Tuesday, April 7, 2015

it's not you it's me

Guys, I'm taking a break. Gradually, over the last year and a half, I've been losing my desire to blog. I love to write just as much as ever but the time needed to do it well has escaped me, and there continue to be other opportunities to explore where writing is concerned- and I want to do them.

It's not like this needed said written, I get that. This is really more for me than for you. I like closure. :) And I don't know if this will be a final close or just a season..... but for now I want to fold up the ole' laptop and move on to something else.

So for now I just wanted to say thanks. Thanks for reading. Thanks for sharing your comments. Thanks for getting in touch with me when something stuck your heart. I dream of a day when I can pick up the blog again but do it daily. I sure loved it. But I don't like doing things that I can't do well. And I'm not doing the online thing very well these days.

Maybe I'll see you once small people begin to head off to school. Maybe there will be a random post here and there. Maybe the breakup will last for a whopping two months and then my fingers will be itchy.After all, you've treated me so well. It's not you- you've been great to a gal. It's me. I just need a break. Things like tee ball and soccer are calling my name.

It's Becker Style, out.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

it's been a long time comin'

As I sit here watching the snow rapidly disappear from my now-swamp-like back yard I find myself barely able to breathe, so great is my anticipation of spring. Not just spring the season, although that in itself will be a huge relief, but I feel like it is the spring of a new chapter in life. My husband JUST completed his MBA, which began immediately after the completion of three years of work for his Bachelor’s degree. After five years, I’m ready to have my husband back. I’m ready to spend my evenings and weekends with my best friend. I’m ready to look forward to a weekend instead of feeling like it’s just another week day. I- no WE- feel free.

I’m excited for other things, too. I’m seeing freedoms that come from kids being slightly older than they were before. I love knowing that our new-baby days are behind us. Don’t misunderstand me; those days are inconceivably sweet. But we have been in them almost endlessly for the last four and a half years, and the thought that we only have a year or so left to be tied down by mandatory naps makes me excited. I’m excited to travel. I’m ready to explore with my kids. I’m ready for a more flexible schedule. And for kids to dress themselves! Can I get an “Amen!? Come on, Henry.

I’m excited because our budget/savings/retirement finally all look the way a responsible adult’s finances should. Full disclosure: finances- well, the responsible stewardship of them- never came easily either one of us. And finally we can see the victories we have made standing all lined up in a row. Finally we are on top of the mountain that seemed unconquerable a decade ago. We have developed big-boy words like “discipline” and “self-control” and “wisdom.” Those words are monsters, I’ll have you know. They aren’t fun to acquire and they aren’t easy to become. Nor are they fast. But they finally can be used to describe the handling of our money. And golly, I like it.

So drip away, winter. Melt away snow- both the figurative and literal kinds. I’m ready for the sunshine and for new growth and for the beauty of fresh beginnings. Heck, I’m ready to send my kids outside!!!!!!! We all have better days that way.

And don’t you think it’s perfectly symbolic the way winter gives way to spring? I think it’s so poetic that the weight of white and cold that keeps us bound inside for a season is the very thing that melts and gives way to growth. It’s the water from the snow that distributes into the soil and prepares it to welcome new blooms.

How’s that for perfect design?

Monday, February 16, 2015

how to stop the tattle

Before I was a mother, I was a teacher. A music teacher, specifically. And I have discovered that classroom management skills also come in handy when mothering three man-babies. We won’t talk about whether it’s harder to corral three littles or one hundred high schoolers, but I’ve done them both.

One of the most-used skills I have taken with me into motherhood is the phrase, “Give him a message.”  That tattling stuff is a dirty business. I think it might annoy me more than most other child-related woes. And I learned something while teaching in a kindergarten classroom that totally changed the way I respond to tattletales.  Let’s use a common scene in my house for example.

Let's say my oldest (4.5 yrs) and my middle (3 yrs) are playing get-the-bad-guy happily together in the basement. Someone accidentally hits too hard, and tears and anger arise. I hear stomping up the stairs, and the wounded bursts through the door. “Moooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom. He hit me!”

“Did you give him a message?” I respond calmly.

“No.” he angrily quips.

Continuing to wash the dishes, I calmly reply, “Well then, go give him a message. If he hits you again, then you can come get me. Give your brother the opportunity to make a better choice.” And back down he goes.

My children know that the message they are delivering is, “Please don’t hit me.” Or, if you're feeling too angry to say it that politely, a firm "Don't hit me. I don't like that." works, too!

It’s brilliant, you guys. 1)They are learning to settle disagreements at the lowest possible level. They are figuring out how to calmly and verbally communicate to the person who made them upset that they are upset. Don’t punch them. Don’t wait for someone else to solve your problems for you. Use your words and cause a change.

2)They are learning that THEY determine how others will treat them. I think this is so important! I want my children to be able to tell a friend, a peer, OR a harmful adult that they don’t like the way they are being treated. And to be practiced in the verbiage that message uses. And also, to expect that person to stop!

