Dear Young Mom In the Summer…

Dear Young Mom In the Summer,

I know you might look us at moms with envy as we sit poolside finishing a good book while our kids play in the water.  You might wish you could actually sit on the bench and converse with another mom at the playground without having to chase your toddler everywhere.  Maybe you long for the day when your mornings and afternoons are not dictated by naps or potty training schedules.  Although you love family vacations, you don’t enjoy sharing a motel room with infants who want to start their day at 6:30 AM…or crazy toddlers who don’t want to go to sleep.

You want to roll your eyes whenever an older mom tells you how fast the years go by and before you know it your kids will all be working summer jobs…and you will miss them.  It’s hard to think like that when you’re covered in spit up and changing another stinky diaper.

Because my friend, in some ways it won’t get easier.

Yes, your kids will be able to dress themselves, play on their own, make their own lunches, swim without assistance from you, swing freely at the playground without needing a push, and riding their bike without training wheels.  That makes your summer days somewhat easier.

But you will enter a new world of sport schedules, piano lessons, friend issues, bullying issues, sibling rivalry, possible job issues, finances, discipline etc.  My point is there will always be SOMETHING.

If you are waiting for this magic moment, you might be waiting forever.

Whatever it takes, my friend strive for contentment in the role you have been assigned today.  In her book Calm My Anxious Heart, Linda Dillow says:

If we want to be women of contentment, we must choose to accept our portion, our assigned roles from God.  We must make the choice to dwell on the positive aspects of our role in life.  If we don’t, we’ll be discontent, always wanting something different from what we’ve been given. (65)

I’m not telling you to strap on a happy face and fake it.  It’s OK to get frustrated, angry, fatigued, and upset…I did plenty of crying when I was trying to juggle a preschooler, toddler, and infant.  But don’t live with your head so far off into the future stuck in a holding pattern that you miss the blessings of today.

Have you noticed how many people complain about the weather?  When the temperatures climb, it’s too hot.  When fall comes, it’s too cold.  It’s too rainy and then too snowy.  Start with the weather.  See God’s handiwork in the changing of seasons–the smell of the rain, the beauty of a thunderstorm, the pleasant feeling of a cool breeze and even the feeling of heat on your skin.

Stop looking at what God has given others.  While you may wish you were the mom with the elementary kids, she may miss your days of staying home with a baby and toddler.  Instead of carting her kids to swim lessons and play dates.

So hang in there.  Find one or two blessings each day and savor them.  This is the day that the Lord has made.  Can we rejoice and be glad in it?

Coast - With Derek

Week #6: Pool, pool, and more pool

I cannot post any photos from this past week because my camera is currently in Philadelphia where my husband and oldest are.  They are on a one week mission trip with others from our church.  It is very strange having three of us in the house…this is the longest I have been apart from my 8 year old.  

Last week started out in high temperatures and a surge of heat.  While everyone likes to complain about it, I welcomed it with open arms.  It reminds me of the childhood summers of Indiana and Michigan.  In Oregon we have little humidity so nights are comfortable for sleeping and mornings are cool for outdoor activities.  But now it’s the end of the week…technically the beginning of next week…and it feels like fall outside.  Cool temperatures and even rain predicted this week.  Can we have the heat back?

Last summer was the final summer of the backyard kiddie pool.  Then when my son decided to put a metal fence pole in the kiddie pool, it sprung a leak and the summer of the kiddie pool ended earlier than planned


I always imagined summer as a time to sit around the pool with kids. When we moved here, I asked about options for swimming and someone said, “We just don’t have it here.  There aren’t any natural swimming holes or public pools.”

So when the private pool down the street where my kids have taken lessons offered one month memberships, I seized the opportunity.  Since it’s 30 days, we’re milking it for what it’s worth and going every single day.  There are not a lot of activities my kids can do for over two hours and not get sick of it.  Friends of ours from my kid’s school got the same membership.  So my kids have friends to swim with and the adults can converse and hang out together.  My son is getting way more comfortable in the water with all the extra practice and swimming more without arm floats.  

