My tan lines are fading fast, time to relive our vacation via a blog post! The first few days home were an adjustment to say the least. Whew! Seriously, peeing alone for four days and not having to mediate one sibling fight… that kind of freedom is hard to recover from. 😀
We stayed at the Casa Marina Waldorf Astoria Resort and I have to say, it was exceptional. I also have to say that we paid for it with our Hilton points! If we had to fork out actual dollars instead of hotel points we would have opted for a different hotel. This is a huge perk to Brenden’s hobby of making sure we have credit cards that give us the most return for our purchases.
We use the AMEX blue on groceries and get cash back on that until it caps out at the max allowed for the year and then we switch to the Hilton card where we get hotel points for every dollar we spend for the remaining of the year. The most bang for our buck comes from the blue card in the form of cash back so once that reaches its max amount allowed it’s pretty nice to have hotel points racking up on our Hilton card for the rest of the year.
It’s funny to see him geek out on all these details, but it turns out it really does make a difference and I’m so glad he spends time optimizing in this area! I can’t remember the last time we actually paid for a hotel room.
I did’t get any full front pics of the resort but it was beautiful.
Roosters and chickens strolled around like guests at the resort, which was so funny. Everywhere we went we heard clucking and crowing, and they seemed to be monogamous (or maybe that’s just me being a romantic?) Whenever I saw a beautiful rooster I would see a significantly less beautiful chicken with him, palling around enjoying their day together. They spent a lot of time scratching in the soil under the shrubs by the pool, digging up bugs for the chicks trailing behind them. They were all over the city too! The first night we went to Mallory Square to watch the beautiful sunset and experience the Sunset Celebration. It was beautiful! Then we walked a few feet away to the Hot Tin Roof for dinner.
The Yucka fries are what stands out the most in my memory. They were ammmmazing and served with a pesto dipping sauce which sounds weird but it was just so good. We also had the PEI mussels with grilled ciabatta, pork empanadas, crab cakes (which we found out had dairy in them so I didn’t eat any sadly) and I had the most refreshing delicious New Zealand Sauvignon blanc. The menus lit up!! Back-lit, people. Which made for a very cool ambiance as you looked around the restaurant.
The Hot Tin Roof is famous for its views and it did not disappoint! The post-sunset sky was stunning. After dinner we went down to the dock to see a Sublime cover band. Apparently they always have a big live entertainment event for the spring break crowd during this time of year. Let me tell you, we felt ollllld in that group. Happy but old!
Thursday morning we took a two hour jet ski tour around Key West. I was the one who wanted to do it! I was giddy and excited! I pictured us puttering around, maybe occasionally accelerating just to get a rush.. but no no no. This was sooo different.
We were FLYING full speed ahead. I reached 50 mph, not because I wanted to but because I had to speed to keep up with the rest of the tour! We were hitting huge wakes and I thought for sure I was going to flip my jet ski or fly off.
It seemed like everyone else was having a blast but I really and truly didn’t like it AT ALL. The only real moment I enjoyed was when we slowed down and got to play in the Gulf of Mexico where it was shallow and calm and I could see the bottom. (That’s where I got this picture of Brenden. When I was stress-free enough to pull my phone out of its waterproof case.) We did fun circles and got to play around instead of flying through the choppy water 50 mph. Seriously, no thank you.
Okay, enough about the darn jet skis.
One of our favorite places was Grand Vin. It’s a sweet place right off Duval street where you can buy a bottle of wine and sit outside, enjoy a glass and they will put your name on it and you can come back and enjoy the rest later! We had a bottle of wine there all week. It was a unique/fun feeling to go back to Grand Vin for “our” bottle of wine. 🙂 Next we had dinner at Nine One Five. I think this was my favorite restaurant of the trip. Click here to see the fans blowing the flowers above the tables. This was the exact view from our table and it was incredible! The ambiance, the beautiful smells, the food, the colors. It was just too wonderful. The address is 915 Duval Street, hence the name.
For a starter we had calamari and bacon wrapped asparagus. Called ‘Addictive Asparagus’ on the menu for a reason!
Brenden had the Seafood Soup which he said was delicious but I couldn’t taste it because it had cream in it. I had Pasta with Shrimp in a wine sauce. The pasta was made in house and it was to.die.for. The noodles literally melted in my mouth and tasted like no pasta I’ve had before. The next morning was Friday and I remember thinking, we still have three full days!! It was incredible to have that much time with my man in full relaxation mode. No responsibilities and not a care in the world. We never travel without the kids so having this much time together alone was just bliss.
