The Moments Unseen

Tiny fingers laced through mine in the dark. A warm little body snuggled against me. Some of the most magical parts of motherhood go unnoticed and undocumented.

When my son comes to me, arms lifted, asking to “hold me” (really, he means for me to hold him)—I don’t pull out my phone and snap pictures of the moment; I simply pick him up. His arms wrap around my neck, head rests on my shoulder, and I tell him I love him, that I’m so thankful he’s my boy. It’s a quiet, unseen moment we share a thousand times amid a world marching on around us. And it’s the part of motherhood that fills my heart with new energy and devotion for the often far more public tantrums and tears that might make me wonder why I decided to be a mom in the first place.

IMG_20141029_114548In a world so photographed, documented, and publicly shared via social media, these quiet moments can at times feel less than simply because they weren’t seen or shared. It’s tempting to try to keep up with the flood of gorgeous images I see each day by trying to snap and document each of my own magical moments.

I want enchanting images of my own to share on Instagram or to punctuate my blog posts. But…

But

Sometimes the act of trying to document a moment destroys the very magic itself. Like a bird perched delicately on a branch in the morning light— you can stand quietly and admire or go closer and chase the moment out of existence.

We have to choose when to pull out our phones and cameras to capture our days and hours— and when to simply sit in the moment and let it be. This is not always an easy choice. Photos carry our memories when our busy minds would forget. But cameras and selfies may equally rob a moment of the very beauty we’re trying to store up and hold onto.

So sometimes when my son climbs into my lap and pulls my arms around him or asks me to lay beside him holding his hand until he falls asleep at night, I leave my phone alone. I soak up the memory in my heart and consciousness rather than my social media and try to remember some of the most magical parts of life and motherhood are the moments most unseen.

The Good Stuff: Vol.1

1494589931467I’ve noticed in myself a tendency to see the one thing that went wrong before I see the ten things that went right. In an effort to be more positive, grateful, and conscious of all the good around me, I’ve started jotting down little lists of things I’m thankful for or enjoying.

I thought it would be fun to share a few of these things here each Friday. I hope you enjoy :]

Holding On

  • To Roman being little and the time we have together with just him before his sister arrives.
  • To being pregnant and feeling my daughter move and grow. This final trimester of pregnancy can be hard and I often think, “I just want to be done!” I find myself daydreaming about a post maternity body and clothes and feeling like myself again. But I don’t know if we’ll have more children and I’m trying to savor and enjoy the incredible experience of being pregnant rather than rushing through and just wanting to have the whole thing behind me.

Loving

  • All the green! Though it’s still cool outside here, I’m loving all the flowers, blooming trees, and baby leaves beginning to pop up. And we have grass in our yard this year! This is huge after having the yard torn apart remodeling our house and spending last year with a brown, weedy, muddy mess of a yard. Give me all the green 😀
  • The Freckled Fox. I stumbled across Emily Meyers’ beautiful blog about a month ago and I’ve been so inspired by her words and mindset. Check her out!

Letting Go

  • Of worrying about what other people think of me. While I don’t want to be a jerk who cares nothing about what other people think, I also don’t want to live constantly concerned about how people see me or what they’ll think of me. In the end, most people don’t really know me that well or understand why I say, do, or think the way I do so I’m letting go of trying to please everyone else and learning to do what’s best from a place of sincerity rather than a place of fear and expectation.
  • Of eating out. That probably sounds silly but we spend way too much money eating out and grabbing food in the car between errands. I’ve noticed lately that for how much you spend eating out, the food generally isn’t that great. I can buy better food and cook a better meal at home for less so I’m trying to plan our days where we land at home for meal times rather than in the car scarfing down fast food.

What are you holding onto, letting go of, or loving?

It’s Good to Be Home

Life has been a little cray around here lately—and by lately, I mean for months. I spent most of last fall and this winter either not feeling good or trying to catch naps whenever possible thanks to pregnancy. I’m excited to be expecting again so it’s fine and definitely worth it but it also feels like a chunk of my life is missing from those hazy months.

IMG_20170509_103347_440Spring rolled around and we got busy with travel, lots of company coming to visit, and all kinds of miscellaneous crazy. It’s been a fun couple of months packed full of people and places I love—but oh my word, I’m ready for some down time with my boys.

