Saturday, March 30

On a break

At times, the winters of our life need a little spring. I almost didn't take a break this year. Oh, but am I glad I did.

The kids and I ventured to visit the grandparents in Tennessee, and although it is not Costa Rica-hot right now like Scott is experiencing, we are enjoying a few luxuries previously unavailable to Wisconsinites.

Like grass. Seeing it for the first time in three months. Smelling freshly cut grass for the first time since October.

And we have been reintroduced to flowers. Color is blooming here.

I ran outside today in a t-shirt. I know ... you extra-hearty Northerners are OK doing this in 40-degree weather, but that's a no-go for me.

The sun is out on a fairly regular basis. Peyton is fishing; if you know him at all, you know he's happy.

My kids no longer have static in their hair. I can smell the humidity.

My parents are treating us like royalty, which means we eat good every night. I love meat again, at least the way Pappy cooks it on the grill.

And I have been reminded of something important: Even if we didn't have a place to go to escape the doldrums, it would have been vital to leave anyway. Even for a day. Even if the budget was tight. The change of scenery has woken us all from our long winter's nap.

And speaking of change of scenery ... this year we took a test-run of a cabin getaway in the Smokey's to see if we liked it.

Yep, we sure did.

We will be back. Who's in?

I hope your week was refreshing, as well. The snow is melting at home. This is a good start. Let the celebration of an event that brings our souls in harmony with His Love really bring Spring home to you.


Wednesday, March 20

Looking forward to ...

I know it was crazy.

Even as I was stepping into my leggings and fumbling in the closet for my shoes, every inch of me was screaming, Don't do this. Please. I wanted to give in to The Voice, so badly. But I had already given her many victories recently and she was getting cocky.

So I grabbed my music, the fuzziest gloves I could find, and my kid's ear warmers. I dropped Peyton off at karate, ignored all the What are you doing? stares, and bolted out the door for a run.

these barely carried me back to the karate studio today.

It was 15 degrees out. My nose nearly fell off. My fingertips were numb, my lungs in shock. I went as far as I could handle and when I stopped, I felt amazing. Not just because I stopped, but because I did it. Sometimes doing the crazy, who-would-attempt-that? things make you feel powerful. Like, dang-I-got-this powerful.

Feeling powerful makes me feel alive. And feeling alive makes me realize all the good things going on right now.

So here's what I'm looking forward to:

Warmer runs
Um, just because I had a moment in the cold doesn't mean I'm not ready to wear shorts again when I run. So ready, in fact, because I am training for a half-marathon in May with one of my best friends and her sister. Laurie was always a great athlete, and I always wanted to be. Now we get to run together. Super excited about that!

Getting the heck out of Dodge
Did I mention it was 15 degrees? Get out now. Headed to Tennessee for some family time, cabin living, great food, fishing, shopping, and help with the kids. Score.

Date night before getting out of Dodge
Scott is headed to Costa Rica with high-schoolers, so since we won't see each other for a bit we will be attempting a night out together sometime this weekend. To watch basketball, of course. (And eat!)

Seeing who will win the Family Brackets Competition
And speaking of basketball ... all four of us fill out bracket sheets for the NCAA tourney. Let me clarify now that none of us watch college basketball at any other time during the season. We can't even watch highlights because we no longer have ESPN (gasp!) But this is always so fun for our competitive selves - especially me since I have won these a few times. And yes, there are bets on the line.

sam finishing her brackets. she has wisconsin in the final four.
such a loyal gal.

New reads
Books arriving any day now from Amazon for my airplane and cabin reading over Spring Break. So, so ready. I don't read anything heavy and thought-provoking at night because my brain likes to be entertained and I am not much of a TV gal. So I am starting with Beautiful Creatures.

Eh, what can I say?

The entire month of April
You know why? Because we have a few fun things planned and everything else is unplanned. Open, except for fun. And while we have our busy moments, they will be manageable and balanced with a good dose of good times.

adirondack chairs getting put to use soon. i can feel it.

I hope your list of things you are looking forward to is three times this long. Enjoy and be blessed this coming week!

Monday, March 18

She did it

Don't you love when you see your kids grow right in front of your eyes?

I needed to see it this weekend. I didn't know how badly I needed it, but I did.

And she delivered.

In August 2011, my little Firecracker joined a local all-star cheer team. That was my first introduction to the cheer world, so I didn't know what to expect. That very first competition was an eye-opener. Intense. Loud. Sparkly. Rockin'. You know, all those things I am not. I didn't picture myself in this environment, but it was a perfect fit for Sam.

