… In Which I Try To Sun Myself In The Backyard While My Children Play

The news has been devastating lately, and this weekend I needed an escape. Since I still don’t feel comfortable going anywhere while Coronavirus is lurking, my own backyard “escape” was the best I could do. Bad idea … bad, bad idea.

With my beach towel, glitter pool float (makeshift pool chair) and sunscreen in hand, I set out for the backyard. “I have good news, boys!,” I declared. “Go ahead and fill up both pools, get out all of the sprinkler toys, and let’s have a little water fun in the backyard! Mommy’s going to get some sun, and y’all just have a good time. There’s only one rule: don’t get Mommy wet.” I felt very confident that I was a super-fun mom until my five-year-old, who at times can be more mature than I am, said, “That’s a terrible idea, Mom. Someone always gets sprayed in the eyes with the hose. Everyone gets mud in the house, and we’ll all have to take baths.” “Oh phooey,” I thought. You see, I describe my parenting style as “I live and breathe for you. You’re all I think about. I would die for you in a heartbeat. Now get away from me.” I thought water fun would occupy them for hours and leave me basking in the glory of the sun. I was wrong.

Once I convinced everyone that my plan was pure genius, I poured myself a big glass of Sauvignon Blanc and headed outside. I found the only unoccupied spot approximately one foot away from where my golden retriever likes to do her business. The Beverly Hills Hotel this was not. However, with my ‘60s playlist and the smell of suntan lotion, I felt like something right out of “The Graduate,” a tanned sun goddess who had just returned from the tiki bar.

Now, the sun isn’t usually my thing. I’m not what you would call a “beach person,” and I have a history of lasting approximately 10 minutes in the heat before waving the white flag. I’ve often wondered what people actually do at the pool or beach all day long. It’s a slap in the face of the modern advancement called air conditioning, if you ask me. But with the retro tunes and the drink in my hand, I was beginning to understand the strange attraction people have to the sun. “Maybe it’s time to get out some baby oil,” I thought to myself. “Who cares if I end up looking like a fried pickle? Life’s too short!” Don’t worry, I came to my senses and realized life would be a lot shorter if I marinated myself in baby oil.

My youngest came over to me out of concern. “Take off your top,” he said (He’s three). “What!?,” I said. “Take off your top, or it will get wet,” he insisted. I talked him down, but I worry about him in college with a line like that. About that time, I see something flying through the air towards me; it’s a gift from my oldest son, a large black beetle wrapped in dirty underwear. I honestly didn’t want to know where either came from, so I politely declined the gentleman’s gift.

While dealing with the tighty-whities beetle, I hadn’t noticed that my youngest had turned my pool float into a wave pool. Apparently he had found delight in shaking the float over and over as to watch my fat jiggle. Awesome. I no longer felt like a sun goddess, which was good because about that time I had to play defense. I saw a soccer ball fly right past my head just in time to hear my middle son yell, “I’m the king of wet balls!” I didn’t even have the chance to giggle before I looked over to see my youngest using our concrete patio as a urinal. “Nooooooooooo…,” I yelled with fear and disbelief in my eyes.

As I was explaining to my three-year-old why we don’t relieve ourselves on the patio where we like to eat, my middle son noticed ants on the fence behind me and waged a full-on war. It wasn’t bad enough that he was ending them with the hose’s brutal jet function, but he was yelling insults while doing it. “Nobody cares about you” and “You were NOT invited to the party” were two of my personal favorites.

I tried to salvage my day in the sun, and I headed back over to my pool float. My oldest ran past me and cut me off, jumping onto the float. At that moment, my middle son’s attention shifted from ants to brothers and he yelled, “Hey dump truck! Don’t steal a lady’s comfortable spot!” I decided right then that if nothing else came from that day, that I was still winning because of my son’s chivalrous gesture. Now we’ll work on his vocabulary.

I’ve learned my lesson, and I won’t be sunning in the backyard anytime soon. The next time I need an escape, I’m going to an adults-only pool. From that day I took away nothing but a headache and a boy-shaped tan line on each leg. My tan lines don’t exactly scream desirable bathing beauty, but they do mean I’m loved. I’ll take that.

Our Utopian Summer Schedule

I’m just going to leave this here so history may show that the Riney Summer of 2020 began with unwavering optimism on behalf of its production manager. Stay tuned …

I love using Canva (FREE!) to design my schedules, chore charts, etc. I find the process helps organize my thoughts and proves to be therapeutic. Do you enjoy creating schedules for your family, or do you prefer spontaneity? I prefer the idea of spontaneity, but, also, experience has taught me that I’ll probably end up spontaneously throwing in the towel if I don’t have a schedule.

What works well in your home during the summer?

Summer Schedule

What is a “Beauty-Filled” Life?

