The Clouds Make Me S.A.D.

I’ve always been a sun girl. Summer is my favorite season, hands down. I loved living in San Diego. (Until October, when I started to miss crisp days and changing leaves and a white Christmas). And yes, I’ll even confess that being tan is like wearing kisses and raspberries to me.

But I never thought I had seasonal affective disorder.

Until this June.

The sun has been woefully absent the last few weeks, a “clammy disaster,” to quote one of my favorite local bloggers. The Twin Cities have been stuck in a gray-storm-drizzle cycle. Even when the meteorologists forecast sun, it’s nothing but leaden skies as far as the eye can see. Debris clouds, fie on you.

I’ve taken to checking the visual radar like a nervous twitch, hoping to see a break in the cloud cover. I’m slightly obsessed with the long-term outlook. “Please, oh please, show two suns in a row.”

But it’s just not happening We have clear skies at sunset and sometimes for a few hours at dawn (which is about 4:45 these days). We even had a sunny morning last Friday, when the birds sang and the chipmunks danced and I bought donuts for my children in our tiny downtown and skipped my way through the farmers market.

But the clouds returned Friday afternoon and, like a rude guest, haven’t even mentioned their departure date.

I’m getting cranky. (Unusual for this sanguine.) I have no energy. I haven’t cooked dinner, something I normally love, in about 10 days. I can’t focus. I can’t find my joy.

Corey is worried about me. Yesterday night, after another mumbling rant about “gray, no sun, never sun,” he took us all out to dinner and practically forced me to order a margarita. He’s threatening to put St. John’s Wort and fish oil in my morning coffee.

And I’m starting to believe I really do have S.A.D. The idea of getting out of bed to face another day of gray makes me feel like I’m suffocating.

Anyone have some input? Or should I just buy a package at the tanning salon down the road?

I say Yes-Yes-Yes-Yes-Yes to Vuh-Vuh-Vuh-Bee-Bee-Ess

I woke up to darkness and Kieran’s cries.

I stumbled out of bed, using the wall to compensate for my missing center of gravity.

And under my breath, I sang, unbidden: “Bi-bi-bi, bi-bi-bi, Big Apple Adventure, where faith and life connect, Jesus directs my future, bi-bi-bi, Big Apple Adventure.”

Those VBS songs, they are ear worms on steroids.

And it’s not over yet. VBS continues at our church for one more day. I am a small group leader this year, the ballast for a ship of nine 4th and 5th grade kids. (Six boys, three girls. Pray for me.)

It’s the first time I’ve done something like this in a while. (Remember the disaster last fall when I tried to lead a small group of girls on Wednesday night? Yeah. That one left a scar.) And while it is wiping me out – it takes a lot of energy to lead a small group every morning and then solo parent my own four kids the rest of the day – I have to say: I’m enjoying it.

It helps that our new church is doing a stellar job with the curriculum. The leadership team is organized, enthusiastic and so passionate about communicating Jesus. The songs are superb – maybe a little too catchy, but hey. I will gladly suffer some ear worms to hear my kids rap John 3:16. (We even have a hip-hop dance routine that goes with it. I’m sure I will be dancing in my sleep by the weekend.)

But mostly, I’m loving the chance to be with young people again – including my Natalie, who is in my group. Youth ministry is in my blood (yesterday, I showed my group how blond hairs and brown hairs will “fight” in a puddle of water), and I’m eager to get back into it, once my family can handle the schedule.

(I’m also relieved my youth ministry skills are applicable in this situation, seeing that they didn’t translate into my year and a half of teaching high school at all. My first day as a teacher -- which came in the middle of a school year more intense than any soap opera – my students asked if they could call me a nickname instead of the formal Mrs. LoveWell. “Sure,” I grinned. “That would be fun.” And with those words, I signed my death sentence.)

One more day, and I go back to being a mom of little ones. One more day, and my corny jokes won’t elicit eye rolls. One more day, and the ear worms will bury deep and give my subconscious a rest.

But tomorrow? I’ll be singing my heart out.

Sabbath Lessons

I haven’t blogged much lately. Part of that has to do with life – being a SAHM to four kids, winding up the school year, sorting through the clothes (AGAIN) so I can finally put away the fleece. There’s just a lot to do.

But part of it has to do with me intentionally holding back.

My word for 2011 is Sabbath, and behind the scenes, this word is doing a work in me. It’s showing me that practicing the Sabbath is (often) the opposite of going to church on Sundays. Sabbath doesn’t mean sitting still, like Almanzo Wilder was taught 150 years ago. (Anyone remember the Sunday when Almanzo and his brothers dared to get off the bench where they were expected to sit each Sunday afternoon and go sledding? Their father was asleep. And they thought they had gotten away with it. Until that pig walked into their path.) Sabbath isn’t just another rule to keep, another checkmark we have to collect on our badge to get a gold star from God in heaven.

