Everything will be just fine. But how do we make things better than fine?
Author: Laurie Jansen
I'm a mom, wife, teacher, small business owner, sister, daughter...all the hats! Join me as I work on turning my normal reaction to situations in both my personal and professional life ("It's fine!" "I'm fine!") into a response and reality that is better than fine!
I’m one of those weirdos who thrives off of change. It stresses me out but it lights a fire in me every single time. I do NOT like to fail (who does, really?!?), so I will do whatever it takes to make the changes be successful. Does that mean I make changes without anxiety? Without fear? Ha!! I wish!
As this school year comes to a close, I find myself making a major change in my professional life. After 16 years in a classroom, I’m switching to become a reading teacher. As if that wasn’t stressful enough (and trust me, I’ve got ALL the stress there), I’m switching to a different school (eek) and taking my youngest two kids with me (double eek). On the outside, I look calm about it. On the inside, I am a disaster. I wish I had a crystal ball so I could stop pondering my decision-making skills.
I am super excited about the change, don’t get me wrong! I know that I’m going to grow, professionally from the change. I’ve taught kindergarten for the last eleven years. I LOVE it, which makes this move all the more stressful. I have an amazing team, which also makes me stress. I’ve got it pretty good where I’m at. But I’m feeling stagnant. It makes me wonder if I’m feeling ungrateful. I worry about that. But I just am in a rut. Guys, I’ve been leading calendar every single day for eleven years. If I have to say, “What month is it?!?” in a fake excited voice for more than the ten days that we have left, I’m going to poke my eyeballs out! I’ve done this thousands of times in the last eleven years. It’s become exhausting instead of exciting. That’s how I know that I have to change. My great position with great staff, students and families isn’t enough. It’s become too easy to overlook ALL of the good because I’m so used to it. It’s become way too easy to see the tiny little flaws because they’ve become a novelty. I hate that. I don’t want to be that person.
And so, even through the anxiety, the worries and the flat-out fears…SO many fears (Will I be good enough? I don’t want to let anyone down. Will my kids thrive in a new environment? Will they make friends? What if people don’t like me?), I change. I change because I know that’s what I need to benefit myself and everyone around me. And you know what? I’ll make it work. All of those fears will be a giggle to me down the road. This change will start a new chapter in my life that is yet to be titled. I have a feeling it’s going to be beautiful, earth-shattering and life-changing. Bring it on!!
With four growing kids, you can imagine how ridiculous our schedules can get. I struggled to try to find a way to keep everyone connected. We used Google Calendar, and I still do. But somehow we ran into some hiccups where my husband wasn’t seeing things on my calendar, a few things mysteriously disappeared…basically just chaos happened. We needed something better!
A friend of mine is a Mary & Martha Consultant. I hadn’t heard of the company until I became friends with her, but their products are awesome! As a super thoughtful gesture, she gifted me a weekly calendar notepad, similar to the one in the picture that I found on Zazzle. It has been a game-changer. I’m positive she had no idea how big of a help that was. Or maybe she actually saw that I was a hot mess and was gently trying to help. Who knows!!Either way, I will forever be buying these things because they have majorly changed things at our house!
On Sunday afternoons or evenings, my husband and I write everything from our calendars (digital calendars, school calendars, activity calendars…everything) on one of these pages. We ask the kids if there’s anything they need to put on there like due dates for projects, spelling tests, activities we didn’t know about, or anything else. Not only do we make sure everything is laid out in one place, it’s a good reminder for us as to what the week actually holds. It’s easy to look at my calendar on my phone and think I’ve got it all. But to actually have to carry it over and write it down? It cements it in my brain and makes it harder to forget. Not impossible, but harder!
When it’s all on the counter in one place, not only can we make a plan to divide and conquer if needed, but the kids see what the week holds. It is SO easy for them to see which nights are jam-packed and which nights are free. We are all on the same page and there’s no surprises. It has made all of our lives so much more streamlined! It’s such an easy thing. I’ve seen notepads like this in the past. I’m pretty sure I’ve even bought them. But I don’t think I fully understood the need for them until there were six of us going in different directions at once. Now? Now I get it!
