Trekking Through the Blizzard

Until yesterday, I didn’t know what the official definition of a blizzard was, but it is a storm that not only includes snow but “winds in excess of 35 mph…for at least three hours.” I learned that because our local weatherperson was explaining it…because we were in the throes of a blizzard.


walk in the park
These photos have been brightened for aesthetic purposes. It was really much grayer than this.


Sounds like perfect sledding weather, no? I figured it was. With my son’s friends gone for the day and my husband busy dealing with a deadline, I thought a little one-on-one snow fun with my kid was a great idea. So my son and I bundled up and headed out for the sled hill that is a little over a half a mile from our house.

Um…they’re not kidding about the wind. It was bitter, and we couldn’t see all that much.

It had snowed nearly a foot by then, so we were trudging through snow that was close to our knees.


lake snow


At about the halfway point we paused to catch our breath and looked at each other. The hill was off in the gray distance, and we could hardly hold our gaze toward it with the wind slapping at our eyes. Before we set out, we had agreed that if either of us wanted to turn back, that would be just fine. No pressure. But now I looked at my son and said, “I don’t know about you, but I didn’t come this far not to go down that hill at least once.”

So much for no pressure. Luckily, my kid was of the same mind. “Oh, no way, Mom…we’re doing it.”

And on we trudged.

I led the way, head tucked down but with an eye toward our next steps. After a quiet stretch of plodding along, I stopped and said to my son, “Man, walking through that deep of snow was tough.”

“Nah, it wasn’t too bad. I was walking in your footsteps, so I was okay.”




And in that moment—even with the wind whipping and the snow blowing—I couldn’t help but be struck by his words.

It was a perfect crystallization of what an important part of parenting is to me. Leading the way, and in doing so, helping our kids to follow without the same amount of struggle.


wiped out_2


Mind you, I didn’t say a crystallization of all of parenting—just a part. Because I don’t believe the role of a parent is simply to make things easier for our kids. Between our schedules revolving around them, and their being awarded trophies for simply breathing—this generation is feeling pretty good about their place in the world.

No—sometimes struggling in the exact way that we do is also a powerful and necessary lesson.

Earlier in the day, my son experienced that very thing. My husband and I are so used to being the “doers” that we often forget to have our son share in the doing, as well. With the unrelenting snow, there was plenty to shovel—and our kid was out there learning that you gotta do what you gotta do…and then do it all over again. He did a great job, and not only did he better understand the hard work involved in such a task, but he had a little pride surveying his work.




For me, the blizzard brought great examples of two key aspects of what any kind of nurturing relationship should be. Sometimes you pave the way to help the person along, and sometimes all you need to do is give them the tools to take care of it on their own.

…And we did make it to the hill.


this is how gray it really was without brightening the photos
this is how gray it really was without brightening the photos


And we did go down it a bunch of times.


king of the hill


And I was wise enough to avoid using my son’s snowboard.




And we were exhausted by the time we got home.


snow man


…And I would do it all over again.


two fools


All photos are my own.
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He’s Beyond Me

drumEquipping for our obsolescence…isn’t that the main role of a parent? Parents strive to prepare their kids to be healthy, independent members of society. Our success means…they don’t need us anymore.

As the mom of a ten-year-old, I am obviously not there yet. Just getting him to butter his toast without showering crumbs into the stratosphere is a challenge. But I do already see flashes of the future man he will be.

When I see his caring touch with younger kids—even as an “only” not able to experience younger siblings—I see the loving dad he one day may become.

And when I see him calculate math problems that already make my eyes cross, I see the complex problem solver evolving who one day will be able to tackle the difficult issues that come his way.

Even though he’s only ten, I already see that he is beyond me in some ways, and it is both a scary and amazingly wonderful feeling.

With the math, it’s mostly because I’m more than a little bit rusty on the work he is doing, and it never came easy to me in the first place. Thankfully, I am blessed with a math-minded spouse, so I am able to say, “Go ask your dad,” but if I needed to, I’m relatively sure that I could reawaken that part of my brain and help him out. (Right?)

But there is one part of his world that he is already clearly beyond me, and it touches my heart deeply.




I love music, but I don’t play an instrument. If you remember my history of faking the flute, you know I greatly respect musicians and wish I had the ability. So much so that I did try piano lessons as an adult, but after reaching the heights of “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” I knew it was time to turn in the keys. Between needing my hands to move independently of one another and follow the music, the spaz in me just couldn’t keep up. And when my beloved piano teacher added the foot pedal, well…I think I simply combusted internally.

But my kid gets it.

He is learning both the piano and drums (talk about needing to coordinate independent movements!), and he gets it.

He’s beyond me…and I love it.




