Sparta Posts

Eyes Up

Eyes Up

It’s no secret that I love to travel – especially flying. It doesn’t matter where I’m going, really. I just want to be going. I love love love the airport – there’s no people-watching like people-watching at the airport. I don’t mind a long layover…I could sit at the airport all day.

Right now, I am writing from gate B7 in the Phoenix International Airport while I wait to board a flight to Minneapolis. From my perch I can see:

On Being a Super Mom

On Being a Super Mom

This weekend was the women’s retreat at church.

You know, the time when nearly 500 women hand their husbands the reins and a few already-cooked meals, and for some – the number for the doctor and directions to the nearest emergency room, and all of the children – and then giddily flee to the mountains. They’re loaded down with coffee and junk food. They ignore the fact that they will be sleeping in bunk beds like convicts because they will be sleeping. alone. so just whatever.

One mom in our cabin lied to told her husband and kids that we weren’t allowed to have cell phones, so not to even bother calling her. PERFECTION.

The cabin hostesses made Pinterest-worthy crafty things like our initials to hang on our bunks. We were welcomed with open arms and genuine smiles. We all looked around at each other that first night with wide unbelieving eyes that we’d all made it.

At the Plate

At the Plate

Well, I have a confession to make.

I’ve been battling some anxiety lately. Feelings of not being good enough, impending sense of doom, you know that kind of stuff. No big deal.

It’s something I’ve always struggled with, and sometimes it hits me harder than others. I withdraw from the world, I shut down when I start to think too much, and I stop writing because then I might really have to face my feelings.

A few minutes ago, I figured out what I think is the root of this bout of anxiety – my boys.

Newly Legit

Newly Legit

When we were brand new parents, Ty told me that he always considered “seven” to be the number. THE number.

When you’ve been married seven years, you’re pretty experienced. You’re out of the honeymoon phase and you’re into real life. You’ve been through a lot together already. You can now dole out advice.

If you have kids who are seven, you have been parents for a while. You did the whole bottles and diapers stage, you’ve been through toddlerhood, and you’re even into elementary school. You’re legit. You also are allowed to advise.

Well, it happened.

On Travel and Kids

On Travel and Kids

One of my very favorite things about Ty is that he loves to travel as much as I do. I absolutely love to travel. I like seeing all kinds of things, seeing friends, and meeting new people. Anywhere I am, I always want to see the sights and eat at the local spots.

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I love the airport, and I love road trips, so I am pretty much set to go anywhere. The airport {any airport}, is one of my favorite places to be. On the other hand, any excuse to take a road trip is fine for me!

Ty and I are pretty much the best team we can be when we travel. We know how each other travels, and we flow back and forth very effortlessly. We both know what the kids need, what needs to be where when, and we are great at entertaining each other along the way.

The boys are great at traveling, and they know the deal when it comes to sitting for long periods of time, waiting until we get there, and the freedom of getting there and getting to enjoy the trip.

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I am so so glad that he is just as committed as I am to bringing our kids all over with us. I am thrilled that he wants to show them the world like I do, and has been just as excited to instill in them a love of travelling like we have. It’s so exciting to see them learning to enjoy the journey just as much as the destination.

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We rarely travel high class. We fly budget airlines (we seriously adore Southwest), earn airline miles on our cards, opt for driving if it’s closer, stay in affordable hotels or with friends and family, and we bring a lot of our own food places. We are teaching our kids the value of priorities, planning, and budgeting.

But there’s another part of traveling that is so awesome that I am so incredibly grateful for in our lives – traveling without our kids.

Because our lives are so busy, there are very few times for Ty and me to stop and have some concentrated time together. We have awesome family that is so willing to help watch our kids for date nights so that we can have that time together, but as wonderful as it is, it’s not the same as getting away by ourselves for a concentrated amount of time.

In the last 12 days, Ty and I have been out of town by ourselves twice for a total of 10 days.

This was a fluke for sure, because usually we don’t take two 5-day trips back-to-back. It was actually due to my terrible scheduling….I didn’t realize that our trip in February backed up to our trip in March. Mom Brain, I guess.