Sunday, my parents packed up and headed home after a two-week visit. We had a great time with them (and everyone else who’s come to visit over the last couple of months). But when Monday rolled around and I sat alone in my quiet house (as quiet and alone as things ever are with a two-year old running around 😉 ), I have to admit, it felt nice to watch the dust settle on my life for a bit. IMG_20170508_204442_403I sat down with my day planner to figure out what’s next and it was really nice to see that nothing major is on the agenda for the next few weeks. I even cancelled a couple things I had planned on doing just to free up the weekends and spend a little extra time enjoying my boys before the next wave of activity hits. IMG_20170509_094322_351These next three (hopefully) quiet weeks feel sacred and I’m doing my best not to add anything unnecessary to our days.

This week its felt nice just to catch up on laundry, go grocery shopping, cook a meal in my kitchen, and sit around the table with my little family. Sometimes I get tired of the routine that comes with being a wife and stay-at-home momma—the endless cycle of laundry, dishes, meals, errands, and diapers. IMG_20170508_204110_747He’s a cute little imp but trust me when I tell you, he’s a holy terror to grocery shop with 😀

But the exhaustion and busyness of the last few months have shown me how valuable and peaceful these little routines can be. When we’re frantically moving from one thing to the next, just trying to keep our heads above water, it’s easier to recognize and crave the value of quiet days at home with the people who matter most.

IMG_20170508_204252_318So for the next few weeks, I’m savoring the quiet and the routine. I’m enjoying the time with my boys and preparing for my baby girl. Life will change tremendously in a couple months when our daughter is born. So until then, I’m holding onto and enjoying life as it is—and not allowing guilt or the American obsession with busyness to distract and pull at me.

Our days are numbered and short. Our people are precious. These are the things I’m keeping in mind and wrapping my heart around today ❤

Anticipation.

I woke to the sound of rain beating steadily against the house. I stand at the window, cup of coffee in my hands, and watch droplets of rain collecting on the glass. Across the field, the trees are just beginning to noticeably blush in crimson against a backdrop of evergreens and gray.

Spring is really almost here. No, really. Almost.

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I realize it’s been spring for months in many parts of the country. But New England is stubborn and trots a season behind all spring before accelerating into fall a month ahead at the end of summer.

Summer is short so we squeeze all the fire and magic out of it while we can (and cry into our pillows once it’s gone).

I’ve filed multiple complaints against said weather but it seems this is not a democracy after all. And besides, I’ll practically be weeping over how beautiful the summers and falls are in no time so just ignore me and my whining until then (everyone here does).

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I catch myself standing at the windows—looking out, waiting—a lot this time of year. It’s as if I’m willing the crocus and daffodils to be brave and poke their heads above the cold, hard ground. Daring the trees to put on buds and open up in the morning light.

We’re achingly close to opening windows and doors and going outside in the warm weather once again—It’s palpable; I can almost taste it. And yet—we wait. We’re not there yet nor can we be. Nature will not be hurried.

I’m doubly reminded of this fact as I feel my daughter kick and nudge against my womb. She’ll be born in the summer, due just two days after my son was, and so the idea of warm weather makes me realize just how close her arrival is getting.

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Close and yet so far away. I want to hold her now. I want to kiss her and find out if she has any hair. I want to show her the wildflower nursery I’ve been getting ready and dress her in the teeny, tiny baby girl clothes I waited so long to buy. But she will come when it’s time and not a second before—like the spring flowers and rosy buds on the trees, I cannot hurry along what belongs to God and nature.

So today I stand at the glass and anticipate all that’s about to come—the warmth and sunshine, the baby girl in my arms, days spent outside instead of in. And while I wait, I’m reminded to be patient and to leave to God what is his. His timing is perfect and I’m perfected in the waiting. That’s all I need to know today.

When Motherhood Isn’t Your Thing

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I always knew I wanted to stay home and raise a family. Before Darren and I ever decided to marry, I told him what I wanted to do and he agreed–someday, when the time was right, I would leave the workplace and stay home. And that’s exactly what I did–after 6 years of marriage, work, home buying, and traveling, we decided it was time to start a family and whole-heartedly welcomed a baby into our lives.

