Finding My Center

>> Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I don't go to yoga as often as I would like to, but when I do go I always have such a powerful experience. I am not so much into the meditation side of it, the funky breathing and all that. I mostly go for the exercise and core strengthening. But I do really benefit from the focus and calm that it seems to bring to my body and mind and soul.
Tonight I did get to sneak away to yoga and left Hubby to deal with bedtime solo. It was a very full day with lots of fun things so I was glad to have some time to chill out and focus on me. As yoga started tonight, the instructor was talking about how there is different ways to practice yoga and tonight her approach was going to be to help us improve our flow from one pose to the next. The goal is to be able to move your body and hold the different poses while keeping your mind and soul focused on your center. It's like, your body is moving but your mind stays focused, not being distracted by surroundings or what the body is doing. This got me thinking...

So much of my life, especially this time of year, just seems to fly by. I want my life, my boys' lives, to be full of enriching and memorable experiences. We float around, from one thing to the next, trying not to lose focus of what is really true and real. But inevitably, I get distracted by this or that and get frustrated that I am behind in just about everything and that I am not getting to the things I really want to do or being the mother/wife/daughter/sister/friend/nurse/blogger/etc... that I really want to be. I get caught up in the things of life that I lose my focus and ultimately I lose my joy.

We are in Advent, a time to reflect and be still. But yet this time of year is SO busy, even more so than other times. I don't necessarily want to give up all the things that make life busy (well, maybe some of them). I just want to learn how to let my body move from place to place, thing to thing, commitment to commitment all while keeping my mind focused and still. Is that possible? Is it possible for me? It might be a cliche' phrase, but I really do need to find my center. I mean, I know the right answer is that God is my center. But learning to keep my mind and heart focused on Him while I am breaking up fights over Batman toys and driving to preschool and shopping for Christmas gifts and figuring out what my family should eat and making travel plans and maintaining blogs/relationships/commitments..... WAY easier said than done. I think my first step is to try to keep my mind quiet while my body is racing around. To not get lost in my anxious thoughts or over-planning or guilty self-accusations. Just to stay in the present and quiet my mind. I am not sure exactly how to do that, but I am going to try. If I can do it, even just a little, I feel pretty sure it will give me back my joy and a much needed sense of "Maybe I am actually not doing too bad at this motherhood thing."

Tonight's yoga was fabulous. It wasn't as much of a physical work-out as I usually like. I love being sore the next day. But I don't think I'll be sore tomorrow. Tonight's yoga was smooth, and calming. I really did feel that I could move from one pose to the next without focusing too much on my body and keeping my mind some-what still. But it took some intentionality and I think the same goes for my real life too.

I am going to use this Advent season to teach myself (and let God teach me) how to flow from one busy minute to the next without getting distracted by life around me. Life is going to be busy. There is not much I can (or want to) do about that. But something has to give so I am finding my center, I hope, and then I want to stay there.

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Budding Artist

>> Sunday, November 21, 2010

I have mentioned before that Lucas loves to color. He is getting pretty good at it, staying in the lines better and better. Maybe all of my efforts in doing crafts with him from a young age are starting to pay off. Ha!
He especially loves to color superheros and their villain counterparts. But before tonight, he was just coloring pre-printed pictures or coloring books. Tonight though, he took the initiative to draw his own superheros and then color them to his specifications. I was so impressed with his efforts, I had to take a picture and share.

He has drawn pictures of people before, but never with this much depth and detail. Usually just your average stick person. I was really impressed. My little budding artist!

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Soft Place to Fall

>> Sunday, November 14, 2010

I took the boys to the Arboretum last week, determined to get outdoors and enjoy one of the last warm days of the season. We had a fabulous, fancy-free time of running around and exploring. While in the Children's Garden, Lucas wanted to climb through this big spider-web thing (ropes put together to resemble a web, meant for kids to play on). Of course seeing his older brother do it, Caden had to get on and climb too even though he was a bit too small and uncoordinated to do it well. Caden quickly tired of it but Lucas stuck it out. He got to the highest point, somewhere near the middle, and suddenly got a bit nervous. I knew he could get down himself but he wasn't so sure. He started to get visibly afraid and asked me to come get him. Well, that was WAY easier said than done. I couldn't really reach him without climbing up myself or going under the whole structure to lift him out. I tried to talk him into climbing just a step or two further (which he could have totally done) and then he would have seen he could just climb the rest of the way down. But seeing that he was getting all worked up, I got on my hands and knees and crawled under the ropes to lift his feet up and help him take the next step over. Once he saw he could do it, he crawled all the way down and then did the whole thing, start to finish, several times more. But had I not been there to help him over the hurdle, I'm not sure how long he would have stayed at that point that he thought he couldn't cross.

I stood there watching him and was reminded of a poignant phrase a friend had recently shared with me. We were talking about motherhood and she was sharing with me the things that she prays for when she asks God to help in her interactions with her children. She continually prays that she would be a "soft place for them to fall." A soft place for them to fall. This phrase has been floating around my head ever since.

