Fall is our family’s busiest season. Even without the sports involvement that occupies many families’ hours during the autumn months, we always pack a lot into September, October, and November, and this fall seemed fuller than most. Between celebrating the twins’ fourth birthday to enjoying a family camping trip and lots of preparing for all the holiday things, there has been a lot less contemplation than I would like.

I am thankful to have rhythms in place that help me prioritize reflection. Processing through this list of what I’ve learned this season was restorative in a way I hadn’t realized I needed. This list may not be especially groundbreaking, but noting the small things I have learned is a reminder that God is always teaching me, even when I am too busy to pause and notice. And it’s a necessary nudge towards continuing to pause and note, to reflect and learn.

1. I never regret showing hospitality.

I start to get cold feet almost every time we invite people over, whether it’s for an afternoon play date or full family dinner. I always go through with it, and I am always glad that I do. We did more than our usual amount of hosting this fall and I loved every conversation and deepened connection that came from inviting people into our home.

2. Having mastered one type of roadtrip does not guarantee future roadtrip success.

Our family is no stranger to long road trips: we’ve been making the drive from Central Texas to Southern California every year (or more) since 2016, and we’ve gotten good at that particular long-distance trip. To my surprise, those roadtrip skills did not transfer to the shorter trip we took to Port A in October. We traveled a fraction of the distance (230 miles vs 1400 miles), which should have been easier but wasn’t: I did not think ahead to pack meals and snacks for the road, we hadn’t thought through entertainment options for the kid for the drive, and I definitely didn’t prepare for the challenges of making stops with a trailer in tow (something we hadn’t done before). Everything worked out, but it was an important lesson in not relying on past wins to inform new challenges.

3. Trailer camping is a whole new experience.

The beach trip was my first time camping in a trailer, which brought a whole assortment of learning opportunities. Packing was different than either a traditional vacation or a camping trip and I learned how nice it was to move items (including food) straight from our home to trailer, no suitcases or coolers required. We learned how to make the most of our limited storage space; which toys do and don’t work best for rainy vacation days in a trailer; how to bathe (with twins) in a shower the size of a postage stamp; and how to navigate our space when three out of five of us have very early bedtimes (this solution involved my also going to bed very early—I think I slept 10+ hours each night of vacation, something I could definitely get used to). Mostly, we learned that trailer camping is a pretty ideal form of travel for a young family, and we hope to do it again, maybe in a trailer of our own!

4. iPhone voice texting can be endlessly entertaining.

I’m opposed to Siri, Alexa, or any other device that talks to me, but Luke has voice texting enabled on his phone and used it throughout our roadtrip to the beach. (We were caravanning with family and this was our main means of communication.) I had never heard a text read aloud by Siri before, and for some reason I found it hilarious, especially when Siri interpreted the emojis (many of which I had apparently been misusing, according to her translations). Our family had way too much fun sending out weird texts so they could watch my reaction to hearing Siri read them. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life, and seeing me laugh had the kids going too. It was a wonderful vacation memory, and I get giggly all over again whenever I recall Siri, in her stoic voice, informing us that “Mom says we need to take another bathroom stop. Laughing rolling on floor emoji, Face Palm Emoji, Toilet Emoji.” Hilarious, right? Or maybe you just had to be there . . . .

5. Being a critical thinker is not the same as having a critical spirit.

I actually don’t remember where this idea came from (probably a podcast?) but I made a note of it in my journal and have found it helpful in my approach to everything from people to books to sermons. I have a tendency to be hypercritical as I take in information, and often viewed my criticism as discernment. This reframe is helping me distinguish genuine curiosity/caution/thoughtfulness from antagonism. As I consume new ideas and messages, I can remain judicious without immediately resorting to fault-finding. My mind and my heart are not mutually exclusive, both can be engaged.

6. Don’t be afraid to do things “out of season.”

The black-and-white rule follower in me likes to do things at the right time, but sometimes rule breaking makes for better experiences. We went to the beach in October rather than summer and enjoyed much more comfortable weather and having the beach almost entirely to ourselves. We didn’t make it to the pumpkin patch before Halloween, when we usually go, but went the first weekend in November instead. The crowds were gone, the weather was great, and there were still plenty of flowers to be picked and pumpkins to pose next to for pictures. Inspired by these wins, I’m starting to rethink other family traditions. Which activities could benefit from thinking “outside the calendar box”?

