Posts tagged time
Pennies for Love: Wonder and Wander Together

It's two weeks until Christmas. Well, less than that now...and the clock is ticking! It feels that way sometimes, doesn't it? Like you have to make every last minute count in order to prepare for the parties and gift giving and travel...

Two weeks before Christmas last year for us: hustling and bustling with children activities and lots of work, with absolutely no shopping complete.


In some ways Christmas snuck up on us. I know, it's the same time every year, but we were so immersed in the daily stuff that planning for something even two weeks away seemed luxurious and frankly, impractical.

My husband and I had our social and professional calendars booked. When were we going to have time to shop for Christmas? In exhausted exasperation, we added a date for shopping after his office Christmas party. 

On the evening of the office party, we donned our holiday duds (and even smelled good!) and we whisked off together, wonderful babysitter safely watching over the den for the duration. At the cocktail reception, we mingled with couple after couple, making conversation about one another's holiday plans. "Are you ready for Christmas?" we heard over and over. 

Funny enough, whether we were caught by surprise or not, it was coming - Christmas was coming. In the din of jovial conversations, I remembered the wonder of the season. I was struck by the silly and temporal nature of my worries as I explained over and over that we were behind on our preparations. You know how sometimes hearing yourself say something makes you realize just how ridiculous you are?

That we hadn't (gasp!) shopped for Christmas.

And although I was stressed by all that I had to do, I felt a glimmer of hope that no matter what was still left in boxes or unchecked off the list, Christmas was still coming. Christ's birth would still be celebrated - and in full force at our house.

I watched my husband explain to his colleagues, in good humor, how we were going out AFTER the party to begin our Christmas shopping. He joked about our hot date at Toys R Us in the late hours of the night.

And I started to lighten up and embrace the adventure.

We left the party, laughing together. 

At 9pm, we were the best dressed shoppers at the toy store. With barely a soul around, you could hear our heels and dress shoes, as we meandered the aisles - he pushing the cart and me with my arm wrapped through his - strolling and talking about our life together, our children, and the joy of the season.

It was that moment right before you turn over the snow globe, when everything stands still just for a little while.

We slowed down the world and remembered the family we have built and the love that we share.

All the gifts were purchased. Checklists completed.

And Christmas did in fact come.

And it's heading our way again in two weeks. Take some time to wonder at the Glory of Christmas and wander with the ones that you love. You might have to take late night strolls through toy aisles to do so, but that's okay. Schedule in some tree light gazing together. Or cuddle close over cups of hot chocolate.

My husband's office Christmas party is this Saturday? Guess what we're doing after? This year it's intentional. No stressing... just looking forward to time together thinking about each other and the life we've made.




The Pressure of a Superhero

Perhaps you've heard this story before? The one of the superhero who can extend, expand, and alter time? No?

I don't remember a lunchbox with her picture on it, but somewhere along the way I decided I wanted to be this all star.


My journey to conquer time began from a place of confidence and passion. I told myself that I'd been given this set of God-given talents, and with the 168 hours in the week, I needed to spend the vast majority of them working, volunteering, creating, cleaning, mothering... I could do it!! I was on my path to superhero status, so why not?

And underlying that notion...a thought of pride. I am better than. I can do more. Look at me. Watch me.

I can raise amazing children to whom I dedicate focused attention as I nurture their abilities, challenge their behaviors, and impart the wisdom I have acquired through this super special journey that I'm on. I can do this while I give just as much attention to my adoring husband, and just as much attention to making my home warm, welcoming, well decorated, and, of course, trendy. You better believe I'm incredibly successful at my job, giving more than expected and adding ideas only I could offer. Oh, and I can run that volunteer group at Church and come in for centers and help out with after school activities. Yes, yes, go ahead and sign me up to bring in that casserole. I'm running and staying fit - oh and did you see that I brought that great project from Pinterest to life. I am a superhero. Did I mention that? Yes, of course, I've read that 400-page book for bookclub.

But don't ask me to talk about it because I've only read the synopsis on line.

And my Pinterest project...well, don't turn it over because it's not actually usable.

I was distracted at centers and unfocused with my volunteers.

My laundry is unfolded, my dishes undone, dust is layering on my bookshelves.

I can't get to all the projects that keep coming my way at work.

And I yelled at my kids and my husband. It seems they don't see this superhero path, and they just want to distract me with new needs and wants.

Why can't they all just figure it out? I'm tired. I'm spent. I'm sick - again.

I have to expand time. Do they not understand? I am a superhero. I can fit it all in with a smile. I can accomplish more than you.

And underlying it all - I'm better than you.

And the kryptonite hits. Maybe this time it's the permission slip I forgot to submit. Or the event that goes sour because I didn't have enough energy to devote. Sometimes it's a simple as an off remark at work or a tone of voice from home and

It breaks. I crack.

The force field can't withstand this hit. And I cry. And I doubt.

Why are you not good enough to do all of this? You are a superhero, remember? You are better should be able to do this. What's wrong with you?

And the soft, clear voice of reason or of God (or maybe both) can be heard, finally. Shhhhh. Listen to it now.