I am still very much trying to figure out what this means for me as a mother, how I can become this for my boys. But as I think about it, two things are jumping out at me. First, that they will fall. And I need to be OK with that. They need to fall. It is a healthy part of growing, both physically and emotionally and spiritually, etc... I can't stop them from having moments when gravity or the world or their first crush or their parents disappoint them. They will fall off their bikes and they will have moments of disillusionment with school and life and people they love. But my job as mother is not to prevent those moments. It is simply to be a soft place for them to fall when they do occur.
And what does it mean to be a soft place for them? This is such a visual image for me that I am having trouble putting it into words. But I think it means being open and available for them. It means creating a relationship with my sons in which they know if they are ever in need that I am here. It means holding them and letting them be mad or upset- letting them feel what they are feeling and not just smooth over that part. It means giving them tools to deal with the "fall" and the strength to get back up. Being a soft place for my boys is being that place of unconditional love where they can be exactly who they are and feel safe and cherished no matter what else is going on around them.

More practically (and most pertinent to the present), to be a soft place for them I need to put aside my own frustrations with their behavior and learn to deal in private and not in front of them. The whining of my very sensory-sensitive 4yr old drives me insane. He gets very upset when his yogurt drips on his hands or the table among lots of other things. He is a very smart boy with very specific ideas of how things should go. If we deter from that, he sometimes has a hard time. And admittedly, these quirky things about him get to me at times. But in my quest to be a "soft place" for him, I need to accommodate him as much as I can and gracefully teach him to "chill out" when I simply can't (or shouldn't) bend to all his requests.

Like I said, I am still asking God to show me the ways I can be a "soft place" for my boys. I keep trying to picture myself as a cloud that comes up around them and protects them from harm or eases their load. And so far, keeping mindful of this phrase, this prayer, is helping me be more aware of my interactions with them and the ways I am not living this way yet. My prayer is that God would help me see the times when they need me to crawl under them and give them that little boost they need to get over whatever hurdle is in their path. And that God would give me the grace and wisdom I need to be their "soft place" when they need one.

Lord, make me a soft place for them to fall.

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It's All About the Experience, Right?

>> Sunday, November 7, 2010

It was a beautiful morning, despite being cold. And actually, the only time I was really cold was walking from my car to the start line and then waiting in line for my fondue after the race. While running, I felt great! I started the race with my friend Shannon. It was her first 5K ever so I wanted to stay with her as long as I could. We ran together for about the first mile (and she was doing awesome!!) and then I kinda plugged ahead a bit. I don't know if it was because of the beautiful scenery or the slower pace or the prospect of chocolate fondue at the finish, but this was one of my favorite races ever (of the 5 I did this season). It was difficult to keep my normal pace due to the large number of people. There was a lot of run-slow down so you don't step on someone- run again- slow down-... But I didn't really mind. The slower pace felt good and made me really focus on enjoying the run and not so much on my time.

Then of course, the reason all 30,000 of us were there.... the fondue tent!! You had to eat the chocolate fast because the cold air made it get hard fast. But it was oh-so-yummy!!

And the hot chocolate was amazing! The feel of this whole race was like a big social gathering. There were some people there who were serious about the running and their time. But for the most part, it seemed that people were there for the experience of it. It was a good lesson for me in not making everything about the the end goal but learning to enjoy the journey a bit.

I did check my official time online last night and felt this twinge of disappointment in my gut. I ran about a minute slower per mile than I am used to. But again, it's about staying in the moment. And those moments of running along the lake with the sun coming up through the clouds... awesome.

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It's Gonna Be a Cold One

>> Friday, November 5, 2010

A couple months ago, I heard about this awesome run in city that boasted the "best goodie bag in town." I am a sucker for quality free stuff, although you pay a hefty entrance fee so I guess it is not really free. But any event that has the slogan "Will Run for Chocolate" is something worth attending in my book.
The Hot Chocolate 5K/15K race is one of the biggest in the city. It sold out at 30,000 runners!!! 30,000!! I guess I'm not the only one intrigued by the prospect of fondue and Ghirardelli chocolate after a good run.
The race is tomorrow morning and I am a bit nervous. Having to get down to the city and park and find my way and blah, blah, blah. I just get anxious about details like that especially when there are so many unknowns about the day.

But the one known fact that is also making me nervous is the weather. It is supposed to be right around freezing tomorrow around start time (7:40am!!!) with the temps maxing out around 40deg later in the day. Yikes! Too cold for November!! And with the wind off the lake, I'm sure it will be pretty darn cold! At least it is supposed to be sunny so maybe that will warm it up a bit. Maybe. One of the girls I was planning to run with had to bail due bronchitis and pneumonia (feel better Karrie!!). But I think I am gonna stick it out... if nothing else, for the chocolate.
We'll see how it goes.... stay tuned!

