Monday, May 27, 2013

preschool to prom

i mentioned in my last post that we've been a little busy this month with activities ranging from a preschool graduation to a high school prom.  and that was no exaggeration.  i can pretend it's all really hard...or i can tell you the truth -- it's all really good. sure it might be challenging at times to switch gears from polka dotted preschool dresses to elegant prom night apparel.  but it is also a lot of fun.  i love that God has given me such a stretch.  i don't know if i'd go so far as to say it keeps me young...but it certainly keeps me on my knees. it keeps things in perspective.  and most of all,  it keeps me grateful.

and let me tell you, a good bit of gratitude and a healthy dose of perspective is greatly needed when your daughter starts talking prom -- or "formal" as emily's school calls it.  it is easy to get swept away with all the hoop-a-la of hair and makeup and jewelry and shoes and the dress -- oh the dress!  this dress she is wearing required us to stand in line at a store in the mall for almost an hour waiting for a changing room.  i kid you not.  apparently the weekend we went shopping was open season on prom dresses. and every 17 and 18 year old girl in minnesota was out hunting.  i have never, and i mean never, waited an hour for a dressing room for anything.  but what's a girl (and her mother) supposed to do when (because of a busy volleyball tournament schedule) they have exactly one weekend to figure it all out?  we spent an entire saturday going from place to place.  keep in mind we are new in town.  we didn't exactly know the best places to find formal dresses.  i was doing everything in my power to avoid the awful mall of america.  but at the end of the day, that's exactly where we were.

last october i posted a piece about my first trip to the mall of america. and you might remember though it ended with a great moment, it wasn't exactly the most stellar mall experience starting out. the mall of america and the mcnatt family does not have a terrific track record. (mall of america post).

so here we were in this insane mall with a gagillion other girls clawing and clamoring for the perfect prom dress.  girls with their girlfriends and girls with their boyfriends and girls dragging dazed and desperate looking mothers behind them.  we waited an hour in line to try on this dress and thankfully (i mean THANKFULLY) em and i both agreed it was "the one."  when your 17 year old daughter says yes to the dress (especially after waiting an hour for it) the heavens open wide, angelic voices sing in jubilation and the light suddenly shines softer -- at least for mother.  all we needed was a starbucks to refuel and we were out of there!  em started to doubt her choice and i cut her off quickly, "no. no. no. it's lovely.  it's perfect. we're done. get in the car. let's go!" i felt my foot leaning hard into the gas pedal as we flew out of the monster of america's parking garage.

now all we had left to figure out was her hairstyle and makeup and nails and shoes and jewelry and clutch and boutineer....

okay, so that was the prom dress.  the dress bella is wearing i happened to pick up at nordstrom rack on sale while i was making a return. i saw it.  i grabbed it.  and i was gone in less than 5 minutes.  there was no deliberation. there was no big decision. there was no hour wait for a dressing room.  there was nothing but a polka dotted dress in a bag and a satisfied and calm customer.

see what i mean about perspective?

i think both girls looked lovely.  i wouldn't trade the preschool thing and i wouldn't trade the prom thing.  i am thankful i get to do both.  and as much as i might loathe the mall of america, i wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else than by emily's side while she was trying on dresses. sometimes i think about that.  i think about when i was diagnosed with cancer and i had those hard nights of not knowing how serious it was.  i remember the incredible fear while wondering if i might miss these kinds of moments. that kind of fear changes you. i am not saying i embrace every big and little thing perfectly now, but i am at least more aware of how fleeting time fleeting life can be -- how precious. and truly, we don't need cancer to spell it out.  i look at my oldest daughter and i can't believe how quickly she went from her preschool years to her prom date.  she looks too grown up, doesn't she?  it's what happens. people warned me of this way back when.  but you don't really believe it until it's your daughter or your son.  your child standing taller and more elegant than you ever were at that same age.  and it's one more reminder to grab hold of life right where we are.  in the sweetness of preschool or the drama of's all good. it's all a gift.

and whether our girls wear patent leather mary janes or gold, high heeled sandals, it's a parents' privilege to walk right alongside them.  to sometimes hold their dresses, to sometimes hold their hands, and always, to love them through the small and big steps of their journey.


