Category Archives: Family

Just A Random Wednesday – A Post Only A Mother Could Love

Today I documented everything that happened on a random day.. everything we did, everywhere we went, what we had for breakfast, what I felt at 8am and what I felt at 1:30 pm., all the monotony and all the joy…

This post is for future me. I want something real and tedious to look back on, a way to re-live the details, the minutia, the beautiful (and not so beautiful) everything that makes up our lives today.

So future Sarah: Have fun remembering. It really was this good, their soft sweet kisses and their little laughs, the way their energy made me breathe in new life every day in a new way. Their conversations that have little to no logic and that make me laugh continuously. It really was this good.

And it really was this hard. The constant ON(ness) of being responsible for the well-being and safety and growth of two human beings. The constant effort and love and work. The constant thought and worry and sacrifice. The questions, the whining, the non-stop requests and complaints. It really was this hard.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017 – Our day in pictures:

6:30 am: “Mommy I’m donnne! I wanna Bottle milk rub your tummy!”


Cat’s out of the bag, he still gets a bottle of milk in the morning. I hold him and he rubs my tummy and I drink my coffee and look in his eyes and tell him all the things I love about him and why he’s special and how much God loves him.

I love this time of connecting and building him up and soon I think we’ll graduate to doing it over tea or something other than a bottle. Maybe??

And yes, he’s still in a crib, and that might last forever because he hasn’t climbed out yet and we all lovvvvve it. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

As soon as the kids are awake it’s the signal to the animals to start demanding things too. Eustace wants to come in and have his breakfast – I wish I had a pic of his mouth open and yelling at me. That’s his signature “good morning” face.


Eustace after breakfast – retirement must be nice!

Bacon and eggs in the morning for Brenden Michael and I – cheerios for Brielle.
I crack them in the pan and then scramble them. I want chickens so bad!
We bake our bacon! 3-15 minutes on 385 until crispy. So much easier and less mess than on the stove-top!

It’s 8am and he’s already saying “I want to cook!” I told him we were going to make Chili and he won’t be happy until we start. I try to make our dinners super easy on Wednesdays because we have community group at 6:30 and there’s no time for anything else in the evening.

He loves to help me make this Chili. He rinses the beans and adds the corn and spices. The only part he doesn’t like is when I add the chopped onion. “It hurts my eyyyyes!”

Then when I went to shower I saw this…. And I laughed out loud. Just thinking about documenting my life in detail today makes everything stand out so much more. So many bumps in the road!!! Nothing is smooth and easy!

I’ll let this newly wrecked blush compact stand in for all the pictures I won’t be able to take during the chaos and spills and falls and arguments and confusion and mess and everything else that happens today.

Poor blush.

After we got dressed I set the kids up with their on-going project this week: A book report! It was Brielle’s idea to write a book, and I got so excited thinking about going to the library to “research” our topics.

Brielle chose insects, Michael chose instruments, and then Brielle said “mommy what will your book be?” Umm.. what a novel idea. (Pardon the pun.) I was giddy at the thought.
I chose wildflowers and we went to the library and picked out the most beautiful vibrant books we could find on our topics.

Already we learned about Pasture Roses and Morpho moths and listened to tons of different instruments on youtube.

After we had about twenty minutes of book writing (our max attention span with Michael around) I told them to go play while I cleaned the kitchen. Making chili with a 3 year old isn’t pretty.

Then I heard Michael say “I want some gum, B-ell.” Apparently she’s his dealer? “I know where some is, let’s go outside.” She led the way down the front stairs but neither of them could get the door open.

Then I heard, “Let’s try the back door!!” They came back upstairs and opened the back sliding door and ran around the side of the house to the car. I met them outside:

They had no idea how to open the car doors! I couldn’t stop laughing.

I let them in so they could play “Driving to Rhode Island” while we waited for the appliance repair guy.