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Weight of the Moment

>> Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I don't know if I will be able to fully communicate the absolute preciousness and humor of the story I am about the relay to you. The moment was one of the most priceless and one of the funniest of my motherhood journey so far. Mostly I just feel the need to document it somewhere and share with y'all how totally awesome my boys are. :)

We have this CD of songs from the Toy Story movies. The boys love it. Me... not so much. But I give in at certain times, especially when we have a long-ish drive somewhere or there is much fighting/whining/over-all crankiness happening in the back seat. Tonight I let them listen to it as we were driving to and from this launch party in Naperville for the ToyStory 3DVD. But when we were leaving Chick-fil-A after dinner and I reluctantly turned on the CD again, Lucas suggested we instead put on our CD of "Jesus songs" (their term for worship songs). Happy to listen to something else and something soothing, I quickly obliged. Half way through This Little Light of Mine, Lucas says "Mommy, who is Satan?" Not what I was anticipating for my 7pm drive home, but I ran with it anyway.
From that question sparked one of the most awesome conversations I have ever had with Lucas. We talked about angels and what it means to serve God as our King and why we sometimes sin and heaven and the second coming of Jesus... we ran the full spectrum. Some of L's comments/questions throughout this conversation were priceless:

"So, God is kinda like Batman and Satan is the Joker."
"I only know two things about heaven: My brother Micah lives there and the streets are covered in gold. Oh, and it is somewhere up in the clouds even though I have never seen it when I have been in lots of airplanes."
"Do we have to wait until we die to get to heaven or can we get there while we are still alive?"
"How will we know when Jesus is coming back? What if we are inside and we don't see Him coming down through the clouds? Do you think we might think the trumpet music is just the tornado siren?"
"When will Jesus come back to get us?"

I assured him that the trumpets announcing Jesus' return to earth would be the most beautiful music he had ever heard and that he would know the second he heard it that Jesus was coming to take him to heaven. (Only a mid-western child would be worried he would confuse the trumpets with an emergency tornado-warning! Ha!!)
For all my not-so-proud mommy moments, I am so thankful that God gives me moments like these. Moments when I can talk to my boys about the most important things, eternal things. Moments when I feel like I am investing in their souls and not just providing for their bodies. To talk with Lucas about heaven tonight and about that moment when Christ will come back to take us home was a moment I will never forget. And to see Caden sit quietly in his seat, hanging on very word.... well, I'll just say that the weight of the moment was not lost on me. I felt it sit on my shoulders. I chose my words carefully, knowing I was shaping their views on the most crucial of truths. And yet as sure as I was that God had ordained that moment, I prayed that He would put the right words on my tongue and protect their little hearts. I have to trust that the Holy Spirit will takes those little seeds of truth and bloom them into something great in those boys. I pray it will every cell of my being.

We got out of the car and headed into the house. Walking up the front steps, Caden says "Shhh, Mommy, do you hear Jesus coming?"
Lucas replies, "Caden, that isn't Jesus. That is just Hadley (our dog!). We don't know when Jesus will come back for us, Caden. It could be tomorrow or it could be a long, long time from now like 20years. But when He does come, won't that be cool?!"

In that moment, I couldn't decide if I should laugh or cry. Even writing this, I am doing both. Their language is funny. Their hearts are priceless. Both are so, so precious.
I hope I was somewhat able to convey the events of our car ride home is a way the accurately reflects the truth. It was very cute and yet eternally significant. As I was rubbing his legs at bedtime, I told Lucas how special our earlier conversation was to me. "Thank you, Mommy, for telling me all those things about heaven and Jesus. I read things about Him in books but you have a lot of things to tell me that I need to know. I like hearing what you have to tell me. If you don't tell me, I can't be very smart about it."

If that isn't motivation, I'm not sure what else would be.
Thank you, Lord, for tonight's moment. Help me to be a wise steward of such moments in the future and of their little souls that have temporarily been entrusted to me.

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Oh, to Ride an Elephant

>> Monday, November 1, 2010

When I was in China long, long ago, I rode a camel on the Great Wall of China. Random, I know. It was super fun and totally out of the ordinary. I used to do funky, out of the ordinary things all the time. Hubby was just commenting the other day about how he has "domesticated" me. He was totally joking, but yet it is kinda true. The craziest thing I do these days is... I can't even think or how to end that sentence. That is how "un-wild" my life is.

I have this crazy dream to someday ride on an elephant. I am not talking about sitting in a safe little basket and going for a tame walk for 3-5min while the elephant is being led on a rope. I think it would be so, so fun to be one of those girls who sits on the elephant's trunk and gets lifted up to his back all as part of a big pachyderm parade. It looks so graceful and exciting. I fully acknowledge how weird this is. I have just always wanted to try it. Or if I can't do that, then I want to go on a safari somewhere and ride an elephant through the jungle. Except, I am deathly afraid of snakes so maybe I should just stick with the circus-girl act.

Hubby and I are taking the boys to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus this week so I will have a chance to watch those lucky gals twist and twirl on the backs of those elephants. Maybe I should take notes on some of their moves so I can be ready if such a job opportunity should ever be presented to me. I better keep on this diet of mine too, just in case. No fatties on the elephants.

What exotic thing would you do if you had the chance? Would you join the circus high-wire act or ride a motorcycle in that crazy cage thing? Or maybe get shot out of a cannon? That would be awesome. I think I'll add that to my list.

And local peeps: the circus will be at the Allstate Arena from Nov 4-14 and the United Center from Nov. 18-28. Go and scope out what your wacky dream job would be. :)

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