family · just write life · writing

What We Learned in DC

We celebrated my girls end of school this year in a really big way.

We skipped it.

Listen, when daddy has a conference in DC and the hotel is paid for, you seize opportunity and take flight.

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Literally. We took the big girls on a plane for the first time. They loved it. But then at the Air and Space Museum, Madelynne informed me she wasn’t interested in knowing how those planes were built because then she might know how they could crash.

Point taken.

She and I befriended our seat mate–the deputy chief of staff for a Nebraska senator–which secured us a personal tour of the Capitol. We’d been on the fence and hadn’t committed with our own congressman before the trip, but this worked out perfectly and was one of our favorite activities. Plus, we got to ride the secret trolley from the Russell Senate Building underground to the Capitol.

They were pretty impressed with the state of the Union that day.

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We were all a little worried when no one, not our politic friend or our taxi driver, had heard of our little budget hotel but turns out, the hotel got a new name recently. We stayed at The District (formerly Sunny) Hotel and although the reviews were not spectacular, we thought it was great. Our room was clean, it was an old apartment building turned hotel, so there was plenty of charm, and best of all? Continental breakfast and one block from the 7/11.

When we moved up from here to the swanky conference hotel, Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, the girls discovered The Corner Bakery and our food budget sighed. What is it with nicer hotels and fewer amenities? Well, the Hyatt did have a pool.

We indulged in the pool one afternoon after another attempt to see it all. By Tuesday night, when Joshua had to switch gears and be professional, we had seen the Capitol,  Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, MLK Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, World War II Memorial, Bureau of Engraving and Printing,the Natural History Museum, the Archives, the Smithsonian Castle, Arlington, the Native American Museum, the Holocaust Museum, and we’d gotten pretty good at navigating the metro.

My feet hurt. A lot. So did the girls but they didn’t complain.

Well, not too much.

While Joshua networked and talked business for the rest of the week, the girls and I caught everything else.

Well, we tried.

American History Museum and quote of the week: Mom, if Hillary wins will they put Bill’s tuxedo in the First Ladies dress exhibit?

American Gallery of Art where, after walking through the Hall of Presidential portraits, I was ashamed to discover how much of my history I’d forgotten . Oh, and we got to be part of a research experiment using our sense of smell to describe how a picture looks.

Our hands down favorite? Ford’s Theater. I booked us online passes that included the audio tour and one act play. Best. Decision. of. the. Week. They plugged up their little ears and wandered every inch of that museum. In fact, we had to come back after watching the play because they weren’t done. This exhibit is well worth the price of admission extras (regular admission is free) and while they told me everything they learned, I wasn’t accosted with thousands of questions that all started with “Why–”

Ten year olds named Annabelle have a lot of questions.

We rounded out our week with a night time stroll (i.e. Joshua couldn’t find another cab to take us back to the hotel) of all the monuments from Jefferson to FDR. That’s quite a walk in case you’re wondering. But along the bank of the Potomac, Joshua helped me formulate the outline for my flash fiction story, “For the Love of Lincoln.” You can read it in Splickety Love’s August issue, Love on Location.

On Friday, we rounded out our trip with a visit to the National Zoo. The girls fit in nicely with the animals.

All in all, I learned it’s best to do a trip like with without little ones and it’s priceless to have time to spend with the big kids who sometimes feel shafted by the antics of their siblings. And, even though they fight most of the time, they can keep it to a minimum.

In fact, they might even love one another.

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faith · family · motherhood · writing

In the Broken

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The little pink porcelain cross hung over her cradle. Strength it read. For me, more than her. I kept it in her keepsake box and rubbed it like a talisman more than once last year when all the unknowns piled up because of her little brain and inside my sleepless one.

She broke that cross the other day.

Now it sits in a corner of my kitchen counter, waiting for superglue or hot glue or some other miracle.

Last week Joshua repaired three broken toys and a decorative teapot Annabelle got at a yard sale.

