Bittersweet.

The world is wrapped in night and quiet. I hear only the sound of the fan whirring outside my son’s room and the occasional car driving by. Darren is gone late and I sit tired and uninterested at the computer clicking around. I want to be inspired by something so I scroll through blogs and pins and look at new clothes online; nothing amuses me.

Without any purpose or direction, I begin clicking through old photos on the computer—album after album neatly organized by season and year.

11053732_10152830279036517_137574643393842958_o

My son used to be so tiny.

Look at the progress we’ve made on the house.

My hair was longer then.

That was the perfect day.

I’m lost in ocean depths of memory—of days and years, of snuggles and kisses, of adventure—and the occasional twinge of heartache or regret at something now changed or lost from a time and memory before.

I lot can happen in a couple of years. I lot has happened in a couple of years.

DSC_0369When I think back to the year my son was born, I often associate that time with negative memories—tremendous change, loneliness, stress and strain, drowning.

IMG_20140723_090418And yet the photos I scroll through tonight do not tell that story. What I see is joy, baby snuggles, new parents finding their way, excitement, daring endeavors, love stretched and grown, beginnings.

IMG_20141224_170812I see stepping-stones and two people learning to grow beyond themselves and the small world they had always known. And instead of remembering the hard and bad things from those transformative days, tonight I’m reminded of all the good. Of all the love and happiness and hope that filled those times too.

IMG_20150821_175427887How can I forget what it was like, holding my son almost constantly that first year? He napped on my chest every single day and together we saw the world for the very first time—he with eyes brand new to all things and me with eyes opened anew as I watched the world through his lens.

IMG_20141126_150546Yes, I was very lonely. It was a difficult time of life in relationships, in adjusting to motherhood, and to staying home. It was stressful financially with gigantic projects undertaken. There are things I regret.

But I’ve made a mistake in remembering only the hard parts. While the hard stuff changed and refined me, it shouldn’t sum up and take over all the good that came out of that time as well.

IMG_20151011_161353386It was good to be reminded tonight of all the sweetness those years held. Of the baby giggles and kisses. Of the growing as a person and finding my way. Of the marriage that made it and the house now built. To remember all the love and joy I felt along the way even in the hardest of days.

11357354_10152890497526517_1028607213778821759_oThis life is a bittersweet journey. We ebb and flow through heartache and hope and there is rarely a clear divide when the two don’t somehow mingle together in our story. How good it was to be reminded tonight of all these things ❤

IMG_20141120_134008

Writing When You’re Tired

4ee977f3e28b80287c983fe7acae6fd5

I keep telling myself I’m going to write more when I’m not so tired. I’ll get back to blogging regularly any day now, like probably tomorrow-ish.

But I just keep waking up tired. I thought you were supposed to wake up rested? Nope–tired. And then I get tired-er and then I get “I’m not doing anything else but watching Netflix and glaring at people” from about 7pm until bed. So that’s fun.

I’ve been waiting for that energy boost I remember getting when I was expecting my son. That glorious part of pregnancy where you stop feeling miserable and hateful all the time and instead want to clean and decorate all the things. Nope. I just want a nap. And coffee. I want coffee while I nap.

I blame by two-year old son. I blame my husband. I blame you. It’s everyone’s fault I’m so tired. You should be nicer. I could write more if you were nicer to me.

You see the quality material I pull out of my mind palace when fatigued? Amazing stuff, I know.

I’m just excited if I remember why I came upstairs or if I get to sleep through the night without my son waking up to tell–no, scream–that he needs more juice or that there’s a microscopic piece of dirt on one of his favorite toys that he somehow noticed in a dark room while sleeping.

But I’ll be fine. I’m sure I’ll be rested tomorrow. I’ll probably write a book or something…tomorrow-ish.

Definitely any day now for sure.

Wild One

Letting your children grow up “wild and free” is sort of the thing right now. I see it everywhere–the arrows and floral crowns and woodland creatures that stir up ideas of adventure and nature.