I had so many naps… I told Brenden I didn’t know I was that tired and he said napping is my super power. I can nap on command, even if I’ve already napped twice that day, and it doesn’t even ruin my sleep that night. Yes, I’m proud of my cat-napping ability. It serves me well. 🙂
We heard we HAD to go to Latitudes Restauraunt. It’s on Sunset Key, a short ferry ride over Key West harbor. They were booked for dinner until May! Which was a good thing, considering I can’t imagine spending the $$$ to eat dinner there. Some locals joked that we should bring three wallets. So yeah, no thank you. We decided to go over for lunch, and it was delicious.
We had stone crabs caught that day.
I ordered a blackened fish sandwich and fries… I wish I had some of those fries right now!
Brenden had a fish and risotto dish. He said it was good but I couldn’t taste it because of the cream. All in all the food wasn’t anything to write home about. It was just some yummy fresh seafood. But the sights, the ferry over, the panoramic gulf views. The warm wind and scents from the flowers and trees. The atmosphere. All of that combined is why it’s worth raving about.
After lunch we took a walk around the Island. Sunset Key is a private island with adorable little houses and sweet picket fences with colorful flowers draping over every-which-way. We walked the entire island in about twenty minutes and loved the quiet atmosphere. No cars, just the occasional gulf cart. Peace and serenity.
The white sandy beach where we sat for lunch is apparently where those blissful Corona commercials are filmed! Makes total sense:
We took our time heading back and before we knew it, it was dinner-time. We got a recommendation from some locals for dinner:
I was seriously excited for some Cuban food!! Bring on the rice and beans! It was authentic, amazing, and just a taste of Cuba for real.
I got grilled chicken with black beans and rice and it came smothered with sweet plantains. Realllllly good. The portion of chicken could have fed a family of four which kind of turned me off considering I saw these birds in live action clucking around all day with their cute little chicks behind them. It’s okay… I value lean protein for fuel too much to be phased by this for long. So I enjoyed every bite.
Meanwhile Brenden had the slow roasted pork and was right in his element. There was a hot sauce on the table that was almost gone when we left. It was delicious, all of it!
One of my favorite discoveries on this trip was the watermelon juice. I found it at the hotel breakfast buffet and I was determined to recreate it for the kids as soon as I got home.
I would drink two glasses with breakfast and then take some to the pool with me for later. My version of it at home was not quite as good, sadly!
It was surreal spending so much time together with no distractions and no responsibilities. Wow. At home a two hour date night is a treat!! Here we had a date night every night… and all day. I mean, come on. Mom-life culture shock much?
The last night we decided to go to Sunset Pier to just see if they could accommodate us. We didn’t have a reservation and it worked out perfectly. We got a table right on the water and got to see the boats and the insane sunset.
We started dinner with some conch fritters. Mostly because I was curious!
They were okay. Kind of a weird texture… I detected some stringy-ness every now and then.
But my dinner was two-thumbs up. I mean three if I had three. I am a sucker for ribs. Ribs and coleslaw and street corn?? BRING IT ON.
Brenden got steak skewers and raved about his too.
We were so happy. And this was our view.
The next morning was Sunday, time to go home. We woke up in time for the sunrise for once! So glad we did. Four days was my limit. I loved every single moment of independent bliss but by night four I wanted to SWIM home to see my babies. I missed their little faces and non-stop noises and fighting and their very persons. I MISSED THEM.
That is what makes a vacation without kids so amazing…. there is such a contrast from vacation to mom life!
Sunday morning we went to Banana Cafe before taking the taxi to the airport. The herb and potato omelette hit the spot. I am so grateful to our incredible moms (and company!) who made the kid’s time so healthy and happy. They felt like they had a vacation too, I could tell when I got home! They were so full of love and joy and security. It was such a gift, to be able to relax with each other knowing our babies were happy and well cared for.
There’s something so beautiful and personal about a family dynamic, whether it be big or small. Here are some reasons, (7 to be exact) we are a family of “only” two kids.
1) Two is a lot. Sure, three is more than two, and four is more than three, and five is more than four. But two is still a lot. One is even a lot. We are talking about human beings here. Humans, who for the rest of our lives will be intimately connected with us and involved with us. Read: Effort and selfless work. And joy and fun and laughter, yes, but effort and selfless work nonetheless. Just because some families have ten kids doesn’t take anything away from the fact that two is still a lot.
2) It’s okay to want two. I remember telling my therapist a while ago that I didn’t feel called to have a big family and I felt a lot of guilt about it, like I should want more kids. I mean, wasn’t that the “godly” thing? Shouldn’t I be selfless and sacrificial in this area to the extreme?
