Welcome to my circus.

December 15, 2017
by Maralee
1 Comment

It’s Okay to Walk Out on Your Family (for a minute)

Parenting can be exhausting and frustrating, even when nobody is doing anything specifically “wrong.” Just the general chaos and noise of parenting can start to drain you. If you’re like me, that draining feeling can turn to anger pretty easily.

I don’t want to parent angry. I work pretty hard to avoid it. That means making room for self-care and taking breaks as needed.

 

I worry that as mothers we feel like we can’t take a break. Like, we literally CAN’T or something terrible will happen. If we aren’t looking directly at our children 100% of the time, they won’t survive. No wonder we’re feeling exhausted and angry. I just don’t think it has to be that way.

I wanted to share with you a little sanity saving practice I utilize to keep my head above water when I feel like I’m drowning in the needs of children. First, let me paint a picture for you: Continue Reading →

December 13, 2017
by Maralee
16 Comments

GIVEAWAY from Pixie Dots *CLOSED*

I love personalized jewelry. There’s something so sweet about being able to carry the people who are important to you with you wherever you go. When I’m away from home, I take a necklace with me that represents my kids. They know I’m carrying them in my heart and will notice when I’m wearing it in pictures. So I was thrilled to find the work of Liz at Pixie Dots.

If you want to enter the giveaway to win your own personalized piece, here’s what I want you to do:

-Comment here with what you would pick with a $25 gift certificate: necklace or bracelet

-Go “like” the Pixie Dots Facebook page and let her know (on her share of this post) you were sent by A Musing Maralee. Be sure I’m tagged so I can see it.

I worked with Liz to create a special piece for a special family in my life. They have a new baby and he’s already stolen a big chunk of my heart. I was thrilled to be able to have Liz design something unique that would honor these precious boys. Continue Reading →

December 11, 2017
by Maralee
0 comments

5 Steps to Decluttering Before Christmas

Forget Spring Cleaning. What most of us need is a massive Pre Christmas Decluttering. There’s nothing like the prospect of adding a bunch more toys, clothes, and books to help you realize your house is already overwhelmed with stuff. And that’s not even addressing the extra clutter of all the holiday decorations we’re setting out. The poor Baby Jesus is getting crammed in next to the pile of books I’m sure I’ll get around to reading at some point, while the Wise Men are stacked on top of the mugs that won’t fit in the cabinet because I haven’t purged the old sippy cups yet.

Just me?

I’m guessing not.

I’ve written previously about our quest for some level of functional minimalism. This isn’t easy when you have six kids. Six kids means just feeding and clothing our family requires a lot of stuff. But having a large family also means you start to prioritize the things that matter. We don’t have room to let things get too out of control. I’m pretty sure we have about the same number of toys now that we did when we had just one or two kids. The kids are more interested in playing with their siblings and less interested in massive playsets.

I’ve also learned that I think better when I’m not drowning in stuff. Stuff requires care. It needs batteries and dusting and organizing and drawer space. The less stuff I have, the less stuff I have to spend time managing. Especially during this holiday season, I need a simpler pace and I need to prioritize.

As we’ve had to limit the amount of stuff we bring into the house, I’ve learned a few things about decluttering and living with an intentional attitude toward the things we own. If you want to work on pairing down before the Christmas chaos overwhelms you, here are my tips:

Go room by room. It can be overwhelming to try to declutter the whole house at once. Instead, start in one room and focus on what you can do there to make it seem manageable. Pick a different room each day and reward yourself for getting it finished. Be thorough—get under the beds, pull everything out of the closet. Don’t be afraid to make a big mess so you can see exactly what you’re dealing with and have a better idea about what you need to get rid of. Continue Reading →

December 10, 2017
by Maralee
0 comments

Forget ’50 Shades.’ Moms Today are Hot for Hopper.

Do you still think women are swooning over billionaire playboys who wants to dominate us and maybe we hope we can tame? Nah. Who has time and emotional energy to sink into that ridiculousness? Moms today know what we like. We like Hopper.