(Brielle asked me specifically for this side pony-tail.) *Heart-eyes.*

His new thing is picking the rubber spikey things off the tires whenever he gets a chance. Is that bad for the tires I wonder? It sure does make his hands gross.

I sat on the front steps while they played, simultaneously making sure they didn’t get killed by the appliance repair man’s truck when he drove up, and painting my nails.

Literally I had just sat down to paint my nails (which is a bad idea if you are a mom and anywhere other than in a salon or the kids are asleep) and Michael said “mommy my feet are wet can you wipe off my shoes?” And Brielle said “mommy I’m thirsty can you get me some water?”

And then horror of horrors they noticed I was painting my nails… so of course they had to join in. Michael pointed to his right hand – “I want three nails!!” But he wouldn’t let me paint them, he wanted to do it himself.

 
Nail painting party.

As soon as he blew his fingernails dry he said: “Boys don’t like nail polish.” Brielle agreed with a “yeah daddy hates to wear nail polish.” And he promptly picked off all his polish.

Brielle asked if she could pick the neighbors flowers. How can I refuse that face? Somehow I did.
Still no appliance repair guy… It should be illegal to make moms wait more than an hour. Ridic.
Then we went into the back yard to check out our tomato plant and found a few more little green ones!
 
I have green peppers, zucchini and tomatoes growing in three pots side by side and I think they are all kind of one big plant now.

Finnnnally the repair guy came, fixed what he needed to fix and left and we were able to get in the car and head to the Discovery Museum. But first a stop at the dry cleaners to get Brielle’s purple princess dress mended. A seam was coming apart and she wanted to wear it (specifically) to a friend’s Princess party this weekend.

Then to the drive-thru library window (which we love) and then we were on our way to the Discovery Museum. For real this time. We love the Discovery museum, and it’s freeee when you either have a membership (which we don’t this year) or have a very handy pass that you can check out at the library for free!

Five minutes before we arrived at the parking garage (and only after a 12 minute drive) this guy was passed out.

Now whatttt. Brielle was insistent that the DM could not wait for another day, so we let him sleep for another 10 minutes and then woke him up.

It was like waking a bear. And I realized it was 11:30 and he was hungry. Total mom fail.

We always get french fries on Friday, usually from Chick Fil A because that’s everyone’s favorite, but today I was desperate and we pulled through the drive through at McDonald’s. Whateves.

I love that I do this on the day that I am trying to be as detailed as possible about my day!

Michael went from angry bear to happy puppy and we went to the downtown mall to get our Discovery on!

They love elevators and I love that the elevator has a glass wall so I can see out of it!

The Discovery museum was a hit as usual. Seriously, we could have stayed all day if it wasn’t for gymnastics.


On the way out we rode on the carousel. I remember when they were too afraid to ride this. It was only last year. 😀

It’s amazing how fast a mood can change when you’re with kids. I feel like I have emotional whiplash half the time. This morning we woke up so excited about the day and by 1:30 I was like, “It it too early to send them off to college? And can the dog go too?”

By gymnastics time we were all a little worn out. Into the car we go, back home to get Brielle’s leotard and then down the road to the gymnastics center.

I find it fascinating how as moms we are at the mercy of their little moods and developing emotions and attitudes. It requires so much resilience and strength to not be sucked down whatever path they happen to be on, and some days I just don’t have that resilience!

Michael had a hard time at gymnastics because he was exhausted… He didn’t want to nap but he also didn’t want to be awake. Cue hell. So I drove around trying to get him to nap while Brielle did her class.

“Mommy how are your arms rully rully long to reach?”

He didn’t nap.

We got home and the house smelled of delicious Chili. Thank goodness. Can I just say how nice it is to have dinner ready with nothing needed by me?? I love my crockpot.

I resisted the urge to have a bowl of half-done chili and I had leftover red beans and rice and coleslaw for lunch. This is how I roll when I’m eating alone, whatever is in the fridge goes on my plate. It was delicious.