3)They learn that when someone says, “Stop. I don’t like how you’re treating me.” THEY LISTEN. In our house, if you repeat the unwanted behavior that someone just asked you to stop doing, you are in big trouble. This is for the future girls they will date, this is for the friend who doesn’t like how they are playing, and this is for them. Because they need to expect people to stop once they have clearly established the way they will be treated. They need to be alarmed if that person doesn't stop.

4)They learn that in our house, we give second chances and take opportunities to make better decisions. I think that’s kind of a beautiful thing.

And it’s not terrible that another side effect is that 5)they come to me less! I don’t get many tattles these days.  They know I won’t do anything until they have given their brother or friend a message. And you’d be surprised how many potential conflicts become nothing once a message has been given. Pity to the child who doesn’t respect the message.
Four words, and such an impact they make! You know, I’m still waiting to find a practical application for my skills in chord analysis, but this “Give him a message” business has proven to be gold.

What have you found to be one of your go-to tools in your parent tool belt? I’d love to know.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Bo Peep's Bonnets

You can count on 4 things. 1)I love clothes. 2)I love being unique. 3)I love unique clothes or wearing clothes a unique way. 4)I love wearing unique clothes for a good cause.

And Bo Peep's Bonnets is the perfect collision of all those things.

You can go to their website at www.bopeepsbonnets.com if you want the whole story, but the basic gist is this: Danielle and Leslie knit beautiful, unique items (think hats, scarves, cowlnecks, and headbands for men, woman, and children- even matching sets for parent/child!) through their Etsy shop. When you purchase an item for yourself- they ship hats to patients suffering hair loss due to illnes. Pretty cool. You get a beanie, folks like chemo patients get to stay warm in a beautiful, FREE way.

This is personal to me because Leslie is a close friend of mine from our college years. She has been there through life moments like weddings and babies, inspired my fashion sense, and always had a bohemian joie de vivre that draws people to her. So when she teamed up with Danielle, who started Bo Peep's, it popped up on my radar. They sent me a box of some items and asked if I'd be willing to play around with them. I said sure- because who doesn't love to play with pretty things?!

I have already posted two of the pictures on my Instagram feed, for those of you who follow me THERE. So you may have seen the first two items on their test run. But it bears repeating. ;) The first piece I tried out was the Earwarmer Turban, linked for you HERE. I love it because it doesn't make the rest of your hair flat like wearing a regular beanie does, and wearing it lower around the head like a turban headband makes it more like a current fashion statement instead of the earwarmer-headbandy-thingy I wore skiing as a kid.

The second item I "test drove" was the Slouchy Knit Hat. I love me a good beanie. I own no less than five in many different colors. And this one has both the perfect length behind the crown as well as the perfect slouch factor. They make all of these items in many colors, and you can find the link directly to the hat HERE.

And my absolutely FAVORITE treasure in the box was the Triangle Scarf. I just haven't seen anything like it in stores. This is where the whole "I love unique things" comes into play the most. It's soft and knitted like any scarf, but it looks edgier. I have worn it out many, MANY times because these crazy-generous girls told me to keep it. (They even adjusted the design when I said I was having a hard time keeping it from sliding- the scarf now comes with buttons so that it stays exactly where you put it.) And the fun part about this scarf is the attention she gets! EVERY time I walk into a place-choir rehearsal, the post office, the local pizza joint- people comment on it. And I get to tell them how the can give hats for people who are having some rough days while supporting the business of two hard-working mamas. The link for the Triangle Scarf is right HERE. Pictures below, naturally.

So listen. I asked how many hats would be donated if someone were to spend $40 at their shop...their answer was 4. Four hats. They cover shipping. And the folks who need them can ask for them directly, or friends/family can nominate them. So spread the word, 'k? Even if you don't need to buy a beanie now. You may know someone who could use one. But even better, go buy a beanie. Or a GORGEOUS cowl neck scarf. Or a cute flower beanie set for a mother/daughter photo shoot. This world can use a little more good in it, and these girls are doing their part.

Be a part of their part. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

the power of a password

I read an article earlier this year about a man who found success by changing his passwords and using them to keep him focused at achieving his goals.You can read the original article by clicking here.

I read the dang thing this summer and it has stayed with me for months- that's when you know it's good! So, resolutions for the new year and everything, I decided that I would put it to use this year. Spending the first five hours of 2015 (slight exaggeration, admittedly, but think about how many passwords YOU have!!)  I went around and changed every password for anything and everything to reflect my goal. I won't tell you exactly what I did because....well...it's not that I don't trust you but. Don't worry. "It's not you, it's me." So while I won't give you mine, here are some examples of some you could use this year:

Callm0mM0re (using zeros for the letter "o")

We'll see how it all pans out. I'll tell you that the one I'm using is related to a certain spending plan and, let me tell you,  it's an effective deterrent when you have to log on to your J.Crew account by reminding yourself to be good. I have already given my past self a few middle-fingers for this "great idea" but it's working.  Day 3 and going strong baby!!!!

Sooooo look, I nominate we end 2015 now. That way we all stick to our goals, we write every resolution off as a success, and we go back to the glory of our former worse selves. Forget all this "new leaf," "self-improvement" mumbo jumbo.

You in?


I figured.