If you’ve been watching the “Stranger Things” phenomenon unfold, you may be familiar with the surly, middle-aged officer Jim Hopper. He personifies “dad bod” and has vices you imagine he’d probably be done with if the show wasn’t set in the 1980s. He’s not wealthy and it would be a hard stretch to call him “charming.” Other than the obvious “man in uniform” cliche, what makes this guy the kind of man women would fall for in spite of all logic?

He makes you feel safe. Officer Hopper is the guy you can call when things are going terribly. Like, “your kid has been sucked into an alternate dimension” terribly. He’s going to do the right thing, even if it means risking his life. He’s brave and coolheaded even in the most bizarre circumstances. When you’re at your most crazy, he will listen. He wants you to know it’s going to be okay, although all signs point to mass governmental conspiracies. Even his everyman look is the kind of thing that makes you feel unintimidated and accepted in his presence. Continue Reading →

December 7, 2017
by Maralee
13 Comments

Giveaway from Belle Sew Cute! *CLOSED*

I’m so excited introduce to you my friend Jennifer and her business Belle Sew Cute! I’ll give you the short story on how to enter our giveaway for a $25 credit at her etsy store (just in time for Christmas shopping!) and then tell you a little more about Jennifer.

To enter the giveaway:

-Comment on this post with what you might pick from BelleSewCute’s etsy store: hooded towel, book pillow, or dress.

-Go “like” Belle Sew Cute on Facebook and comment that A Musing Maralee sent you (this needs to be on her share of my post or I need to be tagged so I can see it).

I love using these giveaways to introduce you to people and businesses that are a pleasure to work with. Jennifer is such a great example of that. She is just one of the most cheerful people I know and I feel like that comes across even in the work she does. If you want to know what kind of person Jennifer is, just recently she gave me a bunch of handmade dresses to give to foster families for their little girls. She didn’t ask to see their reactions, she didn’t attach a business card, she didn’t ask for any kind of update on how that process went. So many times I tell people that whatever it is you’re good at or are passionate about, you can use that to benefit foster kids. Jennifer’s act of kindness was such a perfect example of how she used her gifts for foster kids without asking for anything in return. (And she definitely didn’t know I was going to tell this story about her.)

Continue Reading →

December 5, 2017
by Maralee
0 comments

Here’s to You, Trauma Grandparents

We see you, Trauma Grandparents. We know this hasn’t been easy. But you’ve handled it like a champ. You didn’t choose this life. You didn’t have to go through the classes, the licensing, the home study process, but here you are—a valuable member of our family team and a hugely influential person in the life of a child who came with his own history.

We know you had misgivings about this at first. You worried for us—for our safety, for your other grandkids, for our family reputation. You wondered if we were strong enough to handle this and if you would love them the way you love your other grandkids. You just weren’t sure about all this. But you were willing to learn.

It’s  been a learning process for all of us over the years. Each child has had their own struggles and we’ve had to learn their individual needs and quirks. We’ve had to be flexible and willing to change plans when this child needed it. We’ve also had to be rigid when it comes to schedules and routines so this child will feel safe. You haven’t always understood why we’ve had to do what we’ve had to do, but you were open to figuring it out with us.

Continue Reading →

December 4, 2017
by Maralee
0 comments

A Life in Status- May #1, 2017

Me: Time to go see some memorials!
Danny: I can’t wait!
#notsarcastic #nerd #lovehim #BradleystakeDC

(gazing out over the Potomac)
Carrie: This water stinky. It smell like somebody fart in the bath. I think the geese been farting in this huge, huge bath.
#keepingitclassy

Me: What was your favorite thing that we saw today?
Teddy (2): Lincoln.
Me: The Lincoln Memorial! Wasn’t that amazing! He was SO BIG.
Teddy: He angry, Mom? He angry at me.
#giantLincolnsarekindofscary#maybeyoushouldnthavebeenrunningandthenhewouldnthavebeenangry#BradleystakeDC

 