I made the kids dinner. Wow, this is a reallllly bad day to be talking about what we ate, but such is life. I made Brielle a peanut butter and honey sandwich and Michael had some chili.

Peanut butter and honey sandwiches, rice, and cheerios are her staple foods right now. She’ll eat raw veggies too, and some chicken, etc., but those are her three go-to favorites. We are working on it.

Neither of them ate much of it, they just sat and played restaurant with their food, which means they will be hungry in about an hour. Joy.

They just brought me this “special” dish from their restaurant. 🙂

I sat next to them as they played restaurant (aka ate dinner) and sipped tea and tried to type this post, or at least part of it, and all I heard was loud LOUUUUD voices singing: “First I was a pea and I grew and I GREW and I grew so big that the pea pod POPPED!!” Over and over. I love it, right? Right. So much so that I considered buying noise canceling headphones the other day. Lol.

Shoes were found and clothes put on, troops were rallied and we left to go to our community group meeting. I am so grateful to be doing life with other Christian families and individuals that I LOVE and love Christ! It makes life so rich and so beautiful.

Today we talked about sharing our story, what God has brought us through and brought us out of. I want to be more proficient in sharing my testimony with people that I know and that I meet. I want to be challenged in this area and I’m so grateful for a group of people who are doing that in my life. Sharing our story is powerful!

And speaking of stories:
Every Wednesday this beautiful girl is here to play with us. We love our Aunt Genevieve! She is such an amazing young woman, has the most beautifully unique and inspiring story, and is just over the moon amazing with the kids. And I hear her right now practicing her harp downstairs. It is beautiful!! Yes, she is too good to be true.

Tonight Brielle asked her to make her a “crown braid” and she did this. So sweet.

We got to church a few minutes early, just in time to have Brielle almost smash her head hanging from the stair banister on the concrete steps. I reminded her we weren’t in gymnastics class… and she did it again. I’m trying to be more firm and have absolute consequences when she disobeys, like taking away her toys or a show for a bit, the verdict is out on the success of this.

Of course we had to walk down the sidewalk to Sweethaus while we waited for the doors to open. We looked in the windows and saw all the deliciousness but didn’t get anything… “because we didn’t have dinner, remember guys??” They are so silly.

I feel like in mom life you can experience the entire spectrum of emotions in one day. If the morning is all glittery rainbows and smiley faces the afternoon or evening is bound to be some level of hell. I can’t remember a day when we’ve been like yes… it’s been amazing all. day. long. No. It isn’t possible.

But it is possible for me to try to keep my sanity and be the happiest I can be no matter what is going on around me. And that will allow the kids to come back to my level whenever they can/want/are able to. It makes it easier for them to get back to “normal” if I am at that normal level on the regular.

I’m reading Triggers again, (for the second time) and love it so much. It’s teaching me so much about parenting and my own sin, and how my kid’s actions usually make me react out of my own shortcomings and sin, not theirs. It is so humbling and I love it!

The kids are in bed now, see how I skipped the ‘get home at 8PM and get them to sleep’ part? No thanks, even I don’t want to see pictures of that. There’s nothing like two over-tired kids who didn’t eat their dinner and didn’t nap. That’s when life gets cray and everyone needs their pillows flipped because “my pillow’s  too hotttt” and “I don’t want to take a bath, my legs itch.” And I just asked Brenden for some more bedtime complaint examples, because they are adorable and I don’t ever want to forget them, and he said, “oh sweetheart… I’m off the clock.” Good enough.

Okay, that was a long post. Loooooong. And I know I’ll be glad I wrote it one day. That’s just how I am.

Happy Normal Wednesday from my crazy family to yours!

XOXO

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Slow Cooker Mexican Meatballs And A Rainy Day At Home

Last Tuesday started with a dead truck battery and ended with a traffic ticket from a very kind police officer. No really, he was so kind.

After one look in the back of my land-cruiser packed with three preschoolers he went from business as usual to sweet and comforting: “Just call DMV and renew your registration and it’s like you never even got a ticket….”

