“Torono”

We knew we wanted to do a quick getaway this month since the kids will be in MN for spring break, and summer break is already looking incredibly full. A couple weeks ago the kids had a Friday and Monday off school, so we saw it as the perfect time to sneak away and explore a new city together.  When Ryan suggested Toronto, I thought he was insane, but of course he assured me it would be fun! Anywhere we could go within driving distance was going to be cold (hello, FEBRUARY!), so why not Canada?

The kids had a church event Friday night that lasted into the early morning Saturday, so we couldn’t get started on our adventure until after that (and a few hours of sleep, of course!). We made our way across Ambassador Bridge, and made the final trek to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls just as the kids were falling asleep again! Luckily, the vastness of the Falls were enough to snap the kids back into action as we walked the sidewalks to see the incredible views. What an awesome place to visit!

the fam at the falls

From there, we made our way into downtown.Toronto.on.a.Saturday.night. Holy moly! Toronto is the fourth largest city in North America, and we felt it that night! After a long day of driving, navigating a super busy downtown in the dark was not our idea of fun! BUT, we made it to our downtown condo, right across from the Scotiabank Arena (where the NBA team, the Toronto Raptors play)! Our little travel guide had found the perfect Airbnb for our visit!

Neither of us had visited Toronto before, so we were really exploring it blindly! We headed out the next day to the Harbourfront which, not so shockingly, happened to be Ryan’s favorite spot of our trip! It was a gorgeous morning, the sun was out, and the kids were in (mostly) good moods! That in of itself is a success in my book! RM and LJ Lilly picked out a cute spot for brunch, then onto the CN Tower we went.

We learned that Tim Horton’s (though we have them in Fort Wayne now!) is referred to as Timmy’s by the locals, and that pronouncing the second ‘T’ in Toronto just screams tourist!

We surprised Anderson awhile later with a quick walk to Graffiti Alley. The kid was hooked! We’ve never seen him SO excited about anything! He loved the different art, the creativity and the colors!

anderson toronto

We spent the entire day just exploring this new-to-us city! We had an awesome dinner downtown before turning in for the night! It was really cool to spend the time away, just the four of us, with no specific destinations, no timelines, and zero prearranged plans. I am so incredibly thankful for a husband who will step outside of the box, plan a trip that will include something for us all, and just take the “risk” of something new.

The Selflessness That Is PARENTING

I am aware that what I’m about to admit is going to make me look like a giant jerk ball. I’m also confident that I’m not the only single-to-now-married mom who feels this way, or has felt this way at some point. But really, even if I am, that’s okay too.

I was a single parent for more than ten years. During that time, I played mom, dad, doctor, nurse, teacher, coach, etc. It’s the job description that’s required of all moms, sometimes even more so of single moms (or dads). It’s just what you do to keep.swimming.

When I met Ryan, my biggest hope and prayer was that the kids would like him and that he would like them. Of course, being that they’re an extension of me, I knew he’d love them. It was a prerequisite! But, my kids were elbow deep into the tween years, and getting them to like new people can be tough! (No idea where they get that.) Clearly, things went well and…here we are!

Flash forward to this week. While helping Anderson with some homework and cleaning out his Trapper Keeper (hehe!), I found a note he wrote to Ryan, thanking him for always being there for him and Lilly, along with other things! Of course it’s a super sweet note and I would NE-VER be upset that he wrote it, but…it pissed me off!

Ryanandkids

Because, let me tell you about one of the writings that my daughter wrote about me.

Last summer at church camp, Lilly wrote in her journal that she was praying for me because I’m always mad and tired. She wrote that I always seem upset and overwhelmed. O. U. C. H.

She isn’t wrong.

There’s just a heavy responsibility of being the sole disciplinarian. Of course, it’s not Ryan’s place to discipline them. And their dad lives so far away that I wouldn’t expect his input or help either. So that leaves me. Always the “bad guy” and always the “mean” one. It’s just what it is. But sometimes it really really really stinks and sometimes it really really hurts.