I loved this concept when I was expecting my son. I decorated his room in woodsy animals and inspirational quotes by Emerson and Thoreau. I dreamt of days spent outside exploring with him at my side; we would be wild things for sure, he and I.

wild

I can’t help but smile as I tap out these words. I got a wild one all right–no extra outdoor adventures required. He stirs up danger and excitement wherever he goes, however padded and sedate the environment may be. Yesterday, he got the third cast in six weeks put on his arm (almost a year to the day from when he was getting a cast for a broken leg). What a whirlwind of life this little guy has already been at two and a half years old.

picmonkey-collage

I love him and I love the wildness that makes up who he is. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say too how much I’ve struggled with his strength, fiery temper, and will. He is tough. Tough in all the best ways and tough in ways that will wear you down and make you question why you ever decided to be a mother too.

I reached a breaking point with him not long ago. I had gotten to a place where I couldn’t control him–physically or otherwise. I was afraid to leave the house with him and every time I did, I’d recall and dread very loud, very public temper tantrums which required every ounce of my person to get him under control.

img_20161104_100339.jpg

These last two years have been humbling–even humiliating at times. I have been that mom in the grocery store with the toddler screaming and freaking out. I have felt eyes on me and judgment passed and my goodness, for being someone who doesn’t generally care what other people think of me, that has been hard. It’s hard feeling like a failure every time you leave the house for milk and apple juice but that’s been life for a good bit now.

A couple of months back my husband and I sat on the couch talking about our son. It had been a really hard day with him and I was starting to realize if we didn’t get him under control soon, he was going to be too much for me to physically manage. I’m expecting baby #2 and it isn’t reasonable to be wrangling a kicking, screaming toddler when you’ve got another baby you’re trying to protect too.

I was ready to quit and I told Darren so. I had reached a breaking point where I knew something had to change because we simply couldn’t move forward with things as they were. But how…

We aren’t parents who simply let our child do whatever he wishes; we’re quite firm with him–and that made knowing what to do next all the more frustrating. Where do you go from here when you’re already staying home with your child full-time, working with him, teaching and correcting him around the clock? It wasn’t for lack of intense investment and trying that we ended up where we were.

I can tell you how we got here though–Roman is just like us. I know someone else with a temper and will for the ages–guilty.

I never imagined the answer to all this heartache and frustration would simply (though not easily) be to change myself, rather than my son, first. It turns out that if I don’t lose my temper with him, he generally doesn’t lose his temper with me either. If I’m not grumpy and begrudging, neither is he (most of the time). While I knew I was setting an example for my son, I didn’t realize I was setting the tone for our whole home and experience together. But as I have learned to control myself–my anger, my frustration, my hurried way of getting things done at the expense of others–my son has transformed before my eyes as well. I needed to slow down and win his heart first, even at two years old.

img_20161010_193806.jpg

Though I regret the time we spent battling each other in anger, these days of learning to love and enjoy a relationship with him are certainly all the sweeter. There is redemption in this bumpy story of motherhood. There is hope when you feel hopeless. There is wisdom and direction when you are completely lost and at a loss. I know–I’ve seen the bottom and I’ve seen things turn around too. I have hated being a mother–truly hated and regretted it. But I’m learning to love motherhood now as God changes and grows me into this hard, demanding, and incredible role he’s called me to.

There are still humbling days in the grocery store but I no longer live my life as a mother with dread. I see hope and transformation and I know, by God’s grace, we’ll find our way through as he enables.

I got my wild one, all right. He’s every ounce of adventure and excitement I think I can handle but I wouldn’t change his spirit or energy for a simpler life (or fewer trips to the ER). However, if baby #2 wants to be a nice, quiet little girl–that will be fine too 😉

Winter Bloom

 

dsc_1313

“You don’t have to be blooming to be growing.”