And I’ve told you all about my peeling paint van that often needs more repairs than there are digits in the emergency fund.

Yesterday the little man tried to be helpful. He climbed onto the open dishwasher to unload the cups for his whiny sister and strung-out mama. Never mind that I have said DO NOT CLIMB IN THE DISHWASHER a ridiculous amount of times since he became mobile nearly three years ago.

He fell and used the top rack to break his fall.

So, yeah, my life is pretty much full of brokenness.


 

I had a friend tell me this week that–

brokenness can be beautiful because it’s in the fall our need for Jesus is most magnified.

And oh, how I need.

My husband traveled this week. Not a big deal, I know. He’s home more than he’s gone and when he’s here, he’s all in. For that I’m grateful.

But sometimes the timing of his trips and the timing of my sanity just don’t match up.

Broken.

He got the sobbing-don’t-ever-leave-me-and-don’t-ask-me-to-manage-the-budget-and-these-kids-are-too-much phone call yesterday while he was at the LAX airport.

In my defense, the threat of snow had closed school two hours early and I don’t know about yours, but for my kids, transitions are the hardest part of everyday. If I ever homeschool one reason will be because we get along better with less transitions.

This introduction of the girls into the space that is not usually theirs and was already full with my to-do list and my thought that if they were home they could at least do their chores, made for a harder than needed to be afternoon.

The dishwasher incident broke me.

And I cried in the closet and my eleven year old tried comforting me and said (this is wisdom, really), “Having a conversation with you is like that conversation I just read with Gale and Katniss. You know? When he gets mad at her because he thinks they’re running away together and she thinks they should save Peeta’s family too?”

Well, the night before they had tried reading Bible stories with me, so I guess she figured Hunger Games might work too.

It kind of did.

See, Katniss and Gale fought because they had different expectations.

And my expectations are not at all the same as my children’s.

They expect some attention, and a little freedom to turn flips on the trampoline, and a snack, of course.

I expect them to be excellent readers because I was a reading teacher (and I love reading). I expect them to not only help, but to do so cheerfully, without complaining ever (apparently I’m the only one allowed to complain). I expect them to get along and love each other and listen to me all the time.

I think I forgot they are children. And they are broken and sinful and selfish.

Just. Like. Me.

They are also imaginative and compassionate and patient with their crazy mama. They are loving and kind and generous. But, they do not always meet my expectations.

I wonder if I meet God’s?

I think, yes. I think He doesn’t expect anything more of me than to come, broken, kneeling in my closet, weeping, begging for a little calmer heart.

He expects me to let Him handle this.

He’s my glue miracle. And he’s in the business of repairing the broken.

 

Books · family · linkups · motherhood

Raising Grateful Kids (review and promise)

The very thing most parents long to give their kids— a grateful heart—is destroyed in our attempt to simultaneously give them the worldOn a rainy December Monday just before Christmas, I spent my “work hours” in the waiting room of a Honda dealership getting our infamous 2004 Odyssey fixed of all the recalls that had filled up our mailbox. And I told them to figure out what was wrong with our doors, change the oil, and give it a general inspection.

Needless to say, this was an all day process. Luckily my mom came to my rescue and we Christmas shopped and went out to lunch. Smack dab in the middle of my Panera Autumn Squash bread bowl, the service department called. All those recalls—airbags and starter switches—fixed free of charge. But they’d evaluated all our other… issues and those came with a $2500 price tag.

For a van they’d give us $500 on trade-in value.

We almost bought a new vehicle that afternoon. I had that moment of “this-is-ridiculous-and-it’s-not-safe” followed by the overwhelming truth: I really, really want a new van.

And I don’t want one because of the work this one needs (which we actually are getting done in stages for half the price at local mechanic shop). I want a new van for one primary reason—the recall I most want fixed, Honda won’t honor. The peeling paint.

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That’s a cosmetic issue. Not a safety factor.