You are beautifully and wonderfully made.

You are meant to give your gifts freely and with joy.

And that is enough, THAT is more than. Not you. You, my friend, are not a superhero. That job has been taken by One, all-powerful and almighty. Stop trying to take over.

And let go. Drop the mask and the walls.

You are not better than. You are the same as, in totally different ways.

You are enough as you are. Be that. Do that.

And leave the superhero fantasies to your children and the youth of the world. You have deeper knowledge of friendship and compassion, equivalent to any Marvel power.

Be you. Gently. That's pretty super.

xoxo, MJ

Ideas for happy family grocery trips

Wanna talk about something mundane with me today? How about grocery shopping? No? Doesn't float your boat?

When I tell friends that every Sunday (it used to be Monday) night you can find my family doing the same thing, they think I'm a little wacky (perhaps deservedly so). Especially when I tell them we're spending our time at the grocery store...all five of us...together. We've been doing family grocery trips for the last decade or so, adding new family members to the dynamic as they entered the world. :)

Here are my thoughts on how to make it work and even make it fun. I'd love to hear your tips!


I am not an ultra organizer. I do, however, try to put together a list, look through sales flyers, clip a few coupons, and have a rough idea of a menu before we make the trip to the store. I've taken the family on thissojourn without doing this and, well, it's not pretty. So I find a little up-front work is super helpful. We also engage everyone in contributing to the week's meal ideas (my daughter's 1st grade class made a cookbook of kids foods that has been very helpful with this). We talk about what items are on sale and how to best spend our family dollar.



This excursion does not work without a willing and energetic partner. My husband is the driver (of the cart) and the one who can instigate fun as necessary. Hang from the cart like it's the monkey bars? Sure! See how many containers of apple juice you can pick up? Yes. Daddy's here for support. Momma's job is sticking to the list and offering treats. My job would stink (I mean, I'm not the funster parent here) except I get to talk with each kiddo about something extra yummy just for them. Sharing is optional on these treats.


Every Sunday dinner is spent dining in at our grocery store. We come with our giant bag of canvas bags, our refillable water jugs, sippies of milk/juice (we're quite a site). Our store has a second level for dining and the kids love to look out at shoppers or down at the parking lot activity. I find it helps keep everyone's appetites in check as well to start off with full tummies.


We know every attendant at the deli. Why? Because our store has a policy of offering free cheese slices to children. And for my bunch a free slice of cheese is a great big slice of Heaven. Many of these women and men have now greeted and gifted my children since their infancy, and we, too, know about their children and grandchildren. Community always helps.

Once your children reach a certain age, let them in on the budgeting, too. We have our oldest bring her calcuator or Ipod and keep a running total of our expenses. Are we near our budget? Did we go over with a certain item? What's her prediction for the final total? It's an awesome way to teach, and it keeps all of us accountable to our budget.


Since we embrace the full family-ness (chaos and all) of the trip, each child helps to take items off of shelves, put them in the cart, and scratch items off the list. We typically pay with gift certificates purchased through my children's school, and each child even gets to practice paying for the bill by handing one certificate each to the cashier. Everyone helps to bring the goods into our house and put everything away. It's become a point of pride to see who can carry more bags and I'm all for it.

Honesty here: some trips are a challenge. We've had Sunday evenings when I wonder why the what(!) did I think this was a good idea.

But mostly I enjoy the ordinariness of it all. We are a real family with tired, fussy, fun, and quirky days and I'm happy we can share the amazing and the mundane together.

What do you think? Are you for the full team approach? Or does a quick trip through with no kids work better for you? Or something in between?


Happy Kiddos: Leave it behind

A few weeks ago, as we were shopping in a larger office supply store, my husband spotted three glittery calculators in the clearance aisle. It is important to note that these were three different colored calculators in desirable shades for each of our three kiddos. When he offered to purchase these sparkly presents (calculators can be educational, too, right?), they were thrilled.

I wasn't really sure why they were so excited about...calculators. Granted, my daughters, 5 and 7, are intrigued by numbers and solving problems. But I comparison to other toys and electronics, what would these simple machines have to offer?

We hopped in the minivan to venture back home. And that's when the imitations started.

C, my 5-year old, buckled herself into the backseat and put her calculator up to her ear. I heard something along the lines, "Oh... uh hum... sure...I'll call you." In the rearview mirror, I spotted M (7) typing away on her device and pretending to swipe to the next screen and enter her password. L (2) was kicking his legs and asking me to find a new game for him.

M continued to look down at her screen as she jumped out of the minivan, walked up the stairs, took off her backpack. She said something that I couldn't understand as she talked down into her phone, I mean calculator.

I'm not the most perceptive person at times. But I got it.

And I know they weren't even trying to point it out to me.

But I got it.

My pal, Jennifer Cooper over at Classic Play wrote a post on Friday that hit home:

"Yesterday I started an experiment. I’m trying to see if I can go a week without my kids seeing me use the computer. This means, no checking email, facebook, instagram, etc when they’re around. Perhaps it’s the social scientist in me (what’s left anyway), but I’m curious to see what effects, if any, this has on the kids or me. I know modeling can play a role in parenting, so I’m curious about it."

