Monday, April 14, 2014

2.5 years and 6 months

The past six months have been challenging for me.
Not what I expected.
In some ways, better.
In other ways, worse.

The challenge is bringing about maturity in me, and that is good.
Strength, perseverance through trials, a filtering out of what is important and what is not.
I am learning to die to myself.
It is actually a really powerful and positive change to endure, although our society would lead us to believe that we should never.
Good as it may be in the eyes of the Lord, there is certainly a mourning process that is happening inside of my selfish soul.

Some people manage two children with ease.
The transition from one to two is hardly noticeable and they still seem to find time for all of those "extra" things.
That just hasn't been my story.

I have fought the change so hard.
I have gone to bed every night saying, "tomorrow, I will find time to {fill in the blank}."

I have spent a lot of time feeling like a failure.
Like, 'Why can't I find just a little bit of time to do some of the things that I used to do?'
Or, 'Why can she do it, but I just can't?' 

I want to finish Caroline's nursery.
I want to sew her some leggings.
I want to paint Henry's train table.
I want to edit the pictures I took three months ago.
I want to write 1,000 different blog posts.
But, if I died tomorrow, would any of those things matter?

When I resigned from teaching, Henry was about ten months old.
He took two LONG naps every day.
I used one for quiet time, crafting, blogging, etc. and the other for cleaning up and prepping dinner.
Or sometimes I napped during one of them.
Staying home was a pretty sweet gig.

Now, when Caroline is napping, Henry is awake (and at 2.5 years old, he requires a lot of attention).
 When Henry is napping, Caroline is almost always awake. 
I've tried and I will keep trying to align their schedules but so far, it isn't working most days, and that is the only time I get to talk to her anyway, without the jealous stares and relentless competition for attention by her older brother.

Christian is working longer hours too.
He is more passionate than I've ever seen him and absolutely loves what he is doing, so I am happy for him, but I would be lying if I said that it hasn't been hard.
He used to be home by 4:30. 
Anymore, I'm happy if he's home before both kids are in bed.

I'm thankful for everything that feels hard right now because ultimately, it's exactly what I want.
To be the mommy of these two children, to be elbow deep in the (sometimes terrifying) responsibility of loving and raising them, to be growing in my faith, challenged to do less of the "worldly" unimportant things and more of what really matters, taking it all in slowly and not in some hurried frenzy.

I heard something a while back that has just haunted me (in a good way).
"Are you the adult you want your child to become?"
Ummm...

So, I'm choosing to find time for scripture every day.
I'm choosing to play with my kids.
To delete apps that tempt to stare at my phone instead of staring into their eyes.
I'm choosing not to fill our schedules which allows me to be more present and less frenzied when we do have an occasional play date or family event.
I'm choosing to spend quality time with my husband in the evenings.
I'm choosing to sleep when I can (which is rarely).
And that means choosing to say no to almost all of my "hobbies".

My small group is reading the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and I'm trying to live eucharisteo.
If you who haven't read it, that is to live a life of thankfulness for the gifts God has given, because where there is thankfulness, there is joy.
And you can always find thankfulness if you choose to look for it.

Actually, my journey with eucharisteo started before I even heard of this book, back in November, when somebody challenged me to pray only prayers of thankfulness that whole month.
Talk about a challenge.
That was the peak of Caroline's crying.
It was so hard but totally changed me.

I try to find thankfulness in the hard moments.
Like when I am nursing the fussy baby who has kept me from sleeping for more than a few hours at a time for more than 6 months now, and the toddler finds a package of glue dots.
He has no idea what they are and unrolls the entire package to get a better look at them.
Now hundreds of tiny, clear, sticky dots cover the floor.
He doesn't even realize he is making a mess.
What takes him mere seconds will take me an hour to clean up.
I feel defeated.

"Thank you, Lord, for these two lives.
Thank you that you have entrusted me to take care of them. 
Me.
Thank you that we have shelter and food to feed them.
Thank you that we spend our days here at home, not in the hospital with sick children as so many families do.
Thank you for Henry's spirit, for his curiosity, his love of learning."

