Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Post (Thanksgiving) Weekend

Thanksgiving.  It doesn't seem to fly by exactly, but as soon as it's over it's on to the next thing - Christmas!  And I don't mind it that way.  The transition from the most beautiful fall harvest holiday, filled in my mind with all things burlap, delicious, and cozy, to the Christmas season, filled instead with bright colors, lights, and sparkle, is a fun one.  I love both holidays, but my mind has been so preoccupied with all things Christmas since arriving back home from celebrating in Iowa, that these photos seem like they were taken much longer than mere days ago.

(Packing helper.  Really.  I man, he didn't even TRY to take the clothes out of the suitcase.  It's a Thanksgiving packing miracle!)

(He did, however, pack himself into the suitcase.  Fair enough.)

One thing looked more like Christmas than Thanksgiving the morning before we left, though...

(As we are deep in the throes of all things Frozen right now, (I guess there's no escaping that one with toddlers), his name, of course, is Olaf.)

(Our halfway treat: smoothies and french fries for all.  They clearly do not enjoy it.  And now when we drive past any golden arches Caden calls it "the french fry place".)

(Early morning storytime with Grandpa.)

(Naptime with Daddy.  Before even getting to any of that turkey.)

(Naps done.  Ready for turkey.)

(Hurry it up, dad.)

(There it is.)

(His eyes are so big I think he's stuck with a deer-in-the-headlights look no matter what.)

(Approved of the pumpkin pie.  Ate more than his fair share.)

(Who me?)

First time, that the twins can remember, anyway, in "grown-up church".  Brooklyn got into the music with some hand-clapping.

This guy, on the other hand.  Don't let that angelic singing face fool you.  If you follow me in Instagram, you already know that he was belting out a rousing rendition of "Old MacDonald" from the hymnal, before declaring, "I don't like church" during the morning's announcements.  

(Worn out from the long weekend.)

(Though they did wake up to play with some new goodies.  And another stop at "the french fry place".)

Now back home.  More normal schedules and routines, our own toys and technology ("let's watch Super Why!" is a common refrain around here), errands and playdates.

And most importantly, most excitingly...

...adding some bits of Christmas.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thanksgiving Tree

Thanksgiving.  It's this week.  It's one of my favorite holidays.  Which for me this year means gearing up for a road trip to Iowa and packing clothes, potty chairs, diapers, and, most importantly, loads snacks and distractions for the car.  (Though exactly when and how this packing will get done with three kids around remains to be seen.)

But for the past week or so, we've taken a little time out at dinner each night to talk about things we are thankful for.  I can't take credit for the idea as I've seen it floating around the internet in different forms over the years, but now I have kids old enough to participate in what I hope will become a family tradition.  It's also about as simple and as cheap as far as projects go (BONUS): branches from the yard, sparkly cardstock I already had, cut into leaf shapes.  String I also already had, hole punched, looped through, and tied in a knot.

Each night at dinner we go around the table and say one thing we are thankful for.  (I mean, except for Nolan.  Though I can pretty much guess that if he could talk his answers would amount to "milk", "pretty much any and all food", and "the two middle fingers on my right hand that almost never leave my mouth".)  Our one rule: no repeats.  Brooklyn got stuck after "the color blue", "the color pink", and "daddy".  Only three days in, huh?  We've helped her out a bit since then.

Also keep your expectations LOW.  At least for the very little ones.  I'm pretty sure that someone wound up in time-out after we were one answer in the first night.  And while I'd love some shots of them hanging their answers up on the branches (possibly their favorite part, besides picking out which leaf to use each night), it's usually pretty dramatic with a lot of "no don't stand ON the bookshelf" and "give me your leaf right NOW"-type comments happening.  Maybe they'll be able to hang them by themselves with a little less stress in a few years.  Like when they're 16?

Shown above: Caden's answer from the very first night.  Can't say I blame him.