those two events also kept my camera busy.  i'm including a few photos.  we had the pre-formal pictures for eight couples (and their parents) in our yard...also did the preschool photo shoot there with bella. same setting, different day. i deliberately alternated the pictures below...because that's exactly how i feel most days!

emily and some of her guy friends -- before the other girls arrived!

our bella mouse!

em and her date, kevin. clearly having some fun!

the whole gang!

pleased as punch!

em and her good friend, camille -- beautiful!

bella insisted on including minne in some of her pictures.

these girls didn't seem quite so interested in including minne!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

the blessing of balance

i've been a little quiet here on the blog these past few weeks.  it's kind of busy in my house right now.  i mean it's always kind of busy, but this last, most recent, move has taken busy and busted it wide open.  the month of may is just plain crazy for anyone with school aged children, i wouldn't necessarily suggest it as the prime month for changing homes.  we've had everything going on from prom to preschool graduation this past week.  and, oh those end-of-the-year-items...good grief! what mother doesn't need an assistant to wrap up a school year and head into summer?  there's just a lot to do outside of the home and there sure as heck was a lot to do inside of this home -- this month. this merry month of may.  may-hem!

it's like everywhere i turn there's something to do.  something or someone calling my name.  something to address, to fix, to clean, to paint, to pick up, to put down, to organize, to order, to

too much, i tell you... too, too much.

and not enough hours to get it all done. (so i say).  too little margin in life right now. (so i believe).

and i can tell myself that it's only a season...i can tell myself a lot of things.  but, i know it's wrong.  life isn't meant to be lived racing around.  it's not meant to be jamming it all in and juggling it all up.  i know that deep in my gut, and yet... and yet...and yet... i can't seem to slow the wheels.  they spin and i spin and we all spin.

round and round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows...

and then in the middle of all that spinning last week, i look out into the woods and i find this:

and there i am with paint brush in one hand, and pot holder in the other, and i think to myself: now that's good stuff.  two kids hanging out on a sunny afternoon in the their hammocks out in the woods.  brother and sister near the creek, near the the place where we stop and come together and rest.  a chance to renew. the way it was intended. the way sunny afternoons should be spent. yes, they had chores to do and homework to finish -- i knew that.  i knew they were in a sense dodging some of the things they had to do...things they were supposed to do.  but there wasn't anything in me which was going to march out there and tell them that.  nope.

well, i did march out there, but you know why...

this little scene is a good reminder for me.  maybe a sweet reprimand, even.  i needed to put down the to do list and pick up a some extra time to just hang out.  hang in a hammock out in the woods or hang out on the porch right off my kitchen. i need to enjoy my kids in the yard or listen a little better to that teen girl needing to talk.  to grab coffee with a friend or call my mother.  to linger over dinner with my husband or watch that movie that we keep saying we're going to climb into bed and watch -- except that we haven't.  sometimes we need to be tough with ourselves and make ourselves do less.  make ourselves do nothing.  we need to make time to hang out.

i've called it my "one-more-ism" disease.  i can fit one more thing into those available free five minutes.  one more load of laundry, one more errand, one more closet arranged, one more email to answer.  moving or not moving, busy may or boring march, i fall prey to this disease of doing.

how about you? anyone relate here?

heck, even when i go to the beach on vacation i find myself building and designing sand castles with the kids.  except that i get all into it.  i like to see a finished product. i like to have a vision. try explaining that to a 4 year old with a pink pail and shovel.  can i admit to you, that at times i've focused more on the sand castle than on the kid?  true confessions of a project-minded mother!  geez louise! i suppose there are support groups for people like me.