It helps.
It keeps my perspective in check.
It doesn't mean I don't feel frustrated, lose my temper and sometimes cry.

A couple weeks after the glue dot incident, I was eating pancakes with Henry when he said, "I'm gonna go play!" and crawled down from his stool.
Caroline was napping and I stayed at my seat to finish my breakfast.
 I enjoyed a few moments of quiet.
Then, I realized it was quiet.
That's never good.

"Henry?" I called.
"Where are you?"
"I in here!" he said from my room.
That's weird.
He doesn't usually play in there.

I walked in to see the scene of a great comedy playing out on the floor of my bedroom, only it wasn't at all funny since it was happening to me.
Henry had found the craft box that I had "hidden", apparently not too well, under my bed.
He had dumped an entire jar of gold glitter and was holding a bottle of white paint, and for reasons I will never understand, shaking it out all over the floor on top of the glitter.
He froze in fear the second he saw me.
This time, he knew it was wrong but it was like he didn't realize it until that moment.
I told him he was going to help clean it up.
He gave me a cheerful, "Okay!"



That lasted about 45 seconds.
He scrubbed a couple paint spots then said, "All done!"

"No, we have to clean it up all the way."
He started to run.
I caught him, quietly took his hand and helped him scrub.
He fought me.
I became very frustrated.
I was squeezing his hand tighter and tighter and my frustration turned to straight anger.
I knew it wasn't right.

"Mommy needs a break." I told Henry.
"Okay," he said, sucking his thumb.
I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths in hopes of gaining some self control so that I didn't accidentally hurt my not-so-innocent child.

Henry knows eyes closed usually means prayer.
He started coaching me.
"Dear God..." He prompted.
"Thank you for Henry..." He continued.
Apparently, my prayers of thankfulness are rubbing off on him and I couldn't help but laugh out loud.
Although I admit that seconds later, when he started fighting me again, I was angry again.

The fact of the matter is that I was angry because he shouldn't have done it and I didn't want to have to clean it up, and that's fair, but I was losing my temper because I didn't have time for it that morning.
My friend Alicia's flight would land in just over an hour and I was still in my pajamas.

That's the thing about my agenda.
I always feel really angry when it doesn't work out.
If I believe that I can make time to sew, craft, blog, whatever, and then it doesn't happen because of glitter on the floor and messed up nap schedules, I feel that I am missing out on something I was entitled to.

I'm trying hard to change my mindset.
To choose what matters in the scope of eternity over what matters in the moment.
I have written my "Farewell" blog post in my head a hundred times since I got pregnant with Caroline (and felt sick nearly every day for nine months).
Maybe that was God's way of making me slow down.
It's hard for me to choose the important things when the fun things are out there tempting me.
As long as this blog exists, I am going to desire to write here, so I have wrestled with the idea of just ending it forever.
But then, I don't plan to throw away my sewing machine or my craft supplies (although I am going to hide them better).

I haven't written the "Farewell" post because I also know that just because I don't have time right now, doesn't mean I never will.
Someday, I will have plenty of time to write and this blog will be here waiting for me.
When that day comes, I don't doubt that I will wish I had a baby in my arms.

Until then, I will blog and sew and craft sparingly, on the surprise days, like today.
The kids went to Grammy and Grampy's house so that I could take the cat to the vet, and by some miracle, Caroline was able to take breastmilk from a sippy cup and not have a total meltdown, so I was blessed with a few spare hours.
But this day is the exception, not the rule.
The rule is that if I want to really live my best life, I usually won't have time for those things, and I shouldn't expect to.
At least not right now, not in this season.

I would re-write Joshua 24:15 to look like this:
"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
We will play together.
We will love others.
And we will sleep when we can."

And we aren't even doing those things very well, (throw in a bathroom project and sleep goes right out the window), so we certainly don't have space for much else.