Hearing him play makes my heart smile. It’s like he knows a language that I never will, and though I wish I did know it, the fact that he does…well, it’s just beautiful. A wonderful, infinite world is open to him, and it brings me great joy.

Seeing my child surpass me in something is really what it’s all about. It is just the first of many aspects of life that he will transcend my abilities and excel as the person he is—someone who is blessed by God to have an array of gifts and talents all his own. Seeing that blossom for anyone is fascinating, but when it’s my own kid, it’s enthralling.

Though right now he is still every bit a ten-year-old boy who giggles at farts and drives me crazy with his lack of focus, when I hear him play, I know that there is so much more in store for him.




One day…I will no longer need to remind him to wipe the peanut butter off of his face.

Lord willing, I will be around to look back and recall this time with great fondness—much the way I do now when I think about his first steps or his chubby baby cheeks. I need to cherish it all because I can see that time is marching on with determination.

Some days it’s harder for me than others to remember to embrace the joys of the age while striving to equip for the future, but I am grateful for it all.

What a wonderful journey I get to be a part of. I need to keep that in mind when the crumbs are flying, the homework assignment is missing, and I am telling him for the 17th time to get into the shower.

Maybe I should just make him play a song for me. That might just do the trick.


PS–Our world would be so incomplete and sad without the beauty of the arts to enrich our lives and help us to express ourselves in ways that science alone cannot. We need to fight for all kids to learn, experience, and grow in the arts. Please support art programs in public schools!

PPS–This is the 100th post of The Juggle Struggle. Thank you for coming along with me on this journey! Whether you are a first time reader or a long-time subscriber or follower, I greatly appreciate your taking some of your precious time to read my words…it means the world to me. And I hope you find it worth sticking around for more!

Let It Go: An Anthem for Girl Power

frozen_elsa_by_meddek-d6w674hDisney’s movie Frozen has a song in it called “Let It Go” that seems to have taken on a life of its own. I loved the movie, and I know my son enjoyed it, but…it obviously didn’t resonate with him the way it did with me.

In fact, as I was caught up in the story and song (and the new reclining lounge seats in the theater were a lovely bonus), he turned to me and said, “It’s good and all, but I think there’s too much singing.”

Well, Doug Downer, what’s up with that?

I’ve since read countless Facebook comments from my friends with little girls remarking that their daughters know the song by heart and won’t stop singing it. It is so popular that Disney re-released the movie in a sing-along version.

So…why? Why is this song so popular?

Well, just take a(nother) listen…

It is a captivating song about embracing your power and letting your fears go to become the person you were meant to be. Who doesn’t love that?

Yet it is definitely something that has caught on with girls more than boys. Granted, it’s not the typical movie that would become a boy’s favorite—after all, it is about two sisters (“ew!”) and their story, so it is not necessarily something that boys would gravitate toward, but I think there’s more to it.

Though Disney can’t seem to have a female lead that isn’t storybook gorgeous, the song’s message is not about embracing the power of your sexuality but rather your true gift…whatever that might be. If you notice in the clip, it doesn’t take Elsa long to hone that gift into amazing beauty once she decides to declare it.

And now, lookout people, because I’m about to go uber soapbox here.

We need to embrace who we are—all of us—but we need to particularly teach our girls that they need to embrace who they are and not try to fit into the cookie cutter mode of what is “expected” of women in this culture.

Maybe our girls are rocking out on it because they need to hear that it is okay to let it go and be themselves. Maybe they need to hear it more than we are saying it. Even in 2014. And maybe we grown women need to hear it, too.

Like the words in the song, we need to not care about what others say and let go of that “perfect girl” and the “good girl” and find out what beauty lies within us.

It seems like a non-argument to raise each other up for our true gifts and encourage our own truths, but that’s not what we as a society are teaching really, is it?

In this culture of celebrity and over-sexualized objectification, I think we have a lot more work to do.

I remember learning long ago how even in body language females are taught to “fold in” while males are taught to stretch out, and I find it to be true—women are encouraged in general to take up less space.

And then I see little six-year-old girls in dance class being taught how to bump and grind like grown women and wear full makeup and dress beyond their years, and I wonder what message they are taking away from that.

And girls who only want to be cheerleaders (go ahead and call it a sport, but it is rooted in cheering the boys on rather than participating in the sport itself) because they don’t want to “be a jock,” and I wonder why that label is so unappealing to them.

Please know that I am not saying that being a dancer or cheerleader is inherently wrong—but I do think that we need to pay attention to the messages that might lurk within.

After all—if that is the true gift for someone—to dance or do complex cheerleading mounts, then go for it! But if it is done because of “shoulds” and fears of not wanting to stand out in the “wrong” way, then I say we need to LET IT GO.

Let it go. Forget what the world sees in you or expects of you and look for what makes your heart truly beat…and then DO it.

