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)

Baby Girl’s Wildflower Nursery

1495046273730I’ve been horrible about sharing photos of our house remodel– mostly because there are still things throughout the house I would like to finish before sharing pictures. But we did finally 100% finish a room with baby girl on the way so I thought I’d share some photos of her sweet little wildflower nursery ❤

IMG_20170513_071931_233IMG_20170513_071903_940Prepping the room with fresh paint and clean carpet (this was Roman’s room before so it needed some love after him 😉 ).

IMG_20170513_071508_774Eight months pregnant and painting 🙂 I’ve felt very relaxed about this baby until recently but something about realizing she’ll be here in less than two months has me hustling and acting like a crazy person trying to get everything ready.

IMG_20170521_170933_614IMG_20170521_164557_037IMG_20170521_165211_326IMG_20170522_070619_198This has always been my favorite room in the house with all its natural light and views of the field across the way. It was the perfect spot to rock Roman asleep and now I look forward to sitting in that same sunny corner rocking my baby girl and introducing her to this lovely wildflower world.

IMG_20170521_164310_118IMG_20170521_170739_277Her first toy– Roman’s was a little white cat from the same company ❤20170519_073532A closet full of tiny, girly clothes ❤IMG_20170521_164911_130IMG_20170522_070835_055IMG_20170521_165034_047I pinned some of the art back when I was expecting Roman but before I knew if I was having a boy or a girl. It was fun going back and getting some of the stuff I’ve loved for years but had to wait for my baby girl to need ❤

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.

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 :]

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.

walden birch

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.

Walden Pond

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 :]

The Seeds We Plant

It’s getting cold here in New England; it even snowed a little the other day. Today when I went outside it felt so warm I thought it must be in the 70s but the temperature read only 48°. Regardless, I celebrated the heat-wave by leaving my coat home today :]

As warm as 48° feels, winter is still inching in around us and Darren and I were busy for a few days trying to beat the frost and get hundreds {or a billion} daffodil, crocus, and tulip bulbs dug up and transplanted for spring. That’s the thing about flowers and spring—you have to plan ahead if you want to see color and results when the world finally thaws out months from now.

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We got all the bulbs in the ground where we wanted them and then a few days later it was really warm and pretty so I kicked off my shoes, rolled up my pant legs, and went around the yard filling the wheel-barrow up with pretty round rocks to use as a border around the flowers. It took a lot of loads back and forth to wrap all the way around the area I wanted but it felt good to be outside tramping around in the dirt and grass. Darren called me Tom Sawyer the rest of the day but I think he meant it affectionately :]

I’ve been thinking a lot about those little bulbs we put into the ground and all the work and planning that goes into having a pretty yard and garden come spring. And I’ve thought a lot too about all the other seeds we plant, not in the yard and garden, but in our hearts and lives.

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Words, actions, thoughts, decisions—these are the seeds planted throughout our lives that carry with them the power to grow either beauty or weeds in the soil of our hearts and souls.

I think about the words we hear growing up and how those little seeds grow in us and shape us for better or worse all throughout our lives. I think about all the decisions we make and how they too take root and grow into either weeds or blossoms in the tender sod of hearts.

Once weeds take root, they are hard to pluck out; they hold on and keep coming back up over and over again. It doesn’t seem fair that just the opposite is true of flowers—they are tender, delicate, easy to root out and kill. Beauty and blossoms have to be nurtured or they will suffer and die.

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It’s just the same with nurturing beauty in our hearts and lives—you only need be told once that you are stupid or unwanted to have that weed planted in your heart—and plucking it back out will likely have to be done again and again as the weeds keep springing back up. But it seems we must be told many times throughout our lives that we are loved and wanted and worthy before those tender seeds take root and are finally settled into our hearts producing fruit.

So be careful of the seeds you plant—the words, the actions, the thoughts and decisions. Be careful of the seeds you plant in the lives of others and careful of the seeds you let take root in your own heart and soul.

Because once weeds take root they are hard to pluck out and blossoms easily die.