I meant to start this awhile ago so we had it up for the whole month of November, but that just didn't happen.  Oh well.  Do what you can when you can.  We started last Monday and will continue until we leave on Wednesday.  Or maybe I'll bring some leaves along for Thanksgiving Day, as well.  It's something you can do for a few days this week, or as a big group with whoever you celebrate Thanksgiving with, or even in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

And we've had some impressive answers.  My designer heart couldn't help but be glad when Brooklyn named colors  s the top things she was thankful for (blue the first night, pink the second), but was also surprised that while Caden's first night was bread, his answer the second night was church.

(Other answers include "cheese", "pizza", and "bunny crackers".  Guess the kids have a thing for food.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Parenting on Days Like Today

I expected certain things to be hard as a parent.

The lack of sleep.  That's hard.  Newborn constant nursing lack of sleep, toddlers with bad dreams and potty trips lack of sleep, general trying to get everything done in 24 hours lack of sleep.  Sometimes Tyson and I even get a trifecta where each individual kid sleeps relatively well, but  they each wake once during the night.  Spaced out every couple of hours, this is a hard night, and makes for a rough next day.

With three under three, the physical demands of taking care of several very small children is hard.  I am often trying to feed one, give attention to another, and deal with a bathroom situation with the third (or some combination of the three) simultaneously.  They all need me for even the most basic of tasks, often it seems constantly.  It's hard.

But the hardest thing that I've found?  The emotional component.  When something happens that rocks my world - my adult world - and I still need to continue being the parent.  To mother.  

The first time I remember this happening was when we were determining our next steps after leaving Madison.  Where would we go?  What are the possibilities?  Things seemed to change by the week and we had a rough couple of months as Tyson was accepting positions, denied positions, minds were changed, and the plans were upheaved so many times that it was difficult to keep up.  I was literally mentally all over the map for a few weeks - Missouri!  Oregon!  California! - and it made for some desperate Google search sessions for jobs and housing to try to calm my mind while also keeping twin toddlers entertained.

The next time I remember feeling this kind of emotional tension at odds with the needs of having to parent was this past summer, when we experienced shooting after shooting after shooting.  My mind was so fried trying to comprehend and grieve one day that the twins mostly just watched PBS and played outside.  My ability to interact - to interact well - was minimal.

And now this.  This election.  It has consumed my thoughts and mind for much of this past year, especially the past few months, but never more so than today.

Not being able to process these issues at my leisure is the absolute hardest thing I find about being a stay-at-home parent.  There is very little room to think, to have a moment to read or watch or get away and understand and grieve and come to terms with what is happening.  And yet it's very lonely.  There isn't an adult around to have an uninterrupted conversation with, unless it's early in the morning or late at night.  There are immediate needs in my here and now - another nose to be wiped, another diaper to change, more food to prepare - that consume my attention, leaving me with a dull sense of anxiousness that is difficult to assuage.  My mind can be so consumed with a train of thought and then so quickly be derailed as this need and this need and this need are met.  And then I'm back to square one and the cycle starts all over again.  It's hard to put my mind at ease when I am so consumed with other duties.

And all the thoughts swirling around in my head mostly lead to this: I am so saddened and heartbroken but mostly stunned that this man has been elected the leader of our country.  It is beyond belief.  That half of this country decided that a man whose rhetoric includes extreme examples of misogyny, racism, and pathological lying is capable of running our country is absurd to me.  While neither candidate was perfect, I am legitimately concerned about what a President Trump might do.  Not to mention that he himself and many of his supporters seem to disregard things like logic and actual facts.

I'm not sure what he may or may not be able to do.  Republicans fully in control across the board is concerning to me.  Whatever he may or may not accomplish, just the basic character of this man and  type of speech he uses (and has made "okay" in our country) regarding women, minorities, and others is highly problematic.

Which leads me to this: my children.  I truly felt yesterday that a vote for Hillary was a vote for my children.  That it was leading our country in the right direction both morally and socially.  My comfort right now is that at least my children are too young to understand what is happening.  They didn't know that a presidential election was going on.  (Though, yes, they were jealous of my sticker.)  Whatever processing I may need to do personally, at least I do not need to explain to them why we have elected this man as president.  Tyson and my biggest task right now is to keep upbeat and cheerful around them, avoid heavy discussions while they are around, keep the news to a minimum, despite what we may be feeling.  It's amazing the emotions even small children can pick up on.