Women all around me were having more kids and it was difficult not to compare myself to them. Why could they handle more than me? Why did they want more responsibility than me? Was it a deep and telling deficiency that I had? Did it mean I had less love to give? So many questions and insecurities pop up when we compare ourselves to others. We are not everyone else! I am me and they are them. God made us different for a reason. I’m embracing the crap out of that.
3) Children are a lot of work. My parents had three more babies after I was in my teens so I spent a lot of time with amazing/hyper/sweet little kids all around me. Even being intimately involved in that beautiful chaos didn’t prepare me for the emotional, spiritual, and physical work that goes into each one when they are your own.
4) I know my limitations. I want to be of actual use to my community, my family, and my world. I want to have the capacity to foster children in the future or be children’s advocate in court (CASA) or maybe even adopt? I know if I continue to grow our family from my own body I will be tied up with little time and energy for anything else. I want to create time and space in my life to be available and capable.
5) I’m thinking about my marriage. Yes, having another child would mean more richness when they are older and even more grandkids for us to enjoy later (yay!!) but it also would mean more stress on our marriage overall. (See #3.)
It’s no secret that babies add stress to a marriage. The lack of sleep, the hormones raging and dipping, the fear of my baby suddenly just ceasing to exist. (Why do they have to be so fragile for the first few months??) And then there’s pregnancy…. I’m a tyrant when I’m pregnant, and that’s being gracious.
There’s something so sweet about having the time and energy for my husband that I simply wouldn’t have the luxury of if we added numbers to our crew. It would be there, under the surface, dormant and waiting to come out at some future time when things were calmer and the baby was older, but it would be pushed to the back burner. I feel like we have arrived in this area and it feels good.
6) Age is definintly a factor when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth. I know I don’t take the term “advanced maternal age” lightly. (Geez, could they come up with a more flattering name for women having babies in their late thirties?? How about “overly-ambitious” or “glutton for punishment”?)
7) Labor: I just can’t leave out the obvious… I don’t want to go through labor again. I chose to do it all natural, twice. And both times were the most intense, incredible, empowering experiences of my life. And I have no desire to do it ever again! There are babies who are already on this earth who need someone to love and care for them. That can be meeee!
I’d love to hear your story!
(Pictured: Michael and Brielle, ages two and four. Michael had a microscopic boo boo and was getting sissy’s sympathy.)
Watching Brielle deal with her Great Grandmommy’s death has been fascinating and painful. I’ll be be buckling her in her carseat and she’ll say, “Mommy when is great grandmommy coming back from heaven?” And I gather my resolve to answer yet another question. Because this one holds weight and consequence, un-like the previous five-hundred questions that morning. Well, except for this one:
“Is God shy?” No sweetie, He’s all powerful and mighty! “Well is He invisible then?” No sweetie, (well, sort of?)
“Well, why isn’t He HERRRE then??”
But the Great Grandmommy question… She’s asked it before. And every time my heart breaks when I tell her, she isn’t coming back, we are going to see her… And she is so much happier where she is, with great-granddaddy… And Jesus… And will be even happier when she sees us!
Then with her 4.75 year old wisdom, Brielle continues…
“But mommy, it will take forever to see great-grandmommy then. I have to have white hair to get to heaven. And I still have to be a kid. And then I have to be a parent. And I’ll miss her so much until I’m old.”
And it cracks my heart in half and takes my emotions to a new heightened level that I didn’t know existed.
What do I say now? The words choke in my throat. They feel so unnatural as I speak them to her huge eyes staring back at me. I say some things out loud and I think some things internally, not even sure what I should say at all:
Just be happy and live your life and savor the memories of your great-grandmommy. Your heart will grow to feel this less and less as the days pass. Your life will take on so much adventure and excitement that it will pass by in a blink. And… Not everyone goes to heaven when they are old and grey. Some people go to heaven when they are young and half-way.
That is the realization that caught in my chest last night as I lay in bed after a delicious day of loving on my babies. I’ve never feared death before. Well, I’ve feared getting caught in an elevator and flying on planes but I’m not sure I’ve ever thought the concept of “death” was as terrifying as the thought of being stuck in a metal box slash tube.
But last night I feared death. Hard-core and completely. Dark thoughts and crying. Because I wasn’t just fearing it for myself. I was fearing it for the little love of my life, who if I let my mind wander, would be sitting in her carseat asking whoever was buckling her in: “When is mommy coming back from heaven?”
The mind is a dark scary place. It is also a bright joyful place. I can choose to think thoughts that are life-giving or think thoughts that are depleting and paralyzing.
