Not where I thought this was going....

>> Friday, March 8, 2013

Things I want to remember:

Owen asking me to play the piano for him. He laid down on the couch and just listened, and then he thanked me for playing. Told me how much he liked listening. How he likes hearing me play while he's playing Legos or falling asleep at night. Last weekend I taught him how to play the theme song from Indiana Jones and he practiced until he nailed it. Now we hear it thirty times a day and I love it.

Wilson is getting old. I am pampering and spoiling him more and more these days. It's like I looked up and he had aged while I was busy, and now I don't want the next few (is few too optimistic? couple??) years to go by without lovin' on that big oaf every day. I appreciate him so much. We really bonded on that backpacking trip we did together, just the two of us, me and my pup in the woods for four days, and I feel like he gets me. I feel his love and I know he feels mine. I love that dog and it's sad to see him age.

Eli is doing fantastically. He's taking piano lessons, too, and it is so fun to watch him learn. He and Owen both have shown such an interest and dedication - so far - to practicing and learning new songs. We have flash cards to learn the notes, and Eli beams with pride at my surprise that he can read all the notes only a few weeks in.

Axel is still so tiny and speaks with a cartoon character voice, but he is growing up. He was always right there with the older boys, never missing a beat. But he's a big kid now, in spirit. I'm glad he's such a peanut because I'm not ready for this. Who am I kidding; yes, I am. I'm ready. It's a blast to see them grow. And I will miss the days of babies but not enough to bring them back.

Which brings me to wanting a puppy. Not exactly a puppy-puppy, but a second dog. A young one that Wilson can help train. So that he can have some company when the boys are all in school more hours next year (4K for Axel!), and so that when the sad day comes and we have to say goodbye to Wilson, that another dog can ease that pain. I don't want a replacement dog. I want to add to the family now, while Wilson is here to make his mark. And poor old Wils isn't going to make it on another 4-day hike through the hills. It sure would be nice to have a canine buddy for our adventures without pushing Wilson to work harder than he should.

John turned 35 last week (happy birthday, babe!) and we threw a great party. So much fun was had, and we were reminded yet again what a good thing we've got going. I'm so lucky to have him, and you know I'm just going to say it, he's lucky to have me, too. We love each other a whole lot, and we're on a good run right now. I'm a happy lady.

This blog isn't what it used to be for me. I started it almost four years ago when I was home full time with my boys, and it ended up serving a very different purpose for me than I originally intended. It was an outlet I needed, but something changed - maybe it's being out there in the world through my job and knowing this space pops up in a google search of my name. I've always been well aware that I'm writing on the internet, but there's something about unintended audience that sits a little less comfortably with me now.

I didn't sit down to write that post. But I think that's what it's become. It's run its course and I think it's time to call it. I'll tidy up a bit before I go, but I think this is it, folks. I haven't brought my stories here in a while (I'm realizing I never even wrote about my first solo backpacking trip!), and I think I need to honor that instinct and listen to what my gut is trying to tell me.

Wilson just got up, with a bit of effort, and trudged back to his bed in our room. I'll take that as my cue to sign off.

I 'm grateful for the friends I've made through this space, and happy that we have other channels to keep up with each other.

Thank you so much for reading. It has meant a lot to me over the years. Nighty night to you all.

 still boy crazy after all these years

 Sweet Wilson

 New Years Eve 2012, New Mexico Juniper forest (road trip!)

Escarpment Trail, Porcupine Mountains State Wilderness Area

xo elizabeth


Letting go of the Monster

>> Thursday, March 7, 2013

I wrote this months ago and found it in my drafts folder just tonight. Thought I'd throw it out there with the rest, at least while I figure out what I'm going to do with this place. 

I'm sitting with my son at the kitchen table while he draws a birthday card for his soon-to-be 97 year old great-grandfather. He focuses, concentrates; drawing and writing out messages. So much thought and effort and then he slips - makes a head too large or a Y sideways or the horns on the monster look too much like ears and he freaks out, falling apart, ready to quit and destroy what he's made in the process.