We also picked blueberries and peaches last week.  I have made blueberry topping for pancakes, blueberry bread, blueberry muffins, blueberry parfaits and peach/blueberry smoothies.  Now I need to figure out what to do about the seven zucchini plants (and yes, I’ve gotten several “Why did you plant so many?” remarks) that are producing lots of zucchini.  There is only so much zucchini bread and muffins you can make. 

Yes I am ignoring every single Back to School sale and not downloading the school supply list because I am not ready to plan for the fall yet.


Busy Moms: Are We Really Out of Time?


In the past year or two I have asked myself the following question:

 Are moms more busy than they were a generation ago?  And if they are why?

After I read Bowling Alone by Robert D Putnam, I learned that people actually have gained MORE leisure time since the 1960′s NOT less.  This is based on time diaries and research.  As I shared this with a mom friend her response was:

“Where is this all this time?  When is it all going to get done?”

Hmmm…I didn’t have a great answer.

This spring I read Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte.  Schulte begins her book with some of the same questions I had. As I read further into this book, my emotions were rattled and I began to ask myself some deep heartfelt questions.

Why are our days so FILLED? Do I have to live this?   Why do you walk into a mom’s group and everyone is chatting about how busy they are?  It’s almost like we are “one-upping” one another.

Schulte says:

It’s about showing status.  That if you’re busy, you’re important.  You’re leading a full and worthy life.  There’s a real ‘busier than thou’ attitude, that if you’re not as busy as the Joneses, you’d better get cracking.”  (26)

What if you walked into a mom’s group and shared how you have very little on your plate or talk about the extended leisure time you spent with your kids or your spouse or by yourself?  You would get sarcasm like “Must be nice” comments or “Wow, I wish I had that kind of extra time.”

Have you noticed how many moms put on their Facebook status all the things they have to do today or how stressed out they are?  Somehow I question if we get the same kind of support from Facebook that we receive from face to face relationships we don’t have time for.

But the scarier question is what is our high stress levels doing to us?  And worse to our spouses and our kids?  Consider this study:

“For years, Suniya Luthar, a psychologist at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and her colleagues have been tracking groups of children, from both the impoverished inner city and the affluent suburbs of New York City.  What she found came as a shock:  Affluent kids are two to three times more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and high levels of distress than kids living in harsh, urban poverty.  And wealthy kids were more likely to use drugs and alchohol.”


I realized answering the “Why are we so busy question” does not have a clear cut a+b=c answer.  There are various reasons and these are some I discovered.

Overscheduling Our Kids

When I was a kid, the vast majority of the neighborhood children on my street played soccer.  And we all played soccer for the same soccer association because it was the only one that existed.  Many of us did not start playing on a team until around 3rd or 4th grade.  Now there are many more options for activities, traveling teams, club sports, and starting as early as age 3.  Children are burning out at younger ages.  Schutle says:

“Research shows that encouraging kids to participate in activities they like is important, but cramming more stuff onto the schedule is not better.  And there’s good evidence that it makes things worse.”

This was our first year of me working almost full time.  Looking back over the year we did OK scheduling our lives, but we made the mistake of over scheduling our oldest.  I am not too hard on myself because it’s a learning process for us.  But it came to mind one day when after basketball practice she said, “I just want to go home and play with my Lego friends. That’s what I have wanted to do all day.”  I realized she was not getting that time “to play.”  Playtime is extremely important.  Kids learn to problem solve, work out their feelings, and use their imagination in their play.  Watch or listen to your children play–it’s fascinating.

So I asked some moms who had kids college aged and young adult children if I should be signing my young kids up for multiple activities.  Was all this worth it?  I got a resounding, “No” and a “Wait until junior high or early high school” and “Don’t succumb to the pressure even if it’s the cultural norm.”  I told them my idea of doing zero activities this summer except for things we can do together like running at the track together, bike rides at the park, and swimming together in the local pool.  I said we would do a week or two swim lessons, but not until the end of the summer.  I wanted rest, regroup, ample hours of the day “to play.”  Honestly it has been the best summer ever…and I feel more connected to my kids than I ever have.

