Easter 2014

I’m a date person. And no, I don’t mean going on dates or eating dates. I mean remembering dates. I have always had a good memory for dates. I used to be able to do a little circus trick of “you tell me a random date (though it had to be a date that I lived through) and I will tell you what day of the week it was on.” Since having kids the days kind of get lost in a shuffle and I’m not as accurate as I used to be, but still, I like dates.

In the world of dates, April 20 is kind of a big one for me. And not for any historical reasons or drug-related ones, thank goodness. But it has significance for me personally in that 10 years ago it was the day my last pre-Brian relationship ended and 9 years ago it was the day that my relationship with Brian started. I spent nearly a year moping around and being heartbroken over the previous relationship and on the anniversary of that sad event, Brian and I happened. It was kind of a sweet redemption for the previous year’s heartache.

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And this year? 2014? It was Easter. A day of celebrating true and lasting redemption. A day I spent with my family of five doing all the typical Easter-y things. Wearing cute clothes, going to church, doing an egg hunt, eating chocolate, cooking a delicious Easter dinner, and spending time with friends. I am of course thankful for the meaning behind Easter and for day set aside to remember the Resurrection. But this year, April 20, 2014 was also a good reminder for me of God’s faithfulness to me in my personal life. Not just my spiritual life, but in my relational and emotional one too.

Most days life gets busy and I’m running around feeling like the world is spinning and that I might be going a little crazy in this whole motherhood thing. But yesterday I stopped and looked at my life and thought, “Wow. This is my husband. These are my kids. This is my house. These are our traditions. This my life.” It sounds silly, because, really, who else could these kids belong to? But I sometimes get so lost in the busy-ness of it all that I forget what a privilege it is. And what a blessing. And how amazing that my angsty college-self is gone and I get to be a mostly grown-up woman, close to being 30 and just a little more settled. How thankful I am that the person who fretted for almost a year about a lost love and if there would ever be another one is long gone. I’m close to eight years of marriage to the perfect man for me and we are raising our family and celebrating life together.

So I’m supremely thankful today for every day since April 20, 2004 and how it’s led me to right now. I wish I could go back to my heartbroken self ten years ago and give her this picture. The one where my smile is tired but real. Where I’m holding a sweet baby girl and leaning on my handsome husband. Where my boys are smiling big with anticipation of the Easter baskets waiting in the dining room of the house we renovated ourselves. Where life isn’t easy but it is so blessed. And happy. So very happy.

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Just Do It

I finally started my book club. The one I’ve wanted to be a part of for ages. Most people’s schedules are too busy to either read the book or get a night out, but I’m doing it anyway because it’s mostly for me. (And for my dear friend Sherah who needs a night out as badly as I do.) So I just did it. I picked a book, a date, emailed some gals, and waited. There were three of us discussing Where’d You Go, Bernadette, eating desserts and strawberries and I couldn’t be happier about it. The discussion went to what events in our lives have changed us. The only thing I could think of was Brian. I realize he’s a person, not an event, but he HAS profoundly changed me. In just about every way imaginable.

Anyone who knows Brian at all knows a few things about him: he’s driven, he’s a bit obsessive, and he’s talented. I could make a list a mile long of various things he’s been interested in over the years we’ve been together. And when I say “interested in” I mean “has thrown himself into.” Brian doesn’t do anything half-hearted. If he takes up running? He buys books, he researches the best shoes, he comes up with daily work outs and stretches, he gets a trainer. If he takes up art? He buys all the supplies, reads countless books, watches documentaries, goes to museums, sketches in a little black book, takes classes. The man is interested in everything and whatever he’s interested in gets a lot of attention. Now, don’t get me wrong, it isn’t an obsession to the exclusion of everything else. He’s still a faithful father, hard worker at his company, a generous friend, and a loving husband. But when he’s interested in something? Well, he just DOES it.

