A Life Stirred

Week by Week :: Weeks 1-5

Hey, remember when I used to do Ten on Ten?  Yeah, it’s been a while.  Like nearly five months!

Really, there’s no excuse.

So I’m not going to make one.

And actually, this post isn’t really about Ten on Ten.  It’s about capturing our everyday stuff so that someday I can look back and actually remember these days.  (They’re kind of blurry sometimes.)

Plus these girls of mine grow up so. very. fast.

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This was about a year ago. Who are these babies? (Also, that princess dress now stops at Jo’s shins!)

So, this year, I’m trying a new thing!  One picture of the girls.  Once a week.  That’s totally do-able.  (Right?!  Please tell me it is!)

And despite the blogging-hiatus, I have managed to stay on top of the picture-taking.  So, you, my lucky reader, are going to get to see them all at once.  Seriously, you’re so lucky.

Week 1:  We kicked off the year with our tree still up.  That’s totally normal, right?  Plus a sister-picture is always more fun with twinkle lights.  Now if only I could get both kids to smile at the same time.  The struggle is real.  At least we have 52 weeks to practice.

Week 1

1/52

Week 2:  We went to “Mini Monet’s” at the local art’s center.  I felt like I was nailing motherhood.  I mean, it’s got “Monet” in the title.  Clearly, I’m raising future artists.  Granted they loved the kiddie pool filled with balls more than the art, but whatevs.

Week 2

2/52

Week 3:  The girls got a belated Christmas gift from my parents–big girl legos! It’s been a hit.  Like hours (hours!) of independent play.  Joanna’s been a building-fiend (she built the two things she’s holding with very little help).  In her words, “I’m just following the directions.  I love directions!”  That’s my rule-following little girl! (And yes, the floor always looks like that now.)

Week 3

3/52

Week 4:  One day in January, it occurred to me that we are having a crazy warm winter (“warm” being a relative term).  So we went outside to play.  I’d kind of forgotten that they’re a year older this year, and the dressing process wasn’t quite as terrible.  Plus, Claire didn’t sob the entire time.  So win-win.

Week 4

4/52

Week 5: I didn’t really mean to do two snow pictures in a row, but that’s life in these parts.  They’ve both got sticks because it’s basically the perfect outside toy.  (Also, Claire is staring at the bird feeder…it was a desperate attempt on my part to get her to smile.)

Week 5

5/52

So, there you have it.  The first five Mondays of the year…documented!

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Not a Normal Friday

Typically, Fridays are a relaxed day around here.  The girls wake up around 7. (Don’t be too jealous.  The sun doesn’t come up until 7:15 these days.  Then it goes down at 3:45.  Ooof.  Not enough daylight.)  Anyway, we wake up, get dressed, and head downstairs for some leftover pancakes.

At this point, it’s about 7:20.  I’ve already “enjoyed” 2-3 tantrums from the girls regarding wearing vs. not-wearing socks and whose job it is to carry the water bottle downstairs.

So, we eat breakfast, then watch a Curious George (or two…I’m not a morning person).  I drink coffee; the girls play.  I break up fights over toys, pencils, snack cups, and who gets to hold Baby Jesus.

Normally, Fridays will continue on like this.  We play, do dishes, have tantrums, go potty, pick up toys, eat lunch, take naps, play some more, color a million pages, and prepare for Dada to come home.

Normally, Fridays are just another day.  Filled with all the normal-life things.

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Just a normal Friday

But we all know that this Friday isn’t just a normal Friday.

It’s Christmas!

We have been building up to this particular Friday for months now.  No other day in the year has been so eagerly anticipated by kids and grown-ups alike.  We do so much to prepare and to get in the Christmas mood–carols, twinkly lights, decorated trees, fun parties, and tasty treats, and  festive movies.  Each activity adds to our excitement for this Friday.

This Friday will be picture-perfect.  We have every kind of expectation placed on this Friday.  We have expectations for our kids, of their gratitude and attitudes.  Expectation of ourselves.  Expectations of the food (heaven forbid we burn something or forget the rolls).  For crying out loud, we even have expectations on the weather!!  (Anyone been disappointed by the unseasonably warm weather?  I mean, not here…but I’ve heard that it’s warm elsewhere.)

The anticipation is heavy.  We are all eagerly awaiting this Friday.  We count down the days.  We can feel the excitement in the air.

