Friday, September 7, 2018

Life Lately: Summatime Bowdens

I'm trying to make good on my promise (to myself) to prioritize more regular editions of Life Lately... Mostly because I love looking back on them, but also so that things don't pile up and turn into: Life Over the Last Decade or So. The last round was in January, so I'm not doing quite as well as I may have hoped, but hey...I'm here now, so let's do this. 

We're rounding the corner into Fall, so it feels right to take a look back at the Summer, and all the 'ings we 'ing-ed during what has become my very fav season of all..

Making: constant messes all over the house. In a lot of ways, I love having a playroom on the main floor; it means we spend a lot of time together, and I don't have to worry about the kids being unsupervised while we make dinner etc. But sometimes I do grow weary of the toys spewed all over our living areas. As the kids have gotten older, their toys have gotten tinier, so there are miniature shoes, dogs, and teasets underfoot at all time. We try to purge things often, but no matter what, we still seem to have too much. I'd love to get more minimalistic, but I'm just not sure how to get there with kids things. We are making progress in other areas though, ruthlessly cleaning out spots like the linen closet, laundry room, kitchen drawers and the stashes of gifts/crafts/party supplies in the basement. It seems to get a little easier to let go of things each time, so we'll just keep chipping away...

popsicles. Ok, cooking is obviously a stretch, but we found these molds that look like ringpops and we're obsessed. We fill them with V8 splash juice. They're the perfect size to actually eat before they melt all over the place, and the "sticks" work great as pretend binkies for dolls. (because you know, we need more tiny doll nonsense around our house). 

Drinking: allllll the sparkling water. Obvs we still love LaCroix, but have you tried Bubly? It's legit. (Mango and grapefruit are especially good.)

well, it's not happening much these days, but I do get on a kick here and there...(strangely it seems to coincide with dry-spells of compelling Netflix programming. Imagine that.)
We took a trip back in April, and I managed to read a couple non-fiction, Christian-lady type books: Girl, Wash Your Face  (I know the entire internet is obsessed with this book, but I just didn't love it. It felt a little cliche and like she was maybe trying too hard to be inspirational AND so down to earth...I'm pretty much on an island with that opinion though.) If You Only Knew (loved this one. Jamie is so inspiring and real). I'm a sucker for some Emily Giffen; her latest, All We Ever Wanted, was a quick and satisfying read. And am I the only one who has ever read a Young Adult fiction by accident? I picked up We Were Liars from a nearby little free library, not knowing anything about it. I was halfway through (and super engrossed in the story) before I looked up some background details online. But no shame in my YA game, a great story is a great story! I've had Tell The Wolves I'm Home on my to-read list forever, Little Fires Everywhere has been sitting on my nightstand for months (I'm a couple chapters in but can't quite get momentum with it for some reason), and I've heard nothing but good things about The Light We Lost.

to make the most of our pool membership. We have the BEST local pool, but it's not cheap, so we try to squeeze all the value out of it by going as often as we can. We've hit it up most weekends, and even try to get some evening swims in here and there when we can. And the kids love "preschool swim"- a special weekday morning session for the 6-and-under crowd. They've gotten so comfortable in the water this year- they all still wear "floaties" but they swim around on their own, and are even starting to jump off the side of the pool, and sometimes even get their faces wet. They took a couple of swim lessons from a friend/babysitter of ours but we didn't do anything super intense or consistent. I think we'll need to get a bit more serious about it next year, but for now they're loving the water, and we're having a blast living it up in the lazy river.

Playing: bass. Not well, and not a lot. But I'm trying! Dustin has been playing bass for years at church, and on a whim I thought it would be fun to learn too. It turns out it's super easy to learn (if you already know a little bit about guitar/music theory), so technically I can play. But it will be a long time before I'm anything more than marginally proficient. But it's fun to pick up another skill, and I like being able to jam with Dustin from time to time.
Wasting: too much time playing HQ trivia. Or maybe more accurately, wasting too much time LOSING HQ Trivia. The whole phenomenon is not quite at the fever pitch it was a few months ago (when practically my entire office would shut down every day at 3pm to participate) but we still log on most nights to give it a shot. I feel like they've mastered the exact right level of difficulty- easy enough to make you feel like this is going to be the night! every time, and hard enough to get you addicted to the idea of beating it. After what feels like a lifetime, we finally prevailed last week. We're now $2.55 richer, and a whole lot smug-er.

we could go on a gigantic family vacation every year. We've had two years in a row going to Seaside, Florida with a big group. Last year we had our Stegmayer reunion (my dad's fam), this year we had our Simpson family trip (my mom's side), and both trips were absolute perfection. We'd love to go back next year. Anyone want to come along...and foot the bill