Without apology. Without worry that you will be seen as less.

Because it is only when you let it go and let yourself be who God made you to be that you can be all the MORE you were meant to be.

Even if it means being out in the cold…just remember to tell yourself…

…the cold never bothered me anyway.

The World Needs More Hugs

This Frabjous Friday post is simple, short, and sweet. It’s a kitten video. You don’t like kitten videos? You can go suck it. Oops. Sorry. That seems rather counter to the Frabjous Friday spirit I aim to cultivate. How about “you can go and inhale quickly and deeply” (especially if you’re in Colorado)?

At any rate, this little video lifted my spirits, and I hope it does the same for you.

I, for one, could sure use more hugs like this:

How about you?

Thanks to my niece Monica for sharing this video on Facebook yesterday! What a viral world we live in!

[Email subscribers: please remember you will have to click through to my blog to view the clip.]

Stop and See the Eggs

Today is my son’s 10th birthday. As a parent, there are so many life lessons I want to share with him…from why morning breath isn’t “cool” to the importance of kindness. And I always hope that the good parts of what I say stick, and the less than ideal ones fall away.

But some lessons I aim to share with him are ones that I need to hear myself. Over and over again.

Though I’m told it’s typical behavior for a boy his age to need to be told everything at least three times, I really want him to be better connected to the world around him. For instance, after taking a trip dozens of times, the other day he asked, “Are we going the right way?” illustrating that he hadn’t been paying any attention. This is just a tiny example of how he is in his own little bubble that I would like to pop. Many times we have had “conversations” (read: nag-a-thons) of how he needs to pay attention to what’s going on around him.

But what about me?

Though I may know the route I’ve taken dozens of times, how connected am I to the actual moment I’m in? We who struggle with the juggle of life also struggle with the clichéd stopping and smelling of the roses.

Our little nest.
Our little nest.

Recently my husband discovered a robin’s nest in the pine tree right outside our kitchen window. After we all enjoyed seeing the beautiful blue eggs, the mama robin nestled in. She had expertly camouflaged the nest, and when she covered the eggs with her body, there was no way any of us would have known what miracles lurked beneath. I realized that it was the exact right perspective at the exact right time that clued us in to this exciting little world. My husband’s height gave him the angle to see, and the fact that the mom was out stretching her wings gave him the opportunity to discover. It came together in one ideal moment. Now we all know where to look and are enjoying watching our new little neighbors grow.

But what do I miss because I am not looking at the right angle at the right moment? I wonder.

Too often I have my “busy-busy blinders” on…on one mission after another, I power through and forge ahead. My bubble may move faster than my kid’s, but it’s still a bubble.

Thankfully, there are times of self-awareness where I simply make myself stop. Stop the swirl. And in those moments, inevitably I find something worth looking at…truly seeing. Maybe it’s enjoying my favorite goldfinches dart and weave after getting a nibble at our feeder…or maybe it’s seeing my son practice his piano with his bare feet (growing bigger by the day) keeping time while his tongue peeks out from his pink lips and tries to help him along.

The older he gets, the more I am trying to savor those moments. It was only yesterday, it seems, that he let go of my leg and walked his first steps. Only yesterday that he waved goodbye to us on his very first day of school. Only yesterday that he would pummel me with questions like, “Mom, does the sky end? Does the grass end? Do our days ever end?” Only yesterday.

boy and tree
As Gretchen Rubin says, “the days are long, but the years are short.” If I can get my little man to understand this sooner rather than later, then I will have helped him in a big way. I know I need to be a better model to help him see this truth more clearly. I better get my act together.

My stubborn self knows this is a life lesson I need to teach myself over and again. I guess the silver lining is that we learn best what we teach, so maybe there‘s hope for me yet.

Happy birthday to our beautiful, not-so-little-anymore boy who is loved tons and tons forever and always by his crazy mom and dad. You make the world a better place to be.

It Was the Water

My 86 (and a half!) year old mother just shared with me a personal insight she had. I’ve always known that she never learned to swim and that she had a healthy fear of the water. And I’ve always used that as a bit of a reminder about how letting our fears “win” limits our options. I think sometimes it’s much easier to see things like this third person. Today, she said to me simply, “It was the water.” She had been reflecting on how when she was a young woman, a popular thing to do was to go to North Avenue Beach in Chicago, but she frequently declined invitations because she knew the boys would want to swim and goof around in the water—and she couldn’t do that. She was too afraid. So she rarely went.

She said, “I’ve got to face the truth—it was the water.” And then she spoke of the fun she knew she had missed out on–all because of the water.

And what is my “water”? What fears am I letting win over me? What will I say when I, too—Lord willing—am 86 and a half?

And what is your “water”?