When you're a mom, you man-up and join the party.

She fell in love. She worked hard, learned a few new tricks, then moved up to the next level for the 2013 season.

two seasons of cheer.

But Sam started the season with complications. People have been telling Scott and I that age 10 is the "season of anxiety" for many girls. But for my girl, it has been intense x 1 million. I don't say that lightly. Without going into too many details, we have struggled.

Early in this season she had moments of tears after practice and moments of peace, but she seemed to lose some of the joy. She was hesitant to continue, but we explained that a commitment is a commitment, and we would see it through. I said this before I fully knew what this was costing her emotionally. And maybe if I had been more aware, I would have let her leave the team.

But I didn't. And I am so glad.

Because Sam and I both learned that hard work is sometimes painful. We learned that the greater the difficulty, the more sweet the success. We learned to overcome. We learned that acquiring new skills is hard, but executing them well is the epitome of joy.

And one of my favorite lessons came this weekend.

You see, when we started this way back in 2011, we wanted Sam to learn what it was like to be a part of a team. This was a major driving factor for us agreeing to let her try cheer. To work together to accomplish something great. To put aside differences to achieve an end goal where every teammate plays a critical role. With cheer, it's not just about being able to do a skill, it's about being able to do a skill beautifully. Everyone needs to do their part to make it happen.

In the past, Sam has been a solo act. She's extremely independent - a fact that will serve her well in life, but only when married with the ability to work well with others. There have been times this year I wondered how well she was accomplishing this, given her personal struggles. How much did she feel joined to this team she worked so hard to be a part of? 

And then this past Sunday, Sam came out with her teammates after their very last performance together. Ten times this season they wore those uniforms, exploded onto the performance floor, and gave it all they had. After this past weekend, five of the girls aged-out of the team and will be moving up next year. It was emotional for them.

And it was emotional for Sam. This girl, who I've never seen shed a tear over an experience ending, cried and said, "I don't want to leave this team. I don't want it to be over."


2012-2013 season. keep growing, girls. 

She got it. It's good to miss something that had such a huge impact. To mourn the changing of relationships. She's not just a solo act, but a girl who learned the unifying effects of teamwork.

Our choice to allow Sam to cheer has come with sacrifices for our family. That lifestyle choice is not for everyone; for awhile, I wasn't sure it was for me. But there will always be sacrifice on the path to growth as we parent these children and help them become who they were designed to be.

For this season of our life, that took the form of glittery bows, stunting in the pools many weekends, camaraderie with like-minded parents (moms, why don't I have photos of us?), and rockin' out the routines.

Cheer on, girl. You got this.

PS - I could have added a significant tangent to this post, but will save it for another day. It involves coaches and the HUGE sacrifice they make to pour into children. I know because I am married to one (volleyball, not cheer. But that would be something to see ...). If you don't coach, you can't imagine. It is life-consuming, but future-giving. Major thanks to those who have seen Sam's potential and guided her for the past two seasons - Amber, Zach, Steve, and Ari - and all the CW family.

Friday, March 15

No worries

I tend to flippantly use the phrase no worries in response to any number of scenarios. As in when a friend says, can we reschedule our run today? and I text back, no worries. Or a co-worker is late with an article for a newsletter. No worries.

Sometimes I mean it, sometimes I don't. At times, I don't know I didn't mean it until I realize I'm deep in anxious thought over the matter.

More often than I care to admit, I am worrying. If I am quiet, you can assume that 85% of the time I am over-thinking something. And many times I am not aware I am doing it. I knew this was a big problem when, recently, I stopped my talkative daughter in the car from sharing her long story because I couldn't think above it. I couldn't multi-task handling the worry-thoughts with being a good listener. Ouch.

Worry makes me tired. There will be times when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and see that bone-weary look in my eyes. They hide nothing. Just a glimpse of that tired soul scares me. Because I may not be physically tired, but emotionally spent, mentally drained. I am too young to feel that old.

This week, I happened to read the best-timed devotional ever in a new book I picked up (Jesus Calling. This is an official recommendation.) It's written from the perspective of Jesus talking directly to us. Especially liked this: "A life lived close to Me will never be dull or predictable. Expect each day to contain surprises! Resist your tendency to search for the easiest route through the day. Be willing to follow where I lead. No matter how steep or treacherous the path before you, the safest place to be is by My side."

