2 Ways to Take Back Your Day Without a Schedule

17 Oct

takebackyourdayA year ago, I went to a conference for moms in Rochester called Hearts at Home. It was awesome, and I took away a lot of thoughts, but one of the biggest was the idea that I needed to get our family life on a schedule. Staying home full-time with a 2.5-year-old and a 6-month-old meant that our days were big on crazy and low on sanity. I thought getting on a schedule would help some at least some of my woes.

The only problem was that I’m a spontaneous person. I can’t commit to the same schedule day after day, week after week. I like change! I like doing things differently! I like lazy mornings some days, and a fresh shower and dressier clothes other mornings. I like having the girls take a bath at night some days, and during the day other days.

Emma (now 3.5) is a wild card like this too. I tried and tried to get her to be more predictable and routined as a baby, but she wasn’t having it. It wasn’t until she was over 2 years that her naps finally became a consistent 2.5-3 hours long. Before that, she’d nap anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours. Drove me crazy! To cope, I stopped having any plans of what I would accomplish during naptime because then I didn’t get frustrated if her nap was too short.

Annabelle (now 18 months) was a lot more predictable as a baby than Emma was. She actually put herself on a schedule! Some babies are just like that. We were so thankful that it seemed we had gotten a mellow baby to balance out our first-born spitfire. Then Annabelle learned to walk and WOW, she has even more energy and chutzpah than her sister did at this age. She’s a climber, and doesn’t take No for an answer without a fight.

My desire to take a crack at homeschool preschool this year with Emma inspired another attempt at implementing a daily schedule/routine. An attempt that also failed almost before it began. Which got me thinking… do I really NEED a schedule?

I had several things that I wanted to change about the way things ran in my house as a full-time, stay-at-home mom, that I thought having a schedule or routine would address. I wanted to be more intentional with how I spent my time–my time with the girls and my alone time. I wanted to stay caught on cleaning, laundry, meal planning, grocery shopping better, instead of waiting for bathrooms to reach an unprecedented ICK factor and the refrigerator to contain nothing but olives and maple syrup. I also thought that being on a schedule is what successful, got-it-together moms do.

But you know what? There’s more than one “right” way to do things. The real question is, is the way we’re doing things right now working for our family? The answer to that is Yes. Things aren’t as tidy or clean or straightforward as they would be if I were more disciplined in the Art of Structure, but I’d be constantly fighting an uphill battle against my spontaneous personality–and for what? Part of the benefit of being at home full-time is the flexibility and relaxed pace of life!

That said, I have noticed that there are two things that I not only enjoy doing, but that truly promote the goals I had with a schedule. Those are:

1. Get up before the kids.

When Annabelle regressed to waking up 1-2 times a night around 6 months (and ever since), I stopped feeling like a morning person. I was a zombie until at least 10 am and two cups of coffee. But for the past couple of months, I have been forcing myself to get up around 6 am anyway because I know that it is SO worth it. My day goes so much better when I’ve had time to drink some coffee and think some thoughts before kids start screaming, whining, and demanding cereal.

I also have more energy for Bible study, blog posts, and pretty much everything in the morning. By naptime, my energy is at about half-power (and I often take a nap with the kids if it works out), and after putting the kids to bed, I only have the energy for zoning out with Netflix, or talking to Travis. So the morning is my time to “get er done.”

2. Don’t get distracted by projects or technology.

I am notorious for thinking, “Oh the girls are playing so well together right now. I’ll just spend a few minutes tidying/organizing/sorting/assembling this thing over here.” ::45 minutes later:: “Mommy’s almost done! Then we’ll go outside!” I say as both kids are crying because they’ve started hitting one another out of boredom and their need for attention.

I’m also notorious for picking my phone up to text someone about something timely or important. ::45 minutes later, emerging from the Facebook and Instagram vortex:: “Mommy just has to text my friend about getting together tomorrow. Then we’ll go outside!”

I’m learning that even though organizing and tidying are good and necessary, and Facebook and Instagram are fine when used wisely, there’s a time and a place. Trying to do those things while the girls are awake almost always spells disaster…or at least a house that’s a disaster because the girls tore it apart while I was distracted.

What this one really comes down to is discipline and trusting God: discipline to wrangle my spontaneous and time-sucking habits into spending my time intentionally and wisely; and trusting God that when I prioritize what He prioritizes, I get joy and He gets glory. Even if that means I get nothing done but spending time with my girls because they were clingy. Even if that means I forego dishes and laundry to spend time reading the Bible. Even if that means I hardly ever blog anymore because I’m reading books about parenting instead (this is true).

Doing these two things gives me the foundation for the day that I need to manage the chaos and challenges of being home full-time with two young kids… without being on a schedule!

When Your Husband Hunts Out of State

4 Oct

About a year and a half ago, I posted the saga of the most horrible week of my pregnancy with Annabelle, which happened while Travis was traveling for work. There was another saga that happened about a year ago while Travis was hunting out of state, which I never told on the blog. Until now.

img_1156It was October, aka the beginning of hunting season. Travis and most of his family had gone elk hunting in Colorado for a week. The girls and I had stayed back, since having a 2.5-year-old and a 6-month-old in a wall tent for a week would be an extreme form of torture. We had just been up to Bemidji to visit Travis’ sister, Carolyn, who had also opted to not go elk hunting. After a long day of driving (two hours both ways), shopping at Hobby Lobby for bridal shower decorations, and eating dinner at Applebee’s (during which Emma spilled her entire water all over me and Annabelle swiftly knocked her full container of yogurt to the ground), the girls and I were heading back home in the dark.