Enjoying: some big time milestones and events. In June alone, we had my niece's high school graduation, our family vacation, Dustin's birthday, Fin's birthday, and my sister's wedding (those last two were on the same day!). It was a manic season, but I'll never complain about having so many things to celebrate! It made for a little bit of a strange Summer because it was so frontloaded with action, with nothing big happening in July and August. I kind of liked that though because it gave us a chance to settle in to some routines for the season, and find our fun in smaller ways every day. Somehow (always) we still managed to pack our calendar full of things, so we weren't hurting for things to do, even once things "slowed down". 

to potty train Miller. And transition him to a big boy bed. And basically all-around let him grow up. I keep thinking we're going to try to potty train him...but he doesn't care much, and I can't find my motivation. I'm not actually avoiding it in an effort to keep him a baby (believe me, I don't like changing diapers enough to do that) but it is strange to feel our house shifting into a "big kid zone". We've had babies/toddlers around for so many years that it takes me by surprise sometimes when I see how mature my kids are getting. Each time we go somewhere without a stroller, or stay out without worrying about a naptime, I get a glimpse at where we're headed, and what we're leaving behind. We haven't made any hard and fast decisions about foster care, so it's possible that there are more babies in our future, but for now I'm realizing in a hundred different ways that our littlest one isn't super little anymore...

my monthly supper club tradition. Each month, a few of us ladies gather at a different local restaurant to try out the food and catch up with one another. I've been attending since we moved to Columbus (I actually came to one on a whim when I was
in town a few years ago, and one of the members ended up getting me the job that prompted our move to Columbus!) and have grown to love these nights out. It's an eclectic crew, which makes for fun conversation each time (plus I can usually convince them to get dessert afterwards...

Wondering: if we should add a patio to our backyard. Our deck needs a bit of work anyway, so we’ve been kicking around the idea of expanding it to have a patio. I rescued some chairs from untimely demise (aka: took them out of the neighbor’s trash) that would be perfect around a fire pit. I love the idea of expanding our living space, and taking advantage of more time in our awesome backyard. I don’t love the idea of spending so much money to make it happen. But maybe I’ll feel differently when I’m relaxing under some string lights, cooking up some s’mores.

having old friends come to visit..and even better: moving here! Our old neighbors came back for a weekend, and it was like they never left. I desperately miss them, but am so thankful that we remain friends even when we don't still share a fence. And for some extra, long-term goodness, some of our very best friends from Pittsburgh finally made the move to Columbus
! Yes!! So excited to have them nearby (and trying to resist the urge to force all of our friends/activities upon them...though I did- unsuccessfully- try to get them to move to our neighborhood.)

Hoping: that biotin is the answer to my sad sad hair situation. I've been trying to grow it out, but it's sloooow going. It's super thin (always has been, but "middle age" plus a few babies isn't helping) and it's in this awkward stage where it hits my shoulders and flips out all wonky. Every day I'm tempted to just chop it to my chin and be done with it, but as a last ditch effort I'm trying some vitamins that are supposed to promote hair (and nail) growth. We'll seeeee....

Smelling: this heavenly citrus + coconut body wash I got from my sister-in-law. And by "got" I mean she had a giant bottle in her guest bathroom last time we visited and I loved it so much I took it. (Don't worry...I asked her first). I've since searched for it online, but it appears to be discontinued (the Everyone Soap in Lemon + Coconut might be similar?). I'm not quite crazy enough to stock up via strange eBay and Amazon sellers...but I'm close. It's that good.
Wearing: the same three Old Navy tank tops (which are really the same one tank top, just in different colors) on repeat. That, and my jean shorts + rainbow sandals are my Summer uniform, two years running
Following: about a billion podcasts. It took me a long time to get into them, but now I’m full-on obsessed. I’m hesitant to share my recommendations, because I pretty much just listen to reality show recaps and shows about foster parenting. But there are a couple in there that are worth checking out: Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness (he's one of the guys from the Queer Eye reboot, and he’s nearly unbearably over the top, and addictingly funny at the same time.) Young House Love Has a Podcast (maybe weird to follow a design blog in an audio format...but somehow it works). I also like: Jamie Ivey, Jen Hatmaker, and Annie F. Downs. Plus Parent Cue Live always has interesting, practical advice.
Noticing: How much easier our routines are now that we have a nanny. We went from packing up, loading up and dropping off at two different schools, to walking out breezily, waving “bye and good luck” to a bunch of jammie clad kids. And at the end of the day...we just come home! It’s the best! There’s a bit of a learning curve because we’ve never had someone care for the kids in our home full time (except my mom...who is more adept with my kids than I am) but we had an awesome nanny with us this Summer who jumped in without an issue. (and then another awesome nanny who jumped in when the first one had to leave...) The kids had the best time going on adventures with them (and taking advantage of all the rules they didn't know yet!) But as convenient as it was for us, I really loved what it gave the kids- the chance to be home for an old-fashioned laid back Summer. I know they're still so little, so it's not as if the rest of the year is full of over the top stressors for them, but it's still nice to slow our pace down a bit and give them the freedom to just play and relax.