On these surprise days, I will continue to fill out the book I'm making Caroline, as an act of love for her, and I will dump some photos from the past few months of our lives, and make a little video that we can treasure later.
Or not.
But today, I chose this.
So here it is.

*Editor's note: I almost finished this post that day, but not quite.
Caroline needed me.
 Then almost two more weeks passed.
It's April and I'm just now blogging about Christmas.
This post is covers months 3-6 but Caroline will be seven months old in just two days.
Can't. Catch. Up.
Sigh.
_ _ _

Caroline 4 months, Henry 29 months:




We got really aggressive with trying to kick Henry's face picking habit this month.
He had bandaids on his face constantly and slept with mittens duct taped to his pajamas, (thumb holes cut out).
Sounds a little crazy but after months of trying other things, we were desperate.
He also had a sticker chart although that didn't really seem to motivate him.

Little Miss Caroline stopped sleeping well this month.
The typical, dreaded 4 month sleep regression.
It was a doozy.



Caroline celebrated her first Christmas at 4 months old.

 

But this time, baby's first Christmas was heavily overshadowed by the magic of a two year old experiencing Christmas (and understanding it for the first time).
We celebrated advent as a family this year, telling bible stories, lighting candles every night before dinner and doing several activities leading up to the big day.
Henry totally seemed to get it and it was beyond special.
We worked so hard to keep the focus on Jesus and not on Santa or presents and it totally paid off.
That morning, when we opened presents at home, he was so content with the few little things that he got in his stocking.
A $1.50 bottle of bubble bath brought him so much joy that he insisted we stop opening presents and go take a bath.



Caroline really started to look like her daddy this month.





Henry has always looked like Christian as a toddler and older, but they looked different as babies.
At first, people said Caroline looked like me, but when I saw Christian's baby pictures again, I could not believe how much she looks like him.

Recently, we showed Henry this picture (Christian as a toddler) and asked, "who's this?"



"That's me, Henry!"

Then, we showed him this picture, (Christian as a baby).
"Who's this?"



"That's Taroline!"

Then, we showed him this picture, (me as a baby).
"Who's this?"



Henry paused.
"I don't know. I don't remember him's name."

Talk about feeling like the family outcast.
I'll just take my brown eyes over here and cry in the corner.
(Kind of) kidding.
I adore my blue eyed family and now I know how my blue eyed, blond haired mom must have felt with me.


_ _ _

Caroline: 5 months, Henry: 30 months:


Ever wonder how I get these pictures?

Very carefully, with a fast shutter speed, and always, ALWAYS with a spotter.




Sometimes he is able to get all the way out of the shot, but not at the risk of someone getting hurt.

I can always photoshop him out of there.
These lives are too precious and things can go from cute to dangerous real fast.
(In this picture, I'm dropping the camera too because Henry has decided to hurl Caroline off the bench).



Brotherly love.
Yikes.




Snow, snow, snow, snow.
Then, more snow.
I felt like I was trapped in my house all month.

So, we played in the snow when it was warm enough.








And we played inside when it was too cold to go out, which was most of the time.
Dress up & elaborate train tracks, 



books, 



forts, 



treasure hunts,



blocks,



coloring,



(this is what happens if you put washable crayons in your mouth),



and bubble baths.



Oh, and movies.
We watched wayyyy too many movies this winter.



I said this on Instagram, but I'll say it again...
Is it weird that Henry's reaction to watching Finding Nemo for the first time was, "Let's make some fish sticks, guys!"?

His imagination amazes me.
He was "cooking" for me and he said, "I need a hat."
I was confused but I got him a baseball cap.
"Not that hat," he told me.
I didn't understand.
Next thing I know, he has a bag on his head, and I realize very clearly that he meant a chef's hat because the bag really did a great job of looking like one (and I don't even know how he got that idea or where he's even seen a chef's hat...probably from a movie).



Amazed.
On so many levels.

_ _ _

Caroline: 6 months, Henry: 31 months





 Grabby hands,


bottle strikes and nursing strikes both,


tongue out all the time.