But in four years?  Caden and Brooklyn will be 6.  That's old enough to know who the president is.  That's old enough to hear what he is saying.  That's old enough to understand some of what is going on and to know what we are teaching them is right and wrong.  I'm concerned for what I will have to explain to them two, three, and four years from now.  My children - our children - deserve better.

Jeremiah 29:11 keeps resonating throughout my head. " 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' "  I have to say that is small comfort to me right now.  While this election is not a surprise to God, it is certainly a surprise to me, and to so very many in our country.  

So that's it.  The thing I find the most difficult about parenting.  The absolute hardest thing is having  all of these thoughts tumbling around and around and around in my head just needing to get OUT...and not being able to.  I've had to wait until naptime - hours and hours now - to get most of them down.

I may not be able to process this all as much as I would like today with the kids around, and I'm sure I will have another late night reading and discussing what is happening in our country and our world with Tyson.  Despite how we may feel right now, we will take time to collect our thoughts and get ready to move forward, as a family and as a country.

Despite my confusion and even anxiety, I do know this.  Today, as any other day, I am called to love.  That's my parenting job today.  I am called to love my children.  I am called to play and protect and mother and snuggle and discipline them no matter what else is going on.  Despite the news blaring this morning, I set the noise aside and made Nolan giggle uncontrollably in his high chair.  I got up early (hahaha like I was sleeping anyway) and made a spread of pancakes and eggs and sausage for my family.  (Mickey Mouse so you KNOW they were special.)  Whatever rhetoric or despair may be spreading, we are called to be kind.  My children are watching me, me.  They don't even know we have something called a president.  So today I can turn off the TV, put down the phone and the articles and the statistics, and attempt to set my mind not on earthly things, but on things above.  

It's the only thing I am called to do right now.

(Also, this:

One day at a time Sweet Jesus.  It's all I can usually handle anyway.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Read, Watched, Listened

I love reading just about everything, watching comedy and documentary-type things, and have recently embraced the podcast.  I also enjoy hearing about what other people are reading, watching, and listening to.  Here's my two cents worth.


Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen
Mary Norris has been a copy-editor at The New Yorker for decades.  It's part memoir, part grammar lesson, and all woven through with a biting, sarcastic sense of humor.  She has OPINIONS on grammar, proper usage of punctuation, and the sharpening of pencils.  Fair warning that you're going to need to be a bit of a grammar nerd yourself to enjoy and even understand some of this book.  It also may make you (MORE) paranoid about your own grammar, punctuation, and word choice anytime you type out something even as mundane as a Facebook comment...

Stern Men
I enjoyed The Signature of All Things so much that I went for another novel by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Also loved this one.  Set off the coast of Maine among a bunch of lobster fisherman in the 1970s, there was just enough narrative twists and turns to make it a page turner.  Above all, I highly enjoy Gilbert's ability to create such entertaining, oddball, and yet relatable characters.  It's amusing and also had the best, most satisfying ending in a novel that I've read in a long time.

For the Love
Finally got around (aka finally got to the top of the "holds" list) to Jen Hatmaker's latest.  She is SO funny, and touches on a little bit of everything in our current culture from parenting to cooking to the leggings-as-pants phenomenon (which I may or may not be embracing out in public right now...).  I know she's under a bit of fire right now for a recent interview (which: chill), however I find her to be articulate, thoughtful, HILARIOUS, while weaving it all together with a healthy reminder of the Gospel.  She helps to articulate and give voice to a younger, more liberal (whatever that means, these days) Evangelical set, who are sick of hearing a black-and-white doctrine when there are so, so many shades of gray.