Sabbath is a gift. It’s primarily about rest, yes, but it’s a rest that celebrates. It’s a rest that delights. It’s a day to quiet our souls, to remember that God doesn’t need our striving. Sabbath gives us permission to stop being controlled by the urgent so we might tend to the important.
When we cease our daily labor, other things – love, friendship, prayer, touch, singing, rest – can be born in the space created by our rest. Walking with a friend, reciting a prayer, caring for children, sharing bread and wine with family and neighbors – those are intimate graces that need precious time and attention.
Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives, Wayne Muller
Let me put it another way. God modeled Sabbath for us when he rested on the seventh day of creation. (In the Hebrew, it literally says God Sabbathed.) Do you think he did that because he was tired, because the first six days of creation were so exhausting, he needed a break?

(I feel like I’m in the Matrix all of a sudden. “Do you think that’s air you’re breathing?”)

The obvious answer is no. God is self-sufficient. He doesn’t need to rest. But by stopping his work (Sabbath is often translated ceasing), he took time to enjoy it. He didn’t rush on to the next thing that required His attention. He stopped. He rested. He delighted.

And it was good.

This is a hard lesson for me. I do not sit still. I do not rest well. My personality is naturally motivated by productivity. I love nothing more than crossing off items off my To Do List.

Once, I cleaned my house, did all the laundry, made a menu and a grocery list, grocery shopped and cooked a homemade dinner for Corey – all in one eight-hour time period. (Do I need to say this was before we had kids? I didn’t think so.)

It sounds silly, but that memory haunts me. It was a rush to get that much done in one day. In a sick way, I am always trying to regain that edge. I know it’s possible to get it all done, because at one time in my life, I did. I just need to push myself a little harder, multitask a little more, organize my time for maximum efficiency.


Technically, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a wise steward of my time. (That’s what I call it, when I want to make my obsession sound holy.)

But that attitude? It is Sabbath poison. Because when I’m consumed by getting things done and multitasking my life, my heart is never at rest. I am always churning, always planning, always busy.

I do not enter in to God’s rest. I do not accept God’s gift to me, choosing instead to play in the mud puddle when the ocean is just over the hill.

And that is a tragedy.

So I’m making the uncomfortable decision to hold back. To stop. To rest. To celebrate my right-here gifts. To boldly set aside the computer when my children are home, to quiet the part of my brain that is always (always) writing so I can be fully present in this momentt, to willfully neglect social media in order to read a book or go for a walk or just pray.

This is foreign to me. My attempts are halting and clumsy. But the tiny bits of Sabbath I’ve tasted have left me ravenous for more.

Boredom Busters

Is it really boredom?

It’s a probing question, one raised by my soul sister Angie in a comment on my post When Mom Gets Bored.

She said – and I quote – “This makes a lot of sense. I would never have pegged it as boredom, though. I look around in those moments and see all I NEED to do (housework stuff), things I SHOULD do (play with my kids) and see all the stuff I WANT to do that definitely needs to take a backseat (reading, blogging, FB, crafts, redecorating...). I find myself feeling so selfish and cranky that I don't get to do what *I* want to do. Isn't that loving of me? So instead of bored, I think it's restless.”

Yes! Restless. The dictionary defines restless as “constantly moving or unable to be still” (the same definition for Mother of a Toddler, by the way) or “discontented, seeking a change.” That’s a better description of the annoyance I feel when I’m trapped inside with my kids, without a plan and without the ability to do anything without at least one child standing at my elbow, whining.

So. How do I cope? Here are my tried-and-true methods.

1. First and foremost, I get out of the house. I pack all the kids in the minivan and we drive. Ideally, we head to a park or a nature center for some free play. But Target will do, if the weather isn’t cooperating. I’ve even been known to swing through McDonald’s for smoothies or a strawberry lemonade (what I wouldn’t give for a Jamba Juice to move into our neighborhood) and then just drive around one of the area lakes or through the surrounding countryside, looking for horses. A simple change of scenery does wonders for our collective attitudes. Bonus: There’s a good chance one or both of The Littles will fall asleep while we drive.

2. Dance. Push the clutter to the side, turn on some Laurie Berkner or "Philadelphia Chickens"or Jack Johnson and throw a dance party. It will probably be met with resistance from at least one child, but I’ve found music and a playful spirit – even for a few minutes – will usually break the cycle of whining crankiness. Bonus: If you can sneak some “Love Shack” into the mix, you’re golden.

3. This one is very me. You might roll your eyes a little. But I’m sharing it anyway. You know those montage sequences in movies? My favorite is the changing season montage from “Notting Hill,” because it’s freaking brilliant. But there are many examples. So here’s what I do: I just imagine my life, right then, in its current state, as a movie montage. Maybe it would be a comedy, like a sequence out of “Cheaper by the Dozen.” Or maybe it’s would be a slice of life, like that scene in “Breakfast Club” where the kids try to escape detention. Or maybe a training sequence like the classic from “Dirty Dancing.” Whatever. I just imagine my life as a movie and I pick the appropriate music to play via Pandora or my iPod. And I get some perspective on the restless chaos around me. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so drab. It seems almost exciting. Bonus: If I’m living a montage sequence, I know the happy ending is just around the corner.

