Monday, August 29, 2016

Bittersweet Moments and Sneezes

Loveys, Lincoln turned five yesterday. There was pizza and games and cake and a big mouse wandering around (Chuck E Cheese). It was just a family affair this time around, with us and Sara and Nemo and it was a really great day. I love our family so much. Linc went to Kidz Jam at church for the first time now that he's in kindergarten. And now that little handsome boy is five years old. He's big and little at the same time, and I'll hold on to this moment for a while longer.

In fact, it was a big weekend in general for the Bruce family.

Friday night Ashtyn cried and told me she wanted to pierce her ears. I really thought she wasn't ready, and it would be too scary. I'm telling you, my kids will scream if they even think there is a speck of blood on them. But she felt so strongly about it that I told her we'd go to Claire's Saturday and check it all out, and if she still wanted to do it, then we would. The next morning she took twenty dollars out of her piggy bank to help pay for the ear-piercing (if she did it). And before we left, Lincoln came running up to me and gave me a nickel and two pennies and told me that he wanted to help Ashtyn pay for her ears to get pierced. (And I tried not to cry at that moment and just thanked God for my kids.) So we packed up the whole family and went to Claire's, they showed her those little white gun-things that shoot the earrings in your ears and she still wanted to do it.

I learned something about Ashtyn. She's decisive. She makes a decision and she goes with it, and I love that about her. And we needed to let her make the decision this time around. I was so proud of how brave she was. (I made sure they could do both earrings at once--let's not drag out the trauma.) She took the hit and cried just a few tears and then a huge smile filled her face and for the past two days she keeps saying, I can't believe my ears are pierced!

And it's bittersweet because she'll never again be that little girl without her ears pierced, still a little scared of it. Now it's done and she's a step closer in the big-girl direction. And there was this moment when I saw her trust herself, and it's a beautiful thing.

I know the truth. That she'll be learning how to do that for the rest of her life.

That trusting ourselves isn't always so easy. That making decisions can be hard. That things happen that make us question who we are and the life we live and the people around us and the choices we made. Things happen that can hurt us and take us to ground zero and we have to rebuild. There are forks in the road and we're unsure, but we have to choose. And in those moments ... you just have to trust yourself and do what you can. Sometimes things turn out great, sometimes you realized you probably should have done things differently.

She'll learn that there are times when we choose our own self-respect and we need to. And there are times we'll sacrifice everything, even our self-respect.

It's hard to be a girl. Our identity and self-esteem are wrapped up in so many things...husbands, boyfriends, parents, friends, children, jobs. We sometimes think they're not, but they are. And it takes so much work to find our worth apart from everything but us and God. I've found it comes down to just those two factors, but I have to remind myself of it daily. Minute by minute. It's not what Jeff thinks of me (though I love him and care what he thinks more than anything). It's not what my children think (though they are a really good mirror and it's important). It's certainly not what other women think. It's me and God. If I believe that God sees me as worthy and beautiful and capable--that spills over into all these places in my life and I can walk with confidence. I'm telling you, lovey. It's minute by minute. We can be having a great day, and I pass by a store window and catch my reflection, and suddenly feel unattractive and sad and lonely and discouraged. Just. Like. That.

That's my perception, but not God's. So in that moment, I must trust God over me. His truth over mine. That I am enough for the task in front of me. I can love when it's hard. And I get a little stronger with every step. A little more self-confident. Sometimes it doesn't come from around us--only from inside us. This way is harder, but I think it lasts longer.

I watched Ashtyn sit in that chair on Saturday (even as I kept asking Are you sure?), and I'm just so glad that she's mine. Lincoln was worried for her and told all of us that he was glad boys don't get their ears pierced. (Then Ash told him, Well, they do if they're rock stars. But only rock stars. I'm glad they understand this important fact.) I'm thinking about Ashtyn right now--so excited to show all of her friends her new pink-heart earrings. I know she feels beautiful and special and excited--and that makes me so happy. She's all those things to me.