Being a mom is the most selfless job there is. It’s not about me at all. It’s about keeping them safe. Keeping them on task. Holding them responsible, and creating accountability. It’s about making sure homework is turned in, laundry is done, beds are made. It’s about creating tiny humans who will turn into productive teens and young adults. It’s about teaching them that they have ownership over their actions, their body, their words. Everything I do is to ensure they are learning and growing as kids so they can be self-sufficient adults. That is my job. And for now, it comes with zero reward!

I know that with time, my 38 year old daughter will spend a Monday morning crying on her bathroom floor texting me, telling me how thankful she is for me, and apologizing for all the times in her life she took me for granted (sorry mom!). I know that at some point, my son will be there for me, the way that I am always there for him. I know that the rules and restrictions I’m putting on them now (on my own) will benefit them in middle school and high school and cut down on the drama that they just aren’t equipped to navigate. I am confident in my parenting, even though it oftentimes goes unnoticed.

Here’s to all the single moms, working moms, and everything in between…I SEE YOU. I see the effort, the tears, the stress, the heartache, the celebrations. I see all of it. You are doing all the right things. You are doing it all for them. THEY don’t know it, but I DO. KEEP SWIMING. You’ve got this! Do not give up because those kids are sooo incredibly worth it. They’ll come around. They’ll grow up and they’ll realize YOU are the one who kept them on track- even with your constant nagging and occasional yelling. YOU DID IT FOR THEM! I SEE YOU!

 

You Should Tell Them…

I’ve received two texts in the past few weeks from my sweetest younger SIL, Gwen. The texts were totally random- one about a dream she had that I was in, and another one just letting me know that she was thinking about me. The thing is, the fact Gwen texted me is not super unusual, I mean, we talk for sure! But the thought behind each text was so sweet that it really had a direct impact on both of the days I got those messages! (Thank you, sweet Gwen!)

Ask my husband, I’m a Words of Affirmation girl, through and through (though I don’t hate the random occasional gift, amIright?!). There is nothing in my world better than waking up to a post-it note on my bathroom mirror from Ryan. Just the thought of him taking time to write, in his cute messy handwriting, a sweet-nothing to me, just makes my heart race! (Gaw, I love him!) I guess the same is true when I get a random text from my SIL or a friend. It just really means something to me!

I drive three or four hours a day for work (yes, you read that correctly), and I get a lot of windshield time. A lot of time to think and reflect and think and analyze and think and pray and think and worry and…you get the point. But often, I think about other people- just wondering how they are, wondering how their kiddos are, wondering how the interview went or the meeting went or even that morning’s workout went. This week I thought about how awesome it would be to let those people know when I was thinking about them.

I get it- not everyone is a words of affirmation person, like myself. I’m married to one of them! I can text Ryan the sweetest, kindest, most intentional heartfelt message, and it would be nothing for him to respond “that’s sweet” (you laugh, but he does it, often!) He’s just not the same as me! And that’s okay! But no one, I mean that, no one is ever going to be mad that you’re telling them you’re thinking about them.

So next time you’re thinking of someone- you should tell them! You have no idea how their morning went or their workday was. The message from you may be the one thing that brightens their chaotic day! So SEND the message. MAKE the call. ANSWER the call. Shoot an email. Just LET them know! It’s important!

 

Growing Together

You may remember that Ryan and I were doing “double church” for almost a year. The kids and I had been attending our regular church for more than 10 years, and it was home to us. We saw a lot of changes throughout that time, namely the passing of the founding pastor. This church helped start my faith walk as an adult, and guided me into the basics of my understanding of my faith and desires of my heart. It was the place my kids felt comfortable- where they met new friends, spent weeks at camp, and really began their understanding of faith in connection with how we lived at home. When I met Ryan, he was also rooted in a church. Though he lacked the social fellowship that we had at our church, he was learning and growing in his faith, and wanted to share the experience with me. So, we did 9:30 church at my church, and 11am church at his church. It was an eventful year!