4. Turn off the electronica. This one applies to me as much as the kids. When I don’t have a set plan for the day – or something stops me from accomplishing my goals – I turn into a social media addict, looking for a drug to divert me from the drudgery of my day. And I’ve noticed my irritation level directly corresponds to the number of times I check Twitter in a 60-minute period. The problem, I think, is that social media distracts. I am not present. The more I’m present, the less I’m annoyed with my children being children. The less I’m consumed by accomplishing my To Do List. When I’m present, I’m thankful. I’m at peace. The quotidian comes alive and is colored by God’s grace. Bonus: I’m reminded of what’s eternal in my life – and it’s the people.

5. I grab my Siesta Scripture Memory notebook and review the verses I'm committing to memory. I often do it in the center of my kitchen, surrounded by dirty dishes and milk that was left on the counter and a highchair crusted with Cheerios and cheese. But I believe God’s word is “active and alive in me.” (Believing God siestas, can’t I get a shout out?) It’s amazing what His truth does to my heart and mind. I’m renewed. Bonus: God’s word inside of me.

Those are my tips. Got any to add? What do you do when you’re restless and alone with kids? (Besides scream, eat chocolate or drive to Starbucks for an venti coconut mocha Frappuccino. Those are obvious.)


Irony: promising to write about boredom busters during the last week of school when life bounces you around like a coffee bean in a blender.

I am working on the post -- I promise. But the kids are done with school tomorrow, and we've just endured two days of crazy hot heat. Our high yesterday was 102. According to my favorite meteorologist, the Twin Cities have "only hit or surpassed 100 degrees 10 times since 1980." So yesterday? Yeah. Pretty much the world was ending. The only way we could survive was by swimming constantly.

All that to say -- I haven't had much free time. (That should be the subtitle of my blog. "I write in my free time. Bwhahahahaha!")

But I did have to pop in and show you this:

That, my friends, is my backyard. (Only less fuzzy. Sorry for the resolution. It's like my camera has allergies lately.) And those purple blobs on the hedge surrounding the pool? Those would be lilacs.

Lilacs. By the hundreds. In my yard. In my yard. I can hardly get over it.

If I could send you a whiff of the air blowing in my window right now (because Minnesota has come to her senses and is retiring to a respectable low of 55 tonight), you would think you're smelling the very essence of heaven.

I have always been loopy for lilacs, but it wasn't until I left Minnesota that I developed a near-hunger for them. When we were living in San Diego, lilacs represented all that I loved about the Midwest: the beautiful summers, the lush forests, the cool nights, the changing seasons. I pined for them.

(Knowing this, Corey got me lilacs for our anniversary one year. I still wonder how much he had to pay to get a vase of notoriously wilt-ready lilacs to Southern California. But it doesn't really matter. It was one of the sweetest anniversary gifts ever.)

All that to say: When we first looked at our house last winter, and the owner told us casually,
"I'm pretty sure that hedge in the backyard is made up of lilac bushes," Corey rolled his eyes at me. "You just sold her," he said.

'Twas true. And here I am, breathing in the sheer grace of God. It smells like lilacs.

I'm Bored, said the Mom

This past weekend was a perfect taste of the summer to come. (Three and a half more days of school here in the Upper Midwest.) There was sunshine, swimming, s’mores. We grilled and lazed and smelled like sunscreen and sweat. We colored and played with Little People and grumped and got frustrated when siblings didn’t want to play kick ball and I cleaned the high chair at least ten times. Before dinner.

And we were (dare I say it?) bored.

And it wasn’t just the kids. It was me.

I didn’t have a plan or a purpose for my time. Certainly, being unscheduled is a grace. But it can also feel like a long stretch of monotony when I bounce from breaking up fights to checking email on my phone to cleaning the crumbs off the high chair (again) to surfing through Facebook.

I can’t tackle any of my projects because, well, have you met Kieran? It’s difficult to write or sort pictures while chasing a toddler. I can’t play a game with any one child without the other three wanting to “help,” which always ruins the game and frustrates everyone involved. I can’t even cook dinner, something I normally love, with this many bodies underfoot. I have to wait for Corey to be done with his work. (This weekend, it was burning the branches from the many trees he’s cut down the past few weeks. And it took him the better part of both days.)


Boredom makes me cranky. I feel lethargic, unimaginative, stifled and irritated. It’s the opposite of fun, the opposite of loving well.

So. How to fight the mom boredom?

I have a few ideas, a few tricks that help me counter the tedium that can sometimes encroach on a SAHM’s territory.

I’ll share my thoughts tomorrow. But now? It’s your turn. What do you do when you're bored and you have your kids at home?