But either way, it has been a great time for us. Our trips were for two very different reasons (the first was to put on a conference for youth workers, and the second was to relax in a beach house with ten of our closest friends), so these last two weeks were a great time of growth for me.

Here are some reasons why it is so important to us that we travel without our kids.

WE TRY MORE NEW THINGS

Let’s face it, when we have kids, we tend to stick to what we know, right? We go to the restaurants we know they’ll like, we go to their favorite parks, we read the same stories. It’s part of being a parent, and part of being in a family. You do what works best for all. Sure, there are adventures, and we are trying to teach our kids to branch out and try new things, but there are quite a few things we can’t do with our kids.

We’ve been bobsledding on an Olympic track, and have had a blast on segways.

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We go hiking, four-wheeling, kayaking, and white water rafting.

We try frog, elk, and buffalo. We go to plays and concerts.

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Someday when our kids are older, they will be taller, more capable, and more ready. When that day comes, we will take them to do some of these things, but for now, we get to do them on our own.

WE CONNECT

Having any conversation with your children around is choppy at best. At restaurants, there are reminders to move their cups from the edge, stop watching the game on the TV and take a bite, and someone inevitably has to go to the bathroom as soon as the food comes.

When we are by ourselves, we have the best conversations.

We grow, we learn, we laugh, and sometimes we cry.

We catch up, check in, and encourage.

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Since we aren’t rushed, there is time to look each other in the eye and give each other the time that we need.

Dinner can last for hours, which allows plenty of time for dreaming and reminiscing.

If we are travelling with friends, it’s a time to be grown-ups. To laugh and enjoy each other. It’s a time to play games that don’t involve candy or to sit around the fire without worrying that someone will fall in.

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THEY SEE ME BE INDEPENDENT

Moms, this is so important.

Do you ever get the feeling that your kids don’t know that you actually have a first name? That before them, you had hobbies, dreams, and passions that were all your own?

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When I got home from our conference last weekend, I got to tell my kids that I was in charge of a team planning a conference – something grown-ups do. I have a degree in event planning, and I was able to tell them that I have my own talents and passions and that I put them to good use.

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They get to see pictures of me in a helmet, ready to hook my harness up to the zip line in St. Maartin. They hear about how I conquered my fear of heights by laying on the glass floor of the Calgary Tower in Canada.

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They see me as my own person doing my own things and having my own adventures.

As a person.

With a name.

THEY SEE US BE INDEPENDENT

Ty and I love. our. kids.

Most of the time, our life is a lot about our kids.

But it’s good for them to see that, in reality, the world does not, in fact, revolve around them. It’s beneficial for them to see that we make each other a priority. It’s good that they know that we are going to help other people, or visit people, or take time for ourselves.

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WE SEE THEM BE INDEPENDENT

Our kids are very self-sufficient as far as kids go. But it’s really fun to see them be super independent and know that they can do all kinds of things even if we aren’t with them.

When we were gone in February, Noah climbed to the top of the rock wall at his school carnival.

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When I asked him about it later, he said he was nervous, but he knew that both sets of grandparents were there, as well as a couple friends, to cheer him on, so he felt better about doing it. I just love that he knew he had support from all of those people – not just his parents.

My mom taught Aidan how to tie his shoes while we were out of town this last time.

What a cool thing for both of them that they got to have that moment together. And it’s great that he knows he can learn things from all kinds of people.

It’s also so important for them to know that they are able to function and develop who they are without our presence.

They have moments of missing us, sure. But overall, they know that we will be back, and they know that they will be okay until we are.

My favorite part of this element is that it makes them lean on each other, too. They are so much closer because they play with each other, they support each other, and they are a comfort to each other when they feel lonely without us.

It’s the stuff best friends are made of, and I’m so glad they’re each others’ best friend.

They are becoming Spartans thanks to all of the shaping that others contribute to their lives.

I SLEEP

I mean…’nuff said, right?