My friends joke how much they love our van—they always know it’s me! And while I truly don’t believe anyone who knows and loves us judges us, I still have to swallow a whole heaping mouthful of pride every Sunday I park in the lot beside much nicer and shinier and newer vehicles. At Ingles, I duck my head in shame and make sarcastic comments about Honda when the bag boys bring out my groceries. I beat others to the punch when giving directions to our house—just pull in the drive with the paint peeling van!

Clearly, I’m really, really bothered by this. And I could raise my voice and shake my fist and fight a fight with corporates who don’t care (because I’ve tried); I can rage against God how unfair it is I always manage to pick the lemon of the group; I could just throw down the tax return on a new paint job and be done. But I won’t get to go to the beach this year or make another dent in our debt.

Truth is, while we do need a new van, it’s not a dire need. We can drive this one (and we intend to for one more year while we save). I can be grateful that it gets us everywhere we need to go, and I’m not devastated when Gus pokes a hole in his Chic-fil-A cup full of Sprite on the way home. (Seriously, every single time.)

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So one of those kids isn’t mine. But this van is big enough for all of mine plus a couple extras. And this is Gus just before he spiked a fever. Fun times.

But I’m convinced I’m entitled to a new van because this one, to be honest, just makes me look bad. And I’m so tired of looking bad.

Then my daughter tells me she needs new jeans. Because she only has one pair of jeggings and she needs more. Oh, and her shirts aren’t cute and can she go to camp this summer and when is she getting a new bike?

But she doesn’t actually need any of this. Which is what I say.

And you don’t need a new van, whispers that still small voice. I know what you need and when you need it, and I promise I will provide.

Unless my pride gets in the way first.

This last month, I joined with over 300 other bloggers and people of influence to read and generate interest in Kristen Welch’s new book, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. To be honest, I had to walk away from it early on because of this:

Entitlement didn’t start with my kids. It began with me. I entitled them because I was entitled. (p. 10)

Ouch.

Truth is, I can’t raise my kids to be something I’m not and grateful probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind when people describe me.

I complain. A lot.

I gripe. A lot.

I want things. A LOT.

But I have everything I need.

What I love most about Kristen’s voice in this book is how real she gets. She relates their mistakes and failures along with their successes and she humbles herself over and over to say, she knows she’s not always getting it right–but she knows there’s a better way.

There’s a better way to raise our kids than to just give them the world. Because this world is temporary and it is not our home. This world is harsh and it is not forgiving. This world is broken and we are called to heal.

And gratefulness starts the same place as entitlement–in my home, with me.

So that’s my review and here’s my promise:

If you buy this book, Kristen’s not going to tell you how to fix your kids. She’s going to give you some words to ponder and apply to yourself first. Then, when you’re ready she’ll give you some practical advice that will help you raise grateful kids and your own grateful heart.

I promise you won’t feel the same after.

If you read it (you can get it here on Amazon of course!), drop me a line! I’ll be posting some more thoughts with #raisinggratefulkids on my Facebook page. I’d love to have you join in the convo there, a little mini-book club for the late winter blahs…

and the days when raising kids is hard, hard, hard!

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Books · ePantry · faith · family · just write life · reflections · resolutions

Personality Tests, Surrender, and Dear Mr. Knightley

Why, yes that is a new header and logo.

Thank you to my sweet friend Merideth who blesses me with her talent.

Lately, I’ve been learning a few things about myself. Back in the spring the Splickety staff used the test at 16Personalities to discuss how different–and alike–we all are. I’ve realized for awhile now (pretty much ever since I became a mom) that I walk a line between extravert and introvert and this examination of my personality was pretty spot on.

According to the test, I’m an ENFP-T (the Campaigner)–really? I don’t much feel like a campaigner, but I am these things:

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There might be emphasis on turbulent.

View More: http://candiceholcomb.pass.us/al-wedding
This is my family. All my sisters and our one brother. And Jasper, the golden retriever. Because when parents of 7 kids become empty nesters, they need a dog who’s treated like a child.

