Jesica Swanson: Linger

photo-1421906375741-f6bda4abe433As November rolls in with the speed of a freight train I am already feeling overwhelmed. My mind and heart are in conflict. I want to be everywhere, for every one, while simultaneously hiding away like the true hermit I am

I want to feel the joy of gratitude, the holiness of coming to the table for a meal. I want to have time for what the Greeks called “eucharisteo” – to actively express thankfulness. Isn’t that the point of Thanksgiving?  A moment in time, designed to remind us to stop, to collectively take note in the chaos and come to the table. It’s almost like communion for all of America when we choose to point that thankfulness to heaven. It reminds us to breathe and give thanks, to linger in a spirit of gratitude.

A couple months ago I decided to throw out an initiation to some of my favorite women. I dubbed it a lazy girls night in. I threw some food in the crock-pot. People could come and go as they pleased. They could bring something to share, or not. It was merely a place to gather. Though I would have been content had no one been able to make it (introvert alert), I was so happy when people actually showed up.

We ate. We laughed. We visited. Some people left and some people lingered.

Of all the beautiful things my friend Samantha has taught me, perhaps lingering is one of the best. I am not a natural lingerer. I long for it, but my uptight, highly sensing self is always preoccupied. I think, “Am I overstaying my welcome? Should I leave now? I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want to be “that friend” that doesn’t know when to take a hint and head home.” But, when I watch Samantha, she never over stays her welcome, she never is a burden, but she lingers like a boss. She lingers well because she values quality time. She listens to people. She makes time for people.

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Maybe, I am starting to finally get it that the best stuff happens in the lingering. It is when the walls break down a little bit or the unrestrained laughter bursts forth. Perhaps, it’s because everyone is tired or because being in a room with only a handful of people breed’s safety. If you’ve stuck around to linger, it’s probably because of a genuine affection for the people left in the building.

That night at my house some cried, some listened, words of empathy came forward. Grace and encouragement flowed freely. No pat answers were given or problems solved, but in the lingering sisterhood forms. That night it was in my living room, but I’ve experienced the power of the linger in a parked car on a Monday night, around a bonfire, and after a MOPS night out. Every moment spent with someone is “money in the bank”* of your friendship, but the lingering seems to bring a more substantial deposit to the relationship.

As things get crazy and I feel that tug to be everywhere all the time, I am trying to hit pause this season. I’m trying to linger at the table with my God and with the people that I love the most. For some, those loved ones may be family, but for others who live further from relatives, it may be the friends that have become family. I want to make sure I am leaving margin in my life for the after party, because everyone truly knows that the after party is where it’s at. So, if you want to linger, come and linger with me. I have a special place in my heart for the lingerers.

*It was Shauna Niequist, at MomCon 2014, who taught me about “money in the bank”.

 

JesicaJesica Swanson is wife to Norse and mother to Boden & Isley. She’s a big fan of marriage, wholehearted friendships, and loud laughter. While still trying to figure out her marketable skill set, she spends her time goofing off in Montana and writing candidly about spiritual life, marriage, motherhood, fun books and music, and whatever else pops into her head at http://www.atleastwecanlaugh.com .

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Who’s Got Your Back?

The other night was one of those nights. You know. Like it’s written in the stars or your fortune cookie:  your kids will misbehave today and so will youNothing works out right. It’s pure, cranky chaos.

It had been a long day and my husband was gone for the evening. I struggled through on my own. Cursing under my breath. Practicing deep breathing bCIMG0599etween screaming bouts. Matching my 10 year old snide comment for snide comment. Reacting with the same short fuse as my 5 year old and the indignation of my 8 year old. It wasn’t pretty. So as bedtime approached I made the rounds along each bed; apologizing, asking forgiveness, explaining that I’m not perfect and I know it and God help me, I’m working on it. Really, though the behavior leading up to this moment is certainly never ideal, the chance to model sincere regret and ask for forgiveness is golden. I mean, there’s got to be a flip-side, right?

Anyway, my kids usually make it so easy. They melt. The tension and bad mood that settled between their shoulder blades releases and I feel them go soft, give into my love, lean into my arms. I lean into them, smell their hair and hold on tight. This time, when I got to my daughter’s bed she took my hand, looked me in the eyes and said I just wish Papa were here. Oh, I bristled. I assumed she was referring to the classic Good Parent-Bad Parent dilemma (and we all know which side I was on). But then she explained.

It’s just that you need a Back-up Person, Mama. I just wish you could have had a Back-up Person tonight. Everyone needs a Back-up.

Then, she hugged me. She left me there, leaning over her bed, my mouth wide open in awe of the wisdom, love and empathy she showed to me in such an undeserving moment. She really nailed it this time.

Who is your Back-up Person? A husband, a partner, a mother, a best friend… It can be anyone ready to step in when you’ve had it up to here, when you are stuck in an ugly cycle and need a moment to breathe, to swim back up to the surface. It’s crucial in this mothering gig that someone has our backs. Hopefully we all have at least one person looking out for us. Ideally we have that village surrounding us with someone not only behind, but also on each side and in front of us. Let’s build that together for each other. Use MOPS this year as yet another way to have each other’s backs. Support each other, listen, encourage and laugh.