there is an art to being still -- to doing nothing.  and at 44 years of age, i haven't come close to mastering it.  actually i haven't come close to locating it.  i get this industrious nature from my dad. i'll just go ahead and blame him. he lives 12 hours away, back home in ohio. and he's the man who after working 12 hour days would come home and work some more on something else.  something out in the yard or something out in the garage or a project around the house. my dad could do anything.  he could fix everything.  there's something really cool about knowing that when you're a kid -- it's even a sense of security. he "handled" things in our home. i grew up thinking that all dads were like that.  i hardly remember a day when i saw him sit in front of the tv except for an occasional sunday football game or a summer night baseball game.  there's a lot about that which is admirable.  i admire my dad tremendously.  he's going to be 74 this summer, and he is still working most days as a painting contractor. he gets up early, drives all over cleveland and spends his time up on ladders with a paint brush or roller in hand.  it is no surprise to me that i find pleasure in painting anything which stands still. i get that from my dad.  sometimes, he and i, we even talk paint.  "i think you should go with an eggshell finish on that piece, jod, not satin."... or..."what kind of brush are you using?  i hope it's a china bristle...2.5... always use good quality brushes and take good care of them."  my dad believes strongly in china bristle brushes, he believes in good quality and believes in taking good care of things. 

and just for the record, my mom's no slouch either.  with the first thaw of spring my mother is out in her massive perennial gardens weeding and trimming and digging away.  she has terrible arthritis but it doesn't stop her.  most people would be wrapped up in a blanket sipping hot tea and watching reruns of daytime television with the pain my mother is in, but not my mom.  she's out in her garden or running around ohio buying up antiques. in her 70s now, and she and my dad just expanded their gardens.  most people downsize on some things right about now, but not sandy and larry. no, the last time i was in town they filled me in on their vision for "the oval garden." (yes, they name their gardens).  my parents aren't the type to play bridge or golf or tennis in their retirement, they are busy working and doing what they love.  hands in paint.  hands in soil. arthritic hands. busy hands. happy hands.  hands full with creating...full with living.

my mother's amazing gardens in ohio
sometimes my sisters and brother and i all want to just tell them to take it easy.  dad got pretty sick this year with pneumonia and was told to take some time off. he was literally told to sit still. each one of us rolled our eyes and wondered, "now, who in the world is going to make that man sit still?"  after a couple of days in the hospital he was back home and out washing my mom's car in no time flat.  it's just who he is.  we called from our far away places and gave him our far away lectures about listening to the doctor and about following orders.  but we all know our dad. he is happy when he is busy. sitting still just isn't his thing.  and, seriously, i praise God that even with his aches and pains he is able to be busy and do what he loves most every day. my parents have given me a lot of great things in life, but one of the best gifts is the enjoyment of doing something we love and pleasure of doing something well.  it is also the ability to take delight in the project while working toward a finished product. that's a hard thing to teach these days.  we want quick results and maybe even someone else to do things for us. i struggle with giving my own kids this lesson all the time.  "take pride in your clean room.  enjoy the organization of your closet or desk. doesn't it feel good to climb into a bed that's made?"  i'm not sure it's all sinking in with my brood quite yet...

no doubt my parents have given me the gift of finding beauty in the paint color of a wall or the flower color in a perennial garden. but they have also taught me to not be afraid to work hard at get my hands dirty. the results are worth it.

"whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might..."  ~ ecclesiastes 9:10

so, back to my own busy-ness.  i guess it's clear where i get my project-personality from.  and, i guess it's not entirely a bad thing.  i mean, we get a lot done most days.  we finish things.  i like that part.  the part that i want to work on though is the hammock hanging out part. the part when in the middle of it all i can just stop and be still.  i don't need to finish the dinner dishes or fold the laundry right away.  i don't need to paint that wall or pot that plant before sundown...somedays i just need to put down the project and pick up the possibility of what doing nothing brings.

i need to open myself up to the less so i can have more.

and i have to tell you, it's all my own doing. all of it.  it's not like my husband hands me this daily to do list.  in fact, he likes nothing more than to hear i'm doing nothing.  he's quick to hand me a cup of tea or a glass of wine.  he likes when i join the family for a movie or  lounge on the porch with a book.  he's never once complained if i've left the house for a pedicure or a shopping trip or a walk in the woods.  he's all about me taking it easy. and honestly, i have to say, i have it easy.  yes five kids and our life and home and schedules keep me running...but it's all good.  really good.  and i don't want this piece to sound burdened, i want  it to sound blessed.  there is a blessing in this busy-ness.  but it's like anything: blessings come when we look for them AND blessings come in moderation.

