Oh, Hello

So I promised in my last post that I’d come back here today and re-introduce myself as it’s been awhile and I’ve noticed a number of new faces lately.

So yes, uh, huh huh hi, hello, my name is Kari ;]

I’m originally from Missouri.

In college, I met a boy and he turned out to be not only stinking cute but also the love of my life. We celebrate nine years of marriage this summer and I’m so thankful I get to go through life with someone so fun and amazing by my side.

Seriously, this picture was taken Easter Sunday and I can’t stop staring at him and how handsome he looked. Here I am seven months pregnant and all chubby-ish and he’s just standing there smiling like he’s Magic Mike—I can’t get enough but I’ll stop ogling him via the internet now and move on ❤

IMG_20170416_103634_839Also, I have a two-year-old son who I completely adore 98% of the time. He’s hell-bent on destruction and completely insane but I realize where all of that came from and am rather partial to him.

IMG_20151023_095240And as before mentioned, I’m pregnant—baby #2 is coming this summer and I’ve spent the last 7 months warning her about her brother. I’m guessing she’ll be able to take him though because I have five brothers and I can take all of them at once…so she got dis ;]

I’ve lived in Massachusetts for the last nine years (thanks to Mr. Handsome up there).

Before I became a baby momma, I worked with my husband in aerospace. I say that because it makes me sound smart but really it was just a boring office job most of the time :]

I’m a Christian and write quite often about my faith.

I absolutely love bare feet, warm weather, and being outside. So I moved to New England (???). I cry like a baby from December through April because I have to stay inside or wear shoes. Everyone who lives anywhere near me is 1000% over hearing about it. I always swear I’ll have a better attitude at the start of each winter but I’m usually crying and complaining by the time the first flurries fly.

dsc_1356My husband and I love traveling and make trips a big priority in the way we budget and save money. If you think I cry about winter you should hear my husband cry about having to take a year off of traveling to have this baby ;] We’re both very restless, adventurous people and are always planning our next trip. Right now I’m dreaming of Ireland and Honolulu :]

img_20160917_174155.jpgIn 2013, we bought a dilapidated 1860s farmhouse thinking it was a good idea to remodel it ourselves. Ah hah hah hah…. we should have burnt it down. I’m just kidding… Four years and almost two kids later and we’re still working away (although we really are almost done and have enjoyed living here for the last 18 months).

DSC_0375I am mildly obsessed with leather bags, paper goods, capturing the perfect photograph, pasta, and like three people outside of my husband and son ;] No, I’m just kidding I seriously have at least five friends :]

So I hope that helps us get better acquainted for the moment. I would love to find out who’s reading this and what you’re like as well so go ahead and leave a comment introducing yourself if you like. I look forward to hearing from you ❤

—Kari

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.

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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 ❤

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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.

Begin Again

I stand at the kitchen window, warm cup of coffee in my hands, and watch the morning light wrap the sleepy landscape in pink and yellow. Birds flit in sets of two back and forth between the birch trees; the white of their feathers stands out against the black shadow of trees in the distance.

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I’m not a morning person by any stretch but being a mother forces me out of bed into the morning light. I’m tired, but I like the quiet that comes with the sleepy, waking hours. Everything is fresh and new and ready to begin again— however frazzled and worn out it might all have been just hours before when we went to bed in surrender to another day.

I’m thankful for mornings and evenings and that we get one of each, each day.

Each day we’re gifted the opportunity to (mostly) put yesterday behind us and begin again. Each night we may (mostly) leave the day behind and rest in preparation for beginning again tomorrow.

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We need not carry too much with us at a time for we are only given so much time at a time to do what God has asked. This is a gift—for we are finite and God knows our limitations.

We are given the counting of days and hours by a God who knows we can’t bare the weight of burdens given outside of time and limitations. The sun rises and sets and we’re given rest in God’s mercy. We’re allowed over and over to begin again with the morning light—quietly breaking up life’s journey into sustainable pieces of the whole and leading ever on to eternity when our fragile souls are at last capable of the weight of endless time and waking.

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But until that day, we rest. We walk. We begin again. We take the small portion assigned to us for these waking hours and carry on faithfully for one more day—just one more day at a time until all our days melt into eternity’s forever.

You need not carry the whole of life’s burdens today; that’s not what we’ve been asked to do. Yesterday is over. Today is brand new. Tomorrow has not come.

Pick up today’s load only and walk on faithfully. Rest tonight and begin again tomorrow. That is all. Anything more is not what God is asking you to do. He alone stands outside of time for he alone is able to carry that burden. Do not try to be God today.