“Call DMV??” I don’t know what planet he’s from, but it’s not earth. Even so, I was thanking him as I drove away.

Kindness! It makes the world such a better place.

After we were merrily on our way I asked my audience in the back; “Can you believe I got a ticket??” To which Brielle’s little friend replied, “A ticket?? To what?”

I mean, adorable.

Days like that remind me how little my happiness and joy depends on my actual circumstances, and how much it depends on my willingness to just be content.

(Telling stories and having our snack in the car before resigning ourselves to an unplanned morning at home.) 

Some days motherhood is a whirlwind of places to go and to-do lists and some days it’s rain coming down and hours of nothing but fights and make-ups and Netflix and crafts and meals and clean-ups and books and games and snacks and make-believes and time-outs, and doing it all agains…

And that leads me to the Mexican Meatballs… They were simmering quietly in the background, not needing or requiring me.. just getting “done” on their own. Ahhh.

I used to think slow cookers were for chili and soup in cold weather. Now, as a mom, I know they are for survival. There’s nothing better than turning a pot on and having dinner done eight hours later.

I found this recipe years ago and I’m excited to share it with you and have it eternally on my meal-planning radar.

Slow Cooker Mexican Meatballs:

Ingredients:
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
6 garlic cloves (I use minced in a jar, so a couple teaspoons full.)
Shallots, 2 bulbs diced
Ground pork 1 1/2 lbs
Garlic powder 2 tsp
Cumin 1 tsp for meatballs and 1 tsp for sauce
Chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce 1, chopped
Chili Powder 1 tsp
Salt 1 tsp
Crushed tomatoes (Can, 14 oz)
Crushed Tomatoes (Can 28 0z)
Avocado, 1 cubed
Lime, sliced into wedges

I always chop my veggies before I deal with the meat, because of the obvious grossness factor.

So I chopped the cilantro (Ahhhh the smell!)

It’s so fresh and amazing.

Then I diced the Shallots:

I added the Cilantro to the pork (The shallots go into the sauce.)

Then I added the spices:

Then I took off my rings and mushed it all together.

Next I made the sauce which is so easy:

I combined the cans of tomatoes in the crockpot with the second half (1 tsp) of cumin and the adobo pepper as well as the shallots and minced garlic.
Stir stir stir.

Then I rolled the meat into balls and dropped them right into the sauce.

Once they were all in there I covered them up with the spoon, being careful not to damage them.
Then I covered the slow cooker and turned it on low for 8 hours (You can also do high for 6 hours.)

As an additional step, (but not necessary for a delicious meal) you can remove the meatballs from the slow cooker when they are done and puree the sauce with an immersion blender before mixing the two together again.

Don’t forget salt and pepper!

They are tender and delicious and way too easy not to add to my monthly meal rotation.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

XOXO

 

 



My Babiest Baby Is Three!

Throwing a party for a three-year-old boy… Could there be anything more FUN? And more terrifying? For the first time (in his long life of three years) he was super excited about having a party. Like suuuuuper excited.

Every day leading up to it, “Is it my burday party?? I wanna go to my burrday party!!” Lots to navigate for me in that area, but there was much fun and cuteness found in-between the stress of managing a three-year-olds emotions and unrealistic expectations. So much fun and cuteness!!!!

We went to Sweethaus on his actual birthday for a cupcake. It was rainy and chilly, perfect weather for his new blue raincoat that he just got for his birthday! When he saw it he said “It’s just like Dell’s!” I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I know it means he loves it. 🙂


Thursday night we had dinner as a family at Red Robin. Birthday boy’s choice. 🙂

His smooshy kisses are the  best!

Friday we made favors for his party guests. Idea compliments of Pinterest, and so adorable. Also, super fun and delicious to make.


Then we got to work on the cake. I got the actual cake from Giant, a basic chocolate sheet cake with a pretty piping around the edges.

