The fog

IMG_1580My boys are so precious…so beautiful to me, but a lot of the time I don’t see them through the fog in my own mind. Many of my days look like this picture – a million focal points in-between them and me.IMG_1585Rushing around to make plans, to take care of a home, to brush my own teeth…maybe some make-up too – check email, check email again…answering one or two. “Sweet-boy, could you please please go play with your train set, or your Daniel Tiger figurines, or any of your other gazillion toys…mommy has work to do – just give me five minutes.” The sweet boy mostly doesn’t listen; he mostly always claws his way onto my lap with tears and bangs my keyboard, driving me crazy. This morning I gave in…very reluctantly…it took me 90 minutes (90 minutes!!! That’s a lot of whining folks!) of fighting for me time to realize it wasn’t worth it. I wasn’t going to win. I read all the stories and attempted to build a train track, (seriously that is and should always remain Jerrod’s department), but the tug towards the million other things I needed/wanted to get done remained.

Last night I put our youngest to bed and less than 2 hours later he was up, needing me. I huffed and puffed my way upstairs, totally annoyed. I picked him up from his crib, cuddled him to my chest, and with a ton of bricks it hit me – I get to be his mama…I get to be HIS mama. I cuddled him longer than I needed to, his tiny fingers wrapped around mine. I get to be his mama…

It’s those moments where my world just stops. It’s those moments where I question everything that fills my head on a moment-by-moment basis…the fog.

Why is it such a fight to be present? Is it just me? I’ve been pondering and praying and there is just no easy answer. It’s not realistic to always drop everything and play with my boys. There actually are a million things I need to accomplish. Is it as simple as scheduling time to be intentional? I don’t think so…when they need me and when I want to be needed rarely line up. Ultimately, it’s not even good for them to always have my attention…they need to learn to entertain them selves, to play for play’s sake. But I can’t always ignore them, nor do I want to. It’s a daily struggle and the right choice for one moment is likely different than the right choice for the next moment. Parenting, we’ve found, is not a “If A, then B.” But seriously – that would be way easier.

What I do know is that I want to keep fighting…I want to get better and better at recognizing the moments when I need to be still, when I need to play, when I need to get down on my hands and knees and dig in the dirt – reliving my own childhood through theirs. I want to study my oldest child’s hands, watch his facial expressions, learn the way he processes life – to see life the way he sees it. If I don’t learn this with him, I’ll miss his brother’s childhood completely.IMG_1572IMG_1566IMG_1595Mom’s joke that when we play with our kids, time stands still. We glance at our watches and Can.Not.Believe that only 10 minutes have passed. 10 minutes? Those 10 minutes felt like 2 hours of chase, 2 hours of reading stories, 2 hours of digging in the dirt…but it was only 10 minutes. 10 minutes that meant the world to them. I will keep fighting for those minutes.IMG_1607My sweet boy…so beautiful to me.

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Note Cards…

IMG_1472There is nothing like a hand-written note card from a friend, is there? At least not to me… For as long as I can remember I’ve loved to receive notes from friends…I also love to write notes, and to this day still have a note-card fetish…. hand soaps, note-cards, nail-polish must match the season, etc…as a friend so graciously pointed out to me yesterday, “You have a lot of quirks.” At almost 32, I’m finally embracing them.

In middle school notes were written during class, obviously… Didn’t every middle school class weigh popularity by the number of notes in your pocket at the end of the day?

In high school they were written in the midst of conflicts with friends… long, long, longgg notes. Writing thoughts down made it possible for my friends and I to process, to see differing opinions, to discuss. In person it was more difficult, emotions were heightened…it rarely ended well.

In college notes were used for encouragement. My roommates and I would leave notes for each other to make plans, to keep in touch (so sad since we lived together, but college was busy!). We also wrote notes to get each other through and over break-ups. One friend in particular always wrote me notes along with new underwear… is that weird? Typing it now it seems weird, but at the time it was my most favorite thing ever. I love her! Friends are amazing aren’t they?

In grad school notes were still a thing, and were often combined with mixed-CD’s (gotta love those! I still call them my love language…another quirk?). Grad school was awful for the most part and music got me through. I still have a “Science Sucks Mix” – by far a favorite from a friend…a friend that got me through some of the roughest times of my life. After Jerrod and I met we passed a lot of cards back and forth…some more creative than others, and often combined with music. He made me my “I love this song!” CD. It contains every song he’d heard me exclaim “I LOVE this song!!!” to when it came on the radio over the course of 3-4 months…dating months. It was a long CD…apparently I have a lot of songs I LOVE. He has a wizard-like memory…it’s scary amazing.   Not so amazing when he has trouble forgetting my many faults, sigh, but amazing none-the-less.