We don’t allow ourselves leisure

Schulte says:  

“As I began to think more about leisure time, I realized that I kept putting it off, like I would reach some tipping point…As if leisure was something I needed to earn.”

We moms think we can sit and read a book or go for a walk once the laundry is caught up or the closet is organized or the backyard is weeded.  But the truth is we are never caught up.  Ever.

Sometimes leisure itself is overwhelming because we don’t rest enough or get out and play.  I had a mom tell me she rarely goes out without her kids because she does not how to act.  She hardly knows who she is apart from her kids.  Another mom shared with me she doesn’t feel like she can leave.  Everyone including her husband is dependent on her to clean, get ready for the next day, and put children to bed.  Before you blame the husbands, a man shared with me:  “I wish she would go out more.  I encourage her but she always backs out at the last minute because she’d rather stay home because she’s too tired.”

We live in a Pinterest world and we don’t measure up

Consider this article Is Your Busy Season Becoming a Lifetime? from The Gospel Coalition written by Melissa Martin:

You throw a party to announce you’re expecting, a gender reveal party, a minimum of three baby showers, all graced with perfectly handcrafted decorations to capture your theme. Finally, the birth. Newborn, three-month, six-month, and twelve-month professional photo shoots. Year one birthday party? That was already planned before the kid was even born.

When toddler season arrives, craft days, themed play dates, spectacular birthdays, and multiple sport seasons will be carefully planned, then documented on Facebook, pinned on Pinterest, and joyfully tweeted for other mothers to follow, admire, and emulate.

Hear me when I say that none of those things is in and of themselves wrong or harmful. But I would like to pose the question: Is it possible that all of this work contributes not only to a dangerously child-centered home, but also to a season of life that simply never ends?


Kids love the simple.  They really do.  Some of my kid’s best crafts have been just throwing a bunch of recycleables, glue, markers, and crayons on the table and saying, “Go.”  Some of the best outings are to local parks.  I love hiking with my kids and one of the best perks is that it’s free! Pull out board games on a Sunday afternoon.  Make your own pizza and watch a movie.  Enjoy those moments for what they are.  Of course there is room to share your life with others, but don’t feel like you have to post everything on Facebook or Twitter.  Some moments are best left shared with the ones we love and savored as that alone.

Our world is not busier…it’s just moving faster

When I took my youth group to an amusement park many years ago, I vividly remember enjoying the train ride that circled around the park.  I lazily relaxed on my seat and watched park goers getting in line for rides or grabbing snacks at the concession stands.  I was at peace and I stayed on the train for one more ride.  Don’t get me wrong–I loved the fast thrill seeking roller coasters and went on them several times.  Your focus is different on the thrill rides with the fast paced dips and turns and adrenaline rush.  Sometimes I think we as moms are trying to make rational decision, have conversations with our kids, and get things crossed off our to-do list when we are riding the roller coaster versus the train.  And technology makes it worse.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a regular Facebook user, I check my e-mail, and I watch TV.  There was an afternoon this year I had five kids running around the house wanting to eat lunch, a dishwasher that needed to be emptied, and my son asking questions about what we were doing later that day.  I made the mistake of quick checking my e-mail and saw a message from someone I was writing an article about.  Even though it wasn’t an emergency I felt like I could quick respond.  But with the noise and the kids running around everywhere, I felt edgy and frustrated.  I got impatient with my son who I felt was asking questions that were irrelevant to our immediate situation.

Those who are not stay at home moms and not working moms, but work a paid job at home like myself need to compartmentalize our life.  Let work time be work time. Let computer time be computer time. Check e-mail, respond to Facebook posts when you’re free from distractions. If you try to do it all at once you’re doing very little effectively.  If you’re never free from distractions teach your kids to respect your work time.  If they are too little to under that, utilize times when they are sleeping or watching a short TV show.  Kids can play on their own without you needing to intervene.  They really can.  And it’s good for them too.