Ruth Chou Simons (@gracelaced.com)

I read these words on instragam recently and have been turning them over in my heart and mind ever since: “You don’t have to be blooming to be growing.”

If there is a single recurring theme in what I write about it’s this: Seasons–both the seasons in nature changing slowly one into the other and the seasons of life doing the same.

img_20161123_100605.jpgI have felt lately that I’m in a rather wintry season of life–one in which there is little color or life on the surface though I know in my heart there is much going on in the roots and soul and parts of life mostly unseen. img_20161017_073043949.jpgI am a momma and a homemaker and my days are spent mostly at home doing work I know matters but presently have little to show for. Someday I will look back and see these days with better clarity and deeper appreciation; I know that.

But today I see the years stretching out before me and I know I have a long time to wait before there are blooms in the work I now do.

dsc_1356Like winter, life and growth are there, quietly beneath the surface in the roots and leaves working away silently until new life and color are revealed in spring.

dsc_1265Someday I will see the fruit of my labor; I believe that. I believe when my grown children stand around me and take off for life on their own I will be proud of how they’ve grown and blossomed and I will not regret the years spent quietly working away on blooms not yet seen.

But these are long days even if the years are short.

dsc_1368dsc_1367Winter sprinkled across our little New England home last week in frost and snow glittering in the morning light. I wrapped Roman in every layer of winter clothes a two-year old can reasonably move in and together we trekked outside to chase the light and magic at our door.

dsc_1354Winter is not my favorite but this frosty magic pulls me out into the cold every time. I couldn’t help but notice how completely nature then reflected what has been growing in my heart–this lesson about life beneath the surface when no blooms are seen.

img_20161115_151323.jpgimg_20161209_111947.jpgThe world looks dead and done but a touch of frost and morning light sets the world on fire and for a fleeting moment we see glimpses of the new life that is to come.

Winter will pass and melt away as any dark season of life does and on the other side we will see what has been happening beneath the surface all along–all the work and waiting will open into long-awaited blooms at last.

dsc_1284dsc_1272dsc_1274But for today, during winter, I have to take heart and remember this is but a season–both in life and nature.

Winter will pass and these long days of motherhood will grow and add up to something bright and blooming too. There is growth and life even if hidden quietly in the heart and soul and not yet seen in the fruit of our hands.

dsc_1324

It’s Okay To Be Young

Before I had my son I received a lot of eye rolls when I tried talking with moms about anything regarding children or parenting. Of course I didn’t know a lot about motherhood, not having been one myself yet. But I wasn’t completely ignorant either.

I grew up in a big family with older and younger siblings. I babysat a variety of children and ages over the years. I worked in nursery and was around kids quite a bit. When I did become a mother I didn’t drown from lack of knowledge and experience–I simply learned as I went (and continue to do so).

I thought the eye rolling would stop after I had my son and knew better what motherhood was like. But now I get eye rolls for only having one child. Again, there’s plenty I don’t know. But the fact that I’ve been entrusted by God with only one child so far doesn’t mean I’m completely clueless to what life might be like with more children. I grew up in a big family, remember?

I probably sound bitter by now but here’s my point: You don’t have to know everything or have to experience everything to know something and to be perfectly capable as you are.

We really love to put people down, don’t we? We might not consciously think so or admit it but it makes us feel so smart and so much better when we can roll our eyes at people younger and less experienced than we are. We love to think we have it so much harder than everyone else and no one outside of our exact experience can possibly understand what life’s like.

But we’re wrong.

I know it’s easy to do, I do it all the time myself, but we’re wrong to judge and belittle people simply because they’re young or less experienced in a certain area than we are. I have to remind myself of this now when women who aren’t moms try to sympathize with me about having a baby or a toddler. I catch myself doing the same thing moms used to do to me–thinking, “What do you know?” or “You seriously have no idea how easy your life is right now.”

