What I’m Into…May 2017

I’m excited to link up with Leigh for her monthly “What I’m Into” series and share what I’ve been into this past month. I LOVE this month, and this year it did not disappoint. I always thought I’d like to have an outdoor wedding in May. Then Bryan proposed in May, and I thought, “Do I want to wait a year to get married? Nah.” 🙂 Now I just think back to his awesome proposal at this time every year! But I digress…

I finished three books this month (and abandoned one). I also want to give a shout out to this children’s book that has been a huge hit at bedtime in our house recently. GGCS

We checked it out from the library, and now I need to buy Ben a copy because he’s completely in love with it.

My MOPS group did the Restless study together this spring and finished it up this month. I got a lot out of it and really appreciated that it required a good deal of self-reflection and some critical thinking. It was definitely more my speed than some others I’ve done. I loved revisiting the story of Joseph and thinking about how I can use my gifts to have a positive impact and be more intentional within my sphere of influence.

Although I struggled at times to get into some of the stories in The Tucci Cookbook, the food was beautiful. Since reading this cookbook, I’ve been inspired to make risotto and tried two different kinds this month. RisottoNote: This photo was taken about halfway through the cooking process. I can’t wait to try more. I really enjoy Italian food. Also, Stanley Tucci. Who’s seen this?

Unbroken got a rare 5 star review from me on Goodreads. I listened to it on audio which helps me deal with violent scenes. On the page, this true story of a WWII plane crash and POW camp survivor might have been too tough, but with the resonant and steady voice of the late, great Edward Hermann narrating (and a task distracting my hands), I made it through. I’m so glad I did. At times, it was hard to believe that these were real events. What Louis Zamperini endured is unfathomable, and his hope and endurance will stick with me for a long time. I also learned some things about the war that I’d never known before, and it made me feel closer to my grandparents who lived through this challenging and redemptive time in our country’s history. My Pawpaw was a radio operator stationed in Senegal. He communicated with the pilots crossing over on their missions. My grandmothers both lost a beloved older brother. Hillenbrand sets an engaging pace as she lays out Zamperini’s story, and the details she includes give a wholistic picture of a live well lived. I was overwhelmed when I finished this book—in a really good way. I didn’t intentionally read this one right around Memorial Day, but it was nice how the timing worked out.

Favorite Spotify listens this month include: Ashes and Wine—A Fine Frenzy, My Offering—Nichole Nordeman, Glory to Glory—Bethel, You Are the Best Thing—Ray LaMontagne, Home—Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and Blame It on the Boogie—The Jacksons. We had some epic family dance parties this month.

Speaking of “Blame It on the Boogie”, I discovered a really fun Instagram story series this month that I’m excited to share with you. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and in honor of this, a mom in Utah decided to record a dance move (almost) every day because dancing is how she relieves stress and improves her mental health. I. love. this. What a great example of self-care, and honestly, she’s just delightful and fun to watch. You can’t help but smile. Here are a couple of my favorites.

This month, I got to celebrate being mama to this little love of my life for the 3rd time. 18278541_10100845231581477_4815928551278859178_oHe is a delight. My dad was traveling, so my wonderful mom spend the weekend with us. My sister and I took her to see Beauty and the Beast in a fun downtown theater. It was perfect movie to see with my two best gals…although, now that I’m thinking about it, there aren’t many mothers in it. Mrs. Potts! Mrs. Potts is an awesome mother. Also, my sweet husband brought me a hydrangea plant (my fave), and so I’m now a plant mom to several potted plants both indoor and outdoor. I’m trying desperately to keep them alive. Advice is welcome. This beauty from the front yard seems to be doing just fine.IMG_0697 2

Thank you, May. You’ve been good to me once again.

What I’m Into…April 2017

I’m finally joining the link up with Leigh to talk about what I’ve been into this past month. What fun!

In April I finished four books and actually enjoyed all of them.