Knowing: that buying a new backyard playset was the best money we've ever spent. Our old (free!) plastic set treated us well for a few years, but it was time for an upgrade...and we went big with a 3 slide, 3 swing version from Costco. It took 79 straight hours to assemble (give or take) but the kids have pretty much been playing on it for 7,900 straight hours since then, so it's a TOTAL win. When we first toured this house, I stood in the kitchen, looked out the window to the backyard and pictured my kids playing. It's what sold me on this house, and turning that dream vision into a reality is surreal and wonderful.

about making another quilt. I've got piles of fabric stashed away, and even some patterns I purchased/downloaded for "someday", I just haven't really made the time for it.
I'd love to make a big piece for our bed, but I'm (more than) a little intimidated by the size of that project. Summer tends to not be my best quilting season, so I'm curious if I'll get bitten by the bug again once it's a little cooler, and I have more cozy time inside to experiment and craft.
I mixed things up this time around, dropping a few 'ings, and swapping in some new ones...

Trying: some new discipline ideas. As much as I love the unstructured fun of Summer, I don't love whiney, disrespectful kids. So we're trying out a reward system...the kids can earn "tickets" for good behavior, and trade them in for rewards. We're not quite as consistent as I'd like to be with it (I forget to reward them a lot!) but it still seems to be helping to provide them with extra incentive to keep their behavior and attitudes in check.

Listening: to Taylor Swift, all day every day. (ok...maybe with a little bit of Kids Bop mixed in, you know, for variety). We got free tickets to her concert through our foster care agency and we debated if the girls were old enough to handle it...but we figured we'd never get another chance like this, so we gave it a try. For weeks leading up to it, we listened to Taylor's spotify playlist (thanks Alexa) pretty much nonstop, to get the girls familiar with songs besides Shake It Off. It worked (probably too well), and come concert night, they were READY FOR IT (Taylor lyric pun!) It was such a blast to witness their first concert experience...they were in awe of all of it (mostly the light up bracelets...can't blame them there). Far too soon they'll be hopping in the car on their own to jam to goodness knows what, so I'm living for these times when they still think it's cool to sit dance and sing with us by their sides.

Watching: mostly Netflix and Hulu series. The Summer programming on regular TV is a little light, so we're binging series instead. Some favs: Handmaid's Tale (so dark. so good), Orange is the New Black (not my favorite season...but still manages to be goofy and poignant at once), The Office (we're working through the full series, and are somewhere in season 6).

Obsessing: over the Enneagram. I had been hearing little bits and pieces about it for a while, but once I finally took a test, it just clicked in my brain, and now it's all I can think about. ( life is now basically nonstop enneagram podcasts, Instagram memes and texts between my group of equally obsessed friends). At this point Dustin is just barely managing to contain his eyerolls (he thinks it's interesting, but isn't nearly as geeked about it as I am), as I somehow manage to bring every conversation back to "a type". If you're wondering- I'm a 3 (The Achiever) but I have a big dose of 7 and 8 too (The Enthusiast and Challenger). Maybe someday I'll process things enough to detail more of my thoughts and insights in writing, but for now I'm just diving straight into the rabbit hole and not even trying to find my way out.
Missing: my carpool + work buddy. Dustin started a new job in July, and while it's been nothing but good things for him (flexibility, new challenges, great team, interesting work), it means I no longer have a chauffeur, or a regular lunch date. The upside: I have full control over the stereo, but I do miss the chats, the dance parties and being able to count at least half of our conversations as billable hours.

Suffering: from an ear infection (after a miserable flight where my ears never popped back to normal). I'm currently on my second round of antibiotics, and have all the sympathy for babies.

Celebrating: for 100 days! It was my second year participating in The 100 Day Project, and it was a (challenging, exhausting) blast. For 100 days in a row, I celebrated (or reflected upon) different "national holidays", in an attempt to have some fun and document some memories. I love how it stretched my imagination, pushed me to try new things, and inspired me to enjoy the silly little things that sometimes go unnoticed.