So, a weekend of milestones for both kids. (Plus, I sneezed on Sunday and Lily said, "bess you." Melt my heart.) I've also just finished the edits for my book coming out next summer. As I scrolled through it last night, I have to tell you that I love it so much. I need to read through it once more to make sure it's totally ready, but for the most part, this story has been written and I can't wait for people to read it. (Next June feels like so far away!)

Loveys, it's Monday and I feel it. Lily emptied all the lower kitchen cabinets, which is not awesome. My kitchen looks crazy. I need to do probably ten things and I don't want to do any of them. I'm hungry for dinner and we just had lunch. Sometimes, it takes a little time to get into our groove for the week. I have a feeling this is one of those weeks. And today is definitely a two-cups of coffee kind of day. It's cloudy and I feel chilled. Lily's second tooth is coming in and she's crying A LOT. Poor baby is hurting. It's one of those days. I'm thinking Tylenol and a Pioneer Woman marathon are in order. And reinforcements in the way of my mother-in-law are coming soon. Thank goodness. Family life--you can adore your kids and still want to cry if another person asks you for more snack.

Happy Monday, loveys. We can do this.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Leave the Dishes

Loveys, this morning after drop off, there were dishes all over the kitchen island. And I stood there for a minute, feeling tired and sipping my coffee and wanting to just breathe. I suddenly packed up Lily in the stroller and went for a couple-miles walk. (I was so spontaneous that I forgot to take water for myself--I brought some for Lil--and I hadn't eaten breakfast. About a mile from my house, it occurred to me that passing out would really be less inspirational than I was going for.)  But that first mile was great. Sunshine, quiet, fresh air and the feeling of my heart pumping as I walked. Now, this is Colorado so I know lots of people are out there walking every morning (I'm looking at you, Tracy!), but this Southern girl has to really talk herself into it.

Sometimes I really need to talk myself into things. Like leave the dishes and go, breathe deep for yourself. Like ignore the unmade bed and sit on the floor and stretch, close your eyes and do that for yourself. Like go to sleep when your body needs you to, even if there's stuff to do and if you stayed up late, you'd get more done.

The fact that we need to talk ourselves into such things means that usually we choose the other, and that's okay, too. Because it's good to wash dishes and make beds and mop the floor once the kids are in bed. But those things aren't going anywhere, really. So when you can choose to breathe--to take a moment for yourself--I think we need to.

My kids are back in school and it's going great. We had Ashtyn's birthday last weekend and while I had said no parties, I told her she could invite a couple friends over for a playdate. No decorations, I didn't even buy a cake! But by the time Saturday rolled around, Ash was gleefully jumping up and down and saying, "When is it time for my party?" I was like, "Um, it's not a party." She was like, "Um, it pretty much is."


If all I have to do is buy buns and hot dogs and marshmallows and chocolate for dinner, I can deal. It ended up being so fun and I love how low-key it was. The girls had a scavenger hunt in the backyard (finding glow necklaces from the Dollar Tree has never been more exciting), and it was basically one of the best nights of Ashtyn's life. I love those moments. You don't realize they will be perfect until you're experiencing the joy around you. And later you think, I never want to forget how this felt.

So a few girls roasted wieners and marshmallows for dinner and dessert, and we held on to a little more summer bliss. Jeff and Ash and Linc had a backyard campout and slept in our tent. Now on to Lincoln's birthday. (For women thinking of starting a family, I recommend avoiding having lots of babies in August. It makes for a lot of chaos.) Then my birthday (this is a friendly reminder for my family!) and Jeff's birthday. Then October and Outlander book 2 book club (heavens yes). We've already started soccer practice. (I am an official soccer mom. Hm.) And the wheel is turning. Lincoln asked me today if it's almost Halloween. I told him it would be here before we know it. Lots to do. People to see. Work to finish. House to clean. Meals to cook.