As more changes occurred at my church, and I felt myself actually learning and being challenged at his, I knew that the inevitability of choosing just one church was on the horizon. The kids begrudgingly made the switch to Ryan’s church, and now we’re rooted in one church, together!

Last fall, Ryan and I signed up for a GROW class together. It is an in-depth study of the Bible over a two year span. We started the class just weeks before we got married, and instantly I knew this would be a big challenge for me. The Old Testament is IN-TENSE ya’ll! As a Catholic-raised girl, I studied the Gospels, and didn’t even really do that very well!

This week we covered the book of Ecclesiastes. And when I first read it, I was like “whoa, that is so depressing!” I admit, I never finished the last two assigned chapters of the book (see also: the good part), and so I was left feeling very sluggish, and channeling my best Eeyore behaviors. Once our class discussion started and we unveiled the “good news” of the conclusion of the book, I realized….this is EXACTLY what Ryan and I were talking about the past week. Finding meaning in what we do. Finding the “it” in life. Feeling like we were doing “enough.”

It all comes down to doing life/work/parenting/leadership/marriage ALONGSIDE God! Because without that….we’re left feeling like it’s all meaningless. And really, isn’t it?

I am so thankful to be in a church that challenges me. I am so thankful that I am learning more this year than I’ve learned my whole life when it comes to the Bible and God’s Word. I am so so incredibly thankful to being doing all of this GROWING with Ryan!

We really never know…

Sunday’s news of Kobe Bryant’s passing really shook my household. Ryan and I were hanging out Sunday afternoon, watching a movie together, when I got the alert on my phone that the helicopter went down. From there, the news just spiraled and we became engrossed in the details, the outcome, etc. It was tragic, to say the least. I won’t pretend to be a giant Kobe fan or even Laker’s fan for that matter, because the truth is, I don’t follow the NBA, or its players, at all. But this story was much more than the story of the tragic death of a basketball player.

For us, this turned into the story that many others across the country related to. It became the story of a husband and father who lost his life unexpectedly, and too soon. It became the story of an unfinished life, a family who was broken, a family who would have to figure out ways to continue on without two of its members. The loss of Kobe and his daughter, along with the others on the helicopter that day, became a reminder that life is so incredibly short. And of course, we know that, right? But do we LIVE it?

Ryan and I decided to slip away after church for an adults-only lunch date. And at that lunch, Ryan looked across the table at me with tears welling up in his eyes and just said “I’m afraid I’m missing it.”  (Keep in mind, this was pre-Kobe news) His fear is that he’s not doing enough, he’s not doing it right, he’s missing the point….of parenting, loving, living, teaching, working, etc. And ladies hear me say this…find yourself a husband with a heart like this, because you’ll forever remember this exact moment when he is literally moved to tears because he wants to do “it” right. I tried to explain all the ways that he already was doing it right- the kids see him every single morning, reading devotionals, studying the Word. He shows up to every.single.thing. He is there. He cares. He loves. He strives to be all things.

Once the Kobe news hit, all of Ryan’s fears became mine too. We are here for such a short short time, and we just have to be sure that we’re actually making it count. We can plan, and pray, and hope, and wish, but at the end of the day….we really never know when it’ll all end.

 

I did it!

Last week I posted about setting goals for the year. I mentioned that physical goals were part of this, and so for January, I set a running goal. I’m NOT a runner. Like, not even kind of!

Over Christmas, my brother in law (shout out Sean!) said something that really stuck with me- he made the point that you don’t have to run a great distance every single run, but that for him, it was important to at least run a mile or two, often! This was actually great news to me, because I struggled at the thought of keeping up with my precious hubbs, who makes it look like a piece of cake running five miles before church each week in blistering cold temps! Pass.

My goal for the first month of this new decade was to run twenty miles. Yes, I’m aware some of you run that every weekend, or even those of you weirdos who do it in one single run, but for me, this was a big goal! Twenty-seven days into January, thirteen runs later, I finally ran my twenty miles! And ya’ll, it feels great!