Honestly, though, this is a huge bonus for me. I don’t sleep well in general, but mostly because there are things expected of me from multiple people on a daily basis.

Lists run through my head, chores need to be done, plans need to be laid out and revisited….my brain just never shuts off!

On vacation, though, I sleep so soundly! No one needs me for anything, and if I can’t sleep, I have no qualms about popping some melatonin and getting a sound night’s sleep!

WE ARE BETTER PARENTS

When we get back from vacation, we are eager to see our kids. We have had a chance to refresh our relationship and ourselves.

And let’s face it…it’s nice to be able to miss your kids every once in a while.

I love coming home and snuggling and catching up on their time without us and our time without them.

It gives us renewed focus and energy.

We’ve had time to strategize and get on the same page and realign ourselves with each other to stay a team when it comes to parenting.

THEY HAVE A BLAST

The boys usually stay with one or both sets of our parents, and lets’ face it — who doesn’t want to spend the week at their grandparents’ house?

 Our kids are the only grandkids on both sides of our family, so they are pretty much the most loved kids probably ever.

They do all the things.

The zoo.

The carnival.

Ice cream in pajamas.

The park.

Games.

Bikes.

Breakfast made-to-order.

Sleepovers.

Skateboarding.

Movies.

Staying up late.

Candy.

The library.

Special dates.

Favorite books.

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When we call home to talk to them, they are way too busy to talk to us. They like to say hi, and they think it’s cool when we FaceTime, but we have to beg them to stay by the phone and focus. They are goofing off and doing something way more fun than talking to their boring parents anyway.

We are so grateful for both of our parents and all of the help we get with our kids on so many levels.

All in all, we love to travel, no matter who is with us, or where we are going.

We love going with our kids, but we also really really love going without them.

And we are a better family for it all.

Do you take your kids on vacation? Where is your favorite kid-friendly place to go?

Do you go without your kids, too? Where is your favorite place to go? 

On Being a Good Friend

On Being a Good Friend

Recently one of my closest friends, Machelle, moved to a different state.

Before she left, our close group of friends did a photo shoot together so that we could send her off with some great pictures of all of us together.

Of course, when they came back from the photographer, we all started posting a couple on Facebook. They were such great pictures that captured all of us and our individual senses of humor, our personalities, and our love for each other.

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But something kind of odd happened when we started posting them online. I started getting a lot of questions and comments about them. Of course, there were the obligatory “what a beautiful picture!” or “such beautiful ladies!” comments because let’s face it — they’re a great looking group of girls, and bonus – we had a magical photographer. But then there were some more private comments that quite a few people made in person.

“I wish I had a group of friends like that.”

“How did you find such a good group of friends?”

“I saw those pictures of you and your friends online. What a cool thing – I’m so jealous of your friendships.”

“I’ve never even had one friend that I was close to like that.”

“I see you and your friends online sometimes. How do you get friends like that?”

I know that I have been so very blessed in the department of friendships — both near and far. It’s been years and years since I have been without a wonderful social circle around me.

But true friendships don’t come easily, and they don’t come cheap.

There’s a verse in the Bible that is thrown around a lot about friendship. It’s in John, and it’s Jesus talking. He says,

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

When most people use it, they use it in the context of actually laying down your life for a friend — dying for a friend. Taking the place of a friend in a moment of courage and deep love. This is what Jesus did for us, and He calls us His friends — an unspeakable and grace-filled honor.

And while that is so amazing, and it’s true that if you were to die for a friend, it would be a gigantic expression of love on behalf of your friend, it’s a rare occurrence to need to die for a friend.

What makes such a good friend and is the greatest expression of friendship is setting your life aside in favor of a friend’s life.

Your time for theirs.

Your needs for theirs.

Your wants for theirs.

You have to be present for all the things. Good things. Bad things. Hard things. Fun things. Silly things. Heartbreaking things.

You need to be a friend who knows their favorites. Someone who will lovingly tell the truth. You must be able to keep a secret.

To be a good friend, you show up for their life.

You see their talents and encourage their passions. You pray for them. You want their greatest good always.