Last night I chose to watch the shows in my mind that were soul-sucking and depleting. And I couldn’t find the remote control to turn the channel. I remember doing this as a child too. Laying in bed, crying because my mom might die and leave me. Now I’m crying because I might die and leave my daughter. And I imagine her dealing with it. And it’s not hard to imagine, because I see how she’s processing her great-grandmommy’s death, and I add a trillion percent. And my soul and spirit and mind and heart get so spun up and out of control that I am shipwrecked on a dark shore.
Brenden lay next to me and told me “This isn’t healthy. You aren’t going to die. You are thinking the worst thought you can, and making it a reality in your mind.” Funny thing about anxiety, it’s not logical. So I keep crying.
I wish I had a recorder going for seventy-percent of our conversations. I would replay them over and over and write them down and keep them forever. Last night was one of those times and I can never do what he said justice. His words were balm to my soul. They calmed my spirit and I was able to sleep, the feeling of not being there for my baby in her darkest hour of need, gone.
If I allow anxiety into this area of my life it can and will lead down a destructive path. It will fester and breed, taking on new form and new depth. Anxiety is anxiety, no matter the flavor or category. This kind of anxiety is not somehow more honorable or courageous because I’m thinking about my daughter and her well-being. No, it’s still sin. Christ wants us to look forward in Hope, not dread and fear.
And only God is in ultimate control.
The pilot of the plane we will be boarding for Key West in March is not in ultimate control.
The driver heading toward me in the opposite direction going 60 miles an hour is not in ultimate control.
The doctors who care for me and try to keep my healthy are not in ultimate control.
I am not in ultimate control.
Control is a myth. No matter what I do to try to gain and maintain it, it is not attainable.
Only God is in ultimate control. And He wants me to find Freedom in that. And Trust. And Joy. Christ wants me to look forward in Hope.
This morning I sit here reliving all this. I’m having my coffee and feeling alive and refreshed. I feel a joyful surrender. It’s the kind of surrender that brings life and peace and is not of this world.
And I remember an old hymn that I haven’t thought of in years.
His oath, His covenant, and blood, Support me in the whelming flood. When every earthly prop gives way, He then is all my Hope and Stay. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand, All other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.
I’ve been thinking a lot about school lately. Brielle and all her little friends are slated to start kindergarten this Fall…
I told Brenden last night out of the blue: “I think I might want to try homeschooling.” He looked at me and blinked and said, “But you said, there is no way in hell I am ever homeschooling. Not once, but many many times.”
He’s right. We decided two years ago to send our then 2-year-old to public school when she was ready. We toured schools and then based our home-buying solely (literally solely) on that decision. We would never have chosen this home otherwise. I’m not sure either of us even “like“ this house. Poor house. It’s a split level brick house in a neighborhood where all the other homes look the exact same.
It’s a great neighborhood though. Family-friendly and safe. Deer wander through our backyard which is a great quality depending on if you want to keep plants or not; and we are walking distance to one of the better ranked public schools in the area.
Ever since she was three years old, whenever we drive past the playground I say “There’s your school and your friends!”
But so much for planning. Because now I feel another think coming. I feel equal parts dread and excitement at the thought of home-schooling.
I am no stranger to the feeling of crazy and loneliness and exhaustion that a day as a stay at-home-mom can bring. But I also am no stranger to the feeling of wanting what is absolutely best for my kids. And letting it fuel and guide me…
Brielle thrives at her now-preschool. She has the most perfect little block letters and writes as fast as I talk. “Mommy, how do you spell “Happy New Year.?” I start spelling: “H. A. P. P. Y. Space. N. E. W…” She writes adorable little letters. Usually going in the right direction. (I think writing from left to right occasionally instead of writing from right to left is a “leftie” problem??) Who knows.
And I love my me-time three mornings a week and our schedule. I’m excited about her little neighborhood school and our upcoming adventure there this Fall.
But just yesterday I started to hear a small-voice: “What is best for her.” Yes, she may thrive and do well after a bit of an adjustment with her new schedule and longer school days. But what is over-all best for her? And I find my mind wandering. I find myself reading homeschooling articles and researching curriculums. I find myself feeling equal parts dread and excitement.
Wish me luck. Just like everything in motherhood, there is rarely a decision that we make that is all tied up in bows. Comfort and pros. No matter what we decide there will be a lot of cons too. Such is life. But I am determined to do what is best for her to the best of my ability.
Ah what a week! Spurred on by the imagination and ingenuity (and straight crazy) of these little minds around me.