The most brilliant part of all of this is that we’ve started using the back of the sheet as a grocery list. Whenever somebody uses the last of something, they’re SUPPOSED to write it on the list. My husband and I are good at this but the kids aren’t quite trained…yet. It’s still been super helpful though! We usually place a grocery order on Saturday nights (we are QUITE the interesting couple, I tell you!), so it’s right there in front of us, ready to be entered.
Now, we still forget things here and there, but it’s been such a practical thing that we put in place that has made a huge difference! If you’re starting to feel like a chauffeur that has no idea where they’re going, give it a try. Go back to the basics of a pencil and paper. There’s something about it that just works for us!
One of the best pieces of parenting advice I’ve ever gotten came from my oldest son’s 2-year well-child visit. Our pediatrician at the time very wisely told us that soon we would start having some battles with our son as he began to strive for independence. Her exact words were, “You have to choose your battles. Don’t fight them all. But the ones you choose, you HAVE to win.” This has stuck with me through all of my years of being a parent.
It sounds simple enough, and really the idea of it IS very simple. In reality though, what it means is that you have to pre-think every situation through. When they ask for something or for permission to do something, you have to think it through completely before you give your answer. If you say “no” to playing outside before dinner, are you prepared to stand your ground? Is it important enough for you to go to battle for? If the answer is yes, then carry on. If the answer is no, then don’t say that “no” in the first place.
In that case, you aren’t actually committed to that no. It really doesn’t matter to you, it’s just more convenient if they play inside. But if they start to beg and whine, you don’t care enough to fight the battle. You will most likely give in and then reinforce the fact that fits, whining and begging will get you to change your mind. But the funny thing is, they didn’t! You just never made your mind up in the first place!
I’ve had my fair share of weak moments where I’ve given in or changed my mind, and I can tell you that it makes the next battle even harder. Don’t do it! Save your energy and patience for the battles you care enough to fight for. I’m not saying you should let your kids do whatever they want. I’m not crazy!! I still have stipulations before I say “yes” to things! Whatever reason would tempt you to say “no” in the first place becomes part of the stipulation for getting the “yes”. You want to play outside? Sure, but when I say it’s time to come in for dinner, no complaining and you pick everything up immediately. If they don’t follow those stipulations, there’s a consequence. I’m not letting them walk all over me, but they’re seeing that there’s some give-and-take, even in the yes moments.
Parenting is HARD. There are no perfect days, perfect answers, or perfect situations, no matter how hard you try. As you navigate through though, think your answers through before you give them. Be thoughtful and intentional in your parenting and mean what you say. Your kids will hear “no” less often, but it will mean more and become non-negotiable.
Have you ever had something happen that is so coincidental it gives you goosebumps? Like, you’ve been hoping, praying and brainstorming about how to fix a problem and can’t find any great answers. Then all of a sudden, something falls in your lap that is completely NOT the direction you were looking at going, but you realize is probably the perfect solution?
I’m such a “fixer”, that this hasn’t happened very often in my life. I like change and sometimes I crave it, so I’m not scared to quickly change things, situations, schedules to try to fix problems. At this very moment, I’m actually wondering if I’ve sabotaged myself from opportunities simply by always trying to fix things myself. I’m so quick to jump in and come up with solutions that maybe I’ve missed out on things bigger than what I could ever dream up.
Recently I’ve been struggling to find some answers or solutions to a pretty major dilemma in my life. I’ve been scrambling to make it better. I’ve changed schedules, changed ways that I approach it, willed myself to change my attitude, tried things I’ve done in the past to make it better, made adjustments big and small…but nothing has really gotten to the root of the problem. It’s all been band-aids. Honestly, recently, I accepted the fact that I was pretty much out of ideas. I was disheartened and defeated. I just tried to make myself content and accept the things that I can’t change. I stopped fixing. I finally shut up and listened to the silence. I accepted that I am not the be all, end all. I have a cute sign hanging in my house that says, “Be still” and yet, I didn’t. Clearly I ignored my own advice. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever truly understood the meaning of that phrase. Until now.