But here’s the thing: I have no idea what her life is like right now. It may in fact be easy (though probably not). She may know a great deal about parenting and children from her life experience even if she isn’t a mom. Or maybe she’s totally clueless about motherhood–who cares? If she becomes a mom, she’ll learn as she goes like the rest of us do after we realize we’ve brought a child into the world and have no idea what to do with them.

1 Timothy 4:12 says:

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” ESV

Not only should you not worry about what people think of you for being young and inexperienced, but you, young and inexperienced as you are, should be the ones setting an example in the way you speak and behave.

You are never too young to know and do what’s right.

You’re an adult and you’re old enough to behave like an adult. I married at 22 just two months after I graduated from college–and I don’t regret it. I’ve already had the fun of spending eight years with my husband and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. In my 20s I finished school, married, moved across the country, worked several different jobs, bought two houses, traveled all over, and had a baby. Yes, I was young–but not for one second do I regret jumping into life and beginning to build all the memories and relationships I have today.

Don’t let people discourage you from getting started on the big things that matter to you–you’ll learn as you go and you’re ready to start.

It’s vital we listen to and learn from those ahead of us who know more and know better. But it’s also vital that we aren’t afraid of our own age and inexperience. After all, if you are inexperienced the only way to fix that is by going out and doing the thing you right now know little about. The more you do the more you’ll know.

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but…”

Let’s take those words to heart and do great things both while we’re young and as we grow. And let’s respect those who are behind us in age and experience by taking them seriously and helping them along rather than putting them down for being where we all once were.

End rant ❤

The Bigger Picture

Today I woke with the morning light spreading across a canvas of crisp blue winter sky. The one advantage of waking early with a little one is watching the sun wake up bright and ready for a new day too. The world looks full of hope first thing in the morning, with new light and new possibilities spreading before us.

For months now Darren has been building the chimney on our house. Day after day, brick after brick he worked away until we were finally able to sit in front of a crackling fire and smell the house filled with that wonderful wood and smoke aroma I love so much in winter.

12523152_10153320731871517_2866195003462785150_n

I learned something watching him lay brick, watching that same repetitive task done over and over again until something lasting finally took shape:

Life and all we hope to build unfolds slowly, brick by brick, day by day.

When I think about marriage or motherhood or staying home to raise a family, I often get mucked up in a romantic idea of how this big plan of mine is supposed to look. I forget though, that in the moment, day to day, things aren’t likely to look romantic or ideal at all.

I have to remind myself often, more so now in motherhood than ever before, that there is a bigger picture at hand. What I see and often get lost in day to day–the chores and messes and repetitive instruction of a little one–these are but bricks, small pieces of a much grander whole.

When I wash clothes and cook meals and sweep floors, I’m doing more than housework–I’m building a home and making this shell of a house feel like a home. When I kiss, and carry, discipline, and teach my little one–I’m more than babysitting; I’m raising a child who will become an adult who already carries with him an eternal soul. And so this daily work becomes a matter of eternal importance–forever, always, unending importance.

Darren bought a little plant for me at the store the other day. We were choosing paint for the cabinets when I saw a display of brand new succulents–I oohed and ahhd over them until we left with one :]

DSC_0644

I put the little plant on a window sill to sunbathe his way through winter. Today I noticed him sitting there in the morning light and thought what a pretty picture it would be–if it weren’t for the unfinished window trim messing everything up.

I took the picture anyway because it reminded me of this very thing I’m talking about–about the bigger picture and seeing beauty in the mess and unfinished work of life.

DSC_0633

So today I’m trying to stay focused on the long term and reminding myself over and over again that all these small things we do a million times over add up to a whole lifetime in the end.

The point is not so much what I’m doing today in and of itself but what today is helping me build for tomorrow. Bit by bit, brick by brick, I hope I can start to see the value and purpose in the tasks before me today so I may build something lasting and eternal for tomorrow.