When did texting become a thing? I forget, but sometimes wish I could go back to the pre-texting days, because hand-written notes are just so lovely. And, I love receiving actual mail…not bills (duh), not credit card offers (seriously…could they just stop?), and definitely not welcome to the neighborhood now please use our services…aaarrggg!

Currently…in real life as I like to call it, note cards are fewer and farer between. We have instant access to our friends through text, Facebook, Instagram…you name it. Now we send notes to say “thank you,” to send condolences, to say we’re sorry. It’s so rare that we get a completely random, out of the blue, hand-written note. But…

I got one in the mail today. It made me happy. So happy. She said it made her think of me. Sunshine does make me high…she was spot on. I felt Known. Loved. Happy. Thank you.IMG_1479

Milestones

IMG_1390So can we talk about baby feet for the next 10 minutes?  I mean seriously!  Jerrod just text to say that he couldn’t make it home early and my response was, “That’s ok…I just spent the last 30 minutes taking pictures of little man grabbing his feet…#fortheblog” !!!  Now that I think about it…big bummer – I like having him home early, but at that moment…BABY FEET!

IMG_1356Our youngest found his feet just yesterday.  He’s a little less than 4 months, so he’s following in his brother’s footsteps, quite literally, when it comes to this milestone.

He was on his changing table when I saw him grab his feet for the first time.  I immediately sent a text to Jerrod.  “He found his feet!!”

IMG_1349I caught myself thinking, holy cow I can’t believe I noticed the first time he grabbed his feet. I needed proof…hence the text, I noticed! He’s the 2nd child and I still noticed! Thank you Lord for causing me to be present in this tiny moment. In all honesty, I can’t believe I even was in the room for this. Mornings are crazy around here, some more than others.

The blessing of seeing our youngest grab his feet for the first time (please no one point out the fact that this could have been the 10th time, and I may have just missed the first 9…shhhhhhh) made me think about what led to this milestone. There was almost 4 months of growing, strengthening, hand/eye coordination, etc. 4 months is light-years in babyland. And judging by the way he started grinning when I started clapping and smiling and jumping up and down, it must have meant a lot to him that I was there to notice…that I celebrated.

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(Taking the focus off the babe for 1 second…Target definitely got the best of me today..throw pillows!  A bird pillow, really Steph?…Help! just kidding, don’t help).

IMG_1425We work so hard for small changes…let’s share them.  Let’s celebrate them!  I am so thankful for the milestones I notice…the milestones I am present for.

Messes…

IMG_1171I am a walking contradiction – just look at this desk!  It’s no wonder my son does things like smash pieces of bread into water bottles (gross!) and leave toys everywhere.  Jerrod gently reminds me to teach him to pick up after himself…it’s getting better…but I’m more of a “freak out and clean everything all at once” type of mom…we call it MANIAC-ing.  Interrupting me during this process is an at your own risk endeavor… even Jerrod has learned to tread lightly –  “How much longer will you be maniac-ing? And, could I maybe ask you something at some point?”

My brain is so much happier in a clean space – a picked up house.  I maniac by myself at the beginning of naptime every afternoon… but for some reason it doesn’t extend to this desk.  Is it sacred space?  Maybe I like it this way because I know where everything is amongst the mess?  If you figure me out could you let Jerrod know?  It drives him crazy.

We had company over on Sunday.  I had finished maniac-ing, but the desk still looked like this (it’s in our living room by the way – an important fact to know as to why any of this even matters).  Jerrod: “I thought you were going to clean off the desk?”  Me: “I never said that,” completely unphased.  Jerrod ended up cleaning it off…it looked amazing, but one day later…he really shouldn’t have bothered.

On a sentimental note – this desk is filled with life – the things that my life, our life – consists of lately.

Home Depot receipts…too many to count…seriously do we live there or something?

Camera and camera cords…one of my motivations for this blog was to force me to consistently take pictures, and get BETTER at it.  I have 6 friends who are professional wedding/family photographers – they are a wealth of information.  I have no excuses.

A very fuzzy sleep schedule for my youngest…I’ve been going crazy lately trying to figure him out.  It’s not just the picture that’s blurry…it’s everything about what he needs and when he needs it that’s blurry to me.