In my silence, an answer to the struggles came flying at me. Literally right in my face. It came at a time where I just didn’t see how things would ever get better. It came in a way that is impossible for me to ignore. It is 100% not at all where I was looking for an answer. It doesn’t fit with what I thought my own plan was. But after I’ve sat and thought about it, I’ve realized that it doesn’t FIT my plan…but it’s better! There are still so many details to figure out and it is still just a hypothetical thing. But I see a plan forming right in front of a me. A plan that is better than anything I could have come up with myself. A plan that I didn’t have to struggle to come up with. A plan that doesn’t have to drain me of energy to try to make it happen. Even if it doesn’t come to fruition, I don’t care. I’ve learned something. It’s good to be proactive. It’s good to try to help yourself. It is! But sometimes it’s good to be silent. It’s good to listen. Listen to things you can’t hear and see at first. Trust that sometimes things need to happen that are bigger than yourself. If you are struggling with something, if you’re the person that’s a “fixer” and you’re trying to find an answer. Just stop. Be patient. Pray…however that looks for you. Be still. And when you feel a nudge, listen. Don’t ignore it because it doesn’t fit what you were planning. It might be bigger than you. It might be exactly what you didn’t even know you needed. Stop fixing and listen.
As mentioned in a previous post, my husband and I took a quick getaway to Waco, TX to see Magnolia Market. I’m a huge fan of Chip and Joanna, not just for their design sense, but because they’re good people, good parents, and just a good influence on the world. Our trip was supposed to last three days but due to major flooding in Nebraska, we rushed home after one day. But in that one day, I had the best time! I thought I’d share some things I learned to make a day at Magnolia Market one you won’t forget!
We flew into Dallas Love Field and flew out of DFW. Honestly, the drive seemed pretty similar. I believe Houston is about the same drive time, too. I would check all options when booking flights. If you could save quite a bit by booking a different location, it would be worth it!
For lodging, I would highly recommend Hotel Indigo. Since we were trying to book just a quick weekend getaway, we were almost deterred by the price of Hotel Indigo. It happened to be the beginning of their Spring at the Silos event, so the price was much higher than I think it typically is. However, after a little bit of research, we decided the extra cost would probably be worth it due to the location. We were not wrong! We were literally three blocks from the silos. We easily walked back and forth throughout the day. It was nice to not have to worry about parking or traffic. The hotel itself is beautiful and the staff was really friendly. It was definitely a great choice.
Magnolia Table (their restaurant) is not by the silos. Not even close! However, it is totally worth a visit. It opened at 6 am, so we got there a few minutes before then, even though I HATE getting up early! We figured we’d have to wait in line some, but hoped getting there early would minimize the wait time. It worked! There was a line forming when we pulled up, but we only had to wait about 15 minutes to be seated. They only let in a handful of people at a time when they open to avoid overwhelming the kitchen. Our server was fantastic and the food was SO good! The strawberry butter is something I’m going to have to try to recreate at home, but I’m sure it won’t even come close. The hash browns were also fantastic. And of course their coffee was even perfect!
After we finished breakfast, we headed back to the hotel, parked, and walked to the Silos. I wish I could explain it accurately, but I feel like my words can’t match my feelings. Walking up to the silos, I almost felt like I was walking into Disney World. Everything was so freaking perfect, it almost seemed like it was a set. I always feel that way about Disney. The colors were so vivid and everything was so beautiful, it just didn’t feel real. As we walked up, I noticed that even the smell was different. Even though we were still outside and had simply crossed the street, it noticeably smelled better…fresher, cleaner, slightly floral but without being overwhelming. I swear they have to pump some sort of scent into that place, yet it is definitely not a fake smell. Maybe I’m crazy, but it was something I definitely noticed. I wish I could do that to my house! I felt like it was busy when we got there, but compared to what we saw later in the day, it was definitely NOT. We were able to walk around and take some pictures before getting in line to get into the store, Magnolia Market. Yep, you heard me. You get in line to go inside the store. Crazy!!