7. Weaning twins is a lot different than weaning a singleton.

I weaned all three of my kids on their fourth birthdays—not because I was particularly thrilled with the idea of (very) extended nursing, but because my kids were all reluctant to give up their “milkies” and four seemed like a necessary endpoint. I expected that weaning the twins would be a lot like it was with Charleston: it was pretty hard on him, but my body quickly complied with what I was asking of it. I should have known that this time would be different (everything with twins is different, plus I’m not on the enormous fertility cocktail I was taking when Charleston turned four, which likely affected things). Minus a little extra neediness, the twins accepted the change without too much trouble; I’m sure it helped that they have each other for support. But my body was not prepared for the shift, resulting in a lot of discomfort as I continued to make milk that was no longer needed. We’re two months out from the weaning process and my body has finally adjusted. I just wish my heart would catch up; the end of an era is never easy.

8. When you tell a hairdresser she can “do whatever” with your hair, you have to mean it!

At the end of October I went to a hairdresser for the first time in eighteen months. My hair had gotten long and scraggly and sparse so I told the stylist to do whatever she could to help me out. I maybe should have stipulated that shoulder-length was the shortest I like to go. By the time I realized she had given me a full bob, there was no going back. The style is not what I would have chosen, especially since my hair is naturally curly/frizzy and definitely not “wash and go.” Instead of resenting the cut, I’m simply embracing hats more than ever in this season (per Luke’s suggestion) and using this as a reminder to vocalize my preferences next time I’m in a stylist’s chair.

9. Pay attention to the roadblocks.

A number of the biggest events of my life have been the result of roadblocks along my preferred path: I joined an online dating service (before they were cool) that led me to my husband because I did not have success with dating in my “real life”; we moved to Texas because our attempts at moving to San Diego and Arizona did not pan out; we got pregnant with twins because we could not conceive naturally and the fertility drugs worked out a little too well. I remember those alternate paths whenever I’m running into constant dead ends as I try to navigate a situation, as happened this past summer: I wanted to find a mid-week morning Bible study that had space for me and all three kids. I loved the study I’d been a part of for seven years, but they did not have a space for Charleston and I needed to find something new. There were several potential options, but every group I tried to join fell through. I had resigned myself to a Bible Study-less fall when my leader from my old group—the one I’d been in for years—unexpectedly reached out to let me know that childcare had opened up for homeschooled kids! We joined and had a wonderful semester studying the book of Genesis; I love how God brought the whole situation together, making it very clear that this was where he wanted me this fall!

10. A busy season for Luke is more challenging for me than a busy season for myself.

The Genesis Study (see #9) was my only personal commitment this semester, which was unusual; my calendar is usually filled with weekly groups and service commitments. But while my own schedule is lighter, Luke’s isn’t: he has a very full plate at the moment, and while the things he is doing are all GREAT (and are all things we both agree he should continue to do), it has meant that he’s been away from the family several mornings and evenings per week, something we aren’t used to. It’s taken me by surprise how hard this has been; as an introvert, I thought more time at home would make for a more restful fall, but I have struggled with this season of extended solo parenting and less adult interaction. We are reevaluating our rhythms and calendar in the coming months to ease this balance some; in the meantime I am relying heavily on the Lord’s strength to carry me through moments when I feel desperate for a break. I am remembering what I should have known all along, that I can come to Him when I am feeling weary and overwhelmed because His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

11. Narwhals are real!

Please tell me I’m not the only person who thought narwhals were mythical creatures! I was shocked when my mom sent a Fun Fact text about narwhals going through a menopause. I thought it was joke because surely narwhals weren’t real . . . but a quick Google search taught me otherwise! I don’t know whether to be thrilled at the idea that the unicorns of the sea truly exist, or ashamed that I doubted them all along. Mostly I’m terrified at the idea of a menopausal narwhal.

I’m looking forward to hearing from YOU: what is one thing, or three, you learned this fall?

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