Well, according to this, there is no room for worry. None. Because apparently the day is not up to me and will include twists and turns that I might not like. Some of you are already really good at acknowledging this; I'm always impressed by your ability to roll with the punches. Sure, I might belt out a hearty No worries! when I have to walk a path unplanned but I might be totally lying. Not blatantly lying, but more like lying to myself. In my head the wheels are already churning with worry even before it surfaces.

But what if those wheels just stopped.

And I didn't sweat the next car repair. I let a deadline pass without panic. Had confidence my daughter's day will go exactly as He has planned, even if there's trouble. Believed a decision was the best one I could make at the time. Was confident in my relationships. Was sure the schedule would work itself out.

Really, what do we have to worry about?

I loved the first part of the devotional, which said, "Try to view each day as an adventure carefully planned out by your Guide." It struck me that's the reason I started this blog - to find those daily adventures put in our path. I headed on this journey to abandon things like worry and over-planning.

So, here's what happened yesterday, the afternoon I read that little chapter. The sun finally peeked out after a strange morning of rain-snow and clouds. I ushered the kids outside. Peyton and I played football. Sam took to her scooter.

We may have been walking our cats around on leashes outside, but I don't really want to admit that.

Anyway - early in the week it had rained, then froze again. A sled outside had collected the water and formed a pretty slick ice sculpture that, when dumped out of the sled fully intact, looked like a surfboard. So. cool.

The kids went bananas. They posed with the ice-board. They propped it up and protected its base with snow. They slid little figurines down it, pretending they were snowboarding. At one point, I said, "Hey, I'll pay you $20 if you go get your bathing suit on and run around outside."

Now, it was about 30 degrees. There's still too much snow on the ground. Samantha is usually the one who takes me up on the wear-shorts-in-the-winter kind of dares, so I expected to pay to see her in her bikini. But from the corner, young Peyton - who hates being cold - piped up and said, "I'll do it! For $20!" 

Alrighty then. He ran up and tugged on his swim trunks on and swim shirt (he is never shirtless), and out he came to pose with the surfboard. Then, for good measure, I made him run around the house twice. After that, he decided he was warm enough to stay outside in that get-up for another 20 minutes.

hang 10 baby. surf's up, life is good.


That's what God delivered yesterday. It felt good to live in that moment, despite the deadlines closing in on me for evening activities. For 45 minutes, they didn't exist.

I have a feeling every moment is supposed to feel like that. Present. Rich, full, and fun. Not in our hands, but in His.

Can't wait to hear your adventures from the weekend.

Wednesday, March 13

The rude awakening

This has been quite an interesting season of eating for our family.

It started sometime in the fall and revved up significantly every weekend in January/February, thanks primarily to cheer competitions and volleyball tourneys where the typical fare includes pizza, nachos, ice cream, and free hotel breakfasts.

Along the way, we've picked up some bad habits, like eating larger portion sizes. One day last week, I finally became curious about the amount of calories in my "normal" portion size.

Holy. Smokin'. Toledo.

I feel incredibly naive. Mind-blowing for this poor girl.

I'm a visual learner, so it helped me to actually count out chips to document the tragedy. Let's take a look at a pictorial, shall we?

140 cal, 13 chips. For real? Before guacamole?
Before buffalo chicken dip? Unfair.
Also 140 cal, 1/3 cup. I wonder how many thirds I consumed in
one day with the last bag ...
Love me some butter in just about everything. But that little
tablespoon is 100 cal. Say it ain't so.
You see, I always knew I was pouring too much cereal into the
bowl, but I didn't know it was 2 portion sizes worth. Truth
be told, I usually pour more but I ran out for my test. Oops.
Ooh, a snack I can handle at 110 cal. Wonder what chocolate
would add to that count? I dream of sweet and salty.

So obviously I am not a diligent eater. I really like food so I don't over-think it. I would venture to say many of us eat like that. But now I am thinking about it -- not in a "I will never touch this food again" kind of way but in a "I don't want to be naive anymore" kind of way. Now if only my grumbling tummy will cooperate when I don't feed it the usual amount. The test is on.

On the flip side, here's the other problem: When I am training to run a race, I struggle with knowing how much more to eat to give me the most energy/recovery from long runs. Apparently there is a formula for this, but I've never been good at math. My formula goes something like this: I'm starving x look, there's a muffin! / hey, i ran today = eat.

I just eat, usually more often and usually whatever I want because it can be justified by a long run. This exercise has caused me to re-examine the quality of the calories I consume. For example, a trip to Potbelly's after an 8-miler may not be the best choice. I mean, once in awhile it is. Maybe even twice in a while, because I love it so. But if I want to achieve any sort of results, I should probably consider some vegetables.