Everything was going fine. I was staying awake, the girls were content… oh and did I mention that I had the dogs along too? They had spent the day socializing with Carolyn’s two dogs, and were worn out too.

But then Annabelle started crying.

And she kept crying.

We were almost an hour from home, and in the middle of NOWHERE driving on a two-lane highway with no shoulders at night on a Sunday. The nearest gas station was 30 minutes away. Travis’ parents lived only about 15 minutes away, but in the opposite direction as our house and they were in Colorado with Travis.

I hoped Annabelle would stop crying on her own… but five minutes passed. Then 10. Which doesn’t sound like much but when your baby is screaming in the backseat, it feels like an ETERNITY. I started looking for places to pull over, thinking maybe if I just nursed her a bit, she’d be content enough to make it home without crying the whole way.

But it was pitch black outside so I couldn’t see any of the pull-outs soon enough to slow down for them. Finally, I saw a sign for an intersection with a county road. Perfect. I’d be able to drive slow enough on that road to find a spot to pull over.

I turned down the county road and there was a wide grassy shoulder that seemed to be pretty level and even. It didn’t seem to be a road that had much traffic on it, so a ways from the highway intersection, I started slowing down and pulled over onto the grass.


I didn’t understand what had happened right away because it was so unexpected. All I heard was a loud noise and saw that my car was all of a sudden at a very odd angle and I was looking at what looked like corn stalks out my windshield.

Panic surged through me, but I couldn’t panic because I was the lone adult with two kids and two dogs out in the middle of NOWHERE. “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,” I started repeating. My hands were shaking as I started trying to think logically about what was happening.

My car has fallen in some kind of a hole. My first idea was to try to back the car out. I put the car in reverse and gunned it a little, but the only effect was to make my car lean over even more precariously, and make me panic even more about completely tipping over into the field.

Ok, Plan B. I would call a towtruck. Where’s my phone? Where’s my phone? Oh yeah, Emma’s playing games on it. I pleaded with her to give it back to me. She probably heard the fear in my voice because she didn’t fight me on it.

Then I realized, It’s late on a Sunday night and I’m in the middle of EFFIN NOWHERE! Who is going to help me at this hour? No one local, that’s for sure. My brain was scrambling and all I could think was, What’s that acronym for car assistance? AARP? That doesn’t sound right... I googled “car towing” and discovered, Oh yeah, AAA. But when I tried calling the 800 number, it assumed I was in Colorado because of my cell phone number, and I didn’t have the mental wherewithal to figure out how to switch it. So screw that.

Plan C. Call Travis. Maybe he could help me think because now I was on the verge of tears and FREAKING OUT. But Travis didn’t answer. Dangit! I can’t call my parents because my mom will freak out even more than I am. Who else is with Travis? My mother-in-law Beth. She didn’t answer either. Double dangit! I called my brother-in-law Matthew. He answered. FINALLY! I tried to sound somewhat normal as I asked to talk to Travis. When Travis got on the line, though, I completely lost it. I started crying and babbling on about how I drove off the road and fell in a hole and couldn’t get out and I was so scared and I was in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE.

Travis’ first words back to me were, “Are the girls still alive?”

Ok, maybe I should’ve led with that. “Yes, they are. We’re all fine.”

As I was talking with Travis, I decided that I should probably get out of the car to see what was really going on. I discovered that my front passenger tire fell in a hole up to the bumper, and my rear driver side tire was completely off the road by about 18 inches.

Holy crap.

I’m sure I told Travis what I was seeing. I’m sure he suggested calling a towtruck or something along those lines. But after being on the phone with Travis not even five minutes, a man driving a pickup truck happened to turn down the county road I was on. Not only did he not hit me even though I was standing in the middle of the road, he slowed down to ask if I was ok. I sobbed that I wasn’t, and then asked if he could pull me out. He said, Yes, he could. As he got his chains out and set up, I told Travis about Pickup Man and said I’d call him back.

The man told me to get in my car, put it in reverse, and to gun it and turn the wheel when he said to. I did exactly that and in less than a minute, my car was back on the solid ground of the gravel road. I thanked the man profusely for saving us, and briefly thought about paying him, but I didn’t have any cash, and my brain was fried from stress. He looked my car over and said that amazingly, he didn’t see any damage. Then he warned me to not stop on the shoulder of back-country roads anymore, because they weren’t safe. I know that now, I thought.

Hands still shaking, I got back in my car, put my car in drive, and traveled a little farther down the county road before completing a 20-point turn to head east back to the highway. I passed Pickup Man, who was continuing west. I said a prayer of thanks to God, for the man who helped me (God knew who he was), and for God’s provision of a person, driving a pickup, with chains, who knew how to use them, to be there right then. From the time I drove in the hole to the time I was pulled out was probably only about 15 minutes.

After getting back out on the highway, I called Travis to tell him I was out of the hole, there was no damage to the car, and I was on my way home. Hallelujah! Oh, and I’m never stopping on a country road EVER. AGAIN.

A few weeks later, we were headed back up to Travis’ parents’ house for deer hunting. Travis was curious to see where “the incident” happened. In the broad light of day, we could see that the hole I drove into was really a culvert, and what I had thought was a cornfield was really a swamp. img_1155Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. And it only happens when Travis is out of town.

Thankfully, his hunting trip this year has been much less eventful… So far. ::knock on wood::

Why I’m Living My Book, Instead of Writing It

7 Sep

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about how I felt God was calling me to BEHOLD Him this year. “I need new eyes and new ears to see and hear God’s glory and power in my life. The glory of His presence already surrounds me; I just need help recognizing it.”