Not Capturing the Moment

IMG_20150514_181115413 editI didn’t have a cell phone until I went off to college and even then I hardly used it. We had a phone on the wall in our dorm room—you know, the kind with a curly cord and actual buttons to push–well, that’s what I always used to talk because my cell had horrible reception, I didn’t know how to text, and there was no camera, apps, or internet so the thing was fairly useless to me.  I’m not talking about a hundred years ago, this was like 2004.

Sometimes I like thinking back to the days when a phone was just a phone and I wasn’t always carrying it around with me scrolling through feeds like a media addict. Sometimes I get this image in my head of myself carrying around a corded phone and constantly looking at it to see if anyone is going to call me—it makes me laugh ;]

I like my fancy pants phone as much as anybody—with immediate access to the internet and lots of fun apps. But still, I think we all know sometimes we miss out on the actual living going on all around us by being so busy trying to keep up with all the virtual living going on via our phones.

I never realized this more until I had my son. There’s a part of me that feels like I need to capture every little thing he does because he’s changing so fast. And capturing everything he does isn’t hard with a cell always in hand—I take a million pics, record all his shenanigans, and scroll through countless feeds in between (you know, since I already have my phone out anyway).

But I’ve realized something in the process of trying to always capture the perfect picture of my little guy: Sometimes watching him through the lens of my phone takes away from just being present with him and watching him with nothing but my own eyes.

Darren and I took Roman to the park recently and he was so cute crawling around exploring in the grass. He picked dandelions and looked them over with a kind of wonder I think you only have when you see something for the very first time. The sun was beginning to drift down below the horizon and the breeze was crisp with leftover remembrances of winter still grasping at spring. Darren held Roman’s little hands in his and helped him walk around…really, Roman mostly danced being so very proud of himself and this newfound use of his legs. I sat there in the cool grass watching my boys, watching the sun set, watching the life of our little one unfold right before me…and I left my phone in my pocket.

I just wanted to live that moment and soak up as much of it in my memory as I possibly could. I wanted to always remember how Darren was as a young father of his first child and how Roman was discovering the world at his daddy’s side. I knew in my heart that trying to capture this moment would actually rob me of it. So I sat and I watched and I lived and the best documentation of these sweet memories is held in my heart instead of my phone.

Since then, I’ve tried to allow more of these sweet moments to unfold all on their own rather than trying to force, pose, and capture them. Yes, I love photos and of course photos help us hold onto memories in their own way. But there’s a part of me that knows I need not capture any moment with a camera that I miss with my own heart and mind by being distracted.

Sometimes, some moments just need to be lived and remembered in our hearts rather than captured and shared on social media.

Setting the Tone at Home

Roman in windowcrop

The other day I lay on the couch with my baby boy asleep on my chest. I have watched the seasons change and the world go by my living room window holding Roman there while he naps. The hot, sticky summer yielded to fall. Fall shed her gold and red robe of leaves and bowed to winter. Winter yields to no one. Spring is in hiding and I’m afraid, may never have the courage to stand in winter’s stubborn way.
Winter can be beautiful too, occasionally. That day the wind was blowing hard and the clouds were light and billowy and rolling end over end on their way out of town. The sky was deep-sea blue and the sun broke through. But still the snow fell—fell out of nowhere, fell in the sunshine and looked like glittering rain flitting through the light. It was magical, the sunlight and snow and fluffy fast clouds.

That day I drank my coffee hot and foamy instead of cold and dense. I sat and read and jotted some thoughts down on paper. I looked at my son and noticed his one-toothed smile and perfect little giggle.
I tell you all this because I’ve realized something lately: I’m usually too busy and distracted to notice the beauty all around me. Often, I have the living room blinds closed to keep the glare of the sun off the TV and I sit on the couch looking in at Netflix and housework instead of out at nature.