When we got into the store, we shopped and got a few things. However, since we were flying, I was limited on what I could take back. I had heard a tip before going that a lot of what they offer in the store, they also offer online. It is cheaper to have it shipped from there than to pay to bring it back on the plane. So I bought some smaller things and then made a mental note of what to shop for online later. The displays in the store are absolutely gorgeous though and totally worth going in there to see.
If you are able to visit during the Spring at the Silos event (or their Silobration event), it is an awesome time. They had free entertainment on the lawn the entire time. They brought in bands and singers and you could hang out as long as you wanted. There were oodles of food trucks, including one for Magnolia Table, where you could have a limited menu and try the restaurant without having to go there. They also had a bakery truck where you could get cupcakes without having to stand in the long bakery line. Just a little tip for you! We were also lucky enough to be there for Jo’s book launch for “We Are the Gardeners”. They had the stage set up for that event, as you can see. Because of the book launch event that night, we got to see Chip, Jo and Baby Crew. So surreal!
The bakery on the grounds has amazing cupcakes and baked goods. The line will be long no matter what. It wraps around the side of the block and seems to go on forever. I promise it goes pretty quickly though. While you are in line, friendly employees will bring you a card with their menu and a pencil. You mark what you’d like and put your name on it. This speeds up the process a ton. When you get to the counter in this tiny little space, you hand them your card and they ring you up. In a couple of minutes, they’ll call your name and have your order in a sack for you. There is nowhere inside to sit and eat, so it’s truly just a pick-up spot. If you only want cupcakes, you might be better off visiting the bakery truck out with the other food trucks. I had to get inside and see what it looked like though. I couldn’t help it!
On our way to the Silos, we were approached by a guy with Waco Tours. He was super nice, but we just kind of let him do his thing, figuring we’d brush him off kindly and go on our merry way. As he told us about their tour of the city, explaining that we would get to see several Fixer Upper homes, Clint Harp’s store, Baylor University and more, we perked up a little and actually listened. We ended up taking the two and half hour tour and it might have been even better than visiting the silos, honestly. We saw the shotgun house, Clint Harp’s house (and shop), David Ridley’s house (coincidentally, he is the guy that started and owns Waco Tours), the loft they did, along with several other homes. Our driver was one of the nicest guys ever and is friends with Chip and Jo. His daughter actually worked as a designer on the first two seasons of Fixer Upper, so he was really knowledgable and could answer so many questions we all had about the show and process. We saw sights at Baylor University, got ice cream from Heritage Creamery or coffee from Common Grounds (included in the price of the tour), saw sights from around town that were non-Fixer Upper related, saw Lover’s Leap (gorgeous view!), Chip and Jo’s church (where both of the tour guides attend as well), the castle they just purchased, plus other buildings that you see in clips on the show. We even got to meet Jimmy Don, who came over to our tour van and shook each of our hands and introduced himself. Such a nice guy!! We heard a lot about the history of the town and a lot of really cool things that make Waco unique. By the end of the tour, I was ready to move to Waco and be best friends with Tim and Drew, our guides. Waco Tours is housed out of Hotel Indigo, so just one more reason to stay there. I highly recommend looking into one of their tours.
As you can see, we fit a LOT in one day. The one place we didn’t get to go see (though we saw the outside on our tour!) was where Chip and Jo first started, their little shop on Bosque. They still have it opened as sort of a clearance/warehouse shop. If I had more time, I would have loved to go see it. No matter how much time you have though, here are some tips and things that I think are helpful to know when visiting the silos:
Wear comfortable shoes! I wore Rothy’s all day and I’m glad I picked something comfortable that wouldn’t give me blisters. You will be on your feet all day!
Bring your patience. You will stand in a lot of lines, but it will be totally worth it.
Check their online store before buying anything in the Market. If you sign up for their e-mails, you can get a 15% off coupon. If you’re buying bigger things, that savings might be more than shipping.
Get up early. You’ll be glad you did. The end of the day is also a great time to visit, but your time will be limited. They closed at 5:00 when we were there.
The silos aren’t open on Sundays. Currently Chip and Jo are letting the community hold their “Church Under the Bridge” services there since they are displaced with road construction. That’s a really cool story you can google if you are curious!