I don’t keep up with goals, like ev-errrr. I especially don’t stick to exercise/running goals. So for me to hit this goal, and actually ENJOY it, is huge! I’m actually looking forward to setting a new goal for myself in February, and eventually enjoying some outside runs with Ryan in the spring (yes hunny, I said it!)!!!

running

Class of 2024

The strangest thing happened a couple weeks ago. Somehow, the vice principal at the freshman academy got my email address and sent me a long detailed email about the class of 2024, and how supposedly I had a child in that class, and there was some meeting I was to attend in the coming weeks. Cleary there was a mistake somewhere, because my oldest is only in….oh crap…8th grade, which means next year she’d be at…the freshman academy, and oh.my.gaw this was actually intended to come to me because I have a child in the class of 2024. Now listen, I’m not saying there were tears, because I’m not that kind of mom. But there were tears.

Last night Ryan and I attended the parent meeting for ninth graders starting the freshman academy in the fall. As we walked in, we passed the familiar faces of parents to the kids my daughter is friends with. Looks like this was really happening. We listened to the guidance counselors assure us that our kids are in good hands- that they really don’t have to know their whole four year plan right this minute, but soon. SOON? She’s a CHILD! A baby, if you will! How in the world will MY baby know what classes she should take three or four years from now? It was all a little overwhelming! For me.

We got home and talked to Lilly about some of her options- what AP classes she would need to take as a freshman, and which ones she could push out to the following years. We discussed study halls and the importance of giving herself a little extra time to work on assignments during her busy seven-period-filled day. She apparently had a plan of her own already brewing. She knew what she was doing taking two years of foreign language as a middle schooler, she knew about summer PE options, etc. My gosh, she’s not a baby, huh?

And just like that, my oldest Little is nearing her high school years, and this mama is not even close to okay with it. Four more years. That’s all. Ya’ll I am not being dramatic. Just wait. It seems like only yesterday I was taking her for “coffee” after her kindergarten orientation. Or for ice cream after her sixth grade “Back to School” night.  What about all those years in between? And so, it hit me that this is it- we only have a handful of years with her living under our roof, and it’s time I really recognize the importance of time with her.

It’s insane to me that I have a daughter who is on the brim of teenage attitude, which very rarely but occasionally rears its ugly head. I am so impressed with her selection of friends, her ease of transitioning to another school, and her love for other people. I adore her confidence and willingness to put herself out there and to try new things. She is the kindest, sweetest, easiest child in the world, and I am SO thankful to be her mom….even if she is going to leave me in four years!

 

My Inner “Her”

I have always remained very faithful to the truth that God has a plan for every single thing. Lately though, I’ve struggled to really live it! (Is that okay, or did I just contradict myself?) I wrote a couple months ago about our miscarriage. And trust me, I had no idea the impact it had on me, and the response to that post just overwhelmed my broken heart, and I am so so sorry to anyone who has experienced anything even kind of like what we did. I know there are those of you who were well beyond the nine week mark, and even those who weren’t, who experienced way worse physical and psychological impacts than I did. And again, I am seriously heartbroken for you.

Since then, we did the required waiting…wait for your regular cycle to happen. Wait for your hearts to heal (huh?). Wait for your body to tell you it’s ready again (I thought we were already ready, really?). I heard the oh-so-common comments that all began with “at least” or “look at it this way”….all that ended in eye roll responses from me. NEVER have I been upset with God… until this miscarriage.

And even still, I can TRUST that God has a plan. And that THAT pregnancy just wasn’t designed for MY body or US. It doesn’t change the fact that I wanted it. And that’s where my inner ugly steps out. She’s all “oh girl, that’s some crap. You want this. You have baby clothes already purchased. You have burp rags, and you even promised to breastfeed. THE THOUGHT.”  Clearly God doesn’t respond to that inner ugly as my husband sometimes does! She’s not pretty. She’s not Godly. She’s not even logical. But “she” exists.