And then there's this guy...



He had more time outs this month than all the other time outs in his life combined, (which is still probably not that many), but come on!
He loves Caroline but he'll do anything to get my attention, including making her cry.

In the past few months, I've deleted apps off my phone (facebook, pinterest, etc.), given up completely on "hobbies" of my own, and made a VERY conscious effort to give him my full attention, especially while Caroline is napping.
This month, though, it just seemed like no amount of attention filled him up enough.
I still have to take small breaks (to nurse the baby, throw in a load of laundry, prep dinner or just go to the bathroom for goodness sake) and he won't tolerate it. 
So frustrating.
Some days I feel like all I do is teach, correct, re-direct, ignore when appropriate and give him time outs or time ins.
After I make him sit out, (which I try to make a last resort for the most serious offenses), he usually comes back with a better attitude and apologizes without prompting so they seem effective.

He is testing, testing, testing me.
I work hard to make sure I "win" (through patience, grace, and not giving in to unacceptable behaviors) but he knows how to push my buttons.
It's exhausting (I'm exhausted anyway) and I definitely lose my patience sometimes.
I keep reminding myself that the hard work up front will pay off in the long run, but it's...well, hard.

Of course, he has lots of redeeming qualities.
Here are several recent "Henry-isms":

He's really into wanting to control the conversation.
"Can you say, 'Sure!'?"
"Can you say, 'Good job Henry!'?"
"Can you say, 'That looks perfect!'"

"Okay, Mommy, when we get home, I'll play with Caroline and you can vacuum for a minute."

"It's not a big deal." (He'll say this after he does something wrong, but also at appropriate times, like if you bump into him on accident).

(While driving past the hospital) "One day... Caroline was born...and Henry held her...on the couch." 

Henry: "It hurts!" 
Me: "Where?"
H: "My foot!"
(I grab his left foot).
"No, right here...on my right foot!"
(I'm just stunned that he knows right and left)

To a woman in the grocery store: "Do you remember my name?"
Woman: "No, what's your name?"
Henry: "I'm a boy..."
Woman: "I know you are. What's your name?"
Henry: "It starts with an H..."

_ _ _

Henry, Henry, Henry...

What can I even say?
You make my life better.
Fuller.
More rewarding.
More fun.
Sometimes more challenging.
But always worth it.

I love you,
Mommy



Caroline,

Let's get a few things straight... night is for sleeping, bottles are for drinking, medicine is not poison.
Don't believe me, do you?
I'll keep trying.
Until then, I'll snuggle you in the wee hours of the night, and I'll stay home from weddings and other adult events, and I'll never regret these moments I'm spending with you because you'll only be this little this once.
It helps that you're irresistibly cute and cuddly.
Yep, just typing about it makes me want to run into your room, scoop you up from your crib and snuggle you right now.
My love for you is overwhelming.
I've learned so much about God's love for me through you.

Thanks for your part in that,
Mommy

_ _ _

This video has lots of crazy clips from these 3 months in our lives.
My favorite, by far, is when Caroline is terrified of the wind up Elmo.
Does that make me a bad mom?
Maybe.
But it's not just because she's scared.
It's because she screams like a teenage girl when most babies would just cry.

Second favorite is when Henry is grumpy and won't sing "Happy Birthday" to his Grampy but sings "Bob the Builder" instead.



Thursday, February 27, 2014

if you allow heather to buy a new bathroom mirror...

Just as If You Give a Moose a Muffin is the sequel to If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, consider this my sequel to the post If You Give Heather a House Project.

If you allow Heather to buy a new bathroom mirror, be careful.


Sure, she got on sale at Home Goods and talked the manager into discounting it down to just $20 because it had a few dings...but beware.
That is no cheap mirror.
What that is, is the beginning of a great big mess.

She will love how new and fresh and clean that mirror looks.

...But it will also highlight how not-so-new-and-fresh-and-clean the rest of the bathroom looks.

