Take time to stop and smile at the pumpkins.

Walking into Whole Foods this morning, I stopped to smile at the pumpkins. I'm not ready to buy any, mind you. No. Still a tad too early. I believe that purchasing a pumpkin prior to October 1st is sacrilegious. It's like turning on Christmas lights before Thanksgiving or still having a tree up after New Years. You just don't do it. But I was happy to see the pumpkins nonetheless. Living in a part of the country where one season flows into the next without much change, seeing pumpkins at the grocery store lets us know, "Hey, look! Fall is here!"

Welcome, Fall. I'm so glad you're here.

  • I love the cooler days and wearing long sleeves. Long sleeves and maybe (maybe) a light sweater is as much as you need out here in Sunny CA in the fall. After we moved here we kept our wool sweaters and heavy coats in a bin in the garage...just in case. I finally took them, bin and all, to Goodwill because this is Southern California and you need wool sweaters and heavy coats as much as you need a pumpkin before October 1st (which is not at all.)
  • I love pumpkin patches and cute little kids in costumes. Some of my favorites memories of the boys when they were little was getting them all dressed up in their Halloween costumes and taking their pictures at the local pumpkin patch. They were so cute it hurt. My mom would come with her fancy camera and we'd hand a 2 year old a 10 pound pumpkin to hold and tell him to smile. (Often these excursions would end in tired tears staining the fronts of their precious costumes, but I digress.) My boys no longer dress up for Halloween. You'd think I'd be sad, but I'm not. I have the cute little pumpkin patch pictures of what used to be and that's all I'll need to keep me warm in the nursing home one day.
  • I love those Brach's pumpkin shaped candy corns (do those things have a name?) that I pretend not to eat. I saw a bag of them in Target last week. I sped up like an Olympic mall walker and spoke out loud to the Target Gods or anyone else in the store who was listening, "I will NOT buy them yet and you CAN'T make me!" When I do eventually buy them, and I will, they will not be displayed in a cute candy dish on the counter for all to see and enjoy. No. They will be quietly stashed away at the top of a cabinet so no one else can enjoy them but me. In the fall my inner only child rears her ugly, selfish little head and refuses to share her no-name pumpkin candy corn candy.
  • I love thinking about how the holidays will be here soon, but how they are still being far enough away so I don't have to actually do anything for the holidays yet. I love that it is still this distant thing with plenty of time left to procrastinate, that I can think about things I need to buy or make or decorate but not feel the pressure to actually DO any of those things yet.
  • I love making apple bread and apple butter (to be eaten separately, not together.) They make your house smell like Fall the way God intended, with clove and cinnamon and sweetness. I made two loaves of apple bread last week with every intention of sharing one with someone, a friend or maybe a neighbor. Nope. Ate them both ALL BY MYSELF. Because I'm talented like that.
  • I love watching college football every Saturday and having an excuse to make chili or stew in the Crock Pot. Instead of sleeping in on Saturday mornings, I get up early to watch ESPN's College Gameday ("Yeah...we're coming...to your citay!") I could be resting, catching up on my beauty sleep, but no. I don't need more sleep. I need to feel the energy of game day. I have said it a thousand times and probably will a thousand more: the thing I miss most about living in Oklahoma (specifically Norman) is waking up and feeling the electricity in the air on a college football Saturday. It's real, people. Those of you who live or lived in Norman are nodding your heads because you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about. ESPN's College Gameday is a poor substitute, but's it's all I've got.
Oh, Fall. What's not to love?

Why I Need to Start Planning for Long-Term Care

On the way to school yesterday...

Youngest Son: Mom, how old are you?

Me: I'm 44.

YS: So you're almost 50. That means you're halfway there.

Me: Halfway to what?

YS: Halfway to 100 years old.

Me: You think I will live to be 100?

YS: No. You'll probably live to be around 91 or 92 or something like that.

Me: Well that's still pretty old. Are you going to take care of me in my old age?

YS: No.

Me: No? You won't take care of me?

YS: Mom. I'm going to be busy doing my own thing.