But that day was different. That day I decided to be still and quiet. I turned the TV off and put my phone down. I held my boy and lay there consciously watching the snow and clouds dance outside my window. I realized that I, more than anyone or anything else, set the tone in my home. I stay home full-time which means all day every day I am the one who determines how much TV, media, and noise is allowed in our house. And with that decision, I determine what my son is exposed to in the way of noise and distractions.

Already I’m an example to him and when I sit holding him with the TV on in the background while I scroll through endless feeds on my phone, I’m teaching him the art of distraction rather than of mindful concentration. I’m teaching him to fill his life with noise and motion rather than stillness and silence. What I do now is what I’m teaching him to do later.

If I want him to know how to sit still and play quietly, I need to show him by my actions how those things are done. If I want him to read and love stories, I need to read books myself and read to him. If I want him to love nature and spending more time playing outside than in, then I need to take him outside and show him what a beautifully intriguing world we live in. Just like I can’t eat junk food in front of him all day and expect him to love healthy food, so I can’t fill his environment with noise and distractions and expect him to want anything else.

10967813_10152645679501517_1705059145_n{Reading Anne of Green Gables together}

Sometimes the quiet drives me crazy when I’m home alone all day but I’m learning to be careful about my own need for noise and accidentally instilling that same need in my son. As a mom it’s my responsibility to teach and lead by example and that often means working on my own bad habits and growing myself into the same kind of person I would like my children to be; I can’t have expectations for them that I don’t live up to myself.

This is not just for my baby either; it’s benefited me as well. I’m enjoying the quiet and the peaceful feel our home has when it’s not filled with all the flashing lights and sounds of TV. I’m enjoying the things I notice and can concentrate on when I look away from my phone and at the world and people around me instead. I by no means think all TV and social media are bad, I’m just starting to recognize the ways I’m abusing good things and setting a bad example in the process. I’m learning to love the quiet and to live in that quiet rather than automatically drowning out my thoughts with background noise.

Good living takes discipline. It takes discipline and forethought to eat healthy meals. It takes discipline to sit down and read or to tap out words. It takes discipline to build strong, happy, healthy relationships. And I’m learning too that it takes discipline to manage the noise and distractions that come with our modern way of life, with cell phones and social media.

Every day I have a choice and an opportunity with the way I live, the home I build, the example I set. Each day is a new chance and building block but eventually those blocks add up from a foundation to a structure—so I must ask, what am I building today with this block? What will this house look like and how will I build and grow the people in it? It’s up to me, every day, one day at a time…and every single day and block counts towards the final structure.

Love From the Start

All last week it rained and snowed while Roman and I were holed up in the house waiting for the weather to clear. Roman was such a crank; he screamed every time I tried to put him down and get anything done so I finally gave up and held him while he napped. I didn’t feel good, I was frustrated and exhausted, and if I’m being perfectly honest—I wanted to take a nap myself or get stuff done around the house instead of hold him. But then, right in the middle of us both being cranky, he tucked his soft, warm head up under my chin and fell asleep in my arms.

It was magic.

In spite of me.

I realized while I lay there holding him how it felt just like holding him for that very first time. After 20 something hours of labor and the three longest hours of my life pushing—this bruised, screaming, pink little baby was put on my chest. And though we had both been through so much, he tucked up under my chin, stopped crying, and fell asleep listening to my heart beat against his. We were never strangers; we knew each other from the start.

thenandnow

I thought I loved him then. I know I love him now.

And I love every moment he lets me hold him in my arms…before he starts arching his back, pummeling me with those legs that never stop moving, or trying to rip my glasses off and fling them across the room.

He keeps me busy. He wears me out. And then he falls asleep in my arms and reminds me why I would do every hour of labor all over again to hold him once more for the very first time.

Today the sky is blue and the roads clear of snow and slush. Roman and took a really long walk around the neighborhood and I think after breathing some fresh air and stretching our legs, we’re starting to like each other again :]

Besides, who couldn’t love this face?

toocute