The Bee’s Knees

I, like most people probably, sometimes think I need something new, something different, something more to be happy. I was really quite convinced that I needed a newer, better camera to take any photos worth having. I got that new camera a while ago and I do really like it. But a funny thing happened….

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I came across a camera we have had for years and started looking through the pictures on it…pictures I forgot all about when I got my newer, fancier, better camera. I found pictures of days at the beach and walks in the woods and I found a whole collection of pictures I took when Darren was helping his dad with the bees.

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Darren’s dad owns a bee pollination business, so if you ask me, he might as well be a snake charmer…but nobody asked me. I just take the pictures and swat at the angry, furry little bees…that’s all.

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I’m getting sidetracked though because the point of this post is that I like these pictures. I like the colors and texture. I like the sun flair and the little black blurs flying around everywhere. I like these pictures even though they were taken on an old camera and forgotten about for a couple of years after I moved on to newer, better things.

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Which just goes to prove that even though there is nothing wrong with new stuff, there is nothing wrong with old stuff either. Actually, in some ways, I think I used to be more creative when I was taking pictures because I was working with cheap point-and-shoot cameras and I had to be clever about getting artistic shots instead of just depending on all the fancy settings on my new camera.

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So there you go, life lesson #57: New is not always better.

Life lesson #56 was to not swat at the bees.

And life lesson #55 was to never, like ever, fry chicken in flip flops…unrelated, but true.

100_2302{Crates full of jars used to feed the fat cheeky little bees}

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The Comforts of Home

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Today we are home, curled up on the couch watching football. The cat is curled up on the other couch, because obviously, he needs a whole couch to himself…diva. The Pats are playing the Dolphins. I would rather be watching my home boys, the Chiefs, but they don’t show their games out here. We were in Kansas City a few weeks ago and were almost late for our flight because I just had to see the Chiefs finish their game while I had the chance. They normally lose, you know, so watching them win for once is a lot of fun :]

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We had big bowls of hot soup for lunch today and dipped thick chunks of warm bread in it. The heat is on because it’s cold, cold, cold outside and we are sipping mugs of hot coffee to warm up. I sprinkled cinnamon over the coffee grounds before brewing it; between that and the pumpkin creamer, it’s just about the perfect mug of coffee for a crisp fall day.

The whole house smells like the jasmine and sandalwood incense I’m burning…I love how the tangy, sweet smell of the smoke permeates everything in the house.

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This morning we went to church and I worked in the nursery. There’s a bit of a baby boom going on among my friends right now. Every time one girl has a baby, another announces she’s pregnant. It’s fun…all these kids and babies and watching families grow and change. Sometimes working in the nursery is completely exhausting because all the babies melt down at once and you’re left wiping tears and noses and wondering what on earth you did wrong. But this morning, it was fun. The kids were mostly good and it was nice visiting with the moms and watching them visit with each other. It made me really thankful for my church family and the little group of girls I hang out with here; their friendship means so much to me and I was reminded of that this morning.

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Last night we had dinner with Darren’s brother and sister and their families. We all live within 15 minutes of each other and I love the way we are able to spend time together and move in and out of each other’s lives. My sister in law made a big batch of chili and my brother in law made an apple pie. We all sat around eating and talking while the kids played on the floor. Our new baby nephew was passed around and held while the bigger boys climbed all over us and wrestled with each other on the floor. It was nice.

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I tell you all these bits and pieces because together they remind me of one thing…comfort. Our little home and mugs of hot coffee are comforting on this Sunday afternoon. Spending time with our friends at church was comforting this morning. Dinner with family was comforting last night. Even the cool weather and hot meals are comforting. And with all these bits and pieces that make up our normal, everyday lives–I’m thankful. Thankful for the comfortable, familiar things that settle our hearts and minds and for the weekends that give us a chance to rest and regroup before heading into another busy workweek.

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This is why God gave us a Sabbath–because he knows us and knows we need rest and refreshment. It has been good this weekend to be reminded of the simple gifts of home and family and to enjoy this day of rest in our little home.