Joel: We’re going to see the Washing Machine?
#soclose #WashingtonMonument

Thank you to whoever suggested we eat at the Museum of the American Indian! That was one of the highlights of the trip so far.
#BradleystakeDC #welovefrybread

Me: What was your favorite thing today? The dinosaur bones? The stuffed lion? When we ate the fry bread? The airplane museum? When we played on the grass in front of the capital?
Teddy (2): That squirrel. It runned away.
#easilyamused#drove20hourshejustwantstoseethesamestuffwehaveathome

Me:. . . And what was your favorite thing?
Joel: Buying the souvenirs!
#BradleystakeDC #amazingmuseums #theylovethegiftshops

Continue Reading →

November 29, 2017
by Maralee
1 Comment

When Santa is Kind of a Jerk to Your Kids

I am by and large a “live and let live” kind of parent. You do what works for you, Moms. But today I’m just feeling fed up with the whole Santa game and the Santa-infused nonsense this time of year brings. For some reason it seems like each year it’s getting more and more complicated to try and keep up the Santa rouse. More is expected of parents as far as elaborate “storytelling” (I’m looking at you, Elf on the Shelf), more money is shelled out, more awkward conversations happening in the homes of nonbelievers as we try and prep our kids for how to walk the weird line of not lying to their friends while also not giving it away.

This year the newest trend seems to be “apology letters” from Santa. I’m not joking. Can’t find the exact toy your child requested? Obviously you can’t just tell them that, you now need to create a fictional response from Santa to appease your child. As much as that level of parental lying and child entitlement irritates me, I also understand it. How else do you explain to your kid that they weren’t “good enough” to get what they asked for? What kind of crushing blow is it to wake up Christmas morning and feel like not only did you not get the toy you were hoping for, but it’s your own fault for not being a good enough kid. No wonder parents are creating these apology notes, because what is the other alternative? Letting your kid believe if they would have just made their bed a few extra mornings maybe then the Elf would have told Santa that you were good enough for a Hatchimal?

The parents with money (but no Hatchimal) are learning what parents who financially struggle have always known—Santa can sure seem like a jerk. When you tell your kids they are rewarded based on their behavior, can we be surprised when kids wonder why wealthy kids are always morally superior to poor kids? What lessons are we reinforcing about privilege and entitlement when certain kids continue to get blessed and others continue to get the lump of coal in spite of their best efforts at good behavior?

Continue Reading →

November 27, 2017
by Maralee
2 Comments

You Need Matt Christmas (invite a friend to your family Christmas)

We are planning our third annual Matt Christmas and it’s just about our favorite day of the year. What is Matt Christmas, you ask? It’s that wonderful time of year when you ask your friend Matt to join your family in your Christmas shenanigans. And it is delightful.

We were in a small group with Matt though our church a couple years ago and it casually came up that he wasn’t sure he’d be “home” for Christmas. We said we’d be happy for him to join us. He mentioned how awkward it can be to be involved in someone else’s family Christmas celebration when you clearly aren’t part of their family and traditions. We explained that our big family Christmas celebration happened on Christmas Eve, so he could come hang out with us on Christmas Day when we’d just be spending the day in our pajamas, doing puzzles, playing boardgames, watching a movie (“While You Were Sleeping” if I get to pick) and eating hot dogs. Matt Christmas was born.

It really is one of my favorite days of the year. It’s great to have another adult around for the day, the kids love having him come and there are no expectations of perfection. After all the hustle of the holidays, it’s been a delight to spend a low-key day of just being together. In the over-scheduled chaos, Matt Christmas is a breath of fresh air.

We did not go out seeking someone to spend Christmas with our family. It was entirely providential that Matt needed a place to go and we needed a Matt. I am not an especially hospitable person and I don’t love entertaining. I had never really considered asking someone to join us for Christmas because that felt outside of my comfort zone and what’s the point of Christmas if not for me to be comfortable. . . okay, so that’s obviously not a good attitude, but I feel like that’s where a lot of us land. This day is one we set aside to celebrate our family and our traditions. Inviting someone in feels like a big imposition.