IMG_20160105_153553It has been AWESOME seeing God answer that prayer all year long, and I have plans to share all the different facets here on the blog. But today, I want to share about how God just recently answered this prayer of beholding Him, and of having new eyes and ears to see His glory in the life I already have.

I won’t mince words—this summer has been hard. Yes, full of fun things too, but mostly hard. See my meltdown post. See my posts on grief over my mom dying. Then one day, I was praying. I don’t even remember about what—maybe my desire to write a book? Feeling like I don’t have the time or energy for doing the things I’d like to do? Anyway, God spoke to me. He challenged me by asking, “Is this about My glory or is it about your glory?”

And I realized…

All this time I have been praying for the opportunity to write and publish a book because I feel so passionate about what I’ve been learning, and think that a lot of other Christians would benefit from these ideas. But truth be told, it has also been a lot about my glory. I spent years trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and finally a year ago, I had the courage to declare that I wanted to be a published author more than anything else. And the book I want to write is about how joy is found in embracing the life circumstances God allows.

I didn’t need my book to be a bestseller, or to make money, or be a household name, and I surely didn’t want to end up being a speaker to big audiences. I just wanted to hold a tangible book in my hand, containing my unique words with my name on the cover. Of course, I hoped that at least a few people would read my book, but I really just wanted to be faithful to God’s calling on my life. Whatever He chose to accomplish with it was up to Him. A noble, worthwhile purpose, right?

A few weeks ago, though, God showed me that even that noble, worthwhile purpose had to be surrendered to something bigger: His will. It may be His will that I am a published author someday, but the reality of my life is that I already have two daughters. I am already a mom. And in this stage of life, my girls demand it all. I have tried for a year to write a book in my free time, and I have discovered that for me, right now, it’s not possible. Trying to write a book only made me bitter, and made me feel like I spent all my time doing crap I didn’t want to do, with no time or energy left over for doing what I did want to do.

Because I have two kids, God has called to be a mom. And I feel strongly that He has called me personally to be a full-time, stay-at-home (and possibly homeschooling?) mom. Instead of viewing my two precious blessings as preventing me from what I am called to do, I need to see them as being what I am called to do.

It is the most humbling, soul-aweing challenge for God to show me:

If I truly desire to live for His glory, if I truly believe that God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him, if I truly believe that God is the one orchestrating my life circumstances, then I will be okay with whatever God has for me.

Being satisfied in God means wanting Him above everything. Even above my dream of being a published author.

God’s challenge revealed to me:

Is my life goal truly about getting more of God? Or is my goal being an author?

Nothing less than God Himself will satisfy.

So if my goal of being an author is causing me to be discontent in my current life, being bitter about the circumstances God has lovingly handpicked for me, I must lay even this good desire of telling about God’s glories in a book down at my Savior’s feet.

I must truly surrender all to get more of God. That’s the amazing truth in all of this: I can experience and enjoy God in any and every season of life, even amidst the challenges and mundanity of motherhood. The experience of God is not limited to doing big things. In fact, it might even be easier to experience God in the small things, because big things have a way of distracting. Even as “just” a stay-at-home mom, I can have as much of God as I want, because the curtain has been torn in two with Christ’s death and resurrection.

I was surprised to discover that surrendering this lifelong dream of mine into God’s hands was not discouraging or depressing, but freeing. I didn’t realize how heavy a weight I had been carrying around, feeling like every free moment I had needed to be productive because of all I was trying to accomplish. I felt jealous of other moms who seemingly had lower ambitions. Why couldn’t I be like them?

With the laying down of this dream came the freedom to just focus on mothering well. And as I focused on that, I realized it was what I had desired all along. Of course, I would still love to write a book, or ten. If it happens later in life, in a different season, great. And if not, that’s ok.

I have often found great comfort in the story of King David’s desire to build a temple for God’s presence and the Ark of the Covenant. In 1 Kings 8:17-19, King Solomon says, “Now it was in the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. But the LORD said to David my father, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart. Nevertheless, you shall not build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name.’”

David had a desire to do something noble, selfless, BIG for God. But God told him no. David’s desire was good, but it wasn’t God’s will for him. The American Dream is still alive and well in our country, even in Christian circles. Somehow, the notion is that if we’re passionate about something and good at it, it must be God’s calling on our lives. And if we’re not doing something with those gifts, if we’re not using them for growing God’s kingdom, we’re not fully living out our faith. We’re taking our light and hiding it under a bush.

But even the desire to serve God doing good things must be subordinate to our love for and enjoyment of Him. Because often, God’s chosen circumstances for our lives don’t align with what we would choose, or what we envision. Am I serving God less by being a mom instead of an author? Am I serving Him more? No, I am just serving in a different way. I am serving God in the way He has chosen for me to serve Him.

The Christian life is not one size fits all. It is not rules across the board, applicable to every and all circumstances. We want it to be! We want the Christian life to be so cut and dry that we can take the rules and run off to accomplish the Christian life on our own without God. God knew that. So He made it necessary for the Christian life to be walked out in faith by depending on the Holy Spirit. The New Testament contains only general principles built on the solid foundation of the gospel; we need to walk with God daily to uncover what those principles look like specifically in our own unique lives.

God has called me to lay down my dream of being an author to truly embrace my calling as a mother. But He might be calling other mothers to take up their dreams and pursue them wholeheartedly. It is not about WHAT we do, it is about WHY and HOW we do it. Are we surrendering our lives to God?  Are we offering up everything we are, every dream, ambition and longing, to God and allowing Him to be the answer? Are we glorifying God by being satisfied in Him? The fleshed-out specifics will look different for everyone. There is a time for everything under the sun, and we are all in slightly different seasons and stages of life and sanctification. But we will united under the banner of:


The ironic thing in God asking me to lay down my dream of being an author is that He is calling me to put into practice the very ideas that I want to write my book about.