With your back covered you can face forward with confidence, go out into the world as mothers, as women, and flourish.

Ida

Ida Fischer is a Bigfork MOPS alumnus.  She is married to Maarten and mother to Sam (10), Noa (8), and Mylo (5). She enjoys everything outdoors, reading, and spending time alone to paint. You can find her blog and artwork at Ida Fischer Art and Illustration.

Jan Roberson: Layer upon Layer

65182826_155a5f7822What effect do the little day-to-day things you do for and with your kids have in the overall scheme of their lives? What does it matter? Do they care that you care? Do the nights spent caring for a sick child or the days on end of being cooped up with sniffling children even count as an important part of mothering? It would seem that much of motherhood is just getting through the tough times, just getting by when you have really had enough. Really, how much of the stuff of these early years do kids even remember?

They don’t remember much in terms of events, surroundings, day-to-day life. But it is in these little seemingly meaningless everyday tasks that we are slowly building a strong bond of trust. Our little ones learn that someone responds when they cry. They repeatedly are cared for by the same people. They learn that they are part of a family, a caring unit. They have a face to bond with: a face of care, a face they can trust.

In those times of sickness, of crabbiness, of tantrums…they learn a little about perseverance, patience, endurance and about a bond that is not easily broken. When their actions, behavior, and sickness causes them to be hard to love, hard to care for, they learn what it is like to be nurtured in spite of it all…they learn about steadfastness.

Little by little, layer upon layer, trust is born and developed between mother and child. It really can only happen this way. The small stuff of life, the hard stuff of life, and the everyday over-and-over-again stuff of life creates bonds that are not easily broken. Little by little, layer upon layer, the family is built; trust and love begin to flourish.

Not only are trust and family bonds built in the small, sometimes hard, stuff of life, but here character is formed–both ours as moms and our children’s. Our children are the recipients of our behavior and also the observers of it. Daily, we model in a hundred little ways how life is lived. In the ways we deal with our sleepless nights, our fears and anxieties, sickness, anger and frustration, we demonstrate our character to our kids. Their character in formed in our interactions in the smallest details of life…layer upon layer.

For many moms, this winter has been one of endless days at home with coughing, sniffling, vomiting, or generally sick kids. Being stuck at home isn’t fun, and it is stressful for any mom to have sick children. But this is part of life with preschoolers; this is your life now, and it is important. Your sacrifices are important. Your time spent with kids who need you is time that they won’t remember, but it is a layer that is part of the solid foundation you are building for and with your kids.

Jan Roberson has been a mentor in the Bigfork MOPS for 7 years. She has taught in public and private schools, homeschooled and has been a private tutor. Dan and Jan have two adult children, Caitlin and Nathaniel, and have lived in the Flathead Valley for more than 20 years.

photo credit: Sick Baby 1 via photopin (license)

Blog: A Beautiful Mess

Hello Bigfork MOPS moms! Well after a summer full of play dates, hot weather, ice cream, swimming, and bees (wow, were there bees this year!)…I am so excited for Fall to be here and a routine to get back in to … Continue reading

Summer Challenge!

A special thanks to Jan for her challenging, helpful, encouraging talk last week! We’ve posted it here for your convenience! Happy summer MOPS! 

 

 

This summer, you will be very busy…

You will be:

  • Working more than full-time
  • Teaching, training, leading by example
  • Nurturing a small human or multiple human beings
  • Creating a family culture in which these little humans can thrive
  • Setting limits, explaining “why”, keeping little humans safe and healthy
  • Creating lifetime memories for your children
  • Determining how they will view themselves and how they will approach life

You will busy; I know this because you are a mom.  And you thought the summer might be relaxing?! Being a mom is like running a marathon and training for it at the same time…you really don’t get time off –even in the summer

 About a month ago, I was in the Portland area helping my mom after surgery.  It was a gorgeous late spring day with everything in full bloom. Next to the house is a green space and playground.  As I worked outside, I watched a young mom come and put her young daughter in a child’s swing and sit down in a swing beside her.  The mom talked on her phone for a while, texted and then got up and took a picture of her daughter swinging and sat back down and continued to relate to her phone.  In the half hour that I worked and watched them, the mom hardly took her eyes off of her phone and there were no words exchanged between her and her little one.  They were outside together on a beautiful day and yet they were worlds apart. This is only a snapshot of their whole day. I don’t know anything else about the rest of it, but this picture arrested me and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

In the “olden” days, when my kids were preschoolers, we had no devices to entertain us or our kids.  It fact, none of  your moms had any of the devices we have now.  The “I”things…Ipod, Ipad, Iphone and others have exploded in the last 10 years as have dvd players, games and apps. I don’t need to tell you that we live in an extraordinary technological age.  It is wonderful in many ways, but it comes also with problems and challenges. With this explosion of technology comes more potential for moms to be distracted away from their kids and more potential to use “devices” to entertain or distract children away from their parents. More, in this case, can mean less.

So in view of this, I’d like encourage you with some ideas and challenge you to keep on excelling as a mom even as we all look forward to summer. I think you are all up to the challenge.  You are good moms and are always learning new ways to be better moms.