I want to make an impassioned plea here for you to think about the lonely at Christmas. Those who are too far from home, who have dysfunctional families they shouldn’t go visit, who can’t afford the trip, or don’t really have families of their own. I’d like to tell you they need a place they feel welcomed and you have a warm, loving home you could share with them for this day dedicated to family and celebrating. But I feel weird saying those things because they make it sound like sharing a holiday with someone you care about is a good deed you do out of pity or niceness. That’s just not how it is for our family.

It could be that God would nudge your heart toward inviting in someone difficult. It could be that this is a sacrifice your family makes to be obedient. That can be a beautiful thing to do and I trust that God will reward it. But what if inviting in someone just added to the joy and fun of the holiday?

Certainly there are people that are a struggle to love or have in your home. There are ways this could be unhealthy if you don’t have an appropriate understanding of boundaries or if your kids feel unsafe or unstable with a parade of strangers in their home. That’s not what I’m advocating for here. What we’ve experienced is just the delight of creating new traditions with friends who feel like family. It isn’t a sacrifice. It’s not hard. It’s a blessing to our family.

We don’t know how many more Matt Christmases we’ll get to have. His circumstances could change. We’re thankful for each year we’ve been able to have him. It could be that if he’s no longer able to spend the day with us, we’re able to find a new friend to share in the tradition. Matt Christmas may evolve over the years into whatever it needs to be for the one who needs it. I think what we’re mostly learning is that we need it and enjoy it as much as the one we invite in.

If you’re interested in having your own Matt Christmas (or Sarah Christmas, Zach Christmas, Erin Christmas, etc.), here are a couple things to ask yourself:

-Is this person a safe addition to our family for the day?

-What are our expectations and what are their expectations? Are those things compatible?

-What extra prep will this take? Can I do it with joy?

-Are our kids onboard with this?

If you’re at a point in your life where you’re comfortable extending an open invitation to anybody and everybody who needs a place, go for it. That isn’t our current situation, so we walk through these questions and make sure this is a good thing both for the specific person we’re inviting and for our family.

This year, as we pulled the stockings out, we found the one we use for Matt on Christmas morning. It’s a cheesy Santa one we like to fill with an orange and candy and a lego set and some other random fun thing. Not because Matt needs it or has asked for it, but because it brings us joy to do it and because our kids feel it’s only fair—if everyone else has a stocking, why not Matt?

This has been a beautiful side effect of opening our home to a friend. Our kids see this as normal. They see it as “fair” when we treat someone outside our family the same way we treat our family. We didn’t necessarily anticipate that kind of welcoming attitude from our kids, but I think that’s what happens when you normalize hospitality—when it feels less like a chore or imposition and more like a delight. It turns out true hospitality may be less about fancy napkins and spotless baseboards and much more about cheesy Santa stockings and board games. That’s a kind of hospitality we’re all equipped to provide.

I’d love to hear if you have similar Christmas traditions! Let me know in the comments.

November 24, 2017
by Maralee
0 comments

A Life in Status- April #3, 2017

I’d love to have you join me on Facebook and Twitter.

8 year-old got out of bed with a pressing question: Does The Baby have an imagination because I’ve never seen him use it.
#stallinglevelexpert

Danny (8): I like how this house has a spider staircase. No. . . it’s not spider. SPIRAL.
#whentheygetoldenoughtocorrecttheirsoclose

I was almost out of my usual hair product, so I borrowed my daughter’s and now I’ve pretty much looked like a wet cocker spaniel all day.
#bothhavecurls #NOTTHESAMEKINDOFCURLS

Joel (5): Mom, we saw an Easter bunny in the backyard and we chased the Easter bunny. But you don’t want to catch an Easter bunny. They might have rabies.
#hethinksallbunniesareEasterbunnies

My child thinks the Ed Sheeran song (that he hears on the bus) says, “I’m in love with somebody.” I think I like his version better.
#morethanabody

Last night was one of those nights where you’re supervising toddler bath times and giving advice about appropriate boundaries at prom.
#7kids #2to19 #weloveournormal Continue Reading →