Enjoying: One Painted Hand

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Over a year ago, I regressed back to a bad childhood habit–biting my nails–but strangely, only my right hand. I justify my habit with the fact that it’s only a halfway relapse and don’t consider myself a true nail biter because my left hand is still groomed with nails that are perfectly filed and shellacked with a nice shiny clear coat to compensate for the jagged cuticles and fingertip skin show on the right. This counterbalance pops up in other areas of my life as well–like my clean kitchen with the shiny counters and the candles and the diffused lemon oil to distract you from my office, the current designated room for hiding laundry baskets and mail piles and random objects that can’t seem to find their place in our home. I’ve always been a self-deprecating compliment deflector, armed and ready to show you my failing side lest that clean kitchen tip the scales toward a too put together image (“That’s because everything’s hidden in the junk drawers!”). But right now, perhaps simply for self preservation when things are inevitably going to be imbalanced, I’m trying to look at the left hands in my life.  The kitchen I take time to keep clean, the hours we spend reading with our kids, the french braid I nailed the other morning, the fact that I stacked the lunch boxes on their designated shelf and haven’t had to go searching for them for the past five mornings in a row. It is a given that there’s always an untidy corner, a place we could be doing better. But look! That left hand, man. It looks good.

I haven’t done an Enjoying post in a while, and it’s funny–Brett and I were talking the other day about how we used to do so much more with the kids before school schedules and how much we miss those moments. I don’t pick up my camera as much as I used to, and sometimes it feels like the small things I love so much get lost in a sea of responsibilities. When I finally made time to go through some photos I had been saving from the past couple weeks, I was reminded of how much love and creativity and color and light and small beautiful moments are still there. Look at that left hand, man.

Lately enjoying…

Taking time to color something. On paper…

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Or cement…

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…and my own stash of “mama’s chalk”

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Bravery for new tasks. He wants to learn how to skate so bad. He falls every time but never fails to put those skates back on and try again.

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A house for Latte.

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Afternoon walks to the lake like we used to do.

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George the dinosaur who accompanied us everywhere we went for one full day, then flew away.

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Our repeated failure with picking strawberries in Florida (picked over, got nothing, still had fun).

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Dirty feet as measures of how much fun you’ve had on a weekend.

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His weirdness that makes him awesome.

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When they play games and don’t throw the pieces everywhere.

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Morning light.

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New drama in Barbieland. Apparently, Paquel was mean to Kiki this week, but then they worked it out because they went to Target where Paquel bought Kiki some goldfish crackers and Nutella. But then they had a sleepover where Dash pulled Paquel’s leg off, and things got real bad. She’s recovering after a reattachment though so, I’m sure they’ll be back at Target soon. Whew. It’s a like our own live soap opera.

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When he’s not pulling legs off Barbies…

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Breakfast on the run.

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Catching lizards (and yes, letting them go).

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Going through her Valentine box with her friend from school.

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Getting as many beach days in as we can before Florida turns hot and humid soon.

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And an afternoon spent alone with my three at Botanical Gardens.

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Nella pushed Lainey into a rocky pond at the end of our trip, and it was NOT PRETTY.

But we’re focusing on the left hand with the painted nails.

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We are off to Colorado today for some family fun. Happy almost weekending.

Find Your Vacation

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This post is sponsored by Born Shoes.

There are two hilarious text threads with my friends that basically sum up our lives right now.

One is simple and goes like this:

Friend: Brunch this Saturday?
Me: Kids or no kids?
Friend: ROFL. Oh my God, NO KIDS. For the love of God, PLEASE. NO KIDS.

The other, expanded to include more friends in one invite, goes like this:

Me: Brunch next Saturday?
Friend 1: Sure, any time after 10:30. Soccer game.
Friend 2: I can any time before 10:30. House showing.
Friend 3: Piano lessons until 12.
Me: How about Saturday night instead–sunset?
Friend 5: We leave Saturday morning for the weekend, so I’m out. I can Friday night though!
Friend 2: Can’t Friday night. Dinner plans.
Me: How about Sunday morning then?
Friend 3: Birthday party. Can’t. I can after 2 though!
Friend 6: Can’t after 2. In-laws coming.
Me: CAN YOU ALL JUST MEET ME AT THE 24-HOUR TRUCK STOP ON 75 AT 2 AM ON MONDAY MORNING FOR A CUP OF COFFEE?

This needful, soul-filling, priceless thing–time with our friends–is so much harder to find with competing demands of our families and their schedules. But every time my friends and I fight to find the time, even if it’s enjoying a quick cup of coffee together after school drop-off, we admit we are restored in ways that make us better wives, better moms and stronger women. I recently escaped to the Bahamas with five other women for a wellness weekend of yoga, workshops and mediation, and do you know what every single woman said was her favorite part and the most important thing she’s taking home? The fullness we got from the time we spent talking to each other. It was a Deepak Chopra workshop, people, and GIRLFRIEND TIME BEAT OUT DEEPAK!

We women are good at that though–restoring, nurturing and empowering each other in the ways that we listen, support, relate, tell stories, admit vulnerabilities, and encourage with our “Me too”s and “It’s okay”s.

How do we keep these friendships strong? It’s less about finding time to be with our friends and more about making time.

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Last week, we made a friend mini vacation happen on the beach.

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We didn’t pack bags or stay overnight, and we all arrived at different times–fighting schedules, traffic and finding a parking spot–but we did get away long enough to have dinner together (tried those bacon deviled eggs), vent (this math curriculum!), laugh hard (“Heidi, tell that story again!”), get a bone break remedy (“Here, put these under your tongue”), be reminded that we’re not alone and that–though we might not need it now–there’s an army behind us, ready to show up at any time if we need it.