The analysis says people with my personality type “tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle where everything is connected… through a prism of emotion, compassion and mysticism, and are always looking for a deeper meaning.”

Well, that’s pretty true. I dug pomegranate arils out the other day for a salad and then wrote a story describing it that was about more than just pomegranates.

“ENFPs will bring an energy that oftentimes thrusts them into the spotlight, held up by their peers as a leader and a guru – but this isn’t always where independence-loving ENFPs want to be. Worse still if they find themselves beset by the administrative tasks and routine maintenance that can accompany a leadership position.”

Ha, I don’t see myself as a ‘guru’ at anything but sometimes I think others do. At least the people who don’t see me falling apart as a wife and mom on a regular basis are always asking for my advice and opinion and help, especially now that I’m a published and contracted writer. I type that and then figure I sound like a snob. Trust me, I know very little but I am always happy to share that little. I have to humble myself everyday, especially when I edit, and google questions like, “In fiction should numbers be written out?” (Yes, in dialogue especially.)

My favorite part of that description is the part about “administrative tasks”. Please keep those away from me. The paperwork, data, charts, analysis–that’s what I hated about teaching. Just let me read books and lead discussions, already. The decision making and final calling–what I wasn’t good at when I coordinated MOPS. Just let me connect with moms. The find a cute image, schedule posts, and dissect page views of platform building? Ugh, I write 500 words and wish that was enough.

It’s nice to be validated. To realize that there’s nothing wrong with me for not being good at/enjoying those tasks. I just enjoy other tasks more. And I struggle with these time consumers because while I didn’t always find my strengths to be exact in this study, the weaknesses… well, those were unfortunately true.

ENFP personalities tend to have poor practical skills, difficulty focusing, overthink everything, get stressed easily, are highly emotional, and fiercely independent.

Ouch.

But the beauty of having your weaknesses pointed out (and mine have been shown to me with this test and the loving words of some kind friends) is that when I’m aware these are my tendencies, I can make a conscious effort to recognize when I’m being a crazed, anxious, difficult person and step back to examine the why. Which is helping me do something I’ve never done before–say no and guard the time I need. Because while I might have tipped the scales toward extravert, I also know the introvert rises up everyday and needs a little time of withdrawal.

That’s why I get up early and sit in the dim light and drink my first cup of coffee without a three year old baby in my lap. Then I study.

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Obviously this was not an early morning. But it was wedding morning.

Ever wonder what a personality test would say about Jesus? It’s comforting to me when I realize He too was misunderstood by those closest to him. In Mark 4, he’s teaching so many parables and then takes his disciples alone and aside and explains the deeper meaning, yet, still when they cross the Sea of Galilee that night and the storm blows up and He rebukes the waves they ask—”Who is this man?”

They didn’t really know him, not yet.

I’m paging though My Utmost for His Highest for probably the fifth time and this line yesterday, “We can only be used by God after we allow Him to show us the deep, hidden areas of our own character.” It’s when we see our own shortcomings that we can surrender to grace. I’m not so good at that (ahem, independent is another word for likes-to-do-things-my-own-way). Chambers goes on to say it is our pride that holds us back from understanding Christ’s work in us.

But I want to understand. So I’ve lain down a list that’s between me and Jesus of those areas in which I don’t surrender. Maybe you have one too? And maybe instead of being consumed with how others perceive me–or how I perceive myself–I can become consumed with knowing and understanding God so He can work in me—conform me to His image.

And speaking of surrender, that’s a major theme in Katherine Reay’s Dear Mr. Knightley which I finished just the other day.