Me: Oh really? You know, you'll be in your 60's by then. You think you're going to be too busy to take care of your dear old mom?

YS: (Sighing. Exasperated.) Yes, Mom. I'll be busy doing my own thing.

Me: Okay... I'll remember that.

Long pause and the car gets quiet as my emotions vacillate between wanting to crack up and being scared for my future. The conversation resumes...

YS: Mom, can we sell those games I want to get rid of on eBay tonight? Please? Will you help me?

Me: Sorry. I'll be too busy doing my own thing.

YS: Fine, Mom. I'll take care of you when you're old. (This kid can change his mind/attitude/emotions on a dime!)

Me: Oh! (Laughing.) Now you change your tune!

YS: Well...yeah...I mean only a horrible son wouldn't take care of his mom when she's really old.

Me: Yes, a horrible son indeed. Well. (Arriving at the school.) Well have a good day. Go do your own thing.

YS: Really, Mom?

Yes, REALLY! I see how it's going to be. Depending on how valuable I am at the time, my precious Youngest Son will decide whether or not he has time to take care of me in my really old age. Thank goodness I have another child who might not be as busy (insert eye roll here) and maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll have a couple of daughters-in-law that like me enough to put me in a nice home. Total. Crapshoot.

Go ahead and start praying for me now.

Meditation. It's the thought that counts.

Monday Morning Meditation:

You got the kids fed and to school. You fed the dogs. Got a protein smoothie in your stomach. Everyone's been fed. You've got an hour before Pilates. Plenty of time to meditate.

You grab your phone and go into the living room where you've created a mediation space. You need a comfy chair, a diffuser, headphones, and that's all you need. Except you need to refill the diffuser. Take ten minutes to scroll through Pinterest to find just the right essential oil blend. You go with one called "Meditate" because it seems stupid not to.

You get the diffuser all set and ready to go. You sit down and cross you legs. Instantly your hips start to ache because you are 44 and that's your new normal. You get back up to find two pillows to place under your folded legs so you won't focus on your hip pain the whole meditation. You make a mental note to stretch more.

You open your Calm app and click on Day 3 of your "21 Days of Calm" mediation and try not to feel guilty that you started your 21 Days 45 Days ago. You reach over to grab your headphones that you always leave on the table only to realize they aren't there. You spend the next 10 minutes trying to figure out where you left them. You go into the boys' bedrooms to look and get sidetracked making their beds (see previous post as to why this is a priority.) Find the headphones in your own bathroom, unsure how they ended up there. Return downstairs to the living room.

Position the pillows, open the app, plug in the headphones, and you're ready. Until the dogs starts whining to join you. Pat on the chair so she can squeeze in between the arm rest and your hip pillow. No rule against a dog joining your mediation. Notice she kinda smells. Thank goodness for the diffuser. Make another mental note to call the groomer. Your mental notes are starting to crowd one another. Push them aside for now. Restart the app. Realize you're running low on time. Mediation will take about 15 minutes. You'll be cutting it close.

Two minutes in and you're already feeling the effects as you concentrate on your breathing. Think about how grateful you are to have found a mediation practice. Your mind drifts to all of the things you are grateful for including your husband which reminds you that you need to do his laundry which reminds you that you need to clean your closet that's gotten out of control which reminds you to refocus. Breathing again, four counts in, four counts out, think about prayer requests, who you need to focus on and send love to during your mediation.

While you're trying to remember that name of that friend of a friend who needs prayer for that thing that you can't remember, your phone buzzes. Text message from your high schooler reminding you that he needs five bucks for his homecoming T-shirt. Open your reminders app so you won't forget. Record several things you need to do today which now includes a stop by the bank for cash, which reminds you to reconcile your bank statement, which makes you wonder if you're the only person on the planet who still reconciles their bank statement, which makes you think that might make a funny blog post, which reminds you that you should be blogging more, which makes you think of all the things you need to start doing more of like meditating.