I take a deep breath and sit with him. I tell him it's ok to make mistakes. That he can fix it. All his work was not for naught. And after a few breaths, he's with me.

If I teach my children one thing it will be that perfectionism is for the birds.

There is no such thing as perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. I make mistakes.

You do?
Does your boss get mad?
What do you do?
Fix them.

I assure him his great-grandfather will still like the card, even with mistakes-- corrected or not. I tell him his great-grandfather will recognize the Y, even if it's a little sideways. He is skeptical. He wants it to be perfect. He wants to please.

I want my children to know that it is just fine to want others to be pleased by their efforts, but I will teach them - I swear it - that no one is entitled to let perfection be the standard by which they judge them. Besides, we need to learn early on that we cannot make other people happy, we cannot please them. Happiness and contentment and satisfaction with the affection or attention or interactions we get from others in our life is up to us - it really has nothing to do with anyone else.

I want my boys to call bullshit if someone tells them, "You're not making me happy" or "You're not good enough".

There is very little in life within our control. We cannot control other people or circumstances or the way events unfold. When we try to control - even with what we believe are good intentions - it is because we are worried at some level that without our control, things may not turn out or unfold the way we want them to. We worry we will not get what we want or perceive to need. We step in and dictate or manipulate, keeping others and circumstances rigid and scheduled without room for anything or anyone to go awry.

But this control is futile. I want my boys to trust that they can let go and let life happen. They can work towards what they want, but they need not let their happiness be dependent upon achieving their goals, no matter how big or small. The only thing they can control is their own reaction to others, to events, even to their own emotions and thoughts.

My son has calmed down, and he takes the over-sized monster head he had deemed a mistake and transforms it into a bat. He cuts and glues, making the new card a collage of salvaged pieces of the old one on top of new drawings and messages. It looks even more beautiful than we could have imagined when he started.

I tell him I'm proud of him for turning his mistakes into something beautiful. If we don't make space for mistakes to happen -- our kids', our partners', our own -- we may be missing out on some of the most unexpected beauty and creative solutions we're capable of.

Let go of perfect. Let go of control. Be authentic and let others be authentic, too. Stop worrying it isn't going to work out the way you think is best. Make room for surprises and give yourself permission to change your mind, to realize you were wrong, that you made a mistake and that that's ok.

Sometimes we think we want a monster when, really, we have no idea of the beauty we are about to create.

linking up to just write.



>> Saturday, December 22, 2012

I was going to write about how we try to master it all.
How we hold ourselves to too-high standards and judge our missteps far more harshly than we ought.

I was going to write about how honesty and surrender 
release the spikes in the belly and the weight on the shoulders.

About letting go, playing through, ignoring the mistakes and listening for the melody instead. 

 About my contentment at the start of this break.
How I value my luck and my blessings and the richness of life.

There's a lot to say but it's just another version of a song you already know.

We look around and take it in and pull close the ones we love and 
count our blessings and offer up prayers and peace for the hurting

and we keep 

listening for the song 

amid all the wrong notes.


piano portraits by Owen, age 9


Merry Christmas. May you experience peace, joy, hope, and especially love this holiday season.

"A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices...."



>> Sunday, November 25, 2012

It's gotten harder for me to write about it all, harder to sit down and capture what I'm feeling. I am so full of emotion and experience, but I have slid into a place of wanting to protect it all, to hold it dear. Hovering like a cloud is the sense that in sharing, some of what I treasure will leak out and run down the storm drain. It will be under-valued or misunderstood and I can't have that, so I keep it to myself.

I walked along Lake Michigan on the beach this weekend, from the park by my parents' house up to the mouth of the Pigeon River. The lake hasn't been this low in years - decades, maybe. We could never walk to the mouth without our feet getting wet. But there's quite a stretch of beach now, and it felt right to make the hike.

