William, Charlie, Ikey, Benny, Henry

William, Charlie, Ikey, Benny, Henry

Friday, December 6, 2013

Low Stress

About two months ago, I went against better judgement and took the boys for a "leaf walk" to pass the last hour until Jason got home. I REALLY didn't want to leave the house that day...we'd been without water for a week and were dirtier than ever (more on that later), the boys desperately needed haircuts, and I was wearing the shabbiest, most ridiculous clothes, that in hindsight, I still can't figure out why. It was one of those moments when you silently plead, "Please don't let me see anyone I know," (seriously...how do I not know better?!) but boredom was escalating and nice days were limited, so off we went. We hadn't walked two blocks when I ran into an old friend who I rarely see. She looked 100% fantastic. Fit, tan, sporting a stylish new haircut, driving a new car, and looking pretty darned refreshed from kayaking at the lake all day. As my shaggy, impatient, kids showed less-than-desirable behavior, I tried to concentrate on our conversation and hide the fact that I was absolutely mortified. Frantically trying to divert attention away from our pathetic display, I asked how she'd been, and she told me that her life was "really low stress right now." And then I'm pretty sure my head spun. Or I blacked out. See, to me, "low stress" is IT. The definition of achieving balance, living life right...having made it. And there I stood, a complete mess, the total opposite. "Low stress" being so far on the other end of the spectrum that I can't even imagine what it's like. I desperately wanted the earth to swallow me whole at that minute, but unmercifully, it didn't.

I sobbed about it later, knowing full well it had nothing to do with her. She's definitely seen me worse, and I know she's had more than her fair share, as well. We have too deep a history to feel ashamed in front of each other, not to mention that I'm too old for compare-and-contrast games. It was not about her being low stress; it was not about her serenity at the lake that day. It was not about her cute clothes and hair, or her cool car. (Okay, maybe it was a little about the car but who could blame me for that...Have you seen my van? Correction: Have you seen how many warning/service lights are illuminated on it's dashboard right now? It really ups it's pre-existing coolness) Seriously though, it was solely about me believing I had "fallen,"somehow, from the person I used to be. My high-stress life had me feeling ridiculous, worthless, and downright embarrassed.

Fortunately, I stumbled upon an article that I needed to read very badly. It was more than a light bulb. It was the road map to happier times. For those of you who have no time to read (though I encourage you to do so), it basically talks about two different types of time, Chronos and Kairos. The author (Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery) describes them as this:

There are two different types of time. Chronos time is what we live in. It’s regular time, it’s one minute at a time, it’s staring down the clock till bedtime time, it’s ten excruciating minutes in the Target line time, it’s four screaming minutes in time out time, it’s two hours till daddy gets home time. Chronos is the hard, slow passing time we parents often live in.
Then there’s Kairos time. Kairos is God’s time. It’s time outside of time. It’s metaphysical time. Kairos is those magical moments in which time stands still. I have a few of those moments each day, and I cherish them.

My life will never be "low stress." I'm better off giving that up right now. Sure, our kids will grow, but there will always be five of them. But, something kind of remarkable happened as soon as I made a very forced effort to implement this article into my day-to-day life. My Kairos moments became a life raft that sailed me through the Chronos times . Suddenly the big picture outweighed my former perception of how things were going. Don't get me wrong, the going still gets tough, but I'm trying real hard to let the other moments define us. This attitude adjustment has become so important that I now take a few seconds every night to record the prettiest mental images from the day into a special journal...just so I don't lose sight (which is very easy to do) of what is real, what is beautiful, and what matters (thank you Auntie Sonja!). Believe me, no one was more surprised to discover that plenty of peace actually does exist within my chaos. Move out of my driver's seat, stress...I'm back. You can ride shotgun, but it turns out I'm perfectly capable of deciding where we go from here. And for starters, you don't get to embarrass me ever again. Understood?

So, before getting lost in the Christmas frenzy (and by frenzy, I truly mean wildness and euphoria...because that is my life) I've braced myself for failure in pulling off the low-stress, perfectly organized, holiday season. Orderliness is a great fantasy, but I know my reality a little better than that. Tranquility is something I strive for, but it's not THE prerequisite for having done things right. I can totally admit that I still want to look the part. Badly. (And truth be told, I do find life more enjoyable when my surroundings are nice and neat), but I am 100% committed to this new mindset because really, without my Kairos moments, the cards are stacked against us from the get-go. I still get a little sweaty when someone says, "Oh we drove by and saw you eating dinner!" Our new house is a bit of a fishbowl and dinnertime is, by far, the most chronos-laden piece of the day. I automatically picture the whole world seeing us yelling...but maybe, just maybe, they saw us praying instead.

Have you ever buckled a child (wearing a winter coat and other bulky cold weather apparel) into a car seat? Super fun. And because Benny and Charlie are in a huge "NO! ME DO IT!" phase (Like they can really buckle their own harnesses. I can barely get them snapped), and Ikey just does the opposite of whatever I ask him to do, I'm usually winded and yelling by the time I get through five. Leaving the house is tortuous this time of year. Chronos minutes. But look at my backseat! Kairos. Forget the carseat struggles and tell me this isn't awesome. Please, God, don't ever let me forget the days when I saw this in my rearview mirror.