And can I just say to those of you who have been more closely monitoring your portion sizes and calorie counts -- well done, friends! You are way more aware than I. And if I have cooked you dinner in my home lately, let me apologize for serving you high-calorie meals laden with butter.

At least you knew how much you should take, right?

Eat well, friends.

Monday, March 11

Holding on, letting go

The weekend snapshot:

homemade goodness from a friend; game night; rain, rain, rain;
sleepover; new project underway; peyton organizing his closet.

I love that last photo. Peyton took to cleaning his room and organizing his closet like he was going to get a bonus for doing so (he didn't. neither did I for that matter). A child after my own heart.

Both kids enjoyed shedding the burden of too much stuff this weekend, but I also discovered how difficult it can be to part with the little things we grip onto for unknown reasons. Watching each child carefully weigh the value of a small spongey dinosaur or a handmade beaded bracelet with a broken clasp opened my eyes to my own habits.

A little background: We've been trying to sell our house for the past two years, on and off, with no success (more on this in a future post).

After a flurry of showings in January, I was feeling overwhelmed. Our basement was still in recovery from Christmas, as was the kids' rooms. Clutter, clutter everywhere.

Then there was the issue of repairs. Our roof has a small leak (source to be detected when it actually gets a little warmer here), and some of the drywall in the garage needs to be replaced. OH and the fan vent on our water heater makes a noise so frightening it would scare the living daylights out of any prospective buyers. When the fan kicks on, it sounds like someone fired up a snowblower in the basement. (This noise stopped two weeks ago suddenly, and the fan was working like a charm again. Last night it reappeared and the cats jumped a mile out of fear when it did. I jumped a mile out of utter disappointment.)

We temporarily unlisted the house, hoping it would be for two weeks until I could clean out the junk - the easiest piece to tackle and most obvious to buyers.

Um, it's been five weeks now. Welcome to my warped reality.

But hey, great news to report: Over the weekend, I finally did it. I overhauled 3 closets and 2 rooms and lugged bags of garage sale bounty (1 of them already tagged!) to the basement.

And it felt Glorious. With a capital, underlined, bolded G.

Yeah, I know ... it's just cleaning. But somehow wiping out the accumulated junk of the past year(s) has made me feel free. Like I'm traveling this world with only the essentials, with nothing else to hold me down.

Scott and I have been ignoring the "how the heck will we move all this stuff" concern during the time we've had the house listed. One problem at a time. But it's nagged at the back of my mind for awhile now. Although I've always been one for pitching and selling unnecessary items, it often takes me a long time to part with certain things. I'm sure I will need them. I need to cover my bases. I will miss that item when it's gone. I know this is a fairly normal thought concept in many American households, but I wonder: if God provided an opportunity that allowed our family to pick up and go tomorrow, would it be that easy? Could I let all this stuff go? Would I try to take it with me ... and how would I choose? And what is it I think I need that He might not provide?

I wonder.

A weekend is as good of a time as any to ponder such thoughts since often we have time to take action on decisions made. So that's what we did. I like that we all made strides to release the material items from our grip. Still a long way to go, but wouldn't it be revolutionary to have a basement with nothing in it but the essentials?



Friday, March 8

Coming alive

What is it about the normal routine of life that feels so dull? Routines are comforting, but I often think they are very much in need of a shake-up. A spark. Just enough change to make you notice everything around you, rather than marching around to the tune of the clock from one task to the next.

Just enough to notice beauty like this on the way to school:

the frost-tipped remnants of the morning fog.

So what makes you notice life happening?

I've come to realize that I feel most alive when I'm creative and when I am executing said creation. When I am generating ideas and making them happen.

To clarify - I am not crafty, nor am I artsy. I have my moments but I lack the patience to make anything elaborate or detailed. I do, however, like to dabble. Experiment. And I might add, I am defining creative here as anything from attempting a new recipe with that one ingredient I always wanted to try ... to coming up with ideas for my kid's new bedroom ... to mapping out a new run in town. Different, new, exciting.

And again, the critical component here is completing the idea by actually doing it. How many ideas have I thought up that have never actually materialized? Hundreds. Thousands.

But every once in awhile, my resolve strengthens and I work an idea. Fail or succeed, it happens. And that is what makes me feel alive.

Like starting this blog, so I could write for fun again. Yes! (And many, many thanks for all your words of encouragement. Means so much!)