They come wearing cute shoes because our friends at Born Shoes are all about helping women find their vacation this season, and whether that’s sitting on the beach with friends or hiding from your kids in your own back yard for a 5-minute vacation with a box of Thin Mints and the new Us magazine, Born supports you…specifically your feet.

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We tried out some of their new spring styles–the Malena driving moccasin in fun spring color pops, the Havana heeled sandal (in the prettiest spring blush color!), the classic Bima, and the lace-up Dakar–and the verdict is? We love them. Comfortable, stylish and versatile–the perfect picks for your spring break suitcases.

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The best part about getting away with friends? You come home fuller, with more love to give.

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The Balance Bird

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In a fortunate twist of events that involves some beloved family and friends who seek inspiring adventures and a universe that sometimes delivers just the experiences we need, I found myself on a primitive island boat pulling up to an ashram in the Bahamas late Friday afternoon.

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A courtyard packed with tents and a serious daily itinerary that included mandatory meditation and “yoga church” participation quickly revealed this was the real deal, not the occasional Saturday morning class I’ve attended at our posh Naples studio with infused water and a curated boutique of “Spiritual Gangster” shirts and sports bras with elaborate webs of back straps.

A few minutes after arrival, I signed my name, committing to respecting ashram policies and held out my right hand for my bead string bracelet. “Now make an intention for the weekend,” the beautiful yogi instructed while she tied a knot at my wrist.

I whispered my intention to myself, thanked her, and then made a very purposeful decision before taking my bags to our room. I reached up and fumbled for the clasp on my necklace–the one I always wear when I travel without my kids, the one that holds their fingerprint charms close to my heart so I’m never without them–and I removed it.

If I was going to really listen to my own heartbeat over the weekend, I was going to need to remember that my heartbeat existed before the kids and that the foundation of my commitment to them is rooted in discipline and strength and love for myself. Because lately when I’m running and feel like stopping, I push myself to keep going by imagining I’m running for my kids–that somehow the proof of my love for them exists in another block of sprinting. And when I need willpower in its greatest form for anything in life, my first resort is to tap in to how much I love them and mold that love into some weird mind game incentive because it’s the strongest force I know. I don’t think that’s the healthiest way to find my own strength.

My friend texted me a few weeks ago after her yoga class. She has four kids and like so many of us spends her days making them breakfast, getting them off to school, e-mailing teachers, driving them to dance practice and hockey games and play dates. Worrying about how they’re absorbing the world, if she’s doing her job right, equipping them with life tools. Ever so slowly pushing them out of the nest while tickling their backs, kissing their foreheads and whispering life wishes for them as they fall asleep under sheets she had so much fun picking out for them. We text pictures and videos of our kids back and forth to each other and have built so much of our friendship on how similarly we mother…on how much alike we love.

“I just had the worst metaphor jump into my head for my life and what I feel like is happening. I was lying on my yoga mat and I thought”…

I waited for the end of her thought that arrived in a separate text a few seconds later.

…”I’m being erased.”

“There, now you have to deal with it,” she wrote. “Like the brother and sister in the photograph from ‘Back to the Future’, remember?”

Yes.

“With every day…I’m just going going going…gone,” she wrote. “How can we feel so invisible while making so many marks a day? I write all their shit in permanent marker,” she ended…

“…and I write mine in pencil.”

“We fight the eraser,” I texted back.

She didn’t need advice, and I had nothing to offer because I know how this works–like everything else in motherhood. Nobody has the balance game down pat. The weight of everything in life is constantly shifting; scales tip. There’s always either a little too much to the left or too much to the right, and we make it work. When they’re tipped too far, we’ll know–a cup of spilled milk puts us over the edge during the witching hour, a little voice speaks up in yoga class. We reevaluate our schedules, make room for date nights, get up early to meditate, run, read. We write in journals, plan a girl’s weekend, eat better, drink less. We feel good, clear, balanced, able to see our own stuff written in permanent marker…until we realize the demands of life slowly faded it to pencil again and we begin another cycle of weight redistribution.

I think moms are a lot like that magic balance bird toy. Have you seen it? It’s a plastic bird with a weighted body that magically balances on the tip of your finger from the point of its tiny beak. Dash has one and always laughs, positioning himself to catch the bird, waiting for it to fall…but it never does. Unlike objects of uniform shape, the center of gravity isn’t in the middle, and the wings are specifically designed–heavy enough and extended far enough–to withstand the weight of its back. Motherhood is as far from uniform shape as you can get–our unique situations and schedules and family circumstances in constant motion and the love we feel for everyone, an overpowering force. You know how the law of physics works for finding the center of gravity in non-uniform objects? Trial and error. Every day.

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The love we feel for our families is so deep, so complex, so intense, it’s only natural for it to tip us off balance sometimes. And then when you add the other things we think about–our work, our hurts, our future, our finances, our parents, our friends, our community, our world–it’s no wonder we’re able to get off the ground at all. But we’ve got wings that stretch far–farther than we can ever comprehend–to withstand the love and weight on our backs. So we fly.

Coincidentally, my mom instincts had me running after Dash the other day to keep him from walking into a parking lot, and I lost my balance. My foot snapped at the edge of a curb, and I fell and broke it. I’m off-kilter now for the next 6 weeks, finding new strength in my right side, learning ways to slow down.

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Trial and error–the very definition of motherhood. And yet still, we fly. Or clomp in a moon boot air cast.