sabbath taking

When I see people out and about, especially people from my church or the presbytery, they always ask how my sabbatical is going and what I’ve been doing (as well as comment on my tan).  They usually seem disappointed when I say something like, just hanging out – spending time with my kids (especially fellow pastors).  It’s like they expect to hear about a great pilgrimage or study.  Nope….I just need time to enjoy life with my family and friends.  That’s what’s renewing my spirit.  And it’s really hard to sum up all the greatness of this summer (so far) with just a few words.  We’ve been busy.  I’ve been spending much more time on twitter and instagram this summer than facebook because all my church peeps are on facebook and it’s hard to disconnect when you see their updates and they comment on yours.   But here’s the gist of our Sabbath seeking:

We had our annual 4th of July Cook-Out with my dad’s family on the hottest day of the year.  The kids didn’t mind.

We hosted 12 people in our house for a week.  The best week of the year:  Vacay 2012!  (more on that later)

We went to Fort Mill to spend a few days with my college roommate (and high school friend – gosh, we’ve been friends for a LONG time) and her sweet boys.  It’s amazing how good time with old friends is so good for the soul!  I even got the bonus of hanging out with four of my friends from high school one night over mimosas and wedding invitation assembling.

Caleb turned TWO (more on that later)

He also had a party with all of his crazy cousins, of whom, he is the craziest

Then he had his two year-old check-up and got rewarded with a cupcake (so did his sister who helped him be brave and who also answered all the nurses questions and accompanied him to the scale.  They didn’t really need me)

For a break from the 90+ heat EVERY.DAY in July, Taylor went to an ice skating party for her BFF

Taylor and I had a mother-daughter day at the waterpark

Caleb, Grammy, and I had a great day at the Fire Museum

Caleb, Taylor, and I got decked out for Tie-Dye Free Donut Friday at Dunkin Donuts

Taylor went to her first play.  She sat on the edge of her seat and clapped enthusiastically at the end of every scene.  SO. FUN.

Taylor and I had another mother-daughter day in which we played in the fountains downtown, went on a carriage tour of Charleston, and saw Ice Age: Continental Drift (which Taylor thought was HI-larious – she was the loud laugher the whole movie)

We have also had several beach days which were not photographed.   On Friday, Russ and I got to go to the PGA Championship at The Ocean Course with my sister and brother-in-law, but unfortunately didn’t take a single picture of that either!   The day before that, we celebrated our 9th anniversary.  It was pretty pathetic, so we are already planning our 10th anniversary celebration to make up for it.  Speaking of Russ, you’ll notice that he isn’t a part of our sabbatical shenenigans…that’s because he’s been working like a crazy person.  Residency is B-A-N-A-N-A-S (more on that later).  I have also been watching a ridiculous amount of Olympics and even watched the whole first two seasons of Downton Abbey (while Russ was on night float for a week and I had trouble sleeping).  I have also had the pleasure of church hopping and seeing some good friends do what they do so well (picking up some pointers along the way).

I remember in high school when I was voted Most Likely to Succeed, I had a mixed reaction because I knew that I would not be successful in the way that most of my classmates viewed success.  So I don’t know if most would say that my sabbatical has been successful so far, but man, has it been fun and full of good things.  I’m hoping the rest is just as fun, with hopefully a little more working out and a little less time in front of the TV now that the Olympics are over, but I’m making no promises.


I was supposed to be working on my sermon today, but around lunchtime I got some writer’s block and decided to leave my post at Panera to go play at Target.  I was getting quite frustrated because they are remodeling and nothing is where it is supposed to be.  Then I saw this little girl, maybe 6 or 7, crying and looking around as if she were looking for someone.  So I stopped put my hand on her shoulder and asked her if she was trying to find her mom. Immediately, she stopped crying as if she trusted me and knew she would be ok, and said “My grammy.”  So I found out what she looked like and what they were doing at Target today as we walked down the aisle looking for her Grammy on our way to where the closet Target associate was standing.  Fortunately, we found her Grammy just three aisles down from where we started, and she ran to her.  It must not have been long, because the Grammy was still reading the label on something and hadn’t noticed her granddaughter wasn’t there.

But as soon as she ran from me to her Grammy the events of Saturday flooded back in my mind, and I started tearing up again…the first time since Sunday night.

I’m glad both situations had good outcomes, but come on, what are the odds?

laugher fills this house

Hey, I’m still here, kind of.  If you heard a big sigh of relief yesterday, it was me after my sabbatical was approved for this summer.  Holla!  Blogging more often will be among my sabbatical goals because it helps me keep my sanity partially in tact.  But for now, it’s going to be sporadic city around Better Days parts.  I could not, however, not blog about Taylor’s hilarity this morning.

While I was in the shower, she crawled into bed with Russ.  When I came out of the bathroom and the light shown into Russ’ still asleep eyes, he rolled over and put his arm around Taylor and gave her a big hug….to which she replied, “Uh, you’re disgusting!”