Loveys, that's why if there's even five minutes of time to just be, we need to pounce on that like a cat on a spider. I need it. So many of us do. Sometimes we have to set boundaries when we know we're at capacity. We have to find a few minutes to be alone when we're on the brink of crazy. Some of us live at that brink and know it well. :)

I love family life and I wouldn't trade it. It's what I want and it's the greatest gift I've ever received. It's all encompassing. I'm up for it. But taking care of me, and knowing the limits of my family, helps us keep going without crossing over that brink.

Now that school has started, we're finding the rhythm of our routine over here. I'm trying to make the most of my hours. To me, that's the best factor in school starting, we get back on a routine. I love the freedom of summer, but I find I'm ready for routine again when school starts. Fall is busy. It always is. We've got to find our rhythm. (I'm speaking metaphorically here, loveys. Truthfully, I have no rhythm. It's unfortunate.)

I have all sorts of good intentions. I decide every Monday that I want to invite friends over for coffee during the week, then when I remember that I will have to sweep the floor, I cancel all my plans and decide to watch the food network and do yoga. So I'll need to talk myself into it. Because I need both, desperately. I need coffee with friends. (I also need the food network and the freedom to just be home alone with Lily.) School is starting and I'm figuring out what my days will look like--and there's something exciting about all the possibilities. Maybe I'll go to the gym. (A very small maybe.) Maybe I'll get to read more during naptime. Maybe I'll take on another freelance project. Maybe I'll write a new book. (That's a very big maybe!) Maybe I'll plan another fall tea and invite friends. Or maybe I'll do an end-of-summer brunch and invite my neighbors. Maybe I'll wait for someone to invite me to something. (Medium maybe.)

Loveys, I hope fall is full of possibilities for you. I hope the end of summer is perfection. I hope there are friends and parties--and moments to be quiet and just reflect--in store for all of us.

The dishes will keep.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Weeping Mothers and Missing Pencils

Loveys, it's that time of year again. Bouquets of sharpened pencils and all that. (Except we couldn't actually find any at the store. My kids have no pencils.) Winter is long and summer is short here in Colorado. But it's a gorgeous warm day at the moment, and my children were filled with excitement this morning at drop off. There's a big clap-in at our school on the first day and ALL the kids meet outside and it's a mass of chaos. Linc and Ash both got a little nervous at that point, but they did awesome. As Linc walked away in his line of other little kids with big backpacks, I went to Jeff and started weeping. Seriously. I covered my face and cried. And Jeff pats me on the back and says, "Bran, remember, you pick him back up in two hours and 45 minutes."

What? Seriously, what can they learn in two hours and 45 minutes?! That's nuts. So I barely have time to come home and have coffee before I go back and get him. Still...I'm okay with it. He's my baby boy and I'm not quite ready to part with him. :)

So school is now in session, loveys. And Pipsqueak and I (also known as Lily) are home. We walked in the door this morning and I said, All right, baby. You're all I've got left.

Last night we prepped for school and it reminded me so much of when Ash went to Kindergarten. We pulled out the same books and read them to Lincoln. We prayed together. The kids went to bed early. Jeff and I folded laundry for the rest of our lives (Really, when I tell Jeff he needs to help more with laundry, this is what he does: He washes a million loads. I try to explain that that is not helpful. It's the FOLDING and PUTTING AWAY that I want to avoid. When he washes everything, I am completely overwhelmed. This was me last night as we folded four basketfuls. On the bright side, at least everything is clean. You can find it all in my room.)

So, I've cried this morning. Another milestone. Another stepping stone. And loveys, it's such a blessing and privilege. To have babies to take to school. To have children to love.

To be a family. It's my favorite thing.

I'm shocked by how fast it goes. When I think of growing up at my house--I think of practically living at the school. I think of lazy Saturdays and delicious breakfast. I think of me and Sara and mom, decorating the house for Christmas. I think of watching Anne of Green Gables. I think of putting Laura to bed at night. I think of my dad coming home every day in his uniform. The days seemed long. Now, I think they probably went fast for my parents. The way that days are going fast over here.

Still. Blessings, lovey. Moments to hold on to.

It's time to get Linc. This has been a big day for my little guy. I can't wait to hear all about it.

(Also, I need to find some pencils.)