What, like it's hard to get us in the car?!?
I love my grandparents. And I desperately miss the ones who aren't here. My dad's parents had seven children...single births, every two years. While I only have five kids, and my grandma had no multiples, I'm imagining she knows a thing or two about the chaos in my house. I didn't know we were going to have this common ground...and now it's too late. I do know, with certainty though, if I could hear her recollection firsthand, it would be straight-up Kairos. If she were here, she would tell the funniest stories about the craziest times. She would laugh the whole time and have everyone in the room laughing too. Her stories wouldn't sound stressful, they would sound wish-you-would've-been-there hilarious. You'd be left thinking, "that must've been a hoot...what a great life." She's gone, but look, the Kairos times have prevailed.

Christmas 1958. Six of seven. The final sibling would be born the following December.

On the other side, my mom is one of three. Their house wasn't as kid-crazy, but it wasn't exactly low- stress either. In my opinion, my maternal grandparents have the most unbelievable love story of all time (I'm writing a story about it, maybe I'll share another time). But that's the Kairos talking, because I know there were difficulties. I can imagine Christmas was tough in many ways, but I'll tell you what...I've heard my grandpa pipe up (on more than one occasion) about the first time my mom saw Santa. He giggles whenever he tells a funny story, and will recount how she spun around and went running right out of the room, like it was yesterday. It's the humor that stands out in his memory, not the stress. The telling of these stories is the encouragement I need...the reassurance that our memory will take care of all the editing, so that in the end, we remember the joyful bits...even if there are days/weeks/months when they feel few and far between.

As I continue reframing experiences in my head, I'm pleased to discover that taking a lighthearted approach seems to breed even more happy times. I had previously worried about Thanksgiving: how we'd eat together, whether the boys would eat, if they'd wreck my mom's new carpet, etc. So when Charlie pooped in the tub the night before Thanksgiving, (after baths were complete, but all boys were still in the water, of course) when I had exactly one million things to do besides re-bathe kids, sanitize the tub and floor, bleach the bath toys, and run the sterilize cycle on bath towels), I didn't cry...we laughed. It makes a great story, especially when re-telling our questioning of the kids to see who was the offender.



And here's a snippet of my Thanksgiving Kairos moment that trumps it all. My grandpa is 86-years-old. I don't have to think twice about why this is important. And awesome.

video


The ill-timed run-in with my friend turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I was so ashamed for her to see me in the trenches of my "real' life, but it was the breaking point I needed to work through those feelings of insecurity and push myself to a much healthier mental place. I was privileged enough to grow up with this special person, and as it turns out, she continues to help me grow in adulthood, whether she knows it or not. I love her immeasurably and consider her place in my heart irreplaceable.

I was self-conscious about this blog for a long time. The Caring Bridge site was different. The blog, on the other hand, felt a little self-absorbed. I resisted joining Facebook for years for the exact same reason.  The incessant bragging, the "isn't my life grand," the narcissism of thinking 500 or so of your closest "friends" really care about every trivial (yet perfect) moment of your day. But then I caved, and now I think..."why not?" What's wrong with seeing your life as a string of beautiful events? I guarantee no one is immune from the pitfalls of life, but is there anything wrong with highlighting the beauty in your world? Maybe it's a version of looking on the bright side? Hmmm.

Our family Christmas card says, "Be Merry" this year. And I mean it. Find your Kairos happy place every day and hold on for dear life. Replay those moments in your head as needed, and let your heart be light! Put them out for all to see and, without losing sensitivity, let's celebrate the wonderful blessings we are given. Here are a few of our favorite times from the end of 2013.

August...

All-American. All heart. Love #44. Chris Borland is the kind of Badger that makes you proud to be a fan!

Beau knows football, but apparently not babies! These guys were so much fun. Beau Allen actually approached me and asked if he could hold one of my boys. He chose Charlie and put him up on the goal post! I think Henry was worried he was next!

Family Fun Day at Camp Randall was SUPER fun. And it was an important milestone for us, too...very first event with the triplets "uncontained!" It was risky, but we didn't even bring the wagon along. They did great...and we haven't used it since.

These guys are such good sports. They really get into the event and we appreciate it!


September...

We love to picnic! Ikey, Ahmie, Charlie, and William on one of our last lake days.

Charlie, Ikey, and Benny. We have the whole place to ourselves. Just the way we like it!

Benjamin



Ikey
Opening day and first trip of the season to Ski-Hi. New Packer tees this year. Benny got Rodgers, Ikey got Cobb, and Charlie got Matthews. Great choices...everyone ended up hurt.


Bear

Ikey

Hanky loves apples. 14 months and look at that fuzzy duck hair!

Busy, funny, boys.
October...

Country Bumpkin is THE place to be. It's the best in our area. The kids LOVED it. I think we could've spent a whole week on their activities! Benny laughing at the sheep.


Benny

Henry

Ikey

Duck races. Very intense.


Charlie

Charlie and Hoo

My happy baby



Henry was so funny in this barn. He walked right in like he owned it, and all of a sudden this llama popped up. Stopped him dead in his tracks. Of course he started giggling like crazy because that's Hanky!
Silly Benny

Charlie kept yelling at the goat, "Hungry, Goat?"



Fearless


William Titanic-style



Charlie

They drove all the way from Sparta, dressed like this, to surprise us at our Halloween breakfast. My heart could burst wide open from the amount of love I have for my grandparents.

November...

Remember the "leaf walk" I talked about? Here's the art project that resulted.

Ikey

Charlie

Our homemade leaf ornaments for the Thanksgiving breakfast table.

I'm glad I have these little keepsakes to remind me of the day I learned a big lesson.

Holiday Light Parade 2013. Brrrrr!!!

Waiting for Santa to come to town!
So that's my bit for the end of the year. I realize I haven't mentioned anything about the house...it's coming in the next post. Until then, have a wonderfully Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!