I read My Life in France for an awesome new book club and was completely captivated by Julia’s spirit of determination and deep passion for the food, people and culture of France. I, too, have fallen head over heels for a place I was living temporarily (although my story took a different turn). 🙂 I also enjoy cooking and have secretly always wanted to go to culinary school. It was fun to live vicariously through her as she ate and cooked excellent food.

The Dry was brought to my attention by Laura on the Sorta Awesome podcast. Go for the  audio version with the Australian accent—it really draws you into the story. It was a riveting mystery that stuck with me for days after I finished it and seriously gave me chills. Jane Harper does a stellar job of setting the scene, and I quickly fell for the reserved, tough protagonist with a sensitive side. His steadfast loyalty and compassion keep you rooting for him as he works diligently to uncover a mystery from the past as well as the truth behind the tragedy that brought him back to his hometown in rural Australia. I will be looking for the follow up set to release later this year. Also, Reese Witherspoon bought the film rights, so that’s exciting.

I read His Needs, Her Needs for an intensive marriage class that we started back in February. It finished this month, and I am so, so glad we did it. Honestly, we were forced to have some tough conversations, but it has helped us learn how to better meet each other’s needs and communicate more effectively. If you have the opportunity to take Dynamic Marriage in your area, I highly recommend it. FullSizeRender 4I will say that the book was originally published in 1986, so be prepared for a bit of outdated terminology. For me, it wasn’t a huge distraction. I think the book would be helpful on it’s own, but the workbook and class we took along with it certainly made this one more impactful.

I referenced Help, Thanks, Wow in an earlier post. This book has a beautiful, lyrical quality, and it’s full of helpful bits of wisdom and anecdotes from Anne’s life. It was a timely reminder to be still, present…intentional.

I am the poster child for being late to the party, so please don’t be too shocked when I say that I recently got Spotify. I have some truly great playlists on my iTunes account, so I’ve been creating a playlist on Spotify that has some of my favorite songs from those. It’s nice to have access without having to use up storage on my phone. I’m also exploring new music with Spotify. A few favorites I’ve enjoyed this month are Buena Vista Social Club, Rachel Yamagata (check out “Reason Why”), Travis (an all-time fave is “More Than Us”), and the song “Something in the Water” by Brooke Fraser.

Speaking of being more intentional, I’m trying to support more ethical brands these days. In April, I enjoyed doing a little online window shopping to send my husband a list of links for potential Mother’s Day gifts.  These earrings are a favorite from my wishlist. I love what this company does for women in Uganda.

I’m always looking for new recipes to try. Variety is the spice of life, as they say. My friend, Cara, shared this yummy (and healthy) recipe several months ago, and I’ve been making Red Lentil Dal a lot lately since accidentally buying a huge bag of lentils, like I do. This Creamy Red Curry with Turkey Meatballs was a big hit with all the boys in my house when my brother came to visit. I served it over jasmine rice with green beans. I’d been wanting to try Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon roll recipe for a long time, and a brunch baby shower was the perfect occasion. I didn’t even make the glaze because I ran out of time, but they were delicious without it.  IMG_0474 2

Watching Parks and Recreation again on Netflix recently has been so enjoyable. To me, it’s one of the most re-watchable shows out there. The character development and chemistry of the cast add a lot to the hilarious writing. We are allowing a little bit of screen time now for our toddler, so I introduced him to Mulan. It’s still such a powerful story, and the animation is gorgeous—the colors, the architecture, the panoramic views of the mountains and the Great Wall. I’m excited that a live action version is coming next year.

Lastly, this time of year in Texas is glorious. My deep feelings about spring are right there in the title of my blog. Of course, we sometimes have Easter in April—a joyful time to remember and celebrate our Savior. Now, for my family, the beginning of April is a special time to celebrate the birthday of this darling boy. IMG_0483I’m soaking in the bright greens, planting flowers and watching our giant roses bloom.FullSizeRender 3

Thanks for following along as I reflect back on April! Click here to read what others have been into. 🙂

Where Did the Spark Start?