Walk faithfully—then rest. That is all.

Life is Funny

I walk along the coast, son at my side gathering rocks, shells, and feathers into a bucket. We weave in and out of the shallow waves, toes sinking in the sand. He stays close by my side, enjoying the water but not quite trusting it either.

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20150817_173054.jpegThis is how he will remember childhood–summer days at the lake or beside the ocean. The salty, tangy smell of water will remind and take him back to the sand and waves where he adventured from the time he could first walk.

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img_20160821_221843.jpgHow strange it seems that what will someday call my son to remember and reminisce remains a novelty to me. My childhood was red barns and cornfields, gravel roads and barn kittens. Though I love New England, My heart belongs to the Midwest prairie–and yet that is a place my son will barely know.

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img_20150830_100621.jpgThe Midwest will be a place he goes every once and a while to visit grandparents and family. He will hear me talk about it and perhaps he will always say “ya” like his Midwest momma–but it will probably never be a place he really knows or loves.

Life is a funny thing–the way it twists and turns and you never quite know for sure where you’ll end up. Every time I ride the train into Boston or watch the sun set over the water, I wonder how I got here. When we ride our bikes into the heart of our quaint New England town–past maple trees and shimmering lake, colonial homes and old, old, old cemeteries–I am struck by the foreign strangeness of it all.

DSC_0251And yet this place is becoming familiar too. After nearly nine years, Massachusetts is as much home to me as Missouri ever was. I’ve come to love the cities and beaches, the summers spent camping in Vermont or eating at all our favorite burger stands. I anticipate the gorgeous falls wading through colorful leaves, sipping apple cider, and chasing the sun through the last days of warmth before we descend into these unforgivable winters.

DSC_0530DSC_0527This is where my son was born, where I brought him home brand new and where I’ve learned to be his mother. This is where I’ve grown in love for my husband over the years–where we’ve gotten to know each other and learned to live life side by side through all the good and bad. This is where I’ve grown as a woman–from the girl I was when I moved here at 22, fresh out of college and newlywed.

This place has changed me, grown me, become a part of me. New England lives in my heart now. And though I’m still surprised every single summer to find myself standing beside the ocean, how thankful I am for all the unpredictable places life takes us and for the beautiful adventure this life in New England is.

 

Memory

The summer air is tangible, thick,  heavy on my skin. Humidity hangs visibly in the hazy air.

The wind is blowing; it never stops blowing here. There is a restlessness in this place–a constant motion and sound cutting through the trees, bowing the prairie grass gently from side to side.

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Everything seems bigger than me–the grass to my waist, the scruffy trees I climb barefoot and brown, the sky stretching out in ocean spans above the endless rolling farmland. I disappear into the cornfield, feeling smaller still with prickly stalks over my head pressing in around me.

I find a dusty bare spot in the field–a circle of dirt where the tractor turned and no seed was planted. I can smell the corn, sweet and tangy. Everything smells green here–did you know green is a smell? I can remember it–the green–the smell of green grass, green crops, green trees. Everything was green and brown and blue— the sky, the dirt, the oceans of prairie grass swaying in that humid Midwest wind.

My bare feet are brown and dusty, callused as leather and as good on gravel as any pair of shoes. You don’t need shoes here–you can climb the trees better without them–toes moving confidently against scratchy bark and branch.

I was a tomboy then. A little bit wild. Scrappy. A girl… not a wife, not a mother. A wildflower and a dreamer making plans to leave and go somewhere bigger. I did not know then how hard it might be to find a place bigger than a Midwest summer–bigger than that sky or those swaying fields of crop.

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I left. I married. I became a mother. I saw the worlds I dreamt of under apple trees and night sky.

It’s good. I’m happy. I’m proud.

But I’d give almost anything for one more day under the Missouri sun–barefoot, brown, laying in a cornfield watching the clouds roll by. I’d lay there til the stars came out. I’d watch the fireflies dance in diamond bands across the still-hot night air. I’d listen to the peepers and crickets sing their song in chorus with that ever-moving breeze. I’d hold on to the smell of green–breathing a little deeper and tucking away that Midwest magic in the pockets of my heart and soul. I’d whisper to my tomboy heart, “You’ll need these someday so hold on.”

Winter Bloom

 

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“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.

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Wild Flowers

 

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Perspective is a powerful thing.