She in her good humor recounted her successes and failures (go read it :)).

I work from home half of every day, and I always feel the need to have my phone next to me to hear the ding of a recent email or the tone of text. But if I'm being honest, and I think I have to be, I also love having the opportunity to check in with friends and beatiful words and images, too.

It is my wide eyes and not the top of my head, looking down at a screen, that I want my children to remember as their mom's expression. It is my nasal laughter and the pitch of my voice, that I want them to hear and not my impatient bark or hurried response.

I'm trying Jen's experiment this week (and likely for weeks to come) to keep the electronic check ins to necessity - and I won't pretend that I don't know what necessity means.

Rachel over at Hands Free Mama is a great inspiration. Check out her thoughts on living for what matters.

She posted this gut-wrencher from Professor T. Ripaldi, and it's the kind of quote I can't not share with you (proper use of a double negative here for me).

When we adults think of children, there is a simple truth which we ignore: childhood is not preparation for life, childhood is life. A child isn’t getting ready to live – a child is living. The child is constantly confronted with the nagging question, ‘What are you going to be?’ ...

How much heartache we would save ourselves if we would recognize the child as a partner with adults in the process of living, rather than always viewing him as an apprentice. How much we would teach each other … adults with the experience and children with the freshness. How full both our lives could be. A little child may not lead us, but at least we ought to discuss the trip with him for, after all, life is his and her journey, too.

Would you like to join in the experiment, too? I have a feeling I'm going to need some buddies to help me move along!! :)

How do you keep your electronic attention span in check?

Grown-Up Goodness: Allowing Space for the New

Hi friends! I'd like to share a little something that's been on my mind. It's called:



Are you ready for something new? A breath of crisp, cool air to offer a new vibrancy to your life?

The start of the school year and the beginning of Fall have always been a time of renewal for me. The cycle begins again, and we have a myriad of opportunities for a fresh start.

One of my coworkers and friends, Ricky, shared this reflection with me last week (thank you!) that has had me thinking ever since. The theme was beginnings.The idea (from the book of Revelation) for each of us to take to heart is that God promised to make all things new again–no matter where we are, what we're fighting right now, or what's holding us back.

Whether I recognized it or not, I've typically imagined recharging and regrowth as these first two:

And, therefore, I've sometimes felt renewed one moment and totally frustrated the next.

What if I can't just start fresh??

Life and relationships are complex and just because I try to begin something with new perspectives, does not mean I can always set out a blank canvas. Challenges and trials leave their brush strokes.

Perhaps these other two ways of seeing a new might evoke a different response:

Perhaps, with grace, our ugly, tired experiences help shape the new life we are meant to live.

Perhaps it's not so much about striving to create the nearly impossible, bright shiny and new.

Perhaps we are to refashion and reforge the almost hidden goodness, disguised as the big, fat problems that we've been offered.

What are you starting new? Do you have enough space in your life, mind, and heart to try something? If not, how will you make that space?

Here are two that I'm thinking of today:

1. Living a creative life with structure and finding ways to form habits so that new life and ideas might grow.

2. Ending a few good involvements to make way for the life-giving, amazing ones on the way.

Are you ready for something new?



Grown-Up Goodness: Honoring Time

There they are. Three backpacks ready to head off to school tomorrow. My three little people leave the roost together to begin preschool, kindergarten, and second grade adventures. They are excited, slightly nervous, and really, really ready to go.

I am their mom. I'm a former teacher with a zest for learning. I'm an artist who sees the beauty in this moment. And I'm still a little bit of an emotional wreck.


We're coming to the close of all things summer around here. I'll be changing up my editorial calendar to reflect some new themes for Fall. Not quite sure what I'm moving onto next...but some wonderful things are headed this way.

I've always considered this time of year one of the most hopeful. I've been tied to the school calendar my whole life, and August means the return of something new. A guarantee of a fresh start.

And yet, the start of one thing means the close of another.

As I (nagged) told my children yesterday, this is the last summer that they will be 7, 5, and 2...enjoy it...enjoy each other...right as you are now.

And as the words came spluttering out, I wondered how much I'm heeding my own words? This has been my summer, too, with its goals, wants, successes, failures, and missed opportunities. There is so much I still would have loved to have crammed into these weeks. Time has been wasted on needless worries.

And so then insert helpful advice sent along from a friend...

I hope these words offer you a warm smile, a little relief, and a sense of peace as they did for me.

I believe it's very important that we honor the beginnings and the endings in life. And not just the big ones, but the smalls, too (the end of a season, the start of new classes and new projects, the loss of a dream, the birth of new friendships). We have to find time to celebrate them, to feel them, and to reflect upon them, allowing their wisdom to carry us forward into the next stage, the next hurdle, the next adventure.

I'm spending time today honoring all that has been and trying to wrap my head and love around all that has been missed or lost for the sake of the promise and the good.

Now is always the right time, friends. Let's celebrate it together.