I loved the first year at home–though of course, at times, it was very hard and was a huge adjustment from my former office job. That first year was just me and Roman most of the time as Darren was working, going to school, and remodeling our house. From sun up to sundown (and plenty of times throughout the night) Roman was in my arms or at my side. I was zeroed in that first year, present and focused on enjoying my baby boy before he was no longer a tiny little thing in my arms. I am proud of that first year and have very few regrets about how I spent my time with our son.

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But this year, with a now 18 month old toddler, things have been different. I’m struggling. No, I’m drowning. I’m starting to realize that the baby stage was my happy place but this whole toddler stage just isn’t my jam. Roman is a wild, busy little thing and we are both going a little batty being stuck inside during these long winter months. He’s bored and I’m bored and we’re both driving each other crazy.

Truth be told, I want to put him in daycare and go back to work. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that but I’m just surprised to find myself feeling this way after so many years of wanting to start a family and stay home.

Maybe I’m just tired, discouraged, or disillusioned. Maybe it will pass as things often do.

Or maybe motherhood isn’t my thing and it turns out I’m really not all that good at the one thing I spent my whole life preparing for.

I don’t know.

I know Roman isn’t going to daycare because it makes no sense for me to go back to work right now. By the time I settle into a job and know what I’m doing, I’ll be pregnant again. That’s just where I’m at in life right now. I want more children and I want to stay home with each child for at least the first year and you can’t just hop in and out of work at your own leisure. So for right now, my life is at home.

I don’t have a problem with committing my life to home for as long as this is where I need to be. I’m just struggling to figure out how to make this whole home all day every day with a cranky toddler thing work in such a way that there’s some peace and happiness in our lives again.

I want to be a good mom, not the cranky, frustrated one I’ve become of late. But how do I reconcile who I am and how I’m struggling with patient, loving parenting and a happy, healthy home?

Beats me.

If you have answers, I’m all ears.

I’m sorry this isn’t my usual “life is beautiful and magical” type post but I’m just not there right now. This isn’t a mommy blog but I’m knee-deep in motherhood and struggling to find my voice in this space as I once did. I miss writing and photographing and I’m determined to get back to it. But in the meantime, this is where I’m at, this is why I’m absent, and until I can come back with something nice to say, I’m not coming back at all :]

The Stuff That Weighs Us Down

I’ve been on a bit of a rampage lately, throwing everything I can get my hands on right out the front door. It’s the perfect storm of spring cleaning, packing to move, and that funny nesting thing pregnant women do. Darren has been keeping a close eye on everything he loves as I’m likely to throw it all away when he isn’t looking.

I’ve felt so weighed down by stuff lately. It seems my soul has gotten a bit tangled in all the material things we think we need and I’m trying to cut the cords and run free. Our house is packed full, busting at the seams and neither of us ever seem to know where anything is.

I’ve been sorting through closets and under beds and emptying drawers and pulling stuff out of every black hole in the house trying to get things packed and organized for our big move at the end of the summer. There are piles everywhere—piles to give away, throw away, and pack away for another day. And with every bag and box I pack I wonder why do we own all this stuff anyway? And heaven help us, why do we keep buying more?

“Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Turn the old; return to them. Things do not change; we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts… Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul.” -Thoreau

For everything I throw out, more baby stuff rolls in and I’m always trying to find a balance between preparing the things we need for a little one and not letting myself get carried away by the truly endless number of things that can be bought for a baby. I keep reminding myself that women have brought children into this world and successfully raised them since time began—without most of the baby stuff that is now considered indispensable. I have a list I run through in my head when I’m trying to decide what to buy and what to do without—does he have what he needs to be fed, diapered, clothed, and put to sleep? If yes then what else is truly essential apart from my own ability to love and care for him outside of material things? It’s a question I’ve had to weigh over and over again as I’ve struggled with wanting more and more stuff.

I don’t think you ever fully realize how much you already have until you’re faced with the task of packing and moving every shred of it to another place. I keep finding stuff I forgot I even owned, clothes I haven’t worn in years—buried beneath all the new ones I’ve gathered but certainly didn’t need. For every forgotten thing I’ve pulled out of the closet abyss I’ve had to ask myself—if you haven’t used this item in all this time, do you really need it? Are material things worth gathering and holding onto if they are crowding our lives and weighing us down? It feels like a waste to throw or give something away that I once spent money on and yet is it not a bigger waste to crowd my life and soul with the weight of unnecessary material things?