I remember riding the train through southern Italy, snaking along the glittering Mediterranean and gliding past yellow and wheat colored stucco houses. I was lost in thought, captivated by how beautiful it all was. I had expected to be disappointed by Italy, as people and places don’t often meet up to our expectations after years of building them up in our minds. But Italy was perfect…perfectly modern mixed with all the old charm and personality the pictures had me imagine.

So I was surprised, offended even, when I heard a fellow American on the train proclaim loudly, “look at all these crappy houses…how do people live this way?”

I’m sorry? I’d sell all my American everything to live in one of those “crappy” houses—just ask Darren, I’ve tried ;] It’s true, the paint was peeling, the stucco was chipped and cracked, and the whole place looked a bit wild with clothes lines strewn between houses. But I felt magic there and I’ve never been able to shake Italy off; the clothes lines and sunshine and window boxes crept right down into my soul and I’ve tried ever since to sprinkle some of that Italian magic into the way I live here at home.

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One traveler saw only brokenness and decay; I saw charm and beauty—that day at least. Our perspectives were different and so our whole experience of that place turned out differently.

I thought about all this the other day when I was looking at our rather ragged yard. With building our house, we’ve had to level and landscape our lawn. All our grass was scrapped off and all winter our house sat in a sea of brown and mud. I bought what New Englanders call “mud boots” to walk from our house to the car because it was so messy and mucky and our feet were always sinking in the dirty sludge. Last winter was the first time I’ve hoped for cold temperatures to freeze the ground and snow to cover all that brown.

So imagine my delight at all the green in our yard this summer—yes, most of that green is weeds, some of it weeds nearly as tall as me—but it’s green. I’m sure our wild, unruly lawn looks like nothing but a disaster to the neighbors around us with nicely manicured lawns, and you know, grass. But to me, our yard is lovely and I’m so happy to look out our windows at green…green weeds, green grass, I care not.

I tend to like the wild flowers best, far more than store-bought roses or houseplants. I like the way wild flowers poke up with the weeds—sometimes they are the weeds. There’s something a little bit daring and rebellious about Queen Ann’s Lace, don’t you think? The way she stands alone in a field or along the road outshining every well-tended garden flower she meets.

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My mom told me once in a card, “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.” And ever since reading that, I’ve tried to remember how much my own perspective colors the world around me. Will I be the traveler who sees brokenness or beauty in a place different from my own? Will I be the mom who can see the joy in a sticky toddler or the one who resents the frustration and restraints of parenting? Will I appreciate all the magic fluttering past me each day in the sunshine and wild flowers growing free among the weeds?

It’s up to me, the way I see my life and the world around me. Sometimes I let darkness settle over me and it’s no surprise in those moments that the whole world looks dark and bleak. But when I focus on the light, I see the light.

Perspective is a powerful thing, after all.

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 ❤

Fallow Ground

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Last night we worked on the yard, raking and turning up the soil for spring. I knelt in the dirt, gathering rocks into the wheel barrow and enjoying the cool spring breeze whisping through my hair.

We set out the boundaries of our garden and I dreamt while I worked of vine tomatoes and itty bitty strawberries ripening in the sun.

Roman helped gather rocks, huffing and puffing to assure me of his labor and brute strength. Even when he bent to lift a tiny shred of paper into the wheel barrow, he grunted and moved slowly to prove the weight of his task :] How I love him; how I have learned to love him after struggling and finding our way into and through toddlerhood this winter. He is strong, willful, completely sure of what he wants. I see myself in him, I see his dad, and I am both terrified and proud.

I thought last night as I worked the soil into soft, plantable rows, about the parable Jesus gave of fallow ground—dry, hard, unworked ground—where though the seeds may fall, nothing grows or changes in such unattended soil.

I wondered about my heart, the soil of my heart, and if this ground is turned over and ready for growth or packed down in stubborn defiance, refusing to grow, refusing to change.

I have felt a bit like a rock in a tumbler these last two years since Roman came. Around and around I’ve gone, having my hardness and rough edges worked down into a softer more desirable form. Last night, working the ground, it made sense to me–all the tumbling and falling–perhaps it was meant simply to turn up the fallow ground, to plant and build new life, to grow and harvest new fruit in soil that was once packed down and useless.

So today I hope not just for those sun ripened tomatoes and strawberries but for fruit in the softer soil of my own heart as well–that I would not be dead and useless but alive and growing into what God desires me to be.

What a gift it is that God works our hearts as we do the soil, that he does not simply drop seeds on hard ground but kneels in the dirt and works on us until we are made soft and useful for new life and purpose.