You don’t have great friends without being a great friend.

True, lasting, and deep Spartan friendship is a two-way street with lots of sacrifice and vulnerability and accountability and lots of time. It requires forgiveness and grace and mercy.

To have a meaningful friendship is costly for both friends.

It’s knowing that your friend needs help with some construction at the office and jumping on a plane and working for 3 days straight.

It’s getting the text, “He left.” and showing up with wine and chocolate and tissues. Then spending the next months and years working together to rebuild the woman and the life.

It’s hearing the words, “It’s cancer,” and standing with her and saying, “I’m with you and I won’t leave you. I’ll fight for you. I’ll be your strength when you don’t have it. We can do this together.”

It’s dropping everything and flying to your friend’s hospital bedside when they’ve been in a car accident, and taking turns with her husband sleeping in the chair.

It’s being available for middle of the night phone calls.

It’s telling a friend, “I hear you and I understand your side, but I think that this time, you’re wrong and he’s right.”

It’s showing up with packing boxes and tape and snacks and a can-do attitude to help your friend move.

It’s saying, “I’m so sorry I hurt you,” sometimes and “I forgive you,” just as many times.

It’s the Tuesdays, and the birthdays, and being present even when you weren’t asked.

It’s painting living rooms, babysitting, nights out, and choosing time together over laundry.

Laying down your life isn’t necessarily dying.

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

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P.S. I’m obviously super passionate about friendship. I’ve talked about it before, and if you want to read some more of my thoughts,   click here and here.

Santa Confession Revisited

Santa Confession Revisited

It’s confession time again…

I originally posted this last December, but I wanted to post it again, because my feelings are still the same!

My kids are a year older, and we’ve had another Christmas season to reflect on our decision, and I have to tell you, we are still so happy with this decision. PLEASE don’t read this as judgment on you. This is our decision for our family. We absolutely love Christmas, and love to celebrate it in all kinds of ways, and are happy that you celebrate it however you do!

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We don’t do Santa in my house.

*gasp*

Not that he’s not allowed to be a topic of conversation, or that his image is not allowed in my house (obviously, see my post here!). I just mean that my kids know that Santa isn’t real, and there are no presents from Santa under the tree on Christmas morning.

Okay, put down the phone. I’m sure the authorities will be too busy to arrest me anyway.

Let me say this before I explain my reasons…

I don’t judge you for doing Santa in your house.

I’m not writing this post to tell you not to do Santa, or because I think you are a heathen for practicing this fun tradition in your house. I think Santa is a fun part of Christmas! I love a good Santa movie, it’s fun to see Santas at the mall, and I think an awesome rendition of “Santa Baby” is great background music for tree decorating.

I have quite a few reasons why we don’t do Santa in my house, and almost all of them have nothing to do with religion (though a few do). I don’t think that you are a bad Christian if you tell your kids Santa brought their new bike…so take a deep breath and keep reading, okay?

Reason #1 – “You better watch out….”

Can I just say this? I hate the feeling of anxiety that we give our kids when we tell them to “watch out” because Santa Clause is coming. It’s sort of like telling your kids that the policeman at the restaurant is going to arrest them if they don’t sit down and behave. Isn’t that counter-productive? Don’t we want our kids to like the police and Santa?

We should be good and nice because we are supposed to be. Not because we’re about to get blacklisted at the North Pole. Or to get our names on a list.

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Plus, no one ever gets coal in their stocking. Santa’s still bringing your kids that new Nano. So this is an empty threat….again undermining the whole process anyway.

Reason #2 – “He sees you when you’re sleeping…”

Um…excuse me? I remember being so creeped out by this weird aspect of Santa. He watches me all year long? This is not comforting, this is some twisted gift-giving Big Brother concept that I’m not excited about. Also, he can get into my house with all the doors locked AND no chimney? Could he do this any time of the year, should he choose? Yeah…no thanks.

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I want my kids to know the only person who is watching them all the time is Jesus, and He isn’t looking for reasons to note when they’ve screwed up. I want my kids to know that Jesus shows them grace when they screw up instead of adding a tally to the “naughty” side. Every time.