“I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit. When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all encumbrances, and reduces it to its simplest terms. So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run. ” -Thoreau

This packing and purging is good for me because it shows me how much I have and how much more I don’t need. It’s easy with moving into a new, bigger home to think that every room needs to be filled with more new stuff. But packing up piece by piece what we already have and thinking through the example we will soon be to our son has made me realize how careful I need to be in the way I deal with money and possessions. Like most anything, money and possessions aren’t bad by themselves—but they can be if they are allowed to become a hindrance rather than a help. I have to ask myself if the possessions I own rather possess and own me. Do these things serve me or am I a servant to them?

“Amid a world of noisy, shallow actors it is noble to stand aside and say, ‘I will simply be.’’’ -Thoreau

A Pea in the Pod

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For a couple months now I’ve had a little secret that only Darren and I knew—our first baby is on the way, due July 9th of this new year. For 13 weeks now this little bud of life has been blossoming in my heart and body and it’s a strange feeling carrying a little life and soul around with you everywhere—how differently you think about everything when such a responsibility is yours.

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{Just me}

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{Just you}

But what a joy it is to anticipate new life, to hear that fluttery little heart beat for the first time and to see the profile of your very own child moving around on the screen during an ultrasound. It is magic if there is any magic in the world.

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{Just us}

Often since I found out I’m expecting a verse has swept through my mind, a line from Hannah when she was promised a child:

“For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him.” 1 Samuel  1:27

For this child I prayed.

I pray.

I will always pray.

And the Lord heard me.

Hears me.

Will always hear me.

I can think of no greater gift.

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{Just the beginnings of our own little family}

Happy New Year everyone!

Love Darren, Kari, and baby :]

Instant Gratification

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My dad sometimes {affectionately, I think} calls me a space cadet…because I am flighty, as flighty as a butterfly. My mind is a busy place and I can never seem to focus on one thing for very long.

One time I got sick in college and the doctor put me on a prescription for a couple of days. I remember sitting in class when I was taking that medicine and it felt like everything was moving very slowly, like my mind was so quiet and still. I could concentrate on every word the teacher was saying without getting distracted by a million other thoughts. I wanted to take those drugs all the time and always have a quiet mind like that. Isn’t that awful, wishing for drugs to quiet my mind? But it’s true.

I really drive myself crazy with all this flightiness because I never get anything substantial done. I see a pattern in myself: I get an idea about something I want to do or be good at. I buy the supplies to do that thing. I try that thing for about a week. I get busy or distracted or decide it’s too hard and move on to something else.

I do this with cameras and photography. I do it with words and blogging. I do it with art and creativity and things I want to make with my hands. Over and over and over again.

One thing I really want to be good at is photography. I have always loved cameras and taking pictures and I get completely lost in beautiful images. I was looking at a blog the other day that has gorgeous photography and I kept thinking, “I want to take pictures like that. I want to capture life and the world the way she does.” But the problem is I don’t want to take the time and develop the discipline necessary for the kind of beauty and art she creates. I just want to pick up my camera, point it at something, and bam—my pictures look like hers.

There’s this other photography blog I love too, the one that really got me interested in DSLR cameras, and people are always asking the girl how she gets such beautiful images. Over and over and over again she tells people there’s no trick or shortcut to the images she produces; it’s just a matter of time and work and of learning about photography and how to best use the instrument in your hands. She tells people to read and practice and to take tons and tons of pictures until they start to get a feel for the camera and what does and doesn’t work.

That’s it. Practice. Patience. Hard word. No tricks. No fancy equipment. No apps or instant anything. Just enough love for and dedication to a craft to really master whatever it is you want to do.

This, of course, requires a little stick-to-it-ness and a little less flightiness. This requires patience and discipline and mastery over the monster we call instant gratification.

And that right there is a big part of my problem: Instant Gratification. It’s not that I don’t already enjoy photography enough to practice and learn and slowly develop my skill. It’s not that I don’t already love words enough to carefully string them together and slowly create a body of work I’m proud of.

