A Life Stirred

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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The Baby is TWO!

So, usually, I start these kinds of birthday posts with a big long rant about how fast time goes and how crazy it is that my baby is another year older.

But the crazy thing about Claire turning two is that I can’t believe she’s not already two!  It’s probably because she has a big sister and spends most of her time trying to be big.  I guess it’s working.

How do I describe Claire at two?  I mean, other than just plain awesome.  Because she is.

She is determined…and has a bit of a one-track mind (which means she will repeat the same thing over and over and over until she is absolutely sure she’s being understood).

She hauled this stick out of the woods by herself.

She hauled this stick out of the woods by herself.

She love love LOVES her big sister.  After naptime, her first question is always, “Nana sleeping?”

At the maple syrup shack this winter

At the maple syrup shack this winter

She is the most polite toddler I have ever met.  She will consistently say “excuse me” and “thank you” INDEPENDENTLY!  It makes my heart happy every time.

She loves the hiking backpack, baby dolls, her bear, books, Georgie, and horseys (though just in theory, I think a real one would freak her out).

Such a good mama!

Such a good mama!

She will repeat anything you ask her to…which is really a lot of fun.  My favorite phrases are “I got it,” “I did it!,” “Eeeeoooo inky poo.” (Pee-yew stinky poo…which I say to her every time I change her diaper.)

Claire, you are two!  And that just seems so big and so little all at the same time.  You are a delight and a joy to have in our family.  I can’t wait to see what the next years bring!

Claire, one week old.

Claire, one week old.

Claire, almost-two.

Claire, almost-two.

PS So, we put her in a big girl bed.  And she wouldn’t stay in.  But it was the sweetest disobedience I’ve ever seen.  She would go to the top of the stairs, stand there until we noticed her, and then say, “Obey?”  We finally just switched her back into a crib.  I just don’t think she was quite ready for the responsibility of a big girl bed.  But I’m ok with that…I’ll keep my baby for a few more months.

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Ten on Ten :: The Every Day Edition

Why, hello there, Blog.  It’s been a while.  I haven’t forgotten you.  It just turns out that I can only have one hobby at a time.

But today, Blog, it’s your turn because it’s TEN ON TEN!  Woot, woot!  And today, I made a point to take pictures of completely ordinary activities.  Because someday (and that someday will be here before I know it…because time is crazy), I will have forgotten all the completely ordinary activities we did when we had a 3 year old and an almost-2 year old.

Ben put on the "Classical for studying" Pandora station and calls it "Princess Music."  He obviously knows the way to our girls' hearts.

Ben put on the “Classical for studying” Pandora station and calls it “Princess Music.” He obviously knows the way to our girls’ hearts.  (PS Look!  Basil!!)

I'm a sucker for freshly bathed kiddos and their piggie toes...and their zoned-out-watching-Curious-George face.

I’m a sucker for freshly bathed kiddos and their piggie toes…and their zoned-out-watching-Curious-George faces.

Almost two and too cool for school.

Almost two and too cool for school.

Bonus Picture:  Because every 10 on 10 needs a little dose of reality…

Proof that we aren't always happy and perfect.  (Though still cute...don't tell her.)

Not everyone was as cheerful about heading out to run errands.

Sending off some fun mail.  I want to be better at sending snail mail.  It's a lost art, and I want to revive it.  (Because, seriously, is there anyone out there who doesn't LOVE getting fun mail!?!?)

Sending off some fun mail. I want to be better at sending snail mail. It’s a lost art, and I want to revive it. (Because, seriously, is there anyone out there who doesn’t LOVE getting fun mail!?!?)

Playing a game at the library...this was about 30 seconds before they melted down at the suggestion that it was time to go home.  (Also, note Claire's hat change...she found this one in the car and decided it was a better match with her outfit.)

Playing a game at the library…this was about 30 seconds before they melted down at the suggestion that it was time to go home.

  Naptime!  That glorious mid-day break.

Sometimes you just have to put up your feet and snuggle under a blanket.

Aaaaand both kids are asleep.  Pardon me, while I go take a nap too.  It's a perfect nap day!

Aaaaand both kids are asleep. I may or may not be doing a happy dance.

Post-nap train playing.

Post-nap train playing.

Dang, we are cute.

Dang, we are cute.