Refocus (again) and reopen the Calm app (again) and see that you're running low on time. You realize you still need to wash your face and put on deodorant because, even though your friends at Pilates are used to seeing you in all of your glory which normally consists of a ponytail and no makeup, they shouldn't have to endure your dirty face and smelly pits. You hop up, leaving the hip pillows and diffuser and headphones in your mediation space, vowing to return tomorrow for Day 3 of your 46 Days of mediating. Chalk this one up under good intentions.

Mediation. It's the thought that counts.

Why I Make My Kids Bed Every Day

For his birthday, my youngest asked for a bigger bed. Turning 12, becoming a pre-teen, this seemed like a reasonable request. It was time for a big boy bed. I kept saying, "We redecorating Palmer's room. He's finally getting a big boy bed." I don't know why I kept calling it that. You would think it would embarrass him. It didn't. He just laughed.

Every step along the redecorating way I asked for his input. When I asked how he would like to arrange the furniture, he grabbed a marker and a piece of purple construction paper and drew out his design. At one point he told me that he wanted to paint the walls black and have a black and turquoise comforter. That's what you get when you ask for a 12-year old's input.

I love creating happy spaces for my boys. I love decorating their rooms and seeing them take ownership requesting this and that. Both boys take pride in their bedrooms and do a pretty good job of keeping their rooms clean. Other than having to make their beds, there wasn't anything else I really had to do before taking the pictures for this post.

Oh making beds. I love a well made bed. I've taught and retaught my boys how to make their beds over the years. I've carefully shown them how to fold back the comforters and expertly fluff the pillows before placing them just so. And no matter how many times I've shown them (and it's been many) they never, ever make it right. Yes, I realize that it is only my version of the right way to make a bed, but it's a pretty damn good version. Mom's way is always the best way.

Truth: the boys suck when it comes to making their beds. It's a Freeman home requirement, one of their chores, but it never gets done. For a while I was riding them about it, but I finally gave up. Instead, I just started making them myself. Why? Because when I walk by their rooms 10 times a day, I like seeing them made. I like the neatness and the order. An unmade bed makes my home feel messy, chaotic. Does that sound...extreme. Perhaps. Don't judge. I can't help it.

The irony is that this is the complete opposite of our parenting style. We are "Figure It Out, Do It Yourself" parents. We don't believe in hand holding, hovering, or any kind of helicoptering. When I hear, "Mom, I don't know how to..." our response is always, "Figure it out." Sometimes they do. Sometimes they struggle. Sometimes we have to give in and help a little. But for the most part they do a great job of figuring it out eventually. We are HUGE believers in not doing for them what they can do for themselves. Except when it comes to making their beds. Apparently I have my limits. I'm weird that way.

The other day I asked them both if they noticed that the Bed Making Fairy has been visiting their bedrooms every day. The replied that they indeed had noticed and were very appreciative to that very beautiful fairy (my adjective, not theirs). I asked if they liked coming home from school every to a made bed. They agreed that they did.

Now this is the point in the story where you assume that I launched into a authoritative speech about how they needed to start making their own beds. That my "Do It Yourself" philosophy would kick into gear. But no, that is not what happened. I didn't say a word. Why? Because that's not part of my master plan.

You see, I'm convinced that one of the reasons that I'm slightly obsessed with keeping a home clean and clear of clutter is because that's the way that I grew up. My mother always kept a very clean home during the years that she had outside help and even the years that she didn't. I believe that I keep a clean home now because that's what I grew up with. That's how I lived. That was my expectation. And the minute I left my home to live in the dorms my freshman year in college, I took that expectation with me. And it has never left.

While my boys are still under my roof, I really don't care if they make their beds. Yes, I want their beds made, but I want them done a certain way and I'm tired of them not doing it. So I'll do it. I'll save us all the nagging and frustration and just do it. What I hope will happen is that when they leave, when they go to college, they will have an expectation of cleanliness much like I did. An expectation that their bed should be made every day. That maybe, just maybe, this expectation will cause them to make their own beds every day.

Or maybe it won't. Let's face it. Parenting is a crap shoot no matter what we do.

In the meantime, the Bed Making Fairy will continue to show up. She will happily make the beds because it makes her happy. She's weird that way.