Has anyone ever asked you what makes you come alive? I’ve been thinking lately about vocation. Many people are able to look back and see clues from their childhood pointing to their eventual profession. Sometimes it’s an easy connection to make. My sister, for example, was always getting in trouble for making a mural on her bedroom wall with crayons or taking Mom’s lipstick and “decorating” the bathroom. She went on to study art in college and is now a very talented graphic designer. For me, it wasn’t immediately apparent.

Early in my senior year of college, I was busily applying to grad programs when I heard a lecture on this idea. If we really reflect, the speaker said, we can all point to moments in our past that reveal our true passions and gifts. I was an English major, and yes–I had been geeking out over library books ever since I could remember. Writing was my best subject in school, sure, but I didn’t want to be a teacher. I had started as a psychology major freshman year, but I missed English so much that I tested out of Major British Writers I in order to take Major British Writers II, which covered my favorite era of literature at the time. Here’s the kicker—I didn’t need either class for my psychology degree. I wanted to take it as an elective…I know.

Not long after this, I found myself sitting in Physiological Psychology memorizing the cranial nerves, and I came to a decision. Psychology was not for me. University policy was to meet with the head of the department you were considering, and it was in this meeting with the wonderful and wise chair of the English department that I first heard about social work. She was an impressive person but managed to put me at ease as she told me that social work involved a lot of writing and research, and graduate programs offered different concentrations. I could choose not to go down the clinical path, which was the part of psychology I didn’t really appreciate. An English degree would be a great foundation for a Masters in social work, she said.

So, I majored in English and loved almost every minute of it. I minored in psychology and started learning more about social work. If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change a thing. This was the perfect academic path for me—a different means to the same end. I initially chose psychology because I wanted to help people. I’d always been told I was a good listener. I hadn’t thought to trace my interest back to childhood until this lecture my senior year of college. And when I considered the idea of vocation, it wasn’t clear to me exactly how I’d gotten here—applying to social work programs. It felt right, but when did this become my calling?

It hit me weeks later, cleaning out my closet. At the bottom of a pile of t-shirts, I found one that I had kept since 8th grade. They didn’t have anything but a size large, and I remember rolling up the sleeves when I wore it that year. The guidance counselor at my junior high had a program called “peer mediation”. Junior high kids have a lot of hormones and some get into a lot of fights. When this happened at school, the culprits could choose to meet with the vice principal or participate in peer mediation. I was chosen to be a peer mediator, along with several other students. There was an even number of boys and girls, and we were a mix of nerds and cool kids who made decent grades. I think by now you know which side I fell on. We were trained in conflict resolution and given a notebook of prompts to use in mediations. I loved it. I didn’t love much in junior high. It’s not a great time for most of us, I guess. But peer mediation was something I looked forward to, and not only because they paired me with the tallest boy as my co-mediator. I was able to talk calmly with students in a crisis of sorts and listen empathetically as each explained their side of the conflict. Then we collaborated to come up with a solution that would result in them avoiding detention and, hopefully, preventing future fights. I felt empowered and natural in this role. It energized me. It made me come alive.

This must be why I still had this shirt, though I never thought about it before. I can’t explain why it gave me so much satisfaction to make the connection between my middle school peer mediator career and my choice of graduate degree, but it was truly meaningful for me to remember where the spark started. Now, as a stay-at-home mom in my early thirties, I still rock my peer mediation shirt at the park now and then. I think most of us have more than one thing that makes us come alive, and this is just one of mine. I’m not working in social work right now, but you better believe I use those skills with my toddler. And here I am writing, practicing another one of my passions.

I want to encourage you to reflect back. Think about a what you’ve loved doing over the years. What are some things you have always been willing to work hard at because they bring you joy? Have you ever traced that path? You might be using your gifts in an unconventional way, but if you look closely, I hope you’ll see it.