I feel like this is a stage of life where there is so much to contemplate and express and it’s also the stage where there is absolutely no time to do so.
All I want to do is write (all caps: w.r.i.t.e.) about it all day long. But I don’t get the chance.
But here I finally sit.
Scanning my mind and thoughts for the beauty that was this week. The beauty that I savored and want to keep forever. The difficulty. The trying moments that came and went. Remembering it all. Summoning it and asking it to the surface.
Brenden has been gone since Monday. He doesn’t travel much anymore so when he’s gone it’s a huge deal. It makes me realize once again how amazing military wives/single moms/anyone who is alone with their kids are.
We went to the library and checked out a book showing exactly where he is. Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
The Capital of hipster-ness. Truly. Our favorite bakery is there, Sweethaus.
It was started in Charlottesville by two Brooklynites (Is that what they call themselves?) who moved back to Brooklyn to open a store there as well. We took this picture last year. I love this place for so many sweet reasons. So there have beens lots of “I miss Daddy”s this week. And today, with tears from Brielle, “I miss Daddy to the Galaxies and back.”
That’s kind of a big deal. We usually miss each other from “Brazil to India” or “New York to Africa” but to the Galaxies?? What does that even mean.
And then from Michael in the back seat:
Mommy I so hot turn on the heat. I so hoooootttttt!!!! Turn on the heat!
I rolled down the window hoping to distract/cool him down. In came the cool air.
Roll the window DOWN!! I cold!!!!!
All day every day.
Depending on my mood I will either laugh hysterically, because let’s be honest, kids are freaking halaruous if we have the sense of humor and sleep under our belts to enjoy them. OR I will sit with twitching eyelids as my body goes into shock. My nervous system shutting down; shock.
Thank God for the reintroduction of preschool this week. Oh preschool. Three weeks away from you is far too long. And last night my sister came over for dinner with her kids.
Older kids are heroes, just because they are. But older kids who are “cousins”?? Don’t even. This is one of my favorite pics of cousin love ever; from this past summer. Brielle made a “pig-naut” party-hat for Ivan. (Think “astronaut” in pig form.) It was a huge hit for the moms in the room. Namely me.
I mean, this is incredible. Sisters are built in best friends. And I am so grateful for mine. This was last year in the same NYC. What memories!
I’ve realized this week that a toddler who misses his daddy is the same as a toddler who thinks his daddy has deserted him; doesn’t love him anymore and all other negative/similar things either existing or imagined.
A toddler who misses his daddy doesn’t just “miss” his daddy. He thinks his daddy has abandoned and left him forever and for dead. And so of course his mom is going to leave too. Cue attachment anxiety.
This week I’m learning how Michael processes things. And it’s very different from how Brielle processes things.
Brielle says: mommy I miss daddy. Huge tears.
Michael says: Throw. stomp. rage.
He speaks in actions, and I’m not used to that, because I have a daughter who literally says things like, “Mommy, I’m jealous.” I don’t have to read her mind or her emotions. They are laid right out there for me. And I hope that doesn’t change.
Michael says more with his facial expressions and his throwing and stomping and biting (yes my kid bites) than his words ever do.
And it’s my job to interpret/read his emotions from his actions. Most of the time his horrible actions.
Yesterday I found myself in public saying: “you miss daddy don’t you.” As a response to him throwing trains. I love how as moms we feel the need to explain everything to everyone around us. Us poor moms.
Last night I was tired and running on empty. And I knew Michael was on empty too. He’s been dad-less for the past four days. No 5pm daddy coming in. No wresting and talks and star wars battles. No DADDA. Poor guy. You don’t just erase that part and still be okay 4 days later.
My kids are very different in what fills up their cups. Sometimes with Brielle it’s kisses all over her face and I feel her tank being filled and her security coming back. “Kiss me on my lips” brings a light to her eyes. “I love you THIS much.” Hands from here to here make her smile and warm inside. Sometimes it’s just lots of books and conversations. Connecting and talking. Communicating.
With Micael a lot of the time it’s tickling and wrestling and all the physical things Brenden is so good at. But he also loves talking about tomorrow. And what we did today. And praying. Which is amazing. I love that he loves praying.
Last night we read lots and lots of books. Lots of time on each page. Pointing to this and that. Not turning the page when I desperately wanted to be done. “That’s a grader. That’s a steam-roller. That’s an excavator. That’s a front loader.” Over and over. The details. The care. The time. It filled up his cup and he was happy.
The time I spend with my babies is what makes them feel secure.
And when they feel secure they go to sleep happy.
And when they sleep I sleep.
And we all wake up happy. And healthy. And then I can laugh at those harrowing/crazy conversations that only a toddler can create.