And me? I’m a thinker. An analyzer and planner. A “are we sure we have thought through every angle of this before we jump into it”-er. But that man of mine doesn’t just do things for himself, he also pushes those around him to be doers. He’s inspiring and challenging and sometimes frustrating. Because he won’t let my dreams die, he pushes me to fulfill them and to work hard and go for it. He’s the only husband I know who cares so much about his wife’s personal fulfillment that he’ll volunteer to watch the kids and hire babysitters if necessary so I can pursue my dream. That’s wonderful. And scary. Because now I have no excuses. I have to stop thinking and analyzing and saying “but I’m a stay-at-home mom, I can’t do that.”

So I’m taking the step. The leap really. I’m jumping into something that I’ve wanted for a very long time and just couldn’t figure out how it’d fit into our lives. I’m doing it and I’m nervous and I don’t think it’ll work but I’m doing it anyway. And now I’m telling all of you so I have accountability to keep going. What’s my big news?

I’m going back to school to get a Culinary Degree.

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On Living

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Parenting the third time around is a relief in so many ways. With my preschooler I’m in uncharted territory. Always new boundaries being pushed and new logistics to handle. My two year old. Well. He’s a two year old. So he’s often hard. But being a third time mom to a baby. Easy peasy. So much of what I do now is living, not analyzing books or blogs or coming up with what I think about everything from pacifiers to baby carriers to feeding a baby to how I get them to sleep. I just do. Just live.

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There are a lot of decisions when it comes to pregnancy, birth, and baby care.
More important? Being in the moment with your baby and enjoying them. 

It’s probably why things have been rather silent around these parts the past months. Sure there’s the whole “rough pregnancy followed by newborn fog” thing. Then the holidays. Then the winter that never ended. Then sickness upon sickness upon sickness. But mostly I just feel like I don’t have that much to say any more. I know what I do and why I do it. And more importantly how to balance my ideal life with the reality of a chaotic three child household. Like when to hire help to clean my house or when to get a babysitter.

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Somedays we watch a lot of tv. It’s winter. Correction: It’s the worst winter ever. And I have a new baby. So, yeah, we watch tv. And it isn’t going to kill anyone. 

It feels really good to not be so angsty any more. To not feel like every meal is a crisis because where did every piece of that meal come from and how was it grown and how will it affect my life? I still think all of that is important, but living and having balance is important too. Our eating choices are probably better than they have ever been, but it feels more natural and less forced. And there are days that we eat box mac-n-cheese. And that’s okay too. Anyway, I’m still happy to share life with you all and my thoughts on homemaking things, but if things get quiet around here know that I’m off living. Not just writing. Researching. Analyzing. Or Worrying. I’m living. And I hope you will too!

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Because I’ve Seen It

I’m going to nerd out on you for a moment. Hang with me. It’s worth it. I hope so, anyway.

So I’m a Harry Potter fan. And in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban a really interesting scene happens that I think applies to parenting specifically and to life in general. There’s this whole time traveling element in which Harry Potter future is able to save Harry Potter past by using a really powerful bit of magic. When Hermione asks him how he did it he says something to the effect of, “I’d already seen myself do it (in the past, even though at the time he didn’t know it was himself), so I knew I could do it again (in the future).” So that’s probably a pretty rough description if you haven’t read the books or seen the movies, but the idea is interesting, isn’t it?

When we go through really hard things, the next time you have to go through something hard you have that past experience to help get you through. I think that’s why third time parenting has been easy for me. Birth? Been there. It’s no fun but I know I can do it because I’ve done it before. Post-partum body trauma and sleep deprivation and hormone surges? It’s going to be ok. It gets better. I’ve done this. I’ve seen myself make it through so I know I can do it again.

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Been doing a lot of resting this week through our illnesses.

This thought has been on replay in my mind this week. Christmas of 2012 was a rough health time for our family. It was two weeks straight of us all trading illnesses and I literally didn’t leave the house the entire time. Then last summer we had similar stretches of health problem after health problem. And these past three weeks we’ve been there again. All of us have had the stomach flu, some multiple times. I’ve had gallbladder problems. Nolan and Parker have had fevers and colds. Even sweet Avery has been fussier with something or other. And now I’m on day four since I last left the house and feeling kinda crazy.