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The back says “It’s a WIN/WIN thing.” 🙂 

Amen

I want to get better at prayer. I just finished Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, by Anne Lamott, and I basically wanted to take a highlighter to every page. Although I found myself identifying with a lot of her thoughts on spirituality, relationships, nature, etc., her ability to be in the moment was both convicting and inspiring. Lamott points out that being present is essential to prayer, and I agree…but my thoughts tend to bounce around more often than I’d like. When I take the Myers Briggs or StrengthsFinder or any other personality test, I am always described as having a “rich inner life” or an “active imagination”. This can be a good thing, but at times, it manifests as anxiety. My nature makes it difficult to be still (mentally). Maybe this resonates with some of you. I want to get better at prayer, in part, because I know it will make me better at life.

My mother-in-law had some time off between jobs for the first time in many years, and she came to stay with us for a month. Last week, she, my dad and I went to a beautiful nursery while the toddler was napping and my husband was working from home. We explored and asked questions and chose a few varieties of flowers to plant. IMG_0385FullSizeRenderIt was a perfect spring day, and we worked steadily through the afternoon—pulling weeds, raking leaves, spreading compost, sweeping mulch off the walkways and potting flowers. I left my phone inside. Ben woke up from his nap and joined us in the front yard, trotting around “supervising” and making commentary in toddler speak. I watched my dad and my mother-in-law enjoying him and smiled to myself. When we came inside I made iced tea, and we had it with leftover birthday cupcakes. I felt peaceful and invigorated and in the moment. That particular combination of atmosphere, activity and people really filled my soul with joy. It was a good day.

It’s important to remind ourselves not to aim for perfection. My goal shouldn’t be to live in the moment all the time, because that’s not going to happen. I have to give myself grace and celebrate good days and try to do more life-giving activities that make it easier for me to quiet my racing thoughts. Sometimes I look back with regret that I didn’t take advantage of an opportunity or appreciate the time I had with someone because I was distracted. Living in the moment, living prayerfully, means less regret and more peace. It means gratitude and awe. It means seeing beauty and potential in our messy, broken world.

At the end of the book, Anne writes,

“So we breathe, try to slow down and pay attention, try to love and help God’s other children, and—hardest of all, at least to me—learn to love our depressing, hilarious, mostly decent selves.”

Amen.

Oh Hey!

Over the past year, I have been humbled, surprised and honestly downright flabbergasted to see this blog continue to accumulate followers in spite of the radio silence. I’m thrilled if anything I’ve written here has resonated with you, and I appreciate you taking the time to read. I am admittedly not great at being disciplined and organized. I manage my life sufficiently well most of the time, but I look at bloggers who are churning out new posts several times a week with awe and amazement. I’m not sure how they accomplish that. I like a sporadic but steady rhythm of writing—as inspiration comes to me, and it feels really good to be writing here again after my long hiatus. I have a lot of ideas (always), but today I thought I’d share about what I’ve been doing this past year. I wrote this about two weeks ago when it was fresh on my mind…

This morning, I did the token walk out of an office building carrying a single box of picture frames and notebooks—the walk that indicates to passersby that your job has just ended. In this case, it was amicable, but I still felt a little sad. I left my full-time social work practice when my son was born. When he turned one, I started casually looking around for something part-time and remote. This job fell into my lap, and I am truly grateful for the almost year I was able to contribute to an organization I believe in AND be a stay-at-home mom.

When I found a job working fifteen hours a week, mostly from home, at a nonprofit (working in my field?!), I thought it was too good to be true. Social work doesn’t lend itself to remote work where I could log on during my toddler’s nap each day. I was literally going from MOPS, story time and playdates in yoga pants in the morning to serious, professional woman in the afternoon. I was living the dream, until they asked if I could increase my hours significantly. Turns out it was too good to be true, after all.