Pretending: that jammies count as clothes. Or swimsuits count as clothes. Or the pool counts as a bath. But in the Summer that's all true, right? 
Buying: shirts with real collars and a big boy backpack (for Dustin's big boy job), a tiny suitcase (so I don't look so extra on my daytrips to St. Louis) and a slew of new dresses and jumpsuits (because easy breezy).

Visiting: all the fairs and all the festivals. Rides, petting zoos and foods on sticks are becoming part of the DNA of our family, and I couldn't be more happy about it. We're basically carnies (#bowdenfest).

Needing: to finally pony up for a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud. I've been rocking a semi-bootleg version of Photoshop (and Illustrator) for years now, but I think they're finally wise to me. We got a new computer a few months ago and I have yet to install any editing program on it, so that means my photos have just sat on my harddrive untouched (not to mention unblogged, and unprinted).  

Struggling: to maintain healthy eating habits...go to bed on time...stay hydrated...get up early in the morning...basically all around make good grown-up choices. Maybe Summer isn't the time for that? Yes, that sounds like an excuse I'd like to use here. Surely it's not just a complete lack of self discipline and common sense. Nah...

Eating: ice cream basically every chance we get. Summer automatically translates to a treat mentality for me, where pretty much every warm evening seems like a good excuse for some icy sweets. It's probably not the best habit to model for the kids, but there will be plenty of time to teach them the value of moderation. For now...we party.

Losing: Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend. We seem to get about 179 library books every time we go, so the fact that this is the first book we lost, feels like a low-key win. 

Taking: advantage of having a brother-in-law who works for the Crew...who swears he doesn't mind us hitting him up for free tickets all the time. We've been to a few games this year, and recently took the kids for the first time. They didn't quite grasp the particulars of the game (that might be because I- a soccer ignoramus- was "teaching" them the "rules"...) Miller's favorite part was watching the "stuffed aminals" play (they had a pretend scrimmage between a bunch of mascots) and the girls liked everything except when they were "mean to each other" (how do you explain yellow cards?)

Forgetting: to download all the pictures from the last school year. Each of the girls' teachers set up a private facebook group where they would upload pictures of activities or events throughout the year. I wanted to keep some of them, but figured it would be easier to just save them all at once at the end of the year, so I didn't have to try to keep up with it in real time. And was suddenly August and I realized I hadn't ever gotten to it. #momfail The good news is Fin's class still had their pictures posted...but Piper's page had already been cleaned out to make room for the next class of kids. Fortunately, her teacher saved a few and sent them my way. Crisis averted, and lesson learned. 

Embracing: #jeeplife. Dustin's long lost love has returned...he is once again the proud owner of a wrangler. But you know who's loving it a surprising amount? This girl! I've got my head scarf and my hairbrush stashed in the console, and I'm getting used to having a clutch again. We can't fit all the kids in it (well...not safely anyway) so it's become the go-to for solo rides, little trips with the girls or the occasional date night. It's the least practical family car, and I have no idea what our plan is for it in the colder months, but none of that matters when the sun is on your shoulders, and the sweet sounds of Africa are blasting in your ears.

Feeling: completely and totally overwhelmed, in all the best ways. How did life get so full? And so good?

Check out all of our Life Lately posts, or catch up on our Summer in Squares.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Don’t Blink

“Did I miss it?”  

That’s the phrase that keeps running through my mind this week. I lie in bed and think of all the changes and milestones that are flying at us...and I panic.  

Did I miss it? Did my kids grow up overnight without me realizing? Was I too busy working? Too tired to focus? Too engrossed in the day-to-day to see the cumulative passage of time? Have the baby-days passed me by? 

This is a big week in our house, and (clearly) it’s producing some big emotions and some big anxiety for me. Miller’s birthday is Wednesday. He’ll be three, which means my youngest baby isn’t a baby at all- or even a toddler- but an actual kid. Piper starts at a new school on Thursday, and even though she’s been in daycare or school since she was a wee little lass, this full-time elementary stuff feels pretty serious. Fin is off to Kindergarten next week, and while I’m not really worried about that transition (she’ll be at the same school as last year, with Piper’s old teacher, following her same 3 day a week schedule) it is still one more time-marking change in the mix. 

One second ago, it was June, and we had our whole Summer bucket list in front of us. 
One minute ago, I had my first newborn, and the idea of her going "back to school" was no more real to me than self-driving cars. (my my my how things have changed...)