But this Friday cannot possibly bear the weight of all our hopes and dreams and expectations.

We will be disappointed by this Friday.  Our kids will have a meltdown or two (I mean, they’ve had a meltdown every other Friday of their life…this one will be no different).  The meal won’t be perfect.  Our family won’t be perfect.  Our own hearts will be selfish and frustrated.

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Or your daughter will offer this very special smile  when you just want a nice picture by the tree.

But I have good news for you!  This Friday may disappoint, but this Friday isn’t meant to meet all of our expectations.

It is only a shadow of something greater.  The celebration of that first Advent–Christ coming to earth as a baby–should point our hearts to a second Advent–when Jesus returns to earth!

On that day, there will be no disappointment, no tears, no meltdowns, no frustration.  All the anticipation and expectations that we place on that day will not disappoint.  It will bear up under the pressure of our expectations.

So as we celebrate the first Advent, let’s remember that it is simply a shadow of a greater joy that will be coming.  This Friday is just another Friday.  A Friday where we remember what God did for us by sending His son to us and making a way for us to come to Him.  And that is certainly worth celebrating!

Let us not place our hope in this day, but rather let’s place our hope it the God who made this day.

(PS I totally stole this truth from Matt Chandler. Go listen to him.)

 

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What a Privilege…

It’s that most wonderful time of the year!!  CHRISTMAS!!!  Who feels like breaking out their best Peanuts-esque dance move?  (I know you have one.)

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This really is such a special season.  There is so much to do, and so much to get excited about.  There’s the anticipation of Christmas morning (which is really just so much more awesome as a mom).  There’s Christmas carols, twinkly lights, trees, candy canes, present-shopping, present-receiving, festive parties, and the birth of a Savior who is God incarnate come to us!

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(Sounds like a good Christmas-y day to me!)

I love it all.  I really do.  But there’s been something on my heart and mind this season.  (Really, it started before this season, but it’s particularly heavy right now.)

What a privilege…

What a privilege that I get to enjoy this season.

There are moms all around the world who do not experience such a privilege.  They wonder if they have enough food for their children.  They wonder if they will be safe tonight as they sleep.

There are moms, dads, children being murdered for believing in the very same Baby Jesus as I do.

What a privilege that I get to decorate my house and wonder how to remember the “Reason for the Season.”

What a privilege that I get to fill Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes with my girls…as we sit in our comfortable house with more than enough stuff to fill many, many boxes.

There are moms whose children will receive those boxes.  And they won’t be sitting in a comfortable house.  Those boxes may be the only toys their children own.

What a privilege that I am here.

Honestly, those three little words are rocking my world.  I almost don’t even know how to proceed with my everyday life.  All my worries seem so small in light of those words–What a privilege…

And don’t get me wrong.  (This part is important for you to read.)  I’m not saying any of these things are bad.  I love Christmas and festive Christmas-y things.  I loved doing Operation Christmas Child (it’s a great, concrete way to teach young kids to give).  None of the things are bad. I believe they are good gifts from God.

And yet, I can’t shake these new lenses.  I am seeing my life differently. It’s changing the way I think about things.  It’s changing the way I think about everything. 

I really have no idea where this new perspective will take me or what the Lord will do with it.  But I do know He is shaking up my “comfortable,” and I just can’t shake it.

Really, these new lenses have nothing to do with Christmas.  They have everything to do with realizing that this life I’ve been given is a gift.  It’s about shifting my me-centered gaze to a world full of people who are hurting.  And these people are not just on the other side of the world.  They are here too.  Right in my own community.

So for now, you will find me trying to find a balance.  A balance between enjoying the good and fun and frivolous of Christmas AND remembering that it’s a privilege that I get to enjoy the good and fun and frivolous of Christmas.

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What a privilege…

Does anyone else have a hard time balancing these two things?  How do you enjoy God’s good gifts without losing sight of others who may not have the same good gifts?  Does this even make sense?

And in case you want to read another blog post that will get you thinking, Shannan (who I don’t know at all in real life but I like a lot) wrote a really good one earlier this week.  It’s a tough one.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

 

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Ten on Ten :: A Poor Substitute

Well, I missed “Ten on Ten“…again.  Which at this point isn’t really shocking.

But there is so much I want to remember about right now–about the girls, about our day-to-day life.  It’s stuff that I will no doubt forget all too soon (forget or block out…same thing).