So for now, I’m living my book, instead of writing it.


“No good things does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11)

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

“The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” (Psalm 138:8)

Annabelle Lyn: 16-17 Months

29 Aug

I am SO overdue on a post for Miss Annabelle! Annabelle was 16 months on July 27 and 17 months on August 27. I can’t believe my baby is almost a year and a half!IMG_20160725_20393420160824_104922 The big news this update is that ANNABELLE IS FINALLY WALKING!

Because of that, we’re going to start with…


Annabelle started walking around the third week of July. She had been cruising around on furniture for a while, pulling up on everything, and mastered crawling up and down stairs around 12 months, so I didn’t think that her walking would really change anything, except make it easier to be outside.

I was wrong.

She gets into everything, and she is fast! Annabelle’s favorite things to do are:

  • Whatever Emma is doing
  • Putting tiny scraps of toilet paper into the toilet while Emma goes potty
  • Being by people, which usually means playing in the exact cupboard I’m standing in front of while making dinner or doing dishes
  • Doing whatever Emma is doing
  • Putting stuff in the kitchen garbage can, like Travis’ Bluetooth headset, Emma’s waterbottle, undies, socks, etc.
  • Pulling clothes out of Emma’s dresser (her clothes are too high for her to reach)
  • Somersaults (she saw Emma doing them—she can only put her head down with her butt in the air, waiting for Travis or me to flip her over—it’s pretty much the cutest thing ever)

IMG_20160801_115438Annabelle is similar to how Emma was at this age in that she likes to move things from one place to another, and she likes emptying drawers and bookshelves, but she’s different in that she’ll actually play with the mess she makes, instead of immediately moving on to make another one. I remember being so frustrated with all the messes I had to pick up with Emma (and… she still makes them and I still am).

Annabelle loves being outside and frequently brings me her shoes to put on. Her favorite things to do outside are play with water in bowls and pails, “draw” with sidewalk chalk, push strollers and trikes around, ride in our Little Tikes truck or wagon, and do whatever Emma is doing. I told Travis the other day that the benefit of having an older sibling is that Emma is so much more interesting and fun than we parents are, but the drawback is that Emma also hogs toys, takes over, pushes Annabelle out of the way, etc. Poor girl has had a couple of bloody lips and noses already, and taken many a bonk to the head (at least half are self-inflicted though). So we try to balance sibling time with alone time, and to teach Emma how to share and be nice. (Easier said than done with a 3-year-old🙂 )IMG_20160629_163613FB_IMG_1468349202805IMG_20160822_104539Annabelle also has an independent streak. She will refuse to do some things (like drink her chocolate milk) if we try to help her. She still loves climbing, snuggling, being held upside down, being “body slammed” onto the bed or “steamrolled” on the living room floor (rough housing), being pushed/pulled, and taking baths.

Annabelle is learning new words every day, which is so fun! She understands a TON of what we say to her and can now say: Doggy, Dada, Nana, Cracker, Quack, Moo, Night Night (Ni Ni), Bye Bye, All Done (Ah da), Emma (En na), Hot (Haw), Water (wa wa). I’m sure Annabelle is pretty average for her age in terms of speech, but Emma was such a late talker, that it’s fun hearing Annabelle learn words so much sooner! Emma is a chatterbox now though.20160818_115112IMG_20160824_16400420160810_100748Size

I’ve been in denial about Annabelle getting bigger. I thought most of the shirts she had been wearing this summer were 12 months, but they’re 18 months. She has short little legs, so she does still fit into a lot of 12-month pants, though they’re starting to get a little short (but in the summer, who cares?). I pulled out the clothes that Emma wore the fall that she was Annabelle’s age, and I just cannot believe that Annabelle is old enough or big enough to wear them! Where did my baby go? So, Annabelle is in mostly 18 month stuff, but starting to wear 24 months and 2T. ::sniff::


Annabelle is a pretty good eater, but has started getting pickier. Many dinners require several attempts at finding something she’ll finally eat, usually in the form of fruit. Her favorite foods are: bananas, blueberries (she likes most berries but these are her faves), mandarin oranges (from a can), peaches, applesauce, yogurt, baby cereal, bacon, chicken sausage, chicken, macaroni & cheese, pasta with sauce, bagels, and cooked broccoli. Her favorite treats are suckers, fruit snacks, and Starburst, and the only way she’ll drink milk is if I add chocolate syrup, so she usually gets a cup of that each day.

IMG_20160819_102952I’m still nursing Annabelle 3-4 times a day, usually in the morning, before naptime, before bedtime, and in the middle of the night. I have no real plans for weaning at this point. I’m hoping it will work itself out naturally. That’s usually my approach to most transitions: Wait and it’ll happen on its own.😉


Annabelle has made some progress at night in the just the past couple of weeks. I had been sleeping on a mattress in her room pretty much every night, but now it’s down to about 50% of the time. I get her to sleep and put her down in her crib, and she usually wakes up crying between midnight and 3 am. I’ve started trying to get her back to sleep and putting her back in the crib, with some success and some failure. But progress is progress! I’m trying to keep this in perspective. I know she’ll outgrow this. She has slept through the night in her crib several times in the past couple of weeks, so I know she can do it. It’s not ideal for me to be sleeping in her room, because I don’t sleep well, and I don’t think she sleeps that well either when she’s on the floor, but it’s better than listening to her cry. Again, I know it’s just a phase. Emma was over 2 before she really figured the whole sleep thing out.IMG_20160819_110931IMG_20160804_092259And that’s Annabelle at 17 months!IMG_20160801_124209IMG_20160729_182348

Want to hear more? Follow me on Instagram!