Time and attention. It’s priceless and more valuable than anything else on the planet. And it’s not an unlimited resource. Which is why I am so grateful that Brenden is on his way home.
Wow this post was all over the place! Kind of like our week.
Happy almost weekend and we are doing a hope-for-snow-dance over here! XOXO
Wow… In three years it will be “2020”. I will be in even-number-heaven. This year, however… 17??? Eeeew. I’ll get over it.
Because this is going to be an incredible year.
It will be a year of “Stripping Away.” I was going to say “balance” but what does balance really mean anymore? It’s such a beat-up word.
I think my scales are “balancing” a lot of the wrong things anyway… Half the things on my scales shouldn’t even be there. They just sort of accumulated over years of “yeses” internally and externally and suddenly here I am.
I want this year to be a year that tips the scales. To the side of scarcity, and quiet, and whatever is on the side of living and “being” with more intention and purpose, love and joy, and simple pleasures. Helping others, enjoying the quiet in-between moments that have become so scarce in my distraction-filled life.
I want this year to be the year where I create new scales on which a new balance is measured. A whole new scale. With individual items I place after much consideration.
I want to have less so I can enjoy what I have more.
I want the house to be less cluttered so I can play more and clean less. (That really is how it works.)
I want to live like I don’t have an unlimited amount of days/weeks/months and years.
I want to pray. Pray. PRAY. A lot more than I do.
I want to encourage my kids to be dreamers. And goal-oriented. Even little goals like leaning to whistle.
I want to continue to get to know myself. And spend time alone with myself. It’s so fun, who knew!
I want to help someone in the community. Really help. And I want the the kids to help too.
I want to discover God’s purpose for me in a deeper way. Past what I “think” He wants for me in this season, to what I KNOW He wants for me.
I want to be a better wife.
I want to have an easy laugh. Brenden says I already have an easy laugh… but I want to have an EASIER laugh. People who laugh make everyone around them so happy!
I will be more empathetic,
I will be less judgmental.
I will spend more time with my mom.
I will read more fiction.
I will have daily devotional time.
I will pray for my husband.
I will keep things in perspective.
I will work out and eat whole foods.
I will eat less sugar, and feed less to my children.
I will learn to embrace aging and the passage of time as a gift, not a negative thing to dread.
I am so so excited about this new year.
God, thank you for the privilege and blessing of being healthy and alive to see this New Year. I am so grateful for your provision and Grace.
This year is going to KICK ASS.
Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.
Today was a day I could actually HEAR Michael and Brielle growing.
Do you ever have days like that? Where your kids wake up and just look different?
Today Michael woke up from his nap and I swear his head looked bigger. This poor guy has a tough job ahead of him growing into this head. 🙂 Some days I go from start to finish without even thinking about how fleeting this stage of motherhood is. But today I was constantly in tune with the changing of the seasons, the slightly different/more mature way Brielle responded when I said certain things, the way Michael’s little chubby cheeks didn’t look quite so chubby.
It’s insane watching this happen. And when I get a quiet moment like right now, sitting at the end of Brielle’s bed while she stirs and tries to go to sleep, I let the emotion of it overwhelm me. Because it is so overwhelming.
It’s beautiful and sorrowful and happy and painful all at the same time. And I am thoroughly letting myself feel every single bit of it. I am embracing the thick ache in my chest when my mind wanders to Brielle not being in her little pink room, tucked tightly in her little purple sheets… with lots more tomorrows of fun and laughter and cut up knees and exploring (and childhood!!) ahead of us.
And it’s just that… There’s not an infinite number of tomorrows.
But I take comfort knowing that so far each new stage has been even more amazing than the last. And I can’t wait to see who this little girl will be.
Ah, but back to our day!
They put on a production for me:
And had lots of fun at lunch.
“Michael, let’s play Simon Says. I’ll be Simon, you be Says.” (This was from yesterday but was too cute not to add.) We made “New York City” for our trucks to drive on, I remember drawing roads for my match-box cars like this when I was their age! After the gym we went to the playground only to find the slides wet and the swings wetter. But that made for some fun in the puddles. We went on a walk around the neighborhood and Eustace was the leader. (Always.)
I used to get twenty “sleeping pictures” a week. Now I get none. So there’s this one, taken with a flash! Brielle is so lucky to have a brother who ASKS to have tea parties with her. And he can pour a mean pot of tea, too! (Okay, his hands look super chubby here, yay.) Looooong day. It’s true, the days are long and the years are short. I’m so ready to pass out. This is M fishing in his pond at bath-time. He is such a water baby. Tomorrow is Friday!!! Goodnight.