So, I present you with a poor substitute for Ten on Ten…aka “Little Bits about our Life Right Now Without Any Pictures (Sorry, Mom).”

In a lot of ways, life is exactly the same as it’s always been.  Wake up, eat, play, errands, play, eat, naptime, play, dishes, survive until Daddy gets home, eat, play, bedtime, crash!  (Not included: all that “training” that comes with having a two and three year old…and by “training”, I clearly mean, teaching them to not meltdown at everything!)

But there’s something a little extra sweet about this season right now.  The girls have hit a seriously awesome stage.  Their developing personalities are so enjoyable.  They are each other’s best friends, and they will play together (with minimal disagreements) for hours!  Sometimes they just disappear upstairs, which is so strange (and nice).

Joanna is, as she would say, “almost 4.”  I mean, she’s got two months until her birthday, but she’s excited.  I’m not sure I’m quite as ready for 4 as she is.  Four seems like a real big kid.  She says the most hilarious and awesome things.

And in case I felt like Jo was growing up too fast, I can just look at Claire, who is DEFINITELY growing up too fast.  Last Monday, she came into my bedroom (before I was even out of bed), and said, “I want to wear big girl underwears.”  This was pretty much out of the blue.  I had casually been mentioning that “big girls wear underwear.” But I wasn’t actually that eager to dive into potty-training again.  And I definitely hadn’t wanted to do it before Thanksgiving (because 15 hours in the car does NOT work well with a potty-training toddler).

Anyway, she requested big girl underwears.  So we did it.  And the determined little kid potty-trained herself!!  She hasn’t looked back.  It’s absolutely crazy…and oddly easy.

And then that Friday (5 days into big girl underwears), she got a haircut.  It was time to get rid of the mullet.  For her sake and ours.

Anyway, with the combo of the haircut and the underwear, my baby is gone.  It was all a bit sudden.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m so stinkin’ proud of her.  And I love the haircut.  But esh!  We don’t have a baby anymore!  And it happened literally overnight.

So, that’s our life lately.  It feels so ordinary, and yet, when I look back, these are going to be the days that I remember fondly.

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The Elephant in the Room

Let’s just address the elephant in the room, shall we?

Or the elephant in the blog…

It’s been forever since I’ve blogged.  Like legit forever!!

I’m not sure how you make a comeback from that kind of blogging-break.  I don’t know if it’s even possible.  I mean, three months is like 5 years in internet-time, right?

So, I’m doing want I do best–pointing out the obvious, laughing nervously, and moving on.

I’ve missed this.  I’ve missed writing.  I’ve missed this place to share my thoughts.  I’ve missed having my affections stirred for the Lord through processing and writing and interacting with the occasional reader.

So, I’m back.  But I’m not making any promises.  I just wanted you to know I haven’t forgotten about you, my dear blog and readers (is it presumptuous to assume I have more than one?).

The elephant in the room has been addressed, and now I’m free to write again.  And hey, if I write at least one post before mid-March, then I’m improving, right?

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The Motherhood Paradox

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

“Enjoy every moment.  They grow up so fast.”

“This too shall pass.”

“Don’t wish the time away.”

Anyone who has been a mom for more than a day has probably heard one or all of these comments.  They’re meant to encourage and give perspective.  And they kind of do.

Except they kind of don’t.

Most often, I hear these types of comments as a response to a mom’s frustrations in her current season.  It certainly does give a big picture perspective of how long this current season will last, but it does nothing to affirm the mom’s feelings in the moment.  If anything, it dismisses her frustrations, and tells her to suck it up because someday her frustrating baby will be gone.

See?  Not so encouraging.

And yet, all those statements are absolutely true.  The days are long, and the years are short.  They do grow up fast.

Case in point: This was 3 years ago yesterday. That definitely went fast.

Case in point: This was 3 years ago yesterday. That definitely went fast.

So what do you do with it all?

It’s the Motherhood Paradox.  As a mom, I experience this paradox every.single.day.

It’s fast.  It’s slow.

It’s enjoyable.  It’s torture.

It’s fulfilling.  It’s absolutely draining.

I love my kids.  I….still love my kids, but need a minute alone (or a few hours).  (Anyone else?)

But you know what I’ve realized?  Motherhood can be all of those things at once.