Have times in the day the computer is off, or the phone is kept in another room, or Facebook is unopened.  You’d be surprised how much easier it is to breathe and your life feels more in order.

Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day that the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.”  God gave you this day.  How are you using it?  Are you moving so fast that you are missing out on what is important?  Are you wasting your energy on being Super Mom when your kids simply just want “you?”  Are giving into distractions that are keeping you from living this beautiful day He’s given you?  Take a long hard look at your schedule and make changes if you need to.  It’s never too late.

*Schulte and Putnam both talk about time diaries.  They really show you how you are spending your time and you notice you have more leisure time that you thought.  I will post some of my own time diaries in the future, although my summer time diary is completely different than the school year.


Just another daily conversation in my world…

While listening to Tom Petty’s Free Falling:

6 year old:  Mom, why does he say he’s a bad boy?

Me:  Because he broke up with his girlfriend?

6 year old:  What does “broke up with your girlfriend” mean?

Me:  It means he ended the relationship.  Do you know what that means?

6 year old:  No.

8 year old:  It means they were boyfriend and girlfriend and now they aren’t.  So they leave each other.

6 year old:  They eat each other?

Me:  No.  No quite.

8 year old:  Yeah they do.  Like this. (grabs his hand)  Chomp.

Week #5: Water and Lemonade Stands

Can I just say how much I love summer?  I love swimming with my kids.

IMG_1144Last week Monday my friend invited us over to swim in their lake.  Because we all love the water, we cannot turn that kind of invitation down.  This is the same lake I trained for my triathlon on.

IMG_1150The water and warm temperatures were perfect.  We had hot dogs over the fire afterwards and smores.

On Tuesday my husband had to do a visit in Silverton so we came along.  We swam at the Silverton Reservoir where I also did a few training swims for my triathlon.

IMG_1154Because it is mostly a fishing area, we had to be very careful about fish hooks and glass.  The kids had to swim in their shoes.

IMG_1160There was a little place to jump off the bank into the water.

??????????????????????????????? I even got a training swim in.

I get a little more concerned with swimming with my kids in the open water.  Even thought my oldest is an excellent swimmer for an eight year old, I still have her wear a life jacket.  We’ve had a large number of drownings in the area the past couple weeks.  Many of our lakes and rivers have not warmed up yet and people don’t expect the cold temperatures.  Our swim areas tend to be more rustic and not as user friendly as the Midwest beaches I grew up going to.  You have to be cautious about drop-offs, rocks, and currents.

On Wednesday we met friends at a local park and on Thursday we relaxed at home.  I did not take any pictures those two days.

On Friday the kids had their annual lemonade stand for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

IMG_1181They had it from 4 PM to just after 5 and got lots of customers.  Everyone was coming home from work.  We also made M & M cookies.

IMG_1179I race for Prostate Cancer awareness because my grandpa passed away from it in 1989 when I was in junior high.  My dad is a survivor.

IMG_1183 Friday night we saw the most beautiful sunset.

Saturday was my triathlon. Sunday we had thunderstorms all day.  For us thunderstorms are somewhat of a treat because we rarely get them.  We have had abnormal humidity this summer and high temperatures.  Some complain about the heat, but I kind of like it.  It makes it feel more like summer.



I Survived the Hagg Lake Triathlon

Triathlon is an amazing sport because you do not put continuous strain on the same muscles.  Swimming, biking, and running all work different parts of your body thus preventing overuse and even worse…injury.

The challenge for the newbie triathletes like myself is was what to focus on.  If I did not have much of a life, I would run, bike, swim, lift weights, and do yoga twice a week.  Being a mom of three and not wanting to wake up at 4:30 AM every single morning and feeling ready for bed at 8:30 PM when the sun hasn’t fully gone down, I can only focus on one or two areas.  I chose open water swimming.