Water and paper cups are available for free around the grounds. You don’t need to bring your own.
Don’t take your kids. I know, I know…they’re family oriented. They are! And there are games on the lawn. But to be honest, besides playing a round or two of Cornhole, there’s not a ton for the kids to do there. Huge lines, baked goods, and a home decor store aren’t exactly big attractors for kids. You’ll enjoy yourself more if you can just take it all in and enjoy it!
If you are a parent, I’m sure you know the struggle that I’m talking about. You love your kids beyond measure. They amaze you, you adore them, you can’t live without them…but they exhaust you. Hopefully I’m not the worst parent in the world for feeling this way. I don’t think I am, but forgive me if I’m way off-base. With four kids, it’s ALWAYS time to feed somebody, the laundry is never-ending, we are late for everything because getting all six of us out the door quickly is impossible, and in general, there’s just a million things to do each day to keep up with six lives. We are blessed, but we are exhausted!!
We are extremely lucky to have help from family in town. Ten years ago, we actually chose to move back to our hometown that doesn’t even have a Target (after you’ve lived with Targets close-by, this is a tragedy!) so that we would be able to raise our kids with family close to them. It’s not an accident that we have help. As a side-note: It bothers me when people tell me we’re lucky to have help because they don’t have anybody. I know all circumstances are different, so it may not be a choice for everyone, but it wasn’t luck for us. It was a decision we made, with some sacrifices on our part that made this possible. Family was most important to us…over jobs, income, location, etc. Still, yes, we are so fortunate to be close to family. My kids don’t even know how lucky they are to have grandpas and grandmas in their everyday life. They don’t know any different.
With family in town that are willing to take four kids for multiple days, my husband and I are able to take weekend getaways every so often, and every other year, we take an extended trip for a week or so. It has been amazing for our relationship and marriage. It leaves us craving that next getaway, planning and dreaming about it together. This year for Valentine’s Day, my husband surprised me with a spring break quick getaway to Magnolia Market in Waco, TX. We were to leave on Wednesday and return Saturday night. He made arrangements for the kids to go to Grandpa and Grandma’s and cheap flights made it a perfect, quick getaway.
Wednesday came and in our great state of Nebraska, a blizzard occurred on the western part of the state, while the eastern part (where we are) saw warmer temperatures and rain. It doesn’t seem like that would be a problem, but that meant TONS of snow melted quickly and the rain added to the moisture. The ground was still frozen, so the water had nowhere to go. We had ice jams on the rivers and flood warnings everywhere. It’s not uncommon for this to happen, so we really didn’t think much of it. Usually there’s some flooding along the river and that’s the end of it. We worked hard to get out of town to the airport 90 miles away. It was worth the struggle to find a way out of town because we NEEDED time away! We assumed that by Saturday when we returned, things would be back to normal. We flew to Texas and visited Magnolia Market (I’ll blog about that in the near future!) the next day. There was not much on the news about the flooding (no mention of it at all, actually), so I didn’t worry much. We were carefree and enjoying time away from the kids. When I checked social media that afternoon, my mama heart dropped. It became very clear that this wasn’t flood warnings that would go away soon. People were being evacuated from our very own county, just a couple of miles from my parents’ house. Some were being rescued by helicopter as water levels were rising fast. A farmer lost his life trying to rescue somebody when the bridge washed out from under his tractor. My kids were there! I knew my parents would do everything they could to keep them safe, but all of the what-ifs were rolling through my head. I spent that evening fighting back tears as I searched for updates and information. I spent the night having terrible nightmares of my kids in a flood, then crying each time I woke up. I knew that we needed to try to get home immediately. We couldn’t get to the kids, as all ways in and out of town were under water, but I needed to be in the same state as them at least. We spent a small fortune that next morning buying last-minute direct flights home, changing car rental reservations and hotel reservations. I had looked forward to time away from my kids for a month, yet in that instant, I wanted nothing more to have them in my arms. Isn’t parenthood strange?