This is complicated road for women to navigate, and I think we each have to figure out what works best for our family dynamic, individual personalities, etc. I’ve known families with almost every possible combination of work and childcare divisions, and I’m glad to be parenting in this era when we are able to think outside of the box. What a gift to have choices! This is not something that I take for granted. For my little family, my very supportive husband and I both wanted me to be the primary care giver for our kids while they are small. Part of what makes this work for us is that we have a team mentality—when he gets home from work he changes diapers and entertains the child while I cook. We share household chores. He also works in the tech industry and has a lot of flexibility with his job.

I have loved getting to be there for my son. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was a big adjustment to become a mom and leave my job at the same time, and I was glad to have the opportunity to process all my big feelings about this at home like the introvert that I am. However, when we hit the one year mark, and my little angel was consistently napping three hours a day, I began to wonder if there might be a way for me to use my professional skills during this time. It sounded way more appealing than cleaning, and I could contribute financially to our household and feel good about that, too.

I had only just started looking when I got this job through some accidental networking, and I found myself swept up in a pleasantly busy rhythm of putting the baby down for his nap and opening my work laptop to correspond with volunteers, write grant applications and post agency happenings on various social media channels. One afternoon a week, I would meet my dad, who is semi-retired, for lunch, and he would transfer my son’s carseat to his car. Off they would go to play together until dinner. I would go to an office in professional clothes and fill my water bottle in the break room. I had meetings and planning sessions with my supervisor. I wrote the newsletter and negotiated for advertising and donations for events. In direct opposition to my mothering job, I felt productive and appreciated in concrete ways. When you accomplish something in your house, it’s likely that your toddler will soon destroy it. Also, they don’t give you performance reviews, no matter how much you nailed it this quarter. At my job, I conversed with adults and had a fancy title on my business cards. I had the opportunity to learn new skills and make some friends along the way.

I learned a lot about motherhood and about myself by dipping my toe back into the fast-flowing waters of the working world. Based on my experience and many, many conversations with friends, I’ve realized that becoming a mother instigates an identity crisis of sorts for most of us. This job lifted my professional confidence and got me out of that aimless funk. That is not to say that I have it all figured out. Oh, no, no…no. But I needed to be reminded that I can still be a professional woman. Working part-time suited me, and I relished the challenge of learning new skills—dusting off a part of my brain that hadn’t been used as much recently. I know myself well enough to know that three days in the office would have been too much, but I will look for something else. Being with my son brings me more joy than I can describe, but I like knowing that there are still other parts of me, too. After all, he won’t be this small forever.

My Word for 2016

In 2015, I focused on savor.  2014 was about the word grow.  2013 was a year to celebrate.  This year I’ve chosen the most challenging word yet.  I’m taking grow a step further and focusing on the word deeper.  To be honest, it makes me a little nervous.  I still feel some resistance to this word, but that’s how I know it’s the right one.  For my purposes here, deeper means trying harder, digging below the surface, being more intentional with my time and, really, whatever else God reveals to me this year.

Since it is already late March (ahem), I can talk about what deeper has looked like so far this year.  Here’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned.  One way I can go deeper this year is to get more organized so that I can invest time in worthy causes without giving up my peaceful home hours.  

I’ve had a tendency to be too guarded with my time, so as part of my effort to live out my word for the year, I’ve tried to step up my involvement in activities when an opportunity comes up. In February, I ending up helping to plan events for two different groups that I’m involved with in the same week, and I almost didn’t recognize my life with so little down time.  [Please note that I realize this is just a normal week for some of you.  I’m talking to you, extroverts.  :)]  I felt guilty that I wasn’t home much during the day because Ben’s nap schedule was suffering and frazzled without my quiet time in the house to regroup.  Both events went extremely well, and knowing that I helped make them happen was really satisfying.  While I don’t regret participating, I also learned that it’s okay if I need a couple of quiet hours at home most days.