So she will decide to finally take care of the ceiling that has been damaged and peeling since you moved in.




She will call a guy to come out and fix it.
She will get a steal of a price and feel really proud of herself.
And he will come and fix it.
And she will plan to paint the ceiling with a smooth coat of semi gloss and buy a new vent fan so that the water damage doesn't come back.
And that will be the end of that, right?

Wrong.

The ceiling will be fixed and it will look amazing.
Smooth as glass.


But what she didn't understand is that he would also be repairing the seams where the ceiling meets the walls and all other nicks and nail holes.
Now, she will need to re-paint the walls.
Or should she try grasscloth wallpaper?
Hmmm...

Did I mention that when she removes the existing bathroom mirror, there would be a huge hole behind it?
Because, yeah...


While she is standing and inspecting the walls, trying to decide what to do with them, she will notice that the bead board she hung years earlier is starting to settle and crack and separate at the seams.
So, she will head to Lowes to purchase some wood filler.

While she is there, she will walk past the sink aisle and convince herself that she should replace the chipped pedestal sink, so she will start pricing those.


When she gets home, she will get to work on filling those cracks in the bead board and while she is down there, she will remember that she never really did want to keep the chair rail that was on there, so she'll go ahead and rip it off impulsively.


Then, the weekend will be over, and the bathroom will look like this:


And it will continue to look like that until the following weekend, because with two little kids around and plans almost every night of the week, who's got time to be working on a bathroom?
That's not such a big deal...unless your only other bathroom is in your toddler's room, so your husband has to wake him up in order to take a shower in the morning.

She will think that she can finish it that coming weekend, but who is she kidding?
Surely, she has gotten herself into a real mess.

She's already called a guy to price how much it would cost to professionally refinish a bathtub, (because after re-finishing it herself, it has begun chipping again), and she has committed to having that done once the weather warms up (since she'll need to have lots of windows open when he does it).

All I have to say is that the wall sconce, the grimy baseboards and the outdated blue tile floor from the 50's better watch themselves because she's bound to start picking on them next.
_ _ _

Hopefully I'll have an update on this project sooner than later.
But it will probably be later.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

love

It's been one of those weeks.
You know the kind.

I can't get ahead.

I got out the vacuum like 3 days ago and somehow it still hasn't been used.
The laundry is piled up so high that when Henry saw it he said, "Mommy! Let me see the tower you built!" Then, after walking around it, he said "That is a really nice tower, Mommy! Good job!"
Seriously.
I couldn't make that up.
I just wish I shared his enthusiasm.

I locked myself and the kids in Henry's room...twice.
The lock is on the outside of his door so that he can't sleep walk around our house doing the weird things he does, like getting into the freezer.
(We don't have the key.)
I have done this before but last time, I had my phone and called the neighbor.
This time, no phone.
After deciding not to stay in there through nap time and until Christian came home from work 5 hours later, I quickly decided between the only pairs of shoes that were left in my old closet (flip flops or high heels...I went with heels), opened the window, pushed out the screen, ran through over a foot of snow around to the garage where I prayed that no one I knew would be driving by and that none of my neighbors were looking out their windows as I shivered impatiently, waiting for the garage door to open.
I got the spare key and frantically ran to let myself back into my house to rescue Caroline, whom, I was convinced, by that time had surely been smothered to death by a certain two year old.
(For the record, he was innocently singing her "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" when I burst into the room.)



A few days later, I did it again.
Same exact story, exact same routine of jumping out the window and running through the snow in heels...
This time, the cat ate our lunch while we were locked in there.

Tonight I made spaghetti for dinner and Christian surprised me by bringing home my very favorite Hot Box bread sticks with ranch and spicy nacho cheese dipping sauces.
I put everything in the oven on "warm" while we put Henry in bed.
...And then we ate dried out spaghetti, dried out breadsticks and hot ranch dressing for dinner.

All of these things make me laugh.
But they also feel very frustrating in the moment.
It seems to be the perpetual story of my life.