I laughed SO hard.  When she realized that she may have hurt his feelings, she clarified, “But you smell good”  – apparently his arm had landed on her mouth during the hug and she was noting that he tasted disgusting…maybe…or maybe she was just trying to spare his half-asleep feelings.

Then, at breakfast, we were all sitting together, which is a rarity in the morning.

Taylor mused, “You know, black is the darkest of the colors.”

Me:  “Yes, that’s right.  Which is the lightest of the colors?”

Taylor: “Yellow”

Me: “Hmm….what about this (pointing to her white napkin)?”

Taylor: “Oh, white”

Russ: “Actually I think she may be right because white isn’t really a color”

Me:  “True, white is the absence of color…Taylor, you may be right”

Taylor:  “That’s because I know everything.”


Me:  “Taylor, you are funny”

Taylor:  “I know”

I’m glad she’s a confident girl.

Later on in the meal, she declared, “It’s like we’re in a meeting”.  Funny, smart, confident, and also a PK.


In other news, Caleb LOVES syrup:


He also enjoys climbing:

gut punch

First of all, Taylor is still sick.  The women who work in the office of her school told me this morning that she came to the office yesterday, sat down in the chair and sighed before saying, “I don’t feel good…I should have just stayed home in bed.”  Is she 4 or 40?   I feel like a GREAT mother for sending her to school sick.


This afternoon, she crawled up into my lap after playing outside (this is one side effect of being sick that I don’t mind one bit).  Russ had just left to meet a friend for dinner before going to a meeting and told Taylor that Grammy was coming as a means of convincing her she didn’t want to go with him.  She looked at me and said, “Mommy, are you and Caleb going to stay home with me and Grammy?”  I sighed and replied sadly, “No, I have to go back to work for a little bit….but you know what?  After tonight I won’t have to work at night again for a long time.”

She perked up, threw her arms around my neck, and exclaimed with much excitement “THAT’S SO GREAT!”  Then she grabbed my face in her hands and gave me a big kiss.

How’s that for making a mom feel guilty?!  I really felt like I got punched in the gut.  I love my job.  And I love that my job has the flexibility to spend a lot of time with my kids, but missing bedtime is tough….especially when there are weeks like the last two when I’ve been gone at night much more than I’ve been home.

And to add insult to injury, on Monday morning, we were looking at a picture that Taylor drew of a child with a frown on his/her face.  We asked her why the child was frowning, and she said “Because he’s sad, and he misses his mommy and daddy because they aren’t home at night.”


So I will begin to assuage my mom guilt by staying home with her tomorrow for her third sick day in a row.

But then I will have minister guilt because there are things left undone at work and things that I’ll have to cancel.  It’s a never ending cycle trying to find the balance.

I am, however, definitely looking forward to the next few weeks when the scale tips more towards the family side.


I think I started a new tradition this year.  It is December 7, and the Christmas cards went in the mail yesterday; the house is decorated and clean(ish); and we have all but three gifts wrapped and under the tree.

Did I mention it is only December 7?  It is a pretty incredible feeling to look into the horizon of the second week of Advent and Christmas with a weight lifted.  This is all because I took the week of Thanksgiving off.  I didn’t go anywhere the first half of the week and didn’t go far the rest of the weekend, so I got a lot of stuff done.

And Monday of that week, I got NOTHING done.  It was fabulous.  I got up and got the kids ready for school*, then after Russ drove off with them, I got back in bed and did not get up again until lunchtime.  At lunchtime, I heated up some pizza and got back in bed to eat it.  I did not get up again until it was time to pick the kids up at 3:00.    I had been fighting a sinus infection and working doubletime the week before (because my boss was on vacation), so this day of nothing was the best. day.

The rest of the week was very productive because I was fully (well, almost) refreshed.  I got back my go-get-him and my giddy-up.  So by the evening of Sunday, the house was really clean and decorated and most of the shopping was done (plus I got to spend some quality time with my mom and Taylor on Girls’ Day).

I highly recommend a staycation with no agenda, no plans…the chance to just be and to get as much done as you feel like getting done….and watching as much trashy TV as you want without anyone judging you.  It’s a good thing.  So I think from now on, I will take this week off and plan to go no where in order to find some order before charging full steam ahead into Advent and Christmas.

I really think I will enjoy this year more without the stress of shopping on Christmas Eve.  The Advent season is supposed to be about waiting and preparing for Christ’s coming, but with all the hustle and bustle, you lose the chance to wait and prepare – the pace is fast and furious.  I’m hoping that this year, I will really be able to celebrate Advent with some patience, some stillness, some silence, and a lot of joy and anticipation…hoping that my four year-old will rub off on me a bit.

*1) So, yes, I know that for Caleb especially it is more daycare than school, but I just don’t like the term daycare, and it’s my blog.  2) I used to think that if I wasn’t going into work, I had to keep the kids home (mom guilt).  HA!  Then I got a bit of sanity and perspective and learned that a little time off with the kids at school allowed me to be more rested and productive so that the time spent with them was that of a much higher quality.  So I cut myself a break.  Plus they both dig school a lot, so that helps.