Reason #3 – Gratitude

Ty works hard. Like really hard. He gets up early and goes to work before the rest of us are awake. He provides the money for their sports, their school, their food, their clothes, and their Christmas presents.

We put a lot of time, effort, and thought into what we will get our kids for Christmas. We pick out the perfect clothes that they will like, the toy we know they want, the book that we think they will enjoy. I spend Christmas Eve frantically lovingly wrapping each present.

Gratitude is so important to me (see here and here). I think it’s important that our kids know exactly how they get their presents, and to be grateful.  They should look Ty in the eye and say “Thank you, Dad. This is awesome!”

Has anyone ever sent Santa a thank you note? No.

But you can…

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Reason #4 – I don’t celebrate Ragnar

Wait, what?

Okay, this is Ragnar.

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He’s the mascot for the Vikings — our family’s favorite football team (don’t judge…we know).

We don’t watch the Vikings play on Sundays for Ragnar. We watch them for the football that they play. While Ragnar is a fun part of the whole experience, he certainly isn’t the reason the Vikings play football. He doesn’t get all the screen-time, analysis from commentators, and he’s not why people buy tickets.

Santa is to Christmas as Ragnar is to the Vikings. Feel me? He’s a fun addition. Just not what Christmas is all about.

In my house, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. We celebrate His birth by blessing and loving each other and others — just as Jesus asked us to do. It’s not about what we can get from Christmas, it’s about what we can give. Santa is a good symbol of the spirit of giving, and that is all.

Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love the decorations, the family, the food, the parties, the music (oh! the music!). I love taking my kids to see Christmas lights, Christmas carols, watching Miracle on 34th Street (the original) and It’s a Wonderful Life. I love giving gifts to all of my loved ones, and I love that everyone around me is in the same wonderful mood. There’s electricity in the air when the first snow of December falls (except in Arizona…maybe when the temp drops to 60 degrees?).

I love a well-played Santa.

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We’ve just chosen to skip the part about him being real.

And for the record, my kids know that they are not to be telling other kids that Santa is not real. They know that other kids think he is real, and they know not to spoil that for them, so you don’t need to declare a quarantine of my children until Christmas is over.

Do you do Santa? Do you skip it? I’d love to hear from you about it!

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Saying “I’m Sorry”

Saying “I’m Sorry”

This week has been a strange week.

After last week’s terrible strep throat and being totally down for the count, I spent this week picking up the pieces and pulling my life back together.

It’s also been a time of strange wandering. I’ve been feeling a little bit like I have no direction. I was just hitting my stride when strep hit, and I felt like it threw me back big time.

I’ve been feeling a little lost lately. Without purpose or plan.

So much so that I’ve been grumpy, impatient, and lazy.

Then on Thursday, everything changed.

We had woken up late for school, like we’ve been doing lately, since I’ve been lazy and unmotivated. I started out with just a mild sense of urgency with the kids.

That quickly became frantic rushing, which grew to nagging and exasperation. I was rolling my eyes, reminding the kids not so nicely to hurry, showing very little grace to the tired little humans I was tripping all over trying to get out the door.

I rudely buckled my kids into the car and we were off. We were cutting it close at Noah’s school, so I knew that I’d have to drop him off in front of the school instead of at the playground to have a few minutes to catch his breath before school.

As I lurched to a stop at the curb, I told him rather gruffly that he needed to shove that last piece of toast in his mouth, grab his backpack, hop out of the van, and run inside.

He’s never gone in this way before.

I watched in the rearview mirror as the face of my sweet, tiny little kindergartener dropped. He said very timidly, “Mom, I’m nervous. I don’t know what to do.”

So, being the mother of the year that I am, I snapped at him, “You just walk right in, Noah. You know right where to go. Now hop out!”

He started getting worked up and overwhelmed by the prospect of walking into the school alone.