When I saw the stand of pines on the bluff, I knew I was close. The rest of the shoreline is scrubby vegetation along the slope. Rocky and weedy. There are more homes than there used to be, but thank God someone left the pines. I remember as a kid it was all forest up on that bluff. We'd bike back as far as we could and then leave our wheels and scurry down the slope to where the river meets the lake. I can't even remember who I was with on these adventures- it's a blend of faces or the sensation of youthful energy that comes rushing back. And when I made it to the mouth via the beach this weekend, I felt it. The memories, yes; but what hits me when I'm there is the Whole of Growing Up. The confluence of my experiences and my sisters' and my friends'. Of my dad's, who also grew up on those beaches. There's a sense that brings equal parts bitter and sweet as I feel I am seeing Home through a different lens than that myopic one that I had as a child. It felt so big to go back.

I get so down on Sunday nights. It starts creeping up earlier in the day and I ignore it, but it surfaces each week. I need to let go of the stress that creeps up as work enters my mind and hang on instead to the weekend I had. This one was a good one. Thanksgiving, extra days and lots of time with family.  These boys of mine fill me up, although they drain me, too. I find myself checking boxes on a mental list I hadn't realized I'd made. One-on-one time for each. Reading. Coloring and puzzles. Games together. Time outside. Healthy meals. Light on the video games and cartoons. Minimal fighting. Minimal yelling. Check. Check. Check. Laundry done, dishwasher run, emptied, and reloaded. Get the chickens some time to free-range it, pick up the dog shit in the yard, make sure the husband gets his recharge time. Check. Check. Check.

So why do I feel so worn down? So tired? So inadequate?

I want to live up to my own standards, and they are high. I am my own worst critic, I know this.

I miss them when I'm at work. I worry I don't spend enough time with them, yet I know I'm 100% present when I'm with them. That I give and nurture and love them fiercely. I miss out on some things, but I know they save so much for me. The stories at dinner time and when we're snuggled up at bedtime. I prioritize them, along with that which I need to keep myself mentally and physically healthy.

I guess I feel like I can't keep this up forever. I'm pushing and working so hard to be so intentional in every aspect of my parenting - and I'm probably overcompensating for working full-time out of the house - but I need that bonding time as much as they do. I'm just waiting for that break, and I'm realizing it isn't really going to come.

No neat or poignant wrap-up here; just writing what's on my mind because this place seemed to be calling to me again. Maybe the sharing isn't so much a leak as it is a flow, a confluence of my story with yours. Where the personal meets the universal. This is parenting. This is life. It is a rich, beautiful, blessed life for which I am incredibly grateful, but it is hard. And I am tired.



>> Tuesday, October 2, 2012

He's at this age that delights me. I watch his mouth when he talks and his nostrils flare and for some reason his eyes always look sad, even when they're not. His brothers were tucked into bed - one reading, the other snuggling Teddy Bear in the dark - and he was at the table, freshly bathed and jammied after soccer practice, slurping up a bowl of honeynuts. I almost walked past, in my multitasking rush, to the computer. Check those 11th hour emails that I missed when I left a little early. Pop on facebook, check the weather forecast. But I stopped and sat down across from him, and I listened. I was struck by the similarity in his storytelling, by the emotional response he evoked in me, to his brother three years ago. When he was six. There's something about six. It's pretty magical.

He tells me about the books he's reading. He talks about the pictures. He thinks about the stories. He laughs as he remembers the funny parts. He tells me about lunch, and how it's too short. How he ate half of his pear but not the other because then he started on his sandwiches. He said sandwiches, plural, because it was cut in two.

It's the plural of sandwich that inflates my heart. It's the consonant at the end of a word. The way his lips hold the shape of the last vowel he formed. I want to freeze him here. Etch him into my brain. But I can't, so my heart will have to hold it all instead.

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Clarity in the Chaos

I'm a realistic optimist who relies on raw honesty and plenty of humor to navigate the boystorm that is my life. I am mother to three and wife to one. These are my stories.

Finding clarity in the chaos since 2009.
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