We (Brenden actually, let’s be honest) drew a “3” and cut it out. Then we proceeded to do this:


Brielle had lots of fun scraping off of cream. And then (not pictured) banging them to pieces in a plastic ziplock bag,

I laid the 3 on the very dry icing and sprinkled the cookie crumbs around. Then I pressed the crumbs so they wouldn’t be misplaced when I lifted the paper. 


I’m no baker but it was fun to use a paintbrush to get the pieces of “dirt” off the road. 

Pretty cute indeed.
I will never forget M’s face when he saw it. He had told me for weeks what he wanted for a cake. “I want a blue dinosaur cake.” “I want a racecar cake.” “I want a robot cake.” “I want a….” It was non-stop. He never asked for this cake, but little did he know it was exactly what he wanted! (Thank goodness.)

We had these two big trucks we wanted to use for a center display so we crushed MORE candy. Peanut butter cups and malted milk balls!



Combined they made the best boulders and dirt for these trucks to move and push.
Again, googley-eyes from the birthday boy.

Birthday party time!
It was a serious dose of adorable. And the best part, it didn’t break the bank. There were so many great ideas on Pinterest for a construction themed party, but man, it was intense. Too many ideas, too many options. I decided less is more and settled on some cheap construction hats and “caution” tape. (Thanks Amazon.) And it made the look. Oh, and I found some orange cones at the dollar store on the day of. Score!

He made the FUNNIEST faces when we sang happy birthday to him. He is such a joker!


The cake was a hit!



He really looks like a little construction worker on his lunch break. LOL.

He and his little friends had so much fun playing!


I love seeing his little friendships bloom.

Such a fun time!



Bacon Makin’

Oh how I love family traditions! Especially ones that taste good, (and may or may not raise your blood pressure, but let’s not dwell on that.)

Over the past couple of months THIS has become a weekend family tradition for us.

Every Saturday morning I see Brenden dragging this thing from the utility room (he wishes he had a garage) setting it up, pouring the pellets in, and setting the thermometer to connect to his iPhone.

(Who knew smoking meat could be such a nerdy/techy activity?? Maybe Brenden just finds a way to make everything nerdy/techy? Either way, he loves it.)

Last weekend we ran around doing our normal weekend stuff while this baby (we need to name her) did some pretty awesome smoking for us.

Whenever the smoker is ON I go through the fridge: “Can you smoke this? How about THIS??” And I pull out random stuff and bring it to the fire.

Brenden has smoked tomatoes, hot dogs, chicken wings, bacon, pork roast, ribs, (yummmmm, my favorite) and whole chickens:

He used a method called “Spatchcock” (not kidding) to flatten it out. This way it’s able to cook evenly and smoke to perfection!

And then there’s bacon makin’! I don’t know how to articulate how much this family loves bacon. Maybe just by saying, “one day it will probably kill us.” Because it probably will. We eat bacon every morning, then sometimes pork again of some variety by the end of the day. (Hands over face.)

No one really knows the health ramifications of bacon, but that aside, everything in moderation is a good rule… right? Well moderation is certainly not something we’re practicing over here currently. So… if we are going to eat it, it might as well be delicious.

Deeeeelicious.

So at the beginning of Brenden’s bacon making there was some trial and error. We went through a few pork bellies before we cut into it and were like “mmmm yeah, perfect salt to sugar ratio.”

Brenden first started off using brown sugar, and now he uses white sugar. The white sugar actually dissolves and absorbs into the meat as opposed to the brown sugar which seems to fall off right after you rub it on.

So the method he has adopted is this:

Go to whole foods and buy 3 lbs pork belly.
Mix: 1/3 salt, 1/3 cup white sugar, 2 tsp curing salt.

The curing salt is pink. I’m only telling you this because I am a stickler for safety, but this could be LETHAL if ingested in huge amounts. Meaning, if Michael or Brielle decided they for some reason wanted to eat an entire box of this, they would become very very ill. We keep it super high up and out of reach, and I doubt very seriously any human would want to eat that much pink salt anyway, but it’s worth mentioning! Good, off my chest.
Here it is:

The ingredients, if you care: Salt, Sodium Nitrate, and pink food coloring.