So, this gets pretty detailed, but I need to be able to refer back to it.  In no particular order, here are some goals that have developed out of choosing the word deeper, and steps I’m taking…

Get organized and balance my time

Steps Taken:

  • Drawing inspiration from women who have a routine or structure that is working well.  There are so many great ideas out there in the blog and podcast world, in addition to real life examples, of course.
  • Committing to some weekly routines like MOPS/Bible Study and story time at the library.
  • Being diligent with bed time and nap time for the baby.

Steps to Take:

  • Consider trying a bullet journal.
  • Try to structure time when Ben is sleeping so that I’m using it more effectively.

Go deeper spiritually

Steps Taken:

  • Joining a Bible study.
  • Attending church ladies’ retreat.
  • Having more consistent Bible reading time with my husband.  **work in progress

Steps to Take:

  • Embrace the renewed urgency I feel to deeper in my relationship with God and be prayerful and open to where he will lead.
  • Be fearless when he opens a door I might not have expected.

Build skills at home

Steps Taken:

  • Learning every day how to be a mom to this rapidly growing baby boy.IMG_0926
  • Repainting the cabinets in our guest bathroom!
  • Doing more reading and less TV watching, which makes me feel better about life.
    • TV is not an inherently bad thing, but it can become too time-consuming and even harmful to our spirits, in some cases.  When Parenthood and Parks and Recreation ended, for example, we didn’t replace them with new shows.  Now my beloved Downton Abbey has ended, too, (sigh) and the timing is good.  I’m getting a lot of book recommendations and making more frequent trips to the library.  My little guy is finally old enough for story time!  I cannot even describe the joy this brings to my inner literary nerd.  Libraries are a happy place.
  • Exercising most days
    • Right now that means a fast-paced walk with the stroller on the trail system near our house.  I love it and so does my boy.  This falls into the spirituality category, too.  It’s easier for me to find peace and connection with God when I am outside breathing fresh air and taking in natural scenes of trees and hills, etc.  It’s a win win.
  • In the kitchen— .
    • I made my own chicken broth. You know what?  It really does taste better.  🙂  It is definitely labor intensive, but one thing I love about cooking is how it reminds us that good things are worth waiting for.
    • I’ve enjoyed making food for Ben these last few months as well.  My personal favorite is sweet potatoes with applesauce and a pinch of cinnamon.  Que rico!
    • I’m finding some favorite meatless recipes for us, and I try to do a meatless meal at least once a week.
  • Trying to be more hospitable.
    • We love hosting family and friends for gatherings, whether special meals or just people stopping by.  We have done some of that already this year, and I’m really looking forward to some overnight guests coming up, too.

Steps to Take:

  • Get better at cleaning.
  • Make more progress on the long list of culinary endeavors I hope to tackle.
    • From scratch bread, yogurt, ranch dressing, some recipes from my fancy books, etc.
  • Start practicing yoga again.
    • I’ve heard about a great yoga YouTube channel, and I would like to start utilizing that to work on strength.
  • Take on more home improvement projects.
    • More painting, fireplace, yard…
  • Invest more time in writing.
  • Find more ways to be hospitable.

It should be an interesting and rewarding year, and I appreciate the accountability of being able to talk about my one word in this space.  Can any of you relate to the challenges I’m laying out for the year?  I would love to hear your experiences and any wisdom you have to offer.

Looking Back on My Word for 2015

I never wrote about my word for 2015, although I did choose one.  It was probably the most emotional, life-changing year I’d have thus far.  I didn’t write much at all in 2015, because I was busy living life as fully as I could.  I was tired with the pregnancy and, later, with a new baby, so I focused the energy I had on simply trying to savor my experiences.

Savor was, in fact, my word, and it fit the year perfectly.  It’s defined as “to give oneself to the enjoyment of.”  (dictionary.com)  I was not always successful, but choosing this word to focus on really helped me remember that I was in a sacred season.  I tried not to judge myself based on the standards we have in our culture for being “productive”.  I spent a lot of time holding my baby.  20150412-DSC_2611I tried to savor the awe I felt over this miracle God had done through my body instead of waiting impatiently for it to heal and shed the extra pounds I’d gained.  I even enjoyed the quiet of being home with Benjamin during the day.

