Tuesday, March 10, 2015

{A Tuesday}

With our varied school schedules this year, every day looks a little bit different. But on Tuesdays and Thursdays I know two things for sure:

1. Aidan and Avery will be at home.
2. Aidan and Avery will want snacks.

I enjoy the time at home with them, and today we took advantage of this beautiful weather we're being spoiled with and decided to go to the park. We headed out right after lunch, which proved to be an ideal window of time to have the place pretty much to ourselves. Little ones in the neighborhood are napping, and school kids aren't yet home. Although it's usually fun to play with other kids, too, I was thankful to have the time to visit with and find teachable "outdoor moments" with just these two today. (This solitude is also easier on our dog who has proven herself to be Socially Awkward and Anxious.)

We grabbed sweatshirts just in case, but Avery was hoping that shorts would be in order. Not quite yet, darling. And because I'm sure you're probably wondering, I wore my super comfortable, cute dark blue pants with the cunning pockets. (Here's the thing: When you find something at a second hand store, you don't always know what you're getting. You might, say, find some pants that fit perfectly and feel really cute and perky. You might wear them often, both in public and at home, and you might like them so much that you decide to google the brand to see where they came from. You might then discover that you're wearing scrubs.)

So we played at the park in our scrubs and sweatshirts (although the latter was hardly needed). We explored the new trail, listening for birds and delighting in the several ducks who have taken up residence since the completion of the wetlands project.

After a nice play, it was time to head back to the books. (One of which was the bird book. What kind of duck was that? A widgeon? It would plague me until I found out.) I knew the kids would also be ready for a snack soon, and I wanted to have something ready for Drew and Bethie when they got home. So I decided to pull out the pretzel recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction, which has been a favorite lately. (I use white flour and include the optional fifth step in her recipe. So good.)

Only a few ingredients are needed, making it easy to pull off without a special trip to the grocery store. (Or market. Which do you say? My grandma always says "to market, to market" and I like that . . . . Maybe it's a regional thing? Generational?)

When I start making pretzels, I invariably have a helper close at hand. (The other day when I made them, a Certain Someone was having a rough go of it. Math was horrible and grammar despicable. Working with dough proved to be calming, somehow. I'll add that one to my Mommy Tool Kit.)

My helper is getting the hang of the rolling and the shaping, so it's actually quite handy. (No matter how hard we try -- she and I both -- they end up looking more like Gordian knots than pretzels.) They take about an hour to make from start to gobbling, with two people working together. We sometimes make the cheese dip that goes along with the recipe, but that's usually a treat for the weekends when I have more time. Tuesdays and Thursdays we are content to dine sans dip.

Drew and Bethie walk in the door, sniff and say, "Yum!" And two more pretzels disappear. I grab one for myself and enjoy a quick pause in the day, a pause during which I ponder things like markets, widgeons . . . and scrubs.

Happy Tuesday, friends.  

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

{The New Normal}

When Jamie and Bethie were recently in Eastern Europe for almost three weeks, I found myself wishing that the time would zip by and that things would soon return to normal. A normal schedule, a normal number of people to feed and clothe, a normal time to wake up and go to sleep.

As the days ticked by, however, the four of us at home slowly developed a new normal. We huddled around one end of the dining room table at mealtimes, letting school books and papers rest on the vacant spaces. Avery grew to enjoy sleeping on the couch (we were desperate for sleep, things were weird with sissy gone, so I said "well, sure . . .").

We even grew accustomed to a somewhat different schedule. This was due, in part, to my tendency to stay up (much too) late in order to catch the morning updates from across the ocean because there just might be a picture of my girl in Slovenia. There usually was. 

But two weekends ago I had an experience that was anything but normal. I was home alone. For the entire weekend. I'm pretty sure that's never, ever happened in my whole life. But it just so happened that the boys were with my parents, Avery was with my sister, and Jamie and Bethie were frolicking across Europe.

Now, if you know me, you know that the prospect of a full weekend to myself was both exhilarating and terrifying. Exhilarating because: alone time, people. Terrifying because: all that time must be used well and perfectly and wisely because I might Never, Ever get to do this again. I tried not to panic as I thought about how I'd spend this weekend. I wanted it to be restful, peaceful, fulfilling, and purposeful, but how to best do that? (No pressure.)

Of course I knew that tea and books would be involved. Writing was also a must. And a leisurely stroll or two . . . a Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn movie . . . and some more tea and some more books. (I live rather simply.)

The thing that was interesting to me about this weekend holiday was that that's pretty much all I did. I did normal. But I did it in a way that was leisurely and peaceful and quiet, giving me time to think and fully experience the tasks which I often rush through in a normal day. I slowly made a salad for lunch, delighting in the flavors and textures of tart limes, juicy cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, and perfectly ripe avocados.

I strolled through the park, reveling in the sights and sounds of a nature fairly bursting with the hope of spring. I propped my feet up in the evening to enjoy a movie and popcorn, delighting in Hepburn's inimitable style and Grant's sense of humor. I snuggled under a blanket with my Bible, journal, and tea and just read and wrote and listened and prayed . . . for as long as I wanted to. I was normal. I was myself.

It was exhilarating and terrifying. Exhilarating because I found that my normal is good and fulfilling and right where God has placed me. Terrifying because I don't want to ever take it for granted or emerge from it unchanged.

Jamie and Bethie returned last week, and all was right with the world. (Especially once they recovered from jet lag.) We whipped ourselves back into shape and I eagerly prepared for things to return to normal.

But as I thought through my weekend holiday and the life-changing experiences of Jamie and Bethie, I knew that we really shouldn't return to normal, at least not to the normal we knew last month. No, if we returned to anything, we needed to return changed. We needed to be more fully ourselves, letting each new experience shape us and grow us into the people that God intends us to be.

And so as our family continues to talk and visit, exchange stories, and evaluate plans and dreams for the future, we enjoy a new normal. We've added new souvenirs to our pilgrim packs, and as we look at each one, treasuring them and remembering what they stand for, we continue to walk forward, and we walk forward . . . changed.

(Read about the first part of Bethie's European experience over here . . .)

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