The problem is I look at images and read words that are so far beyond my skill right now and I let it frustrate and discourage me because I want to be that good RIGHT NOW. I want to take pictures like that right now, this instant, not after patiently learning and practicing.

I don’t want to wait for anything. I want what I want and I want it right this instant.

But you know what I think? I think we lose out when we get what we want right when we want it. Because in spite of the time and work it takes, there is something very fulfilling and inspiring about the actual learning process and not just the end result. There is something about picking up my camera and taking 57 shots of the exact same thing, changing the settings, trying again…and then finally capturing the image I see in my head. There’s this little triumph, this little moment when everything comes together and I know I’ve learned something and I’ve advanced just a little bit towards my goal. That feeling of learning and growing is almost better than acquiring whatever it was I wanted in the first place.

We live in a world of instant everything. We are told all the time that we can have what we want when we want it. And unfortunately, I think I’ve started believing and living as if all the ads that try to sell me everything right now are actually gospel truth. And in the process I’m losing the pleasure of simply learning and growing and advancing at a steady, healthy pace.

I don’t need everything right now. I don’t need to be the best at wielding a camera or writing words. I just need to be growing, learning, practicing, changing…and taking the time to actually enjoy the experience and feel the moments of triumph instead of always running, running, running towards the next best thing.

Tis the Season…of Consumerism

When Thoreau was living at Walden Pond and writing his work of the same name he said that “men have become the tools of their tools.” He wrote that in the mid 1800s so I imagine he might have had a mental break had he ever met the internet.

Just imagine Thoreau with an iPhone for a minute; it makes me smile.

I went to Walden Pond once. I drove out with a friend and together we sat by the water’s edge with journals in hand and wrote about the beautiful, quiet place we found ourselves in.

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We walked in the replica of the tiny cabin Thoreau built for himself and I snapped a few pictures of Mr. Thoreau reading my very own copy of Walden Pond :]

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I like Thoreau. I like what he stood for and what he did by example. But I’m not very good at following that example. I’m much better at online shopping and Angry Birds, truth be told.

It seems like simple living should be, you know, simple. But the world we live in is awfully glittery and I choose consumerism and material things far more than I would like you to know.

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I think about this a lot this time of year. Not only because of Christmas shopping but also because my birthday is a month before Christmas and Darren’s is a month after. So for three months straight we are thinking about buying and getting things. I have nothing against birthday and Christmas presents; I think both can be thoughtful demonstrations of love for the other person and that is certainly what we hope to accomplish by giving each other these gifts. Still though, it’s easy to get carried away by it all, by all these shiny, glittery, latest and greatest things that we convince ourselves we simply must have and give each other.

Fortunately this year we are broke.

Not really, but we are building a house…in the woods…with a big garden beside it…with all the hope in the world that it will help lead us to simpler, more meaningful living. But even houses in the woods built with good intentions cost money so this year we have to really stop and think about every dollar we spend.

And you know what? It’s been super wonderful. Seriously. I like not worrying so much about what I’m giving and getting for birthdays and Christmas. I like that every single gift I bought for Darren this year was picked out based on what I know he’s good at and will love. I like that this year feels a little slower, a little less about things, and more about building dreams together. I like that on my birthday Darren gave me a remote-controlled monster truck because every time we end up in the toy aisle I drool over them. That’s a nutty thing to give a girl but he knew I would like it and it made me smile that he remembered and did something that felt hugely thoughtful to me.

I’ve read a lot of stuff lately about how hectic and frantic these last few weeks before Christmas are. About how people are stretched and stressed to the max by all the shopping and parties and decorating. And I think that’s really sad. Because the shopping and the parties and the decorating are not what this is about. I’m a Christian, so foremost I think this is all about Jesus. But even beyond that, this really should be about people and love and thoughtful, heartfelt giving–giving of gifts we picked out with something special and specific in mind, gifts of our time just to be with people and to enjoy each other….gifts that matter for more than the glitter.

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I’ve let the beauty of Christmas get away from me many times before by focusing on all the wrong things. But this year–this quiet, slower year–is teaching me something I hope I won’t forget.

Let’s not be the tools of our tools, okay? Okay :]