Loved Dear Mr. Knightley—talk about introspective. Sam’s journey from hidden to found is delicate and though she appears fragile, we discover she’s a steel magnolia (trapped in Chicago). I learned I don’t really know Austen, so I’m adding Emma to my list (might read with Madelynne) and definitely Jane Eyre for a Bronte fix. This story is told in letters, which is unique, and at first I wondered how we’d really get the tale, but then I got lost in the first person narration. My only complaint was that she had to come out of it at the end (for justifiable and necessary reasons) but I hated losing Sam’s voice at that moment. Took me a few pages to feel we were still in her head. Which, the writer in me knows, is the trick of third person deep POV. Harder than one would imagine. So get this one if you like a good romance (not steamy but slow and savory) and appreciate good literature. Yes, I realize I just made romance sound like pot roast. But that’s the kind of story this is—wholesome and filling.

Oh, and if you’re interested I’m venturing over to Goodreads, so you can find me there if you want to talk books.

One more thing!

You can get some these goodies for free this week over at ePantry. I love ePantry. They send me items that make my daughter say, “I like to clean with the good-smelling spray.” Win-win.

She’s talking about that Meyer’s Multi-purpose spray. Favorite cleaning product EVER. I use it on everything and worry about nothing.

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The sweethearts at ePantry (y’all they write me handwritten notes) will send you a free Mrs. Meyer’s cleaning kit with a $20 purchase. To make it super simple, they’ll suggest a basket for you based on your answers to four simple questions. You can add/delete as you want/need but this is the easiest, cheapest, funnest way to freshen your January house. Just go here to sign up or here if you’re an existing customer. They’ll take care of the rest.

For example:

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Enjoy! I know I do, especially when the kids are cleaning and I’m reading. Sure, sometimes that happens.

What are you reading? Learning? Studying?

Linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee and the #TellHisStory crew today.

 

faith · family · motherhood

Coming Back to Life

I think I’ve just run out of steam.

Somehow we survived the last three months of Joshua’s work overload that included a college course in entrepreneurship for small businesses, two trips to Boston, and twice a week evening webinars.

Somehow we survived twice a week rehearsals followed by track practice followed by crockpot meals and pleas to just go to bed already because Mommy can’t be nice past 9 p.m.

Somehow we survived him chairing the Stewardship Committee at church the year a proposal is brought to spend 2.6 million dollars on building. Which meant on the nights he wasn’t online learning, he was Baptist committee discussing.

Somehow we survived nine straight days of four hour plus tech and dress rehearsals that culminated in four performances that had me crawling into bed well past my bedtime. Nights that prompted him to say, “I think I get why you’ve been so frustrated lately about me being gone.”

Those words? All I needed for Mother’s Day.

In the midst of it all, Madelynne was in a play at school. I drove Amelia to Physical Therapy once a week and down to Atlanta for the oncologist and over to the pediatrician for a well-child (ironic, huh?). Oh, and every Saturday we drove 50 miles or more to a track meet that lasted all flipping day.

Gus turned three and started wearing underwear and watering the flower beds. In the front yard. My neighbors just love me, I know. But since they have a Statue of Liberty in their front yard, I don’t think they have room to complain.

Yes, Lady Liberty can be viewed from my front porch. Small town Georgia never had so much class.

Then, in the midst of it all, I took an assistant editor position with the Splickety Publishing Group and a month later, the editor I worked under got promoted, so guess what I got?

Assistant removed from my title and an inbox that scared me so much I had to close the computer and walk away and eat a lot of chocolate.

So, we’ve been a little busy. A little overwhelmed. A lot tired.

But I held hands with starry-eyed teenagers last week who were readying for the last show of their spring musical and I told them thank you.

Thank you to Footloose and Splickety and Babson College and rec league track and Building Committees and birthday parties and the beginning of CSA season at Red Dust Ranch.

Because for the past three months, we haven’t just been those parents who have a child with a scary, unknown diagnosis.

We’ve just been parents with deadlines and schedules and lives.

I think we were “winter killed”–buried beneath the weight of frost and fear.

But spring brings revival. It’s hard work pushing back up and taking root and stretching for the sun.

I think we’re going to survive after all.