Emma Grace: 3.25 Years

2 Aug

Emma was 3 ¼ years (39 months) back on July 7.IMG_20160728_172253 (Large)20160526_130356The most notable update for this post is that Emma is about 70% potty trained!

After half-heartedly and unsuccessfully trying several times, we scheduled a weekend to focus on potty training, and built it up to Emma (Big girl undies!). We also bought candy as rewards for going on the potty (Starburst and suckers have been the most motivating). She was really excited at first, and since she’s had practice going on the potty at daycare, she totally knew when she had to go (she only had one accident the first couple of days).

But then the excitement wore off, and she started refusing to sit on the potty. We changed our rewards a few times, with some success. But if she threw a fit about going on the potty, we just put a Pull-Up on her and continued suggesting she sit on the potty. She finally did come back around on the whole thing, and has been wearing undies for almost all awake time for the past couple of months.

IMG_20160729_083832 (Large)Sleeping time is a different story. She has stayed dry for some naps (she still naps from about 2-5 every day), but some naps she wets the bed, so we generally still put a Pull-Up on her for naps and a diaper for bedtime. Up until a few days ago, she was also pooping in a diaper. She’d grab a diaper, bring it to me, and say, “Mommy, I want to poop in a diaper.” HA! So she totally knew when she needed to go, but just didn’t want to go in the toilet. But a few days ago, we were shopping at Herberger’s when she had to go, and Travis convinced her to go on the toilet! She earned a freezy pop for that milestone, and has pooped on the toilet once since then. Hopefully she can keep that going, so we can keep moving away from diapers.

My experience with potty training has been both easier and harder than I expected it to be. I thought Emma would be all about it once we got going, but she wasn’t. I thought dealing with shopping and road trips would be really hard, but it hasn’t been. Sure, it’s slightly inconvenient, but I was psyching myself out on that. (And when they’re so young, even girls don’t mind popping a squat in a grass field on road trips—or at least, our girl doesn’t. J) One trick I’ve learned that has helped a ton is to cover up automatic sensors on toilets with Post-It notes so that they don’t flush unexpectedly.

IMG_20160506_105250 (Large)Matching mommy/daughter pedicures (colors chosen by Emma)

Anyway, moving on… here are some of Emma’s favorite things right now:

  • iPad—Emma still loves watching shows, mostly on her iPad (sometimes on the TV). Her latest obsessions have been the Floating Palace episodes of Sofia the First (which are about mermaids) and the mermaid scenes in Penguins of Madagascar. She has also been watching Alvin & the Chipmunks, LEGO friends, Strawberry Shortcake, Penguins of Madagascar, Minions, Brother Bear, and a few other random shows that she found by herself on Netflix.IMG_20160613_184644 (Large)

She fell asleep while watching Netflix… and pooping.

  • Books at night—After we say goodnight to Emma, she sometimes asks to read books while she “watches moons” (a toy that projects a rotating image on the ceiling and plays music) for 10 minutes. Every once in a while, she enjoys reading books during the day (which I savor when it happens!), but overall, she has too much energy for books. When we do read books together, she insists on holding them but can’t sit still enough for me to read the words.IMG_20160505_075159 (Large)
  • Helping—You name it, Emma likes helping with it. She asks to help with cooking (and won’t take no for an answer), putting dishes away, yardwork, doing things for baby, doing laundry, cleaning, putting things in the shopping cart, etc. I try to let her help as much as possible, but some things are just off-limits (like cutting up raw chicken and cooking on the stove).emma garage crop
  • Running—We’ve taken Emma on a few “family runs” around our neighborhood. She does so well! One night she ran almost a whole mile (with a few walking breaks). I think next summer we might see if there are any kid runs nearby. We’re talking about doing a local 5k as a family in September. I think Emma would have a blast! We got a bike trailer from my parents as a Christmas/birthday gift, thinking we could take Emma and Annabelle out in it. We haven’t tried biking with it yet, but a few short jogs have been a no-go—mostly because Emma’s excitement to ride in it wears off right about the time we reach the end of our driveway. She hasn’t ridden in or on something for longer than a few minutes since she was about 18 months old. She just has too much energy. Speaking of which…20160505_092501 (Large)
  • Bouncing—Emma jumps up and down in place a lot. When she’s excited, when she’s watching a movie on TV, when she’s waiting for me to go outside with her… She just has so much extra energy. She also still does this thing with her hands/arms (she has since she was about a year) when she gets really excited—it’s hard to describe but just imagine a little girl moving her hands like you do in the first part of the Chicken Dance song and waving her arms around in an excited frenzy. It’s hilarious, and so uniquely Emma. She also still does her “leg exercises” in her carseat (moving them in circles), presumably when she’s feeling antsy.IMG_20160716_001550 (Large)IMG_20160602_165216 (Large)
  • Jetskiing, fourwheeling and canoeing—This summer was the first real experience Emma had with any of these things, and she loved them! She hasn’t been a fan of riding loud things in the past, so this is a new development. And we thought she’d move around too much for being in a canoe, but she actually has done great both times she’s been out! Travis is very happy she is starting to like the outdoorsy things that he likes.IMG_20160729_182348 (Large)20160710_171838 (Large)20160618_202048 (Large)20160518_200621 (Large)20160725_093655
  • Being pulled around in a sleeping bag—This is pretty random, but one day, Emma wanted to get my sleeping bag out of the closet. One thing led to another, and pretty soon, I was pulling Emma around our basement completely zipped up in the sleeping bag (meaning she was in the dark). She can’t get enough of it! Her friend Noah likes it too. But it’s a decent workout, so mommy needs to take frequent breaks.
  • Picking raspberries—Emma has asked to pick raspberries every single day this summer (we have lots of wild ones growing on our property). But what usually ends up happening is that she picks a few and then plays with Annabelle or sticks or something while I end up picking by myself. This year, we’ve had an awesome crop of raspberries. We couldn’t pick them all, there were so many!IMG_20160629_170432 (Large)
  • Playing outside and in water—Emma still loves being outside and playing with/in water. The past three months have seen a lot of time at the beach, playground, water table, and cruising around our driveway on her trike (which she can now pedal!) and a new electric scooter we just got her. She also still loves to push/pull Annabelle around in the wagon/stroller/trike. In the past month, she has started to love floating on noodles in the water without her feet touching. She’s a pretty good little kicker too!20160720_201530 (Large)20160720_201517 (Large)
  • Sharing—Most of the time, Emma has a very generous spirit. She will share snacks and toys with Annabelle, me or Travis without being asked. (She still has plenty moments of sharing poorly, though.) One of my favorite things in the world is seeing Emma’s little arm stretched across to Annabelle’s little arm in the car, handing her a cracker or water bottle. It’s adorable!IMG_20160610_092617 (Large)
  • Being like mommy—Emma likes to imitate both me and Travis, but I think she imitates me more because I’m also a “dirl” (girl). She always says “Me have some” as she watches me get ready and put on makeup. She often emerges from our bathroom with some kind of beauty supply, the latest being a cotton pad wet down with micellar water. “I’m washing my face,” she says. Similarly…20160427_102735 (Large)20160601_211600 (Large)
  • “I want mom”—Emma is still a complete mommy’s girl. The only person that can sometimes come close is Nana Beth. Emma loves her daddy too, but for activities like fishing, roughhousing, and outdoor fun. When it comes to naps, bedtime, feeling sick, or getting hurt, she wants mommy only (unless she knows mommy’s mad at her for being disobedient, then she wants daddy!). It’s endearing, but also frustrating because I almost always end up putting both girls to bed. Travis at least does Emma’s bedtime routine though.20160506_183754 (Large)
  • Asking questions—It has begun. Emma asks “Mommy, what are you doing?” about 50 times every hour, even after I’ve repeatedly told her what I’m doing. I don’t always handle the constant questioning the best… more than once, I’ve said, “What does it look like I’m doing?”IMG_20160422_083319 (Large)

