This weekend I attended a women’s retreat in the woods of northern Arizona. (I have several posts in mind after participating in the intensely emotional getaway.) One of the greatest gems I took away from the weekend was hearing a woman describe her struggle to daily pour love unconditionally into her family — and how she knew she was called to do so anyway.
This has been my unexpected struggle. Let’s have a real, honest talk about being a parent. Whether you birthed, adopted — or in my case, inherited your kid(s) through a relationship — being a parent is every stupid Hallmark cliche. It is the most rewarding job. It is the most thankless job. It is hard. It is sweet. It is agonizing. And you really do feel like your heart is living outside of your body when you watch a 16 year old drive away for the first time and you can’t catch your breath.
(Or I was just having a panic attack. Either way, I still say countless prayers that kid is safe, and everyone else around him is safe, and they are all wearing seat belts and no one is texting or distracting the driver and on, and on, and on.)
Being a “step” parent has not come naturally. Actually, it has been a really difficult. I came into these kids’ lives in their early teens, when our brains return to the selfishness of toddlers, only now demanding spending money and independence, not bedtime stories and candy.
We’re all in this for the long ride of being a modern family — where at events we sit with their mom, her husband, their step-brother and collectively work to entertain his two-year-old adorable daughter. I love these two kids, and yet I’m hesitant to call them mine. This weekend, I was asked 100 times by other women, “Do you have kids?” Sometimes I said, “Yep. Two teenage step-kids.” And other times I stumbled along with “Uh, I’m helping my boyfriend raise his teenagers.” Or “My boyfriend has kids.” I want to claim them. I want to tell everyone who asks that yes, these kids are mine. I do their laundry and pack their lunches and cheer for them at soccer. I tutor in Spanish and bake their birthday cakes and know their favorite bands and how to make small talk about Nickelodeon programs and Disney stars. I know they love Bernie Sanders, so I pay attention to his speeches.
What I don’t want to do is have their mom somehow overhear me calling these kids my kids. That’s what stops me. She birthed them. She is co-parenting them. She is a good mom and I don’t want to step on her toes. I feel like an interloper claiming territory that isn’t rightfully mine.
And when they are in the throws of being teenagers — it is “stupid” to make a bed, and “stupid” to be on time and “stupid” to practice piano — I want to put on my running shoes, grab my dog and walk away as quickly as possible before muttering how they aren’t mine. They are both wholly lovable and entirely annoying on any given day — which I’m fairly certain is the definition of “teenager.”
In those moments of sheer frustration when I know they would be listening to me if I was their mom, anger takes over my control panel and my emotions boil over in hurry. And in those sweet times when they give me a hug unexpectedly or want to spend time together, joy rules. I beam and nearly fall over from patting myself on the back and how well I got this.
It is a parenting roller coaster. It can be scary and make me scream and my stomach hurt, and I just want to be let off the ride. And it can also be the most thrilling, awe-inducing, joyous ticket in town — which, I am now fairly certain is the definition of “parenting.”
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Our friend Sagar came over last weekend for dinner. He is quite the foodie, and is intimidating to cook for. (The type of foodie who spent six months working on a croissant recipe until it was perfected.)
So… I over thought this. We ended up grilling steaks, with carmelized onions and mushrooms. We roasted sprouts and asparagus, made some pesto with basil from the garden and made bread. The bread was a multi-day process, but it was well worth it.
Also, there was chocolate whiskey cake. And it was a bit dry, but I loved it.
Add the rest of that whiskey to the party, and it became a partaaaay. It was fun to spend time with Sagar and his pup, Voo.
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- Domestic Art, Happy Hippie, Hostess
This project required using both a staple gun and a glue gun. It was fun, and I’m happy with this fabric.
Next up: updating the murphy valences. These should really be called dust holders. I am so thankful Jason is okay with me taking this house apart room by room and adding my sense of style.
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- Domestic Art, Heirloom Hacienda
My church is leading a series on money—namely how we have fears associated with money, which lead to careless behaviors. (I first typed that as “carless behaviors,” which could either be a poor financial decision, or the result of some seriously fabulous environmental frugality.) This series has me thinking about budgets and how to save more to help those in need. Homelessness, hunger and refugees are always on my heart. If I spend less on say, the Old Navy clearance rack—on things that aren’t made well, I’m not going to wear often, and I will sooner than later take to Goodwill—I can instead give more.
I want to consume less and be more thoughtful about what I can do with the money I earn.
Fashion is art. I struggle a bit spiritually with the balance between fashion and vanity. And, fashion inherently feeds consumerism. So, I am challenging myself to not buying anything new to wear for six months. Instead, I’m going to be creative with the ample closet I own, and mix and match with some creativity.
This challenge is set to turn that on its head. Instead, I’m going to wear what I have and celebrate it. And in this, I hope to be more mindful about what I purchase in the future. I’m also looking forward to being a bit more polished and inventive—which I will do when I know I’m posting a photo of what I’m wearing.
Join, if you are interested. I’ll be posting photos to Instagram (@africankelli) and a few here and on Facebook. Let frugal fashion reign!
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- Happy Hippie
Jason finished up the addition to the garden bed this weekend, including a new irrigation system — which will come in handy as soon as temps climb over 100 and hauling buckets of water gets old. I am thrilled! Three weeks ago, I planted cucumbers and zucchini by seed, and with the addition, I was able to thin the starts by replanting them in the new bed. Additionally, we planted more tomatoes, onions, and I’m trying melons for the first time.
I am thrilled with this crazily (perhaps suggestively) shaped garden. It was my Christmas gift and I am so happy Santa heard me! And really happy we are all heirloom and organic. I mixed egg shells into the soil this morning and sprinkled everything with a heavy dose of bone meal. We are going to have a bounty of vegetables in a couple months. I’m dreaming of an early-summer tomato party, and trying pickles again with all those cukes.
A house feels like a home to me when I can get a garden going, especially one where I’ve had the time and resources to work the soil. I know with time, this will be my best garden yet.
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- Domestic Art, Flora and Fauna, Happy Hippie, Heirloom Hacienda