It seems that almost weekly I hear of someone new getting pregnant. Or I see a post from my cute pregnant friend about how hard her 45th week of pregnancy is (you’re fine. stop complaining. You’re a few days past your due date. reeeelax.). It bothers me to a point where I don’t want to go to work, I don’t want to sign onto social media, I don’t want to even try for another baby. I’m just.so.mad. Or sad. Or both. I don’t know. It’s just…ugh.

The thing is, that pregnancy changed me. I can’t start the day without me or Ryan seeing the kids walk into their school. I can’t fathom the thought of someone else picking them up from school, because…what if it gets to be 2:32 and they haven’t seen the kids pop out from Door 10 yet? Will they know what to do? Who to ask? Who to text? Do they have the phone numbers of their friends? No. I do though. So I should be the one….who does….it all.

When it does all work out perfectly, when my mother in law nails pick up, and texts “they’re both home safely”, and I can finally stop obsessively checking my phone….I’m fine, or mostly. I talked to my mom about this- I wasn’t even this “bad” when the kids were babies, when they were completely helpless and unable to communicate openly with me. I chalk it up to being in my early twenties and naïve. Gaw, those were beautiful times, amIright? Things are just so.different.now.

I thought I had control before. I didn’t. I hate that I don’t have control now. I never did. So what’s different? I can’t answer that. I’ll never be able to. I just know that it’s hard. And it’s hard to hear about my friends being pregnant. (I love you all though, and I promise I AM happy for you. I’m just…jealous too.). I DO trust God. I DO trust His timing. I just selfishly wish it was similar to my timeline. That’s just my honest truth. My honest inner struggle. I love God. I trust His plan for my family. I’m just terrible at being patient and letting things happen. (but then….I look at my husband and think….I waited for 36 years for him….and look.)

 

We Set Goals (…it’s what we do!)

I honestly can’t believe it’s taken me three weeks to write about the new year, because you know how I love a good blank slate! This year is different though! I saw so many memes about people who were so glad to say buh-bye to 2019…I’m not one of those people because guys, 2019 was THE.BEST.YEAR.OF.MY.ENTIRE.LIFE! Marrying Ryan was truly the best thing in my world, and getting to add him to my already precious little family just can’t be topped by anything. So maybe I was just basking in 2019 a little longer, who knows! But here we are- 2020 is here, and we’re off, setting new goals!

Last year on our (dating) anniversary, I gave Ryan a journal I had been keeping since our first date. You’ll recall that I knew very early on (see also: before I went on a date with him) that he was the man I’d marry someday, and I wanted to do whatever I could to document our first days and months together. And I’m SO glad that I did. At the end of the journal, I wrote my 2019 goals. Ryan and I agreed to do some goals together (or at least outlined together, what our focus would be for that upcoming year together). Our focus was on spiritual, physical, intellectual, and social changes/advancements. Though we had somewhat different overall goals, through it all, we would support each other and our goals.

And so this year, we checked how we ended up. We were both super impressed with ourselves and each other- we had pretty much stuck to a majority of our goals- and even if we hadn’t nailed them all the way, we did a great job of making each of the topics a priority for 2019.

So as we start off a new year, decade, and lifetime together our goals together became more important. We used the same overall topics (and added one or two), and set new goals for this year. (I won’t bore you with the details of each one…).

The point in this is simple. Doing life with someone who has similar goals and outlooks is so incredibly important. Having an accountability partner is so exciting and comforting. Sure, my physical goal is different than my “runner” husband’s, but that isn’t really the point is it? The point is that we both put physical goals as a priority because we want to have more kids together at some point, and being around for a very long time (God willing) is incredibly important to us both. We want to grow spiritually together, and as a family, because that’s the tone of our home, and it’s how we want our kids to grow up. We want to set some financial goals because we I need want to redo the entire Keeks house, without taking from our “own” money. (Love you, hunny!) We want to read books together (and apart) because it’s fun to question things, learn, and grow professionally and personally.