so it sounds like i am talking out of both sides of my mouth in this post.  is it good to be busy or is it better to be still?  yes! yes to both.  it's all good.  we do need to feel productive and to have a purpose.  i like jumping out of bed in the morning with some things to do.  there's nothing wrong with that.  but what i do know is that i can quickly make the great "to do" list an idol.  it's about balance.  do a little.  rest a little.  right?  we learned that back in kindergarten.  but sometimes we find ourselves in the busy month of may or in the middle of a move or in the middle of BOTH! and we have to give ourselves a good lecture about that balance.

and with summer just around the corner, we watch our kids hanging in hammocks out in the trees and we are reminded...

just in time.


i don't have an eno hammock in the woods...but this is my hangout spot!  found this wicker set on craigslist -- great deal!  it gave me something else to go pick up another project "to do"...but i sure am enjoying it now.  =)  planning to spend some serious summer time right here...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

the nomads have landed

*** i wrote this on wednesday...but haven't had time to edit it until today -- sunday -- and that's only because it's mother's day and the family forced me to sit still! so if the timeline in my writing seems somewhat skewed...that's why!  everything gets a little skewed when you move... everything! oh...and happy mother's day!


so it's been one week and one day.  and tonight is the first night since moving that i haven't fall into bed whimpering in total exhaustion.

you think i'm kidding.

i'm not.

moving is hard stuff.  and i think for a personality such as mine, it's especially hard.  i don't pace myself all that well. surprise. surprise. i want to do everything right away. immediate results. this week has been an 8 day sprint of unpacking boxes, situating stuff, painting random things, figuring out sheets and towels and pillows, measuring for rugs, hanging a thousand pictures, buying a kitchen table, hunting for chairs, planting flowers, organizing closets and cupboards and shelving.... yadda yadda yadda....

the people who bought our house in georgia last year also wanted our kitchen table set and for some reason we thought that would be a good idea.  so we sold it to them.  i had kind of forgotten that we were in need of such a basic necessity.  so, for the first few days we ate our dinner in odd places:  on the sofa.  standing at the counter.  sitting on the kitchen floor.  i ate a sandwich one day on the back steps.  you do odd things when you move.  you improvise a little.  you even comprise a bit.

but i don't want to comprise, i want to control.  i want everything all lined up and all things perfectly in place.  and i want it all done in a day.  God created the world in a week and then rested.  yet, somehow, i think i can set up a new house in less than 7 days and not need to rest.  wrong!  God was pretty clear on that topic: "and on the 7th day He rested."  well, for me, in my fallen, headstrong state, on the 7th day i didn't rest and instead ended up getting the flu.  yes, the flu. just another reminder that God's way is always better.

i know some of you clicked on my blog post tonight to see some pictures.  you'd like a little glimpse into our new home.  well, there's no lovely slideshow put together at the moment...because there's still lots and lots of unlovely disorder.  some corners are coming together...some have yet to be tackled.  i'll include a few pictures though...because, i get it, i like pictures too!

here's a view of the family room.  i really, really love this room.  aren't the ceiling beams cool? the family who built this house had a great love for all things southwest.  so, some of the design elements go in that direction. but my knock-off pottery barn decorating does a decent job meshing with it all.  thankfully our stuff works well with this house and some things were able to just come in and sit themselves down like they had always belonged here.  i like it when that happens, but it didn't happen everywhere, i assure you.  the magic moving wand never showed up this week, but, but better yet,  a few friends came to help unpack boxes.  some brought a meal.  some picked up my kids.  and all that worked together to lessen this wild woman's moving mania.  attending sarah's two day volleyball tournament out of town last weekend and getting slammed with the flu didn't help, but i am digging my way out and the good news is i
feel better today than i did yesterday.  and the really good news is we can find things today that we couldn't quite locate a few days ago.

it has taken me no less than 8 days to sit down with my computer.  there was just no way i was writing a single word one minute sooner.  not when we couldn't find the spoons or the sheets or our underwear.  not when our closets were just a tangled heap (and i do mean heap) of clothes and shoes and belts (but alas, no underwear). not when we couldn't remember which way to the basement or which switch turned off the foyer light.  not when we were still running into giant walls of cardboard boxes stacked high full of who-knows-what.  it takes time, and it takes lots of it.  acclimating to a new home is different for each one of us.