"We are AWANA Cubbies.  Were happy all day long..."

“We are AWANA Cubbies. We’re happy all day long…”

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Ten on Ten: Mother’s Day Edition

As with any big, celebrate-y day, there is all kinds of potential for high expectations and subsequent disappointment on Mother’s Day.  I tried very, very hard to have zero expectations and to simply enjoy the day (and my family and my job as mother).

And whenever I felt the tug of expectation, I remembered this line from an excellent blog post by Lisa-Jo Baker:

How 24 hours can’t possibly hold the measure of a lifetime of laying oneself low for the loving and raising and wrangling of tiny humans.

Mother’s Day is one day, and it is foolish to think that one day will satisfy all my desires to be loved and thanked and appreciated.

That being said, I had a very nice Mother’s day.  I felt very loved and appreciated…and full!  Literally…as Jo pointed out at bedtime, “We had all your favorite foods today, Mama!”  Indeed we did!

My jammied girls.  My true Mother's Day gifts.

My jammied girls. My true Mother’s Day gifts.

Independent clean-up.  Another Mother's Day gift.

Independent clean-up. Another Mother’s Day gift.

Mother's Day selfie.  Because why not?

Mother’s Day selfie. Because why not?

Alone time = sewing time!

Alone time = sewing time!

Giving the quilt a test run.

Giving the quilt a test run.

A husband doing dishes...be still my heart!

A husband doing dishes…be still my heart!

My flower from church.  And the verse that shapes how I want to mother (the top verse).

My flower from church. And the verse that shapes how I want to serve my family (the top verse).

Doll quilt is DONE!  Naked baby doll seems to enjoy it.

Doll quilt is DONE! The baby doll seems to enjoy it.  No complaints yet.

Making important phone calls together.  Jo's pretend phone conversations are hilarious!

Making important phone calls together. Jo’s pretend phone conversations are hilarious!

I built a killer train track this afternoon.  My best one ever!

I built a killer train track this afternoon. My best one ever!

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Embracing a New Hobby

Last week, I decided I was going to make a quilt.  Scratch that.  I decided I was going to make two quilts.

Never mind that I have zero quilt-making experience.  And never mind that I have next-to-zero sewing experience.  Those are just details.  Minor details.

Oh, and never mind that this stage of life is probably not the ideal time to be picking up new hobbies.  Details, right?

So, there’s no going back now.  I own a sewing machine.

Would it be weird to give this beauty a name?  I feel like we’re going to be friends.

Would it be weird to give this beauty a name? I feel like we’re going to be friends.

I made bunting.  Because why not?

t’s not the best picture, I know. Trust me. It’s cute. And perfectly sewed...mostly.

t’s not the best picture, I know. Trust me. It’s cute. And perfectly sewed…mostly.

Next up, I’m going to make a baby doll quilt.  Because if I’m gonna make a real-life size quilt (or two), I should probably try a little version first.

I agonized over fabric.  And then eventually just said, “It’s for a doll!  She won’t care.”

I agonized over fabric. And then eventually just said, “It’s for a doll! She won’t care.”

But here’s what I’m finding tricky in all this.  (And no, it’s not the actual quilting part.  Though I’m sure it will be.)

There’s a part of my brain that tells me I have to be the best at something in order to count it as a hobby.  It’s yet another way my competition and comparison issues rear their ugly heads.

So, I hesitate to even talk about this new hobby of mine.  Because I’m not the best.  I’m not experienced.  Surely my excitement isn’t real or worth sharing.

Yet, that’s not true.  Well, it’s true.  But it’s not truth.  (Confused yet?)

I’m not the best.  I’m not that experienced.

BUT my excitement is real.  And it is worth sharing!

The Nester (a crafty, home-decorate-y blogger) frequently says that “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”  (Also, apparently, that’s the name of her book.)  The idea is that our desire for perfection can hold us back from the joy of creating.

In my case, it’s my desire to be the best (or at least really, really good).  That desire holds me back from enjoying what I enjoy.  It holds me back from being me.  It holds me back from embracing who God made me to be.

God has given me all kinds of talents and interests and gifts.  I don’t have to be the best at those things to have value.  My identity is not found in how well I perform.  I don’t know about you, but I need that truth to seek deep into my heart.