But on the flip side, one of the most fun things about Emma’s current age is that she has started saying the most hilarious things that just crack. me. up. Here are a few of my favorites:

Me: “Why do you want to put a ponytail in right before you go to bed?”

Emma: “Why not?”

Travis tackles me onto the bed, pinning me down.

Emma: “Daddy, no! Don’t! … She’s too dangerous!”

“His hands are red, he’s itching them, and he’s got a pumpkin head!” (talking about an episode of Sofia the First)


Emma: “I want to watch my iPad.”

Me: “Not right now.”

Emma: “I want to watch mommy’s phone.”

Me: “Emma, no, you’ve watched enough shows for right now.”

Emma: “iPad! I want to watch my iPaaaaaddddd!!”

Me: “The answer is no. Please stop asking.”

Emma: “Grrrrrrrr!!!”

A minute passes in silence, then Emma looks up with a smile and says in a sweet voice,

“Watch big TV downstairs?”

I point out stinging nettle to Emma as we’re picking raspberries, reminding her to not touch it.

Emma: “Mom, that’s what I was telling you about!”

Talking about the time she fell off the dock last summer into a few feet of water, Emma said,

“Nana Beth jumped in the wa-wa. Nana Beth saved me. … Nana Beth pushed me.”

(The full story is that Emma was standing on the dock waiting for Nana Beth to get off the pontoon. She backed up to give Nana more room, but backed up right off the dock. She didn’t get hurt and Beth jumped in right after her, so she was fine.)

IMG_20160801_124917 (Large)IMG_20160708_215902 (Large)With cousin Jensen on Papa’s pontoonIMG_20160629_121329 (Large)She loves cutting! The smaller the pieces, the better!IMG_20160503_105204 (Large)I LOVE this picture — from Emma’s birthday party.IMG_20160507_125750 (Large)She’s always trying to sleep in the doorway. I don’t know why?!?!IMG_20160523_133631 (Large)She took all the clothes out of her dresser in search of her pink princess phone.IMG_20160429_083725 (Large)20160526_140341 (Large)20160518_202213 (Large)Emma loves picking flowers. She was very disappointed when we mowed our grass and all her flowers (clover, not the ones pictured here) went bye-bye!

And that’s Emma at 3.25 years!

Even More Thoughts on Grief

19 Jul

July 13th would’ve been my mom’s 63rd birthday. July 12th marked 5 months since her death.

We had the Krsnak family reunion the weekend after the Fourth with two of my mom’s brothers and their families. It was enjoyable, but bittersweet. My mom’s absence was palpable, inescapable. We all commented that it seemed like she’d show up at any moment, ready to cruise the lake on the pontoon or whip up something yummy in the kitchen.

We picked flowers from her garden and displayed the bouquet in a pickle jar. We took shots of pickle juice again, just like we did right after she had gone to heaven. We served her favorite foods: dill pickle chips, everything bagels, cucumbers in vinegar, barbeque pulled pork, snicker salad. We spread buns, bagels, muffins, and cheese slices out on plates, placed chips and fruit salad in bowls, just like my mom would’ve done. Even for a casual lunch, she’d put things on plates for a nice presentation. I never realized how much effort she put into things until trying to fill her shoes. They’re big shoes. I’m exhausted.

