waiting for the fluids to start working their magic (which they totally did, by the way) and I told him I was glad we didn’t decide to wait overnight to see how things went. He looked at me and told me point blank that he was very glad I had come in because he knows how much I tend to push through and that I had already done plenty of that yesterday as it was. That sounds like false humility when I read over it, but it’s also just witness to my stubbornness and my “I don’t need to burden others”ness which he sees.

Which is crap. And I need to keep reminding myself that that story is crap. Of course I need others. Asking them for help is not burdening them; it is allowing them to be part of my life, to be there when I am vulnerable. I very much need all the people who reach out and help, or offer to help, and show that they care. I can be as tough as I want, but I still can’t exist in a vacuum, sick or not. I am very lucky to have such good support and I hope my friends know how much I appreciate them, even when I don’t always reach out to them when I should.

As for the health front…I got to come home at 11:30 last night and crawl into my own bed where I collapsed and thankfully slept without getting sick the rest of the night. I woke up today with a headache that has persisted even now, but have kept down all fluids and dry cereal that I’ve had so far today. I call this a major win, especially compared to yesterday.

Going in was the right call. Asking for help and being willing to take that help was also right. It always is, for all of us.

Your people love you. Let them.

Dream Job

For months (and months), big things have been a’brewin’ over here. There has been a whole lot of talking and dreaming and brainstorming and planning and yes, best of all -DOING going on, about which I am so excited to finally begin sharing with you.

As you know, if you’ve been reading along the last several months, I have continued to teach yoga as a solo instructor, both on my sun porch and eventually in a friend’s space once we outgrew the porch. Those classes have brought so much joy and I am profoundly grateful to those who have practiced with me in that time.

What I am excited to share with you all now is that this little solo side-gig thing is going full blown, legit small business. Yes, that’s correct! I am now the proud co-owner (along with my amazing hubs) of my (our) very own L.L.C. – Grounded Sky – a little yoga biz with big heart and big dreams.

There is much to tell and much to share, but in due time. Official filings and openings (think legal paperwork and bank account) are now in place. The classes and other special offerings are also very much in the works, along with collaborations with some amazing souls (who have already given such great support, not to mention brain power!), but it’s too much for one little post to carry, so for now – I’ll leave you with a big dose of excited to be adulting and learning in whole new ways. Cheers to 2017!

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I’m Breaking Up with Coffee

Maybe this is the Norovirus talking, but it looks like coffee and I may be done. For good.

Shocked? Let me distract you a bit first with a health update before I explain.

Here’s the State of our Union as of Thursday night: better but not great, and certainly not 100%.

As you may know from FB, RL was the last one to fall in the wee early hours of this morning, and she’s had a hard day of it. Actually, she was oddly perky in between bouts of upring, which made it all the harder to get her to rest, but sure enough, just when we thought she was in the clear and could sleep in her own bed tonight, she got sick again and is back on the couch in the living room with me. Currently she is sleeping sitting up against the back of the loveseat; I don’t understand this.

Thankfully the boys are all back in their own beds tonight, but none of them had a totally clear day, either.

HD’s was the best but it wasn’t until just before bedtime that he actually ate anything, so he’s home from school again tomorrow to keep from getting totally depleted (and exposed to anything else just yet, tyvm).

TJ and LT kind of tie for crappy days. After seeming so much better yesterday, Truman was feverish and punky most of today and took in nothing other than breastmilk and some electrolyte liquids from his sippy cup all day long. He took extra long naps, one of which he woke up from sick in his crib, and even took a third nap on me during our late img_4882afternoon nursing session. The scariest part was when he went 5+ hours without a wet diaper, but then he started peeing again, so I’m hoping we’re over whatever hump today was for him. Did I mention that when he was awake he did NOT want to be put down? Made for an interesting time of trying to tend to any of the others, so thankfully Ben was home today to recover himself a bit and help with the herd.

LT, after seeming better late Monday and Tuesday, has been backsliding the last two days, so thanks to the knowledge that some other friends have had other illnesses creep in post flu, we took him in to the doc this afternoon and sure enough – the kid has strep. But at least for that we can get meds and get him on the road to mended because wow, he’s been out of it the last 48 hours.

So what does any of this have to do with the apparent end of my love affair with coffee?

Well, obviously yesterday there was no chance in hell of me drinking a cup of coffee. Usually when I get that sick, I also get an awful caffeine withdrawal headache. But yesterday was different in that sense; while I thought of coffee later in the afternoon, I wasn’t hurting for it and I certainly didn’t want it keep me up last night, so I made it to today where even though I didn’t get the same lengthy naps during the day, I had no desire to drink any.img_4888

OK, that’s crap.

OF COURSE I had a desire to drink coffee today. I am totally addicted to the stuff. But lately I’ve been seeing blogs and articles popping up about not drinking coffee and each one is this little nudge to a thought that’s been in my brain for some time which is this: I don’t really think I should drink coffee.

Why? For a number of reasons.

  1. Vanity (it stains my teeth)
  2. Nervous system (more often than not, it gives me the shakes)
  3. Cost (nah – not really; not that I make it single brew at home now, but still – a factor)
  4. Sugar (let’s face it – this is the BIGGEST thing about me and coffee. I love the way coffee smells & always will, but I HATE the way it tastes unless I add stuff to it. Sometimes that stuff is raw sugar and half and half, but lately it has been full on full-of-crap creamers and marshmallows – not kidding. So I ask you, what good is any of that doing me?)

And the amazing part? No headache again today. So how can I not try to continue this?!

Of course I think it is going to suck. Kicking the habit is going to be hard, for sure. I will miss the smell a ton and the ritual, too, of brewing my single cup (and then another) while img_4884the baby takes his morning nap. But don’t worry, I haven’t gone completely crazy – I am still totally going to be drinking caffeinated tea because, hi, I’m a mom of four active monkeys and I have to stand some chance of keeping up with them. Right now I’m well stocked with Yogi Teas – are there others you would suggest trying?

Oh, and as for the leftover coffee grounds and that mostly full container of creamer (I mean liquid sugar)? Well, I’d offer them up to whoever wants them, but since I doubt anyone wants ANYTHING coming out of our house this week, I am going to experiment with some homemade coffee scrubs and maybe some recipes? Surely there’s a Pinterest pin for that, right?!