A foolproof way to solidify memories in our minds is to relive them. Talk about them. Look at them. Listen to them. Experience them over and over. It’s so powerful!
I’ve always felt a desire to document life’s events and life in general. By the time I was eighteen I had an entire cardboard box full of (boooorrrrring) journals. Now that I have a family I feel the value even more.
I use five tools to document our days, and four out of the five are FREE! Here they are.
1) The Notes app: It’s the yellow “Notes” icon on your iPhone home screen. (I’m sure non-iPhones have a version of this, and I’m sure it works just as well!) I use this notepad as our running family journal, (as well as for grocery lists, and a thousand other things,) because it’s so convenient. I can talk at it or type, and I always have it with me, unlike a traditional journal, so I actually do WRITE in it whenever I have a free minute or two.
Another great thing about this notepad is that you can insert photos! This way when Brielle says something I never ever want to forget like: “mommy, my brain tellded me to swallow my gum but I didn’t listen..” (Hands me big glob of gum) I can take a picture of her little face and huge eyes and insert it with the above quote into our “family” notepad. There forever.
Or if I am writing about a life event of the family I can include a pic or two. Then I email said notepad to my gmail account about every two months and download it to my laptop to a specific folder. This way if I lose my phone I won’t lose everything I love so dearly IN my phone as well. I plan to print some of these entries out to put in her physical baby book as well.
(To insert a photo in your Notes app, press your finger on the page where you are writing and a horizontal bar menu will come up. “Insert Photo” will be in that menu.)
2) The Voice Memo App:
This is another iPhone app that is already on the home screen just waiting to be used.
This app is AMAZING at helping preserve memories. When we are in the car and Michael is doing his Star Wars theme song in the back (he’s unnaturally good at this tune,) I just click record and it’s saved forever. Or when Brielle is playing with her clip dolls on the couch and they are having a gentle princess disagreement about one not wanting to be the other’s sister anymore, I click record and the dialogue is saved forever. Because in two seconds these babies will be singing different songs, their voices will be different, their interests will be different! And I adore being able to look back and see who they were yesterday. And really FEEL it.
3) Our own private (AKA, would be incredibly annoying to anyone but us) Instagram Feed:
I created a private account, (I just went into settings and set it to Private.) And I switch back and forth between my private and public accounts. Instagram makes it nice and easy to have multiple accounts! While on vacation I would dump pictures and videos in there like a bull-dozer pushing dirt into the Grand Canyon. It will never run out of space. Now that we are home I upload pics to my private feed about once a week. Such low-maintence for a free photo album that will (hopefully) last forever? I’ll take it!
And it has so many perks: It has a beautiful feed that because I don’t follow anyone else on this specific account I see only MY pictures. Which is amazing when the kids want to look at my phone. Brenden is my only follower (poor thing) and I direct captions to him like its my j.o.b. This is a realitively new addition to my documentation arsenal. And I can’t recommend it enough. I can add videos, pics, text, anything. And everything. And for me the biggest benefit is the privacy. I love interacting with people SO MUCH and I get my energy and life from relationships with others. But there’s something so special about the private love and community of your own little family.
4) Baby books and photo books:
I do them the new-fashioned way: Shutterfly and/or MixBook. Both are amazing and Shutterfly seems to have deals every single day. No matter when I’m putting a photo book together I can google “Shutterfly coupons/discounts” and get tons of codes. I found a 50% off discount code for our Rhode Island trip book just randomly on the day I wanted to order the book! So I got three books, one for each of the grandmothers involved and one for us, at a significantly discounted price! I also use Shutterfly for other things too: Wall (photo) calendars, customized coffee mugs and fridge magnets.
But I love the photo books because they really get the most value out of the pictures we take daily. These big photo books can be placed throughout the house and enjoyed daily by everyone! Together! Brielle and I read hers all the time. I made one for my pregnancy with her, (I was on bedrest so I had the time) and one for her first year of life.
I haven’t done baby books for Michael yet but everything is ready to be compiled and I’ll get to it this Fall. Before now he wasn’t old enough to really appreciate it. But now I can’t wait to see his eyes when he has a physical book in front of him (one of his favorite things!) starring HIM.
Of course nothing can replace a good old fashioned baby book of the “my mom” variety, so I did one for Brielle and am working on Michael’s now. Growing up I always felt a direct correlation between how many pictures/hats/baby memorabilia my mom had in my baby book and how much she loved me. I kid. Sort of.