IMG_1175A textbook on essential oils…I’ve been dabbling a bit, and feel the need to understand the biological processes they affect.  It’s the skeptical scientist in me.

My brain…I mean my computer.  Enough said.

A tiny bowl for my afternoon ritual of eating chocolate chips.  I keep buying them for baked goods but they mostly always get eaten before I get around to baking…Aldi chocolate chips – way TOO good.

IMG_1180Scribbled notes from a conference call…I somehow function as a stay at home mama while working part time.  I don’t think I’m fooling anyone…

A basket full of Christmas cards from our dear family and friends…Very thankful for all of them- I look at these every so often.

IMG_1105A sign that touches my heart – Words we try to live by in our home: “Live simply…the most important things in LIFE are not things.  Speak kindly, give generously, help others, say your prayers.  Thank God for what you have.  Always be grateful.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart.”

If I dug around a bit more I could find dozens more papers/objects that say something about our life.  I’m kind of a nosey person (I like to think it’s in a good way…a caring way…).  Messes tell us something about the people in our lives…I’d love to know what’s covering your desk lately!

Abundance…

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See these plants? I met a wonderful woman in a parking lot yesterday.

Her husband passed away, she said. “I’m downsizing.” We exchanged words, glances, my heart ached for her. Into my hands from hers she placed 5 large houseplants, one at a time.   Before I could even ask she talked about how to care for each one – gentle instruction. She watched me place them in my vehicle – skeptical that I could fit them all amongst my jogging stroller and 2 children, hesitant even.

I reassured her of the space we had for them, that I would care for them, that I was grateful for them.

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One at a time I carried them into our home, placing them carefully in a temporary resting spot in our dining room. With each plant I counted my blessings – overwhelmed at the abundance that she provided, at no cost, to a stranger she’d never met. You see – it’s not just these plants – it’s everything.

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From the very first time I stepped foot into this house – now our home – I knew I loved it – it felt like home. It’s a 1920’s colonial and was desperately in need of love and care – a fixer-upper to put it lightly. I was standing in the doorway of the 3-season room when the first teardrop fell. Really God? If this is why no other home worked out (house hunting had been a process), then pinch me now. “Pretty-pretty please God?” I timidly whispered.

We prayed – relinquishing control, put in an offer an hour later, and it was accepted that night. Whaa??

Our home is far from finished. We joke that my gift for the next 10 or more (maybe forever) birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmases will be him “making our house into a home.” Knowing the dedication and skill that this has required – I won’t complain (ok…maybe just a little).

So back to the plants – Never mind my lack of green thumb, I knew I needed to find a way to fill the 3-season room with life. I planned to beg my beautiful friend for help (see previously post :-)). I never expected that a stranger would hand me 5 full-grown houseplants. I never could have imagined the help we would receive from our friends and neighbors – the random and beautiful and necessary timing of it all. One random provision after another – we were cared for, ever so abundantly.

It’s surreal to sit in our living room and think – over there, right there, is where my first tear fell – with a heart full of understanding that everything random isn’t random at all…

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On feeling less than…

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See this plant? It’s a beautiful reminder of a girlfriend…her gifts, her green thumb, her ability to create beauty…all of which I can appreciate.

Appreciating the gifts of others – rejoicing in their strengths – isn’t something that was always easy for me.

Many years were filled with an indescribable longing to have all the gifts; the need to measure up, to fit in, to be the same

Was this insecurity? Perhaps – I hid behind that term at the time. Was it selfishness? Ouch – really?? Was it pride? Lately I’ve been processing the fine line between insecurity and pride…in my own heart it’s barely a line – maybe no line at all.

I had an inability to appreciate the gifts of others because they were gifts I didn’t have… OUCH again. Slowly and painfully, but surely, I’m learning these lessons…connecting the dots…

Comparison breeds insecurity

Insecurity fosters an intense focus on SELF

Self-focus stems from a heart of PRIDE 

This need to have all the gifts prevented me from truly being able to rejoice in the successes and gifts of others. And man, was I ever missing out!

See this plant? I essentially begged for her to help me. Sprout it for me…plant it for me (no seriously, I handed her the pot and ran the other direction!). Where should I place it? (she picked the spot). How do I keep it alive?…Help!! It’s wonderful to ask these questions without feeling like I should already know the answer – without feeling less than.

