Starting Over

IMG_20170605_132750_502{He’s pretty sure he still fits in the infant car seat}

In a few weeks we welcome our daughter and transition from a family of three to four. A double stroller sits in the box waiting to be assembled and loaded into the SUV we bought to make room for two car seats instead of one.

Life already seems busy and full and I try to imagine what it will be like adding a newborn to the mix.

I’m excited. And I’m scared.

But I’m not scared about the right things —well, at least not the things I expected to be. I’m not afraid of labor —I know it will hurt and it will be a rough day but it’ll end with holding my baby on the other side.

I’m not afraid of sleepless nights —they’re still rather sleepless as it is and I know the bleary eyed haze of the first few months won’t last forever.

IMG_20170605_133102_598What I’m afraid of is being left behind.

I’m afraid of starting over with a newborn while most of my friends move forward with older kids.

This has been a consistent problem throughout my adult life —this being at a different stage at a different time than most of the people I’m closest to. Right now I stand in the middle with half my friends not having children and the other half with children already in school and decidedly out of the baby/toddler days.

Many of the women around me, even the ones who previously stayed at home, are going back to work as their children are more independent and spend their days at school or other activities rather than constantly at their side.

I like seeing these women find themselves again outside of their children and watching them pursue work and interests they’re excited about beyond the home.

IMG_20170605_132924_571But I’d be lying if I didn’t say it stings a little to watch everyone around me move onto the next step in life while I’m still years away from much beyond newborns and toddler tantrums.

Now I know this is a choice —I choose to stay home with my babies and even being able to make that choice is certainly a privilege. I could find someone to watch my kids while I go back to work but it’s important to me to be home with them for these first few years and we have the freedom to make that choice so that is what I do.

IMG_20170605_133234_951{Just the three of us a little longer}

But just because you believe something is right or best for your family doesn’t make it easy. Nor does it make it any easier to set aside your other hopes and dreams for a time while you focus on something else instead.

I know the day will come, and probably much sooner than it feels like right now, when my babies are taking off to school rather than crying at my ankles about something r.i.d.i.c.u.l.o.u.s. while I try to make dinner. This is but a chapter in the journey and a chapter I will probably often look back at and long for after it’s closed and done.

But today, today just weeks before I begin all over again with a brand new baby, I’m learning the importance of speaking truth to my heart and mind when the temptation is to dwell on fear or being left out while everyone around me moves on.

IMG_20170605_133412_231I need the truth that I’m doing what I’m doing for a reason —this whole making babies and staying home thing —it matters and it matters enough to put other opportunities on hold for a time.

I need the truth that God sees and cares about the life he’s given me and the work I do even if it feels silent and invisible.

I need the truth that babies and children are important —soulful and eternal —and it’s my privilege to influence and shape their tiny souls for a time on their journey back to God and all he desires for them.

I need the truth that life is made up of seasons and this chapter of babies and toddlers is just that —a chapter in the full story I will tell with this life I’ve been given.

I need the truth that God is walking beside me —when I’m tired, discouraged, feeling left out or left behind —God is there and will give me strength and love for each new day until all my days melt into his eternity.

I need the truth that my identity is found in Christ and who he says that I am —not what other people think of me, not what the world thinks of me and the work I do but in Christ and Christ alone. He is enough and I am enough in him.

I need the truth.

I need to daily strengthen my heart and mind with true thoughts to guard against the temptation to believe all the lies swirling around me that would pull me down and leave me defeated.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

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.

Exploring the City with Littles

1495044412744Because of where we live, most of our out-of-town visitors want to see the cities near us while they’re here. Daytrips to Boston and NYC used to require no more planning than how to get around on the train and where to eat. But adding a child to that equation changed things quite a bit and we’ve learned a few lessons along the way about tackling cities with a little one in tow.

IMG_20170507_104639_988So far, we’ve walked Kansas City, Boston, Quebec, and NYC with our little guy along for the ride (literally, he has no idea how lucky he is to be carried everywhere lol).

Because we love traveling and also think kids are all right (I’m 7 months into making another one so they must not be too bad) I’m always on the lookout for ways to make trips with children easier and more enjoyable.

img_20170207_091752236.jpgOur little guy has traveled with us by car, plane, train, boat, and in all kinds of carriers as we’ve explored on foot. Here’s what I’ve learned about city adventures with little ones so far; I hope this helps if/when you take on a family adventure of your own :]

Keep in mind that I’m speaking only from my own experience with one child who we’ve traveled with from 1 month up to 3 years. Every child is different so what works for us at a certain stage may just make your kid cranky or angry—hopefully not, but you know, every kid is different ;]

Newborn to One Year: {Baby sling/Carrier}

When our guy was a baby up to about a year old, the easiest, most comfortable way to go anywhere with him was holding him close in a baby sling (I prefer the Moby wrap) or a baby carrier (I prefer the Ergo, Darren the Baby Bjorn). He would snuggle in close and either watch the world contentedly or sleep. Carrying him also saved us the hassle of a bulky stroller in congested spaces like the subway or busy sidewalks.

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Toddlers Stage 1 to 4 Years: {Backpack Carrier}

Once Roman outgrew the baby carriers (sad day) we started looking for another way to carry him with us minus a stroller and without actually having to hold him in our arms all day (that ain’t going to work, trust me). We ended up trying a backpack carrier and fortunately both Darren and Roman love it most of the time (it’s too heavy for me to wear except for short periods). We use a Chicco carrier and it has worked great for us so far.