You can also absolutely love your three year old, and her blossoming personality and language.  And you can want that very same threeanger to hurry up and be four.  It doesn’t take away from enjoying this stage.  And it does nothing to actually change the speed of time.  (Spoiler Alert:  Time is constant.)

You can love having all little kiddos.  And you can wish for the day when you don’t have to change diapers and wipe poo.  (TMI?  Maybe…but we’ve all been there, right?)

So, vent those motherhood frustrations, and don’t feel guilty for one minute.  (Because, seriously, don’t we all have enough mom-guilt as it is?)  Enjoy your kids in their current season, and wish for the next one.  It’s the Motherhood Paradox*.  And it’s ok.

*I should put a trademark on that phrase and make millions.  Because apparently, you can do that.

This delightful moment was followed up with a toddler melt-down. Thank you, Motherhood Paradox.

This delightful moment was followed up with a toddler melt-down. Thank you, Motherhood Paradox.

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10 on 10 :: The Out-Of-Control-Project Edition

You know that book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?  You know, where the mouse wants one little, simple thing, and it spirals out of control until the house is destroyed, and he and his human-friend are completely exhausted?  Yeah, that was my day.  I just wanted to organize the girls’ toys.  But somehow it turned into a massive overhaul of the girls bedroom.  I’m pleased with the results, but goodness!!  I need a nap….and maybe a cookie.

Lucky for you, it’s September 10th, which means you get a front-row seat to my out-of-control project.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s start at the beginning…

Once your daughter realizes she can see every picture you take, it becomes very hard to get a quality picture.

Once your daughter realizes she can see every picture you take, it becomes very hard to get a quality picture.

Reading a little Fancy Nancy before we head out for the morning.

Reading a little Fancy Nancy before we head out for the morning.

Pretending to be tech-y...

Pretending to be tech-y…

Meanwhile, my girls were playing with their favorite 11 month old (and his mom).

Meanwhile, my girls were playing with their favorite 11 month old (and his mom).

They can do some of the buckling themselves. It's a game-changer.

They can do some of the buckling themselves. It’s a game-changer.

A quick snuggle before naptime.

A quick snuggle before naptime.

This is when the insanity starts. I just wanted to sort through these toys...

This is when the insanity starts. I just wanted to sort through these toys…

An hour later, the girls room is *completely* changed! They like it!

An hour later, the girls room is *completely* changed!

Another hour later, the living room is back to normal. I moved furniture around....and then moved it back. A lot of work for it to look exactly the same.

Another hour later, the living room is back to normal. I moved furniture around….and then moved it back. A lot of work for it to look exactly the same.

They've been playing in their room all afternoon. I think it's a hit!

They’ve been playing in their room all afternoon. I think it’s a hit!

What a productive day!  I’m awfully proud of myself.  However, “rearrange the girls room” wasn’t on my to-do list…and lots of things were left undone.  Oh, well.  I’ll just add it, cross it off, and call it a day!

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Ten on Ten :: The Summer Edition

It’s finally summer here in the far north.  Which naturally means it’s almost fall.  (I know I should be sad, but I’m not…I love fall!!)

Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve done a Ten on Ten.  Largely because I completely missed July 10th.  Like completely missed it.

But I’m here now, and that’s what really matters, right?

Yesterday we went on a day trip to a lake to catch up with some friends.  (Who moved far, far away a few years ago…boo.)

Of course, a simple day trip requires no less than 47 bags.

Of course, a simple day trip requires no less than 47 bags.

I didn't know this place existed until I was 22, and now I'm totally hooked!

No road trip is complete without a quick stop to Tim’s!

"Holy, holy, holy!"  The chorus of her favorite song.

“Holy, holy, holy!” The chorus of her favorite song.

No road trip would be complete without a random bathroom stop.

No road trip would be complete without a random bathroom stop.

Jo and her Rachel.  It took Jo a few minutes to warm up and then she wouldn't leave her side.

Jo and her Rachel. It took Jo a few minutes to warm up and then she wouldn’t leave her 

Summer sister sweetness.

Summer sister sweetness.

Aaaaand we're back home.  Hello, laundry.

Aaaaand we’re back home. Hello, laundry.

We skipped naps today.  Some of us had a hard time making it through the afternoon.

We skipped naps today. Some of us had a hard time making it through the afternoon.

Pre-dinner playing.

Pre-dinner playing.

I know, I know.  I’m one picture short.  I’ve got no excuse.  Except that it was a beautiful day with some beautiful friends.  And that’s all the excuse I need.