20140321-101450.jpgSick day #4 in a row, after being up most the night with all three kids.

But you know what? I’ve done this. I survived. We eventually all got healthy again. There was a reprieve from middle of the night bed changes and a break from all the vomit and sickly children. We eventually didn’t have to cancel plans and got back into our routine. We all lived. And I atleast am stronger for it. Because now that I’ve seen that I can do it, I know that I can do it again. And hopefully, I can do it with a touch more grace and less complaining than last time.

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Poor sick Parker on the day he had a ridiculous fever and actually asked to stay home from the zoo.
I’ve never seen him this lethargic!

So, the next time you find yourself in a tough stretch in parenting or just in your personal life, think back on all the other times you made it. Maybe not with flying colors or with the best attitude — but you made it. And because you did it then, you can certainly do it again. I know you can. After all, Harry Potter told me so. :-)

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The Crook of my Arm

This spot, this corner of my body is where I have held all three of my babies. They have slept here, eaten here, cried, been rocked, smiled, cooed, and clinged to me. If there is anything I will miss about the baby stage it’s this. These sweet moments with a passed out babe. Staring at them as they sleep. Wondering who they will be. I don’t know if I’m raising a future president or teacher or poet — but whoever they become, they will have been nurtured in my arms.

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I used to feel frustrated and guilty when I let my babies sleep in my arms. “Put them down or they’ll never sleep on their own”. That’s just crap. And I don’t say that word often. Babies were made to be held. My arms were made to hold them. My body has been made soft and comfortable – just for them to snuggle in. I refuse to feel guilty the third time around. I relish these moments, sad when I have to put down my sleeping beauty to get something done. Because dishes are always going to be there, but she will not always fit in the crook of my arm.

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But she does today. And today I will stare at her, caress her fuzzy head, and snuggle with her chubby baby body. I will find rest in relishing her and who she is right now. She will rest securely and happily, being held close by the one person in the world who knows her inside and out and loves her. Mother / child relationships change over the years, but today I’m her everything. And I am perfectly okay with that.

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Valentine’s Day

We love holidays around here. Especially ones during these dark, cold, and snowy months of Midwestern winters. Especially this year, with the winter that nearly killed all the moms. So Valentine’s Day? We are kind of making a big deal about it. Because it’s warm, bright, and happy. Something we need a lot of to make it until spring.

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We started celebrating earlier in the week with a fun package from Gigi (my mom). In the package was a specially wrapped present for each person in our family. Fun!

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Then we had to make all of Parker’s Valentines for his class. I tried to pick something equal parts cute (for my sake) and fun (for Parker’s). There are 100 ideas on Pinterest for Valentines, but they mostly seem like they are fun for the mom and not so much for the kiddos. So we just colored and cut out hearts on fun paper. Simple, but he enjoyed it. He loved getting all the valentines from his classmates too. What fun.

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My gift to Brian was a photo book of last year’s Cruise, which took place over Valentine’s Day last year. It was such a sweet time and fun to remember with this book.

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My first Valentine’s Day with a girl means a cute dress, tights, and hair bows. Something I couldn’t have even imagined last year. My sweet, happy girl.

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I spent the entire morning at a friend’s house and doing the preschool drop-off/pick-up shuffle. I came home to find this nice surprise from the hubster. We are going out tomorrow night, but it was sweet that he still did something for today! Thanks, hunny!

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My friend Annie put together the most spectacular little V-Day party for our kids. There were five moms and 12 kids. They ate V-Day cookies, played with homemade playdough and made handprint momentos, made soft pretzel hearts, and had a lunch with heart shaped cucumbers, cheese, strawberries, and crackers. It was so very thoughtful and the kids all had a great time. And the moms even had a moment where everything was quiet and ate our yummy spinach salad in peace!