After nearly crashing head on into a dock last summer and literally swimming in circles, I knew I had to tackle this.  I had the wet suit (bought super cheap on ebay), the nice goggles (Mother’s Day gift), and access to a private lake.  After several practice swims this spring and summer, I knew I was ready.  A week before my triathlon, I swam in my friend’s lake and did not fasten my wet suit properly.  I felt something dragging and rubbing against my neck, but ignored it.

IMG_1153The next morning I woke up with a chafed neck.  My husband looked at it and had the nice response of:  “Woa it looks really really bad.” Thanks. And it hurt like a neck injury.  I could not fully turn my neck to the right without pain.  Thankfully chafing heals quickly and by Saturday morning (the morning of my race) it did not hurt anymore.

I drove to Hagg Lake and left my house at 5:15 AM.  I printed out directions from Map Quest, from the race website, hand wrote directions, and programmed the GPS.  Obsessive?  Probably.  I almost missed the start of the Portland Marathon in 2006 because we were overconfident we could find the starting line in downtown Portland having only lived in Oregon one month.  Never, ever again.  I can still feel the panic.

I signed up for the “tri-it tri” which is for the novice triathletes who are first timers.  We swim 1/4 mile while the sprint triathletes swim 1/2 mile.  However we bike the same 12 miles and run 3.1 miles. I found out quite a few of my tri-it competitors were not first timers–they were just scared to swim 1/2 mile.  I cannot say I blame them.

All we had to was swim to a green buoy, swim across to another green buoy and then swim back to shore.  They gave us the instructions like four times which I was very thankful for–I think I need them that many times before it sticks.

We were the final wave of swimmers.  When the gun went off it was a big crowd of people all swimming towards the buoy.  I kept bumping into people and finally found a spot where I could push forward.  At one point I looked back and there was hardly anyone behind me.  Oh well–my goal was to swim open water not get first place.  My anti-fog goggles fogged up the entire time but I could look up and see the green buoys.

I made it out of the water and headed up to transition.  I’ve learned the art of transition and had all my items laid out in the order I put them on.  This would be my first triathlon biking in clips–the last two I wore regular shoes and biked on the clips (which is probably more dangerous because there is very little pedal–but I felt safer).  Running with the bike in clips is challenging and hopping on the bike and clipping in is nerve wracking, but I made it.

The best place to eat and drink is on the bike. I learned that on a Triathlon 101 video.  I taped a packet of peanut butter gu to my frame.  I ripped it off immediately and some of the gu got all over my fingers which got on my handle bars thus creating a sticky mess.  And what I am supposed to with the empty packet?  The video never said.  I threw it to the side of road afraid I was going to get yelled at for littering.

Then I made Rookie Mistake #1.  I grab the bottle of Gatorade, drink it, reach to put it back in the water bottle holder…and miss.  It goes rolling down the road settling in the middle of the bike course.  There is a whole slew of bikes coming.  Do I leave it?  Do I stop and get it?  Because I am such a cheap skate and it’s my favorite water bottle, I stop and almost forget to clip out which would have sent me crashing on the bike course thus creating another barrier.  I grab the water bottle just as bikers are coming and I yell, “Sorry just getting my water bottle,” feeling like a total dork.  Later on the course I saw someone’s water bottle to the side of that road so I wasn’t the only dork.

That was the least of my worries.  My friend told me this course is really hilly.  No problem.  I bike on hills.  “No, like people actually walked their bikes up the hill.”  Oh come on–how bad can it be?  Wow!  The uphills were massive.  I actually cried (thankfully not too loud) on the last hill.  But it wasn’t just the uphill it was the downhill too.  I am terrified of going at full speed down those hills.  I see myself wiping out or crashing into someone.  I know I shouldn’t, but I still ride the brake.

It doesn’t help I did crash my bike on a hill in high school and messed up my face–and blacked out.  I don’t remember falling.  I remember seeing a kid in the road and the next thing I remember is being in the bathroom wiping up the blood streaming from my face.  It also doesn’t help an elite triathlete who has given me advice and swims at the same pool as me had a bad crash a couple weeks ago.  I was so grateful I made it and I didn’t have to stop.  I just kept climbing up the hills.  I was proud of my orange road bike that has nice low gears for climbing.