The human experience is so varied and multi-faceted that once I adjust to the idea of my mom’s absence in one sense, something else pops up and I have to deal with all over again. While we were in Ohio over Memorial Day, we had been relaxing on my aunt and uncle’s shaded brick patio, talking about where we should go for dinner. I had suggested sushi since Travis and I love sushi, and there’s nowhere to get it in Brainerd. Then I remembered there was some reason why we didn’t usually go out for seafood as a family… what was it again? Oh yeah… Because Mom didn’t like seafood.  A wave of grief overtook me.

It’s hard to move on and make memories and have life experiences that your loved one isn’t involved in, and doesn’t have any knowledge of. For so long, you’ve forged memories together and shared experiences together, to the extent that you didn’t even realize how much of your identity and experience of life was wrapped up with the other person. Until they’re gone. Then you see that, just like C.S. Lewis talks about in The Weight of Glory, that your enjoyment of something was enhanced, brought to fruition, by sharing that enjoyment with someone else. And when that person is no longer there to enjoy it with you, you no longer enjoy it the same way—and may never enjoy it that way again.

Another idea that I’ve been mulling over quite a bit recently is from C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves:that each individual person brings out a unique aspect of someone else, so when you lose a friend, you not only lose them, but also the facets of the personalities that they brought out in other people. You lose the dynamic they brought to the group.

I love my family, and always look forward to spending time together. I inherited that quality from both of my parents, who would (and did) bend over backwards, and move heaven and earth to spend time with and help out their family. But I’ve discovered since my mom’s death that the thing I enjoyed most about being with my family, was being with her with my family. She, in many ways, was the hub, the turnstile, the bonding glue. Our family dynamic will never be the same.

Looking through photos of my mom the other night, I was reminded of how much fun my mom was. She was never afraid of looking silly or doing things that were beneath her. She’d wear funny hats and costumes, play in the sand with the kids, make us all answer an icebreaker question despite our groaning, coordinate games and activities like a contest to see who could spit a cherry pit the farthest.

Last Thanksgiving, we were sitting at the dining room table of Travis’ parents’ house, eating dinner. There was a lull in the conversation and I thought to myself, “This is the moment when Sheri Moen would ask everyone to say one thing they were thankful for.”

Even though I’m consumed with missing my mom, I’m not devastated. Because I know that she is still alive in heaven. Her soul still exists. She is still conscious, and having experiences. She is with Jesus, and in His presence there is fullness of joy. It’s like my mom moved to a foreign country. I won’t see her again for the rest of my earthly life, which I mourn, but I will see her again. At the same time I see her again, I will also see Jesus, and we will all glory together in God’s goodness and love for the rest of eternity. That is my hope in the midst of this earthly grief.

A Perspective for the Messiness of Motherhood

18 Jul

I am hemorrhaging sanity.

And it’s not just that I can’t remember to do things, or recall basic facts. Or that I can’t think a coherent thought or accomplish anything requiring adult mental capacities.

I’m talking complete psychosis. A full mental breakdown. Like I’m one horrible day away from pulling a stunt like Vivi Abbott Walker did in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood: just up and leaving one day, telling no one where I’m going, or for how long. Except I’d probably escape to Canada instead of Mexico, simply due to proximity.

Motherhood is relentless. And truth be told, it’s full of a lot things that are just plain boring, and other things that are actually odious. Stay-at-home moms like myself work all day doing things that immediately get undone. There is no actual task that is ever completed once and for all. My job is to simply keep the chaos at bay. If my house looks exactly the same at the end of the day as it did at the beginning, I have been productive.

In my finer moments, I actually don’t mind doing dishes or laundry. I don’t mind grocery shopping or meal planning. (I do hate cleaning, and it shows.) But after a while, doing the same thing over and over to simply maintain the status quo starts to wear on you.

And that doesn’t even touch the tip of the parenting iceberg. Take the never-ending loop of household chores, add in a screaming toddler and whiny preschooler, subtract any time for yourself—that’s the recipe for total mental meltdown.

I can’t help but compare myself to the women out there who seem to be unruffled by anything, who seem completely confident and competent in their parenting decisions, who have tuned their family routines to be a finely humming orchestra, and who still have time to get ready each day, make elaborate and fun meals, blog, write books, pursue hobbies, exercise, and take amazing Instagram pictures of it all. I mean, who are these women?!?!

That’s not me. I’m just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. My life is a total crapshoot. I don’t have the confidence or insight to know what routine or rhythm would work well for our family, and even when I do have the slightest hint, I lack the discipline to carry it out.

It’s right about here that the voices in my head start piping up. One says that I should just extend grace to myself because I have two young kids, one of which has not slept well for the past 9 months of her life, and the other is a very high-energy, high-need child. The other voice says that making changes to our family routine isn’t about increasing productivity or trying to run a business on the side. It’s about survival. Because I am literally losing my mind, and that is not working for me.

I haven’t even figured out how to accomplish the basics on a regular basis. I frequently find myself completely over grocery shopping and meal planning, so I just don’t do it. Travis asks what’s for dinner, and I shrug. What I want to say is “I don’t effing care, you figure it out.” Instead, I stumble to the kitchen on the fumes of willpower and hodge-podge something together using frozen vegetables and a box of pasta.

I clean bathrooms about once a month. I change sheets about every two. I can’t remember the last time I vacuumed downstairs and we have never washed windowsills in our current house (even though they are disgustingly filthy).  The girls can sense whenever I’m mustering up motivation to accomplish something out of the ordinary because without fail, that’s when they unleash their most unruly tantrums.