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I went pretty light on the decor this year, it’s just been too busy to do much. I did make this fun heart bunting from some old scrapbook paper and yarn. The boys love decorations and were very excited to see all the hearts. And yes, those are icicles out my window. They are getting downright scary. I wasn’t joking about the weather!

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!

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Beauty

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Having a baby girl is so very different from having boys. When Avery was just two weeks old, I found myself thinking about her junior high self. How will she perceive herself? Her appearance? How will her peers treat her? Will she be awkwardly tall like I was and cry when people make fun of her for it? Will that bald spot remain a problem area — will the girl’s at slumber parties make fun of it when they are braiding her hair?

She is now three months old. My happy, smiley, incredibly beautiful baby girl is growing so fast. I know that she will be a teenager in a blink of an eye and, already, I’m worried about how she will be perceived and want to make sure she knows she’s beautiful. I never thought like that with the boys. Of course they are adorable so maybe that helps. But I think mostly it’s the gender thing. Something that I thought I had a pretty good handle on as a some what secure adult woman. And yet there it is again. My own insecurities, my own tendencies, my own perceptions — all projected onto this innocent baby girl who can only comprehend the need for sleep, food, and her mommy.

I realize that beauty is awfully important to me. It’s embarrassing really. It’s something that I’ve always had to some extent. Not in a braggy way, but people have always told me that I’m beautiful. Since I was in sixth grade people asked me if I was a model. I don’t think I’m anything special, but I’ve always had an abundance of compliments. And now as my own beauty begins to fade with age, I find myself looking for compliments about my children. Do people think they are the cutest and sweetest things ever? It’s easy for me to see past superficial beauty in others. I’ve had a wide variety of friends in my day and I can honestly say looks have never been a determining factor in who I keep company with. It’s easy to find beauty in a person with a disability who has a kind heart. And yet when it comes to myself, I fear losing beauty. I fear my daughter won’t be beautiful. After all this time, is how I see beauty really only skin deep?

It’s been a good challenge for myself. A new way of looking at beauty. Of reminding me that it is more important for me to help Avery develop a kind and lovely spirit than to solve the random bald spot on her head. To teach her to love Jesus and care for others rather than spend my days figuring out how to dress her in a cute way and do her hair. It’s better to see her develop an independent and strong personality than to fret over her height possibilities. And if there are girls out there that will one day make fun of my perfectly beautiful daughter, well, she doesn’t need them anyway. And hopefully the things I’ve taught her in the meantime will allow her to respond with grace, walk away from hurtful friendships, and embrace the less cared for in the world. Now wouldn’t that be truly beautiful?

 

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Better than Imagined

There are very few things that live up to the hype. Whether it’s the latest blockbuster or your dream job or the next phase of life — so often all the waiting and anticipating doesn’t fully pay off. Unless we are talking about my sweet baby Avery. Because she is amazingly better than anything I imagined during those hard months of waiting. She’s sweeter and happier than any baby I’ve seen, filling my heart with a happiness I didn’t know possible. She was totally worth the wait. And the aches and pains. And the totally awful weeks of pre-term labor. I love her.

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There were a lot of months when we didn’t have a space for Avery. We tried to sell our house to hopefully find something bigger, but that wasn’t panning out in our time frame so we decided to stay here. I remember complaining to Brian and saying in my hormonally fragile state, “I’m afraid if we can’t find a place for her in our home that we won’t make space for her in our hearts. It’s like saying there is no room in our life for her.” Well, he graciously built a room in our home and reminded me that our hearts will just grow for this new little person. And they sure have! To see her giggling on the diaper pad that I made, on top of the drawers that I built — it’s such a happy thing. Clearly. I mean, isn’t she the happiest, smiliest, chunkiest baby you’ve ever seen?20140204-184421.jpg

So seeing her in her little room, the one I didn’t think would fit in our house, makes me so very happy. Seeing her playing on the quilt that I made when I desperately wanted to have something tangible for her — my heart is full. It’s moments like these that I need to hold on to. To remember that waiting is good and that love is bigger and fuller than we can understand.

