Beauty In the Breakdown (repost)

A few months ago I bought a Groupon for two nights at the Earthbox Motel on San Juan Island. The islands are a favorite summer destination for us so I’m excited to visit in the off season. Earthbox boasts the only indoor pool on the island, which is really what sold me on it since we may get rained out of everything else to do on the island.

(Ruthie just asked me if we could go swimming RIGHT WHEN WE GET THERE, so this pool may be the best $150 I spent in a long time.)

My goal for this weekend is to enjoy playing with my family and to be present in the moment. I’ve noticed that my comfort and contentment tend to hinge mostly on whether my own expectations are met (peace and quiet! solitude! let me read my book!), at the expense of everyone else’s enjoyment (rrraawwwrrrrr!).

If that sounds like the description of a teenager, I accept your rebuke.

This weekend I desire to play and be silly and explore and snuggle and say Yes more than I say No. I don’t do any of that often enough, which is probably why Bryan is such a rock star in this house. He does it all with his eyes closed and standing on one foot.

For inspiration, I looked to a favorite vacation post from February 2007. If you overlook the fact I’m STILL the same control freak I was five years ago (STAY IN MY HAPPY PLACE! DON’T OVERTHINK IT!), you’ll see I had a magical time being free with my kids.

This is my hope for the weekend. Also, I’d love to find my sense of humor again.

Finding Beauty In the Breakdown
February 2007
Original Post

Our trip to the San Jose area couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve spent the last couple months reorganizing and reprioritizing my focus as a mother and household manager, trying to correct the part of my brain that sometimes finds it easier to focus on the latter and see the former as a distraction. I want to be present with my children. I want to enjoy them. My goal in spending ten days apart from the household duties of cleaning, laundry, and other such necessities was to develop good habits in spending time with my children.

I believe I did well in accomplishing what I set out to do. We played hide and seek. The tickle monster attacked. We went to parks and visited attractions. We left the hotel every day. We talked. And we didn’t watch t.v. Even in the midst of being away from the comforts of home, I only used the morning PBS programs to occupy Ruthie while I showered. We kept busy, and I remained focused on them until they were sleeping.

For me the pinnacle came on Monday when we visited Santa Cruz, about an hour from our hotel. We were nearly alone on a wide open beach, running around and digging in the sand with nothing but our fingers and some empty coffee cups. I stretched myself, and offered Ruthie some freedom from my control, and I watched her revel in a world with few boundaries. The beach was so empty, so expansive, and the ocean before us was so never-ending, that my need to control every situation, every moment, every move seemed insignificant. I realized how rigid I had become, how inflexible. But that morning I was able to let my children run, and I practiced trusting them, and I patiently corrected them when they wandered too far, and I became their biggest fan once again.

It was the silence, and the time, and the space provided by this trip that allowed me to grow as a parent in this way – to remember that my job is much more than just keeping them fed and clothed, but to also disciple and teach and model, and to sometimes play with them. I developed a taste for getting out, for exploring, for inspiring my children and giving them opportunities to run and jump and play – not that it couldn’t have happened in the absence of a vacation, amidst the everyday life I live, but it seems a trip to San Jose is how God chose to get through to me.

As we left the beach in Santa Cruz my kids immediately crashed into a coma, and I listened to the Garden State soundtrack. I love it for its mix. Many soundtracks have a schizophrenic feel to it, accommodating for love scenes and fight scenes and war scenes all within the same album. But the Garden State soundtrack has a vibe, and it’s a good vibe for a quiet ride home from the beach. When the song, Let Go, by Frou Frou began playing I immediately knew it was the soundtrack for the day at least, and maybe even for my overall struggle through anger and control.

You’ll know why when you hear it.

So, the video you are about to see is more than just a video scrapbook of a fun day. I had a vision for this project the moment I heard the song. It is a stone for me to carry, like the ones Much Afraid carried. It is a rock cairn to remember the path I have taken to get where I am now. It is an alter built to God, in praise of who he is, like the ones built by my spiritual forefathers in the desert.

I’m proud of this one. I hope you like it.

I Got Married In a Prom Dress.

whimsical jen

True story.

I didn’t plan to get married in a prom dress, but I think it’s rather brilliant that I did.

It solved the problem of me…

  1. not wanting to spend a fortune on a dress I’d only wear once
  2. hating bridal shops where I’d have to act like a princess
  3. wearing white, which looks horribly unflattering on me

(Do you understand, now, why Liz Lemon and I are BFF’s?)

My mom was in town for the weekend, and she was determined to buy me a dress. I am a pear shaped tomboy who hates trying on clothes. Can you picture how much fun we had?

I remember hitting my limit, the end of my patience, the stick-a-fork-in-me-I’m-done moment. We were in the middle of Downtown Seattle’s shopping district and I blurted out, “WHY DO I HAVE TO WEAR A FREAKIN’ **WEDDING** DRESS TO THIS GODFORSAKEN WEDDING?”

And that was my lightbulb moment: on the corner, somewhere near City Center mall, pitching a bridal fit.

From there my mom and I marched into Cache where I elbowed past a gaggle of teenage girls, tried on this fabulous sage green dress, and paid only $200 for it.

And it looked FABULOUS on me!


Ten years ago today I got married in that dress.

I love this picture of us in those blissful moments right after the ceremony, because I still feel the way I look in this photo. I still adore being married to him.

Well, maybe still isn’t the right word, since I’ve thrown many objects and harsh words at him since that day…

No, still still applies. There are no mountains without the valleys, as they say.

Parsons GardensParsons Garden, where we got married.

Zugtastic! Paper strength experiment!

Recently, Ruthie came home from school with a 8.5×14 sheet of construction paper and was tasked with folding it up and seeing how many books we could stack on top of it. Thomas really got into this, and emptied my bookshelf.

Just getting started - 8 books!

It holds at least eight books!

17 books!

TWENTY books!

Books as tall as Bryan!

A stack of books as tall as Bryan!

Counting all the books

I can’t remember how many books finally crushed the paper, but it was, like, TEN HUNDRED, according to Thomas.

Crushed under the weight of all the books

Before and after.

I’m just glad someone else did all the legwork.

What happens when you let your children have it all their own way?.
A friend posted this to Facebook and a discussion ensued. It’s an interesting experiment, but I think it spoke to me more about my own bitchyness than it did my kids’ ability to govern themselves. After all, it’s our job to shepherd them in the right direction, but we can’t do that if we let them do whatever they want.

I’ve seen first hand the logical conclusion of that lifestyle.

But I think this mom had the same realization I would have had – that I say NO a lot simply because I’m lazy or inconvenienced by my kids’ request. I can’t say YES all the time, but I know I could say it more. Here’s an excerpt:

Experiment nearly over and I feel I have proved a point — one that is very interesting to all of us.

For a start, by the end of the week the children are imploding. My acquiescence to everything has meant that they are not only buzzing with e-numbers and sugar, but are exhausted, too

But I have also learned some important lessons. The hassle of clearing up the kitchen after they have made a cake is nothing compared to the joy I feel when I hear them laughing so freely.

They just wanted to have fun, to laugh more; to not have every request quashed by a negative.

They also, I think, really started to understand why I create boundaries in their lives, because as much as they don’t like them, they are lost without them.