Recently, I completely shook up my weekly menu by making a collection of appetizers for dinner during the week. (And yes, you should try these bacon-wrapped potato bites).

why not, right? best weekday meal ever.

I was bored with my Pandora stations, so I found a few new ones. Loving Grace Potter and the Nocturnals right now. Rediscovered Gungor. Next up - seeking out summer tunes to complement a warm-up that is sure to happen soon.

I made a wreath for my door, because sometimes the things you pin on Pinterest should be tried, even if you don't know what you are doing. And the fact that I could create while also indulging in a season of Downton Abbey and a glass of wine felt like a luxury.

Our spirits feel so much more alive and engaged when we're doing that one thing we love. Even among the routine of life, there's room for those elements that bring a spark. 

Remind me of that once in awhile, won't you? 'Cause I so easily forget.

And speaking of reminders, don't forget to spring ahead this weekend. Later sunsets arriving soon to a back porch near you. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 6

Breaking through barriers

Yesterday I bundled into fuzzy socks to go to work. From home. Grateful that I didn’t have to fight slick roads and beltline traffic to make it home that afternoon.

Yes, another heaping pile of white down fell yesterday. Way back in December, we would all have been excited about that. But it’s March. So ... maybe we shouldn't even mention it, hmm?

Lately, I have been struck by this desire to "fight through." I've been faced with a few roadblocks in all sorts of life situations in recent months, and the message I keep hearing is to keep on keepin' on. Easier said than done some days, but I much prefer to move ahead inches than stand still until I can take leaps. Besides, I always feel better when I score a personal victory.

I've also been struck this week by this truth that life moves quickly and there are precious few days.

So we make the most of them. Even with the little things. Even when the unmentionable snow falls.

Like, yesterday, I drank way too much coffee from my favorite mug. With a favorite reminder.

many warm refills that day.

I took extra time to get the kids ready in the morning, OK with running late for once. Grateful for a morning that came without a fight.

When dinnertime rolled around, I entertained Little Man's suggestion that I dial Dad to bring home pizza. So I did - we need 1 pizza, I announced. Two pizzas, breadsticks, and package of chicken wings later, Peyton was proclaiming, "Dad is so great. I love him. I'm glad you married him." I guess Dad knows the way to a boy's heart.

As for me, I braved the roads and met a friend for dinner somewhere new-to-us, with a cozy atmosphere and a fried green tomato BLT that made me rethink how I will do all future BLTs. Take that snowy roadblocks.

rock star front-row parking. 

There are times in my life when I let the roadblocks provide an easy excuse to stay put. And there are times when I plow them over. More often, I give em a kick now and again until I slowly nudge them out of the way. Yesterday felt like that. And it was a good reminder - like the snow, roadblocks are temporary. I'm especially grateful the moment they disappear, and, with bright clarity, I'm finally able to see what I learned by facing them. 

Blue skies are promised for the next couple of days. Grateful for small strides. I hope there's sun in your world, too.

Monday, March 4

Birthing a blog

A dear friend of mine (and co-worker) likes to give people nicknames. At work once, she met a new employee and said, "Your name is Roger? I think we have enough of those here. Let's call you Larry instead."

And so we did. And still do. She could always get away with stuff like that.

When I was pregnant with my first, she started calling me "Schumama" - now I've adopted it as the name of my blog. Look what she's gotten away with again.

Besides her nicknaming talent, my friend also taught me to seek out fun where I am. When we first met,  I was an anxious, perfectionist mess taking myself too seriously in a new job. She wore Converse to work and led sing-a-longs from her cubicle. We were good for each other. Today, we still are. 'Cause I revert to my serious, worrisome self more often than I care to admit. I forget to live in the moment. I measure time and tasks against a self-determined efficiency quota. I make plans.

Then God surprises me with new plans.

I need a blog to hold me accountable to abandoning my over-planned self. The one who might miss the joy in a situation. The one who forgets to make her own fun.

And because I so very much love to write.

The last time I wrote a personal blog, I was recording moments in Haiti. Writing that blog was never work and always inspiring. I want to feel like that again. But you put yourself out there when you blog.  Serious Me doesn't much like that. But Fun Me reminds me to keep it real. The birth of this blog didn't take nine months, but two years of wondering if I had anything to say at all.

Fun Me said, "Just say it."

From this site, I'll document my family's journey and talk about the world from our little space in it. Stay tuned, friends new-and-old, close-and-far.