of course connor wanted to figure out how his bike felt on the slope of the new driveway. that was his priority upon moving.  tyler was enamored immediately with the creek in our backyard.  day two here he scooped out a large carp with his fishing net.  first fish of the season and it happened in our new creek. hooray for him! (i have no pictures of this event because i couldn't find my camera on day two...the camera showed up somewhere around day four). emily has spent the entire first week holed up in her bedroom decorating and redecorating her new space.  (she has the most awesome new room --
emily's curtains!
eldest child privilege, i suppose). she's like a young woman setting up housekeeping (on her parents' dime).  i think she has been to every target in minneapolis trying to find the perfect window treatment (that means "curtain" for the domestically challenged).  sarah has spent the week gone.  yep, she's barely been here.  between a 3 day volleyball tournament in rochester and then a class trip to camp forest springs, it seems she's barely slept in her own bed this week.  but her room is coming along too.  my plan is to hang pictures for her before she arrives home tonight.   bella is bella.  she embraces everything she experiences with great joy.  she is thrilled  with her new blue and yellow toile room, even though it matches none of her stuff....she doesn't care.  she's just thrilled to have all her toys out of storage.  i wish you could see her as each box opens -- it's like this crazy, intense christmas for her. toy after toy after toy. "oh mom, i forgot about that!"  that stuffed animal, that doll, that puzzle, that game, that book, that barbie doll....

and i felt exactly the same way as i opened boxes which had sat in storage for this past year.  as each item was brought in by our team of movers i marveled at what i had forgotten we owned. actually i marveled at how much we owned!  i stood at the front door as they carried things in making snap decisions on where each thing was going to go.  "take that to the master bedroom, please."  and "that one goes to the basement..."  and "oh, this, this can go to the office." on and on and on it went.  it was like christmas for a while, but then it quickly turned into a halloween nightmare.  there was so much stuff i wasn't sure what to do with.  we had everything arrive to this new house on the same day.  two separate teams of movers.  one team moving us out of the lake house and a second team moving all of our items from the storage facility.  that equalled something like 12 or 13 men working in our home all day tuesday.  can you say chaos?

this armoire was in our bedroom...
now it's down in the family room!
it has been a crazy week to say the least, but it's also been a fun one.  thankfully, i kind of like "playing house."  i mean as a mother of five, i don't have to PLAY house, i really have to seriously RUN a house.  but with a move of this magnitude, i do have an excuse to just stay home (sort of), hunker down and decorate to my heart's abandon.  i like that.  i like figuring it all out like some kind of giant puzzle.  new picture groupings and furniture used in new places.  it's fun to mix it all up and see what comes out in the end.  a mirror from the family room now up in a bedroom.  a lamp from the bedroom now down in the dining room.  that kind of thing.  it might stress some of you out, but i like it -- well, for the most part i like it.

and then of course there's the oodles of stuff that can't be used.  items which don't work in this new house.  i cannot bear to see it all sit unemployed in our basement storage...that bothers me.  it bothers me that we have too much stuff.  it is staggering to see what we've accumulated in our (almost) 23 years of marriage.  i will spend my summer sorting through it and taking countless trips to goodwill.  i did that when we left atlanta last year, but there's more to do! there's always more to do. it is usually about this point in the move when i start toying with the idea of selling it all -- or giving it all away -- and taking to the open road.  me, my family and my camera.  maybe in a gigantic RV.  one which would comfortably hold 2 adults, 5 children, 2 large dogs and a cat. we could homeschool -- or RV school -- and travel the great states of america.  visit the grand canyon, the liberty bell and niagra falls in one fell swoop! after unpacking the 700th box of random stuff, i begin to dream nightly of such an adventure.

but as much as i'd love to view myself as an adventurous woman with a gypsy heart...i'm not. i'm just not that brave.  somehow, at some point,  i think rick would have to return to work (kids are expensive) and i'd end up with those 5 kids, 2 dogs and cat behind the wheel of that giant RV somewhere near reno.   and that image alone causes me to chicken out big time on this particular american dream.