I became a student of this little person and tried to learn everything I could about him.  We played music and cuddled, and I had many one-sided conversations and dance parties with him as he peered up at me.  Later, he began responding with meaningful coos and babble.  I watched him grow like crazy.  We went for walks on the trail near our house every day while I listened to podcasts.  Oh, how I savored (and still savor) our walks.  I love that he insists on fresh air and exercise every day.  My little outdoorsman.  IMG_0071-1In 2015, he learned new things each week or so, and it felt like I was constantly packing away darling little outfits that he only wore a handful of times.  I took a lot of pictures and videos and sent them to Bryan at work and to our families, sometimes.  I allowed myself to rest when I had an opportunity.  I started to enjoy cooking again!  It was like reconnecting with a beloved old friend.  I soaked in the joy of giving our families their first grandson/nephew/great grandson.  Watching them with Ben is pretty great.  IMG_0177I marveled at the fall leaves in our new neighborhood and took in a few sunsets with my sweetheart.  We started planning date nights and cherishing that quality time together.  I enjoyed my family’s first visit to Costa Rica and spent my birthday at one of my favorite places there.  Talk about savoring…IMG_0411

Even amidst all the adjustments—the sleep deprivation, leaving my job and figuring out new ways to interact with other adults, what it means for my identity to not be in the professional world right now, learning to breastfeed, having someone who is completely dependent on me, trying to balance our time and energy so that we’re still taking care of our marriage, changing our budget, feeling vulnerable in a way I had never experienced before…—even in processing ALL of this, it was an incredibly sweet, joyful time that I will always look back on with deep gratitude.

Now we are barely into the new year, but when I reflect on 2015 a lot of it feels almost like a beautiful, crazy dream.  I’m so glad that I choose savor for this past year, and I want to continue this practice.  I hope you will do some savoring of your own, too.  I will leave you with this song that helped define 2015 for me.  It was played often in our house and car.

My next post will reveal my word for 2016.  Grace and peace to you all.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
-Robert Frost

I love this poem, and I always think about it this time of year.  It’s haunting and wistful and dreamy.  Some people say that Texas doesn’t have four seasons.  I think autumn here is just so fleeting that it’s easy to miss.  The temperatures do start to dip and the leaves do change to glorious shades of orange, red and gold.IMG_0329 copy  Everyone seems to walk with more vigor.  We’ve survived the long, hot summer, and the promise of the holiday season is in the air.  We start to cook with more cinnamon and nutmeg and smile at every pumpkin we pass.  It just lasts a few weeks and then fades discreetly into Christmastime.

This autumn’s had a different meaning to me as a new mom.  I love so much about being a parent thus far, but I have to say that one of my favorite aspects of this journey we’ve just begun is watching our son discover the world.  You always hear that they grow and change so rapidly, and that has certainly been confirmed by our experience.  When we left the hospital with our newborn the day before Easter, I tried to fathom the idea that this was Benjamin’s first time outside…ever.  He was breathing fresh air, seeing the sky (sort of), hearing birds and cows.  The wonder I see in his eyes, the complete trust…it just blows my mind.  In the span of two weeks he learned to sit up, started forming and repeating new sounds and tried solid food for the first time.  He rolls across the room in seconds, and each time we go somewhere new his eyes get big and his head darts around, scanning his surroundings.  He’s learning how to wave and chuckles when people engage with him.  He grabs absolutely everything he can reach.  He’s soaking in this great big world.  IMG_0404 copyThis time as the cooler temperatures hit and the leaves started to change, I thought about 2015 coming to an end.  2015, the year of Benjamin’s birth; it’s almost over.  Last year at this time, I was feeling him kick against my hand on my belly and dreaming of seeing him in footsie pajamas.  