As we struggle through the days and sometimes feel like we’ll go crazy if bedtime doesn’t get here immediately, there is literally nothing that you wouldn’t do for the health, safety and happiness of your kids. We cut our time in Waco from three days down to one day. We spent the next two days flying and then driving 300 miles to get to the kids (220 miles more than normal), and spent triple what we planned to spend on that trip, just to make sure we could get to them. Walking in the door, it took my breath away to see my youngest run to me and yell, “MOMMY!!” and she flung her little arms around me. There’s nowhere else I would have rather been. All the sacrifices were worth it. We made it. They made it. My prayers had been answered.
Then, about an hour later, as we got home and I became a referee again, I began longing for our quiet hotel room in Texas. The room where I didn’t need to feed anybody, break up fights, remind them to pick up toys, etc. This balance of being blessed with healthy rambunctious children and yet wanting some time to yourself is so weird. How can you want two things that are complete opposites? I wouldn’t be happy without one or the other, yet you can’t have them both at the same time. The quiet reminds me to miss my kids and the noise reminds me that I miss time away. Is this normal? Is something wrong with me? I don’t know. But for now, I’m choosing to be thankful for every second I have, whether it’s appreciating them from afar or managing them from up close. Parenthood is a blessing, but man is it exhausting!
It’s been almost 16 years of marriage for us and I can honestly say that I love my husband more now than I ever have before. I look forward to our getaways and our time together. He’s not a huge romantic-and-big-gestures kind of guy, but he’s kind, thoughtful, hard-working and SO patient. I see marriages around me struggling or falling apart, and it makes me sad. Sad that they don’t have what I have. Everyone deserves to love and be loved unconditionally and treated well. I will tell you that there’s nothing spectacular about our marriage. We make mistakes, we drive each other nuts sometimes, there are a million things that each of us would handle differently with the kids, I’m sure. But at the end of the day, we are truly each other’s best friend and we would do anything to keep from hurting the other. How did we get lucky enough to find this? We didn’t. We CHOSE it.
See, sometimes I hear people wondering if they ended up with the right person. I hear people thinking about how their life might be different or better if they were with somebody else. In my mind, those marriages are doomed. If you even have a tiny bit of wonder in your mind, it tells me you didn’t actually make up your mind in the first place. I don’t believe in love at first sight. I don’t believe in a soul mate. I believe you choose the person you’re going to marry and you decide to make it work…or you don’t.
There’s no perfect person. There’s no perfect relationship. However, there IS mutual respect, love, compassion, teamwork, trust and fun. I think these are the keys to marriage.
If you’re doubting your marriage, figure out which one of those keys is the problem. Focus on it together and strengthen it. Just like you would do at the gym. If your arms are weak, you focus on them. If your endurance isn’t where it should be, you work on it. You know darn well sitting on the couch and waiting for it to improve won’t do a thing.
So how do you target each of those things? Some are easier than others. If respect is the problem, it’s probably time for a serious discussion. If you don’t have respect, it’s going to be awfully hard to work on the other things. Some outside help might be your best bet. I think trust might be part of the outside help, too. Usually something big has happened to damage that. It’s best to go to somebody who has experience. The rest, I totally think can be worked on together.
If you find yourself not feeling in love, you need to make a conscious effort and decision to fall back in love. Go on a trip or simply take a weekend and leave the kids with a trusted friend. Stay in a hotel so all distractions are gone. Find a new experience to do together. It might be awkward and feel forced, but keep doing it. Soon enough it will start to get easier and feel more natural. This would help if the fun factor is missing, too. If you’re not feeling compassion toward your spouse, I encourage you to make a list of all of the things both of you do in a day. Really try to think about what their day must be like. It might help you realize that they have a lot on their plate. This also a great thing to do if the teamwork piece is missing. Once you see it all in black and white, it’s hard to deny that one person isn’t doing their part. Don’t do it to rub it in their face or show them you’re right and they’re wrong. Do it so you can decide together what might be able to switch from one person’s list to another.
Do what you have to do to strengthen the part of your marriage that is showing weakness. Don’t ignore it and assume it will get better. It probably won’t. Love isn’t a magic thing. It is a choice that you have to continually choose as long as you want the relationship to last.