While on our annual vacation with our friends from seminary, we noted that we all have very strong, independent, stubborn, feisty, opinionated, funny girls.  When their propensity for stubbornness and attitude was driving us crazy we would try to remind ourselves and each other that these are traits that we will appreciate one day and more importantly will serve them well into adulthood.

That is if we are careful not to kill their spirit.

I am preparing to lead a Bible study with our middle school girls this year, and I am super excited about it because I love middle school girls and this group of girls in particular!  I started reading Doing Girlfriend Theology by Dori Grinenko Baker to get ideas and direction.  The foreword had me hooked with its analysis of a girls journey from childhood to adolescence, hooked and aching.

The feisty “tomboy” girl of ten gets shut down by thirteen and loses her voice.  As she moves from childhood to adolescence, the girl learns to conform to the expectations of gender roles.  In myriad ways the message comes to her that she must quiet down, lower her voice, learn to make herself pleasing to others, no longer expresses her own feeling

and later

Internalizing cultural cues, girls begin to “not know” and to behave in ways deemed “nice and kind”….Descriptors such as “vivacious” “spunky” and “willful” give way to adjectives such as “non-confrontational” and “pleasing.”  Wildflowers dry up; wallflowers emerge.

GAH!  I certainly don’t think it happens to all girls, but I can understand how it does happen. You can’t ignore the stories of depression, cutting, eating disorders, and suicide in young girls.

I’ve been inundated with articles about raising daughters lately, so my minds all a flutter.

Rebecca Wolf talks about whether or not we should tell our daughters they are pretty on Momversation as does Crazybananas.  I concur with their conclusions that we SHOULD tell our daughters they are beautiful, because they are.  I remember coming home from college after getting my portrait done for our sorority composite and I was talking to my dad – I said something about how I ran by between class and getting in my car and didn’t do any extra touching up while most of the girls were spending lots of time glamming up, when my dad said something like “that’s because you’re beautiful just the way you are” – that was 10ish years ago, obviously it made an impression.

For the moment Taylor is pretty fond of herself.  I find her looking at herself in the mirror, singing songs and making faces and playing with her hair.  Last week we watched a few videos of her, and she was loving it.  She was smiling with pride the whole time.  I hate watching/hearing myself on camera – I hope she never feels that way.

But I also hope that her looks aren’t her priority.  The story about the t-shirts marketed to young girls saying “I’m too pretty to do my homework so my brother does it for me” is just absurd.  How did anyone think that was a good idea?

Taylor is beautiful, but she is also funny, smart, wild, feisty, independent, strong.  I want her to know all of those things about herself and be confident.  But I do also want her to be “nice and kind”  and humble and generous and polite.  I’m sure she can be all those things without losing her spunk, right?  Because I hope she always wakes up full of awesome.

week one

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know that Taylor has presented her share of challenges to her parental units at daycare/preschool and at bedtime.  But this week, she is like a new kid (new, but still retaining her funny sweet smart independent self).

Today, we have a hurricane strolling by, which led to a tree falling outside of our neighborhood and taking out a power line and our power.  So we did what every reasonable family would do – went to McAlister’s for a snack in the “tropical storm warning” weather.  While we were there, I cut Taylor’s brownie in half so she wouldn’t have too much sugar.  Russ got the other half and was going to give me half of that, but then Taylor broke her half in half and insisted on sharing with me.  We tried to convince her it was ok, and that she could eat her whole half, but she could not be convinced.  Russ stroked her hair and said, “How did you get to be so sweet and good at sharing?”  to which she replied “I’m in the 4s now”  To which Russ reflected, “I’m almost crying because of how proud I am of you”  Me, too.

It’s just hard to think back and remember the challenges, the tears, the yelling, the bargaining, the treats.  It wasn’t that long ago, but it feels like a different life…to be the parent that gets the bad news day after day of behavior problems….to be the parents who stripped their kid’s room of EVERYTHING but the mattress and bedding.  As I type (at 7:00pm), Taylor is quiet and still in her bed with her eyes closed without so much as a peep since Russ read her books.  The 7th night in a row of perfect bedtimes.  We told her how awesome she was doing at bedtime a few days ago, to which she replied “That’s because I’m in the 4s now”.  She’s earned back all of her furniture, and is so excited.

If that wasn’t awesome enough, this is what I found in her folder after her first week of school:

If you can’t read the writing in the boxes, there is a list of behaviors that need improvement…then the last box (where the smiley face is) says, “Great Behavior!”

(yellow stamps mean that she kept her “smiley face” all day everyday this week)

I’m just giddy – verklempt even.  She’s just awesome.  I have no delusions that it will stay this way forever or that she’s perfect now, but she has come so far and has matured into such a kind, strong little lady.  My cup overflows.

And just for fun, another jewel from school:

Her self-portrait –   eyes: blue (yes!), lips: pink (yes!), shirt:  purple (yes!), hair: short and brown (half right), skin: gray? (HA!)