Lately that Amy Grant song has been playing in my head, “Oh how the years go by…”  It’s romantic to mourn the loss of something while you still have it because you love it so much that you dread letting go.  But that’s not how I want to live when it comes to being a mom.  My little heart can’t take it.  I’m practicing gratitude to combat this feeling of loss.  It’s my motherhood mantra of sorts.  Instead of ugly crying when my son grew out of his newborn clothes, I tried to remember that some babies are sick and don’t grow.  I made myself focus on my gratitude for a healthy, growing boy.  This really helps me cope.  Please don’t hear me saying that any sadness over our babies growing up is bad.  Not at all.  A therapist once came to speak to one of my social work classes, and she said something that stuck with me.  How you feel is never wrong.  It’s good and healthy sometimes to let the sadness wash over us for a little while. But it would be easy for me to err on the side of being too brokenhearted.  When I look back on my life, I don’t want to feel as though I wasted my babies’ childhoods feeling sad that they couldn’t stay small longer.  We only get one shot at raising them.

This practice of changing my perspective and focusing on gratitude as my little boy grows from infant to baby to toddler and beyond…well, it’s helping my heart to stay peaceful.  It feels holy.  I’m able to do a better job of enjoying the positive things about the phase we’re in.  I know I have a lot of difficult and wonderful parenting experiences ahead, and I have SO much to learn.  So, right now I’ll enjoy the otherworldly beauty of his little face when he falls asleep in my arms.  And later I’ll be thankful for his ability to use words to tell me what’s bothering him so that we can work on a solution.  Someday, Lord willing, I’ll look up to my son, and I’ll take joy in that.  Autumn doesn’t last long and babies grow up fast, but there is always something else good to look forward to and plenty to give thanks for in the midst of change.  I’m clinging to that truth more than ever this year.  Nothing gold can stay.  Indeed.

Guest Post!

Good morning, all!  I am excited to be sharing an article I wrote for Hello, Dearest this month.  Hello, Dearest is the blog for MOPS International–an awesome group of moms that have blessed me so much already with their encouragement, funny stories, advice, organizational/craft skills, playdates and general willingness to share this crazy adventure.  If you’re a mom (even a newbie like me) and you have the time, I would definitely encourage you to find a local chapter and check it out.  More information can be found on their website, and HERE is the link to my article, entitled “The Goodness of Shared Wisdom”.  I talk about my reaction to the advice I got during my pregnancy.  Don’t worry, it’s not a complaining post.  🙂  I’d love it if you would click on over.

Six Months of Awesome

I’m having a hard time writing about motherhood.  It’s too much.  I feel all of the things (mostly intense joy).  Also, the “mom brain” phenomenon that I heard about has hit me hard, and I’m not my most articulate self lately.  I’m not so much with the words.  It’s sad, but I’m hopeful that it won’t be a permanent condition.

Our sweet boy turned six months old last Friday in the midst of two weeks of travel and hosting and babysitting, so now I sit down to write about this milestone…and I just…there are no words big enough to describe my thoughts on this subject.  Benjamin is feisty and social and hilarious.  He loves to snuggle but he also loves to move. He is as wild as his hair would suggest and as sweet as his smile would indicate.  He sleeps like a champ and eats as though he’s certain each feeding will be his last.  He’s very verbal and laughs a lot.  He is DETERMINED.  He has a wide range of dramatic facial expressions.  He loves to grab everything in sight (his favorite is having two fistfuls of someone’s hair).  He fights naps because he doesn’t want to miss anything.  He loves music and the great outdoors.  His eyes light up when he’s in a new place or has a new experience (most recently starting solid foods).

He has the ability to completely wear us out, but he has brought us more joy than we ever could have imagined.  Benjamin has taught us so much about our Creator.  Bryan and I are so thankful for this beautiful, vivacious boy and humbled that God chose us to be his parents.  And since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are a few that express the past six months a bit better than I can…

*Note:  The pictures on the striped rug are his monthly pictures, starting with 1 month old.

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