But now the calendar pages have all flipped like a time-lapse video gone wrong, and I’m suddenly surrounded by a bunch of backpack-sporting big kids, poised to take on the world without me. The future is now, and I'm not sure I'm ready.

Our Summer is over. 
Our “preschool” days are over.

We’re hurdling towards a new stage of life, and I’m struggling to make peace with it all. I want to be optimistic, look ahead, and make plans to make the most of what’s to come, but I’m preoccupied with my self-imposed grade card for the days gone by. The last 6+ years went as fast as all of the old ladies in the grocery store warned they would, and that frantic pace leaves me feeling frantic. With over half a decade of child-rearing in the rearview, my hindsight is on overdrive.

Did I make the right choices? Did I prioritize the right things? Did I make it all count? Did I savor it? Or did I blink? Did I blink and miss my only chance at shaping, embracing, and enjoying my kids’ childhoods? 

I know this mindset is over dramatic. I know my kids are still so little in so many ways. I know life hasn't passed me by. I knooooooow there is SO much more goodness still to come. 

And yet. I can't stop the sadness that creeps in when it's quiet. I can't fend off the bittersweet feelings of letting go of the old and embracing the new. I can't eliminate that seed of doubt that maybe I'm doing everything wrong. Maybe I had it all backwards. Maybe it wasn't enough. Maybe I wasn't enough. 

I see my clever, lanky, first-grader and I wonder if I kissed her chubby knees enough while they were still chubby...
I watch my witty, confident kindergartner bound off to new adventures without even a tentative glance back, and I sense that her days of needing my arms for comfort are behind us...
I snuggle my face into the neck of my impossible and precious nearly-three-year-old, and fear he'll soon be too cool for his best-friend-mommy and my smothering stream of snuggles...
Time is a thief. 
A sneaky, cruel thief.

And so I do what every mom does in this situation: I attempt to stop time. I silently beg for all of the goodness to freeze. I whom? to what?...for a pause. It’s desperate, and futile, but also irresistibly attractive. What I wouldn’t give for just one more moment of all that I love about right now; for peace over the way I handled the past; for wisdom and perspective as I approach what's next. 

You get one shot at this parenting thing (well…maybe I get three shots…but that’s really just three chances for me to screw each kid up in a new and unique way). There are no manuals to ensure you do it right, and no do-overs to fix what went wrong. Time marches forward relentlessly. You spend it how you spend it, and there are no refunds. sands through the hourglass...

Looking back on our little kid years it’s easy to be critical of myself. I did work a lot. I did spend a lot of time away from my kids. I did prioritize things above them. I did value the wrong stuff, miss the little joys, and take things for granted. I still do. Is it wrong? Do I regret it? Will I regret it? Yes...No...Maybe. I just don’t know. 

Being a parent is a constant experiment. It’s wrestling with your beliefs, and negotiating your to-dos. It’s building up rhythms, and making concessions. It’s giving everything you have, and getting used to falling short. It’s the world’s slowest and most daunting task, that somehow flies by in an instant. In a blink. 

So especially on the eve of a birthday, or the night before school, I deeply feel the poignancy of all the days of yore. I want to embed all the memories all in my heart; every single gummy-grinned, sticky-handed, stinky-bummed moment (ok...maybe not those last ones...) locking them up as mementos and medals of a life well lived. But in my desperation to soak it all up and take it all in, I don’t want to end up in a wild-eyed, white-knuckled panic.

I can’t go through the rest of their lives- the rest of my life- afraid to blink. 

Childhood is fleeting, yes, but opportunities to embrace it aren’t scarce. The idea that I have missed it is a lie, because it’s not over. Perhaps the greatest truth of all is that after each sunset there is a sunrise. We are not guaranteed tomorrow, there is at least today. So though I hate the idea that I may have wasted some of my yesterdays, I don’t want to let that regret ruin however many todays I have. And that is, admittedly, hopelessly cliché, but so are so many of the emotions of motherhood. My plight, my fears, and my midnight panics are not unique. I’m not alone in tearing up in the elementary school hallway, and I’m not the only one staying up way too late flipping through photo archives from my babies’ babiest days. The instinct to cling to the joys and comforts of each season is natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. I know that the unwillingness to let go will leave me with no free hands to receive the gifts yet to come.

So I loosen my grip. I pry myself open with the hope of more. I soothe my wild fears with the truth of abundance. I combat my self-criticism with the gift of grace. And I allow myself to blink. 
Everything...all of the responsibility and all of the possibility; the darkness and the light... will still be there when I open my eyes again. And perhaps then, after even just the briefest of rests, I’ll be able to see it even more clearly


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