This is Us
Have you been watching?  I rarely get into TV shows (Mad Men and Downton Abbey have been the only two I've followed (and when I follow a show, I mean it gets a tad obsessive) in recent years, but they've both ended.  I'm pretty picky when it comes to TV; the writing needs to be thoughtful, a tad unpredictable, and yet humorous.  People keep comparing it to Parenthood, but I seem to be in the minority on that one.  I watched the first season, (of Parenthood), yet found many of the characters tiresome and a lot of it too annoyingly precious and unbelievable to stomach.  In my opinion, This is Us is a much stronger show, while still exploring the lives and ties and complexities of family life.  It's also the first time Tyson and I have ever had a show that's "ours" to watch together (he annoyingly came in and out of Downton Abbey...I had to instate a "you can watch but for the love of God keep your mouth shut and don't ask me what's going on" rule) so that makes it fun, too.


99% Invisible
This is a recent one for me.  I wouldn't say I'm an avid listener, but have enjoyed cherry-picking episiodes here and there.  The short (20 minute-ish) episodes are about the design of, well, everything.  Episode 232: McMansion Hell had me actually laughing out loud as I made dinner one night, and I couldn't get the kids in bed fast enough to go check out the McMansion Hell website.  In fact, add McMansion Hell to the "read" list since it absolutely sucked me in.  (It had me DYING both of laughter and incredulous designer shame.)  Not exactly funny but incredibly interesting was Episode 220: The Mind of an Architect.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Post (Halloween) Weekend

October is one of those photo-heavy months that sneak up on you.  (Also see March and/or April (yay it's spring and we're outside again and also Easter is in there somewhere!) and any month with a kid's birthday in it (February.  Just February.  All the pictures for us are in February.).)  I mean, you kind of expect it in December what with the holidays and all, but October is a month full of fall things - leaf jumping!  hayrides!  pumpkin patches and apple orchards! - plus all that costume-wearing business.  Midwestern Octobers are like walking into a ready-made photo shoot each and every day.

Lucky for October, I really like fall.  Bring on the pumpkins and costumes, please.


Pumpkins for us this year meant pumpkin painting.  Carving pumpkins with things like sharp knives and messy pumpkin goo and all that sort of stuff with two toddlers + a baby around didn't appeal to me.  (GEE, why not?!?)  

But paint + toddlers + pumpkins?  Oh yes.  Bring it on.

And they LOVED it.

(Clearly a masterpiece.)

(Serious Caden is serious.)


Though it fairly quickly devolved into a body-painting session.

Which they may have loved even MORE.

Pumpkins ready for trick-or-treaters.

Candy ready for trick-or-treaters.

Kids ready to BE trick-or-treaters.

Nolan's face got more bewildered and desperate as the photo-taking went on...


...there we have it.  Someone seriously needs to make a GIF of those last three, though.  (Caden's face is just as priceless.)

Mario and Princess Peach don't like each other at all.

No, I did not ask them to stare off into the distance for effect.  Once they spied a tractor working on building a new house nearby, there was no going back.  Why would I look at YOU holding a CAMERA, mom?  I had about 348 variations of the above shot.

Oh, Toad.

It was a little bit better for you earlier in the day, without costumes and siblings and sheer shrieking CHAOS around. 

(Though, really, you should be used to that by now.)

Everyone had fun.  Besides maybe Nolan during the picture-taking.  Sorry, third kid.  The older two rushed out, fully enthusiastic trick-or-treaters who banded together with some of the neighbors to canvass the neighborhood.  (Though Caden was slightly confused and started filling up his bucket with candy from out OWN bowl before heading out.  WHY am I leaving the house to go get candy when there is so much RIGHT HERE?!?  Oh the things we put these toddlers through.  It's really quite confusing, actually.)

Mario was lured back home by a bucket mostly full of candy ("I eat it all gone!") after trekking half the neighborhood, leaving Princess Peach to soldier on with the group.  

A couple of Snickers and a Halloween episode of Daniel Tiger later, and the Princess arrived back home, too.

 And, FYI, two two-and-a-half year olds can bring in quite the haul.  They are also completely unaware of the existence of all that candy they worked so hard for once they go to bed.

Pictured above: reasons for having kids.

Happy November!