but oh the things which moving shakes free!  even after all the stuff came through the door on tuesday, more stuff has kept coming. because that's life.  back packs are emptied, a volleyball medal is brought home, flowers from a neighbor, much needed groceries are carried into the kitchen, new curtains and finally a kitchen table arrive.  the stuff keeps showing up.  every day new stuff walks through my door.  this weekend bella attended a princess birthday party at an art studio and came home with a giant purple painted clay crown.  "where should we put it mommy?"  she asked.  oh, that question.  i stared at her dumbstruck.  i had no answer.  i was in the process of "where should i put it?" with a zillion and one household items.  where should i put this picture or that plant or this candlestick or that canister....where oh where does it all need to go?  i just simply couldn't add a giant purple painted clay crown to the list at the moment.

but slowly we are figuring it out.  we are figuring out what needs to stay or move or shift... and what needs to go.  what needs to be given away.  what needs to thrown away.  it's a fascinating business this moving thing.  and by the way, i really do think i could start up a consulting business on how to pack and move a home in 10 easy steps. it occurred to me last week that in our 23 years of marriage, rick and i have moved 11 times.  that breaks down into moving every 25 months or so.  some of those moves were just after college and really, really quick.  and some of those moves were local.  we moved in order to get something with a better yard or a bigger basement or something.  we've only moved for business 3 times.  once out of college.  once from ohio to georgia.  and last year from georgia to minnesota.  so, the bottom line is, i really do know how to do this.  the poor packers and movers we used found out right away what a bossy cow i am.  when i was explaining to one man how i wanted him to pack something specific, he said, "you've clearly done this before." i just smiled rick would add to that "don't mess with her."  i think he told the kids that one night at dinner this week.  "don't mess with mom right now."  and they haven't.  they've been good little soldiers as i've asked them to carry this or move that.  each of us has made a million trips up and down the stairs as we've shifted life from one house to another.

the good news is, we have found our underwear...and everything else is coming together.  of course we miss the lake.  the very day we moved away it was finally clear of ice -- at least from our vantage point.  and with our arrival at this new home, spring has also finally arrived.  i kind of like the tidiness of that timing.  one chapter closes and another opens.  we have some beautiful woods out back with a creek running through them.  the lake is gone, but i do get to watch the lime green of spring sneak out from the trees in this next week.  even since we've arrived here i've noticed smooth bark begin to bud and then leaf.  a few days ago i found minne in the backyard sitting and staring at the creek, as if she was thinking, "where did the lake go?"  it feels like that a little bit right now...leaving one home and setting up another.  and all of it pretty quick -- even for this impatient woman.  but regardless of the setting or the city or the color of pain on the kitchen walls...we're the same mcnatt family. we're together. we're thankful.  and we're home.

now for a little glimpse of the new digs...

the foyer -- welcome!

the office.  in shambles now...but lots of potential.

my desk nook off the kitchen...this is as clean as you'll ever see it.

a collage of pictures in the basement...did this last night!

but here's where most of our pictures are...along the baseboards...still trying to figure out where to put them.

i am really enjoying this kitchen...pretty and functional. 

the much needed kitchen table.  those ladder back chairs belonged to my parents first dining room set.  i love them -- my parents and the chairs!  now...just imagine two distressed blue-gray arm chairs on either end.  i'm on the hunt!

i added new pillows to our old, brown inexpensive way to freshen things up!

i love seeing how our old things work in new new spaces.  

another angle of the family room.  see that mantle?  beautiful, but i'm struggling on what to do there...any ideas, send them my way!

i have big plans for this wall.  photos and words.  it runs between the kitchen and my office.  and i can't wait to tackle this project!

one of my most favorite items to come out of storage -- my piano! it had accidentally gone into storage and i've missed it terribly.  this is the same piano i learned to play on as a child.  (it's old).  =)

the screened in porch.  empty except for the picture i plan to hang out there.  empty and waiting for some wicker furniture.  maybe mother's day??? hint. hint.

a nice big mud room for minne!

the long, winding driveway back to our house.  one of the best things about this house is the wooded setting and wrap around creek.

 here's a bit of normal:  ty's soccer/lax net set up in the backyard.

glad to have our patio set back.  really, really glad to finally see some forsythia blooming! (that's the yellow stuff).

finally...a flower pot by the back door.
i put these there before i had finished unpacking.  just had to. the orange makes me happy. the fact that it's warm enough to plant something makes me even happier.