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day.
Christian and I dated for seven years before we got married and we always tried to make Valentine's Day special for one another.
Fancy dinners, big surprise gifts...blah blah.
The first year we were married we went to our favorite sushi restaurant (which was at least 3x more expensive on Valentine's Day) and we awkwardly tried to remember how to gaze into each others' eyes and all those other things people do before they actually live together and eat dinner together every single night of their lives.
We were sitting at a tiny two person table, really close to lots of other couples at tiny two person tables and we pretended we couldn't hear all of their conversations.

The next year we decided not to make it so formal.
We went to a movie and planned to go out to dinner after.
We got a call about a family emergency just 15 minutes into the movie and rushed out to get to the hospital.
Everyone was fine by the time we left the hospital at 9:00 PM but where were we going to eat dinner at 9:00 PM on Valentine's Day?

We got Chinese takeout, gas station polar pops and rented a movie from Redbox.
We ate on the floor of our living room.
We both agreed it was the best Valentine's dinner of our lives.

This year will be our 5th annual Chinese takeout/gas station soda/Redbox movie/eat-on-the-floor Valentine's Day dinner and I couldn't be more excited.
It reminds me that we don't have to pretend to be perfect {which I am so obviously not} and put a bunch of pressure on ourselves in order to celebrate a holiday that is supposed to just be about our love.

But somewhere in the last 5 years and since the realization that for us, take out on the floor or our living room is way more fun than a forced dinner out, I actually started to really dislike the commercialism of Valentine's Day in general.
I became very anti-Valentine's Day.
As a teacher, it became my least favorite holiday to celebrate with my class.
I felt really bad sending out a newsletter asking parents to send in valentines for every member of our class when I knew that some of those parents really, really didn't have the time or resources to enjoy doing that one bit.
And I started to feel annoyed that maybe I was supposed to buy cards for some of the important people in my life.
(Like birthdays and Christmas aren't enough...I mean, come on, we're all busy, right?!)

One thing I have realized about being a parent is that it makes me rethink life.
It makes me rethink why we do some of the things we do.
Explaining holidays to Henry is a great example.
I told Henry that Valentine's Day is a day when we show people how much we love them.
Then I thought, 'That sounds weird. I want to teach him to show love all the time, not just on Valentine's Day.'
But then, I am not always great at doing that myself.
So I said, "Well, we should always show people how much we love them. Valentine's Day is just a good reminder."
Saying that out loud was a good reminder for me.
Valentine's Day is just another opportunity to remind people (who may not even expect it) that we are thinking of them and that we love them.

My favorite part of Jason Gray's song With Every Act of Love says, 

God put a million, million doors in the world

For His love to walk through

One of those doors is you.


So, Henry and I made some valentines to show some of the important people in our lives how much we love them.
And it felt good.
Like I killed that Valentine's Day Grinch that's been living in my heart.

We used this idea to stamp hearts on card stock and then I printed the words "But the greatest of these is LOVE" on them. {1 Corinthians 13:13}
(I forgot to take a picture.)

...And then they sat on my desk for over several days.
I didn't get them to the post office until today.
...After 4:30 PM.

But I do have one success story from this week.
We made these for the grandparents:




{I cannot take credit for this idea.  I saw a similar picture on Pinterest but for the life of me, I can't find a pin with an actual link to the original website that posted it, so if anyone knows, send it to me so that I can give them credit.}

I bought oven safe serving platters and bowls from Home Goods, and enamel acrylic paint and a ceramic/glass paint marker at Michael's and whipped these up really easily.
I followed the directions on the paint, baking them for 40 minutes at 375 degrees.


I think they turned out amazing.

Happy Valentine's Day.
No matter who you are.
Married, dating, single or widowed, I hope that someone in your life reminds you that you are loved tomorrow.




{I posted this last picture on Instagram.  Christian and I were cracking each other up with possible subtitles.  My original text to him said, "I came out of your what?"}