So taking up quilting is a way to practice this truth.  I may not be the world’s best quilter.  But I can still quilt.  (Theoretically, I mean…as I haven’t actually done anything yet.)  I can still try new hobbies.  I can even be so bold as to say, “I like this!”  without any disclaimers or false humility.

Is this struggle unique to me?  Are there hobbies or interests you would pursue, if you could let go of a need to be perfect or the best?

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That Sneaky Part of My Heart

It seems that in every playdate I’ve had lately, the same topic keeps coming up–school.  Apparently, once your child hits 3, it’s time to have an educational plan in place.

She knows 3/26 letters, so we're thinking Harvard next fall.

She knows 3/26 letters, so we’re thinking Harvard next fall.

Really, though, this is a natural progression in mom-conversations.  It’s totally normal to think ahead.  I mean, really, Pre-K is only 16 months away.  [Anyone else have heart palpitations at that thought?]

Anyway, Jo is 3.  And suddenly, there is all this pressure to have a school plan and to be involved in a variety of activities (for the college applications, obviously)!

I think this kind pressure was always there.  It’s just changing as our kids’ skills are changing.  This new pressure fells weightier.

Is Jo going to be in dance?  You can start at three, you know?

Does she do swim lessons?  It’s great to start young.

Did you hear about the preschool at the high school?  You have to enroll early.  There’s a wait list.

Here’s the crazy thing, though.  For the most part, I am completely satisfied with the parenting choices we’ve made.

And yet…

And yet, there’s this sneaky part of my heart that starts to get stressed out and starts to question if I’m doing the right things.

So, of course, I’ve been thinking about where this sneaky pressure comes from.

And surprisingly, it has some very familiar roots.

Comparison.  Identity.  Insecurity.

[Goodness, Lord, really?  Why do I always struggle with the exact. same. issue over and over?  Can’t I have something new?!  Just for variety?]

This sneaky part of my heart reveals quite a bit.  I have a propensity towards insecurity in my parenting choices.  I’ve placed some of my identity in my children’s ability to be successful and excellent and advanced (because it makes me look good).  I measure my kids against other kids so I can prove (to myself and others) that I’m a better mom.

Yeah, that’s not cool.  Thankfully, God can (and will!) change my heart, and He can help me gain freedom.

As a mom and friend, I long to be quietly confident in the choices I make for my family.  I want to share what we do, when others want to hear it.  I want to eliminate competition from my conversations.  I want to support my friends in their choices.  I want to decrease comparison and increase encouragement.

So, do you have a sneaky part of your heart?  (Please tell me I’m not alone.)  When does it sneak up on you?  What have you done to eliminate it?

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Ten on Ten: The Unconventional Edition

Let’s just be honest.  I forgot it was the tenth.  Motherhood does lots of weird things to a person…not the least of which is that I hardly ever write the date anymore.  I mean, I’m vaguely aware that it’s April…and I think it’s Friday (although I’ve been thinking that since Wednesday).

So, please sit back and enjoy “Ten on Ten”…or as I’d like to call it this month, “A Handful of Pictures on an Undetermined Day.”

It’s April…so they say.  April here isn’t really a spring month.  It’s more of a snow-melting, mud-everywhere kind of month.

And sometimes there are ice storms.

And sometimes there are ice storms.

Sidenote:  So, I’ve been thinking about our long winters.  It’s easy to get discouraged and frustrated by winter in March and April.  Especially as pictures of other people enjoying actual-Spring start cropping up on Facebook, Instagram, and blogs.  But isn’t that just a comparison issue?  I don’t live in an area of the country that has grass by Easter.  I shouldn’t really expect it.  And yet, as I start to see everyone else enjoying warm weather and flowers, I get a little jealous.  Comparison really *is* the thief of joy!  I’ve gotta stop doing that…

Anyway, moving on…Once I realized that today was the tenth, I thought I should at least take a few pictures to document the day.  So we did lunchtime selfies!
My sweet Bear-Bear.

My sweet Bear-Bear.

Oh, JoJo, you are a joy!

Oh, JoJo, you are a joy!

We are adorable, and we know it.

We are adorable, and we know it.

Right now, there is a naptime miracle happening upstairs!  Both girls are napping!!  At the same time!!  Clearly, that is worth lots and lots of somewhat blurry pictures, right?