Lately I’ve had a few people ask, “Meghan, why is your blog named ‘The Beauty-Filled Life’ when you write mainly about boys and dirt and chaos?”

Exactly.

Allow me to explain. Sure, I could have named my blog “Snips and Snails” or “Bless This Mess,” perhaps “Fart Frat” would have been well received … but, see, that doesn’t tell the whole story. “The Beauty-Filled Life” does.

Years ago I read something by one of my favorite authors and thought leaders, Glennon Doyle, and it stuck with me. She said:

Beautiful means ‘full of beauty.’ Beautiful is not about the appearance of your outsides — beautiful is about what you’re made of. Beautiful women are women who spend time discovering what they love — what sings to them — what their idea of beauty on this Earth is. Then they make time each day to fill themselves up with that beauty. They know themselves well enough to know what they love, and they love themselves enough to fill up with a little of their particular kind of beauty each day.

My sons and their antics fill me up. They are my well from which I draw beauty. I don’t want a beautiful life; I want a beauty-filled life. A beauty-filled life has absolutely nothing to do with pretty, organized, controlled, orderly perfection. It’s the guts, the real soil of the human experience. Beautiful things fade, but beauty-filled moments last forever.

A floor covered in laundry, changing wet sheets, potty training, tantrums, messy buns and baggy eyes are not “beautiful” as we have come to know beauty, but these experiences and the love driving them are filled with beauty. A beauty-filled life is one that is rich with authentic beauty, the kind that is a finely woven tapestry of pain and triumph, anger and redemption, dirt and cleansing, growth and forgiveness and unconditional love.

No one except advertising agencies ever said our lives are supposed to beautiful in the sense of pleasing to the eye. They sell that our homes are supposed to be sparkling clean, our bodies fit, tan, and toned, and our little ones well behaved. Between magazines and our newsfeeds, our minds are inundated with images of perfectly styled homes with clean, bright kitchens and minimalist playrooms donning only wooden toys. It’s what we love seeing, otherwise it wouldn’t be everywhere, but it also makes us feel bad.

I used to work for those magazines. During photo shoots, we would enter gorgeous —albeit lived in — homes and spend hours cleaning up, moving furniture and styling shots. We worked hard to remove all the true life from the shots only to turn around and perfectly style an “ideal” life. A glass of orange juice on a veranda next to a vase of flowers and a sun-dappled croissant, a perfect half-moon of wooden trains laying next to a “Curious George” anthology in an otherwise untouched playroom, families enjoying a backyard picnic though they’ve never done that before.

I was fooled by these images for a long time. I still have to remind myself that they are not the truth. I look at my messy home with chipped paint on the walls, and I’m embarrassed that we’re not perfect. How could we possibly have company over when we don’t have an open concept home, our laundry baskets have actual clothes in them, our toys are plastic, and our couch is from Ikea! (These thoughts are even more ridiculous when typed). But then the little voice inside of me that has sprouted thanks to maturity and experience reminds me that perfection is not the end game. What if we saw real homes filled with the beauty of real life? Would we then focus less on curating Insta-worthy shots and more on filling our own rooms with joy and laughter?

I’m tired of “bettering myself” and my life. I’m weary from filling out mindfulness journals, reading self-help books and trying new diets. I’m nostalgic for the levity of childhood. My boys bring me back to that place. They make me roar with laughter, and I love watching them really enjoy their lives with wild abandon. They look at me with love in their eyes, and it has nothing to do with whether or not the laundry is done, where we bought our furniture, or the size of my pants. They just love me. They make me feel beauty-filled.

One day someone is going to tear down the houses we’ve so proudly built, paint over our furniture and laugh at our clothing choices. It just doesn’t matter. “Pretty” doesn’t last … I’m living for a beauty-filled life. And, even if I one day get to travel the whole stunning world, I hope the view from inside this humble home is the one I remember well into my old age. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

 

 

The Cure For Boredom

Lately, I have noticed that children are bored. They are discontented, uncomfortable with free time and unsure what to do with Saturdays that are not filled with sports, Sundays without church and school days without the classroom. A life with no vacations, no parties and no pools has these young ones perplexed. These children do not live in my home.