The women in my life are AMAZING. It’s not just their obvious gifts – it’s also the way they love people, the way they’ve loved me. I’m beyond thankful they exist. Why did I spend so many years feeling the need to be the same? The differences are beautiful…THEY are beautiful.

Can we look at others and acknowledge, “I’m thankful YOU exist – that YOU were created with those gifts”…even when it means acknowledging that we weren’t? I hope so. Let’s not waste another minute.

 

When social media hurts…

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There was a time in my life when I couldn’t even open Facebook. I was trapped in the middle of grad school (And I do use the word trapped quite literally. In general I believe in the power of choice, but I actually did try to quit a few times and it never worked out for me…ha! What kind of person doesn’t “succeed” at quitting?).

Anyways – I was trapped, had been married for a few years, and really wanted a baby. Every time I opened Facebook it felt like a smack in the face.

Baby pictures everywhere – family photos everywhere – complaining mothers everywhere. The baby pictures and the family photos would make me smile. Twinges of sadness at the joy I wasn’t experiencing, yes – the longing to have my arms, which felt so empty, filled, but I could be happy for the friends I cared about – most of the time (let’s be honest). However, the complaining mothers everywhere made me ANGRY. Being an empathetic person, I could understand that their days were difficult, some more than others, but for the LIFE of me, I couldn’t figure out why they were complaining. I would have given anything to have to change 12 poopy diapers in 1 hour (or whatever it was at the time). I would have given anything to feel frumpy, to have my body change – those changes meant pregnancy. To wake up early day in and day out, to have my home look like a disaster, all the things parents get annoyed by – I wanted them all because they meant motherhood.

This longing for a baby came in waves…sometimes I was fine, sometimes I wasn’t, and out of that struggle, 2 things have stuck with me –

  1. I never want to be a complaining mother. I want to remember how complaining hurts. Children are always a gift.
  1. Trapped in the ugliness of grad school (looking back I can almost comfortably call it character development) I was using a baby as a reason to escape. A baby meant that I could just quit and stay home, right? Out of one side of my mouth I was calling a baby a gift, but out of the other side I was calling motherhood an answer. I was very convicted that I was manipulating a life that hadn’t even been created yet. My children HAVE changed my life, but I should have let them be born first before I started projecting how they would help me or change me or bless me. (Way too much ME).

I tell my boys every day (actually I sing it, but that’s a different story), “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:24). My 26-year-old self needs to know that my 31-year-old self is not complaining, being authentic – yes, but authentically not complaining (harder to do). I don’t always succeed, but I pray for my heart. I pray for my heart to be grateful – filled with thanksgiving.

Our youngest decided that 5:26 am was rise and shine time…all bright eyed and bushy tailed. I managed to snap a blurry picture because I remembered how my 26-year-old self felt. Even when I really don’t want to get out of bed, I am forever grateful for the reasons I do.

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When plans get cancelled…

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This morning our plans got cancelled last minute….A very few short years ago this would have thrown me into a tizzy, the ever type A. But instead here’s what happened –

Oh, hmmm…ok I have free time this morning.

More coffee in the coffee pot for me! Ha!

Ug…my toddler will now likely be very needy of me (not a bad thing, well sort of a bad thing….let’s just call it a thing).

How can I fix this time?  Should I bundle the boys up and take them to Home Goods? (tell me I’m not alone…).  Our mantle is in some serious need of decorating, not to mention the rest of our home, but no, no, this is not a good solution.  It’s cold, and I don’t have a plan yet – meaning I will just wander aimlessly around the store with a very glazed over expression.  Not a good combination (read: disaster) when a toddler and an infant are vying for my attention (more on planning for decorating later).

Fighting the urge to fill the time. growth. Accepting that downtime is productive too. growth. A willingness to do nothing special but everything special at the same time. growth.

A decision to get out my camera and capture some shots of the kiddos. Our oldest, just last night, learned how to smile big on request…we’re in trouble.  Our youngest now rolling over, say whaa?IMG_0831

A decision to ignore my phone completely for the next 2 hours – choosing to see this extra time as a gift.  I succeeded by the way – not a given.

Books read, play dough everywhere, and a fashion show featuring my toddler while trying to organize his clothes for the next 2 years (Facebook FSOT groups have become my lifeblood). And, sorry hon, I did just call it a fashion show

Learning to lean in to a normal day rather than fight against it…everyday is beautiful, right?

How do you respond when plans are changed last minute? Can we choose to see the time as a gift…perhaps the way it was always meant to be?