In reality I am one of seven kids and I’m amazed my mom even attempted to have a baby book for each of us. I would find pictures of my siblings in my baby book more often than I would find pictures of myself! It’s pretty bad when your mom says “I think this is your brother??” As she’s holding a picture of a baby from YOUR baby book.
5) We listen and watch and read often:
Brielle and I go through all her baby books weekly, laughing at how cute she was and the things she used to say. We open the Voice memos app and listen to how she used to pronounce words, and how Michael said “bubble” (his first word.) We look through my private Instagram feed and rejuvenate and flex our memory muscles. It’s amazing how much Brielle has remembered about our NYC trip last year just because we look at pictures and talk about it! She asked the other day if we could go to “Liliana’s coffee shop.” That was a sweet little local coffee shop right across the street from our apartment in NYC!
So that’s what I do! So far it hasn’t stopped them from growing, but it sure does help me sleep at night knowing that I have so many sweet sweet things to look back on and enjoy.
“Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them.”
“Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.”
Corrie Ten Boom
Summer break is in full swing and I’m realizing I need all the help I can get! So today I took full advantage of our library. And my, libraries have come a long way since I was a kid. (I do miss the card pockets in the books though, they were so perfect for playing “Library.” I wish my kids could have experienced that!)
Either way, here’s our haul from this morning. I love the Llama llama books, they are so cute and brightly illustrated!
And for the first time ever (I know I know) I checked out movies. I don’t know why it took me so long to do this? I guess I’m just so used to selecting *buy* on Amazon Prime.. but it adds up quick! So now we are going to exhaust the library’s selection. And there’s something happy and nostalgic about seeing my kids pick movies off a shelf. They’ll never walk into a Blockbuster or a Hollywood Video but they will watch actual physical movies, darn it!
And I got some books with corresponding audio CDs. I don’t know how well the kids will do turning the pages together but it will be a good “new” experience for them none-the-less. And maybe a few minutes of peace for me. Or maybe exactly the opposite? :/
The best part about our library (check on yours!) Is that I can go online, search their entire database and all their branches and put books on hold (and other materials!) When my item(s) are ready I get an email and can go pick it up through a DRIVE-THRU.
Talk about amazing.
Of course going inside is pretty great too. Today I sat on the couch while the kids played with toy food and trains. Another mom there was doing the same thing. It’s always cool in libraries, always free (unless you’re like me and occasionally lose a book.) And there are so many fun extra activities. Story time, movie night, book clubs. I’m excited about utilizing this all summer long!
A new thing in our house is gymnastics… And once a week just isn’t enough. I’ve never seen her so alive and happy as when she runs up to me with her leotard on, hair tie and brush in hand: “It’s time go momma! Put my hair in a pony tail!” (Four hours before class starts.)
In-between classes she practices, and her favorite thing to try and master is sticking the landing. She jumps off the couch – her two little feet side by side, body hunched over in a little four year old squat, arms out.. “Mommy! look! I stuck it!”
Other times her feet are uneven and she loses her balance or she is just way off and one foot is entirely in front of the other, but she tries over and over to stick her landing. And she gets better and better at it.
Once again my sweet little annoying-as-crap girl challenges me and teaches me.
Do I stick the landing?
Do I even care if my weight shifts too far forward or behind me?
Do I wake up in the morning thinking:
I want to do my best.
And try over and over until I get it.
I want to stick the landing with my children.
Could I be more patient? (The answer is yes.) Do I have enough intentional distraction-free time with them? Have I taught them new things today? Michael how to spell his name maybe? Brielle how to locate fun places on a world map? Do I cuddle and build up and play? Do we read read read and then read some more?
What about sticking the landing in my marriage.
Do I take him for granted? Do I assume there will always be a tomorrow? Do I go into discussions having to be “right?” Do I have an understanding heart? Do I put him before me? Us before me? Do I encourage and applaud and intentionally serve?
Do I stick the landing when it comes to my friends?
Do I listen? Do I hit autopilot and just hope the friendship flies along normally or do I invest? Do I encourage? Do I build up? Am I intentional in my friendships?
Do I stick the landing with my siblings and parents?
Do I say I love them or do I show it? Knowing that these days, time = love. Do I give them the benefit of the doubt? Do I forgive easily or harbor resentment? Am I kind?
Do I stick the landing when it comes to my faith?
Do I even try? Do I feel like Christ is where He should be in my life if I really and truly believe He is who I say He is? Am I just hopping off the balance beam, feet landing where they may, and then moving on, or am I thoughtful of their placement? Do I make my faith a priority?
I am so thankful for yet another day to be intentional in my relationships and life and another chance to stick the landing!