Mix mix mix and pat onto the pork belly. Okay, this is a picture from when he used BROWN sugar, picture it white.



He cut the meat into two sections and made one a little spicy with some Sriracha. Yes please.


Just squeeze it on, (no measuring needed) and pat the sugar/salt mixture on after all the sauce is rubbed in.
Then place the meat in a bag and seal it closed. It will stay in the fridge for a week. He flips it once a day (for some reason) and sometimes I flip it too because I think maybe he forgot that day, so when we both flip it, it ends up NOT being flipped at all! Perfect example of too many cooks in the kitchen.

After about a week he pulls it out, and now it’s ready to smoke.


The thermostat talks to his phone so he knows when everything is done without any hassle.

After it’s done he lets it rest and then slices it, and we fry up some regardless of what time it is, because it needs to be tasted immediately! It’s just too good to wait.


XOXO

 



My girl is FIVE!

Five??? Come on, how is that even possible? It feels like just yesterday I put a number “5” on her dress representing five months.

I’m putting all this down now because if I don’t it will never happen. I always wait too long and then it just falls off my radar, all the pictures drifting farther and father back in my iPhone album.

This post can’t possibly do justice to what is going on in my heart right now… my little girl is growing into a beautiful young woman right before my eyes… so I won’t even try. Instead I’ll just write what happened this weekend so I never forget it.

Friday morning before preschool Grandmommy Erkel surprised us with a birthday cake! We sat around and sang happy birthday and had coconut cream cake for breakfast!

We were driving to preschool and Brielle was already saying “best birthday weekend ever!” It’s not hard to win her little heart. 🙂

We made Funfetti cupcakes with sprinkles for her preschool celebration. They love to help in the kitchen… It’s always messy but always fun.

Brenden and I went to her classroom to read two of her favorite books: Why Should I Help? and How to Pick a Pup. The kids in the class were SO CUTE sitting around interacting with us and talking about the books. She has such sweet little friends! Michael loved to be there too. He sat on the floor and basically made a huge commotion while we read.

Then we went to Red Lobster for her birthday dinner on Friday night. Don’t ask me WHY she wanted to go to Red Lobster. We don’t ever go there as a family… and I hate that they keep live lobsters in a tank until they kill them! But she wanted to go so we did. They had Shirley temples and picked at their rice and shrimp. It wasn’t a huge hit other than the cake and liquid sugar with cherries in it. 😀

(Brielle is showing off the bracelet her daddy gave her.)

We had her birthday party at Classics Gymnastics and it was a blast!! Her favorite activity during the week is her gymnastics class and she LOVED to share it with her friends.



It was so much fun having all her girlfriends there to celebrate with us! The kids had rosy cheeks after running around and doing obstacle courses and different activities with the awesome leaders. The favorite was the foam pit and the monstrosity of a bouncy house!

I made myself a promise that next year we will keep it simple and have a small family party. I loved this big to-do but there’s something so valuable about keeping it simple too. I don’t remember having these kinds of birthday celebrations as a kid, I mean, the presents alone…. It will take a month to open all of them!!

This morning when she was eating her birthday chocolate chip pancakes before church she said: “So am I a ‘plain five?’ I want to be an older five like five and a quarter or five and a nickel.” Brenden and I died. These kids seriously never cease to amaze us.

This “I want to be older” mentality was very welcome after Friday when she cried all day because she didn’t want to turn five. Her concerns were: “Is it hard to turn five? How will I know how to do it? Will I still fit in my clothes? I don’t want to get any bigger. Will I still look like me?”

Some of her questions made me laugh and hug her, others made me want to cry with her. Like when she said “I don’t want to get big like Aunt Lizzy. Can’t I always stay small like I am right now?” Sob. I mean, these are my thoughts too… coming from her makes them even more real and painful.