The Riney boys have never made boredom’s acquaintance, and for that I am equally grateful and exhausted. People have often commented about how “busy” they are. Yeah, thanks. This week I decided to follow the boys around, so I, too, could be privy to the goings on of their minds and the activities that fill their days. If your children come to you saying they are bored, here are some options for them:

  • Play NASA by using the seesaw to “launch” your little brother.
  • Play doctor’s office. Pretend you can only talk in zipper sounds, you burp shoes and your dog used to be a human before she was cursed.
  • Play “The Rolling Game” in which you take turns rolling down the bed, trying to knock the youngest child to the floor.
  • Cuddle the dog. Kiss her before you lick her, because licking her before kissing her would be ridiculous and gross. Obviously.
  • Play flu clinic. Give your brothers flu tests by sticking Q-tips up their noses.
  • Clean your room. Wait until it’s past bedtime. Pretend you are a cat and spend a full hour carrying each individual toy in your mouth to the toy bin. Meow.
  • Bark “Jingle Bells.”
  • Wash the car. Use a mop. Drag the mop through the mud each time you bring it to the ground. Put it back on the car. Curse the mystery dirt.
  • Remove brick from the fireplace. (There are clearly too many.)
  • Watch Bob Ross make “happy, little trees.”
  • Put away laundry in your dresser. Insist that you only be given the exact same amount of shirts and shorts. Stuff all nonessential articles of clothing under your bed.
  • Use fabric from Mom’s curtains to make a flag for the tree fort.
  • Practice making Chewbacca noises by gargling with water.
  • Try to flush an entire roll of toilet paper. Watch the bathroom flood. Run around the house while singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”
  • Watch “Mary Poppins.” Convince your brother that if he believes in himself, he can jump into the painting in the living room.
  • Stare at clouds, read in the tree fort, sleep in, watch cartoons and just enjoy these yummy, slow days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bachelorette: Quarantine Home Edition

It’s been five weeks now that I’ve been living under the same roof with these three young bachelors, and I still can’t decide which is my favorite. Tonight, they are treating me to a very special date, and hopefully my preference will be made clear.

The towheaded one is a sophisticated fellow, and he has asked that I wear my hot pink blouse with my leopard skirt. He thinks I would look fancy with a pink scarf donning my neck like a Hitchcock Grace Kelly. Who am I to disappoint? The eldest of the three gentlemen has suggested I wear red lipstick, diamond earrings and a fancy updo to complement my outfit. The purple eye shadow he has chosen completes the look, and I’m now ready for my big date.

It’s 6’oclock on the dot, and the doorbell has rung. Very punctual … I like that. They each greet me at the door with a pink rose — a nice touch — and they are dressed impeccably. (I learn later that the youngest one almost came in the buff, a bold and confident move). The eldest seems to be wearing his sweater backwards, a unique style that says “I don’t care about the rules of this world.” The towheaded one tells me I look beautiful, and my heart skips a beat. The youngest gentleman saunters in last and asks, “What happened to your hair?” He doesn’t care for the updo, and I appreciate his honesty. I admire a man who knows what he likes.

The waiter, who is mighty cute, seats us at his best table, and the towheaded bachelor pulls out my chair, a gesture that does not go unnoticed. The dinner begins with a reading of the wine list, while the sounds of jazz standards coast through the air and the glow from the candlelight illuminates the three handsome gentlemen before me. The waiter brings us baguettes and butter, and the youngest grabs the whole stick of butter off the plate and takes a bite. His savage ways intrigue me.

We all order steaks, medium well, with mashed potatoes and asparagus. The youngest drinks his milk with wild abandon, letting it splash on his face. His entire, uncut steak hangs from his mouth like a hockey puck. His caveman soul sets him apart.

The eldest entertains us with knock knock jokes throughout the meal, and the towheaded one keeps his cash on the table as if to signal to everyone, “I’ve got this.” Now it is time to pay, and the three gentlemen play a fun trick on the waiter by hiding in the curtains and jumping out with the money. What a gas! The towheaded one announces, “I’ll pay for dinner,” to which the eldest replies, “I’ll pee for dinner.” Oh, he is a hoot!

Now, off to the movies; it’s just down the galley kitchen. When we arrive, the theater employee — also very cute — informs us that the show will begin in 10 minutes. He points us to the arcade where we play the crane game and skee ball. My dates are all so competitive, and the youngest will throw a downright fit if he loses. He doesn’t care who’s watching; I admire his intensity. The gentlemen buy me Junior Mints — they prefer Skittles — and we head to our seats in preparation for the feature presentation, “Father of the Bride.” How did they know my favorite movie? How thoughtful!

As the feature begins, the towheaded one crawls in my lap; what a dear! He kisses me up the arm like I’m Morticia Adams and, at one point, sucks on my elbow. But who am I to question how someone shows affection? The eldest must be getting jealous. He has made his way to my lap, as well. He has asked that I rub his tummy … must have been the candy. Since, we’re getting more casual, I decide to get more comfortable and take down my hair. The youngest looks over at me, puzzled, and mutters, “Your hair doesn’t look stupid anymore.” Playing hard to get, eh?

We end the evening with one rousing game of “Is It Chocolate or Dog Poop on the Blanket”? Good for such laughs! What a wonderful evening. In conclusion, I’m sorry to say my choice has not been made any clearer. They each possess admirable qualities, and I’m equally enamored with them all. I like being their best girl, and I’ve decided to keep them all to myself for a little bit longer.