So naturally, being the nurturing, kind, loving mom that I always want to be (sense my sarcasm here), I let out a huge sigh, threw the car in drive, flew into a parking spot with a huff, and rolled not just my eyes, but my whole head.

Noah quickly grabbed his backpack and bolted out of the car, as I threw my little temper tantrum while grabbing Aidan out of his seat.

We rushed inside, I pushed him toward the door, and as an afterthought muttered, “Have a good day, bud. Love you.”

To which he quietly responded, “K. Love you, too.”

I picked up Aidan so I wouldn’t have to remind him 469 times to hurry on the way back to the car, and dropped him in his seat and buckled him in, barely even registering the conversation he was trying to start with me in my hurry.

I drove out of the parking lot and got about 45 seconds down the road when the memory of Noah’s brokenhearted little face came flying at me, bringing with it all the guilt and shame it could find.

I felt sick.

I was awful.

How could I have been so mean?

I immediately flipped a U-turn and rushed back to the school.

Aidan was baffled. Also, he was probably a little bit scared that I was officially losing it, rushing back to the place I was just so eager to leave.

I pulled him out of his car seat much more kindly and under control this time. I held his hand as we walked calmly back to the school.

I stopped to sign in at the visitor’s log, acutely aware that I was wearing mismatched workout clothes and had not brushed my hair, and very likely, not my teeth, either.

I walked to Noah’s classroom and quietly asked if I could take Noah into the hall for a few minutes.

I sat down on the floor and pulled the boys down in front of me.

I looked them both in the eye and said, “I am so sorry that I was mean today. I was so unkind and I was in too big of a hurry. I didn’t use nice words or kind hands. I am so sorry that I wasn’t understanding when you were nervous about coming inside by yourself. I hope you guys will forgive me and that you have wonderful days today at school.”

Noah, in his baffling maturity, looked me over, and then confidently said, “It’s okay, Mom. I forgive you,” while Aidan solemnly nodded.

Bless them.

That was exactly what I needed to snap me out of my funk.

I’m not fighting AGAINST my kids in their lives.

I’m supposed to be fighting FOR my kids.

We’re on the same side, and I’m the one who’s been left in charge of this side. Of protecting those entrusted to my care.

How can I protect them, when I’m the one they need to be protected from here?

I was reminded that day that I was created to be an ezer kenegdo.

A defender, deliverer.

A warrior.

I was meant to be fighting for my sons. An example of a warrior for my Spartans. So much of that means leading by example. I needed to show them how to behave properly, with a kind heart and a good attitude. But I also needed to show them how to humble themselves enough to recognize their shortcomings and ask for forgiveness.

I’ve been reminded that I have a huge job as a wife and mom, but even bigger as a woman. It’s my responsibility to defend the Gospel and bring glory to God by my actions as a warrior.

I got up and gave both the boys big hugs and told them how much I loved them and how grateful I was that they had forgiven me.

I walked back to the front office to check out, and as I reached for the pen to sign out, I noticed the column next to my name that said “Reason for visit.” At the same time, the lady behind the desk said, “Oh what were you doing here? Weren’t you just here?”

To which I responded, “I came back to apologize for being a mean mom this morning.”

Bless her heart — she looked like I had slapped her.

She quickly recovered and cheerfully said, “Oh, well we all have those days. Don’t beat yourself up!”

While I agree that I shouldn’t let the guilt and shame eat me up anymore, I couldn’t just let it go. I needed to let my children see me apologize. We were all acutely aware of my bad attitude, so if I had just used my position of authority and power to excuse my behavior, I would’ve lost so much.

I would have lost a little piece of my boys that I never would have gotten back.

A good leader leads by example. I have been reminded of that this week.

I’ve spent the last few days begging God to wake me up and remind me of my calling as an ezer kenegdo.

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To pull me out of my grumpiness and lack of direction and give me a renewed sense of purpose. A plan and a better attitude.

You are an ezer kenegdo, too. I pray that God pulls us all out of our busyness to remind us of that.

Our Spartans are depending on us.

Have you ever apologized to your kids for your behavior? Have you ever had to write it in the visitors log like me?