Summer of Challenge:

UnplugIntentionally cut down on your use of “devices” when in the company of your family. Don’t be available to everyone all the time. Be available to your family and put everyone else on hold sometimes.  Instead of planning some time “off” of your phone or ipod, try setting aside time to be on and limit that time.  Just say “no” to too much “I” stuff in order to say yes to the little ones who really want your face time.

Connect-Intentionally plan for relating to your kids as persons worthy of your time and attention. {My pet peeve: a friend talking or texting on the phone to someone else when she is spending time with me.  In a similar way, I think children can feel jealous of your time on the phone and conversely, very much valued when they get your full attention.} You are your little one’s favorite attraction.  From birth to about 3, 4 or 5, depending on the child’s personality, children want most to relate to mom…more than toys, other kids or other people-even sometimes dad.  It won’t always be so…this is probably the only time in the life your child that they want to so intensely relate to you.  In ten years, they won’t even want to be seen in the same space with you!  Plan to give full attention to your kids this summer.

Get active and explore with your kids-Intentionally plan to enjoy activities together.   The brain is tripling in size between birth and 3 yrs of age.  Children need lots of multi-dimensional, sensory, tactile and cognitive activities as their brain develops.  The less time on any screen and more real time activities can build in them longer attention spans and more impulse control for success in later life. Studies have shown the negative effects of too much screen time in children and researchers recommend zero screen time for children under 3 years old.  Children need to be exploring, moving, climbing, touching, building, holding, throwing, lifting, drawing, scribbling, smelling, rolling, listening, looking, imagining, creating, running, jumping, hugging, and talking. 

Even in the summer, they need learning activities and they need plenty of your undivided attention.  This is a good time for you to give it to them.

So, I throw out a challenge to unplug and connect this summer with your children.  In order to help with this challenge, I am going give a lot of tried and true ideas for activities. I have used these with my kids or other people’s kids.

Things to do with kids at and around home:

  • The very best stuff for kids in the summer…water, stones, sticks, and dirt! Kids can be entertained with the basic elements of nature.
  • Tub, bucket or bowl of water outside…cups and pitchers and pouring things, things to stir with.  Add soap for even a longer event.  Has the added benefit of calming your child.  (washing dishes, doll clothes)
  • Dirt or sand for digging.  Add cars and trucks if you want.
  • Paint brushes and water…house,car, sidewalk.
  • Hose on car, house, driveway, plants.
  • Squirt bottles of paint on an old sheet hung up
  • Bubbles and fly swatters
  • Sidewalk chalk dipped in water
  • Paint clay pots or wooden bird houses, decorate picnic table with paint, paint old furniture outside
  • Tent, sleeping under stars, camping out, and cooking on a camp stove (practice in your yard)
  • Backyard obstacle course
  •  goofy golf course that you set up in your backyard
  • scavenger hunts for natural things
  • collecting stuff in bags on walks
  • Life size giant Candyland board on driveway drawn with chalk, kids are the pieces and draw cards
  • Idea jar for when they say I’m bored or as I always said to my kids, you must be tired, go take a nap. Or assign chores when they say this and they will think of things to do very quickly!

Creative Inside: dress up, kitchen band, car garages and towns out of cereal boxes, decorate paper tablecloth (news roll ends), office supplies for playing office

Learning activities: counting everything-pretzels, m&Ms, toys to pick up, etc; identify letters when you see them, sounds in the car and make signs, lists, scribbling for writing; listening to books, reading lots and having much conversation with you.

 

Out and About

Amtrak, libraries, kites, car wash, Baskin-Robbins, Sweet Peaks, Brookies-Cookies, Kalispell school playgrounds, WF park, WF city beach, Lkside Volunteer Park, Glacier Apgar bike trails, Yellow Bay picnic area, Lone Pine State Pk, Danny On trail-WF mtn., Birch Lk in Jewel Basin, Bike trails in Kal., Swimming lessons-(BF club, Summit, Woodland Pk pool), Upick fruit, Wayfarers Pk, Swan Lk, Greenhouses, Petco, Hedstrom’s dairy

What to do in the car-Road trips large and small…

Group stories, abc game, Fortunately-Unfortunately game(Unfortunately there is a lion coming, Fortunately I have had lion taming lessons), Write or draw out scavenger hunt to look for things while in the car, claim a car color

Dry erase pages, magnetic letters, dimes to spend, bags with treats, activities etc, audio books, plastic bags with activities

Id’s, first aide, snacks, water, towels, extra clothes and shoes, entertainment packs

Avoid Meltdowns-be proactive and prepared: Too hot, tired, hungry, too much activity, changes, stimulus, not enough “mom” time, no schedule; always have food and water on hand!

 

 

Wise Women of the Web …

Ladies!

Having this extra week in between meetings is giving me withdrawals! I hope you all gleaned some helpful tips listening to Dr. Bury share some of his wisdom with the group on the 16th. I can’t wait to see everyone on February 6th.

In the meantime, I just wanted to share some quick reading that might encourage you this week. Check out some of my favorite bloggers:

Happy reading! I hope it tides you over until we meet again.