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The Baby Question

Remember when you were a senior in high school?  Do you remember the question everyone asked you that year? What are you doing next year?  Family, friends, neighbors, fellow-church members, even the occasional chatty grocery store clerk, everyone wanted to know where you were headed.  If you had a plan, it was no big deal.  You answered the question and moved on.

But if you didn’t have a plan, it was the.most.annoying.question in the world!

Same thing happened senior year of college.  And then at each life stage there seems to be another similarly annoying question that everyone asks.  When are you getting married?  When will you start a family?  [Aaaaah!  Just let me enjoy my life for a minute!!]

And then you have a baby.  It’s a joyous moment.  But it doesn’t take long before someone asks the new question, the one that will follow you until menopause:  Will you have more kids?  

I'm pretty sure I was still in the hospital with this adorable squish when I got that question for the first time.

I’m pretty sure I was still in the hospital with this adorable squish when I got that question for the first time.

Before I go any further, I should confess.  I have absolutely asked that question to nearly all of my friends (and some strangers).  I’m just fascinated by family size, kid spacing, and my friends’ dreams for their family.

Actually, the question itself doesn’t bug me.  Not as much as the what’s-your-plan-after-college question did, anyway.  (Sidenote:  I had no plan, and there was only so many times I could say, “Haha, well, I’ll figure it out when I get there.”)

I think that question is generally asked out of a genuine interest…or an attempt at small talk.  Neither of which is annoying.

However, I’ve been hearing (well, reading) a version of that question on a few blogs and instagram lately.  Specifically, “Are you done?”  The comments to that question are always plentiful.  It seems like everyone has an answer…or rather, no answer.

Very few women have a clear we’re-done feeling.  And it got me wondering why.  Why does the desire for more kids linger in so many of us?  Why are there so many women who “struggle” with the not-done feeling?

Is it a lack of contentment with what we have?  Is it just part of being a woman (we can procreate so we feel we should)?  Is it that little kid clothes are just so stinkin’ cute!?

I mean, obviously, they are.  But I don't think that's the reason.

I mean, obviously, they are.  But I don’t think that’s the reason.

Or is it maybe something else entirely?

For the moms who still feel a pull towards the baby-stage, maybe that doesn’t necessarily mean birthing more babies.  Maybe it means adoption.  Or foster care.  Or serving in the church’s nursery (a place that almost universally needs more volunteers).  Or serving a new mom.  Or a million other ways to be involved in the baby stage.

Maybe that not-done feeling means you’re not done.  But it might just look different than you thought.

Obviously, this isn’t the universal answer for that not-done feeling.  Sometimes you feel not-done because you’re not done.  Everyone is different.  Just something to consider, I think.  I know I will be considering it.

What about you?  Are you done?  (And seriously, I’d love to hear.)

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When the kids are away, the mom will…mop?

It’s 3:00, and my house is quiet.  And not because the stars have aligned, and everyone is napping. (Though really, a 3:00 nap never results in anything good come bedtime.)

No, it’s quiet because my girls are having their first overnight with the grandparents!  There really ought to be a spot in the baby books for that milestone.

I’ve never had this much time alone at my house without my kids.  At least, not in past 3.5 years.  It’s strange.  And wonderful.  And relaxing.  And lonely.  And productive.  All at the same time.

In the past five hours, I’ve learned a few things…

1.  I talk to myself.  A lot.  Thankfully, under normal circumstances, you wouldn’t know because there are usually two kids around me, giving the illusion that I’m talking to them.

2.  I can be productive.  I’ve already done the dishes, planned for our church’s moms’ group, gone swimming, mopped, made lunch, done laundry, planned date night, and written a blog post.  Seems pretty good for 3:00 on a Monday.

3.  I like my kids.  I mean, that’s not a shocker.  I knew that I liked them.  But I actually miss them!  And it’s only been 5 hours!!

4.  My house can be quiet.  Really quiet.  And it’s weird.  I think I’ll go put some music on…

5.  I can get a snack and not have to share (or hide).  Enough said.

I am thankful for this time alone.  And I am thankful for the reminder that I really do love being a stay-at-home mom–even though I often feel tired and unproductive and unimportant.  Spending my days with my two precious girls is such a gift!  And sometimes it just takes a day alone to remember that.

These cuties are my favorites.

My favorite girls!

 

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