It was a relief to get back to transition and strap on my running shoes.  Running–I can do this!  Then I made Rookie Mistake #2.  I pinned my number to my biking shirt which I was wearing over my tri suit.  I didn’t want to wear my biking shirt in the run because it was getting very hot out.  So I had to unpin the number and re pin in to my tri top.  I had to choose  running in layers when the temp is getting to the 80′s or get the worst transition time.  I chose the latter and yes, I had the worst transition time of all the tri-it triathletes.  But at least I was comfortable on the run.

The running course was partially trail, partially road, and a few rolling hills–pretty normal.  My time was about 9 minutes more than what I normally get on a 5K.  I had to take a few walk breaks because that bike ride nearly wiped me out.

My final time:  1:49:45.  Of the 21 tri-it triathletes, I got 8th place.  Of the women I got 5th.  Of my age group I got first (ha ha–there were only two of us).   Not bad!

What’s next?  I have no idea.  Probably no triathlons anytime soon and that isn’t because I don’t want to do another one.  It’s more of a scheduling and cost reason.  But maybe another open water one in the future?  Lord willing, I’d love to do it again.  And have my training focus on bicycling.


Week #4 4th of July Week!

It was 4th of July week and it started out with temperatures climbing into the 90′s.  So that meant cooling off at West Bennet Park.

IMG_1099The kids love the spray ground which is located right next to the playground.  So they can easily run back and forth.

IMG_1101Some silly kid (not one of mine) got this bright idea to stick a towel in the drain clogging all the water thus creating a wading pool.  Not a bad idea, really.

IMG_1103The beautiful thing about Oregon summers is that its gets hot, but it doesn’t stay hot all day.  A breeze and cooler temperatures come in the evening.  So the oldest and I drove to Keizer where we biked along one of the few bike paths (we really need more!) in our town.  It’s a small 3-4 mile stretch that goes along the Salem Parkway, but you don’t have to deal with traffic and many intersections.  I love it that we can now bike together.

IMG_1108 On Tuesday we cooled off in the comforts of the library.  They had an afternoon transportation crafts session.  I am really trying to stay on top of summer reading.  I failed the last two summers.  :(

IMG_1111 On Wednesday morning the kids all decided to play My Little Pony together and wanted a group photo of all the ponies.  Two of them are my ponies from when I was little–unfortunately one is tailless.

IMG_1115Somehow Batman and the Joker were included the ponies activities…which works when you have a boy and two girls.  I LOVE watching my kids play together–LOVE listening to them making up stories.

IMG_1116 Yesterday was the 4th of July–one of my favorite holidays.  For the past three years we have gone to the Independence-Monmouth Parade.  We sat closer to Independence like last year.  Thankfully this year they did not run out of candy until they got to us.

IMG_1119 The kids wanted to wear red, white, and blue bandanas.  Which was great because it protected their heads from sunburn.

IMG_1131Our original plan was to go to our friend’s house after the parade and spend the rest of the afternoon and early evening there.  They always put on a fabulous 4th of July celebration.  Due to some unfortunate sickness, they had to cancel.  We had friends come to us last minute and we set up the slip and slide.  We had a nice outdoor dinner with them.  Then just our family headed downtown for the fireworks–the first ever 4th of July we all went to a fireworks show as a family.  I had not been to a fireworks show since 2006!  This is a picture of everyone standing for the National Anthem.

IMG_1126We got there early enough so we did not have to fight for parking spaces.  So we had time to read stories.

IMG_1128And play Uno.

IMG_1133And dance to music from a local band.

IMG_1137And enjoy fireworks!!

The kids did fine with the change of plans and all in all had a great 4th of July.

Next week is supposed to be HOT again.  We don’t have as much planned, but I am sure we will find plenty to do to keep us busy.