Then we had a long talk and looked at her Peppa Pig calendar. We looked at the day before her birthday and the day after her birthday. I told her she would be the exact same size before and after her birthday… she would just have a different number.

Crisis averted.

This morning she opened her presents from us and her favorite, (surprise surprise) was her makeup kit and nail polish. Michael and I already got our makeovers!


Brenden smoked ribs all day and we had a family dinner tonight. We went to another dear friend’s party, (yay for drop off parties! It is how I was able to write this post!!) And then Michael gave Brielle his gift to her: A beautiful orchid. (Thank you Daddy!) Their relationship is a treasure to my soul.

She went to sleep so so happy. So full of love and hugs and joy. And her favorite new doll!

She will be my baby forever. I love you so much Gabrielle Elise Grace.

 

 

 



7 Reasons We “Only” Have Two Kids

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!

XOXO

(Pictured: Michael and Brielle, ages two and four. Michael had a microscopic boo boo and was getting sissy’s sympathy.)



All Other Ground Is Sinking Sand

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.

STOP.

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.



Plans Are Funny That Way

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.

Be still my anxious and excited heart.

XOXO



My Week Of Single-Momming It… Coming To A Close

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.

More tears.

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

 



Christmas Day! Joy To The World!

I was completely off social media this Christmas and it was such a beautiful change. Normally I would fill the tiny cracks and spaces with posting and liking and scrolling. But the last few days have been nothing but “being.”

No running dialogue in my head of things I’ve read or things I’ve posted or things I want to share. No extra “noise.” Just lots of being with family, enjoying/not enjoying moments. Life and thoughts. And I cherished and valued the small quiet moments that would normally be filled with distraction.

It was A Sunday on steroids! Laying around, mess all around us. Literally digging through paper to find this and that to play with. Zero plans to clean up. It’s a Wonderful Life in the background. This. is. Christmas.

Brielle’s request for Christmas breakfast was chocolate chip pancakes. Seemed reasonable enough. I ate three.

Then we went downstairs.

Before:



After:

And lots of in-between:




I love keeping track of what the kids have asked for in years past. It’s so precious because they could have asked for so many things, but the requests have remained simple and sweet. For now. And I’ll enjoy it while I can.

When Brielle was two she asked for a yo-yo. She didn’t even know what a yo-yo was. I’m sure of it.

When she was three she wanted a Cinderella dress and glass slippers.

This Christmas Brielle asked for a beauty kit and sled, and Michael asked for a “real football.” I honestly didn’t know what she meant by “beauty kit”, but she was more than thrilled with the mixture of things I found at Big Lots, (lipgloss, nail polish, cute little adhesive stick on nails, etc.) and a real compact with glitter-y makeup in it from Amazon.

Michael’s favorite present were his light-up shoes. Words can’t explain the love this boy has for those blue and orange Puma shoes! He wanted to sleep in them tonight.

After we opened gifts we headed to Grammy and Grampy’s in Fredericksburg for dinner and more gifts. Brielle brought her new doll, “Cora Bruce.” It’s amazing the names she comes up with for her toys!

Everyone napped, except Brenden. I woke up with my contact lenses stuck to my eye balls. Favorite kind of nap ever! And much needed.

Brielle and Michael were so excited when Grammy’s purple house came into view. I love that Brenden’s mom picked this color out herself, it’s so pretty!

Of all the presents the beautiful sugar cookies were the biggest hit. Or at least for the moment. 




Oh what fun.

And on the way home we prayed to God for snow and talked about the New Year, and what “a new year” even means.

There’s so much more I want to say, so many small details and prayers and conversations that happened throughout this beautiful Christmas day. But I’m going to sleep, and if I put this post off until later I may never re-visit it again. So I am publishing it now and moving on.

One of my favorite quotes (Brenden says it often) is “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” Mmm hmm. If I waited for perfect I would never complete anything.

Merry Christmas and JOY TO THE WORLD!

XOXO