IMG_20170507_105900_904One lesson learned about this kind of carrier though—after a whole day on your feet in the city, these do still get heavy and uncomfortable. We spent the day in NYC this past weekend and were both regretting not bringing a small umbrella type stroller as a backup plan.

moose

While carrying Roman on our backs was perfect for navigating the train, busy streets, and ferry, it was totally exhausting. And Roman got tired of being in there after a while and ended up in our arms anyway. So if you’re planning a full day on your feet, I definitely recommend bringing a small stroller as well—something that folds up flat for trains and easily opens with one hand if possible. We use an Urbini and it’s fine (though I wouldn’t say great).

Diaper Bag and Supplies:

Figuring out how to carry your kid is one thing; figuring out how to carry all their stuff is another thing all together :]

I’ve tried all kinds of bags while out walking (sling, shoulder, backpack) and found the most comfortable is definitely a backpack because this distributes the weight across both shoulders instead of just one.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Carry as little with you as possible. While it’s nice to be prepared, it’s not so nice carrying an overly heavy load or jostling through an overstuffed bag when you need something. Bring what you think you’ll use as far as diapers, wipes, change of clothes, drinks, snacks, etc. but try to use travel size when possible and keep in mind that if you run out of something, you can almost certainly buy more where you are.
  • Only bring one bag: Along the same line of not carrying too much, don’t try bringing a separate purse for yourself. Grab your wallet and whatever bare necessities you need with you for the day and combine them into the bag you carry for baby.
  • Bring your own drinks and snacks: You and your littles are going to get thirsty and hungry and buying drinks and snacks in the city adds up fast. Save your money for activities or an actual meal and avoid the $5 bottles of water and bags of chips.
  • Wear comfortable shoes! City walking, especially when you’re carrying a child or backpack all day, is hard work. Your feet are going to hurt. So while it’s nice to be cute, try to be cute and as comfortable as possible. I’ve started throwing an extra pair of shoes/socks in the bag so I have the option to change if my feet really start to hurt.
  • Dress your child comfortably: Again, I know its fun to put your kids in cute outfits, especially when you’re out and about. But keep in mind that your child is going to be bundled into some kind of carrier all day and exposed to whatever weather you’re out in. The softer and more comfortable their clothes, the happier they’ll be. I put Roman in a button under onesie so his shirt doesn’t ride up and a soft pair of pants/shorts. If it’s cold, I put a pair of footie pajamas under his outfit so no skin is exposed where his pants ride up at the ankle. Keep in mind too that you’ll be changing diapers in all kinds of weird places if changing tables aren’t available so the easier the outfit is to get them in and out of, the better.

Anyway, I hope these ideas help and I hope you take lots of adventures with your families. While kids do complicate things, they also add a lot of joy and laughter and it’s so fun watching the world through their eyes. I’ll never forget Roman’s face when we stepped out of the subway and he saw all the lights in Time’s Square for the first time—totally made the craziness of bringing him with us worth it ❤

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Québec City: A Photo Journal

We slipped away to Quebec City to celebrate our anniversary. I think of Canada and Canadians as cousins and neighbors, so I was surprised with how completely French Quebec is. Everything felt very foreign and we, very lost. But what’s the fun of travel and adventures if you don’t feel a little lost and foreign every now and then?

lost

We’re learning that however long a road trip should take, it will most certainly take longer with a toddler. Sometimes you have to pull the car over and let wild things be wild. After a good long run through the grass and a proper sward fight with sticks, our wild one was ready to complete his first trip in another country.

wild

We arrived in the evening and spent an hour getting the room set up for Roman to sleep in a new place without burning anything down ;] I sat in the living room watching Darren on the baby monitor lying on the floor on a mattress with Roman tucked into him falling asleep. It had been a long day driving 10 hours from home. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, having spent our anniversary with a rowdy toddler in the backseat screaming off and on the entire trip.

And then I watched my husband being the amazing father that he is; watched him snuggle our son close in his arms until he felt safe enough to fall asleep in a new place. And I realized that this is what marriage and parenting are all about—about road trips made longer and louder by little ones but more magical and memorable because of them too. About learning to love each other and find ways to celebrate and seek adventure even when it might be easier to just stay home. I lucked out on the boys in my life, no doubt about it.

I’m usually well prepared for our trips but Quebec surprised me at every turn.  It was cold, much colder than I ever imagined a place could be in July. I wore my one long-sleeved shirt every day and drank hot coffee as much for the comfort of drinking it as having the hot cup to warm my hands.

coffee

Our first day in the city, we pushed Roman in his stroller, not realizing that Quebec is basically all uphill and every shop entrance has steps up into it…we got a good workout and Roman got a sweet ride :] The next day we smartened up and hauled Roman around in a backpack carrier instead—still a workout but a little more manageable on hilly cobblestone streets :]

The giant toy moose, or “foof”, travels with us everywhere :]

I love walking cities and feeling the culture of the people living and playing out before me in the sound of foreign language and the smell of food and coffee and cigarette smoke a little different from our own. Quebec was full of inspiration in the architecture and the way small, simple spaces were made even more beautiful by plants, flower boxes, and bright pops of color.

windows

plants

We walked around eating crepes and getting lost on streets that seemed to wind endlessly one into the other.

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donutAnd of course no trip to Canada is complete without about 37 trips to Tim Hortons :] We ended each day back at the apartment with a pastry and a hot cup of coffee—which is quite hard to order when you don’t speak French; we were surprised every day with what kind of coffee we ended up with but it was always good :] It was a fun trip and a sweet little getaway with my two favorite boys ❤

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 :]

A Pea in the Pod

Baby

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.

Hampton Beach 2011-12

{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.

Baby

{Just the beginnings of our own little family}

Happy New Year everyone!

Love Darren, Kari, and baby :]