All my fantasies lately are about relaxation. It’s me, a good book, and a bed. I check out of my life by reading some brain candy. Reading transitions into naptime. After naptime comes leisure time. Remember leisure time, time to do the things you enjoy? Does that still exist somewhere in the world?

Instead, I find myself trapped in a life that requires me to spend all of my time and energy on things I don’t want to do, like change poopy diapers, fix 10 snacks a day, clean up messes and spills every five minutes, schlep four armloads of stuff to and from the beach for an hour of play, and my favorite, deal with two screaming, tantrum-y kids simultaneously while my husband is out fishing.

The cherry on top of the crap sundae is the nitpicky bickering in marriage over NOTHING and EVERYTHING caused by both spouses being overextended and stressed out. Somedays I’m *this close* from going to bed for the rest of the year.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful husband and my marriage is actually in a pretty good place. Even so, it often echoes the theme of my life right now: EVERYTHING IS A BATTLE. It’s a battle to be a loving spouse. To let things go in the name of unity and love instead of demanding that things be done or said how I want them to. To find time and mental energy for doing thoughtful, kind things for my husband.  To view him as more than just the replacement babysitter or the impediment to doing what I want.

It’s a battle to parent. To control my own emotions and use wisdom instead of anger and heavy-handedness. To balance spending time with the girls and getting things done. To just get enough freakin’ sleep.

It’s a battle to manage my household. To maintain the necessary energy and level of giving a crap to keep up on all the monotonous chores. To not compare my house organization and decorating style to other women’s, or to at least not feel like mine’s a bag of lumpy cheese compared to theirs.

It’s a battle to be a Christian. To find time for Bible study, prayer, evangelism, serving, and all the things I think I “should” be doing.

It’s a battle to have personal time. Actually, let’s be honest, the battle is to be ok with not having personal time, with having a long list of things I’d like to do but don’t have the time or energy to do after having spent all of my time and energy herding toddlers, completing the basic tasks of survival, and preventing our house from being condemned.

But in the midst of all this “NESS” (as my old boss Carol Ann Kelly used to say), you want to know what’s awesome?

Jesus came for messes like me.

We Christians often say to unbelievers that you don’t have to clean yourself up in order to come to Jesus. In fact, “if you tarry until you’re better, you will never come at all.”

What we don’t often say is that this is a message for us too. Because even when you put your faith and trust in Jesus, you don’t stop being a mess. You don’t stop being a sinner in need of a Savior. In fact, sanctification–the process of becoming more like Jesus in your character and spirit—almost always involves seeing more of your sin, admitting your mess, and humbling yourself through repentance and apologies. Sanctification is sacred work, yes, but it is borne of blood, sweat, and tears. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

I usually think of discipline as “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience,” but it can also be defined as “the practice of training oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way.” Learning to repent and apologize for my own sin is discipline, but so is spending my days doing things I don’t want to do. It is painful in the moment to persevere in the cycle of clean, wash, organize, tidy—especially when my flesh is screaming “I don’t want to!”—but this verse in Hebrews reassures me that IT IS ALL WORTH IT. In my unbelief cloaked by twilight, all I can see is despair, discouragement, and the lie that It Will Always Be Like This. But at the faintest hint of dawn, when tendrils of sunlight touch dewy grass, my languid soul is revived and I am reminded that God is using even this to accomplish His purposes, “…that he who began a good work in [me] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

So then, the truth of God’s love and redemption remains the same. It is just as true on the days when the refrigerator is bare, I’ve lost my temper three times before noon, and I never change out of my pajamas, as it is on the days when I sneak in a run and Bible study before breakfast, the girls are getting along, and I am caught up on chores.

And that’s the challenge—are we willing to come to Jesus at all times, in our competence or in our mess? Are we willing to surrender our life, whether it’s going well or it’s hitting the fan, to God and His purposes? Or will we stand far off, demanding control and wishing life were different, unwilling to let ourselves rest or be healed because of our pride and stubbornness?

The messiness of motherhood reminds me of a beloved quote from Joel Warne’s book Soul Craving:

There are times, though, when transformation simply doesn’t come, times when our hunger for a new way to be remains unfed. At those times… simply rest with God in your problem. Simply be with him in your sin, your emptiness, your failure. Rest quietly with him in your confusion, your paralysis. Sit next to him in the wound that won’t heal, the pain that won’t subside, the desert that never ends… Here the still center of your love affair with Jesus Christ rests steady, unmoved, unquenched, unconquered by your unresolved messes. Here your love for God really does take precedence. It is no longer a means to an end, a kind of convenient tool to work your own liberation…

Sometimes, our very desire to be transformed into the new creation God wants us to be must be considered rubbish in comparison with simply knowing Christ. Is it enough for you to simply love him? To draw close to him, to offer him your affection? If intimately abiding with Jesus produced no change at all within you, could you be satisfied to simply remain with him in all your painful, unresolved stuff? (199-201).

Even in the messiness of motherhood, we must come to Jesus. We must keep our eyes fixed on Him, and Him alone. Not on Pinterest or Facebook. Not on “other moms” or “other bloggers.” Not on what we “should be able to handle” or what life was like before kids. ON CHRIST ALONE. On His provision of mercy and grace for this moment, right now. He wants us to live in continual dependence on Him and His Spirit, and He will use the circumstances of our lives to get us down on our knees in humble submission.

How does one reclaim sanity amid the never-ending demand and crisis that is parenting?

I don’t know.

But I do know that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) and “the LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever” (Psalm 138:8).

And with promises like that, who needs sanity?