Thanks for nothing, you guys. I'll be sure to tell you to put the new boots down and hold you accountable to your resolution.

Okay, I can't even joke about that. I'll never tell you to put boots down.

I need to stop now.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

the dirty word


It's a word of death.

Death to relationships.

A close friend spoke some hard truth to me seven or eight years ago, while I was living in California. At the time, my feelings hurt because she hadn't had much time to spend with me, and I felt like maybe I cared more about her friendship than she did mine. It's not a good feeling to feel like you're in an uneven relationship, is it? And in wisdom she warned me that those unspoken expectations I had in my mind about what she "had to do" if she was a "real friend" would kill the friendship quickly. She didn't stop there. She went further and warned me that she noticed I had placed expectations over relationships with everyone in my life- my parents, my family, my friends, my husband. All of them had certain unmentioned bars, so to speak, that they had to achieve or else I was convinced they didn't really love me.

I don't know where that came from....that scale I set that let me protect isolate my heart. I don't have traumatic stories from my childhood or bad breakup stories from my youth. But still they were there. Stealing relationships and threatening to cause me to become an island unto myself.

It's because those words convicted my heart so strongly that they have stayed with me through the years. I still see them creep into my heart, if I'm not guarding it vigilantly. And I see them in others. Because I'm looking for those ugly expectations.... the dirty laundry list of made-up tasks to prove a person's/relationship's worth.

And every time I identify them, they make me ANGRY. I would argue it's a just anger.

Expectations are so destructive! They take relationships and remove the grace. In the devastated ruins of expectations, there isn't room for understanding of busy seasons of life, or differences in how people relate, or favorite methods of communication. Instead there is a refusal to accept love that isn't being shown in just the right way.

Or not enough.

Or not in time.

But where expectations kill, grace breathes life. When those imaginary lines we draw in the sand for others to prove they value us are erased, there is understanding. Understanding for what? For busy schedules. For different love languages. For failed attempts, time after time after time.

What if, when the phone call doesn't come, we respond with a reiteration of our knowledge that they still indeed value us because years can't be erased by days. Or weeks. Or even other years.

What if, when they stayed late at work "again," we pointed to our hearts the love notes that were left, or the favorite candy that was brought home, or the broken drawer that was fixed? And we realize that we all show love in different ways.... and that one way isn't better than another.

What if, instead of assuming what they must do in other relationships, we look for the ways that our relationship is special and unique to us because we are unique and no two relationships can be alike... and different love doesn't mean unequal love.

Wouldn't that change things? Wouldn't that make the load lighter?

Every time I am greeted with grace in a relationship, I am renewed in my determination to replace expectations with grace.

I'm still horrible at grace. In every sense of the word.

But at least that gives me something to work on.

live to learn

I'm convinced that we'll learn a lot in this life if we just keep our eyes open.

I was standing in the Target checkout line. Henry was asleep in his carrier and the older two boys were at home playing a rousing game of FIGHT with Daddy. And as I wait for my turn with the cashier, I pass the time scrolling through my cartwheel app, trying to add coupons for my groceries that day.

As I scroll, I can hear the father in line behind me admonishing his boys repeatedly to stay behind me and give me space. But you see, I was standing in front of the candy bars and gum. Who can resist that?! And so "Boys, stay back! Give that lady space!" became the background music. (Side note: I've achieved "lady" status now!?!? Might as well give me a walker and admit me to the home, dude-guy! Thanks for that gift.)

My turn. How-about-that-weather chatter with the cashier. And then I lay eyes upon the candy-lovers. Two boys, 8sih and 12ish. "Um, excuse me. Do you need help putting the bagged groceries into your cart?" I melted a little bit, and started to thank them but insist I could get it. Girl power, and all that jazz. And then I stopped halfway through my "No, but th-"

I realized that if they were MY sons who were offering to serve someone, I would want that person to let them. It's easy to be strong and independent. It's hard to lay down your pride and let others help you. But if we don't give people the opportunities to surrender themselves to us, we take away the joy they'd get from doing it. It's funny..the way that works.... When someone offers to serve us, we can serve THEM by letting them serve us. And I'll be honest, it's that truth I clung to when I let those two little guys serve me. If I had said no, I would have robbed them of that service; of the joy they got from doing it.

And so the register beeped as it scanned each bar code, the boys lifted each bag into the cart, and the cashier listened in participation as the boys' father and I chatted. I had questions for him- because obviously he was raising boys to be admirable, and he was just a season ahead of me. I was taking mental notes furiously.

And when my cart was full (and my wallet was empty), I slipped the dad a $5 and asked him to let the boys pick out a treat from that darned wall of candy bars. And we exchanged parental looks of gratitude on both our behalves. His because of the opportunity his kids received and the small thank-you for a job done well. And mine for a very profound understanding of the road ahead of me. Because oh, how I'd love to turn those tables one day...how I hope to be the mom watching her boys serve the young mother in front of us.

To the father of those two boys, who made sure they offered to help: thank you. 

Thanks for preparing those two boys to be a gift to the world. To make the load lighter for those around them.

And thanks for showing me what it looks like to parent my sons well- with real life as a teacher.

I accept the challenge.