Never have I been so excited for annual goals, but something just tells me I’m onto another incredible year, alongside the most supportive and loving man! Here’s to new beginnings in 2020!!! Glad you’re along for the ride with us!

 

Seeing (almost) Clearly Now…

As the year comes closer to it’s final month and the decade comes to a close, I can’t help but think back to a sermon our old pastor preached about a 20/20 Vision. I know I wrote it about in my old blog (good luck finding it), but it’s been something that has, quite honestly freaked me out, the closer we get to 2020.

2020. It seemed so far away. “Will I even live to 2020” my 25 (tehehe) year old self wondered.  It seemed so.far.away. And here we are. On the cusp of 2020. And I think back- have I done it all? Have I hit the goals I set for myself ten years ago? Have I grown? Have I matured? Am I better? Are those pesky insecurities gone? What am I doing? Where am I going next? Ya’ll, if I’m being honest, I’m strugggggggling with life at the moment.

In a season that has seemed infiltrated with difficulty (disguised as growth?), my hope is that I’m constantly learning from all these life lessons. My prayer is that there IS a lesson to be learned. That, although God isn’t trying to teach me a lesson as a punishment, there is SOMETHING to be learned- growth to be had. And am I getting it? And if not- what do I need to grow and learn?

I read through a lot of my old blog, and I can’t just ignore the similarities. My insecurities are the same. Many of my struggles are the same. And though I am more independent in my thinking and beliefs now, I do still put a lot of pressure on Ryan to fulfill me. By that, I mean…I am more confident in myself to make decisions for myself and the kids, but I put a lot of weight on Ryan’s involvement with those decisions. I WANT him to be involved. I oftentimes look to this kidless-for-38-years man to justify my final verdict on how to handle an issue with my almost-twelve-year-old’s screen time. I look to him to determine how to move forward with sending my teenager (gaw…d e a d) to a high school football game alone on a freezing Friday night. “Wear that hat. No, use this scarf. Stop! That isn’t warm enough. Here, take this!”  While I sit in the corner replaying my 8th grade years, knowing that a high school game is nowhere for my ill-prepared-for-winter-weather-13-year-old to be.

Guys. It’s just hard right now. I’ve not fully fulfilled my 20/20 Vision from 10 years ago and thank God, because my goal was to be living on the beach of North Carolina or Georgia by now. And thankfully, I am #kekiongadaydreaming with Ryan instead. And while the “coast” of Fort Wayne isn’t what we all envisioned for our life, I can honestly say it’s MY perfect paradise.

I love my husband. I LOVE that I have someone to navigate the hardships of tween/teen years with. I LOVE that he never makes me feel unloved or unimportant. I love that I go to bed every.single.night knowing that he adores me and wants to make me happy.

You know what I hate about my 20/20 Vision outcome….I hate that I don’t love myself. I hate that, ten years ago, I didn’t know how much I didn’t love myself. I hate that I didn’t know that if I didn’t fix it then, I’d be dealing with it now (at 35-ish). I hate that I’d deflect my own insecurities onto my husband. I hate that I haven’t dealt with my STUFFFF…. I hate that I feel this way.

But.

I know one thing.

I know that MY GOD is the ONLY one who can TRULY and FULLY fulfill me. I know that a marriage won’t EVER do that. I know that a perfectly supportive family won’t do it either. I know that ALL the BEST songs in the world won’t complete me- no matter how I try. As a music-lover who has sat here for the past 89 mins listening to the same song on repeat, I can tell you- NOTHING other than the TRUE belief and TRUST in God, will EVER fill EVERY single void.

And so. There is still time for me. There is  still time in this ten-year-challenge. I have time to CHOOSE to see God EXACTLY as He is- to see that He wants this for ME! Ya’ll, God wants my heart to be stirred, but He wants me to feeeeeel loved by those in my life. He wants my marriage to strive and He wants my marriage to be an example of His love to the Church. I trust this and believe this with every single fiber of my being.

Continue reading “Seeing (almost) Clearly Now…”