A three-year-old napping.  It's as elusive as Bigfoot.

A three-year-old napping. It’s as elusive as Bigfoot.

Not as elusive, but worth a picture.

Not as elusive, but worth a picture.

I will leave you with that.  Hope you have a great April 10, 2015.  (I know the date now…aren’t you proud?)

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Mothers and Daughters :: A Guest Post

I consider myself an unlikely mom of girls.  I never really saw it coming.  I thought I was more of mom-of-boys kind of girl.  Really, I’m still regularly surprised that I have two (TWO!) girls.

But I do.  And I kind of love it.  A lot.

Today I’m sharing about this over at Mary Evelyn’s blog, What Do You Do, Dear?  If you don’t read her blog, you really, really should (no, really, you should).  It’s one of my all-time favorites!  She’s funny and deep and real and wise and has the best hair I’ve ever seen outside of a Disney movie.  She has a ridiculously handsome son with Spina Bifida and an adorable, brand-new baby girl.

I am so excited to be joining in her series about Mothers and Daughters.  Hopefully, you’ll go check it out!

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Ten on Ten: The Snow-Castle Edition

Confession:  I am not good at taking the girls outside to play in the winter.  So we stay inside a lot.  I’ve been justifying it because it’s been legit cold for months (5 days above freezing since the start of 2015…that’s cray-cray).

But today?  Today was different.  Today we played outside!!  I will be accepting my “Mother of the Year” award any day now.

This bird feeder makes doing dishes fun...or at least, not as painful.

This bird feeder makes my heart happy.  Hello, chickadee-dee-dee!  (Can you name that book?)

Packing for our upcoming big-big trip.

Packing for our upcoming big-big trip.

Oh, snow clothes, you are such a pain.

Oh, snow clothes, you are such a pain.

Bonus picture (because getting all the gear on is definitely photo-worthy):

Ready to roll!

Ready to roll!

Tell me you aren't a little jealous of this snow castle...

Coolest snow castle ever!

The clothing combos never cease to amaze.

The clothing combos never cease to amaze.

I worked on projects in another room, while the girls destroyed the rest of the house.

I worked on projects in another room, while the girls destroyed the rest of the house.

Without any prompts, she started to clean up.  Two minutes later (without any prompts), she dumped it all on the floor again.  We'll call it even.

Without any prompts, she started to clean up. Two minutes later (without any prompts), she dumped it all on the floor again.

ten on ten button

 

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The Benefits of Honesty

Saturday was one of those days.  You know the kind–where nothing seems to go like you’d planned.

The plan was simple.  The girls would stay home with Ben (and have the time of their life, no doubt.  Daddy is the best).  I was going to church to help with a women’s clothing swap all morning.  I was going to come home at naptime.  It was all planned out.

And then Ben woke up feeling sick.  Hello, Plan B.

So the girls came with me to the clothing swap, and I prayed they’d play independently and quietly for 4 hours while I helped run a clothing swap.  Not likely.

Playing is their specialty.  Playing quietly?  Not as much.

Playing is their specialty. Playing quietly? Not as much.

In the scheme of life, this was really no big deal (or “NBD” as we like to say around here).  The girls would be fine.  The clothing swap would run more or less efficiently.  But I was annoyed and frustrated by plans gone awry.

And then I bumped into a friend, who asked me, “How are you?”.  For a second, I considered going with the socially expected answer (“Good.”), but then I went with honesty instead.  I told her how I was frustrated and how my plans were messed up.

And you know what?  Ten minutes later, she had worked up a plan to take my girls for the morning to her son’s Curious George birthday party (she had me at monkey cake).  She offered and meant it, and I took her up on it.

It was so simple.  But she lifted a weight from my day.

And all because I was honest about how my day was going.  If I had said “Fine”, she would never have known that I needed help.

Sometimes I am resistant to help.  I feel the need to do it all myself.  I want to have it all together (or at least to act like I do).  I don’t want to admit that I might need help.

And yet, when I did, I was blessed.  My girls were blessed.  And to think, this blessing started with an honest answer to a standard question.

It makes me wonder if there would be more blessings if we were more honest.  More blessings to give.  More blessings to receive.  But we miss out because we hold out.

So, maybe this week, consider answering honestly.  You might just be pleasantly surprised by the results.  I know I was!

 

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