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Seeing her happy face — it’s the sweetest. The fabric I searched and searched for on her closet. The blanket I knit while planning her room decor. The owl pillow that became the theme of her room. The rocking chair I sat in while hugely pregnant, chatting with my mom — just waiting to have a baby. This moment, it’s everything I hoped it would be and more. Avery Jean is already better than I could imagine, I can’t wait to see the little person she is going to become!

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Loving the Child You Have

If comparison is the thief of joy, then having demanding expectations for your child is the enemy of happy parenting. I spent a lot of years before becoming a parent imagining all the things we would do with kids. I would do puzzles with my well behaved children and spend afternoons laughing and joking over homemade play dough and water colors. My kids would love reading and often spend time on their own looking through books. They would love to sleep and jump into bed with us for a snuggle on weekend mornings. They’d be full of hilarious little kid sayings and essentially make our life happy and full.

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And then I had kids. Oh my, what an adjustment. I found out my kids didn’t like crafts. I realized that they would rather be loud, bang their toys on the table, throw their food, and eat the play dough. They would wake up with the sun and would start the day loud and needy. They would often make my day stressful and frustrating, not happy and fun. Reading blog after blog and seeing pin after pin of seemingly perfect children participating in every kind of crafty activity bewildered me. I spent a long time forcing my expectations on Parker, just wishing he would be like all of those children I saw on Facebook. He’d get mad at me and I’d get impatient with him. It was no good. My expectations of who he should be made every day frustrating because I couldn’t appreciate who he was.

IMG_8102I remember when my friend Sherah’s son learned his colors. He was a good 6 months younger than Parker and clearly pointing out all the colors of the rainbow, while Parker could care less about the subject. I remember when my friend Harper’s daughter potty-trained at a ridiculously early age and talked in complete sentences about meaningful things at 2, while I was battling my stubborn 3 year old who just repeated the same words over and over again. I remember watching my friend Annie bake and craft with her children, something they apparently enjoyed doing together, so unlike my experiences at home. My friend Julie’s son was playing sports and cracking jokes at a young age, when my kids were still clueless about what kind of ball was what. My friend Beth’s son was spelling his name and organizing things in intricate patterns, while Parker couldn’t even sing the ABCs or sit still long enough to do a puzzle. So many of my friends with multiple kids would post pictures of how sweet their children were together, while I spent my day separating two little boys who fought over everything. I’d hang out with my friends and hear them tell me that their kids were stubborn or hard or loud, and yet they were quiet and obedient (in front of me at least) compared to my give-everything-your-all boy. Each one of these comparisons caused me to be dissatisfied with my kids. It either made me jealous or feel like I was doing something wrong. It made me wish that my kids were something or someone other than who they were.

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You remember that my goal is to be happy this year, right? Well, loving the children that I have (not the one my friend’s have or the one I see on Pinterest or the one I imagined I’d have) is a HUGE part of that. Figuring out who my little people are and allowing them to blossom into their own individual personalities is essential to their happiness. And stopping the comparison, jealousy, and competition is essential to mine. It is a great and wonderful thing to parent in alongside other parents. I’m so grateful for all the little people in my life, all offspring of some of my dearest friends. But I need to love them for who they are and then leave it at that. I don’t get to bring my desires or baggage back home from a playdate and force it on my children.

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And remembering that the small pieces that I see of everyone else’s life — that isn’t the whole story. We’ve all got the good, the bad, and the ugly. Facebook or a playdate tend to only show a one-sided view of our lives. That’s why really living in community is such a good thing for us. The more time I parent alongside other moms, the more I see the hard parts of their days and the hard things that their children do. We’re all in this together, desperately trying to love little people who are often demanding and needy. The best gift we can give to them is our love and acceptance of who they are, and help develop them into people who are secure and happy. And loving the child (or children, in my case) we’ve been given is key to being a truly happy parent.

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